update: new hire is monitoring our calendars

Remember the letter-writer whose new hire was monitoring the whole team’s calendars and commenting on them? The first update was here, and here’s the conclusion.

As predicted, Seniority Susan didn’t make it.

I delivered a PIP with explicit expectations for behavior modification outlined. At the time, Susan did not give me much hope that change would occur.

I was wrong … for about five months. She abided by the PIP goals and, I thought, had turned over a new leaf when things started going downhill again.

She just couldn’t stay in her lane and do her work. She rebuilt spreadsheets I created to fulfill very specific needs, complicated every decision and conversation by insisting that she was an expert in X, Y, and Z (she isn’t), spent weeks laying claim to as many prospects as she could (but doing absolutely nothing with them) and did everything but her core job. She was busy … but not effective … and she was EXHAUSTING to deal with!

So I started to address all that in our weekly 1:1 meetings. Defensiveness was her reaction, asserting that she is the authority on all things — in other words, Seniority Susan was back!

As I held firm and put expectations on paper, she began to claim illness and infirmity. Now, I realize that this sounds monstrous, but I truly believe she was mimicking the experience of a colleague who contends with an autoimmune disorder to take advantage of us. She had the exact same symptoms but always worked it so we couldn’t get a doctor’s confirmation she needed accommodations. She would be out two days in a row, never three (policy is a doctor’s note at three days), come in late, leave early, I’ll be working from home (but not having any work product to show for it), the whole thing.

After two months of this, HR sat her down and discussed FMLA. How can we accommodate your needs and get our work done? What can we do here to get you where we need you to be? Let’s get a plan on paper and figure this out.

So we went in to accommodation mode, even though she never completed the FMLA paperwork.

Still. No work being done. No progress made. Nada!

So, as in every sales job on earth, you don’t make progress towards goal, folks start to ask questions. And the answers were not good.

Her position was eliminated. Leadership felt that we didn’t really need that position anyway — the goals weren’t met and the budget couldn’t support it.

Once she was gone, my team started sharing stories of the manipulation she was doing behind the scenes: lies she told, complaints she made about me to them, things she told them to do — saying that I asked her to tell them, even arranging for a colleague to be out of the room when she was to be introduced at an event! Really crazy stuff.

I have never been so happy to have missed a sales goal in my career! Now that Susan is gone, our team’s productivity has increased and we are actually on track to meet goal by the end of the year — making up for the deficit she was in before she left AND meeting our own!

Oh, and we can even share our calendars with the whole team and hear zero comments on what we have on them.

Sayonara, Susan!

{ 131 comments… read them below }

  1. Lawyera*

    This reminds me of a parable about a man who wants a bigger house so his rabbi tells him to bring the donkey in. Then bring the goat in. Than the chickens. Finally when the rabbi says ok now let them go back to the barn, the house feels extremely spacious! It’s like, unfortunately Susan didn’t help, but having her there made you appreciate your existing team even more!

      1. Ally McBeal*

        What a great connection! I’ve never heard the rabbi/bigger house story but am very familiar with the magic fish and the fisherman (and his wife) who always wanted more. And agreed, a much more positive take, although at least the fisherman just ended up where he’d began instead of encountering the True Wrath of the Magic Fish (lol).

    1. BubbleTea*

      Julia Donaldson has turned this into the book A Squash and A Squeeze. I don’t think I knew it was originally a Jewish parable but I did think it sounded like Jewish logic when I first read it!

        1. Nightengale*

          Also “Such a Noise” https://www.amazon.com/Such-Noise-Folktale-Aliana-Brodmann/dp/0916291251

          Although (and I am Jewish) I first encountered the tale in a French book we took out of the public library when I was around 4. We lived in the US and spoke only English. Why we took this out of the library and my father did his best to read it to me recalling his high school French. . . I have absolutely no idea. I just remember all the animals and “le bebe.”

          I so often describe situations seeming much better after a small change as getting the chickens out of the house.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        There’s a children’s picture book version of the Jewish version, too: It Could Always Be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale, by Margot Zemach. I used it in my preschool story hours when I was a children’s librarian years ago, and it’s still in print!

    2. merpaderp*

      I had a children’s book version othis story! “It Could Always Be Worse” by Margot Zenmach – one of my favorites

  2. singularity*

    Yay! A satisfying update, thank you! I’m so glad you all don’t have to deal with her anymore.

        1. Grandma*

          From the link:”Les Services éducatifs assument un rôle de services, de conseils et de soutien à la formation générale jeune (FGJ), adulte (FGA) et professionnelle (FP).”

          LOL, my French isn’t very strong, but I’m pretty sure the magic fish story isn’t here. Try again?

  3. Bookworm*

    Sorry your team had to deal with all of that but am so glad it worked out! Yay and thanks for the update!!

  4. AnotherSarah*

    “Busy but not effective” sounds like so many people I know with 35 years of non-profit experience! Argh.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I think it is more about those people who constantly tell you they have 35 years of non-profit experience (or other specific experience). The need to remind people constantly suggests that you might be compensating for something!

        1. Kacihall*

          at my office, that specific problem is always a customer that doesn’t understand our website but has “37 years of teaching experience ” so obviously it’s our fault. (I don’t know if 37 is how many years before normal retirement or what, but the most troublesome ones specifically say 37 years. it’s become a joke.)

          1. Quill*

            Sounds like a combo of age at which career started (so no experience in other fields) and customer age (so, less educational and life background regarding technology, ever.)

        2. Goldenrod*

          Agreed! One of the worst colleagues I ever had liked to always bring up her “25-year career” but she was not a strong contributor (to say the least).

          I’ve noticed that often those who brag the most about how hard they work are often the *least* effective people in the office, and the biggest time wasters.

          The people actually getting things done don’t talk about it constantly…They are too busy working.

          1. ferrina*

            The people actually getting things done don’t talk about it constantly…They are too busy working.

            Exactly. And when they do talk about it, it’s usually in the context of “here’s a project I previously worked on and how it turned out; here’s how we can use that in our current project.”
            It’s never in the context of “I have X years experience.” The effective people prefer to measure in terms of accomplishments rather than years.

            1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

              The only time I bust out things like years of experience or advanced qualifications tends to be as a preface to “And I would have had NO idea how to deal with this, I would need to ask my boss their take on this. So, no, you shouldn’t have known this was going to be a problem, or apologize for it, because the situation is bonkers.” Basically not to claim I am “more right” more to show that even if they are holding themselves to the standard of a subject matter expert, they made totally reasonable decisions. So there really isn’t any need for them to beat themselves up.

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                Exactly – “I’ve been doing this for nearly twenty years and this particular kind of situation has only come up once before.”

              2. The Provisional Republic of A Thousand Eggs*

                The one time I brought up my years of experience wasn’t even in the context of (my) work… I wanted to print a few pages in the nurses’ office (I live in a care home) and there was this young intern who tried to “help” and, among other things, pushed her hand between my hands (I was typing, and I’m a pretty fast typist; she was trying to get at the touchpad).

                Eventually, I had to point out that I don’t need help with things like clicking on stuff or deciding which browser I want (I was trying to open Firefox, she was trying to click on Chrome) because, among other things, I’d been teaching advanced Windows classes before she was even born.

                But that was the only time, and in work contexts it’s never come up (in other contexts than those described by other commenters; “I’ve been doing this for x years but, wow, I’ve only seen this once before”; “I’ve done something like this x years ago and here is what we can learn from that”; “I’ve been doing this for x years and let me tell you, that was a weird time back then (insert anecdote)”; that sort of thing).

                1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                  The one time my husband brought up his experience in years was when he was subjected to yet another teacher detention, aka thinly disguised commercial for a seminar/workshop which would revolutionize teaching and cure all the problems, identical to one he’d seen fly by ten years before.

            2. Ace in the Hole*

              Plenty of jobs don’t have specific projects one can point to. And in many cases, years of experience is itself meaningful – more years on the job means you will have run into a wider range of situations, had time to try a variety of methods, seen long-term effects of things, develop good professional intuition, etc.

              While I might expect, say, a lawyer or software developer to talk in terms of specific projects, I would expect a truck driver or nurse to talk about length of service. And regardless of career, bringing up years of experience makes sense when commenting on things like industry norms or gut feelings. E.g. “I’ve been doing this 15 years and I’ve never seen a judge react well to that sort of thing.”

            3. Selena81*

              Yeah. If people demand status based only on the number of years it strongly implies they just did the same few basic tasks over and over again and have way less actual experience than the person who was always happy to learn about new tasks.

              Some old people are also like that in their personal life: bragging about their ‘age and experience’ but constantly giving advice about situations they have no real experience with (f.i. advice about marriage when they’ve been single their whole life)

          2. Decidedly Me*

            This! I have a few folks like this (it’s being addressed). They are too busy to do their key priorities because of tasks X, Y, Z. The funniest part? To accomplish tasks X, Y, Z, they have to do their key priorities….

            In the past, I’ve also had someone who anytime they were being coached on a quality issue, their reflexive response was “it must have been busy at that time!”. Every single time.

          3. Irish Teacher*

            Yeah, it’s like if you really are nice, you don’t have to go around saying that you’re a nice person; you can let your behaviour speak for itself. Or if you are a truly honest person, you don’t have to go around telling everybody what an honest person you are. If you are good at your job, you don’t have to boast about how long you’ve been in the field. Your work will speak for itself. It’s only when somebody’s work doesn’t speak for itself that people need to try and get respect by saying how long they’ve been working for.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              “I’m a really Nice Guy, but [proceeds to tell a story where he is anything but nice].”

              actions > words

          4. Tenebrae*

            Agreed! The worst boss I ever had (both in terms of competence and in terms of human decency) loved to parade around the office exclaiming at the top of her lungs how stressed out she was. Only problem was that Nothing. Ever. Got. Done. At a microcosm: I was her direct report and she insisted she had to approve everything I did. She didn’t read my emails (because she was too busy) and said I should talk to her in person (but cancelled all our meetings because she was too busy) and then got mad that I never finished anything. This all happened while, in the year I worked for her before she bullied me out of my job, not a single one of her projects got finished. I now assume that anyone who’s actually busy doesn’t have time to complain about it.

        3. College Career Counselor*

          As I tell my students (who want to return to be a senior counselor at their beloved summer camp yet again), are you getting another term of experience, or is it the same summer of experience for the 3rd time? There are people in many industries who have the same 3, 5, whatever years of experience 10 times. Sounds like Seniority Susan was one of them and could only cling “time served” as a metric of her accomplishments. Well done, LW!

        4. RVA Cat*

          Reminds me of the meanest teacher I had in elementary school who went on and on with my parents about how she’d been teaching for 35 years. This was in the mid-80s, so I have to wonder if she pitched a fit when schools were integrated.

        5. Ace in the Hole*

          I wrote in a while back asking for advice on dealing with coworkers who thought I was much younger (and thus less experienced) than I actually am. One of the more popular suggestions from the commentariat was to bring up my years of experience.

          I don’t do this routinely since it feels awkward… but I think it’s worth remembering that some people may feel the need to bring up their experience proactively to counteract discrimination. Certain groups are much more likely to be underestimated or not taken seriously.

      2. AnotherSarah*

        I mean, that’s my whole career, too. But IME, the whole “I care about this a LOT” often subs for being effective.

      3. DJ Hymnotic*

        Eh, I’ve spent most of my career in the nonprofit world and IME it is just as full of problem personalities as for-profit work. And in the corner of faith-based nonprofits where I began my career, the busy-but-not-effective person who has been there for ages is practically straight out of central casting. I have my theories as to why that’s the case, but I came across such employees frequently enough that I immediately thought of several when I saw the comment.

    1. UselessInfoLivesInMyBrain*

      There is a 17th century word for this: spuddle – to work ineffectively; to be extremely busy whilst achieving absolutely nothing.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Hahah yup. My last director (who caused half the department to quit within 3 months of her hiring) loved to talk about her 36 years of experience. At the same non-profit. She’d literally never been employed anywhere else and she was constantly SO! OMG! BUSY! beavering away in her closed office but never actually produced an iota of work.

  5. L.Miller*

    My husband had a phrase he used when a useless or difficult co-worker finally left…
    Addition by subtraction.

  6. Sara without an H*

    Good to have her gone, isn’t it?

    Once she was gone, my team started sharing stories of the manipulation she was doing behind the scenes: lies she told, complaints she made about me to them, things she told them to do — saying that I asked her to tell them, even arranging for a colleague to be out of the room when she was to be introduced at an event! Really crazy stuff.

    This bothers me a little. Why didn’t your team flag this behavior for you earlier? When you do your next team meeting, see if you can surface why that happened — Do they have an aversion to “tattling?” Do they tend to be conflict avoidant? Make sure they don’t feel blamed, but try to find out what happened, and assure them that it’s okay to report problematic behavior before it jams the gears on the whole department.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        OP, I’d make sure you’re touching base with everyone on your team (individually) to figure out why they didn’t flag the issue for you earlier. Specifically, if there’s something you should change with your management style that would encourage them to come to you earlier with problems.

        Have you been too busy to meet with them? Is there a culture of shoot-the-messenger at your workplace? Was Susan manipulative enough that they believed you’d given her that authority? Do assignments often go out through indirect paths?

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I think a lot of people are reluctant to bring forward issues because they don’t want to seem like they are “tattling” or are afraid they will be seen as not “team oriented”. So they keep quite out of a misplaced sense of needing to look professional.

      It’s a tough balance to achieve between speaking up on issues and not being seen as someone complaining about a colleague.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, this. I had a bad employee that I was actively working with about his performance. We don’t do PIP’s for his type of position, but it was essentially the same process. Of course I did not tell the other employees that I was actively managing his poor performance. He showed some signs of improvement, but not nearly enough. About 2 weeks before I was already planning to fire him, another employee went to his manager (my peer) and was distraught. He felt so bad about getting the other guy in trouble, and also thought it would reflect badly on him since he had done a lot of training for the new guy.

        And yeah, the guy was gone a couple weeks after he brought up these issues. I asked his manager to reassure him that it wasn’t his fault. But it’s important remember that if you feel like you’re tattling, the manager probably already knows.

      2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Plus everyone has *one* story and it isn’t until the team talks that you hear *12* stories.

        1. Observer*

          Plus everyone has *one* story and it isn’t until the team talks that you hear *12* stories.

          I think that this is a key thing. “Divide and conquer” is a thing for a reason. When it’s one person with one or maybe two stories, you don’t realize it’s *such* a big deal, and that it really needs to go to someone else. But when people get together to talk you suddenly realize that OMG, *everyone* had a similar story or two. And while each one individually is not so bad that *pattern* is trouble.

          It’s one of the reasons why I, and others, often tell people to get things that seem small on the record with HR. Because in isolation those things could be small, but if they are a pattern, that’s a different issue – and there is often no way for the people posting to know if it’s a pattern, but if each person brings those things to HR in an FYI way THEY can see a pattern if one actually exists. That’s not always realistic, of course, but the point is that when a number of people are involved it’s not surprising that it takes something pretty major to shake the information loose.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          Yes! I remember one time I was on a website that got trolled and after the person was outed, everybody started sharing their stories and if we’d all put them together earlier, the person would have been outed much sooner, but we all thought “oh, I’m probably imagining it. I don’t want to stir up trouble.”

          The person had two or three accounts. The site owner knew both were posting from the same computer but asked them and they said they were cousins, using the same computer, which seemed odd, but hey, it’s possible. Somebody else noticed that one of them seemed to change position in an argument to the position the other had been holding, but thought “maybe I’ve forgotten who said what.” One of the accounts claimed to have received an insulting message online and I noticed it used a term only used within the site, which seemed kinda freaky as it indicated that either it was somebody on the website bullying them or somebody was stalking them to the point of reading the sites they comment on and using in-jokes from them to freak them out, but I didn’t want to make people on the site suspicious of each other and cause conflict; it didn’t actually occur to me that the person wrote it themself.

          When we all compared notes, it was like “woah, how did we fail to notice for so long?” but each thing on its own was “hmm, that’s odd, but maybe I’m overreacting.”

          And people are reluctant to assume flagrant repetitive lying. Especially if nobody else seems to have noticed it. We tend to assume people will behave reasonably and it sounds like Susan’s behaviour was so bizarre that I can imagine people either thinking they must have been mistaken/must have misheard her, etc or else thinking nobody would believe them because it was their word against hers and which sounds more like: “I forgot to attend that event” or “Susan set things up to prevent me from attending.”

        3. Letter Writer*

          Letter writer here. Exactly. They were shocked to hear one another’s stories! Once one shared…the others started tumbling out. Everyone thought it was just them!

      3. Sage*

        If you grew up in a culture where “tattling” was seen as something bad to do, and where it was your fault anyway because you didn’t react perfectly enough, then it becomes even more difficult to come forward.

      4. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Or that it’ll get chalked up to a personal disagreement, rather than an issue of work behaviour. And that there may be retaliation from someone who has already shown themselves to be manipulative.

    2. Unkempt Flatware*

      Because people like Susan can be very very good at what they do. I have a parent, for example, who would steal from my purse if I left it out and he can still trick me into leaving my purse with him. Don’t underestimate people like Susan. All that work not being done was her tying up all her other loose ends. They are scary people.

      1. H.Regalis*

        Agreed. There are people who are really, really good at being manipulative; and sometimes you might not even release that’s what’s happening. A friend of mine found out that their former director had been playing people off each other and doing all kinds of crazy powerplay stuff for over a decade before anyone realized that was what was going on. And sometimes you just get exhausted dealing with them and can’t fight against every little trick they pull.

        1. Beth*

          I’ve known some really extraordinary manipulators in my time — and I always end up thinking “If you didn’t p*ss away all your energy trying to yank everyone’s strings, you could actually accomplish SO MUCH and not be a jerk and a time-suck.”

      2. Ominous Adversary*

        While this is true, the LW shouldn’t assume that this is the whole source of the problem.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          She arrived, the team’s productivity went down. She left, it went back up sharply.

          I think it’s pretty clear that it was the major problem.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      Yes this sounds incredibly conflict avoidant. The things she was doing to the team are details OP could really have done with knowing sooner, and it would have been the work of a moment for someone to say “Susan said you wanted me to do X, but that seems wrong, so I wanted to check directly with you” or “Susan is saying things about you which make uncomfortable listening”. I can see people not wanting to get involved if someone is just a bit of a bad fit for the role; that’s between them and the boss. However, when someone is on a massive power trip and actively manipulating everyone around them, you can’t speak up too soon. It’s also kind of telling that they waited until she was definitely gone, like she was a friend’s unpopular choice of significant other. In OP’s shoes, I would probably want to open up a supportive dialogue asking them what would need to change before they felt it was safe and appropriate to be more forthcoming about serious concerns.

    4. Silver Robin*

      Agreed – these are the kinds of things folks write into AAM for help addressing. It can be awkward since folks do not always know how to handle complaints like that, but it will make for a better team.

    5. pally*


      We had a temp lab tech who wanted to be hired on full-time. She would go to the department head periodically to ask what the chances were that this would happen. His response was always promising. As in, “Well, why not? Haven’t heard anything negative about your work. ” Each time she would waltz into the lab telling me that the department head told her she’d be hired on.

      Meanwhile, I was coaching her through each day’s lab work. She claimed she had a chemistry degree yet was completely unable to prepare buffer solutions (or anything else). Week after week, I went over the calculations, but she never grasped them.

      I didn’t know whether to say something or not. Management wasn’t very receptive to input. So I chose not to. Department head probably had his reasons.

      Last straw: she poured ammonium sulfate into bleach and gassed us out of the lab.

      After she was let go, I spoke with the department head about his plan to hire her. I told him about her ineptness. That completely shocked him. He understood from her that she was doing very well. It never dawned on him that she wasn’t capable. He then instructed me, in the future, I was to go directly to him and tell him if someone isn’t able to do their work (and not learning what they need to do). He wasn’t going to bring on someone who was out of their depth.

      1. ferrina*

        Management wasn’t very receptive to input.

        This is the key. When employee are on the fence about whether to say anything, they think about what has happened in other situations. Often the past is the best predictor of the future. If management generally isn’t receptive, why would I say something now and potentially get my coworker mad at me? If management has shown an interest and discretion, I’m more likely to say something.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, especially since many employees have worked at places that have “shoot the messenger” as an unofficial motto. Though it is hard to show others that you handle private things with discretion.

      2. Cohort 1*

        She claimed she had a chemistry degree yet was completely unable…

        One wonders if this person also falsified their resumé? Did she actually go the university named on the resumé? Does that university exist in the real world? Was she awarded the degree she claimed or was her degree really in llama grooming? So many questions. Who has ever cleaned a toilet and not learned that bleach and ammonia are a really bad combo?

        1. pally*

          The temp agency said she had a chemistry degree. How they verified this I cannot say.

          She was enrolled in at least one class during her time with us. She was often observed reading a basic chemistry textbook during her down time.

          Her explanation regarding ammonia & bleach was that she was instructed to pour everything biohazardous into the biohazard container. She interpreted this as all chemicals as they could harm a person.

        2. Junior Assistant Peon*

          My guess is that she was on the high school chemistry teacher track. They remove all the upper-level chemistry courses to make room for all the education courses. The ones who either decide teaching isn’t for them, or have trouble getting hired at a school, end up ill-equipped to work as chemists.

    6. ticktick*

      It’s possible that they didn’t actually realize the problem was Susan until she was gone, and only then did they realize that LW did not, in fact, say or do the things that Susan said that LW did (eg. saying to LW, “now that Susan is gone, I just want to double-check whether you actually did want me to do XYZ, because looking back, maybe you didn’t…”). My kids were at a school where the principal played that game – telling the staff and teachers that the chair of the board gave certain directions and she was just carrying them out so there was no use complaining, while telling the board that she had everything under control and had instituted those same unpopular directions and the teachers and staff were responding well.

    7. ThePear8*

      Yeah this stood out to me as well. The fact that they waited until she was gone to say anything indicates there must’ve been some reason they didn’t feel comfortable raising those issues sooner when they happened and could be dealt with

    8. Heidi*

      It’s possible that no one person knew the full extent of the bad behavior. If you witness just one lie or one complaint, you might brush it off. It’s not until the whole team gets together to compare notes that you see the whole deranged tapestry.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        I think this is the likely culprit. When you are used to working well as a team full of competent adults, you tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume the boss knows or really did say xyz. Especially if said boss is meeting regularly with the person.

        In the aftermath someone probably said “well I’m glad I dont have to do x anymore” and someone else goes “wait what? but ….” and the whole hot mess finally sees the light of day.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          Agreed… I’ve had incompetent coworkers and malevolent coworkers. In both circumstances, but particularly with the incompetents, kvetching usually happens one-on-one, not in a big group (it feels like bullying if the whole group is involved).

          I’ve really only had one exception to this rule; she terrorized the entire department so the kvetching started one-on-one but very quickly snowballed into group discussions so we would have the larger context when reporting her to HR individually.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I agree this is the most likely – that each person only saw one or two things which individually seemed too minor to report, but which add up to make a Susan-shaped beehive.

      3. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yup. Manipulative people are very good at whispering different things to different people, and it’s never quite enough to bring to the boss without sounding crazy. Plus, if everyone else is being a professional about things, they won’t be spreading the gossip around and thus they will not compare notes. It’s also difficult for decent people to imagine that a coworker would make something up from whole cloth, so they think “Well, maybe Boss did say something about me being slow and making mistakes…” and then would rather stay under the boss’ radar than say something about the coworker who seems to have the boss’ ear (according to the coworker, of course).

        When the person gets let go, it all comes out. Often, someone who actually said something will feel guilty because they think they got the person fired. I always tell people that no one gets fired for just one thing. They get fired for the thousand things you just don’t know about.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I know that my old organization fired someone for just one thing, but that one thing was a doozy!

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            Yup. Once you deliberately set the forklift on fire and do flaming donuts in the parking lot, nobody cares how good your prior performance was.

      4. NotRealAnonForThis*

        I have to believe that this is why.

        We (extended family) all compared notes over the fairly recent excision of a former spouse from the family, and that was when exactly HOW manipulative he’d been was obvious to all of us who had watched for near 25 years. And yes, my relative’s divorce from this character is best described as a surgical excision!

    9. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      I have had this happen – where there are all these little events that are irritating but not “boss worthy” unless you happen to talk to a couple of other people and realize that there is a pattern and it isn’t just you.

      Once someone leaves the tendency to gossip a bit brings it all out.

    10. ferrina*

      This bothers me too. I guess I’m either more gossipy or more paranoid than other folks, because I would have shared some of these stories earlier. I’m a little concerned that they didn’t- it makes me wonder if they thought LW wouldn’t care or wouldn’t use the information in a constructive way. Possibly they didn’t realize that that was something they could flag for a manager.

      LW might want to talk to their team about communication and concerns. Reinforce that the team should be communicating with LW about issues like this, and make sure that the team members have a way to do this without undue hurdles (like regular 1:1s where LW checks in about areas of concern).

    11. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      Beyond the whole “no one wants to rock the boat” reasoning, it is possible they were aware that Susan was on some sort of probation and on her way out and decided that it wouldn’t really be worth it to weigh in. I mean, if Susan is already of the verge of being terminated for not hitting her number targets, why risk looking like you are trying to shove Susan out the door by bringing up “personality clashes” (AKA, how everyone is concerned their legitimate complaints will be dismissed).

      1. Cecily*

        This. An HR department at a prior job of mine, early in my career, consistently framed my concerns about an employee’s abusive and wildly out-of-norm behavior (violent outbursts whenever asked to do something; screaming; throwing things; stomping around; slamming doors that were installed in the 1950’s and built to withstand nuclear blasts, thus HEAVY) — when they had seen the behavior themselves! — as “disliking them”/“having a personality conflict.” I was supposed to be managing them (but without any real authority over them, just responsible for their output) and at my wit’s end, so I can’t imagine what the risk calculus might be for someone 1) who’d experienced or witnessed anything remotely like this before and/or 2) who didn’t have nearly as much at stake.

        But that may be beside the point because manipulation, if successful, is something that can only be seen in hindsight — especially if there are multiple parties/triangulation involved/etc. (which it sounds like there was in this instance). It’s behavior that’s rendered invisible by design, & I don’t think it necessitates a retrospective beyond what’s already happened, since everyone involved is probably that much more likely to recognize it if it happens again with a new team member.

      2. Berkeleyfarm*

        Honestly that last, especially if it was little annoyances/nitpicks, is a real concern. It’s always a possibility that things will be perceived that way.

        (Mind you I am among the many who have been dismissed or told that I need to handle out and out abuse myself. It does tend to cut down on one’s desire to say something.)

    12. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Besides the other reasons already given, I find it easier to complain about someone I no longer work with. For one thing, anything unpleasant I say is no longer likely to get back to them. For another, I no longer have to get along with them, so I can feel free to dislike them as much as I want. Personally, I find it easier and pleasanter to get along with coworkers when I am at least vaguely positive about them, which means I try not to bellyache about them. Negative words coming out of my mouth increase my dislike of whatever or whoever it is, in my experience.

    13. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Came here to say this. Some of those things sound pretty serious, so I’m very curious why the other staff didn’t bring it up earlier. Finding that out could give very useful information to the OP about how the team dynamics are operating and any changes she might want to make to ensure that they don’t have a similar issue in the future.

      One possibility is that they understand that the best approach is usually to try to deal with the situation by talking to the other person directly and only going to the boss if that fails. If the staff knew that having that direct conversation with Susan was going to be a nightmare, wouldn’t solve anything, and might make things worse, they may have decided not to have that talk. They may have believed that they couldn’t bring it to the OP in that case, even though this is probably a good example of an exception to the general guideline.

    14. Garblesnark*

      When I had an unbelievably bad coworker, I didn’t bring it up to my manager until I was asked because:
      1) her behavior was terrible, but she was very careful to be terrible in private. For example, if she and I were the only ones in our office, she would give me the silent treatment no matter what I did – but she acted normal when other people came by.
      2) she would do egregious versions of things that should be OK when done normally. Everyone needs to take a personal call at work once in a while, but she once spent an entire hour on the phone loudly discussing someone else’s bowel movements at her desk.
      3) I was fired from my last job, partly (according to my former manager) because I supposedly couldn’t get along with others. (I asked the others mentioned, and they all said we got along fine.) (I know there are times when someone might be such a bully that they would get that response anyway. I truly don’t think this was that. I’m actually a pathological people pleaser.)
      4) This coworker was the biggest brown-noser I’ve ever met, and my boss seemed to like her.

  7. LifeBeforeCorona*

    I had a co-worker who monitored everyones’s schedule daily complete with comments on how they could manage their time and tasks better. Ironically? after a few months of this their manager took a look at the co-workers workload. They were told they either had too little work to do and could be given a lot more or be laid because there was no need for their position. They stopped the monitoring and stayed in their lane.

  8. Hiring Mgr*

    Sounds like she took a step down as she was nearing retirement, but wasn’t really ready to do that yet. I’ve seen that before and it’s always ended the same

    1. Heidi*

      Based on the way the OP describes her, I’m skeptical of the idea that Susan was all that great of a manager when she was in charge.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Yeah, sounds like that super fun combination of control / micromanagement and low competence.

  9. Silver Robin*

    Agreed – these are the kinds of things folks write into AAM for help addressing. It can be awkward since folks do not always know how to handle complaints like that, but it will make for a better team.

  10. Addison DeWitt*

    It’s like I told my kids when they were first looking at jobs—your job is to take work and headaches away from your employer, not to add to them.

  11. Kes*

    LOL at “I have never been so happy to have missed a sales goal in my career!”
    Glad you were able to get rid of her, especially after finding out how toxic she was after the fact. It’s amazing how one bad apple really can drag the whole team down. You must feel a weight off your shoulders.

  12. Lucia Pacciola*

    I really appreciate these “from the trenches” accounts from actual managers dealing with actual management challenges.

  13. pally*

    It always boggles my mind when folks implode like this. Especially when there’s a clear path available leading to success.

    1. Mad Harry Crewe*

      You’ve got to (a) agree that there is a problem, (b) be open to making changes, and (c) actually succeed at making those changes. Susan wasn’t even on step A – she did not see this stuff as a problem. Everybody has the capacity to change their behavior, but that doesn’t mean everybody will.

    2. BatManDan*

      I have similar questions, frequently. (Especially with friends of friends that imploding families and/or addicted to substances.)
      “here are two separate questions; you will likely hear them as the same question, but they are NOT the same question. Will you listen carefully, and then treat them as two separate questions?”
      When you chose that course of action, what did you WANT to have happen?
      some reply
      when you chose that course of action, what did you THINK was going to happen?
      gives same reply

  14. Irish Teacher*

    I guess this is the grown up version of a student I had once who would constantly draw my attention to minor infractions of the rules – “Miss, Johnny’s eating sweets,” “Miss, Mary checked her phone,” “Miss, Kevin’s looking out the window” – often calling out and disrupting class to do so.

    One time I told him, “I’m actually far more annoyed with you now” and he replied, “you’re annoyed with me because she’s eating sweets.” “No, I’m annoyed with you because you still haven’t taken your books out, ten minutes after class started and you have spent the full ten minutes looking around at everybody else, trying to find somebody breaking a rule, then you shouted out, interrupting me mid-sentence to tell me about this.”

    1. RVA Cat*

      Someday that little snitch is going to run an HOA and wonder why everybody’s moving out of the neighborhood.

      1. AnonORama*

        A day late, but I just LOL’d! After being a member of a small HOA where other members once slut-shamed me for having a break-in (“you should be more careful giving your keys to men you don’t know well”); tried to fine someone $600 for having a poster inside her window, and spent weeks calling each other Nazis over who was going to pay to fix the door, I definitely saw this tattletale child in the body of several 50+ adults.

  15. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*

    Now that Susan is gone, our team’s productivity has increased and we are actually on track to meet goal by the end of the year — making up for the deficit she was in before she left AND meeting our own!

    In other words, it’s addition by subtraction!

  16. Boof*

    Yikes, kind of wish you had fired her before she wreaked so much havoc. I hope AAM does a post some time / gives their general hot take – the folks who claim disability / accommodations and haven’t built a track record of trust, I really don’t think should be given much extra leeway until they actually do a formal process request. Double if they already have a history of behavior problems.

    1. Anax*

      Oof, I don’t think the solution is to presume that anyone who claims disability is lying unless they’re a longtime employee or high performer.

      The work needs to get done – but a lot of disability accommodations are unlikely to affect output, and PTO/FMLA are there for “leaving early/starting late”. If Susan had been getting her work done, her absences would have been much less of an issue – and if she was lying, it was as part of a larger pattern she was already being disciplined for.

      What would ‘no, you aren’t allowed to leave early’ have gained anyone? Not more work output, and certainly not sudden insight from her that she was being a jerk. Maybe an excuse to fire her sooner, but that sounds like an unnecessarily adversarial way to do it when she was already being managed out.

      1. Boof*

        ” presume that anyone who claims disability is lying “ is not at all what I said and would indeed be a crappy way to operate. What i said is don’t extend a lot of leeway; i suppose that is vague. A little leeway ie an extra hour for an appt etc, or flex tim ok. A lot ie over 20% reduction in work hours, clearly reduced output, etc shouldn’t go on for months without formal accommodations especially in someone already on or recently on a pip! That is demoralizing to other staff as well! 20% is a bit of an arbitrary number on my part (pick your own if you prefer) but to me 2 weeks* should be enough leeway/reasonable to insist on formal doc , or to start sticking to normal work patterns, or considering firing rather.
        * again pick your number, maybe 4 weeks, but two months seems way too long!

      2. Boof*

        Also sorry I didn’t mean to single out disability specifically, but any request for a lot less work than others are doing; family emergencies, car trouble, whatever. It’s great to be generous to those who you can trust abd those who can document they need it through the standard channels (fmla, etc) but it really would be frustrating to coworkers to let someone like this (and all the others who are held on for a long time despite clear productivity or behavior issues) linger for more than a few weeks without a well documented need and plan

    2. Jessica*

      And that’s part of the reason there IS a process: so that individual managers don’t have to be the judge of how genuine anybody’s needs and claims are.

      1. Boof*

        Exactly- that’s what i mean, stick to the standard process in reasonable timelines, don’t let them spin it out for months before even starting to insist on the standard process

  17. Raida*

    Sounds like a good opportunity to encourage a more open and sharing environment when it comes to dodgy behaviour.

    Starting with the simple stuff like looping you in on completion of a task “Boss asked me to tell you to…” so that it’s clear that the tasks being done are acknowledged and understood.

  18. noncommittal pseudonym*

    I’m sooo curious about why Susan took this job in the first place! A non-profit CEO starting a sales position? Had she finally made the non-profit world too hot to hold her? I personally know of *2* non-profit CEOs who have been fired from multiple CEO positions and STILL gotten hired as a CEO at the next one! One of them is on his 5th CEO position after being fired, for cause! at the previous 4.

    I suppose one could say that fundraising is similar to some kinds of sales positions, but it still seems like a huge jump from one to the other. How did she get hired there in the first place?

    1. sparkle emoji*

      I’m curious if most of her “35 years of experience” were in a small org where she was the non-profit equivalent of chief cook and bottle washer? (Maybe they stayed small because of her mismanagement)

  19. Berkeleyfarm*

    OP, I am so glad that you were able to resolve this.

    I got forced out of a volunteer gig where I was highly involved (on the board etc.) by someone like Susan, who arrived and started micromanaging everyone else (including me when I was the senior). She went after senior leadership (in the “you can’t boss me around” tradition) and I was dealing with a chronic illness so I didn’t have anywhere to turn sort of thing. She had been eased out of jobs and other similar orgs so was trying very hard to be “indispensable” including running out people with skillsets in her preferred areas.

    When I told my friends what was going on, one thoughtfully said that study after study had shown that someone like that in an org completely tanked morale and productivity. I was just happy that it wasn’t my income involved.

  20. Oui oui oui all the way home*

    I wish every manager who is hesitant to deal with a bad worker would read this! A bad worker isn’t a net neutral at work. They can be a net negative as this story shows, causing trouble for co-workers, managers, customers, clients, suppliers, and others. Plus, they can cost a tremendous amount of money as well as time.

    1. Pesad@*

      Very true, but I believe there is no such thing as a neutral! They either contribute positively or negatively to the team.

  21. Selena81*

    It kinda reads like LW also learned a lesson about themselves: sometimes you just have to pull rank as a manager.

    Someone had to tell Susan to cut it out, and that is a task her manager had to do. Even if that manager would much rather find ways to accommodate weirdness and help someone grow into a valued team-member.

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