Well and rightly done, Allison Green!
Allison Green, a management advice blogger, received this jaw-dropping question from a relative of Mr Potter:
I manage a team, and part of their jobs is to provide customer support over the phone. …One employee asked to come in two hours after the start time due to her college graduation ceremony being that same day (she was taking night classes part-time in order to earn her degree). I was unable to grant her request because she was the employee with the lowest seniority and we need coverage for that day….I told this team member that she could not start two hours late and that she would have to skip the ceremony. An hour later, she handed me her work ID and a list of all the times she had worked late/come in early/worked overtime for each and every one of her coworkers. Then she quit on the spot.
I’m a bit upset because she was my best employee by far. Her work was excellent, she never missed a day of work in the six years she worked here, and she was my go-to person for weekends and holidays.
…I want to reach out and tell her that quitting without notice because she didn’t get her way isn’t exactly professional. I only want to do this because she was an otherwise great employee, and I don’t want her to derail her career by doing this again and thinking it is okay. She was raised in a few dozen different foster homes and has no living family. She was homeless for a bit after she turned 18 and besides us she doesn’t have anyone in her life that has ever had professional employment. This is the only job she has had. Since she’s never had anyone to teach her professional norms, I want to help her so she doesn’t make the same mistake again. What do you think is the best way for me to do this?
He also said that on one occasion he had granted a similar request “because they had concert tickets that they had already paid for, but this was a special circumstance because there was cost involved.”
Before showing you Allison’s response, here’s mine:
- This guy is an unbelievably atrocious manager, and seems to be a rotten human being too, as well as an idiot. Knowing what this employee had coped with to get to this point, how hard she has worked and how well, he should have immediately re-arranged schedules to allow her to attend the life landmark of her college graduation.
How many bosses not named Legree wouldn’t do this?
- Treating one’s best employee so miserably and unfairly is bad for the organization, bad for morale, bad for productivity. It is rank incompetence.
He should be fired, and quickly.
- The fact that this fool really thinks that the employee needs to be instructed on what he calls “professionalism” when he is the one with dead ethics alarms is proof positive of a hopeless case.
Best case scenario: he suspects that he screwed up, and is writing to get support to soothe a guilty conscience. Nah.
- I think I’ve told this story before. In 1978, I followed the harrowing race between the New York Yankees and the Red Sox openly and prominently. Everybody knew my passion and devotion, and not just because I wore a Boston Red Sox 1975 batting helmet at work every day for almost a month. The season ended in a tie, and a historic, one game play-off was scheduled for 1 PM on the same Monday that Georgetown University’s Development Office, which employed me, was having a special, must-attend all-day meeting.At noon, I stood up in my batting helmet, announced to the assembled that the Boston-New York play-off game would be starting at 1 PM in Fenway Park, and that I, naturally, was going home to watch it. Then I left. I would not have continued working for any employer that couldn’t or wouldn’t understand that this was important to me, and that respected my priorities. I never heard a word of criticism from anyone.
Just sympathy ($#%^!!@# Bucky Dent!).
- The employee was right—wise, courageous, principled, ethical— to quit. The manager’s conduct was signature significance. He couldn’t be trusted, and any workplace culture led by him was one to avoid. (She couldn’t find a single colleague willing to take her shift so she could go to her graduation! This is what asshole leaders create. (See: Trump, Donald: “A Nation of Assholes”)
Here is what Green wrote:
What?! No, under no circumstances should you do that.
If anything, you should consider reaching out to her, apologizing for how you handled the situation, and offering her the job back if she wants it.
I’m not usually a fan of people quitting on the spot, but I applaud her for doing it in this case. She was raised in dozens of foster homes, used to be homeless, has no living family, and apparently managed to graduate from college all on her own. That’s amazing. And while I normally think graduation ceremonies are primarily fluff, I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone who deserves to be able to attend her own graduation ceremony as much as this woman does. You should have been bending over backwards to ensure she could attend.
Rigidly adhering to rules generally isn’t good management. Good management requires nuance and judgment. Sometimes it requires making exceptions for good employees so that you don’t lose them. Sometimes it requires assessing not just what the rules say but what the right and smart thing to do would be.
One of the frustrating things about your letter is that despite rigidly adhering to the rules with this person, you were willing to make an exception for someone else (the person with the concert tickets). I’m at a loss to understand how concert tickets are an obvious exception-maker but this person’s situation wasn’t.
And you note that she was your “best employee by far”! She never missed a day of work in six years, she was your go-to person, she covered for every other person there, and she was all-around excellent … and yet when she needed you to help her out with something that was important to her, you refused.
There’s a lesson to be learned here, but it’s not for her.
She was much nicer than I would have been.
Pointer: Alexander Cheezem