Y’all . . .I need some advice and thoughts on a 100% non-pregnancy/baby related matter. Normally, I’d vent/talk to La, but she’s away supporting her dear friend and aside from physically not being here, she also has enough on her plate and this seems, in comparison, rather trite. So, I’m asking for your thoughts.

I believe I have mentioned that I recently started supervising a new employee where I work. I also want to clarify a few additional details:

1) I didn’t supervise this position prior to the new person coming on. I was promoted while the position was vacant and it was determined that one of my new responsibilities was oversight of this position

2) We are a very small organization – just 5 people full time, another half time, and one “consultant” who is here about 8 hours/week. Of this group of 7, I have worked with four for the three years I’ve been employed here.

3) We have a super relaxed and awesome work culture (ie: flexible hours, option to work from home when necessary/able, casual clothes, we can bring our dogs when necessary*, we’re all a LOT of fun, obvs.) AND we get a LOT of shit done for a teeny tiny staff, and we are (if I do say so myself) a group of f’ing brilliant folks.

So, new person, who I’ll call Babs, started in July. She has a big personality (kinda loud, kinda brash) but that was a good thing, as we are majority introverts and the job called for someone who, well, wasn’t. She oversees the youth program, so this kind of personality is an asset there as well, and the young people seemed to like her. Initially, I had a few struggles with her because she wasn’t super respectful of my boundaries (ie: would barge into my office to ask a pretty low-importance question, sent me tons of e-mails the day before a scheduled check in, etc) but I was able to guide her pretty well and that’s taken care of. But there have been a few things lately that have been bugging me, and I can’t tell if 1) she’s just generally on my nerves now so everything she does I see through a filter of annoyance or 2) she’s legit kind of out of line.

Here are the ‘infractions’:

1) I blogged about this, but: she took on writing a small grant for her program, then wasn’t able to finish it so she decided to just not write it, with 0 notice to me or the executive director. When I asked her about it and requested her to send whatever she’d worked on, she said she didn’t have it (she was offsite and it was saved to a place I couldn’t access it and she didn’t have handy) and when I, effectively, said “well get it” she sent it with some sassy business about how it “really impacted the meeting she was at.” I let it slide and wrote the whole grant in about 3 hours.

2) Due to some changes in staff structure and funding, and in part because she had been talking about how she needed a second job because she wasn’t making enough money, we decided to offer her a shift in her current job (more responsibility) to better fit with organizational goals, and a pay raise. (of note, she got an initial probationary increase of 2K recently) the raise wasn’t huge, but it was an additional 2K (which means she’s gone up 4K since July, kind of unheard of in the non profit world.) When we offered her this, her immediate response was to say “I’ll think about it” and ask if it “really fit with the strategic goals” (never mind that my boss and I, you know, WROTE the strategic plan.) Two days later she finally thanked us for the offer.

3) We met again about the offer and she asked for an additional 2K. She’s been here 3 months. She has done her job ok, but she hasn’t like, blown us out of the water or anything.

4) She works unusual hours sometimes (part of working with youth) and complains about it ALL THE TIME (she knew this was part of the deal when she took the job.) She also can take time in exchange. She does. A LOT. She wasn’t logging this time or even putting her time out of the office in her calendar.

5) We reimburse for mileage to required meetings over 10 miles. She submitted a reimbursement for every trip, even those that were just 1-5 miles. She was pissed when I told her we couldn’t pay her for those trips.

4) She bought a dog while me and our ED (who is my boss, I’m #2 in the org) were out of town at a meeting. When we returned, it became clear she was bringing the dog to the office everyday. (See above – not unheard of, but none of us ever brought our dogs daily, and we generally let other staff know ahead of time if we were bringing them.) When our ED brought up making a formal “dogs in the office” policy, Babs told us “I only bought the dog because I thought I could bring the dog with me.” and “The youth told me M (former person in her position) brought her dog everyday, so I assumed it was ok.” She never asked, or even told us, she was getting a dog. She was visibly upset when we told her she would need to find alternative options for the dog for at least a few days a week, and said something like, “well, what am I supposed to DO?”

5) When I checked in with her about the dog incident, she said she’d felt “attacked” and when i clarified that maybe some additional communication prior to getting the dog (like, I dunno, asking your BOSS or the executive director) she basically shrugged it off. She kind of framed having the dog like being a single parent.

Ok, so . . .am I just seeing all of these tiny things and being bitchy, or is this some seriously entitled bullshit?

I’m writing her deliverable tasks/workplan for the next 6 months, and my plan is to evaluate her ability to do the tasks we give her for those 6 months and then decide if we keep her. But the problem is, she isn’t BAD – she does her job sufficiently, she’s just not humble or thankful or grateful. And those things get under my skin.

Ideas about how to supervise someone like this? I’ve LOVED all the other folks I’ve supervised in every other job and have lasting relationships with all of them. This one is HARD.

So, what ya got for me?


15 thoughts on “Perspective

  1. I vote for “seriously entitled bullshit.”

    It’s the money stuff that really sticks in my craw. I can’t believe she asked for more money on top of a 4k raise in three months, and that she’s submitting mileage for trips under 10 miles, when she’s explicitly been told that you aren’t going to reimburse for trips under 10 miles—and she’s getting miffed about it. The thing with the grant is just irresponsible. If she knew she couldn’t do it, she should’ve said something and maybe asked for help. I mean, grants are kind of your lifeblood, right? For someone who thinks she deserves a 6k raise in three months, and is well aware she’s working at a nonprofit, you’d think she’d be more on top of making sure her grant gets written.

    • It is sort of shocking how out of touch she is with our financial state. She also asked if we provided “educational benefits.” I was like, “um, there’s a free training we can send you to? Or we could buy you a book maybe?” I wanted to say, “Do you think we are holding out on you and actually are owned by a multibillion dollar corporation or something?!”

  2. You say she is doing her job sufficiently, but that’s not the whole of being a good employee. She is abusing the system, trying to take even more than she is given, and then playing the victim card when she is shut down. This is manipulation, pure and simple. This is likely something she has always done in her life, so she will require very clear boundaries going forward.

    I would start by requiring she logs her time, and then logs her comp time BEFORE she takes it whenever possible. And when it isn’t possible, she sends a quick email or text saying she will be in at a specific time. Otherwise, I’d be willing to bet she’s taking more comp time than earned.

    When it comes to tasks like grants, require periodic updates with proof. Not allowing her to say it’s almost done, but make her send you the draft. Pain in the ass? Sure, but it will force her to keep up with things of this nature.

    I get that you don’t have to do this with others, but she’s different. And I get that because I will very easily move on to other things if I’m not kept on task. I don’t like that about myself, but I have so many things I want to get done that I lose track. Especially when the thing I should do kinda sucks. 😉

    This is a time when you have to be assertive. Explain why these things need to happen whenever possible. I mean, when it comes to the money, it sounds insane, but she seems to have the attitude of doing what she wants, and then dealing with it later. It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. So more structure is how you get that under control. And if this stuff doesn’t work, there’s a reason people start as probationary. They need to be a fit personality wise as well, not just by doing the job itself.

    Good luck. Me, the non-confrontational one, doesn’t envy your position. But at least you do have the authority to do these things. And it’s good practice for kids. Seriously. lol

    • Thank you for really clear ideas of how to guide her and track on her progress and habits. This is the kind of stuff I need! It’s embarassing but, while I’m not very aggressive, I’m WAY more direct and confrontational than my boss is – so you can imagine what a team we make when it comes to stuff like this!

  3. Time to lay down the law. I think you need to tell her exactly what you just told us when you do her review. Getting your work done is only one part of being an employee. You have to be courteous, respectful of superiors, and just generally be a team player–especially on such a small team. She needs to make more of an effort. If she can’t step up, she needs to step out.

    • Step up or step out! Yes! Love it! Thank you so much for your thoughts and for underscoring what I already knew – being good at your job is about more than deliverables!

  4. Okay. I’ve got a different perspective. Excuse typos.. I’m typing on my phone.

    1. Sounds like your small org is expierencing some expected changes as you are growing… It’s a lot easier to keep looser office culture policies off of the books when you are small, you grow and you need them more. Also different personalities need different structure, sounds like babs needs more, I guarantee that she won’t be the only one who needs more structure as the org grows and changes. FTR some of my highest performers need a hella lot of structure to be able to shine, it’s a pain in the ass but it’s worth it.

    2. Policies are even more important when you are supervising someone and you aren’t the ed. ED gets final say, always. You don’t. It’s a different dynamic.

    3. You are an introvert, this person is not, as an extrovert there are a few things you mentioned in here that I don’t think are rude or harsh, but could see how they might be to an introvert. Doesn’t mean she doesn’t need to adjust to your needs, it means you both need to make adjustments. As an extrovert managing an introvert has been suppper challenging for me. We’ve hit our groove but I had to do a lot of work along the way. For instance I couldn’t imagine working somewhere where I wasn’t able to ask lots of questions through out the week, but if there are questions that someone should know the answer to that’s a different story.

    4. I think creating a plan and being really honest with her is great, but if you honestly don’t think she can change and you aren’t willing to try your hardest to work with her, you should fire her now. There’s no need to waste your precious time. A good rule of thumb is to imagine if you had a big red button where you could push it and the person would just disapear.. Would you feel relieved or panicked?

    5. I really do not take offense to asking for more money. Women are far less likely to negotiate salaries and I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking for what you think you deserve. It doesn’t mean your org can afford it but I would do the same thing if I was her and have done it in the past. If she is constantly complaining about her salary once she has been “heard” about wanting more than that’s a different problem.

    6. Management is hard! Especially if you are committed to being a good manager. I really, really recommend the management center’s trainings — they are all over the USA and are really good. If you can’t do that you should buy their book “managing to change the world”. I consider it my bible for all things management and can’t recommend it enough.

    Finally, managing people can be a shit ton of work. And the onboarding process is the toughest! I wish you luck and hope you take my advice with a grain of salt.

    • THANK YOU SO MUCH for this! I try and think a lot about where personality and perception comes in to play in situations like this. It’s been a bit of a shock to my system that she is so hard to manage, since I’ve had such lovely previous encounters with folks. And while there is something to be said about “fit” around personality, I am really committed to being open about finding new ways to move forward with people who aren’t just like me.
      The policy thing is spot on – we are growing and learning all kinds of things about codifying and create processes – from internal culture to financials to training designs! I am very structure based – I like documents, forms, easy to follow plans, etc. Part of my struggle is that she *doesn’t* like these things, or at least, that isn’t her go-to. I suppose I probably expect her to create her own processes and plans, which maybe isn’t fair if she doesn’t naturally trend toward that.

      This is all useful in terms of stretching myself to see things from a new perspective. I do think the money thing bugs me – not because she asked for more, because I am pushing myself to do that as well – but because of the rapid increase she’s already had and her initial acceptance of our offer (that is, we offered her the job at XX, told her about the 2k increase in 3 months, and she agreed to that) so it feels a little unfair of her to be asking for even more when we have met our end of the deal and also offered more. She also didn’t negotiate at the outset, which is maybe also sitting weird with me? In all other ways, I 100% agree with you and think women should be asking for what they are worth – this is the first job where I’ve done so, and it was a great experience.

      Finally, thanks for the reccomendations for management tools – I’m always looking for stuff that is useful but not so business centric that it doesn’t feel appropriate for the ways non profit’s handle things.
      Thanks so much for your perspective!!

      • There is a rather helpful book, well a few that will help you navigate the introvert/extrovert dynamic. I’m a huge fan of Susan Cain’s Quiet. As in, I feel it’s a life changing book for many people, including me. It’s not just for the introverts, but it is written from that starting perspective. It’s a very popular book and I’m pretty sure can be found on audible as well as kindle and in print. Another book that I’d look into after that if you want more details is Type Talk at Work, which looks at the Myers Briggs personality types and how that influences their work and how they need to be managed. When I finally took a professional test and it showed a different type than the online ones (only in 1 letter) I could see how the recommendations and challenges at work really matched what I dealt with. So that can be quite helpful, even with your different colleagues at work. 🙂

  5. I’m no good at this stuff.

    I’d get a check with your boss, but I tend to be indecisive and like referring to authority figures.

    Honestly, she sounds like a problem, but one that will likely resolve itself. I’d be surprised if she stayed on with you guys long term, she’s new but she’s already complaining about things she knew going in.

  6. Uhhhhhhh…. She is ANNOYING. There are several layers as I see it: 1) office etiquette; 2) complaining about job /hours; 3) non-fulfilment of duty. I would gently tackle the dog issue under the umbrella of social etiquette, referencing the way people on your team behave in the office as what you expect from her? Also make clear that you do really value her work and want her to stay, and then mention the actual work issues you have been having – the grant thing a serious negation of duty, and state clearly her that if she thinks the hours /pay offer are unacceptable to her then she may unfortunately need to look elsewhere for work.

  7. It sounds like she does have some boundary issues and she is testing how far she can stretch your/your agency’s boundaries. I’m not a supervisor, but as a therapist I have worked with some strong personalities with poor boundaries. I always take a gentle but direct approach. You have to set strong boundaries, don’t apologize or back down. You can empathize “I know it takes some time to learn the culture and norms of a new workplace blah blah blah… BUT…” and lay down the law.

  8. Best work advice I’ve ever had: Manage performance, not personality.

    Her personality is perhaps a little off putting, but it sounds like there are aspects of this that might make her good at her particular role. You take the good, you take the bad…

    But you can (and should) work with her to change any aspect of her behavior that impacts her performance. Set clear expectations with her and let her know what the repercussions are for not meeting them. That way if you do have to escalate the issue, you have documented how and where she wasn’t able to perform her job.

    As for firing, I’m not sure what it is like in the nonprofit world, but every place I’ve worked has made it REALLY hard to fire someone. The onus is on the manager to prove how the employee failed to meet baseline expectations. Granted, I’ve also worked at larger organizations who are terrified of being sued… So I’m not sure if you’re up against that particular wall.

    Lastly, is this a generational thing? I truly HATE these generalizations, but it sounds like there may be some inherent differences in how you both relate to work. If you understand where she is coming from, you can manage her where she is at– rather than trying to change what has been reinforced in her over a life time.

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