Unethical Manager Writes Advice Columnist For Affirmation, Gets Head Handed To Him.


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


25 thoughts on “Unethical Manager Writes Advice Columnist For Affirmation, Gets Head Handed To Him.

  1. Speechless.

    How does a manager *manage* to be that obviously blind.

    Something tells me, as a team, his/her unit that *he/she* manages, is probably not looking so great when he/she reports to *his/her* higher authority and he’s/she’s relying primarily on the employee’s results to carry the team through.

    Methinks there’s more to the story, and the manager has done his/her best to sugar coat his/her side of the story as best as possible and even then it doesn’t sound so great.

      • “Congratulations, on completing your further professional development, I won’t be able to make it to your graduation, but I want to take you and the rest of the team out for lunch after you attend your graduation, my treat, as a celebration. By the way, have Caruthers come in here, I need to chew his ass for trying to obligate me to approve missing work by becoming financially entangled in a mere frivolity without even talking to me first.”

  2. I am assuming that the employee had informed her manager about the graduation ceremony at least two weeks in advance, and that she offered to go straight to work afterward if she was needed.

    (If she had only brought up the graduation ceremony the day before, the manager would have surely mentioned it.)

  3. I’m assuming the letter was fake.

    Oh, I’m not going to say that bad managers don’t exist, I’ve had some, but this was just too perfect: Orphaned, destitute female works hard, graduates school and is treated obviously unfairly by her boss, Ebenezer. Ebenezer then has the audacity to bitch about it to an advice columnist? No. I’d guess either the letter had some… embellishing details and was signed by the wrong party, or the letter was cut from whole cloth in an orgy of ‘bad boss’ porn.

    • There is indeed the possibility that our slighted employee is the author of the letter and its from her point of view that we have a clumsily written spin. Perhaps there is much more to her side of the story we don’t know.

    • I’m thinking it was fake too. It sounds too pat. That said, refusing to allow someone to attend a graduation is either deliberately being a jerk or sending a message. There are other ways to get rid of people besides outright firing them, like turning down vacation requests (and denying raises, shutting them out of plum assignments, passing them over for promotion, etc.).

      • Oh absolutely, we could use this as a case study on what not to do as a manager… But my faith in humanity requires me to be at least sceptical of this level of ignorance, especially from an anonymous, unverified account.

    • It’s one of those situations where you’re thinking it must be made up, but then thinking that if it was made up they would have made it more believable.

      One piece of advice that should have been given: imagine the loyalty to be earned if the manager had said, “Eh, for two hours I can sit in your chair.”

  4. Has to be fake. Reminds me of the Larson cartoon of the Crisis Center that is on fire in the middle of a river and on the verge of going over a waterfall.

    • I had a boss who imagined I emailed something nasty to her two weeks prior to starting, treated me like shit for a the whole week, then chewed me out on Thursday for having a bad attitude that week. (Luckily it was a camp, and my employment only lasted a week.) I strongly considered simply not showing up on Friday, but a camper approached me after camp and said he wished I were his father….

      There are plenty of total nut jobs employed in supervisory roles. I see nothing in this letter that suggest it must be fake.

    • In my experience, there are definitely managers and supervisors as bad as the one described whether this particular one is a work of fiction or not. Of the hundreds I have observed, a solid twenty percent are this bad. Another sixty percent are largely to moderately incompetent and/or apathetic and/or simple yes-men, without the aspect of being an outright poor human being. I hope for this country, that my experiences are not typical.

  5. The publishing of the letter and the reply to the letter served its purpose to allow Allison Green to expose what anyone with a basic level of common sense would say is ridiculously illogical thinking and to further promote Allison Green’s blog as an authority for management advice.

    Personally I don’t visit sites like Allison Green’s blog; you truly do not know the validity of letters presented in the blogs, they could be outright concoctions of someone. I do like the reply to the letter a but I’m very skeptical as to the source of this particular letter.

    P.S. I had a boss years ago at a small company that literally made some employees lives at work absolutely miserable so the employee would quit and walk out the door without notice and then they would deny unemployment to the employee that quit because it was the employee’s choice to quit without notice without have another job in place. I think some of those laws have changed over the years.

    • Why are you skeptical? It’s so extreme and obvious that I doubt anyone would bother to make it up.
      Faking letters for an advice columns is really atrocious ethics; unless there’s some reason to suspect a particular author, its unfair to make such a suggestion. Now, I know people make up letters to see if they can get them published, and maybe this is one of those…or perhaps sent by the woman who quit. But the conduct isn’t so extreme that I’d doubt it. I’ve witnessed worse.

      • I said, “I’m very skeptical as to the source of this particular letter.”

        Jack you asked me “why are you skeptical” and then you said in the very same comment “now, I know people make up letters to see if they can get them published, and maybe this is one of those…or perhaps sent by the woman who quit”; what part of skeptical as to the source don’t you understand, it it the part where you can be skeptical of the source but I can’t? 😉

      • One reason I am skeptical: She works in a call center and even though she has been there for six years, she has the least seniority.

        Who works at a call center for six years? Who works at a call center for more than six years? Evidently every person in this shop.

        She’s the best employee and he treats her this way? What would he do to all the poorer performing employees who’ve evidently stayed around longer than six years?

        Absolutely preposterous.

        Jack, would you produce a play that had this as a plot? Certainly characters and situations in plays need to be plausible.

    • As a comment, Ms. Green really, really doesn’t need to establish herself as an “authority”. This is neither the worst story she’s written about (that honor, at least from what I’ve seen, goes to an employer she was written to about in April who thought he could control his employee’s internal organs, and he has pretty substantial competition) nor the first to get this sort of attention. It’s also not early in the life of the blog.

      She’s been doing this for almost a decade now — the blog’s earliest posts are from 2007.

      Oh, and the internal organ-controlling boss? Here: http://www.askamanager.org/2016/04/our-boss-will-fire-us-if-we-dont-sign-up-to-be-a-liver-donor-for-his-brother.html .

  6. No, I agree with Jack, this example is not so extreme that I presuppose deception. This guy and his ilk are disgustingly common. I’ve seen many managers -and worked for a few- who would take and defend the same action as the case at hand. Poor management is pandemic, and not confined to any niche or sector of the working world. When I first attained supervisory rank in law enforcement thirty years ago and became a serious student of management and leadership, I thought maybe the generally low quality of management I had experienced (there were, of course, exceptions) was widespread only in law enforcement, or maybe was just a “government” thing (no profit motive and all that). As I got to know other managers in various fields and occupations, I found out that most people thought the management of their office / factory / store / agency / etc. was generally awful. I studied and read, and tried to learn from the good managers I encountered while endeavoring to do and be better than the bad managers I worked for or with. I became a management and leadership trainer and spent much of the last ten years of my training career trying to teach and mentor new managers so they had the knowledge and skills to be and do better than I. I still see a lot of bad management in most organizations I become more than passingly familiar with, so there is still plenty of work to be done, and probably always will be. It is a shame that the people who need to learn the most usually listen the least. All the good advice in the world won’t fix that, but I’m glad she gave it anyway.

  7. I can believe it.

    I’ve had a manager announce a compulsory contribution by all employees to the office christmas party . Employees not invited, customers and executives only.

    My father resigned from one job – his employer sent round a junior employee to his house to see why he wasn’t at work. My parents had just walked back from their infant son’s (my brother’s) funeral.

    etc etc

    • I don’t doubt there are bad managers. Trust me, I endured more than my share. I think I find the victim preposterously over-drawn. I guess I just think Jack’s talents and time are squandered commenting on advice columnists.

  8. Unfortunately, managers and asst managers like this abound. Look running a business is not easy and staffing is always going to be your biggest issue. When I get a good employees go out of my way to train them and work around their schedule. When most of my employees over the years have reminded me of Larry,Moe, and Curly Joe, (occasionally Shep). An employee like the one he described is heaven! Those cases you move heaven and earth to make sure that this rare request can be occomidated. Instead this guy wanted to try to make her feel guilty for “unprofessional behavior” And as for money involved I do not suspect her education was free! I myself do not care for ceremonies other then weddings I love weddings! But a good employee I would do anything to make things happen for. His behavior should be reserved for the substandard employees, their quitting Is no great loss, and is less stressful then firing them.

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