an employee I fired is spreading lies to the rest of my team

A reader writes:

I’m a relatively seasoned public sector (local government) manager going through a difficult situation. Long story short, I fired my assistant director, Malcolm, because he wasn’t performing at the necessary level. Our agency has a year-long probationary period and once it passes, it is very difficult to release someone. As the time of Malcolm’s annual review approached, I prepared a detailed written evaluation that outlined both positive and negative aspects of his performance. I also provided regular feedback during our time together including weekly check-ins.

Prior to providing the written evaluation during an in-person meeting, I had asked him to prepare a self evaluation in which he shared his assessment that he was performing at an awesome level in all areas. When I shared that I was concerned that he wasn’t performing acceptably and I wasn’t sure if he could correct sufficiently to meet the requirements of the position, he then switched his position and explained that he knew he was struggling but he really wanted to keep his job and would do what is necessary to correct.

So, I extended his probation by three months and we agreed on the areas in which he would focus his efforts to improve. Sadly, he did not improve and instead turned in half completed assignments. When we had the difficult conversation that it wasn’t working out for me or my agency, he cried and expressed in a vulnerable way that he felt terrible about letting me down. He asked me to extend his probation further so he could find a new job. I was vulnerable too (I felt sad and expressed how much I like him as a person and see his talent in many areas, just not the ones required for the role) and declined to extend the probation. We met before business hours early the following week so I could give him his final paycheck and he could leave without others observing his departure. (He was worried I would walk him out in front of everyone — not my style).

Since he left, I have learned that he deleted all of the files saved on the part of the server dedicated exclusively to him. He sent emails to my colleagues in which he expressed that I can’t be trusted and that I’m too demanding. He has stayed in contact with my junior staff (he is their age peer) and he has been sharing confidential information from when he was a trusted manager, causing bad feelings with individuals and between individuals. His behavior makes me feel both betrayed and furious about his conduct.

We’ve been able to restore the deleted files (hello, IT!) and I am being proactive in my efforts to encourage my staff and demonstrate that I am a competent, caring leader through my actions. That said, I fired another staff member in a different department due to documented performance issues and another team member just left to pursue a dream job at a different agency. So my staff is feeling understandably uneasy— local government employment tends to be stable, sometimes to its detriment, and there has been a lot of unexpected change this month.

It’s been more than a month since Malcolm left and he is still in regular contact with my staff. Part of me wants to caution him (as a mentor would) that our industry is very small and that his behavior reflects badly on him as a professional and a person— particularly where he is betraying the confidentiality of management information with which he was entrusted as part of my small management team. The other part of me doesn’t want to be seen as a crazy boss/control freak chasing departed staff around admonishing them about their conduct.

He had asked me earlier if I would be a reference for him in his job search and I said yes, that I would highlight the good work that he did while he was with me and the obvious talent he displayed in areas that are great for lower-level roles. Clearly I won’t be providing any kind of reference at this point, and probably won’t be asked, but I am concerned about how his behavior is further eroding my team’s morale and I wish I could ask him to stop. Do you have any advice for me?

I’m sorry, it really sucks when this kind of thing happens.

I’ve been in that situation too — bent over backwards to help a struggling employee in ways I didn’t need to, invested a lot of energy in trying to help them, prioritized dealing with them with empathy and compassion, thought we were on the same page — and then found out after they left that they were complaining about me to others. It doesn’t feel great!

Some people do this when they’re failing in a role. It helps them save face to their coworkers, and in some cases it helps them save face with themselves too. “I was fired because my boss was an overly demanding jerk” can be easier to swallow, and to say to others, than “I was fired because I wasn’t able to do the job well.” So be it — people deal with things in all sorts of ways. As the person being painted as the villain, you’ve just got to decide not to take it personally, and recognize that it’s really not about you. (Of course, you shouldn’t just default to that conclusion; first make sure you’ve taken an honest look at how you managed your end of the situation, reflected on where you could have been a better manager, and gathered and listened to feedback with an open mind if you haven’t done that recently.)

You definitely should not try to caution Malcolm about his behavior. You’re not in a mentor role with him anymore, and it’s highly likely to come across as self-serving or overstepping. And he wouldn’t even need to spin it very heavily for it to appear that way to anyone he tells about it. As tempting as it might be, you just can’t.

But it’s understandable to worry that Malcolm stirring up problems at a time when people already feel uncertain. One thing to consider, though, is that the employees he’s talking to might see through him pretty easily. People often (although not always) know when a coworker isn’t great at their job, and it’s possible the people he’s complaining to are taking everything he says with a large grain of salt because they saw some of the problems with his work for themselves. (Hell, a lot of people are secretly relieved when a low-performing coworker is fired, although they usually don’t say that to the person.) More than anything, though, they’re likely to measure what he says about you against the experiences they’ve had firsthand with you.

If you haven’t already, it will help to make a point of being transparent and open about how you handle performance problems — not talking about Malcolm specifically, but about how you handle problems generally. Make sure people know that when someone is struggling, your process is XYZ (a series of clear warnings, chances to improve, etc. — whatever your process is) so that they know you don’t act hastily and that they would be warned and given opportunities to improve if they were in danger of being let go. Also explain that you would respect their privacy and not talk to their coworkers about that process while it was ongoing. Ideally, this will (a) convey that you don’t make arbitrary or out-of-the-blue personnel decisions and (b) prompt them to realize that just because they didn’t know about the conversations you were having with Malcolm behind the scenes, that doesn’t mean they weren’t happening.

Beyond that, the thing that will matter most is what people experience from you themselves. If they see you consistently operating in a fair, reasonable, and transparent manner, that’s likely to carry more weight than what they’re hearing from Malcolm. If you don’t currently spend a lot of time with some of them, this might be a good moment to find ways to do that — to ensure they’re getting those opportunities for them to see for themselves how you operate. That’s the best antidote to whatever Malcolm is saying.

{ 141 comments… read them below }

  1. I should really pick a name*

    The thing that jumps out at me is Malcolm sharing confidential info. That sounds actionable to me.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Agreed. Though I’d suggest that the OP report it to whoever is in the best position to handle it. HR? Legal? It does risk looking like you’re going scorched earth on him, but it still is probably better than trying to handle it yourself, OP.

      1. Certaintroublemaker*

        Definitely ask them about steps forward. If I were manager I would like to tell the people who had things confidential things shared that it was not okay what happened to them, against policy, and not how you would ever treat their information. But what could I tell them is the “penalty” so that they could feel there was a consequence, or feel it would be unlikely to happen again?

        1. Clare*

          You can’t really tell them that there’s a consequence for the perpetrator, because there isn’t one. But you can tell them that you’ll be taking proactive steps to avoid hiring someone like someone like Malcolm in future, and that this experience has given you some red flags to look for in interviews. (If that’s true, of course).

          Sometimes things just happen. You can’t punish an earthquake, but you can build your new office with the latest earthquake-resistant materials.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Not necessarily. Confidential and classified aren’t the same thing, and it sounds like these might be things like candid conversations or performance assessments given that it’s causing mainly bad feelings. That kind of thing wouldn’t be actionable.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        That was my gut reaction as well. If my boss gets fired tomorrow and tells one of my coworkers that I complained about the way they eat lunch on Zoom meetings and tells them that I was rated lower than them on X aspect of my performance evaluation, but that we were given the same raise anyway, I can see how that would cause conflict between us. I don’t know what about it would be actionable though, besides giving an honest reference if approached (highly unlikely to happen). He’s already been fired, which is what I’d expect to happen if he was doing this while he was an employee. What am I missing?

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I’ve worked jobs that had confidentiality agreements and/or had access to HIPAA information. If that’s the kind of information he’s sharing, it’s legally actionable even if he’s no longer an employee.

          If it’s “Janet always complains to her manager about John’s poor hygiene” or “John is paid more than Janet even though she has equivalent experience and higher performance reviews”, that’s definitely not something to pursue.

        2. OMG, Bees!*

          Reading your comment made me realize that if a boss were fired and then contacted coworkers to air dirty grievances, I would view the former boss poorly. Someone merely trying to vindictively stir the pot. Sure, some of the info would hurt, but overall, I would view Malcom negatively and thus was right to be fired.

      2. NerdyKris*

        Yeah this sounds like it’s just “Bob said X about Mary during a manager meeting” or “Jack is on a PIP” type stuff, not anything legally actionable.

      3. Introvert girl*

        Yeah, the first thing I thought about was him sharing everyone’s wages. It wouldn’t be the first person who got fired to do this. But I don’t want to rush to conclusions as we don’t have sufficient information on this topic.

        1. Tammy 2*

          Since it’s local government, salary data and other information Malcom was sharing would likely be something that could be found out through an information request* BUT that doesn’t mean it’s okay to share it all loosey goosey instead of someone who wants to know going through the proper channels where exempt information can be redacted, etc.

          *depending on state laws

        2. Selena81*

          that was also what my mind jumped to: sharing salaries (and causing a lot of unrest and maybe even resignations as people realize their salary is not fair)

          1. NothingIsLittle*

            In the private sector I’d be inclined to agree, but in government jobs most states consider employee wages public information that anyone can access with the correct request. In my county, we’ve had announced increases to each position and salary band such that I can fairly closely approximate all of my coworkers’ wages without any additional research. I can’t imagine anyone in my department referring to wages as confidential even if we don’t tend to openly discuss them.

            1. ArtsNerd*

              My jurisdiction publicly publishes the salaries of everyone. If you know my full name, you can find out exactly how much I make, to the dollar. No drama about it.

    3. Happy*

      Yeah, I’d be more concerned about confidential truths that he is sharing than the lies.

      Though it’s all awful.

    4. Ashley*

      Especially if they signed confidentiality agreement, and if Malcolm didn’t maybe that should be a new standard for folks in that role.

        1. Aitch Arr*

          Non-competes are rarely enforceable.
          Confidentiality agreements are not in the same category, though certainly need to not run afoul of some of the new interpretations by the NLRB.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I just went through a whole lawyer thing about an NDA with someone in my immediate family – they also are largely not being taken seriously at this point, particularly with the interpretations you mention.

          2. Starbuck*

            I would think one imposed by a government agency would be subject to extra scrutiny and more difficult to enforce in particular.

        2. Observer*

          <Those are rarely enforceable I doubt it would make a difference

          Depends on what the issue is. For instance, if you are talking salary data, definitely not enforceable. But there are things that it would absolutely cover. In the context of a public agency, most other personnel stuff would absolutely be covered.

      1. NerdyKris*

        No, that’s an over reaction to a one off thing. It’s not likely you’d be able to draft such a document that would even hold up, and doing so would make everyone scared that they’ll be sued if they gripe about a coworker.

          1. Lydia*

            Hence the “most jobs.” There are some jobs where they are. There are far more jobs that exist where they are not.

    5. Michelle Smith*

      In what way is it actionable? Not being antagonistic – I’m genuinely curious. It sounds like Malcolm is sharing private information in a way that is causing conflict between employees, not sharing trade secrets with competitors.

    6. constant_craving*

      It sounds like LW meant “confidential” in the sense of “best practice is to keep this private” as opposed to confidential as in “legal restrictions on sharing.” The latter might be actionable, but I don’t think the former is and it sounds like that’s the scenario here.

    7. Aitch Arr*


      If he’s violated any sort of NDA, Confidentiality, or Non-Solicitation Agreement, a sternly worded letter from an attorney may be in order. I’d talk to your HR department.

    8. Tommy Girl*

      This – I assumed Alison would recommend taking legal action against him. Maliciously deleting files is a pretty big deal.

    9. Bonnie*

      OP here. The confidential information he has been sharing is more along the lines of sharing specific information he gained while working as a trusted manager about how various personnel issues are approached and handled, versus sharing trade secrets. The stuff that has come back to me seems to be an attempt to both unsettle the affected employee and damage my reputation.

      1. Also-ADHD*

        That sounds like it wouldn’t be actionable (unless he’s using information like accommodations in some way maybe but even then, unlikely he’s breaking any laws/agreements), but your phrasing is also is confusing to me—because it seems like an area where transparency should already exist. Especially in a sector like government, I would expect systems and clarity on how personnel issues are handled and for there to not really be secrets there, I guess.

        1. PinaColada*

          I suspect that like most organizations, there is transparency with the policies themselves, but privacy with how they are enacted with individual employees.

          So for example, the policy of “no lateness” may be widely known, but the fact that Ursula was given 3 warnings last year about lateness isn’t. Sounds like in his role, he had that private personnel information that he’s now blabbing.

    10. Pink Candyfloss*

      I was thinking the same thing. Legal consult is warranted here – is he violating any signed agreements, and can a cease & desist notice from the company attorney help stop this or will it make things worse..?

  2. Didi*

    Ouch. I had this happen to me once, and it sucked.
    Allison is absolutely right that most people Malcom’s in contact with will see right through his efforts to disparage you. Most people are well aware if a co-worker is doing a poor job.
    But, other employees also are going to be on the lookout for anything you do that seems insensitive, needlessly critical or unprofessional. I’d go the extra mile right now to help people feel supported and heard.
    Also, be sure as Allison says to take a hard look at your own actions during this time to see if yu might have done anything regrettable.
    This too shall pass – someday, Malcolm will move on and no one will remember who he was.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > I’d go the extra mile right now to help people feel supported and heard.

      Actually I disagree with that. Any change in behaviour, even a positive one, is usually easily noticed. If OP changes their approach to become (more) supportive etc it is going to seem like they have a guilty conscience, have ‘realised’ there is some merit to his complaints (realised in quotes because there isn’t, but just how it might appear to others) or is attempting to get on the good side of the remaining people.

      I think the best thing to do is continue with business as usual, consistency.

      1. Expelliarmus*

        But business as usual may not be clear enough for the team, if it’s possible for doubt to be sewn like this. I agree that OP definitely shouldn’t overdo anything, but Alison’s advice of making sure the team knows how you typically handle things like firing is understandable.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          It’s definitely a balance. You can acknowledge what happened and check in with people, but you also want to maintain the structure and normalcy that will eventually let them know it’s okay to relax.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            Yeah, business as usual can include occasional one-off meetings to clear matters up. Business as usual should mean all staff working productively and smoothly together without any hiccups, so hiccups should definitely be addressed.
            If OP wasn’t addressing hiccups before (although it sounds like they did check in with the problem employee plenty of times) then they certainly should start now. Keeping everything running as usual is less important than making sure things are dealt with appropriately.

      2. Artemesia*

        Good point. BUT because this is causing unease, I would think at the next meeting walking through with the group what happens when there are performance problems might be useful. Let them know that there are a number of steps taken, feedback given, very clear benchmarks provided before anyone reaches termination — this never happens out of the blue unless there is actual malfeasance. No need to reference anyone — they all need to know that you will always let them know when there are issues and work with them to meet performance goals so they need not be nervous about this.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      When looking at your actions, don’t only look for ways you could have supported/given another chance to Malcolm. Also consider if you gave Malcolm too many chances and should have brought up the issues earlier and let him go sooner.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yes, it sounds like there was no need really to extend the probation period. Malcolm was totally out of touch with how his work was perceived despite having weekly meetings about his performance. Maybe OP hadn’t been clear enough during those meetings, but there was plenty of opportunity to turn things round.

  3. Alan*

    Too often people try to refute claims head on, which ironically fans the flames. The best refutation is consistent behavior that proves the lie. People aren’t stupid. They’ll figure it out. It just may be a little uncomfortable while they do.

  4. Lacey*

    I once dated a guy who always had the bad boss. His boss was always stupid. His boss never understood anything about the industry.

    At first I believed him, because I’ve had stupid bosses before.

    But they can’t all be stupid, can they?
    And the more he complained, the more I realized.
    His boss was not the idiot. I was dating the idiot.

    1. mb*

      LOL, my mother used to always say “one person, okay. maybe two. but all these people can’t be the problem – at some point you have to realize the problem is you because you’re the common denominator.”
      I think if OP wants to build relationships with his reports and mitigate the damage he could set up one on one meetings once a month or every 2 months to get some feedback from staff on how they’re doing with all the staffing changes. If they have concerns or feel overwhelmed then the boss can discuss it with them (while obviously keeping Malcolm’s issues private). If they see their boss as someone who is sensitive to their concerns, they’ll see that Malcolm is full of bs.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I totally agree with this … although I do note that OP has had three people exit the department that typically has low turnover! (and note, most departing people will frame it as being about the amazing opportunity, and that is exactly how this blog coaches people to explain why they’re leaving in most cases). This isn’t necessarily OP’s fault – and the other two departures may just have spooked the third into looking – but it’s something to keep in mind and a reason to be scrupulously transparent and supportive with the remaining employees.

        1. Candi*

          It might not even have been spooking -in almost all cases, government pays less than equivalent private sector. The third person just may have needed or wanted a salary bump, and couldn’t get it in the government job. The timing was just bad.

        2. kalli*

          Or they left because of Malcolm, and Malcolm leaving partway through the process just meant they had to choose whether to drop out or take what was already underway.

    2. Sigh...*

      I had friend like this in the past. Every time she went to dinner, dancing, anywhere really, she had a customer service issue. Then I started hanging out with her. I quickly figured out the problem was rarely the service.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Haha I have to do this to MYSELF on days I’m crabby. One or two people being a jerk to me or inconveniencing me or whatever, sure … but around the time I’ve been irritated with three separate people, it’s time for me to realize *I’m* being the jerk and reflect on why I’m so agitated.

        1. Selena81*

          I felt so relieved when I found a nice and supportive boss, and part of that was that I could more confidently look back and decide that my previous 2 bosses were indeed “kinda a jerk” and “a pretty big jerk” and it wasn’t just my own mind justifying losing those jobs.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Oh, I see you’ve met my mother.

        Mom, the whole customer service world isn’t incompetent: You’re unrealistic and don’t communicate well.

        1. Medusa2024*

          Yup we’ve had a customer who wrote a scathing review about our customer service and saying some pretty unkind things about the staff.
          The owner just ignored the whole mess since every review they wrote was about how terrible the service was everywhere they went with insulting “zingers” thrown in about the staff.
          Boss figured there’s no way any reasonble people are going to take anything this person said seriously and those that do we don’t want to have to deal with anyways.

    3. Cinnamon Hair*

      I had a family friend that changed departments/teams/etc. COUNTLESS times due to ongoing issues. She kept telling me the same things — her coworkers were terrible, the boss was an idiot who didn’t know how to manage, etc.. I don’t think she got along with a single person she worked with.

      I listened to her at first and was sympathetic and supportive. But I eventually realized that the problem was…just her.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I knew someone who was like that about jobs and also friendships (and romantic relationships probably). Every time I spoke to them they had a different job or were between jobs, “oh – what happened there?” would invariably get an answer like they had to quit due to a ridiculous boss, they were fired due to “blatant favouritism”, yeah that didn’t work out, “they got what they deserve” (?!) etc. I wasn’t invested enough in them changing this to have the whole “actually it’s you” conversation, so a lot of “ohh”, “mm” and nodding sympathetically was done.

      2. Elle Woods*

        Sounds like my aunt. Every place she’s worked the last few years of her career was awesome for the first few weeks then quickly turned into a hellscape (her words, not mine). Like you, I was sympathetic at first but, like you, eventually realized she was the problem. Too bad she lacks the self-awareness to realize the common denominator.

    4. Sage*

      I had a flatmate who told me how she had been unlucky with all the previous flatmates. Unfortunately I was naive enough to belive her. I learned the hard way it hadn’t been unluck. My successor contacted me after she found another home, and vented about everything that went wrong with her. It was the exact same of crap I had endured for too long, but partially in worse.

      I only wonder a little bit if said flatmate knows what she is doin of if she truly believes people are being mean to her. Either way, it’s not my problem anymore.

    5. Generic Name*

      My ex-husband is like this. For a long time (too long) I believed his stories of victimization and how he was so much smarter than management. He would be incredulous when asked to do tasks he saw as being outside the scope of his job, which I later realized were likely attempts by his managers to give him stretch assignments to grow in his career. But he wasn’t having any of it, and I’m sure he came off as a bitter whiner to his colleagues. I eventually realized that he was the problem and not every single manager he ever had. In case anyone with coworkers like this, these guys are just as bitter and unpleasant to be around at home as they are at work.

      1. Selena81*

        it kinda sounds like his managers heard him constantly complaining and thought they should give him a lot of room to try out new tasks and thus ‘rediscover his passion’

      2. Mister_L*

        I’ll hazard a guess. Either whining or weaponized incompetence at home too when you wanted him to do anything he didn’t consider his job.

    6. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I always had stupid bosses. Then I realised I was stupid for putting up with them, not laying down consistent boundaries and sticking around instead of looking for something better. Imposter syndrome didn’t help of course.
      It can be that the boss really is stupid, and the employee far more intelligent. But the employee shouldn’t stick around, they should leave and set up their own business and outsmart the stupid boss.

    7. Sure*

      Eh, I’ve had some excellent bosses, but I’ve had more bad ones than good ones overall…and that number unfortunately includes a few that were so hideously awful that they left lasting scars.

      There are plenty of stupid bosses out there, and it is sadly quite common for one person to have several awful bosses and/or employers, and sometimes those experiences will be back to back. Assuming that someone is the cause of the problem just because they encounter it more than once, while completely ignoring the wider context of the workplace and its inherent power imbalances (especially if the person has little to zero power in those situations) is, with all due respect, an overly simplistic approach.

  5. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I’m sorry OP, this is hard. I recently had a similar situation and did exactly what is outlined here: explained our policies and processes, declined to share personal information about the employee and made it clear details remain confidential in these situations, told them what it would look like if they were in the same boat and outlined the many conversations and process steps that would happen (no surprises), and explained that while I understood the situation was unsettling it didn’t indicate anything larger to be worried about (like impending layoffs).

    Did that comfort people? Maybe, not everyone certainly. But I will say things like this tend to blow over after some time. Stay consistent, the waves will settle.

    1. TootsNYC*

      made it clear details remain confidential in these situations
      One thing that might make this harder is if the “confidential information” Malcolm is leaking is performance info about other staffers. He would have been privy to that info because of his management status, but his audience may not really factor that in. They may see that criticisms of -their- performance were discussed with Malcolm. And maybe not with them, if it didn’t rise to that level right away.

      But I think the one-on-one, and the “as candid as I can be” approach will help with that anyway, so I agree with your approach.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah I’m having trouble finding it now but I thought someone said something in another comment that basically boiled down to “if their confidential information did get leaked during this by Malcolm, apologize and make sure they know that is not how things are supposed to be done”.

        Making sure there isn’t a lot of whispered feedback about people that doesn’t get to them in a timely manner is another way to proactively prevent this – though again we don’t know exactly what that shared information was. So there might be a few things OP could tighten up based on this incident. But sometimes jerks are just going to find ways to do jerky things.

  6. Kyrielle*

    For whatever it’s worth, LW, I once had a coworker – a very skilled and capable one! – who did something, I do not know what, so extreme that he was fired basically immediately. I was shaken, concerned, upset…and then he reached out to me (a bunch of us, actually) about how he’d been wronged. All the phrasing was vague, all of it was blaming one manager that I had a good experience with, and he was angry.

    And honestly, that made me think then, and still does now, that whatever he did probably *was* that bad. It definitely colored my view of him. And he’d been there a lot longer than a year and change, and he’d been performing well at his job from what I could see, but…even with no other context, his email made me think less of him, not of management.

    1. Lacey*

      Yes, people are able to parse this kind of thing and figure out if it really fits.

      It works the other way too. A coworker who was good at her job, but a little annoying as a person, got fired.

      She reached out and told another coworker how a certain manager had been slowly pushing her out and fired her when she wouldn’t leave on her own.

      That absolutely tracked with what I knew of that manager.

    2. Elsewise*

      Not my story but a friend’s: a manager was fired for stealing and texted their entire team asking them all to walk out of the job to protest their unfair treatment. That… didn’t happen.

    3. Elle Woods*

      I recently heard someone use the phrase, “If the truth about your conduct paints you in a bad light, the problem isn’t with the truth. Its with your conduct.” Sounds fitting for your ex-coworker.

    4. Selena81*

      I have been kinda on the other side of that: my manager refused to speak with my for months, without ever telling me why he was pushing me out. But the few colleagues I told that too rebuffed it as ‘i do not know him like that’.

      Losing that job felt very traumatic for a large part because of that refusal to communicate. (and also because it was kinda my dream job and I was so happy when I got hired)
      But afaik my colleagues just saw me as someone who did her job reasonably well when they worked with me, but apparently not to the standards of management, and who went a little weird at the end.

    5. Fritz*

      I once had a coworker – a very skilled and capable one! – who did something, I do not know what, so extreme that he was fired basically immediately. I was shaken, concerned, upset…and then he reached out to me (a bunch of us, actually) about how he’d been wronged. All the phrasing was vague, all of it was blaming one manager that I had a good experience with, and he was angry.

      And honestly, that made me think then, and still does now, that whatever he did probably *was* that bad. It definitely colored my view of him. And he’d been there a lot longer than a year and change, and he’d been performing well at his job from what I could see, but…even with no other context, his email made me think less of him, not of management.

      Speaking from a labor law and HR perspective, your colleague being vague could mean that they did something wrong and they are hiding it, OR it could mean that there is an NDA of some sort in place, and they are not able to tell you their side of the story in full, no matter how badly they were wronged.

      More importantly, the fact that you have had a good experience with that manager does NOT mean that it is impossible for your colleague to have a bad experience with the same manager. Whether this is down to a personality clash, the manager misusing or abusing their power, or that your colleague truly did do something egregious enough that the manager had no choice but to fire them on the spot is unknown.

      It’s perfectly possible for it to be all your colleague’s fault, of course, but from my experience, in 9 out of every 10 cases of this I see, there is far more to it.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yeah. For example if the colleague was being harassed. Kyrielle not being the targeted gender, wouldn’t have that experience. Those of the targeted gender are afraid to speak up, especially if the fired colleague had shared something about the harassment.
        Although I would have said that I couldn’t share the truth had that been the case, rather than making vague accusations. Vague accusations are often the work of narcissists.

        1. Ankio*

          Although I would have said that I couldn’t share the truth had that been the case, rather than making vague accusations. Vague accusations are often the work of narcissists.

          Most NDAs are written in such a way that they want to prevent you from saying anything of the sort, because they don’t want you to speak up, which leaves you with nothing but vague details and implications. The narcissist is also often in the position of power, because that’s what they seek.

    6. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I’m thinking about the coworker Malcolm still talks to. I wonder if coworker always listened, didn’t know how to ward off an emotional vampire. And still doesn’t. He may be relieved that Malcolm was let go, and it frustrated that Malcolm keeps calling him…and hasn’t learned to let it go to voicemail for a week yet.

  7. MountainAir*

    Spot on advice based on versions of this I’ve personally experienced. Trying to counter/debunk bad faith rumors like this really only legitimizes them, so it can backfire very quickly. The suggestion to focus on being transparent about your process and management style is really the best way — help staff feel confident and supported based on the environment and management relationship they are currently in, and it will help them more readily recognize the “plot holes” in the stories Malcolm is putting in the rumor mill.

    I do think having your head around what to say if an employee comes to you with confidential information they learned via Malcolm might be a good idea. Not that it’s ever, ever something you’d want to broach proactively, but just to have a script in your head for what you would say/do if someone came to you with information about, e.g. a sensitive personnel matter that they shouldn’t have known about.

  8. RVA Cat*

    Today’s letters have me wondering how often rhe uncoachable young Malcolms become mansplaining middle-aged Craigs.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Oh yeah I wonder if Craig’s distaste for women came from being fired by a woman for completely inappropriate behavior early career.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Pretty sure trying to figure out what made the Craigs of the world the way they are is a waste of time.

        1. Candi*

          Might be a useful thought exercise. If you can understand the (often emotion-based) logic they’re using, then it’s possible how to figure out how to handle them, at least until they can be documented out the door.

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I wonder if he’s ever had a female manager, hell, I wonder if he’d had a female peer before 2010.

  9. Typing All The Time*

    Is there a way that you can determine what information he shared? There could be legal action for that.

  10. Ellis Bell*

    OP, this isn’t you vs Moses – this is just a guy who got fired before his year’s probation was up. Then he spread a lot of backchat about you and broke confidentiality. Unless your staff are sadly lacking in logic they will see through all this! It’s okay if they are somewhat wary and unsettled, while some firings are going on; as long as they have their eyes open and their brains turned on, the evidence is totting up in your favor just fine. If you want to add to it, make sure people are getting their due of praise and getting good mentorship and reasonable reactions to issues and problems.

  11. Just Some Rando*

    Sounds like you’re being made aware of his outreach to your staff, so can we assume they’re telling you when they receive emails from him? And they’re telling you that he’s sharing certain information? What that says to me is that you can trust your staff. If he was having any serious effect on them, in my opinion they’d keep it quiet.

    1. Ama*

      This is what I came here to comment — if they believed him to be in the right wholeheartedly, OP would have never found out. The fact that they are sharing indicates they know he’s being weird and want to make sure *you* know.

  12. Pounce de Lion*

    OP might also take comfort in the fact that people seeking stability are more likely to find reasons to support the status quo (i.e., the OP) than someone seeking to disrupt it.

    1. Clare*

      Also, if they’re worried about being fired, then they probably want to keep their jobs, i.e. they’re unlikely to leave. So, over time as they don’t leave and they’re not fired, they’ll come to really believe again that they’re not in any danger. Time will help heal this.

  13. Elsewise*

    I dealt with this at an old job. I was a middle manager, and upper management told me that, for various reasons boiling down to attitude problems, I needed to fire someone during her probation period, but wasn’t allowed to give her any warnings or coaching. I was opposed, fought for her to get a second chance, but in the end I was overruled.

    I later found out that she was telling her former coworkers that one of my other direct reports, Jane, had gotten her fired. Jane was ostracized and mistrusted. There wasn’t much I could do because no one would directly bring up the rumor and I was prohibited from mentioning it. I walked my team through the progressive discipline process and how to make a complaint with HR, and what happens during HR investigations. I answered any questions I was asked. I did my best to create a trusting environment, and eventually the rumors died down a bit.

    A while later, I was laid off in order to create a new position for a senior manager’s best friend, Fergusina. Now that I was out of that work environment, I quietly told the biggest gossip in the office the real story: Fergusina was the one who demanded my former employee be fired, because she’d complained about work at a bar and Fergusina overheard her. This dealt the death blow to the rumors about Jane, though she never forgot how she’d been treated.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      WOW. What an awful situation to be in, and handled terribly – it sounds like you’re well out of that place.

      1. Elsewise*

        Yeah, it was pretty bad! I also didn’t handle everything super well, to be transparent. I was a first-time manager, didn’t have much support, and I’d learned all of my management norms in that (really toxic) work environment. Fortunately, this was many years ago, and I’m far away from all of those problems!

  14. Olive*

    IMO, one of the best ways to build trust as a manager is to be sure that information in a periodic review almost never comes as a surprise. That is, if someone is performing well, they should be made aware of it throughout the year. If someone is performing poorly, they should also be made aware of it before a review meeting far in the future and before a PIP, as much as possible. If someone needs to do some additional things to be considered for the next level, they should know that too.

    Yes, occasionally someone may respond in a bad way like Malcolm, but for the bulk of the employees wondering what happened and they could be next, knowing that their reviews won’t suddenly involve feedback they never knew was a problem will be a big reassurance over time.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah I think a lot of the pushback we’re seeing about annual reviews right now is the way they’re used in place of consistent ongoing feedback. In my opinion they should be used to level set – match a self evaluation to a management evaluation, make sure folks are still on the same page, discuss any discrepancies, and have a written record. No new information or big rug pull moments.

      However in this case, OP does explicitly say they provided weekly feedback. I have found that in some cases, no matter how much prep you do, people are still surprised when actions (or inactions) have consequences.

  15. pally*

    Oh boy- I’ve been in a variation of this scenario myself!

    My report was not getting the work done. She was capable; just had better things to do than the assigned work. Spend most of the workday on the phone. Or arriving late and leaving early.

    Upper management informed me they were going to let her go. I worked like hell to get her to do her job, even doing her work myself. Then she wasn’t showing up reliably. Always with the excuses. I let her know that there were consequences to this. She needed to do her work. But she insisted every time she was away from work, or couldn’t get the work done, had a valid reason. It was my problem if I didn’t accept them.

    I hate to see anyone lose a job. That really can upset someone’s entire world. I kept asking for one more chance for her.

    Well, she was fired.

    She reached out to the other lab techs (multiple occasions) and said that “pally hated her and got her fired”. I don’t think anyone bought that line. But it did make me feel bad about her.

    1. Artemesia*

      I saved a colleagues ass for years when the department wanted to fire him; he had some real strengths and his wife had literally died suddenly at home one evening when he was himself going above and beyond to attend a work function. I felt we owed him. I had a lot of clout which he didn’t and so I always spoke up in ways I knew would resonate with this team.

      AND then he stabbed me in the back several times including talking to workmen constructing our parallel offices (long story) and he actually got my office, already narrow, cut narrower by a foot while his grew by a foot. The next time his contract was up and people on the committee wanted to not renew, I just didn’t say anything and that was it for his job.

    2. Piscera*

      I had a colleague, Taylor, who was at most third pick for the job. I heard that the first and second declined over salary.

      Taylor never did it to me, but they were utterly s—ty to countless others in the firm. Not even their spouse’s death during this time changed that attitude. When Taylor left, I heard they were told either to resign or be fired. Also that several key employees had threatened to leave if Taylor stayed.

  16. jellied brains*

    Ugh I had a Malcom. Apparently there’s a group that formed of people who were fired that commiserate about how misunderstood they were & how management sucks, blah blah blah. He played the starring role as martyr.

    Word got back to me that he was lying about why he was fired/blaming me. At first it got under my skin because he was such an insufferable ass but I really worked hard to meet him halfway. Then I realized I’m still here and he isn’t. People like and respect me here, & him, not so much when he was here.

  17. higheredadmin*

    OP, I work in higher ed which is very similar to civil service in staff somehow becoming convinced that these jobs are forever and people can’t be fired, when in reality there are processes in place but they are long and time-consuming and emotionally exhausting so most managers won’t put the work in to remove underperforming employees. (We are also similar to you in that we have a long probation period because once someone passes that the process becomes a lot more work. Especially the longer the underperformer has to dig in and linger.) So when it actually happens it is kind of a shock for people. As others have said, make sure everyone understands the performance process and that from your perspective performance issues are confidential between yourself and the staff person – if it feels sudden to the rest of the staff, then that is correct. (It is a common complaint that the manager isn’t “doing anything”, and I’m always like – if you were being disciplined would you want everyone on the team to know? Would the rest of the team knowing I was working with you on a performance issue help your performance? Well, there’s your answer.) And as others have said – everyone knows the underperformers, and while they might also sympathize that this person is so nice etc, they are also probably relieved to not have to pick up their slack.

    1. Artemesia*

      So true. Most managers are not skilled at these processes and don’t want to bother with them unless the situation is really aversive for them. I remember a do nothing admin who refused to learn to use a computer and refused to do a couple of client centered tasks that we really needed done and no one was doing. she was protected for years and then we had a couple of new people in the department who were very senior and said ‘WTF’ is THIS? And pushed the chair into getting rid of her useless self. We were able to eventually hire someone who could really be helpful.

      1. higheredadmin*

        And these people linger for YEARS. Just had someone leave who as far as I can figure was working for maybe a day and a half out of a five day week. Met with the chair to discuss coverage while the position is being recruited for and every task they should have been doing (based on their job description) was being done by someone else. I don’t think the chair will even notice they are gone. The staff doing all of their work for them for sure will notice when the replacement is competent.

        1. Candi*

          So if I’m reading this right, all you have to do is let the staff keep doing them for now, then reassign them back to the new hire after they’re done training and stuff.

          Really doesn’t look good for the old worker.

          1. higheredadmin*

            It also leads to a lot of burnout. You have staff doing a job and a half (or even two jobs) while staff sitting literally one desk over do hardly anything because faculty are not properly managing and just ask the people who are accurate and responsive to do their things.

  18. Mark This Confidential and Leave It Laying Around*

    I’ve been in that back channel, find out after they’re fired info pool and it does not feel great. Especially knowing that I was hearing, sometimes 2nd and 3rd hand, about confidential stuff that the fired one should not have been privy to. (But it was accurate. See user name.) It did lessen my trust in my management at the time. It sounds like LW did the right things in terms of personnel and communication. Make sure you did the right things re: data security, too.

  19. Cinnamon Hair*

    If it helps, OP, I’ve worked long enough to see plenty of coworkers get let go. A lot of them do reach back out to commiserate, or talk about management had a vendetta against them, or whatever. I’ve been polite, but I know the problem is them.

  20. local bureaucrat*

    “Local government employment tends to be stable, sometimes to its detriment.” LW I felt that in my SOUL. There are people at my agency who have been here since before I was born (I’m 30) and can’t/won’t perform the most basic functions of their job, but if you’re union and made it through you’re probation year, you’re not going anywhere. And in the very unusual situation that someone gets fired, it puts people on edge for months because you know something really hit the fan. No advice, just sympathy.

  21. Free Meerkats*

    As a long time (If I hadn’t retired, it would be 50 years next year) public employee, I have only one bit of advice. Talk with Legal about the information being shared and the deleted files and let them make the call as to whether any action needs to be taken. Then put Malcom out of your mind.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Ditto. Legal, and HR, and be sure to brief your own superiors. Make sure your own documentation about Malcom’s case is in apple pie order.

      Then try to be as consistent and transparent as possible in dealing with the rest of your team. Malcom’s attempts to poison the well will, eventually, create suspicion that he’s protesting too much.

      And then forget about Malcom. He’s not worth the energy you’re putting into him.

    2. Observer*

      Talk with Legal about the information being shared and the deleted files and let them make the call as to whether any action needs to be taken.

      Also, whether you should let him know that you will not be giving him a good reference, and why.

  22. Juicebox Hero*

    My workplace got rid of a Malcolmette early this year. She was here for 16 very long months because our dungeon boss tends to get compassionate at all the wrong times (“She’s so young! She can learn so easily! This could be such a great career for her!”) and kept interceding with the final boss when he wanted to fire her.

    It didn’t help that she was a gossipy know-it-all who stunk to high heaven because she never bathed and wore the same dirty clothes with holes in them every day. Oh, yeah, and vaped in the office because “it’s not smoking” and was totally unfiltered – I do NOT need to know that a coworker goes commando, thanks very much.

    6 (six) second chances and many stern lectures from final boss didn’t do a thing and he made level boss finally let her go. The rest of us were thrilled even though she left a huge mess to unscramble: dungeon boss had our IT people go through her computer logs and she spent the entirety of every day on Facebook and gaming sites. Unprocessed paperwork (time sensitive and some of it really damn important, including checks) was hidden everywhere and some of it discarded.

    Naturally, Malcolmette tried to blame everything on a coworker foisting his work off on her and tried to spread nasty rumors and portray herself as a victim to anyone who would listen. I blocked her number the minute I found out she was being fired.

        1. Juicebox Hero*

          Yeah, I could write a whole internet about how dungeon boss sucks rocks. She’s both extremely intolerant and yet extremely conflict-averse, so she snaps and snarls over minor shinola but never addresses the big problems. Most of us don’t have much dealings with her on a daily basis, but her administrative assistant deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor in my opinion.

  23. Clefairy*

    Oof, I feel for OP. I used to be the GM of an entertainment venue full very young front line employees, often in their first or second ever job. We had an established process for coaching, reprimanding, and terminating, and because of the nature of hospitality, did end up terming quick a few people over the years (all after multiple conversations and steps of documentation, it generally wasn’t a surprise or out of the blue). Eventually I learned that there was a private facebook group full of ex-employees and some current employees that was created specifically to badmouth me. That honestly really sucked to learn about, and it took me a while to emotionally move past that- that was what I hated the most about leading a team, even when people really, really deserve to go and it’s on them, they are always going to view you as the bad guy. Luckily my good employees saw through the BS (and even flagged the group with me, which is how I found out about it).

    Not really any real point to this post other than to empathize with the OP. Objectively it’s easy to know that you aren’t a bad person just because poor performers blame you for their consequences, but it’s harder to actively wrap your brain around that and believe it.

    1. Dinwar*

      “…that was what I hated the most about leading a team, even when people really, really deserve to go and it’s on them, they are always going to view you as the bad guy.”

      Yeah, that took me a while to get used to as well. Upper management and executives blame me for everything my team does, and my team blames me for every decision that upper management and executives make. Management exposes you to far more negativity and blame than most people think, and gives you far less control over how things actually function than most people realize.

      For my part, I’ve found that the best thing to do is make sure I did what I thought was right based on the info available to me at the time. I make mistakes, like everyone else, but if I can keep doing right by my ethics I can stand people using me to vent at, or being the villain in their narrative.

  24. Lobsterman*

    If Malcolm was so bad he couldn’t fake it for the probationary period, his coworkers are almost certainly deeply relieved he was let go. You did the right thing and it’ll be fine, OP!

  25. The Rafters*

    OP, don’t worry about what ex-employee says about you. In my experience, people already know or suspect the truth and will just be polite to ex-employee. The very few who don’t get it won’t last at the agency either because they have their own issues and can’t seem to get out of their own way.

  26. Rick Tq*

    Has Malcom been reported to the DA for Unauthorized computer access (deleting files) and privacy violations (sharing confidential information)? Maybe a court hearing with an attendant gag order will convince him to shut up. In any event, he needs to pay the penalty for deleting your data, even if you were able to restore it from backups.

  27. Rick Tq*

    After this event you need to work with your IT and HR departments, IT should have been told by HR to cut off Malcom’s access as soon as the decision was made to terminate him.

  28. Bob*

    why won’t you be providing a reference?

    He performed poorly in parts of his role and when dismissed lied, spread damaging rumors and released confidential company information.

    there’s his lesson.

  29. Janeric*

    I worked at a government job where one new upper level manager fired 2/5 of her direct reports within a month — and then one of the others got a job in a different agency and another retired. The department was abuzz for probably two months, but around the six month mark people had accepted the new status quo.

    People also put together the reasons their supervisors had been fired, partially based on the ways the supervisors trying to save face. (And partially based on other separations/abrupt project changes)

  30. Former BEC*

    Oh wow, I lived through this nearly-exact situation with a coworker in similar circumstances. Joan, did you write this? One of the biggest issues in my opinion is the rock & a hard place my boss found herself in because personnel issues are confidential and so the only side anyone ever heard was the PIP/terminated employee’s defensive posture and then assumptions made as a result that could not be corrected. None of us knew the extents gone to give Maggie a chance to improve. We all thought Joan cruel for how immediate the office was stripped, not knowing it was an explicit request by Maggie. I am a mid-level manager but Joan didn’t keep me in the loop so I could have helped stomp out the negativity (which was something Joan’s predecessor had done previously). I was updated after the fact when I confided with management how everything had impacted staff morale, everyone really liked Maggie. Now looking at the situation retrospectively, I have a whole new perspective and the next issue faced was a quasi-manager, Hazel, treating staff poorly and complaints that “nothing is being done about it.” I could finally say with some confidence even though I’m still not looped-in, “guys, you’ve brought your concerns to Joan, but understand that these things are confidential. If done correctly, we will never know. Give the issue a rest and let the process work.” Hazel has actually improved and nobody’s complained to me about it in a while, so I assume the PIP that may or may not have been put in place has done it’s job. I will never know.

  31. Safely Retired*

    “Clearly I won’t be providing any kind of reference at this point, and probably won’t be asked…”

    I agree that you probably won’t be asked, but in that unlikely event I believe you should provide one. That is, a “reference” that includes everything you have told Allison.

    1. SB*

      You honestly would be surprised. I had to terminate (& refer to police) someone for physically assaulting a vulnerable resident in a memory support unit & she STILL listed me as a reference on her resume. I was called twice by prospective employers before I reached out to her & suggested she remove me from her resume as I would be unable to recommend her for any role, much less a patient facing role (which is what she was applying for). She seemed genuinely surprised that I would not just “tell them what they wanted to hear”.

    2. kalli*

      Yeah, a reference isn’t just gushing ‘such a great person, great worker, look at all the great stuff’ but an honest appraisal of whether that person would be a good fit for the role based on the questions being asked. After a couple of honest ones, someone may work out that they’re better off asking someone who has a different perception of them, but it’s not ‘I can’t be positive so I won’t do it’.

  32. SB*

    If Malcom really is sharing confidential information AND was covered by a non disclosure agreement then you absolutely can & should refer to legal. Other than that, let it go. What he is doing is childish & incredibly unprofessional, but you really have no business contacting an ex employee to caution them about anything.

    My only other advice would be to resist the temptation to drop him in it if someone does call you for a reference. You can convey the message that you are unhappy with his performance without using those words “Thank you for getting in touch, however I am unable to recommend Malcolm for the role” & leave it at that.

    1. SB*

      Should note, where I live, candidates have the right to request copies of references supplied to a prospective employer & if they feel a reference was unfair they can refer the referee to Fair Work & ultimately sue for losses. It doesn’t happen often, but it has happened, so I am always very wary about giving a negative response to a reference request. I use the quote above & if they press I end the conversation with “I am unable to provide the kind of reference Malcolm is seeking, thank you for your time” & hang up.

      If your state has no such laws you may be able to be more candid, however you did mention that it is a small industry so being TOO honest may reflect poorly on you to some people & people talk!!!!!

          1. kalli*

            Ugh, yes, and that’s so annoying to me! Fair Work Ombudsman and the Fair Work Commission are both things, neither of which handles references being less than stellar, and Fair Work is just… ambiguous and pointless, and doesn’t convey anything, but so many people now just say anything work related ‘go to Fair Work’. Which one? what for? And don’t get mixed up with the private Fair Work Somethings who picked the name to profit off the confusion.

            But successive governments have had this kind of naming strategy for everything and it’s stuck in this scope since 2005, so it’s in the popular consciousness as ‘we don’t understand our own labour laws’.

    2. Observer*

      My only other advice would be to resist the temptation to drop him in it if someone does call you for a reference

      Why? If the OP sticks to facts, even in the unlikely case that Malcolm gets to hear about it, there is not really anything he can do. No lawyer is taking a case like this without payment, and that becomes very expensive, very quickly.

      You can convey the message that you are unhappy with his performance without using those words “Thank you for getting in touch, however I am unable to recommend Malcolm for the role” & leave it at that.

      Which tells the caller exactly nothing useful. And plays completely into Malcolm’s narrative that “My former boss didn’t like me and pushed me out for no good reason. I know that they are going to speak poorly about me.”

      Facts are going to be something that the caller can use.

  33. Rachael*

    I once had a very similar experience – I had to let someone go who had been a superstar at a junior level, but just wasn’t performing at a more senior level. Unfortunately, the rest of the team (particularly those who didn’t work closely with him) had experience of him as a strong performer and he was very popular. As soon as he was let go, he started making up stories about why he was fired and how the process went down. To support what Alison was saying, I was gratified to hear on the grapevine that the rumours were quashed when one of the team paused and said “But Rachael would have had to approve that. And she wouldn’t do something that wasn’t fair or reasonable”, at which point everyone concurred and the gossip died down. All of which is to say that your general behaviour and reputation really will outweigh any gossip!

  34. Ankio*

    You’re in the position of power, OP, so I’d focus on learning what you can from this about how to improve as a manager, rather than worry about what your team might be thinking. If you are truly a good manager and you’re doing all the right things, you have nothing to worry about.

    What does stand out to me is that you’ve fired two people in short succession for performance issues. That, along with a third person leaving, would raise my eyebrows as your manager, and would concern me as a team member reporting to you. But that’s possibly my own experience as someone who’s seen multiple bosses abuse their power to discipline and fire people, and unfortunately also experienced a situation working for government where my manager went to the extent of fabricating and editing documents to try and try and make her lies about my work being bad enough that I needed to be fired believable.

    As a manager, do I know that sometimes the only answer is for someone to be fired? Yes. But I also know that the fault for someone not performing usually lies with their manager or whoever it is above them that is failing to provide adequate support.

  35. Jam Today*

    People really overestimate their influence on their former colleagues once they leave, the reality is while everyone complains together when they are coworkers, that solidarity lasts about as long as it took for the door to close behind the person who left

  36. Megs*

    I think a few folks have mentioned this but I’m an attorney who used to represent a city government. Your local government will have either an in-house attorney or one on retainer. Talk to the attorney re: your concerns. I don’t have all of the facts but a couple of things could be actionable: 1) defamation – if what he is saying is more than opinion and is damaging to your reputation; 2) criminal harassment – you say he is in regular contact with your employees; depending on what that looks like and if the contact is unwanted, this could rise to the level of harassment; and 3) disclosure of confidential information. His conduct may not rise to the level of any of these but you should talk to an attorney. A cease and desist letter works wonders in these situations.

  37. Squishy*

    This sucks. In my experience there is very little you can do about it and just accept this is going to have some effect on your professional reputation. You can be professional but some people will always revert to “Yes Jo is nice but did you hear what she did to Bob last year?”

  38. WorkingClassLady13*

    I’m a low-level supervisor who has dealt with a similar type of situation.
    A direct report went over my head to my boss to complain that, I kid you not, I was doing my job (instead of doing hers for her, I guess???)
    I have certain tasks I’m expected to accomplish throughout the day and also am expected to have a plan for my shift. Upper management sometimes asks to see my plan if they stop in.
    Turns out I wasn’t the only one this person complained about – [report] was coming up with something new to whine about almost every single day, and her complaints were getting more absurd and childish every time.
    Ironically I had never once complained about her, and I get along with my staff pretty well (they’re really awesome overall!) and my boss saw through it immediately.
    Some people just like to stir up drama, for whatever reason, and it’s up to leadership to eventually put their foot down before it destroys the entire team.

    Genuine issues need to be discussed with thr goal of finding a solution; whining such as

    “Boss, Sally wouldn’t do my job for me!” “Boss, Sam checked his email before saying good morning to me!”

    needs to quit or there will be clear consequences for wasting company time and resources.

    Not the exact same as OP but I mentioned it because it was really clear who the common denominator was and everyone around me saw right through it.

  39. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    “You definitely should not try to caution Malcolm about his behavior. You’re not in a mentor role with him anymore, and it’s highly likely to come across as self-serving or overstepping. ”

    or it may come across as threatening.

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