I’m buying a business — how do I tell one employee (who’s currently my coworker) that I’m not keeping her on?

A reader writes:

I am a healthcare provider buying a practice that I have worked at for the past three years. This will be an asset purchase, meaning legally all employees will be considered terminated by the previous business and re-hired by me (if I choose). There is one employee who has been there about four months, Sue, who I am concerned about keeping on.

My main issues with Sue are that she does not take direction well from coworkers, tends to go right to me with questions regarding scheduling and other tasks to supersede her coworkers (especially inappropriate considering I do not own the practice yet), and has an overbearing personality. To give an example of this, she approached me recently about whether I was buying the building of the practice and in a way backed me into a corner to tell her I was considering purchasing the practice and then immediately asked me a favor to use the lawn behind the building for her dog since she may be purchasing the adjacent apartment building which doesn’t have a yard (that conversation gave me extremely bad vibes). I merely said I was considering buying it and didn’t want to make any promises. After that conversation, I found out that she told multiple employees about me buying the practice (to me, this came off as a power move to put her above the other employees). The other employees have now been formally informed by me once the bank financing was final, and are excited (other than understandable nerves) about the development.

Since Sue is a relatively new employee, has performance issues that multiple employees have noticed and tried to address, doesn’t vibe with the team, and works very part-time hours, I’m confident in my decision that this is one employee I should leave behind.

I’m looking for advice on what to say without making the weeks to months prior to me taking over a tension-filled mess. I already established with all the employees (including Sue) that I will be meeting with them individually to discuss changes, pay scale, etc. and am hoping to do that as soon as possible to set expectations. Do I just keep it simple that I don’t see a place for her in the new practice and wish her the best? The empathetic side of me wants to give her reasons, but I don’t want that to backfire and cause negativity, but what if she asks why? I’m hoping the current owner will have my back if she starts being toxic, but if not it could be a rough transition until she’s gone.

One more complication is that Sue’s daughter is a long-time employee who needed some leave time but who I’d be happy to bring back on when she is available again. I guess if this ends up burning that bridge, it is what it is.

Especially with the dynamic of going from an older male owner to me, a young woman (significantly younger than most employees), I really need to make clear decisions early on to set a precedent.

I wrote back and asked, “What’s the timeline here — how much time will there be between when you would ideally tell Sue you’re not keeping her on and when you’ll actually take over? Also, do you expect her daughter to return during that interim period, or only after it?”

There would be about two to three weeks in between when I’m hoping to do the meetings with staff and when I actually acquire the practice.

I’m meeting with her daughter soon, because she wanted to clear up her plan for coming back. But most likely she wouldn’t return until after the transition. The daughter has years of history working with the practice and has made it clear to me that she considers it her career, so I’m pretty confident she’ll still come back if I let her mom go. But handling it well on my end definitely would make that easier, I’m sure.

Where does the old owner/manager stand on the question of Sue?

I’m asking because ideally you’d tell Sue the news at the same time that you’re meeting with others. You can’t really avoid it if everyone knows you’re meeting with each person about their future at the practice, and you shouldn’t delay those meetings until after you take over (because if you do, you risk other employees figuring their jobs are at risk and starting to look around). However, that gives everyone a few weeks of working with Sue after she hears the news, so you need to think through how that’s likely to go. Is Sue likely to handle it reasonably well or is she likely to make things uncomfortable for you, her coworkers, or even patients? Do you trust her to continue performing her work well during that time or do you have to worry about sabotage? (That sounds dramatic, but it happens.)

To make this work, you’d need to coordinate with the current owner/manager and agree that if Sue doesn’t handle the news well, she’ll be asked to leave sooner. (Hell, would the current owner/manager be willing to let Sue go now with severance? That would make this somewhat cleaner. You could offer to roll the severance costs into your purchase price if that’s worth it to you.)

But if you can’t count on the current owner to handle Sue well if this goes badly while he’s still in charge, your options get less appealing. You could simply wait to give Sue the news until take over, but that could be messy. You of course shouldn’t tell her she’s staying and then reverse course once you’re the owner — but in theory you could say you aren’t ready to make a decision on her position yet, and deliver the news once you’re in charge. It would give her some incentive not to blow things up in those final weeks … but it doesn’t feel great. The other option is to be honest with her, trust her to behave professionally, and figure the fall-out will be fairly limited if she doesn’t. But that’s got to be a judgment call based on what you know of Sue and how much potential she has to do damage.

As for what reason to give Sue, you could keep it vague (like you’re trimming staff) or you could be honest that you haven’t see the kind of work from her that you’d need to see to keep her on. Decide which approach to use based on what you know of Sue and how she’s likely to take it. Yes, it can be a kindness to give honest feedback when you’re letting someone go — but you also need to think about the greater good of the business if she’s going to be around a few more weeks.

As for Sue’s daughter: You’re right that she may feel weird coming back to a place that let her mom go. But she might understand it (she probably knows her mom’s weaknesses better than most people do!) or she might find it easy to move forward with you regardless. You can’t control that — but you’re right that ensuring her mom is handled with respect and dignity will give all of you the best shot of making things work.

Good luck, and we want an update when it’s all behind you!

{ 205 comments… read them below }

  1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    Definitely coordinate with the previous owner. Because someone needs to be able to say to Sue, fine, today is your last day, you will be paid severance equal to X number of weeks. Because you don’t want her sticking around. Based on her behaviior, she is HIGHLY likely to behave badly.

    As for the daughter, well, things change. People move on. She might not want to come back for other reasons. She might win the lottery. So if she doesn’t come back, wish her the best.

    1. Venus*

      OP mentioned that Sue doesn’t work many hours, so it makes complete sense to offer her severance (OP can pay for it) so that she’s not physically in the building and able to cause problems, and it can be seen as a goodwill gesture to give her paid time to look for something else. The reasons will very much depend on what Sue can handle, and it sounds like a polite lie would be best for OP. Make a clean break while you have the chance!

      1. Possum'smom*

        The layoff runway unless or until she causes problems. Gives her income while she job hunts.

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        Agree that I would lean in to the part-time piece. LW can tell Sue that one of the changes she will be making is eliminating part-time positions (if that’s true) or consolidating some of the part-time positions (if other part-timers will remain), and her position is a cut. Then she can offer the severance and such and work out a last day. She doesn’t need to explain further, and the fact that she is letting Sue go for several reasons doesn’t need to be the point.

        Although there will be future times that LW will need to have tough conversations about performance and termination, and LW DOES need to learn to let people go without getting too far down into the weeds, in this particular case LW is all tangled up in the emotions and family and old boss and new boss and funding and timing and owner age and authority and feelings of it all, when this can all be boiled way down.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Since Sue’s daughter may continue to work for the practice, though, only say these things if they will hold up to scrutiny. If the LW is planning to hire someone to do the tasks Sue has been doing, unless there’s something significantly different about the new position (like it’s full-time and Sue has definitively said she does not want full-time work) then it could cause drama if Sue finds out via her daughter that what LW said wasn’t so truthful.

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            Even if that’s true, that’s very much a bridge LW can cross later. Hiring a new person six months after Sue leaves isn’t a direct correlation. She doesn’t need to keep manufacturing excuses for Sue’s presence or absence once Sue is gone.

          2. Ellie*

            I think most people in business understand where a face-saving white lie might work better than the cruel, unvarnished truth. I have a high respect for my mother’s career and work ethic, but I still wouldn’t want to work with her. And in this case, Sue has been described as argumentative and overbearing. Her daughter may be very happy with this outcome.

            1. Freya*

              I love my mother, but working in the same office would make it far more difficult to network without her occasionally inappropriately oversharing on my behalf just trying to be part of the conversation in a positive way. Navigating the separation between work-relationship and personal-relationship would be exhausting and, over time, drive me nuts. Bags me not, thankyouverymuch!

        2. Hannah Lee*

          Agree that the Part Time status does give LW a potentially clean, logical cut off for Sue’s employment ending vs other employees at the practice.

          From the way LW described the situation and their reasoning, desire to think things through before acting, I don’t doubt that they will be able to manage tough conversations down the line.

          The main complication here seems to be that LW does not yet have any authority over Sue’s employment yet. (not so much emotionally tangled, but literally is not THE decision maker that can legally end Sue’s employment and decide the timing, terms of that.)

          The LW does seem to have a clear view of the possibilities regarding the Sue’s daughter’s employment, and while they’d prefer she’d work for the LW when she’s able to begin work again, they recognize that her leaving is a risk they have little control over (at least they are not willing to keep Sue in order to keep daughter happy)

          The “can I use the practice’s property as a play area for my dog?” 4 months in as a part-time is a ‘hole ‘nother thing to consider, because having an ex-employee on the grounds, especially a somewhat pushy one who is already trying to help herself to LW’s not yet complete decision making, non-public info, and other stuff indicate that Sue is inclined to view boundaries as something for Other People, other people’s stuff as useful to her, and even more so when the end of employment may not be a happy situation, all that sets off “Danger Will Robinson” alarms in my head. Things could go sideways in so many directions (slip and fall, dog causing issues, other things which would be a distraction on LW’s focus on the business)

          LW should consider setting aside some funds to repurpose that empty lawn into something, or adding landscaping, using it somehow or fencing it off so it is not the “time on her hands Sue and her dog” equivalent of an attractive nuisance. (not spite-fence-y, just something that says “why no, this isn’t free space that our neighbors can use if they want” … shrubs, planters, butterfly garden, xeriscaping, additional parking any number of things)

        3. Oregonbird*

          That was an issue came through loud and clear. The LW isn’t differentiating between professional and personal issues at all, it’s just one big snarled ball to untangle.

          It’s an odd reflection of a recently discussed issue, where the manager put her need to avoid conflict that might lead to drama ahead of any possible widespread fallout.

          Women in every industry perpetuate this social expectation; we overthink basic and clear work situations by diving into a morass of personal considerations that aren’t remotely part of a business decision.

          Will we ever manage to shake off the programming to protect others from the consequences of their own actions?

          1. xylocopa*

            This seems a little unfair to the letter writer, who is genuinely in a tricky situation: she needs to fire someone while retaining the trust of other employees (not just the daughter, who she’s willing to lose), and she’s not yet in a position to actually do the firing. Everyone knows she’s the future boss, but she’s not the boss yet, and everyone still needs to work together for a while.

            Yes, sure, there’s a fair argument that in general women are socialized to incorporate more personal considerations etc etc etc… but I wouldn’t call this overthinking, I’d call it a very reasonable amount of thinking.

            1. JustaTech*

              Yes, the LW hasn’t bought the business yet, so she *can’t* fire Sue until the purchase goes through (and having recently been on the sidelines of a small business sale, it can be painfully up in the air until that last paper is signed).

              Clearly the best option is to work with the old owner and get them to lay off Sue with severance (that LW pays), but if the old owner doesn’t want to do that, then the LW has a harder line to walk.

      3. Rainy*

        Yeah, this is what I would do–I’d negotiate with the owner to roll severance into the purchase price if at all possible, and then if I saw even a hint of poor behaviour from Sue I’d just say “I think it makes sense for today to be your last day; we’ll pay you through X time as severance.”

        And then fence the yard or otherwise make it difficult for her to use the yard for her dog, because that is probably going to end up being a huge issue.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah. Not to get too far into speculation here, but Sue being a new part timer with a child old enough to have been an integral part of the clinic for years screams that she’s trying to make this her thing for this stage in life. If she’s not going to be good for the practice, do not allow her to entrench herself by being the neighbor, the volunteer, the person who is owed / owes a favor.

            1. Nonym*

              If you tell Sue early enough, she might reconsider her decision to purchase though. It’s likely that the absence of commute and the idea of a perk like getting to use the lawn are factors in her decision. Once these are off the table, another option might be more appealing for her to buy.

              Given that she’s considering buying, it would be a kindness to let know early and you could phrase it that way: you’re telling her early because you don’t want her to buy a place right next to her job, only to be out of a job shortly after closing.

              Conversely, waiting until after she has purchased will likely create resentment and bitterness.

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            Hopefully, once Sue gets fired she will no longer be so eager to buy the building next door (or that backs up to this building?) Because no way do you want Sue for a neighbor after firing her. I see flaming bags of poop on the business’s doorstep…

        2. Just another woman*

          “And then fence the yard or otherwise make it difficult for her to use the yard for her dog, because that is probably going to end up being a huge issue.”

          I came here to say exactly that!

      4. MB*

        Sue can wreck havoc on patient records as a disgruntled just let go employee. Your action needs to include immediate loss of access to records and finances. If she pulls your database you could loose business to competitors

    2. alex*

      +1000. If LW knows now that they’re not keeping Sue, there’s no reason to delay the inevitable. Although I agree it should be coordinated with the current owner. It feels like having Sue stick around for a couple of weeks knowing her job is gone would be bad for morale and the office environment, based on her past behavior. Not an ideal way to start a new ownership, IMO.

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the daughter. My department had a mother and daughter working in it at one time. The daughter was great, the mother is problematic in ways too numerous to list here. When people would make comments about the mother without realizing the daughter was in the meeting, the daughter would laugh and say “Oh, trust me, I KNOW!” Never took offense to it. Remember, they’ve lived with this their whole lives so they get it most of the time.

      1. Daughter of a difficult mother*

        I agree that the daughter already knows. I know all about my mom and her myriad issues, more than any of her coworkers do. That said, the daughter may still leave because she wants to preserve her relationship with her mom, which might be a tricky thing for her to manage in the best of circumstances.

      2. Miette*

        I agree that Sue’s layoff should be rolled into the transition, and that OP can ask the current owner to have a hand in it, especially if they’re not on the hook for the expense. Is it possible the reason can be chalked up to budget, and this is a last hired/first fired thing (if Sue was the last hired, of course)? Or that part time positions were the logical choice to be pared back, as has been suggested above? If you make it an overt business reason, you won’t risk alienating the daughter. Heck, you could even suddenly decide that having relatives as employees is no longer a policy you support, and clearly the daughter has more tenure and is going to be invited to stay, assuming on other employees are related.

    3. TG*

      Love the advice here – have current owner let her go and pay severance you’ll pay them back for and then it’s off your plate!

    4. Dr. Brown*

      One of the key questions is whether the new owner will be backfilling Sue’s position. If the role will be backfilled, the new owner needs to be careful with the messaging so that Sue doesn’t later think that she has an opportunity to come back.

    5. Zombeyonce*

      Even if Sue behaves badly, LW should keep in mind that their coworkers, soon to be employees, are watching what’s happening and taking notice. They’ll remember if Sue was treated with compassion or unkind dismissal, and they’re also wondering how LW will treat them as a boss, especially when it comes to managing issues and handling employees they work with that make their job harder. This is a much higher stakes situation than the fate of one employee, LW is setting the stage for how they appear to their new staff.

      1. Princess Sparklepony*

        Although it doesn’t sound like Sue is making any friends in the workplace. But yes, LW should treat Sue fairly since it’s the first firing of the business. No sense in getting everyone on edge.

    6. Reluctant Mezzo*

      And the daughter may be quietly relieved not to have to deal with her mom at work.

  2. Major DeSanta*

    I am wondering if this is a veterinary practice! If so, definitely meet with the existing owner about Sue, and make a coordinated plan to let her go. This will be much easier if you and the existing owner are both in full alignment.

    I’d also recommend finding out from the original owner if he’s ever had (documented) performance conversations with her. If not, it may be worth initially keeping her on, with a frank, documented conversation with Sue about your expectations (in which you tell her that her job is at risk if these behaviors continue).

    1. ZSD*

      I don’t think the previous owner’s potential lack of problems with Sue would be reason for the new owner to keep her on. The new owner is the new owner, and she can make her own business decisions. This transition period is honestly the ideal time to clean house. Additionally, the LW will have tons of other stressors to deal with as she takes over the practice; why knowingly add this problem employee to the list?

      1. Tupac Coachella*

        I have to agree with this. It sounds kind to give Sue a chance in theory, but in practice OP already knows enough about Sue to decide if she wants to hire her…and she doesn’t. Making Sue’s performance problems OP’s problem when there’s a clear opportunity to cut that cord before taking ownership would be a mistake.

        1. Ellie*

          Yes, OP should only keep Sue on if she thinks she has a genuine chance at success in the role, and it doesn’t sound like she does. She’s only been there 4 months and has had multiple issues, there’s no reason to delay this.

      2. K*

        Because it is unethical to fire an employee without giving them a chance to improve their performance. Allison has made this point dozens of times on this blog. I see no reason why it wouldn’t apply here.

        1. Luanne Platter*

          Presumably the current ownership has discussed performance with Sue, and also it’s not exactly a termination unless Sue behaves badly when she receives the news. Otherwise, it’s more like a business closure. The position at that practice no longer exists.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’m curious what about a veterinary practice would make this more true than another kind of business

      1. allx*

        I thought it might be a dental practice with on-call, casual or part-time dental hygienists (like I see at my dentist). She doesn’t actually have to terminate the employee so much as tell her she will not be hired by the new practice. OP as new business owner has all the reasons any employer would have for rejecting a candidate, and can relay that decision just like a rejection of hiring: not the right fit, decided to go in a different direction, pursuing other stronger candidates etc. I would not offer severance to a very short-tenured, very part-time employee.

      2. sparkle emoji*

        Maybe just what Major DeSanta has personal experience with? I’d agree that this would seem to apply to other small medical practices though.

    3. kendall^2*

      Sue has only been there 4 months; there might not have been time to have much discussion of performance yet.

      1. Tio*

        The first 6 months should be when they’re having the MOST discussions about performance in a good place; that’s when it’s easiest to alter behaviors and change course, as well as set expectations. The longer you let a problem behavior linger the harder it is to correct it. Also, she should have at least had a 90 day review.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          FWIW, I’ve never worked at a place that had a formal 90 day review. I’m obviously just one data point, but they may not be common in all industries.

    4. Caroline*

      In OP’s shoes, I would not want to assume liability for the decision to let Sue go, when simply not hiring is probably safer legally.

    5. Slartibartfast*

      I’ve got experience with both the human and veterinary sides of medicine. It’s equally likely to be either.

  3. L-squared*

    I understand that right now, you don’t own it, and therefore can’t make decisions.

    But man, this just sounds shitty. You are basically just going to give her 2 weeks notice, even though you are well aware of it now. I’m not sure how far in advance you are planning, but I definitely think if you know now, you should tell her now, and its not your problem. It will be the problem of her employer, which is the current owner. If he chooses not to handle it great, that is on him.

    Nothing about Sue makes her sound like a bad person, just not a good fit. But you are essentially treating her as a horrible person who is going to sabatoge things. You are covering your own stuff while not treating this person with general human decency.

    1. Analyst*

      I mean….that’s 2 weeks more than most people get when they are fired…and everyone does know that the transition is coming and this is possible (and should probably be job searching already)

      1. L-squared*

        It sounds like most people are under the (correct) assumption that they are staying. If she is the only one being let go, I feel its a bit weird to say “everyone should assume they may be let go”

    2. ZSD*

      I don’t agree with this harsh take. The letter writer isn’t assuming Sue is going to sabotage things; Alison is just pointing out that there are people who react to bad news that way. And two weeks’ notice is more generous than a lot of people get for layoffs. Often enough, people who are laid off are given no notice at all.

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah, no one is assuming Sue will sabotage things. But a business owner also needs back up plans if just in case something does happen. It’s called Contingency Planning, and it’s something a good business owner will do. There can be contingency plans for all kinds of things- what will you do if a key employee has to leave? What will you do in inclement weather? and yes, What will you do if there is a disgruntled employee?

        Obviously you hope that you never need to enact these plans, but it’s always better to have these plans and not need them, than to need the plans and not have them.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Yes, we had mandatory workplace violence trainings at my last job. It wasn’t in response to any actual workplace violence, but to prevent it and to know how to respond in the rare instance it might happen in the future.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            My understand as to why we have these now at work is due a new requirement from an insurance or another. They’re annual training sessions now, which is still less often than my ScruffKids deal with active shooter drills at school.

    3. Jen MaHRtini*

      Two weeks notice to a 4-month employee, especially if there’s severance offered, really isn’t shitty. Sue may not be a bad person per se, but she doesn’t take feedback, escalates routine matters unnecessarily, and has a poor sense of boundaries, The longer she’s kept on the harder the action is going to be on both sides.

        1. Frank Doyle*

          That’s what I was thinking, this person has only been there four months! That’s still within a probation period at a lot of companies.

        2. Freya*

          Even in Australia, minimum required notice (or payment in lieu of notice) is 1 week for people employed less than 12 months. Their final pay will include unused annual leave and (if they don’t work out their notice period) payment in lieu of notice, but not redundancy pay.

          (redundancy pay is a payout under the Australian National Employment Standards when someone ceases employment because the job they’re doing no longer exists, and it doesn’t apply to people who’ve been working for less than 12 months or if their employer has fewer than 15 employees).

      1. Coffee Protein Drink*

        I agree with your take. At the very least Sue is a bad match for the job and should not continue in it. I would offer the severance, and advise Sue as soon as possible.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      The LW doesn’t own the practice yet; she doesn’t have the authority to do or say anything that definite.

      1. K*

        If this is in the US, which I assume it is, she has the same freedom of speech that the rest of us do. What do you think is preventing OP from picking up the phone right now and telling sue she won’t be kept on when OP takes over? I genuinely don’t understand what you think prevents this.

          1. FeeFiFo*

            +1 Freedom of speech applies to a citizen’s relationship with the government. Not applicable here.

    5. Kevin Sours*

      It is her problem. Because any blowback from telling Sue isn’t going magically go away once she takes over. Worse if there are problems she won’t have the authority to deal with them under she does. And the current owner may not appreciate having the problem dumped in his lap and may not deal with it effectively. Hence asking for advice.

      She needs to coordinate with current owner on anything she does prior to things being official.

      1. Tio*

        Exactly… and if LW was already running the place and didn’t like Sue’s job performance, then Sue would just be let go without anything, severance or notice. I’m honestly surprised severance was even suggested for a new, part time employee.

        And when a new, part time employee is already showing bad signs, yeah, that’s when you cover yourself! I don’t think anyone’s not treating her like a decent human being like the commentor suggested. Firing someone sucks, sure, but it’s a thing that happens; if she’s respectful about it, then that’s really all you can do about it.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          The transition means that people are going to be on edge already. It complicates the timing of letting somebody go and increasing the potential damage an employee who wants to start crap can do. To some extent it’s less “severance” and more “garden leave”. Go home, be quiet, and we’ll pay you until the current business winds down.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          It’s being suggested because it will help preserve the positive relationship with the daughter who works in the practice to be overly kind to the mother and because it could minimize the risk of a bad reaction to the job loss.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Although I’m betting the daughter will make one formal protest and then dance a little jig of despair in the restroom if no one else is there. The daughter is probably treated the same way by Sue.

    6. Lily Rowan*

      Alison is asking the question about how likely she is to sabotage things, so the OP can think about the answer as she plans how to proceed. Everyone should do that when they are planning to let someone go! (When my boss was getting fired, I got a heads up from HR earlier that day so I could be in the office watching if he tried to do anything.)

      I don’t know how much consideration most employers would provide for a part-time employee who has been there four months and has performance issues.

    7. MicroManagered*

      I gotta disagree with you there… Someone who is “just not a good fit” is like, lacking in excel skills or attention to detail.

      Sue cornered LW and pressured her to disclose that she’s buying the practice sooner than she wanted to, then Sue spread that to the rest of the staff, and per the letter “does not take direction well from coworkers, tends to go right to me … to supersede her coworkers, and has an overbearing personality.”

      1. Starbuck*

        Yes Sue sounds at minimum pretty overbearing and not the type to let things go – I don’t think “sabotage” is the risk here, but tension and awkward drama seem likely. Maybe she’ll handle the news with perfect grace, but…

        1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          Sue sounds like the kind of person where a business owner would have to make a rule that they never make important decisions on the spot (because Sue corners people and pressures them) and should practice saying “I understand why you would like to know that; I will have to get back to you” and similar phrases. LW may feel pressured into giving up more than she wanted to if Sue tries to back her into a corner, even if Sue is not inclined to sabotage. LW may want to take to emailing Sue with discussion summaries, like “I wanted to clarify that when you asked about using the green space as a dog park, I have not yet made a decision and you should not count on being able to use the space.” So if Sue mis-remembers things, at least LW will be able to rely on those post-conversation emails as a record.

          Also, if this is one of a few medical establishments in a niche in a small-ish community, word of mouth can be a powerful factor. Sue may have a pretty loud mouth and could potentially do damage, either by outright misrepresenting things or gossiping about the least flattering things she knows without their context.

          (Cornering people and pressuring them for an answer can be a useful job skill! In things like sales and bill collection. And it sounds like that is not Sue’s role.)

          1. The Terrible Tom*

            Lol, yes: “Cornering people and pressuring them for an answer can be a useful job skill” in totally unethical jobs that shouldn’t exist the way they are currently performed.

            1. Luanne Platter*

              LOL right! Salespeople and debt collectors only *metaphorically* corner people and pressure for an answer. Physically cornering them, à la Sue here, is not at all useful and actually harmful to a business relationship.

    8. Sparkles McFadden*

      You’re suggesting saying the LW tell Sue “Just so you know, when I am the owner, you won’t have a job anymore”? and then everyone just keeps working together for another three weeks? That actually would be cruel to everyone involved. Sue’s choices would then be to work in an office where she knows everyone else will continue working, or to quit on the spot. Meanwhile, the other employees are going to have to work with Sue during the transition period, and everyone will be uncomfortable.

      Severance for a part-time employee is nearly unheard of, but, in this case, it’s the best, and kindest, thing to do.

    9. HonorBox*

      But the LW can’t just make a unilateral decision about walking Sue out of the building, given the change in ownership. The decision can’t be made solely by the LW because the present owner would have to agree. If there is agreement, I agree that there’s no reason to keep her around longer than needed.

      Also, not for nothing, but there are details in the letter that make one believe that Sue is more than just a bad fit. Backing LW into a corner about the purchase of the practice, sharing information with other employees, etc. is more than just a bad fit. It isn’t that she is necessarily actively sabotaging things, but she is making waves behind the scenes which isn’t helpful in the transition. I don’t think it is fair to suggest that LW is covering her own stuff while not treating someone decently. She’s in a difficult spot given the transition timing, and trying to prepare the best course of action since she knows she’s unlikely to keep Sue on.

      1. linger*

        I think we (and OP) also may need to consider what the relationship is between Sue and the current owner. If Sue was questioning OP about a takeover before OP had announced this, Sue presumably had some information from the current owner; and the current owner must have made the decision to hire both Sue and her daughter. Thus it seems plausible the current owner doesn’t want to be the bearer of bad news either, and so OP may not have the simple option of punting that task back.

    10. fhqwhgads*

      Sue works very part time there and is talking about buying the building next door. I think she’s probably doing ok?

    11. Tiger Snake*

      That’s a very emotive response.

      I think a lot of managers have to only give 2 weeks notice even though they know the cuts are coming from a mile away. That’s just what it means to manage a business. It’s not denying anyone kindness or decency. It’s just about making sure things are lined up, so you DO have a plan for someone leaving rather than springing something completely unplanned and unclear on them.

      What WOULD be horrible would be implying someone will be fired but not giving them a clear timeline up front about what that means or when they should expect to leave.

    12. Ms. Elaneous*

      FTLOG, tell her sooner rather than later; Tell her before she buys that adjacent apartment building!

    1. ferrina*

      Yes, good luck!

      It sounds like OP is approaching this in a very level-headed and well-thought out way. OP’s whole approach in this letter impressed me. She’s taking a lot of factors into consideration, is making pragmatic and compassionate decisions, realistic about the outcomes and trade-offs, and clearly has a vision for what she wants. I’m definitely rooting for her!

      1. LW*

        Hi LW here and just got the chance to go over the response and comments.
        Thanks for this :) I’m trying my best!

  4. CTT*

    Agreed with Alison on coordinating this with the current owner! I’m a transactional attorney and work primarily in a very similar space as this. Staffing in the medical field is such that most buyers want to keep everyone unless they’re truly awful. In the case that there is someone that the purchaser does not want to bring on, I do see them often try to get the seller to shoulder the work of transitioning out a bad employee since they already have the relationship with that person. But some sellers don’t want to be the bad guy and want to leave on an “everything’s great!” note, so offering a credit to the seller on the purchase price to go towards severance is something I have seen done successfully several times before. Good luck!

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      This does seem to be the best way to do it. Buying Owner and Selling Owner talk to Sue together to explain that Buying Owner is restructuring, and there will not be a role for Sue moving forward. Consequently, you are going to give her severance in the amount of whatever is normal in your area (and Buying Owner will foot the bill for that).

      Buying Owner and Selling Owner do need to agree on a plan if Sue flips out, as Buying Owner would then have to be the one to tell Sue to leave immediately. Most people go out professionally so as not to jeopardize the severance, but you never know.

      1. Goldie*

        I would say even less. We aren’t able to keep you in the organization. Today is your last day. Here is a check.

  5. LinesInTheSand*

    I’m not sure you can avoid the tension-filled mess and you should prepare for that possibility.

    One thing that will help here is proactive transparency. Have your one on ones with everyone, and then depending on the size of the company, consider an all hands where you discuss your transition plan. What you don’t want is a whole gossip network as everyone tries to figure out who is staying on and who is being let go. That sort of environment will breed toxicity fast.

  6. CarCarJabar*

    Could you lean into her “very part time” schedule as a reason for not keeping her on? You’d be very very sorry, of course, but it doesn’t make sense to have a very part time employee going forward. Hopefully that framing would make her less defensive and therefore less likely to cause issues.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      I wouldn’t. It’s one thing to be honest but uselessly vague (“your current role isn’t a good fit for the organization I have in mind”) but another to tell a fib. What happens if you end up hiring a part time worker a few weeks later for one reason or another?

      1. HonorBox*

        This is especially important because of the fact that the daughter may be coming back to work there and will no doubt know what Sue was told. Too much opportunity to sour that good relationship if you fib.

      2. just some guy*

        The other risk with giving spurious reasons for this kind of thing is that people may take them in good faith and try to address the stated reason. What if Sue says “oh well, I’d actually like to increase my hours, maybe even go full-time! Problem solved!”

        I’ve seen similar things happen before. It leads to incredibly frustrating discussions because people don’t even have a shared understanding of what the problem is, and that misunderstanding usually can’t be corrected without somebody admitting to having been dishonest earlier.

        1. LW*

          This is exactly what I want to avoid. I don’t want her to offer a reasonable solution when the truth is I merely don’t think she fits with the culture and vision I’m going for and I’d personally rather be short staffed and have to help out more personally than to keep her on.

          I also have a newer part time employee with more experience that wants full time and would be an excellent fit to give more hours to.

          1. Banana Pyjamas*

            In that case I would frame it as her role is being consolidated. That’s all I would say.

    2. LW*

      Well the main problem there is that likely if her daughter can come back it will likely be only one day a week and the daughter is relying on her mom to hopefully provide childcare. It’s a situation where the daughter got her mom a job so she’d help her watch the kid when they switch shifts and now the mom has almost just taken over the daughter’s position instead? It’s a very odd dynamic right now

      1. jojo*

        Eek! This situation is a great example of why it can be tricky to have employees who are related to one another. If there are no other such employees at the practice, you should strongly consider creating a formal policy that discourages (if not outright prohibits) staff from referring their family members for employment. Lots of organizations have the “are you related to anyone who currently works here?” question on their job applications, and so can you, going forward.

        Good luck!

  7. Hendry*

    If you’re 100% certain that you’re not going to keep Sue on, can you let her go now with good severance? Even if you’re not the owner yet, are you a boss of some kind now?

    If you’re not 100%, put her on a PIP and see if there’s improvement.

    Also, there may be very good reasons to let Sue go, but I don’t think “setting a precedent” is one of them

    Good luck!

    1. L-squared*

      Right. That just sounds really bad. If these people know you, and they respect you already, it shouldn’t be a problem. if they don’t respect you, firing someone won’t make them respect you. At best, you’ll get temporary better output out of fear, not respect.

    2. Kevin Sours*

      I think that’s a misread. It’s not firing Sue that is “setting a precedent” but making clear firm decisions and communicating them effectively. Handing Sue’s situation badly will set things off on a bad start.

    3. Kevin Sours*

      This is one situation where I’m not sure the PIP plan is the best approach. It’s already a time of transition and Sue is a part time employee. Better to make a clean break of it than letting Sue go a few weeks later. So unless there is a reason to believe that a PIP is likely to be successful the best approach is to work with the current owner to negotiate a severance.

      1. Hendry*

        You might be right about the PIP – honestly I’m not sure what Sue is doing wrong other than gossiping about OP buying the business, so hard to tell if her issues are fixable.

        1. Tio*

          “she does not take direction well from coworkers, tends to go right to me with questions regarding scheduling and other tasks to supersede her coworkers (especially inappropriate considering I do not own the practice yet), and has an overbearing personality.”
          “has performance issues that multiple employees have noticed and tried to address, doesn’t vibe with the team,”

          Granted the only specific detailed example was the gossiping about the business, but we also are meant to take the LWs at their word.

        2. LW*

          She is not checking patients in correctly despite being there 4 months and does not listen to other employees who attempt to correct her (respectfully). Another example is that she will tell an emergency to come in at x time but not add them to the schedule or tell anyone but me about it but me.
          She will do tasks that she is not authorized to do (such as handling bank deposits) to “help out” and do them incorrectly causing a different employee to fix her mistake. She also has a habit of making things up? It may seem small but she has repeatedly lied to a new hire and me about how long she has been there and how experienced she is in our industry.

          And like I stated above, she will supersede other employees and come straight to me and usually immediately throw blame on another employee for something before telling me what she wants to ask me.

          And also I think it’s fair that if someone has a bad personality and makes the entire office dread working with her I don’t have to or want to keep her on.

          1. Andy*

            Yeah, all of these (especially the lying!) are dealbreakers. I think your other employees will be glad to see her gone.

            1. Freya*

              I would be livid about someone touching the bank deposits who isn’t authorised to do so, even if they were doing it right! Financial separation of duties exists for a reason, and having someone who isn’t cleared for it doing it means that the audit trail is muddy and the internal controls are failing. It leaves the business that bit more vulnerable to fraud and my OCD and I Don’t Like It.

          2. MEH Squared*

            Oh yes. It sounds like it’s for the best if you don’t hire her when you take over the business. She has trouble written all over her. You’re also right that an employee like this would be a hit to other employees’ morale–which in and of itself is a strong reason not to keep her on.

          3. jojo*

            Well, it sounds like you’re already a manager–maybe even Sue’s primary direct manager–and so you may already have standing to fire her. If you’re not sure, I’d ask the current owner. I bet they’d be only too happy to start delegating the dirty work to you, or sharing it with you.

          4. Slartibartfast*

            Lies of any magnitude for any reason is a serious problem for medical offices. That alone would be enough for me to not want to work with her.

      2. ferrina*

        Agree- don’t do a PIP on this one. OP already knows that they want to let Sue go, and it’s not fair to anyone (especially Sue) to make a PIP and then force her out anyways (or reluctantly keep her on when you don’t want her).

    4. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Yeah, it’s hard to tell from the wording. I *hope* it’s “set a precedent that I’m not afraid to deal with conflict” rather than “set a precedent of firing someone as an imaginary act of strength to show who is in charge”.

      1. LW*

        That’s exactly what I mean. I want to set a precedent that I will address tough situations in a respectful manor to all involved. My employee handbook (the practice doesn’t even have an employee handbook now) will make clear the way things will be handled with performance issues going forward. This is me not wanting to beat around the bush about something that people have been already expressing a problem about to the current owner. I see it as a show of respect for the long term employees who have already been suffering without action from the owner and a commitment to our office culture moving forward.

        1. Jayem Griffin*

          …..do y’all need a remote HRIS analyst? Kidding, mostly, but you sound like a thoughtful and respectful boss – the kind I’d like to work for.

  8. Bad Wolf*

    I’d word it like you’re restructuring when you take over and unfortunately will be eliminating her position. Since she’s working few part time hours anyway, it wouldn’t sound completely unreasonable. If the current owner is in agreement, offering severance to buy out her remaining weeks would be a nice gesture.

    1. HonorBox*

      As others have pointed out, this would work only if there’s not someone hired in the near future to pick up those hours. If Sue’s daughter is coming back, she will obviously have heard what her mom was told and if someone new is brought in soon, it will make LW look like they are a liar.

      That doesn’t mean that LW can’t hire someone in the future. It just means it shouldn’t be “soon.”

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing – this is the fairest and most straightforward – and the most face-saving – approach.

      Whether the current owner agrees or not, I would offer severance and end things on a high note, from the OP’s perspective. She can’t control what Sue does, but she can control what she herself does.

      That doesn’t mean the OP has to be super-clear about the actual reasons that she is ending Sue’s employment. She could instead say that her financial plan for the business requires her to make some business decisions, and one is that she can’t keep Sue on any more. However, she wants to treat her fairly, and so will offer her a severance package, even though Sue has only been with the company for 4 months, in a part-time capacity. Make Sue feel cared about – or at least make the other employees realize that Sue was treated fairly, but get her out of there.

      This approach should leave the door open for Sue’s daughter to return without feeling conflicted, and will meet everyone else’s needs to not deal with Sue. The OP can assure the other staff privately that their own roles are not at risk, in their 1:1 discussions.

      1. linger*

        What are OP’s options for discussing the daughter’s prospects now?
        Pro: It might be possible to spin the elimination of Sue’s position as a way of guaranteeing sufficient hours for the daughter if/when she returns. (If OP is definite she would rehire the daughter however Sue reacts.)
        Con: Sue’s reaction might be to dissuade her daughter from returning in order to “keep” her own position.

        1. LW*

          Ok so yes this crossed my mind but considering sue was only offered this job because the daughter asked for her to be hired to give sue a reason to come into town and watch her grandchild…. And now her daughter is possibly going on an extended leave to take care of said child, I would prefer to keep the two situations as separate as possible. If sue happens to want to provide childcare for her daughter after she is let go and allow her daughter to come back to work I would be happy to see it.

          1. linger*

            Ah! I hadn’t fully grasped that the daughter is the more established employee.
            Does that mean Sue is in effect providing cover for her daughter’s maternity leave?

            1. LW*

              I wish that were the case. It’s not a maternity leave just a young child that childcare is too expensive for so staying home is needed unless sue would offer to be the one watching the child

      2. Kevin Sours*

        OP offering Sue a severance directly is awkward. Because she does not and does not intend to ever employ Sue.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          She’s an employee of the business, and the LW will be her employer once the sale of the business is concluded. Ideally, the original owner would take care of this before the transfer of the business takes place, but if they don’t, the LW will have to do so.

          1. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

            No, once the business is sold all employees are considered laid off by that business and then the LW can choose to hire them for her (technically) new business. So the LW will never be Sue’s employer.

            1. Kevin Sours*

              The “business” isn’t being sold. The assets owned by the business are being sold. Depending on how it’s currently structured there may not be a business that is legally distinct from Dr. Current Owner.

      3. Just another woman*

        “She could instead say that her financial plan for the business requires her to make some business decisions, and one is that she can’t keep Sue on any more. However, she wants to treat her fairly, and so will offer her a severance package”

        Don’t explain anything but that it’s a business decision, and try to get the previous owner to do the layoff.

  9. e271828*

    Of the options listed, I think the least grief for everyone, including current/future employees, is Alison’s suggestion of working with the present owner to fire Sue immediately with a couple weeks’ pay as severance. Like, walk-out-the-door immediately, no time allowed for her to do anything: hand her her coat and purse in the meeting. She seems like a very intrusive, high-risk person with poor boundaries and I think she will be vindictive when fired. Deactivate any access she has and collect any keys (including from her daughter—and if you cannot do that, re-key.)

    1. LaurCha*

      She should probably re-key anyway so only current employees have keys. You never know what’s floating around out there.

    2. Hannah Lee*

      I’d suggest rekeying anytime you’re taking ownership of a new, existing building or business.

      You have no idea who the prior owner or prior employees may have given a key to. It’s easy enough to get a locksmith in, and update your security service, cleaning service, employees of the “new” business, the new keys, codes, etc. Worth the cost for piece of mind. Start fresh.

    3. LW*

      This is what I am planning to do. He has already been approached separately by multiple employees with no sign of doing anything since “he has not seen the problems”
      But perhaps coming from me he will be willing to take a different approach especially knowing that I am planning to not hire her on.

  10. MollyGodiva*

    Kinda unrelated. If all the employees are being fired and re-hired, are they going to be on board with this? Will they be allowed to negotiate terms? How will pay and benefits compare? You might want to have all these details before the meeting.

    1. Scarlet ribbons in her hair*

      You’re right! I’m wondering if they are going to lose their accrued vacation time. I guess anyone with a good amount of seniority will lose it, too, since it appears that they will all start working for the OP’s company on the same day.

      1. Reality.Bites*

        From what I gather, vacation time is barely regulated, if at all, in most parts of the US. Despite that, it seems like it would be a foolish way to economize by cutting either PTO or salaries. If an employee is essentially starting at square one, they’re more likely to explore other squares.

    2. Kevin Sours*

      “I will be meeting with them individually to discuss changes, pay scale, etc. and am hoping to do that as soon as possible to set expectations”

      It sounds like this covered.

      1. Zona the Great*

        Right. And it’s pretty common to lose at least someone to attrition because of the change. Some people just really don’t like or can’t handle change (for whatever reason) and someone may have just been holding on until boss retired or sold the business.

    3. M2RB*

      A lot of these kinds of deals will include messaging & communication that seniority, pay, and benefits will remain at the same levels as under the prior owner or will be adjusted to the benefit of the employees. I have seen this in a different type of asset purchase, where small businesses were being purchased (using an asset purchase agreement) by and then integrated into a much larger organization. My experience doesn’t quite fit the LW’s scenario (small local business being acquired by an individual vs by a larger national organization – I worked for the large acquiring organization) but I hope it all goes well for her.

    4. CTT*

      The firing-and-rehiring is standard and basically required to bring in the new owner; there’s a new payroll system, new FEIN issuing W-2s, etc. There’s really no way to transfer it without that “firing” step, to the point that it’s written in as an exemption to the WARN Act if the new employer plans to immediately hire substantially all employees. Most buyers will keep pay/benefits the same (or better, if they can) because it’s so difficult to hire right now, and even if they had applicants knocking down the door, it’s still a good way to smooth the transition.

    5. LW*

      Believe me I am prepared for the meetings! I am changing their bonus structure but increasing their hourly pay to compensate (I have a spreadsheet for each employee and all my numbers have come out to all of them making more with my pay raise than their current rate+ bonus). I am also wanting them to do a training program online that I will be raising their pay an additional dollar per hour after they complete. I will also be going over the new employee handbook (the practice does not have one now) with any changes I am making (which are all pretty minimal) so they have time to offer feedback and/or decide themselves if it’s a good fit. I also sent out a short employee survey this week with some of my suggestions for the practice and to gather some of their information such as days and times of work preferences. These surveys have shown me that most of the ideas I want to implement are well received.

      I plan to have a very employee centered practice hence why I want to weed out someone who may be toxic and not a team player.

      1. JustKnope*

        Wow LW – good for you! It sounds like you’re walking into this so thoughtfully. No easy answers on the Sue situation but your other employees will clearly see your care and attention to their development and compensation, and it will go a long way for you.

  11. Bitte Meddler*

    Side thought: Sue has enough money to purchase an apartment building while working part time?

    I’m guessing she doesn’t need the job at OP’s practice, so at least OP doesn’t have to worry about cutting off Sue’s only source of income.

    1. Heidi*

      I’d still want to let her know she’s not being asked to stay on before she makes a huge purchase like that, though. Hopefully that’s possible.

    2. Lady Blerd*

      It could just be a side hustle, possibly one that gives her a perk like a discount on whatever service the business offers.

      1. Cyndi*

        I read this the wrong way around at first, and had a momentary breakdown trying to imagine being the kind of person who owns an apartment building as a “side hustle.”

        1. Dust Bunny*

          It could be a small apartment building, and maybe she has/had a husband who is/was highly paid, or maybe she’s semi-retired from a high-powered career, or has family money, or etc.

        2. Kevin Sours*

          Vaguely knew a guy. Granted it was only a four unit building, but he worked as the maintenance man for the apartment complex I lived in.

        3. Cedrus Libani*

          I know that person. Software guy, won the startup lottery. He owns several apartment buildings, actually. For a while, he was living in all of them, rotating between them so that he didn’t meet the standard for legal residence anywhere…some kind of tax dodge. Now he’s got a wife and kid, so it’s just a side hustle.

      2. LW*

        From what I understand she does not “need” the money. I don’t want to go off gossip though, I don’t think it will be good for me to being a bad employee on and poison the well for everyone else just because of her financial situation.

    3. Jax*

      Well, that suggested a few things to me, none of which seem to have occurred to the OP:

      1) Sue already asked the current owner about the lawn situation and he told her OP likely would be the one to go to. That’s how Sue was able to press the OP on whether she was buying the business and might agree on a lawn arrangement regarding Sue buying the adjacent apartment building.

      2) The current business owner also not only hired Sue but of course has been employing Sue’s daughter for who knows how much longer. In other words, Sue’s daughter almost certainly recommended and vouched for her mother and wanted to work with her — I mean, these would have been factors any decent current owner should consider when possibly hiring the mother of a good longtime employee who considers the job a career.

      It’s possible that the current owner, since hiring Sue, had decided that was a mistake — but what seems more likely is the opposite. I’m afraid the OP is going to find more resistance to getting rid of Sue than anticipated, from the daughter for sure and possibly the current owner.

      1. LW*

        I mean I don’t know how to put this but the owner has a history of hiring not the best employees. He finally got rid of one who had stolen money from the practice multiple times. I am very lucky there is only one employee for me to have to deal with now. He has a very good heart, but I don’t want to inherit the problems of the practice.

        I explain this in another comment but getting her mom a job was kind of a quid pro quo to get childcare help so I don’t know about the relationship between the mom and daughter.

  12. V2*

    One thing I’ll say is that the company I’ve worked at for the last few decades has hired a lot spouses and children of employees (though in different departments). Sometimes the spouses/children were let go for various reasons while other times the original employees were let go for various reasons and the spouses/children stayed on. If it heartens you to hear, I don’t think it’s been a problem once.

  13. Essentially Cheesy*

    I think it’s pretty clear. Time to make plans without Sue. She’s already shown herself to be pushy and disruptive. Just remember this is a business decision, not a personal emotional decision.

  14. Betty Beep Boop*

    So, of the various issues OP is having with Sue, I’m not seeing that she’s mean or spiteful or a sabotage risk, and things are in a decent enough place that OP is primarily writing because they’re concerned about treating her with dignity and respect.

    Given that “pay her fair severance and don’t require her to work out her notice” is an option, and will still be an option later, I’d be inclined to be honest with Sue and just ask her if she’d rather work her notice out and get paid for that + reasonable severance or if she’d rather just take the severance and go.

    OP doesn’t have to be “grim details” levels of honest, but “our approaches and working styles are really incompatible and that’s not going to be fair to either of us” levels is reasonable.

    If she says she wants to stay on but then makes it weird, you still HAVE the option of cutting the notice period short.

    Obviously if Sue has unfettered access to sensitive stuff or this suggestion makes alarm bells go off for OP, then no, don’t do this, but in a small office where everyone knows everyone well, I suspect that excess finessing is MORE likely to make for a blowup than honesty is, because it’s going to be REALLY hard to carry off a finesse that actually convinces anyone.

    1. Kella*

      I think the main concern for Sue’s capacity for sabotage is her disrespect for boundaries. She pressured OP into revealing information she wasn’t ready to share yet and even when she was not given a concrete answer, Sue told everyone the answer she suspected. There are a number of ways that lack of boundaries and spreading unverified gossip could make her last weeks there more fraught that it needs to be.

      1. Betty Beep Boop*

        That is a good point and also kind of why I added the bit about “if this thought gives OP a terrible sinking feeling …”

        I’d still be honest with her, but yeah, maybe not do the notice.

  15. Nonprofit Lifer*

    Did I read correctly that Sue is planning on, but has not yet, secured an apartment nearby?

    If is, her job there might be part of what’s informing her move, so letting her know that the job is going away before she signs a contract would be kind. And you don’t want someone with an axe to grind against you living nearby and knowing your internal procedures.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Sue said she was planning on buying an apartment building. It sounds like she is not doing this “very part-time” job as her main source of income.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        She was ‘considering’ buying it. I bet proximity to this office was a factor, for Sue’s job, her daughter’s job, and possible concessions from LW to make it more attractive.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah but it also sounds like she’s planning to live there if she’s asking about using the lawn for her dog. It seems extremely likely that the proximity to this job is at least a small factor in that decision if not a significant one, so it would really be best for everyone to make sure she has all the information going in. Maybe she’d want to buy it anyway, but if not that’s really crappy for her and possibly bad for her new neighbors as well.

  16. Kitty Cuddler*

    This also made me think Vet Hospital. I have previously been through a transition like this where we were all “let go/rehired” at a transition. I honestly think OP may be over thinking this a lot. Definitely coordinate with the selling owner, but it’s very reasonable to say that as a new owner you need to cut some costs while you get your feet under you. And labor is the biggest controllable cost in most medical practices. It may not be the full scope of why you’ve made the decision you have, but it’s a non emotional reason with little room for pushback and arguments. And unless the office is running chronically understaffed, it’s probably true. It is different when you become an owner instead of an Associate and there will be an adjustment for you as well as the staff.

  17. Jules the 3rd*

    A little discretion and a generous amount of money (eg, 1mo severance) can go a long, long way. Give Sue a neutral reason, be enthusiastic to her daughter, and don’t ever talk to *anyone* (except maybe the old practice owner) about your concerns with Sue.

    Good luck, and congratulations!

  18. BellyButton*

    She would be the last person I spoke with and I would let her go then and there with whatever severance you are offering – depending on her years there I would offer her 1 week of her usual hourly rate for every year she has been there. If she has been there less than 1 yr, give her 2 weeks. Her part time hours and her poor performance are all you need to know not to keep her on through the transition, and get her out ASAP. The damage she could do to the culture is not worth risking.

    Good luck! I hope you update us!

    1. RedinSC*

      She’s only been there 4 months.

      While severance would be nice, I think 2 weeks would be the max I’d go.

  19. Chad H.*

    It’s generally a good idea to avoid giving reasons for refusing something. That gives the skilled negotiator an objection they can handle.

    1. Kay*

      Exactly. No part time – perfect, I can do full time so all works out! Er… I’ll take “I won’t be keeping you on after the sale” please.

  20. Choggy*

    Sue needs to be gone; this will only get worse especially if she buys the apartment building. Definitely do not let her use the grass if you end up purchasing the building. Give her an inch, she’ll take a mile.

  21. AlphabetSoupCity*

    I wouldn’t say you’re trimming staff if the daughter is likely to be back at the practice- she will know it’s not true and it will add drama that you don’t need. Be kind but direct

  22. HonorBox*

    I think I’d sit down with the current owner and mention your plan not to keep Sue around. Whatever the reason, she’s been there 4 months, so it isn’t like a long-tenured employee who deserves a great deal of care as you make the transition. You’ll need buy in for one of the possible scenarios:
    1. You let Sue know she’s not going to be kept on. That could be because you’re adjusting staffing, that could be because you’re transitioning from part-time employees. Whatever the reason. Then you collectively figure out what offer you’ll make her, with today being her last day. Again, she’s been there four months very part time, so you don’t need to give her tons of severance. But something…and who is paying for that.
    2. You let Sue know she’s not being kept on. Again, for whatever reason. And then let her keep working through the transition, with a date on the calendar for her last day. Then current owner agrees that he’ll transition her out immediately if she’s disruptive in any way.

    If this is handled well, and I mean neutrally, there’s a better chance that Sue’s daughter will come back and stick around. If you lie to Sue about why she’s not being kept on, that will invariably come back to bite you because daughter will definitely know what you’ve told her.

    One more thing: Have your one-on-one meetings quickly. Like all in the same day quickly. Then follow up with everyone together. People are going to compare meetings, and it will be easier to keep everyone on the same page if you’re bringing them back together to have any follow up discussions.

  23. Observer*

    One key to making things work with Sue’s daughter is being as kind, respectful, honest and *discreet* as possible. That means that you tell her up front that you are not keeping her on, because keeping her hanging or lying to her will blow up your relationship to her, her daughter and possibly other staff. They may see the issues with her, but they will also see how you handle it.

    And then don’t talk to anyone about who *else* is being kept on / let go. If she chooses to talk about it, that’s one thing. But *you* should only discuss this on a need-to-know basis. That allows her to keep some dignity.

  24. Rusty Shackelford*

    To give an example of this, she approached me recently about whether I was buying the building of the practice and in a way backed me into a corner to tell her I was considering purchasing the practice

    Just a word of advice… as a boss and business owner you’re going to need to figure out how to not let your staff back you into a corner and tell them things you weren’t ready to talk about.

    1. Kay*

      So much this!! This is essential to being able to run a business – not just with employees, but with everyone.

    2. Tired and Cold*

      1000%. My parents own a small dental practice and are in the process of “merging” with another practice which they’ll then leave very quickly (aka essentially selling). Their employees can’t know until the legal stuff is done, and people ask all the time when my dad is retiring. They just keep their mouth shut and hold firm. And honestly, this is far from the toughest thing they’ve had as owners. They’re done covid (super big deal in dentistry since masking can’t happen), had an office burned through arson, had employees steal supplies from them and cheat them, etc over the years. And while they may like and value most of their employees, at the end of the day they are the boss and it’s their livelihood in the line, so they’ve learned to be compassionate but to defend their own self interest too. It’s a tough line to walk but this is a good place to start.

    3. MEH Squared*

      This was the first thing I thought of as well. Putting aside the other issues, OP, you’re going to have to get comfortable with not feeling cornered into answering a question, even with someone as pushy as this. I get it’s not easy, but it’s something you’ll have to learn to do as the owner of a business.

    4. LW*

      Definitely agree this was a mistake. I guess my excuse is the way she went about it was so aggressive that it caught me off guard completely and I was also left frustrated that the owner had told one of the newest employees something that I felt at the time was too uncertain to share with anyone that could have a direct interest.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I mean, it definitely is though. OP didn’t need to tell her anything yet if she didn’t want to, but I don’t think it’s fair to say the company you work for being bought out–and by someone who is planning on letting you go–is “not your business.”

  25. Another JD*

    I’ve never heard of severance for an employee with only a 4-month tenure. At most I’d let her work out her notice period. And don’t call it a layoff it it’s not – that can affect your UI tax rate.

  26. Yap, yap, yap*

    Have the new owner fire her on his last day of ownership. She isn’t what you want in an employee and it’s unfortunate you shared anything with her. This sounds like a veterinary practice situation and, as a former veterinary practice owner, I did the dirty work so new owner had what she wanted. Employees not told until sale was final as every single transition person advised us.

  27. Eggs*

    All of this is so icky.

    Everyone except Sue knows about her situation.

    But why should we care? She’s only been there 4 months.

    1. MissBliss*

      It doesn’t sound like “everyone but Sue” knows about her situation. It sounds like the LW is consulting with Alison, and then the commentariat is weighing in, but that Sue’s current boss/the current owner doesn’t know yet, and that other staff don’t know yet. What would you suggest a person in LW’s position do if they weren’t sure about the best course of action, if they can’t even anonymously consult a workplace blog?

    2. Two Dog Night*

      Where do you get that? There’s no indication that anyone besides LW knows that Sue won’t be staying on.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      Probation periods are nothing legal; they’re just about company policies.

  28. Kay*

    One thing that stood out, and I haven’t seen mentioned yet, is that when OP was cornered by Sue for information – they didn’t hold firm, but instead caved under pressure. I would work on better handling that kind of situation immediately OP, and by that I don’t mean simply demonstrating a flex of power. As a brand new business owner, you are going to need to maintain your composure and be firm but diplomatic about so many things.

  29. Boof*

    I’m almost wondering if you could go for a hybrid of “I’m not sure yet” and “honesty”, like “I’m still thinking about what roles we’ll have after the transition, but I’m honestly concerned about (x, y) things that have happened so far” if the owner doesn’t have your back on an ok to tell her earlier and have her leave sooner if things go south plan.

    1. Andy*

      Sharing concerns with Sue is an invitation to discuss those concerns with Sue. I wouldn’t bother.

      1. Boof*

        I generally agree, but if OP’s stuck between not yet being the manager but also needing to communicate management decisions without backup from the current manager, that might be the best middle ground.

  30. RedinSC*

    THings I’m thinking about. I agree that Sue’s not a good fit for the new owner, so yeah, ending her employment would be best.

    But also, I think the OP needs to make sure that moving forward she’s not bullied into responding to questions that she doesn’t want to answer and/or shouldn’t answer.

    “…in a way backed me into a corner to tell her I was considering purchasing the practice and then immediately asked me a favor to use the lawn behind the building for her dog…”

    As the new owner, there are things you can’t and shouldn’t talk about and it appears that if someone is pushy enough you might. So, yes, let Sue know that the new business won’t have a place for her, but also work on making sure that you can have these conversations without letting people’s questions push you into talking about things you don’t want to or shouldn’t.

  31. Heffalump*

    [Y]ou could say you aren’t ready to make a decision on her position yet, and deliver the news once you’re in charge. It would give her some incentive not to blow things up in those final weeks … but it doesn’t feel great.

    I’m assuming Alison is saying that “I’m not ready to make a decision yet” could give Sue the impression that she has a shot, when the OP knows she definitely plans to let Sue go. Is that right?

    Part of me wants to say that even a problematic employee deserves a straight answer as to why they’re being let go, but in this case, I can understand the OP’s concerns.

  32. Rae*

    My suggestion is that the new owner give a simple clear reason for the decision. In this case “you shared confidential information about my intention to purchase the building with others on staff. This impacted my ability to trust you, and I’ve decided not to rehire you. I’m sorry and wish you the best of luck in your job search.

  33. Yellow sports car*

    If I knew I was losing my job and the new owner was maybe taking me on, but I’d have to wait until a couple weeks before – I’d start job hunting.

    Honestly, if you tell people that you’ll be meeting with people to talk salary they could reasonably assume they have a job. If you aren’t keeping everyone, or are planning major changes (hours, salary) be decent and let people know they can’t count on their job continuing and you’ll be making changes.

    You’ll survive if you have a few weeks of resentment. I really don’t get why employers think should be ok with losing their job. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be professional, but when you sack someone expect nothing more than the minimum required (chances are it is all they’ll get from you).

    1. LW*

      I don’t know if Alison will post an update but my timeline got pushed back and now that it’s a longer transition period I decided I am going to re-interview any employees that have been there less than 6 months (a total of 3). I feel this is reasonable since I have worked with the rest of the staff for multiple years so can make a decision already that I want to keep them on, but with the new employees just set the expectation that they are basically applying for a job at the new practice and we’ll go from there.

      This allows me to make a general announcement without obviously singling Sue out.

  34. UK HR Lady*

    This is a fascinating read from a UK perspective; over here, whilst there’s some nuance, the actions described above would basically be illegal. The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) act, known as TUPE, means that if you work for a business that is sold to a new owner/service provider changes, you have some really strong legal protections that in some instances are over and above your ‘normal’ employment rights. I spend a lot of time unpicking situations like this!

    (From a UK perspective – I would highly doubt the ‘old’ owner would bother sorting anything with Sue. The new owner would need to go in proactively prepared to manage Sue through a performance improvement or capability plan or failing that would need to move through the disciplinary path if behaviour is egregious enough. You would need to have a lot of documentation and tread very carefully to avoid the appearance of breaching her TUPE rights. You could make her redundant if she had a post you truly didn’t need under a new organisation structure but again if she’s doing work you need and you had to hire someone to do that work you are once again in breach of TUPE.)

  35. dietcoke*

    When my organization re-structured last year, the employees being let go were informed and then allowed to stay and work for two weeks. Honestly, even though this was a different situation, I don’t recommend it. There were some employees who handled it professionally, but there were some employees who really, really didn’t handle it well. And there were definitely some employees who were usually professional and reasonable, who started acting completely different after being told their position was eliminated. Leaving negative reviews, starting rumors among staff, badmouthing the org on social media, constantly making snide comments, etc. OP is describing Sue as a problem already, so I don’t think I’d trust her to act professionally if she’s allowed to stay for two weeks. If OP can work with the current owner to let her go with severance, I think that would be the cleanest option for everyone.

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