my coworker quit as soon as I became his boss

A reader writes:

Soon after I started in my current job, “Bob” joined our team in a similar role as me. He was noticeably very anxious and insecure, and he struggled with getting the basics down. The job includes giving feedback on others’ work, and I noticed that I kept having to ask him to fix the same basic issues constantly. I didn’t shy away from giving him feedback directly but professionally – the same way I give feedback to everyone else – and while no one else in the company seems to have a problem with me, he would get angry and defensive when I critiqued his work. I invited him to coffees with our other colleagues, in the hopes that being more friendly could improve our working relationship. But he was hot and cold socially; sometimes he was kind and funny, and other times withdrawn and sullen.

Over time, I was promoted to a more senior role, and then our boss announced that he was leaving the company. I applied for our boss’s job and I got it. Bob abruptly took the next day off and emailed HR his resignation. The timing of his resignation seems too immediate and sudden to feel like a coincidence.

I’m having so much trouble figuring out what happened and if I could have prevented it. I’ve spoken to multiple people about the situation who agree it’s a distinct possibility that Bob didn’t like having so much feedback come from a woman, especially one who was on the same level as him at the time, and especially one who was younger than him. I’ve wondered if I should have been gentler when I was giving him feedback – but I didn’t want to condescend to him by assuming he couldn’t take it, and his work had so many obvious errors that that letting them slide would have negatively impacted the quality of our products.

Worst of all, I have to manage him until his exit date. It feels like he found me so intolerable that he didn’t think it was even worth giving working with me a shot, so I’m not sure how to deal with talking about his remaining projects that I’ll have to help him hand off to someone else. What can I do to try and keep the peace until he leaves? And is there anything I can do differently to avoid a situation like this ever again?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 167 comments… read them below }

  1. Fikly*

    This is a Bob problem, not a you problem.

    If no one else has a problem with how you give feedback, it’s clearly not you. And it’s not your job to handhold Bob into dealing with the fact that there are women who work who give him feedback.

    Bob has solved his own problem by quitting.

    1. ferrina*

      Truth. The world is a rich tapestry of people, some of them are great and some are not so great. I suspect Bob knew that OP would hold him to (reasonably) high standard that he didn’t want to be held to. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how nice you are, they just won’t like the (very reasonable) message. Double that if you are a woman or POC, because sexism and racism are real.
      You will never know the reason, but I suspect Bob did everyone a favor by leaving.

    2. Kevin Sours*

      Frequently when somebody says they want more “gentle” feedback they mean they want it in a form they can more easily ignore.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        Yes. Or just to be told they are perfect and have never done anything wrong and deserve all the praise and raises the company could give them.

      2. A Simple Narwhal*

        Maybe OP should smile more? /s

        This reminds me of the “I was asked to be ‘friendlier’ when giving feedback about serious safety issues” question linked in the related content. OP’s job was to provide training and feedback and the jerk in question wasn’t happy that OP wasn’t being nicer about him almost literally killing people.


    3. Chauncy Gardener*

      And not for nothing, I bet Bob isn’t introspecting and thinking “Gee, I wonder WHY she got promoted so fast and should I have done anything differently?”
      The Bob’s of the world never do that kind of thing

    4. Momma Bear*

      He self-selected. I’ve done the same, frankly. That boss is still there, but I am not and that’s better for both of us. Regardless of his reasons, as pointed out in the answer OP has enough evidence that this was a Bob problem specifically. Wish him well, let him go, manage him as best as you can in the meantime.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        I, too, have self selected to leave a manager where we couldn’t work together. So this time, I am working at a different location.

    5. Artemesia*

      And talking to everyone in the workplace about this will help them frame it as a YOU problem. The OP really needed to stop obsessing about this around others in her organization so they didn’t re-think whether Bob was the problem. When you ask repeatedly if you did something wrong, it is is your fault etc — the natural effect is for everyone else to say ‘well she sort of created this mess.’

      Never discuss this anxiety in the workplace — talk to your spouse or best friend outside of work but be cool and confident at work.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I think there can be value in talking to a trusted work friend or manager for a reality check — “X happened, was I responsible/should I have done something different?” — that person is better positioned to see the situation and help provide perspective. But I do agree to not obsess over it with the rest of your coworkers in general.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yes, I think it can be helpful to say it once. I remember once a time when a student completely blew up at me over something minor and was wondering afterwards had I inadvertantly provoked him, had I sounded more irritated than I was, had I used some word or term that could have been taken as insulting, etc. Another teacher happened to pass and I mentioned it to him and he was like, “no, you sounded completely reasonable. I had no idea what set him off.”

          I’ve also had colleagues talk about how they felt they dealt with something poorly and my usual thought is “that’s your idea of dealing with something poorly!”

          But yeah, I agree that if somebody seems to be fixating on something and keeps asking “but are you sure there was nothing I could have done differently,” it could start to affect how they are perceived.

      2. Random Dice*

        Agreed, LW needs to dial this in, it’s getting to the gossip stage. (Even though Bob is the main problem.) Especially for a manager talking about their direct report.

    6. Quill*

      Bob has ultimately solved his problem and created more of them… which are fortunately not OP’s to deal with.

    7. Ballandary Airlines*

      This is a Bob problem, not a you problem.

      This is not an *anyone* problem.

      Bob is entitled to leave if he doesn’t want to work under a particular manager. Perhaps OP’s criticisms of his work were justified, and he didn’t want to change. Or perhaps Bob’s perspective legitimately differed, and because OP was a peer, he didn’t feel he *needed* to change. Or perhaps Bob may have been in the running for the promotion and simply decided to leave when he didn’t get it. That’s a very common scenario, and there’s absolutely *nothing* wrong with it.

      Regardless of the reason, he’s within his rights to resign. If OP dislikes his work, she’s better off with him gone.

      As an aside, I do question the wisdom of an organizational setup in which a particular employee gives “feedback” to peers on a routine, sustained basis — particularly where the peers cannot reciprocate and give feedback to the first employee. That sounds like acting as a manager in all but name. It doesn’t work for the feedback-giver, because she has no authority to back up negative feedback with consequences. It doesn’t work for the feedback-receivers, because they’re not — and shouldn’t be — answerable to peers. I’m unsurprised that this situation soured and that Bob had no desire to formalize it.

      1. Also-ADHD*

        It seems like a Bob problem just because he’s not really acting great in this notice period and he doesn’t need to be crappy to OP during that time, but otherwise I agree with this take.

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I see your point about the phrasing and I think it offers a good option for OP to rethink and rephrase the situation in her own head.
        This is a BOB DECISION, not a YOU DECISION.
        Bob made a choice based on what he wanted.
        For reasons known to him.
        Because, again, it was his choice.

      3. Luthage*

        Software Engineers do what is called code reviews. It’s partly to find code or structure issues, but it’s also about sharing knowledge. This is an industry standard. I’m not sure what industry OP is talking about, but it’s pretty ridiculous to call it questionable.

        I’ve seen more than my fair share of angry and defensive Software Engineers, who are always worse towards marginalized groups. It’s certainly Bob’s problem.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I’m in an an entirely different field, and giving your peers feedback (or receiving it) is pretty routine here as well. Many of us do highly detail-oriented, regulated work under unreasonable time pressure, and a second set of eyes and a report out on what those eyes found is a necessary part of risk management and improvement. We also have a peer mentoring system for new hires that provides an initial layer of support for routine tasks that may involve feedback. (Feedback on peer mentoring is positive, and it is not a substitute for actual management.)

          I agree that Bob can and should self-select out, if the system does not work for him but also that OP should not take it personally. It sounds like they and their other coworkers have a fine working relationship and that Bob is an outlier – which is fine and probably a good thing that he decided it wasn’t a good fit for him.

      4. Irish Teacher*

        I assumed they would both be giving each other feedback, but simply that she caught more errors in Bob’s work than he did in her’s and he appeared to resent that?

      5. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree, and I think OP is taking it too personally. I get why it feels personal, but I don’t think it is an indication that OP did anything wrong. From the letter, it sounds like OP has at least *some* issues with Bob’s work. Bob obviously knows this is the case. Whether or not Bob liked or disliked or had any particular feelings about OP as a person or as a boss, he may have just decided to opt out of the situation rather than work for someone they already believe to be unhappy with their work. Which doesn’t sound unreasonable to me!

        I hope I was not exactly a Bob, but I did one time find myself in a position where someone was suddenly promoted to be my boss’s boss and on previous reviews I had had, my only negative comments were ones that I knew for certain were the result of peer comments from him (due to the project the comments referred to). I was VERY nervous to have him suddenly be my grandboss. It ended up being fine but honestly I always seemed to have more trouble communicating with him than I did with any of my other colleagues and I just don’t know why. It felt like we were rarely on the same page. I worked with him better than I expected to, but I think a lot of people would choose to quit in that situation and I don’t think they are wrong to do so!

        I do think it was probably hasty of Bob if he chose to quit without having something else lined up, but that’s his choice to make (and obviously we don’t know whether or not that was the case).

  2. Lala Miller*

    I’m planning on quitting once my co-worker becomes partner. He’s intolerable and I dont myself working under him. Sometimes you just know it wont work.

    1. Curious*


      Upon your resignation, if they want a conversation, would you agree to listening to whatever they have to say?

      Would you tell them why your leaving?

      1. Ballandary Airlines*

        Upon your resignation, if they want a conversation, would you agree to listening to whatever they have to say?

        No, for the same reason that I wouldn’t recommend a resigning employee to unload all of her frustrations with a toxic company at an exit interview. It’s ultimately none of the company’s business, and no good can come to the resigning employee from being entirely forthright in that situation. It’s better to part company on good terms, even if that papers over a lot of frustration.

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        Why would you need to tell them? The action of quitting should supersede any words.

    2. Anon too*

      I can totally imagine doing this too if a certain peer of mine would become teamlead after my current boss retires.

    3. ian*

      I have a bunch of coworkers who I genuinely like as people and don’t mind working with and would consider quitting if they became my supervisor.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I have at least one coworker I would quit rather than work under. We’ve both been here forever and I can tolerate him as a peer, but the idea of giving him any management power would send me out the door.

    4. Me*

      Agreed 100% (other than the lawyer part). I have a coworker who I can tolerate as long as someone else is in charge of her and can make her do things, but if she ever gets promoted…no. Absolutely not.

      1. Alternative Person*

        Yeah, I can think of a couple of people I definitely wouldn’t want to under the authority of. Maybe not enough to quit immediately, but enough that I would start seriously planning either a transfer or exit.

  3. Allan G*

    Bob could have applied for the same position, and when they didn’t get it, saw their opportunities for advancement at the company had dried up, and wanted to move on. Definitely some weird, petty grievances going on as well, but seems like this is best case scenario as you won’t have to manage them and you weren’t a big fan of their work in the first place.

    1. pally*


      Somebody (next level manager maybe?) may have had a frank conversation with Bob regarding not getting the promotion. And the OP would have been none the wiser about said conversation.

    2. Three Flowers*

      Yup. If it’s interpersonal, it sounds like a Bob issue (and Bob does sound like an issue), but it wouldn’t be unusual for someone in his situation to look elsewhere for reasons totally unrelated to OP. She should rest easy. Being advanced over a mediocre man is not something to feel guilty about!

    3. Venus*

      The speed of the quitting makes it a clear problem, but agreed that a regular situation where someone leaves following a promotion within their group would suggest that they wanted a promotion too and had to look for it elsewhere.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        I wouldn’t necessarily put any weight on Bob’s speed of quitting. I work the polls, and the last one I was asst. manager under/with a woman I had worked well before. I even knew what she didn’t like about her previous asst. manager. The day was more challenging than I had expected, because we didn’t work well together.

        I had decided by lunch time, that never again with her. I almost changed my mind while she was at dinner, and I had some problems to solve alone, but got fussed at for doing what the Board of Elections told me to do.

        The next day, I contacted my recruiter and told her “Not with her again”, suggested someone that she seemed to work with well. I sent the email the next day. (I will be working again as a person who gives the voter their ballot, at a different location)

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I agree. But thinking more, if he left for another job THAT quickly, Bob may have been looking even before the boss left because he’d been told he wasn’t going to get the job. So maybe because OP was going to get it, or maybe because he was not going to get it.

  4. Jack*

    Sounds like the letter writer dodged a bullet by not having to deal with a difficult employee for too long!

    1. Tribbles*

      Agreed! I am having trouble with, why does she want to work with someone so ill suited to the work, anyway!?

      1. Crooked Bird*

        I’m sure that once she gets past the guilt feelings she’s NOT fundamentally sad he left, honestly. It’s just that the guilt feelings are very much in the way. When you think of yourself as a kind & competent person who relates to others well, and when you feel a sort of duty to be that kind of person, too, it’s got to come as a shock when someone quasi-openly quits their job just to avoid you.

        (I know it would come as a shock to me! And it would really bother me. Even if they were an incompetent ass. I would drive my husband up the wall with picking apart whether I’d done anything wrong, while he continually gave back the response you’ve given here–a true response & easy to get to when your ego & guilt aren’t all wrapped up in it.)

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Yeah, get along with most people, and when someone obviously dislikes me, it stings, even if I dislike them also (I guess I have people pleaser tendencies). I’m working on it!

          1. amoeba*

            Ha, yes! It doesn’t matter whether I can stand the person or not, I want them to like me, period. Not a very helpful attitude, I know, but I guess quite common in a lot of people! Always jealous of folks who genuinely don’t seem to care…

            1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              Just as a heads-up in case it might be the same for you, I realised that my people pleasing attitude stemmed from my relationship with my impossible-to-please narcissist mother. That helped me let go of a lot of dead weight in my soul.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      Yeah, I don’t think OP should avoid this situation in the future. This is a good outcome.

      It sounds like Bob wasn’t suited for the role and was resistant to feedback (either in general or for sexist reasons). Bob leaving now is ideal for both of you; it avoids OP having to put him on a PIP and fire him. (Of course a PIP should always be a real chance, but given Bob’s reaction to feedback, I wouldn’t have high hopes for a sudden turnaround.)

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Yup. I’m not seeing the problem. Or rather, I see the problem, but it took care of itself. This looks to me like a win!

    4. Miette*

      Came here to say exactly this. Consider yourself lucky, and now you can replace ol’ Bob with someone better suited to the work.

    5. Chrissssss*

      This. It seems like a good thing for Bob decided to leave.

      And who knows, maybe he will find something where he fits better, so it could even be a win for both parts.

    6. Princess Sparklepony*

      I thought the same thing. In fact, Bob gave OP the best gift ever for a new manager – he took himself and his problems out. OP can now hire someone to do the job right or at least train them to do the job right.

    1. Venus*

      The one situation where I could see this being an OP problem is if the work review is meant to be done by the manager and the OP is being nosy and going around looking at everyone’s work when it isn’t their job. If I were in that situation then I would worry about having a nosy and micromanaging boss. That seems very unlikely and Alison’s advice is very well stated.

      1. Bexy Bexerson*

        LW clearly stated that giving feedback to Bob was part of her assigned job duties.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Yes, exactly. I don’t know why some people are drawn to hypothetical fan-fiction when the LW has been very clear about what has been happening.

          That whole “good people on both sides” thing? No, not always. It’s entirely possible for one side to not have any good people on it.

          1. Ballandary Airlines*

            LW has been very clear about what has been happening

            LW has been clear about what has been happening *from her perspective*. And now that she’s in charge, she’s entitled to say that her perspective governs.

            But that’s not necessarily true in her previous capacity. Bob’s perspective may have different from hers, and when they were peers, there’s nothing to say her perspective trumped his.

        2. Ballandary Airlines*

          LW clearly stated that giving feedback to Bob was part of her assigned job duties.

          Yes, but we don’t know to what extent this arrangement was formalized. We don’t know the extent to which it was supposed to happen. If OP essentially became Bob’s de facto manager, he may well have resented that.

          1. Peanut Hamper*

            That doesn’t matter, though, does it. Bob was still an ass. He acted like an ass while he was there, and he acted like an ass on his way out the door. And none of that has anything to do with LW. If Bob didn’t like it, he could have taken it up with his actual manager on the org chart. Instead, he doubled down on acting like an ass.

            tl;dr: Bob had choices, and he chose poorly. This is all on Bob.

            1. Ballandary Airlines*

              No, Bob did not “act like an ass.” There is nothing asinine in resigning because you feel you will have a poor relationship with an incoming manager.

              Also, how do you know Bob didn’t take it up with “his actual manager on the org chart”? He may very well have done so; OP wouldn’t know about that. Indeed, she even says that their manager’s resignation was what ushered in the entire scenario.

              1. Peanut Hamper*

                I agree; there is nothing asinine about resigning, for whatever reason. People quit jobs all the time; it’s part of the CoDB.

                However, Bob did more than resign. Perhaps you just elided over these bits:

                I didn’t shy away from giving him feedback directly but professionally – the same way I give feedback to everyone else – and while no one else in the company seems to have a problem with me, he would get angry and defensive when I critiqued his work.


                I invited him to coffees with our other colleagues, in the hopes that being more friendly could improve our working relationship. But he was hot and cold socially; sometimes he was kind and funny, and other times withdrawn and sullen.

                Again, I’m not quite sure why you are taking this whole “good people on both sides” attitude. It’s irrelevant. LW did what she was supposed to do; if the management structure of the company did not handle that properly, it’s not on LW. The question is “Did LW do anything wrong?” and the answer is “No. LW behaved very professionally.”

                Quit trying to imagine scenarios in which we can blame LW. We are asked to take letter writers at their word. Sure, there is stuff they are leaving out. That is irrelevant; no letter can include every single detail that is relevant. Our only role here is to respond to the letter writer’s issue as they described it and as it affects them; not everybody else’s issue or potential issues. If Bob writes in, then yes, your point of view may be valid, but it’s not Bob that wrote in. So just stop with the fanfiction. If “OP essentially became Bob’s de facto manager” that is on the management structure of this organization, not OP. OP handled this professionally. End of story, at least as far as OP is concerned.

                1. Dreamcatcher*

                  Honestly, I struggle to believe that OP was tasked with giving feedback on her peers’ work. When she came in she was a peer to Bob, so why would she be tasked with checking his work? To me her statement reads more like she was doing this on her own but others didn’t mind. In that case of course Bob was weirded out by a new peer suddenly managing him when she wasn’t even his senior.

                  If OP was formally tasked with doing this, she should’ve addressed this sooner with her manager and Bob. Maybe Bob wasn’t aware, or he really was just sexist and in both cases inviting him to coffee isn’t going to make things better.

                2. Irish Teacher*

                  My impression was that the job involved all parties giving feedback on each others’ work. It’s not entirely clear, but to me “Soon after I started in my current job, “Bob” joined our team in a similar role as me…The job includes giving feedback on others’ work, and I noticed that I kept having to ask him to fix the same basic issues constantly” reads as “Bob and I have similar roles where we are expected to work together and give feedback on each other’s work.”

                  I definitely wouldn’t read it as “I decided to check up on Bob’s work off my own bat.” It sounds to me like it’s an expected part of their job and something everybody in that role pretty much takes for granted.

          2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            OP may have been like his manager, or maybe she was simply in charge of checking his work since she’d been there longer. Then if Bob had proved competent, she’d have just let him do it by himself. Since she kept finding mistakes, she couldn’t let up on the correcting stage.
            In my last job, colleagues all proofread each other. An intern might proofread the work of the person with the greatest length of service, or vice versa. Obviously in case of disagreement, the intern would bow to the other’s greater knowledge, but there was nothing in writing anywhere that this had to be the case. Someone with a chip on their shoulder might well push back against some suggested changes. It never caused any drama though.

          3. Critical Rolls*

            This is venturing into the realm of fan fiction. “What if the thing LW says was an assigned duty was NOT an assigned duty? What if Bob’s perspective was that is shouldn’t have been an assigned duty? What if, instead of giving feedback like she did to lots of peers, LW somehow became a de factor manager just in Bob’s case?”

            It can be true that Bob’s departure at this point could be for a number of reasonable causes, AND also be true that Bob has been a feedback resistant underperformer with an attitude problem that LW is well shed of.

  5. anon for this*

    It is just fine that he’s going, and don’t second-guess yourself, LW. I notice that women do 95% great then try to twist around to eliminate the 5% that’s not “great” and then because of that overcorrection, overfitting, they can’t even hit 80% great anymore. Let it go.

    Teams are important. He wasn’t great on the team, he didn’t do good work, he could be deeply happier doing something else he’s good at.

    My only regret as a manager is not letting go of a poor performer earlier. A hard lesson. I liked the guy & felt personally invested, but keeping him did not help the team, and I’m not sure it really helped him.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I really like this math based version of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    2. Cat Lady, Esq.*

      Thank you for this insight. This resonates with me – I think my manager is going through a similar struggle right now.

      I work in a small, overall very high performing org. My manager is the director, and while she’s been doing this for almost a decade, for a long time the team was VERY small (like four people) and is only now in the past year or two grown to a dozen people.

      One of our mid level managers (she manages three people) is NOT high performing. She has personality issues and work ethic issues (ie, she’ll just disappear for hours off teams and can’t be reached). I’m pretty sure my boss is struggling with managing her, and she’s expressed being committed to coaching her and making the best of it.

      I would have fired her a long time ago. But I think my director feels bad about the whole situation and wants to see the best in everyone – it’s like she can’t see or admit that this person is toxic and is dragging us all down.

      I generally think of my job as my dream job that I really could do for the next two decades (I’m in my early 40s) and retire from. But dealing with this nonsense has got me polishing up my resume and gently making sure my network is active, and I’m not the only one. I worry the director is going to torpedo what is otherwise a fantastic team dynamic by not handling this issue proactively and firmly.

      Any advice you have is welcome!

      1. laser99*

        Make a formal appointment, so it is in the record. Present your case as something like: “When Jane can’t be reached during the workday, the clients become upset. On Wednesday, Fergus from Llama Huggers called for her to discuss the Fluffy Symposium, and became frustrated when she couldn’t be reached. How should this be handled?” Then let her take the reins. If she still balks, go over her head. Please update us if you can! Good luck!

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          I’m signing up for the Fluffy Forum right now, how could it be anything but fluffily wonderful?

      2. MsM*

        Given that your boss doesn’t seem inclined to fire people even when that might be a warranted course of action, I’m not sure you have anything to lose by just saying you’re rethinking your long-term plans with the organization if the ongoing issues with Jane aren’t addressed in a way so that they’re no longer something you need to work around. That might not mean firing her – it might just be that she gets tucked away in her own little corner of the org chart, and other people are hired (or at least appropriately compensated) to take on the team aspects of her responsibilities – but rehabilitating her can’t come at the expense of someone like you who is pulling their weight.

      3. The Person from the Resume*

        I would be extremely explicit if you’re willing to risk it. If you think you and other long term outstanding team members will be valued more than the poor performer or the unpleasant parts of holding a poor performers’ feet to the fire or firing her. Some managers would rather great people quit in order to avoid having a difficult or unpleasant conversation. I’m sad Cat Lady quit, but at least I didn’t have to fire anybody which would have been THE WORST feeling for me.

        You could say:
        “Head’s up, boss. “Poor Performers” poor performance and personality issues is ruining a fantastic team dynamic. I am tempted to start job hunting, and I suspect I’m not the only one. You need resolve the issue quickly, or I am concerned you’ll lose a number of fantastic team members while trying to save the “Poor Performers”‘s job.”

      4. Chauncy Gardener*

        I think you should speak with your director and tell her how this manager is adversely impacting the morale of the organization. She may not really realize that. A lot of managers don’t think about that aspect of dealing with a poor performer.
        Even better if you can convince a few others to deliver the same feedback to her.

        Good luck!

  6. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    When I read the letter, I feel like LW would be faced with having to manage a struggling former-peer out of a role they’ve been failing to fulfill. I think LW was done a favor; two weeks isn’t that far away, and you can put him on gardening leave if that’s really the best solution for all parties involved (as it sounds like).

    1. Cat Lady, Esq.*

      I agree re gardening leave. I’m sure he’d appreciate the extra vacation. If it’s feasible for the business, he can just take a day or two to wrap things up and do transition work, and then take the rest of the two weeks off and get paid as planned. Why keep him on the full two weeks if it’s not needed and will just cause more stress?

  7. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    Seems to me the issue lies within Bob, and he’s made his decision.

    I don’t see that you did anything wrong or amiss here. All you can do is be very professional and courteous to Bob in his notice time, which I mean, at least he gave notice time. Move forward with a positive that you won’t have to deal with “difficult Bob” and build your team with new people the way you wish.

    1. pally*


      Imagine continuing to manage someone who handles feedback poorly and won’t take steps to reduce errors. That can be quite a bite out of one’s management time. Time better spent on productive employees who will welcome the attention.

  8. Falling Diphthong*

    OP, you say he’s struggled with aspects of this job. It sounds like you being promoted over him was the final “Hey, this job is not a good fit for me, and I need to actually make a move to get out of here rather than just keep ramping up my stress and misery.” Your promotion is just the last of a myriad of factors.

    Possibly he dislikes you. Possibly this if for good reason. Possibly it is because he feels younger women should never correct him. Possibly it is just that your personalities do not mesh. Or possibly he barely registers you as one aspect of this job that isn’t going well, and the timing of his resignation is all about a very awkward elevator ride with the CEO.

    You’ve been doing the right things in terms of trying to lower the tension. But sometimes that doesn’t work, for all sorts of reasons that may or may not have much to do with you.

    1. FD*

      I think a useful framing too may be that this is potentially the best outcome for him too. It sounds like this is a job that is not a very good fit for him. It’s probably better for him to move on that it is for him to keep trying to contort himself into a job that evidence suggests he’s never going to be very good at.

      Now granted the defensiveness and possibly having issues with taking correction from women, that’s going to be an issue anywhere. But it isn’t really your job to make Bob a better person, it’s your job to make sure he has the resources necessary to do his job well, and then hold him accountable for doing his job well.

    2. Paulina*

      My guess is that Bob didn’t want to have to pay attention to OP’s feedback or bother correcting his repeated basic errors. So when OP became his boss, he knew his problems wouldn’t be allowed to slide any more. If anything that’s a vote of confidence in OP, in that he expected her to be an effective boss (which would involve dealing with him in ways he didn’t want).

  9. Amber Rose*

    You can’t avoid a situation like this ever again. The fact is, sometimes people won’t like you. That’s just something that happens, someone can just not mesh with you and how you do things, or maybe the job itself and the environment were hard and the not meshing with you was the final straw. Maybe he was worried you’d try to fire him, given the criticism. Who knows?

    The better question is, why are you trying to avoid this? If you have some kind of deep seated need to be Super Boss Who is Loved by All, that’s not realistic.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      I think this is the most important thing OP can take away from this situation as she is heading into managing people.

      Your goal as a manager can’t be “I want all my staff to like me”. While that would be nice, it’s never going to happen. So as you get started managing its a great time to think about how you do want to manage and how you will take care of your own mental space when things happen that make you feel bad. Because you are human so yes of course Bob’s actions are hurtful. But they are also out of your control. So how do you cope with those kind of things.

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Yeah. My son was a student delegate at uni, and in this role he was asked to petition the professors for more weight to be given to course work marks rather than having the final exam counting for everything. This was a popular move with good students who put in solid work all year long but then had cramps or allergies on exam day. My son did as asked and the professors agreed that it was a good idea.
      Then came the backlash from the lazy students who didn’t want to have to work hard all year and were counting on being able to swot up just before the exam. My son was devastated to see that they didn’t like him because they didn’t like what he had achieved. I told him he couldn’t possibly please everyone, and if he had to choose between pleasing good or lazy students, it was surely better to please the good students.

  10. Alex*

    This was probably the best possible outcome! Saved you the trouble of having to fire him. Sometimes people resent those who they feel highlight their own weaknesses, and that was probably you for him. Not your fault.

    1. NYWeasel*

      Right? When I took over my team, the worst performer was already working on an exit strategy so wasn’t specific to me taking over but it was such a bullet dodged bc I didn’t have to put all my energy into managing him when I was learning my new gig.

  11. umami*

    Don’t even worry about it. I was an external hire and learned that one of my direct reports was also a finalist. She low-key tried to sabotage me a few times but left shortly after. She showed exactly why she wasn’t the right choice, frankly.

    1. umami*

      Ugh, itchy trigger finger! So, essentially, I treated her just like I treated my other direct reports, respectfully and like a professional. I suggest just continue to treat him that way as well until he is gone. He already was struggling with taking feedback from you and recognized that he wasn’t going to be any better about it with you as the boss, so now you’ll be able to bring in someone of your choosing.

  12. Octopus*

    Please don’t change because a male coworker didn’t want to work with a younger female boss.

    Most men would never come to the same conclusion, right?

    This is 100% on Bob and by know you should know that he did you a a favor.

  13. RBFforDays*

    I had someone call me a bully a few years ago for holding someone accountable for their work habits and performance. (My feedback was consistent, direct, factual and not at all personal.) I wound up letting the poor performer go, and the person who called me a bully left shortly thereafter.

    No one had ever described me that way, and it took me 6 months in therapy to work through the overcorrection that spun me into.

    It also made me pretty skeptical when I hear other people describe their managers as bullies. I used to just take their word at it, but now I ask followup questions about the specific behaviors.

    My takeaway: a man is usually screaming at people, publicly shaming folks in meetings and undermining rivals’ careers before he gets called a bully. A woman often just has to do regular, matter of fact boss stuff without apology to earn the label.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      That last line – that’s a guarantee that someone’s going to refer to me as “the B word” behind my back, while a man in my position would be called a “go getter” to his face. Its totally awesome.

      Don’t dim yourself, OP, for what is 99.999% likely a “Bob Problem”.

    2. laser99*

      It would not be overstating it to say I was ecstatic when finally, FINALLY, work bullying began to be noticed and addressed. However, now the word “bully” has been co-opted to also mean, “Anyone who says anything I don’t want to hear.”

    3. Alternative Person*

      This. I was temporarily in charge of department last year. The feedback I got from some of the male staff included such gems as ‘she isn’t social enough’, ‘she was inserting herself into situations’ and comments the senior manager overseeing my work didn’t even tell me because it was ‘misogynistic tone policing’.

      When it was all broken down, I was just doing, like you said, matter of fact boss stuff without apology. I feel lucky that the senior manager involved was supportive and I have the fortitude to (mostly) remember that a manager’s job isn’t to be popular.

  14. Bryce with a Y*

    I second that the outcome of this situation was the best possible outcome for everyone, and I second that it’s not about you.

    That best possible outcome is that Bob realizes on his own that the position he is in now isn’t the right fit for him in terms of his abilities and goals, and that things are not only unlikely to improve, but get worse now that you’re his boss, so he decides to leave on his own accord.

    Whether it’s the work, the people, or the organization, some people just don’t—or can’t—maybe won’t work out. Again, it’s an issue of wrong fit.

    Bottom line: Don’t take it personally, and things worked out for the best for both of you.

  15. freshly cut couch*

    I agree that this is a Bob problem. Years ago, I took a job, fresh out of grad school (but with 10 years experience in other field) and reported to one of two managers (the other manager had no reports). The manager I reported to resigned, and the other manager commented to the next level boss that obviously, my coworker and I would start reporting to him. Instead, I was promoted and he reported to me. He left very shortly after that, and although I sympathized with how much that must have been a shock for him, I think it was best that he moved on to a position where he potentially felt valued more than he did at the org we were at.

  16. Holy Moly Guacamole*


    From what you shared, please don’t assume that you need to engage him more on a personal level. Bob was a terrible fit from the beginning and had no plans on changing his interactions or work. If his compromised quality to such an extend that it had to be reported, then it is better that he leave now. Also, if he acts rude or pitches a fit, then remember to push back and document. Don’t let the feedback that you were younger and a woman change how you interact with others.

    As a coworker or a boss, there will be times when you will be considered the worst person person in the world, but that doesn’t make it so.

  17. ElsaBug*

    You are lucky – my Bob didn’t quit. Thankfully yours had the self-awareness to know it wasn’t going to be a good fit and/or he also applied for that job and didn’t get it.

  18. normo*

    honestly, i think it doesn’t really matter WHY Bob didn’t like you– is pretty clear he quit because of this, yea, but it’s also just sort of a problem that solved itself. If no one else seems to have this much of an issue, then it could be a personality clash, or sexism, or he wanted your job, who knows. he’s not your problem anymore!

  19. A Simple Narwhal*

    Agree with what Alison and others have said – this is about Bob, don’t waste your energy on this.

    And think of it this way – even if there wasn’t a mountain of evidence that Bob was a bad employee (and you dodged a bullet by him quitting), I can see a world where someone wouldn’t want to be managed by a former colleague at all, even if they had a great relationship.

    …I mean, if you had a great relationship it might have been worth trying it out or having a conversation, but in the end you couldn’t have done anything to prevent the person from quitting if they didn’t want to work under you.

    Or maybe Bob quitting is just a coincidence and has nothing to do with your promotion! Either way I would put it out of your mind and be grateful you don’t have to manage him. The two weeks will fly by and then he’ll be out of your hair! You can always bump his last day up too if things get way to miserable.

  20. Cbrooks*

    without any context, my immediate thought was “wow I wish I had the guts to be this petty and make it that obvious”
    upon context, no surprise it was a male colleague who struggled with becoming subordinate to a younger woman

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Honestly just being younger can sometimes be all the catalyst needed to be petty in how they behave towards a manager. I’m dealing with that right now at my job – person was fine with me being on the team and promoted over them (I had three and a half years experience on the team – she had three months – we’re both women); until the day an offhand remark in a meeting made her realize she’s ten years older than me. Now she’s so problematic that all interactions go through the only member of team leadership who is male (and is ironically the same age as me) because she throws tantrums to all the other female team leads. It’s a problem – we all know it’s a problem – but at the moment she’s off on an extended leave, and we’re kinda hoping she doesn’t come back from said leave (she’s also blatantly job hunting).

      I just hope she finds something where she is happier and feels more appreciated (the most constant complaint we got was she felt unappreciated by team leadership before she went on leave).

  21. Lottie Snowflake*

    The thing is, not everyone at work is going to like you and you can’t change your style to suit everyone. Just like you didn’t like Bob’s work product, he didn’t like you pointing out his work product was bad. Sounds like he is making the best choice here so you will both be happier.

    1. Sleeve McQueen*

      This is so important. One of the most important skills managers need to develop is making peace with the fact that not everyone is going to like or agree with you. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be a compassionate manager who tries to do right for both your team and the business. It also doesn’t mean you should dismiss all criticism out of hand. Just that you recognise it’s impossible for your decisions to please everyone all the time for reasons that may or may not be valid. You know how Facebook has that “people you may know feature”? Every person in the world has at least one person who would see their face and go “ugh, nope”.

  22. not a hippo*

    Bobs of the world are as worthwhile as a nail in a tire. Sounds like you were a good employee and will be a good boss too.

    Put this way: now you have more time to focus on your good team members instead of all your time being sucked up by having to address/correct Bob’s mistakes.

  23. Sincerely Raymond Holt*

    Yay for you! Look at it this way… your underperforming co-worker, now subordinate, resigned before you had to put him on a performance improvement plan. This guy saw the writing on the wall. He was not performing, you weren’t willing to ignore the bad performance as his co-worker, so he had to know you wouldn’t ignore it as his manager. He just saved both of you time, trouble, headache, and very likely the same outcome in 6 months. Best part is that you now get the opportunity to hire someone who is going to do their job.

  24. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    He knew that you knew he was bad at his job. He figured he was probably going to get fired anyway, figured he might as well leave on his terms.

  25. Anon for This One*

    I was a sort-of Bob several years ago. Grandboss was trying to oust my Boss via reorg. Grandboss knew I didn’t have an interest in managing people, and was ready to promote someone eight months out of school to be my new boss. I wasn’t having it; I was ready to walk over the idea of reporting to someone who’d barely figured out how to turn on his computer. (nice, nice guy…..eventually he became a high performer but it took years to get there. In no way was he ready to lead a team of horses, let alone people, at this company). I made my displeasure known to Grandboss, and since he was more prepared to live with Boss than without me, the reorg didn’t happen and status quo reigned another year. I seriously would have walked over this though. It wasn’t personal.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      This is apples and orangutans.

      There’s a very big difference between someone who is a valued (and presumably high performing) employee objecting to a potential unqualified manager, and a poorly performing employee rejecting legitimate feedback and then quitting when a well-qualified coworker is promoted.

    2. Kella*

      We don’t have any reason to believe that Bob made an ultimatum– him or OP– or that OP wasn’t qualified for the position she was promoted into. It sounds like your situation is entirely different.

      1. Anon for This One*

        Had my colleague been promoted, I would have turned into a Bob. I would have quit because of my colleague’s promotion and he’d likely have concluded that I’d quit because of him. In my case, there would have been about six weeks between when the promotion was announced and when it took effect at the beginning of the next year. I’d have waited out those six weeks (since I had stock shares vesting at year end) and then I’d have turned in my notice January 2.

  26. Meep*

    Kind of an aside, but why does Alison always use the name Bob for men who cannot handle women in leadership?

    As I was reading your reply, all I could think was “it is always a Bob problem.” lol

    1. Poster Child*

      Pretty sure it’s the letter writers that choose the names, Alison doesn’t change names.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      The reader wrote “Bob” in her question, not Alison. I’d guess it comes up alot because it’s generic and short.

    3. Rhymetime*

      The anonymous name of Bob probably came from the original letter writer. This tendency to use the name Bob to anonymize people is widespread beyond this website.

      Here’s an example. Years ago, I worked with schoolkids at a nature center. They would use nets to catch tiny animals (insects, water beetles, etc.) in a pond, look at them under a microscope, and then return them to the pond. Inevitably over the years, groups of kids would name their particular creature Bob. We even talked about it as a staff because it was so prevalent. One of the great mysteries of life. :)

      1. Quill*

        My elementary school had a unit where we got to keep crayfish, and our group named one bob. Then we discovered it was female. So Bobica the crayfish became known for pinching fingers.

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I was surprised when I went to a party with my friend. It was a men’s organization picnic. 30% of the men were named Robert. Reminded me that 10% of the boys in my graduating HS class were Roberts. Had one class with 25 kids…4 Roberts.
        Which makes it funny that there’s a birthday card out there that reads, “Happy Birthday, Mike.” Michael was pretty much the number one boys’ name between 1940 and 2000, but those Roberts are everywhere.

      3. Sarah*

        I’ve noticed that for whatever reason the name Fergus is often used by AAM LWs for a troublesome man in the workplace; I remember a letter in which someone (perhaps unfamiliar with the connotations it had gained) had used that name for a co-worker who actually wasn’t a problem, and some confusion in the comments as people wondered what he’d done to deserve being called Fergus – had they missed something?

      1. Meep*

        Thank you for actually answering the question! I really appreciate it rather than the condescending responses I was getting above!

        1. goddess21*

          i mean, they were accurate answers. the name came from the lw. the tidbit about conventional pseudonyms in the sciences is interesting but not necessarily related.

          1. ian*

            I’d argue that the conventional pseudonyms in the sciences are more likely to have arisen from the common usage of names like Bob as examples rather than the other way around, anyway

            1. David*

              Me too. The Wikipedia article linked by Sandi says that the reason “Alice” and “Bob” are used in cryptography is because communication protocols used to be explained with placeholder letters, like “A sends a random number to B, then B computes a secure hash and sends it back to A….” but in this one famous paper the authors realized that it would be easier to follow if they used names starting with those letters instead. There’s some speculation that it might have been motivated by a movie title, but ultimately it probably all traces back to them being common names that started with the right letters.

              I would be extremely surprised if the letter-writer’s choice of “Bob” as a name has anything to do with its use in cryptography (unless the OP is familiar with cryptography, but most people arent).

              1. Jill Swinburne*

                I actually do that when people use initials instead of names. I make up my own names to fill in the blanks – it definitely makes it easier.

  27. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

    I haven’t seen yet anyone offer advice on this part: “how to deal with talking about his remaining projects that I’ll have to help him hand off to someone else. What can I do to try and keep the peace until he leaves?” (Sorry if I missed something!)
    I would say, treat him as you would any other employee. Ask him to spend his remaining time documenting his projects and getting you up to speed. Schedule some meetings so you can go over the documentation and make sure you have a clear sense of where everything stands. Focus not on keeping the peace but getting what you need to set Bob’s replacement up for success. If Bob isn’t cooperative or is in some way disrupting the peace, talk with HR about how it may make sense to have Bob leave early.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      If I were OP I’d probably have low expectations, and get Bob as focused as possible on “wrapping stuff up” and just keep him busy making documentation about whatever it is he has to hand off. Generally even high performers are limited in what they can do when they’re about to leave, so I would not expect much at all from a low performer. I wouldn’t expect him to train people or solve any huge problems, and I would take any pressure or corrections away as much as possible (some things may not be possible to overlook of course). Bob quit because he felt like he was failing so the lower the targets OP can set the better imo.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      I would remove Bob’s ability to make mistakes, if I could. Eg. reassign the critical bits of his work that would slow up the business if left undone / in poor shape.

    3. Kevin Sours*

      This. And keep a solid focus on the fact that the notice period is for your benefit, not his. If the most valuable way he can spend it is in the basement twiddling his stapler then that’s what you do. (I’d be reluctant to end the notice period early absent egregious behavior because you don’t want to send the message to others that they won’t get paid for time they planned to if they give notice).

  28. t-vex*

    Any chance he applied for the manager job himself?
    Either way, this is not a you problem, it is a Bob problem (Boblem?)

  29. She of Many Hats*

    If a male colleague can’t handle negative feedback from a female colleague or manager, it is a him problem. As a manager who happens to be a woman, you should not have to soften your professionally delivered messages to your male reports or colleagues. Communicate clearly, professionally, with respect & dignity but strongly.

    And others have said, Bob saved you needing to master handling a disgruntled, resentful, low quality worker as your first management challenge.

    1. Hello*

      +1 we have accommodated this behavior for too long with softening the language or ignoring the problem.

  30. TitosandCoffee*

    100% agree with everyone that this a Bob problem not a you problem. But what can become a problem for you if you are going to tie yourself in knots worrying if you hurt feelings or if you need to change your approach for every single person you manage. You sound like an incredibly fair and empathetic person. You are also now a boss. You can be both and people will still sometimes be unhappy with you. That is ok. I’m sure you know this, but feel this. It was the hardest thing I had to work on my first year leading. Good luck but you got this.

  31. Ray Gillette*

    A coworker doesn’t even have to be awful to be someone you don’t want to work under. I’ve got a coworker where I’d leave if he became my boss. Not to the point where I’d quit immediately without something new lined up, but I’d be job-hunting pretty frantically. I actually like him fine as a colleague, we are both good at our respective jobs, but there are a few places where we fundamentally disagree on how things ought to be done. And as long as both our respective managers are happy with our work, we can agree to disagree! But if he were managing me, I know I’d be miserable.

    1. Ukdancer*

      Definitely this. There are 4 llama grooming team managers in my area of the company me, Lala, Dipsy and Po. I would leave immediately if our boss left and either Dipsy or Po got the job. They’re nice people but I don’t want to work for either of them because our styles are v different.

  32. JMals*

    LW, you’ve handled this very well and Alison’s advice is spot on. One point of caution though – I’m hoping that when you say that you’ve spoken to “multiple people” that agree it’s a “Bob” problem, that those people aren’t your other direct reports. It’s easy to fall into that discussion because you’re familiar with them and have likely shared Bob frustrations before, but the new manager dynamic makes it a no-go moving forward.

  33. Kella*

    I agree with Alison’s assessment here. But OP, if it would make you feel better to give Bob the benefit of the doubt: Sometimes two workers just clash and they’re never going to work well together and that’s okay. If Bob recognized that he was never going to be happy being managed by you, OR this finally drove home for him that he’s not well suited for this job, then it’s a positive thing that he decided to leave. The fact that your management isn’t for him does not make your management bad.

    To be clear, I think Bob was being unreasonable in his bad reception of feedback and rejection of your attempts to develop an amicable relationship with him and so I think it’s likely that if there was a problem here, it was Bob. But I wanted to offer this other framing in case it felt petty or unkind to just write him off as irrational.

    1. sofar*

      Yep. Ultimately Bob is allowed to choose his choices, and it doesn’t really matter WHY he left. The LW has tons of evidence not to take this personally.

      I once quit a job because someone who had roughly the same number of years of experience as me and who I just had differing views from got promoted to manage me. Did she deserve it? YES! Did she excel at her position? Also yes! Did I want her to be my manager? Nope. So I put in my two weeks the day after her promotion was announced. Was it awkward? Sure. But leaving on my terms was important to me.

      1. Ukdancer*

        Yes. I got a promotion to a more senior post in the team once and the other team member who went for the job and wasn’t successful didn’t want to work for me so he put in for another job. I’d have liked him to stay but it’s his choice and if he didn’t want to work for me I couldn’t make him want to.

  34. The Bimmer Guy*

    I think, LW, you are struggling with rejection, and that’s natural. But it doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong, or that there’s anything actionable for you to fix.

  35. Wave Goodbye*

    Sometimes the trash takes itself out and you should be grateful.

    Rude or true? Could be both.

    My experience was with a colleague who went out on maternity leave and declared that when she got back, she would not do part of the job (evening work) since she now had a kid. She was playing it up so much that her nickname became Eve (since no one else had every had a kid, dontcha know).

    Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when she went on permanent maternity leave and didn’t come back.

    And the kid? When he was five years old, his favorite thing to watch was videos…of himself. Can we say…future serial killer?

    I know this is an old letter, but I always go with being happy when the squeaky stairs leave. Don’t care if they go on to better things are worst things, they are not up in my grill anymore. This came up when some colleagues were complaining that a particular bad seed was leaving and getting a big promotion. My statement that I didn’t care what perks or salary the person was getting, I just was glad that I wasn’t going to every have to see them ever again.

    Some people bring joy in their coming into our lives, some by leaving.

    1. Alianora*

      Kinda messed up to say that about a kid just bc they like watching home videos and you don’t like their mom, tbh

  36. looly*

    She was lucky, I had a “Bob” in my team when I got promoted to a manager’s position. I learned later that he candidates to the position he was nearly twice my age and had more experience than me. He tried everything possible slow down things, he was always late to meetings or he forgot he had a meeting with me. I gave him his dream project and he wasn’t able to work on it, his mom died and I gave him extra days. He had a job protection (state job) so I wasn’t able to fire him, I ended up resigning.

    1. Kapers*

      I had this situation too only he FINALLY left on his own. I very nearly quit because my mental health absolutely suffered. OP has the best possible outcome here.

  37. GreenDoor*

    You were promoted – twice – while giving feedback the way you gave it. This is Bob’s problem, not yours. Please don’t soften or change your approach because of one guy that gets his undies in a bundle when a woman gives him critique.

  38. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    I didn’t get the sense it’s because OP is a woman, younger, etc. I think he had just realised that now OP was his boss, his poor performance would become a problem (PIP etc) for him quite quickly, and didn’t want to stick around.

  39. HospitalDPT*

    I’m a physical therapist. In my department we occasionally have a patient who decides, for whatever reason, that they do not want to keep seeing the therapist they were initially assigned to. The most benign reason is that the patient just really like who they saw previously or had a different therapist recommended by friends/family. No one’s fault, just a comfort preference. More often though, it comes down to the patient tried to pull something, the therapist set a hard boundary, and the patient didn’t like it. That is the scenario that makes me think of OP’s Bob – because almost every time in that circumstance the therapist ends of saying, “they don’t want to see me? YEE-HAW!” In short, sometimes a situation that was going to be a dreadful pain in the rear ends up self correcting for the better. :)

  40. andy*

    It is possible you could do nothing and simply your styles meshed badly.

    If I dislike someone in work context, him or her forcing themselves on me socially makes everything worst. It feels fake and may feel manipulative. Bob’s hot and cold reaction suggests he simply did not liked that either. But that is life, you don’t get along with everyone.

    And when person you don’t mesh with gets to be your boss, leaving is entirely rational. It is good for both of you.

  41. Kapers*

    I was promoted over a longer-tenured man who was extremely bitter about it and OP, you do NOT want to manage someone like that. It took two years for him to go and cost me my mental health because he was so disrespectful, yet my boss wouldn’t let me fire him because he was also litigious. I envy you; it’s better now but this marred my promotion like you wouldn’t believe.

  42. apex*

    You’ve been noticed and promoted by management, so you’re obviously doing something right in their eyes. They believe you to be good at the technical side of your job, and have rewarded you with promotions, and your other colleagues respond well to you (as far as you know). This is awesome and a credit to you. But management is a completely different skill set, and I am always so pleased when people want to learn whatever they can from tricky situations so they can continuously improve.

    I agree with Alison on some points here, and not others. Bob may just have problems with being managed and given feedback by someone younger, and/or a woman, and I’ve certainly faced that problem myself as a female manager.

    If I may, I’d like to add a few points that may be of use to LW, as they are things I wish I’d known earlier, and that too many people in workplaces never seem to learn.

    This could be a Bob Problem, this could be a You Problem, or it could be a Both Of You Problem.

    It may have nothing to do with you. Bob may have been going to quit regardless for reasons completely unrelated to you. In this situation, as a senior colleague, and particularly as his manager, you may have been able to support him if one of the following applied:
    * Bob was bait-and-switched regarding his job and/or its conditions, leaving him out of his depth, resentful, fearful, stressed, etc.
    * Bob was completely burnt out.
    * Bob was dealing with a lot in his personal life.
    * Bob had previously been subjected to unfair or bad treatment in the workplace (eg: bullying, unwarranted termination or performance management), leaving him distrustful of management and the workplace in general.

    You may have already tried to speak with him gently and privately, or suggested he have a confidential conversation with HR, on these points. Too many managers see a performance “problem” as a reason to whip out disciplinary measures, instead of ensuring the person is being adequately trained and supported, including with accommodations.

    Bob is no longer your problem, but as a manager, you will need to be able to deal with all of the above in a positive, helpful way that isn’t firing the person, putting them on a PIP, criticizing them constantly, or hoping they’ll leave.

    “I didn’t shy away from giving him feedback directly but professionally – the same way I give feedback to everyone else – and while no one else in the company seems to have a problem with me, he would get angry and defensive when I critiqued his work.”
    While you should treat everyone with respect and equity, you will need to adjust your communication, feedback and management style according to people and situation. As above, the reason for his reaction could be as simple as he doesn’t like being given feedback, or corrected, by someone who is younger or female, or anyone at all. But there is usually more to it, in my experience, with the most common causes being neurotypical/neurodivergent communication styles clashing, and trauma, workplace-related or otherwise (eg: thanks to previous nightmare boss/es who bullied him and gave unwarranted negative feedback to try and have him fired, any negative feedback puts him in fear of his livelihood, causing a strong reaction).

    But it could be that the way you were communicating your feedback was the issue. I’m pretty direct with my feedback, but I do try to take a compassionate, empathetic approach, adjust my communication style as needed, and balance anything negative or constructive with something positive. In my experience, sugarcoating (up to a point) has its place when encouraging employees out of their shells, or in skill building or improvement. This is particularly relevant with the common clash between neurotypical and neurodivergent communication styles. You always need to balance any negative or constructive feedback with something positive.

    The fact that you are writing this letter indicates you’re probably both compassionate and self-aware, but I always try to remember that just because everyone else on the team has accepted your feedback, and approach to giving it, does not mean that they agree, or don’t have any objections to it, or problems or issues with it. If everyone is just accepting your feedback without any comments or questions, including just to clarify a point, there may be an issue you are not aware of.

  43. SnappinTerrapin*

    Regardless of Bob’s reasons for his actions, he has made a choice that presumably meets his needs.

    Bob’s reasons for his actions have little bearing on what LW should do. Essentially, she should focus on the transition, and do what she can to minimize distractions for the rest of the team as her immediate priority.

    After that, a little introspection never hurts, but too much introspection can be worse than none at all. I suspect that a healthy level of reflection will reveal that she is already on the right track towards successful management. I don’t think she should put too much weight on a single dissatisfied employee, especially when there is so little reason to believe she has done anything objectively wrong.

  44. Neddy Seagoon*

    It’s never easy to cope when someone rockets ahead of you, even if their work is objectively better (particularly when you’re already giving it everything you have and it’s still not enough). But coming to terms with the fact that some people are just better at something is part of growing up, so … be glad he quit.


  45. All Outrage, All The Time*

    Seriously, who cares if he resigned and why he resigned? People get to resign. I have resigned because I didn’t want to work with a new manager. You’re making this about you when it’s really about Bob. I would honestly just park this and forget it. It’s ok for him to resign. You don’t need to know the reason why. None of this is a you problem. Just keep doing what you’ve always done. You got promoted. Clearly what you are doing is what your employer wants. Keep doing that. Don’t worry about Bob. Keep treating him the same as everyone else. The goal of a manager is not to prevent people leaving. Bob is a difficult to manage employee. He’s done you a favour.

  46. Skippy*

    I’m in a situation right now where one of the finalists for our department head’s job is an internal candidate, and if they are chosen I will be definitely looking for a new job. We are like oil and water and it won’t be a good situation for either of us. Does that make me a Bob? Maybe. But in every job I’ve ever had when a new leader takes over, there is usually a decent amount of turnover as people realize the situation isn’t working for them for any number of reasons.

    1. Skippy*

      And…as it turns out, the internal candidate got the position. I’m not in a position to just quit with nothing lined up, but my casual job search has landed me multiple interviews and I will be taking my search up a notch now that the decision has been made. It’s not personal: I just don’t think working for them will be good for me in the long run.

  47. Not Jenny*

    Whilst I absolutely agree with everyone here that it’s a Bob problem and not you, you could still use this as an opportunity for self-reflection. Is your feedback method working for everyone? Could you approach things differently? Do you use the same approach for all, or adapt to suit personal styles? I mean I’m pretty sure Bob just didn’t like working under you for the reasons you describe. But taking Bob out of the equation, asking your peers for an evaluation of your feedback style won’t hurt either, and you might even learn something about yourself you didn’t realise.

  48. Irish Teacher*

    I wouldn’t assume he found you intolerable. It’s possible, but there are other options too like he feels he’s burned his bridges with you because you are aware of a number of his mistakes and he feels he’s already given a bad impression of himself and wouldn’t be able to impress you or he is angry with the company for not promoting him instead and feels he has to leave in order to move up the ladder or he is a misogynist and doesn’t want to work for a woman or is embarrassed at the thought of somebody younger than him being in charge of him. Or heck, it could even be a coincidence.

    It doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong and if it is that he objected to a woman knowing better than him or somebody younger than him knowing better than him, then I don’t think you had any obligation to compensate for that by being “gentler”. Apart from which, it probably wouldn’t work anyway.

    It sounds like you handled everything well and if Bob had a problem with it, it’s Bob’s problem. I’d say the best thing to do is to continue dealing professionally with him and ignore his hot and cold behaviour.

    For one thing, that may be nothing to do with you at all. It is possible Bob is dealing with stress in his personal life or that he finds the job very difficult and is stressed out (the latter would fit with him leaving suddenly). I know I have had situations in the past when I thought somebody was mad at me and it turned out to be completely unrelated to me.

    But even assuming it is (and I’m not trying to play down the possibility because it does seem to fit the pattern of either a man objecting to a woman knowing better than him or an older person objecting to a younger person), then it is better not to play into that. You said that failing to correct Bob would damage the quality of the work and that is more important than Bob’s feelings. I mean, obviously, you shouldn’t be rude or humiliate Bob but it doesn’t sound like you did that. It sounds like you did everything right and Bob is either being unreasonable or there are other issues going on that you are unaware of.

  49. Raida*

    It feels like he found me so intolerable that he didn’t think it was even worth giving working with me a shot,

    LW, he’s already worked with you.
    You’ve already given him feedback.
    He didn’t like it, it’s expected it will become part and parcel of you being his actual boss.
    He’s leaving, don’t give him any feedback in the last couple weeks – just be positive and clear in your communication with him, focussing on the handover.

  50. apex*

    It also made me pretty skeptical when I hear other people describe their managers as bullies. I used to just take their word at it, but now I ask followup questions about the specific behaviors.

    Please don’t let one bad experience you had while in a position of power leave you disbelieving the stories of those who say they have been bullied in the workplace. It is an awful, soul-crushing experience that ruins your health, career, finances, relationships, and sense of trust and security. It also takes a lot of bravery for a survivor of workplace bullying to share their experiences. Most people who are bullied in the workplace are too frightened, or too embarrassed, to ever speak up. So please do try and keep that in mind when asking questions. Always offer them support as well.

    1. apex*

      Sorry, nesting fail! This is meant to be a direct reply to RBFforDays’ comment posted on July 10 at 12:56 pm.

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