update: what if an employee who gave notice won’t leave?

Welcome to “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! Between now and the end of the year, I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

Remember the letter-writer asking what to do if an employee who gave notice won’t leave (#4 at the link)?

It turned out one of the reasons Jane was offering to stay and help with the transition was because she had a two-week vacation planned and wanted to stay employed long enough to be paid for it. But the vacation was in the new fiscal year and when HR got wind of her plan, they had a chat about how leave time accrual works and she suddenly had a set end date.

Then she emailed us a list of people she’d like to have invited to her going-away party (not really a thing we do here), including volunteers and folks well outside our department, and suggestions for a venue. We downgraded it to a happy hour.

Jane’s last day came and went. I was offered the upgraded position a month later and accepted, agreeing to continue doing my old job until my position was filled. I heard through the grapevine that Jane was very disappointed to hear this news, because she still thought when we had a not-me new person on board we’d hire her temporarily to come back and train that person. That, of course, did not happen. I had also been covering a third position, which was ultimately filled in June, but that person had to be asked to leave in September. So then I was doing my new job, my old job, and the third job again. They decided not to fill my old position anytime soon because they felt the skill set required was too specialized.

Oh, and then another person in the office quit. So we were down to four employees, two of whom just started in September and required a lot of training. To say it’s been an overwhelming fall would be an understatement.

I had mentioned in the comments on the original post that I received tuition assistance for graduate school that came with a one-year clawback clause, so leaving right now isn’t an option. The stress became so debilitating that I spoke with my doctor about going on FMLA, but had not yet made a decision. I was working 70 hours a week trying to stay on top of everything and doing none of it well.

And then the week before Thanksgiving, an immediate family member was given a sudden and shocking terminal cancer diagnosis (glioblastoma), and suddenly it became very easy to stop caring about all the stuff at work. I’ve been here long enough that I have plenty of leave time to spend with my loved one when needed, plenty of kindness and support from my coworkers, and plenty of latitude to let some things slide here. I’ll be using all three in the weeks and months ahead. Who knows where I’ll be a year from now?

It’s all certainly been a learning experience. I’m hoping for some brighter days in 2024.

We did just fill that third position, though; she will start next week. I will also say that Jane, who has not yet found a new full-time job, likes to text me and others in the office to check up on our work and make helpful suggestions for improvement. I try to respond kindly when I can.

{ 60 comments… read them below }

  1. Lola*

    Makes one wonder why Jane quit if she’s still focused on the job AND doesn’t have a new one yet. I wonder if she was hoping they’d beg her to stay? That they’d offer her more money?

    I had a couple co-workers like that. They were convinced the ship would sink without them and when they smugly annnounced their departure (they were “secretly” starting their own business, but we all knew about it), we were like “See ya.”

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      That’s my guess. It definitely happened to my husband at a previous job. One of the employees he supervised gave her notice, it was accepted, and then a week before her last day she tried to take it back and they said no (the position had already been filled, but she also wasn’t a high performer). A lot of folks think things work like they do in movies and TV where the “hero” threatens to walk and it makes their employer (the “antagonist”) buckle.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Yep, I’ve been on both sides of that (not sure how on earth my company was *ever* going to cope without me, and being the one “left behind” by someone who was sure we wouldn’t cope. One thing I’ve come to learn is that truly, no one is irreplaceable. But it’s strange when you first truly understand it also applies to you too.

      1. kalli*

        I went out on workers’ comp for what was eventually diagnosed as CPTSD and they hired someone back who’d been made redundant a few weeks before to cover me. A few weeks later they mysteriously had a new, better job back at their old employer (before they came to us the first time) and people were being instructed to ignore my supervisor’s demands and just do their jobs as best as possible while leaving her out of it. Four months later, my claim was accepted and my supervisor “resigned”. That company no longer has the relationships, contracts or reputation it did, and no longer does the work I was doing. (I do part of it now at another firm, where it is the responsibility of 12 people instead of 2.)

        I was replaceable. So long as the person responsible for my workers-comp level stress was *also* replaceable. Until then? I was not replaceable, no matter what they tried.

        So yes, nobody is irreplaceable, but the replacement is not always a 1:1 new hire, and the solution is not always to replace.

    3. Sssssssssssssss*

      Rumour had it we had one of those. She had been doing a particular role in our biennial event for years, but never documented a thing. She retired, leaving no notes on how to do the role, somehow hoping she’d be hired on as a contractor for the event (and her travel and hotel covered in a nice touristy city) since no one else knew how to do it.

      Pfffffffffft. The new person in the role did just fine, and in fact, did it better and documented everything.

    4. Snarkus Aurelius*

      When I worked for a state agency, we had this long-time employee who was a complete jerk. But he was convinced that his job was secure because he was the only one who had been doing it since the early 1970s and he refused to document anything.

      He really thought he was hot shit even after I pointed out that the annual report he wrote was a copy and paste job from the previous year with only the yearly data updated.

      Then he got laid off anyway, and I haven’t stopped laughing since.

    5. LW*

      Jane suffers from a bit of a self-awareness gap.

      Also, kind of hilariously: one of the reasons she left was because she and another member of our team hated each other with a fury. Each of them gave notice not realizing the other was leaving in a sort of Gift of the Magi experience that, quite honestly, left those of us remaining a little delighted.

    6. STG*

      Yea, I wondered the same. I had an employee who bluffed their resignation thinking that they’d get a raise. However, I had already started documenting issues and he was well on his way to a PIP and beyond by that point.

      I accepted his resignation without second thought. The following week, he went to HR trying to salvage his job and admitted he only gave his resignation to attempt to get a raise. His last day was the next week and that stayed in place.

      Some problems solve themselves!

    7. OMG, Bees!*

      Had something like this with a past coworker at a company that now no longer exists. She, Julie, was accounting/pay roll, so knew that my ex was going to get a raise when ex finished her degree… but Julie thought she was so invaluable, she demanded she also be given a raise just cuz my ex was given one. And then promptly quit when it was denied. Came begging back a few weeks later.

      But after Julie quit, the owner’s sister-in-law came in part time to full accounting and pay roll until someone was hired and the SIL found out Julie had mismanaged a lot of things. Not like stealing or embezzling, but every single thing in Outlook flagged as important and just nothing filed in an organizational sense. Julie’s name became and banned name, literally nothing worse could be said than Julie, so instead she was referred to as “She-who-cannot-be-named” in the office, at least around the SIL.

  2. Ms. Afleet Alex*

    Just wanted to give you virtual hugs, if that’s okay; I lost my mom to glioblastoma and it is an evil evil thing indeed. (I realize I’m anthropomorphizing something that isn’t sentient but the characterization made me feel a little better when I was dealing with it.) Thinking of you and your family.

    1. LW*

      I’m all for virtual hugs. Thank you.

      It’s my mom as well, and my sisters and I like to call GBM all kinds of dirty names. The nicest one I should share here is that it’s one of the two meanest cancers I know (the other being pancreatic).

      1. Quality Girl*

        I am so sorry. I’ve been dealing with the long-term terminal illness of a parent for the past few years and it is hell. Ambiguous/anticipatory grief are a soul-sucking nightmare. Please try to take care of yourself when you can.

        1. JelloStapler*

          LW, I am so sorry – and echo QP’s comments above. My dad and my FIL died within 13 months of each other – completely different illnesses (Parkinson’s and Myeloma) but quite a one-two punch.

      2. Sal*

        My dad had GBM and my family became very familiar with clinicaltrials dot gov and letting things slide at work (my mom less than the rest of us, unfortunately). We had a nice chunk of very high quality time with him. Sending lots of love.

      3. Marillenbaum*

        Hard same. We lost my sister to it suddenly, earlier this summer, and now I understand what it means to have a nemesis.

      4. Black Horse*

        Virtual hugs from here too; we lost my dad to GBM and it was really rough. I’m so sorry your family is having to go through it.

      5. FricketyFrack*

        I lost my dad to glioblastoma last year, and I’ll just say that, if you guys will be doing the caregiving, I hope that you’re able to give each other breaks and be kind to yourselves if it ever feels like you’re not doing it “right” (which was a huge struggle for me), and that when the end comes, it’s quick, for both your mom’s sake, and your family’s. It’s impossible to entirely avoid suffering with this mf-er, but I hope that there’s as little as possible.

        1. violin squeaks*

          I echo this wholeheartedly. Lost my dad to glio in March. He was diagnosed four years ago this week (had the biopsy the Monday before Thanksgiving). We had a lot of time with him, more than we could have ever anticipated. But that also meant so much more caregiving time and questioning on the “right” moves. I know exactly what you mean by hoping for LW that when the end comes, it’s quick. What a sh!tty club to be in. Hugs, LW.

      6. jane's nemesis*

        I’m so, so sorry for what you’re going through. All the gentle hugs in the world to you and your mom and sisters.

      7. JJ*

        LW, I am so sorry about your mother’s diagnosis. I realize that you probably have various support groups etc. in place, but just in case the following could help: The Mayo Clinic offers discussion boards for people dealing with all sorts of ailments, and it has been a huge source of helpful info for me (I’ve got the other ultra-mean cancer).

        Wishing you, your family, and everyone who cares about your mother all the best.


        1. LW*

          Thank you so much for sharing this. It is all happening so quickly and we have sort of been on our own in terms of getting connected with truly helpful support.

          And I’m very sorry for your diagnosis. I hope you have many more days ahead.

      8. AA*

        I’m in the same boat (except its my dad not my mom). We’ve been going through the GBM experience for just about a year now. Due to complications from resection (brain bleed), my father is very dependent on our care now.

        Even with how aggressive GBM is, remember that this is going to be a marathon not a sprint. Make sure you and the other caregivers take care of yourselves.

    2. Abogado Avocado.*

      Please accept more virtual hugs. Cancer sucks. When my father was dying of it, one of my friends said, “The only good thing this disease does is allow you to tell your family member how much you love them and to say goodbye.” I kept that it mind as we cared for him and made sure he knew how much not only loved him, but how much I appreciated all he had taught me.

      1. roller*

        I completely agree with your friends, I lost my mum to terminal cancer a month ago now and it was only detected 6 weeks before she passed away. I lived close by so was able to help out and show love and support a lot.

        I recommend to everyone to get voice recordings of your loved ones – hearing them laugh or tell a story again is a great comfort to me. It also helped my mum feel she could do something to help with our own devastation as she was so worried about us.

  3. No Real Name Here*

    I’m so sorry about the glioblastoma. I lost a loved one to it, and it was awful. I’m so glad you have the leave to spend all the time you can with your person. <3

  4. Witt*

    Sending you all my best wishes. I am caregiving for a friend with glioblastoma right now. So glad to hear that you have leave time to spend with your loved one and understanding colleagues. Life really does turn on a dime sometimes.

  5. Cancer sucks*

    I lost my dad to glioblastoma. It’s horrible. Thinking of you, OP, during this difficult time.

  6. Name (Required)*

    LW, I’m so sorry for your loved one’s gut-punch news. My beloved MIL passed suddenly at the end of August, and my reminder-alarm to do an interview went off literally as she was being removed from life support. It is wild how the stressor of work is so rapidly diminished in the face of bigger problems and leveling heartache. Much love from an internet stranger who hopes your nearest and dearest and the time left with your loved one can all be comforts in the difficult, uncertain days to come.

  7. Tammy 2*

    I feel like a 1 year clawback clause on tuition assistance should be reduced to 4 months if you are doing three jobs simultaneously.

    I’m very sorry about your family member and glad you are taking the time you need.

    1. Just Thinkin' Here*

      Any employer who wants their employee to stay longer than a year knows that doing 3 jobs at once is a bad long term strategy. This employer seems to have trouble hiring folks in a timely manner. Tells me they are either expecting too much or not paying market rates. OP can look forward to sailing her ship to another port once their family is in a better place.

      1. LW*

        Both, I think. And your last sentence is very helpful framing because I’ve caught myself a few times thinking “well now I have to stay forever because everyone’s being so kind and understanding.” And they are – but the problem hasn’t been solved. I just don’t have it in me to care right now.

        1. Selena81*

          Your letters make it sound like they have a huge turnover. And that they were fine with you doing 3 jobs for a relatively long time (as opposed to dropping everything to hire someone *immidiately* to take some of the load).

          I’m sure a lot of the individual people there are wonderful and caring, but management sounds problematic.

  8. Fluffy Fish*

    OP – I am so sorry about your relative.

    It’s nice that you are continuing to be kind to Jane, but know if that’s at all a burden to you, you can put it down. It’s totally fine to block her/mute her.

    Take care of yourself.

    1. Bog Witch*

      What I came here to say. LW, please feel enormously free to stop responding to Jane in any capacity. The less connection she has to her old job, the better. Consider it a kindness to you both.

      I’m very sorry about your mom. There will never be enough time to spend with her, but I hope you get as much as humanly possible.

  9. OrigCassandra*

    I’m so sorry about your relative’s diagnosis. Wishing you both all the best.

    For what it’s worth, I think you can block or blackhole Jane’s texts with a clear conscience. One less thing, you know?

  10. English Rose*

    So sorry to hear about this diagnosis. Definitely a change in perspective. Will be thinking of you.

  11. k*

    Gosh, what an update. I wish you every good thing in the future, and may every kindness you’ve shown come back to you tenfold.

  12. Sloanicota*

    Best of luck to you, OP! Upheavals of this sort are so common in small nonprofits (ask me how I know…) and you really, truly have to take it to heart that you can’t care more about the organization than the leadership does. You just can’t. I have now worked for two places in a row that had complete turnover in about a year, except for the tippy-top, meaning I was the senior employee outside of leadership after about six months. In both cases, it’s pretty clear and actionable what causes the turnover. It’s not that leadership doesn’t care, a little, it’s more that they are unable or unwilling to change. I do not set myself on fire to keep them warm. I do only my job, to the best of my ability, and when I leave for the day I clock out completely. That is why I’ve been able to stay at places that have driven everyone else out, which is ultimately the most useful thing I can offer these places – some degree of longevity and stability amidst all the craziness.

    1. Almost Empty Nester*

      Agree with this 1000%! The company I work for is renowned for layoffs with the expectation that the remaining employees pick up the slack. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve told my own manager that I will not care about this company more than the executives do. And also OP, they will not have an incentive to make any changes as long as you continue to make up for the missing labor. Be well, take care, and as Sloanicota said “don’t set yourself on fire”!

    2. LW*

      “I do not set myself on fire to keep them warm.”

      I’m going to be thinking about this for a long time. Thank you for sharing all of it.

  13. Spreadsheets and Books*

    I’m so sorry to hear about your family member’s GBM diagnosis. It’s truly a horrific cancer, and one that can destroy lives so quickly. I know how frustrating it can be to be told things can work out when they so rarely do, but if conditions allow for it, do look into clinical trials.

    My sibling was diagnosed with GBM in late 2016 and, with prompt treatment and the help of a promising clinical trial, is progression-free and living a completely normal life today. I realize the prognosis is better in younger patients, but research is slowly and surely making a difference.

    Wishing you and your relative peace.

  14. jane's nemesis*

    I just wanted to single this one thing out, which feels small in the face of the diagnosis of your loved one, LW, but I must…

    They decided not to fill my old position anytime soon because they felt the skill set required was too specialized.

    This is bananapants bad reasoning. “It’s too hard” is not a good reason not to fill a needed position and leave you covering THREE roles!

    Anyway, I said it above in a nested comment, but I’m so sorry again about the terrible diagnosis.

  15. LW*

    I am so grateful to all of you who have shared good thoughts and virtual hugs and your own experiences. I’m finding there are many kind people in this terrible club with me. Thank you for providing some comfort for this internet stranger who’s already really missing her mom.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      One of the many reasons I always find myself coming back to this community. We wish you and your family all the best.

  16. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    > Jane, who has not yet found a new full-time job, likes to text me and others in the office to check up on our work and make helpful suggestions for improvement.

    “Thank you! I’ll give it the consideration it deserves.”

  17. Ex-prof*

    I’m so sorry to hear about your family member’s GBM diagnosis.

    I’ve been through that and it does become the focus of your whole world. Sending you all the strength and good wishes I can.

  18. glitter writer*

    I am very sorry for the diagnosis in your family, and wishing you and your family all the best. I hope next year brings you significantly more peace!

  19. PennylaneTX*

    LW, sending you and your family so much support and love. I lost a family member to GBM (now that I think about it, 24 years ago, wow), it’s a terrible club no one wants to be a part of. And thank you to the other commenters who’ve shared their experiences with family members and GBM, it’s oddly comforting to read these comments and feel a kinship to others.

  20. GreenKnight*

    I lost my dad to GBM earlier this week after a diagnosis in October. It’s a really rough experience. Just know that you aren’t alone in it and that no matter what decisions you make you’re doing your best and that’s really worth a lot.

    1. LW*

      I’m so very sorry. I have family members thinking we have two years but based on what I’m reading and seeing happen in our case, it is moving with a terrifying quickness.

      I hope you were able to have some good time together before saying goodbye.

      1. Anonymous For Now*

        I’m sorry your mom is going through this, which means you family is going through it, too.

        My partner who passed from glioblastoma was already acting strangely before the diagnosis.

        Despite doing a chemo and radiation regimen (luckily they suffered no serious side effects from treatment), they went downhill very quickly – about 5 months between diagnosis and the end.

        On the other hand, Senator John McCain lasted over a year and he seemed to be himself for at least most of that time – he was still in the Senate and participating until almost the end of his life.

        My advice is to have no expectations.

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