Case Studies . . .



Mia’s Contract

Mia has a good job and is being recruited by another company, T-ek, Inc., which is starting a new division.  Mia would like to take the new job because it represents an exciting opportunity.  She is reluctant to leave the security of her job and her stock options that are about to vest.  Nonetheless she recognizes there is more opportunity at the new company. 

Mia is recruited with promises that T-ek, Inc., is doing "great" and there is "enormous" demand for the product that is going to be produced by the new division.  The senior vice-president, Jason, tells her, “the sky is the limit” insofar as her promotion potential.  Jason says that he is very excited at the prospect of working with her and her skills are “just what the new division needs.”

Mia does not want to insist on a written contract.  T-ek, Inc. may be resistant or refuse.  Nor does she want the hassle and attorney fees involved in consulting with an attorney.  She likes and trusts Jason.  BUT Mia is savvy.  She is concerned that:

  • Jason could be gone tomorrow. 
  • T-ek, Inc. could pull the plug on the new division regardless of its assurances to the contrary. 
  • Jason may not have the power or motivation to protect her from other players in the new division with agendas that exclude her.  

Mia decides not to take the new job unless T-ek, Inc. is willing to give her a written employment contract with a guarantee of a year’s salary as severance if she is terminated during the first twelve months of employment.  Mia also insists on a provision in the contract that permits her to be carried on the books as an employee for the year she gets the severance so that she will get an extra year for her new stock options at T-ek, Inc. to vest. Although T-ek, Inc. is not happy about the written contract, they agree because they want Mia and she won’t agree to change jobs otherwise.  Mia hires an attorney to help her review the draft of the contract provided by the company and ensure that she is protected. 

Almost immediately after her move, Jason resigns.  He is replaced by Hector.  Hector wants to replace Mia with a friend of his. With the covert goal of terminating Mia within 60 days, Hector withdraws all support and assigns her an impossible performance goal. Mia reminds Hector about her contract.  Hector realizes he will have to pay for Mia AND his friend if he replaces her, causing Hector to reconsider his course of action.  If Hector terminates Mia, at least she has financial protection.

See Advice on the Job: Power of Documents: Employment Agreements

See Advice on the Job: When to Distrust Your Employers: Recruitment


Perry’s Non-Compete

Perry is asked to sign an onerous non-compete agreement. The agreement provides that for two years after his termination from T-ek, Inc., he cannot be associated for two years with any company which produces any product that might compete with T-ek, Inc. or any company “related to” T-ek, Inc. in the past or present.  

Despite the onerous agreement, Perry really wants the job and feels confident about his future with T-ek, Inc. The Human Resources representative requests Perry to sign the non-compete agreement “because this is part of our standard paperwork that everyone has to sign.”   Perry understands that although he feels secure with T-ek, Inc., he may well be working elsewhere in the future.  He sees dangers involving the unreasonable potential breadth of the non-compete.  He consults with an attorney and on the attorney's advice negotiates the agreement to limit the applicability of the non-compete to specific designated T-ek products. 

Two years later, T-ek, Inc. is acquired by a huge corporation that produces an enormous array of products.  Soon after the acquisition, Perry is terminated and finds himself very grateful for the narrow non-compete agreement.

See Advice on the Job: Power of Documents: Confidentiality and Non-Compete Agreements


Promise Protection for Brian

Brian is recruited by T-ek, Inc. and is verbally promised that he will receive 20,000 stock options with a value in excess of $100,000. Brian is concerned that if he takes the position and quits his old job, he will forfeit valuable unvested stock options with his former company.  When Brian asks for more assurance concerning the stock options, he receives an offer letter from T-ek, Inc. reciting that he will receive stock options as soon as the Board of Directors approves the plan.

Brian understands, that there is always the possibility of future trouble ahead.  After he receives the offer letter from T-ek, Inc., he writes back and asks for a guarantee that he will receive a $100,000 bonus at the end of twelve months if the stock option plan has not yet been set up by the Board of Directors.

Brian receives a second follow-up offer letter providing him the guarantee he requests, and Brian takes the new job.  It turns out the new company never sets up a stock option plan, and Brian at least gets to collect his bonus.

See Advice on the Job: Power of Documents: Offer Letters



Sara Gets Her Commission

Sara’s supervisor promises her a new and better commission plan if she agrees to take on a more difficult territory.  The old commission plan is in writing. Sara refuses to take on the new territory without a written document evidencing the new commission plan.  Sara gets a letter from her supervisor with the new schedule.

Sara takes on the new territory, and makes an enormous sale after great effort.  At the time the commission is due, a new supervisor is in charge.  The new supervisor tries to pay Sara based on the old written plan.   Sara pulls out her letter to successfully prove her entitlement to a commission based on the new rate.

See Advice on the Job: Power of Documents: Written Commission Policies



John Confirms His Vacation

John is an exempt employee (i.e. not entitled to overtime) who is promised an extra month’s vacation if he completes a huge assignment before a very tight deadline.  Completion of the assignment will require working 80-hour weeks for over a month.  John sends his boss a memorandum which is friendly in tone.  It documents John’s anticipation of the extra work that will be necessary to complete the assignment within the deadline.  In the memorandum John thanks his boss for permitting him to have an extra month’s paid vacation starting within 30 days of the completed assignment.

After the project is completed, John is exhausted.  He asks for his extra vacation time.  He boss says they are still too busy and that John will have to wait for his vacation until the workload decreases.   John politely whips out his memorandum to remind his boss that there was no condition of “when the workload decreases” in the promise of vacation time.

See Advice on the Job: Power of Documents: Confirmation Letters



Erica Confirms Her Offer

Erica has a good job in New York. She is recruited to Colorado as a manager with the promise that she will become a vice-president within six months and receive additional compensation "which will be more than sufficient to justify your job switch." Of course, the promise is verbal.

Erica, who has been burned once before by a former employer, writes a letter back to the recruiting company and confirms the promise in writing. She also makes the promise specific and easily enforceable by stating that, "I understand that I will not be terminated for six months. If I perform the reasonable duties of the manager position as requested for six months, I will receive the promotion. Upon promotion, my compensation will be in excess of $100,000 which is the amount I am receiving at my current job." In her letter she advises her employer that she will rely on this promise because otherwise it does not make sense for her to quit her job and move across the country.

Assuming the company does not refute Erica's letter and that Erica takes the job, Erica now has a legally enforceable agreement in Colorado.

See Advice on the Job: Power of Documents: Confirmation Letters

See Advice on the Job: When to Distrust Your Employers: Recruitment



Cecilia’s Performance Response

Cecilia is placed on probation based on an unjustified “needs improvement” performance evaluation.  In a written memorandum to her boss, she carefully and politely rebuts the evaluation and points out her accomplishments in a thorough and impressive manner.  She is not defensive or aggressive in her memorandum.  When her old boss is terminated, she is confident that her performance record contains enough information to convince her new boss that she was evaluated erroneously.

See Advice on the Job: Power of Documents: Documents Relating to Employment Performance



Jill’s Ranking Challenge

Jill is a technical manager for a company that is rumored to be conducting lay-offs shortly. Jill has received numerous “exceeds expectations” evaluations and complimentary letters over the previous three years.  Her company requires every department to rank employees, identifying those in the lower 5%.  Jill finds herself placed in the lower 5% although her manager assures her she has no performance issues, but “someone has to be in the lowest category.”  She believes she is being discriminated against because of her sex and because she is viewed as relatively passive and harmless.  She uses the documents in her accumulated file to successfully challenge her ranking with upper management.

See Advice on the Job: Power of Documents: Documents Relating to Employment Performance



Bob’s Spell of Righteousness

Bob gets a “meets expectations” evaluation when he expected a superior evaluation.  Bob works himself up into a froth of righteousness and writes ten pages in response accusing his supervisor of unfair conduct, copying upper level management and human resources.  His supervisor responds in kind, and Bob replies with another 12 pages.  Bob gets transferred to Siberia and then laid off in the next company reorganization.

See Advice on the Job: Power of Documents: Documents Relating to Employment Performance



Rita’s Complaint

Rita is concerned about being discriminated against with respect to her salary on the basis of her sex.  She wants to complain to T-ek Inc., her employer, but she is concerned that she will be terminated as a result.    Instead of complaining verbally, she complains carefully and articulately about sex discrimination in writing (after getting the advice and assistance of an employment attorney). 

The written document makes it far less likely that the company will terminate Rita. The company will be angry and want to take action against her, but unless they are complete idiots they will recognize that Rita is aware of her legal rights and is setting up a retaliation claim.  The company will be afraid to terminate her immediately after her complaint because of this.  If she is terminated, she has significantly increased her chances of prevailing in a retaliation claim against her employer because she can, at least, prove she did complain just prior to her termination.

Rita knows that the company now wants to get rid of her more than ever.  Her complaint not only protects her from danger but provides additional leverage that may help her negotiate a generous severance package.

See Advice on the Job: Power of Documents: Written Complaints of Discrimination or Corporate Misconduct






Oliver Turns Down a Job

Oliver is a talented sales manager who is being recruited to work for Med-EK, Inc. Med-EK is a new company owned by Diagnostic Devices who has purchased the rights to a new medical diagnostic device which should be very much in demand and very profitable for Med-EK, Inc. Diagnostic Devices intends to market the device to doctors who will pay only a minimum amount to lease the device, but who will then be required to make payments for any time the device is actually used.

Diagnostic Devices wants Oliver to become a sales manager and wants him to accept a compensation arrangement that is primarily commission based. Oliver is assured that while he will not earn much from the initial lease of the device, the commissions due him over time as the doctors use the device should be tremendously profitable. Diagnostic Devices assures Oliver that he will be an “essential” member of the management team.

Oliver discusses this arrangement with his wife who is worried that Med-EK, Inc. might terminate Oliver at some later date to avoid paying him the repeat commissions from the use of the medical device. Oliver returns to Diagnostic Devices and agrees to accept the job provided that he receives one of the following:

  • A higher salary, or
  • A guarantee that he cannot be terminated without cause for three years, or
  • An agreement that he will continue to receive commissions for the use of the devices for at least a three year period, regardless of whether he is terminated by Med-EK, Inc.

Diagnostic Devices refuses to accept these terms or negotiate further. Oliver smells a rat and concludes he is better off not taking the position.

See Advice on the Job: When to Distrust Your Employers: Recruitment

See Advice on the Job: When to Distrust Your Employers: Commission Promises

See Advice on the Job: When to Distrust Your Employers: Start-Up Divisions


Rachel Repels the Sirens

Rachel is recruited from another company for a position as a marketing vice president by aT-ek Company that is forming a new division to develop a new product. Before taking the position, Rachel is very careful. Although T-ek tells her that they are making a “significant” commitment to the new division, she is wary. She asks them about the financial backing for the new division and she is told that “will be no problem” because we see this new product as “the future of our company.”

She is told that the company will begin producing the new product within ninety days and that the “buyers are lining up” to order the product as soon as it becomes available. Nonetheless, Rachel is suspicious. Her suspicions are based on the following:

  • The company is not willing to guarantee in writing any level of compensation for the first year, but insists on her receiving a draw against commission;
  • She has talked to people in production on her own and they laughed and exchanged looks when she told them she had been informed that the new product would be available within 90 days;
  • She is aware from her industry contacts that T-ek is feeling a lot of pressure to cut expenses and that the new product is the baby of a senior executive who has recently left the company.

 In the end, Rachel decides not to take the job.

See Advice on the Job: When to Distrust Your Employers: Recruitment


Lonny’s Founder Folly Experience

Lonny and Jed work together as engineers. Jed wants to start a company and market a hot new medical gadget that Lonny has discussed with him. Jed starts the company and borrows the initial capital from his wealthy father-in-law. Lonny agrees to go to work for the company as Executive Vice-President of Development to oversee the development of the new gadget. Lonny agrees to work for only a small fraction of his prior salary, but he understands from Jed that they are partners. Jed and Lonny agree verbally that Lonny will receive a large equity interest in the new company and stock options.

After the product is developed, it is apparent that more investment capital will be necessary to finance large-scale production and marketing. Jed and his father-in-law bring in a third partner, an angel investor. Soon thereafter the angel investor brings in a COO. The COO, in turn, hires a friend as Senior Technology and Engineering Vice President and demotes Lonny to engineer. Lonny asks Jed about his equity interest. Jed refuses to meet with him.

Lonny goes to a lawyer who tells him that his promise of an equity interest is too vague to enforce and that the stock option promise is meaningless without a stock purchase agreement.

See Advice on the Job: When to Distrust Your Employers: The Start-Up Company


Sean Is Not Deceived in His Company's Acquisition

Sean decides to clarify and confirm the verbal promise from the CEO in a memo so that he truly knows where he stands. Sean writes a memo to the CEO which states, “I wish to confirm in writing my understanding that you promised me that I will not be terminated in a reduction in force for a reasonable period of time in the event of the sale of T-Ek to Supertek. I understand that a reasonable period of time will be twelve months. Please be advised that I intend to rely on this promise in continuing my employment with T-Ek unless I hear something to the contrary from you in writing within the next ten (10) days.”

After receiving the memo, the CEO writes Sean back, “As you know I regard you as a highly valuable team member and I cannot conceive of any reason why you would be terminated in the event of the sale of T-Ek. Furthermore, Supertek has been very supportive of our existing management in their discussions with us. Unfortunately, I cannot alter the at will employment status of our employees as provided in our T-Ek Policy Manual or dictate terms of employment to Supertek, Inc.”

Sean correctly understands from the CEO’s memorandum back to him, that the CEO gave him a misleading verbal promise and that the CEO does not intend to give him any meaningful employment job security rights. Sean accepts a job with another company prior to the finalization of the sale.

See Advice on the Job: When to Distrust Your Employers: Sales and Mergers


Ethan Escapes a Deceptive Employer

Ethan is a Mid Level Manager at DRAT Enterprises, a publicly traded company. He was recruited two years ago based on rosy promises. The CEO of DRAT has continued to make optimistic forecasts about DRAT’s business, but Ethan worries a lot. There have been no salary increases since he arrived and bonuses have become a heavier and heavier proportion of the overall compensation package.

He has felt considerable indirect pressure to book sales prematurely for his department. He thinks this is probably happening company-wide. He is concerned sales are slipping and that their product is not priced competitively. Last month the ambitious CFO left the company “to spend more time with his family.”

Ethan wisely decides to look for a position with another company, even though it means accepting a lower salary and forfeiting his stock options.

See Advice on the Job: When to Distrust Your Employers: Companies in Financial Trouble




Jonah Gathers Evidence

Jonah has worked for his company for twenty years as an engineer and is now a senior engineer at the top of the corporate pay scale. Next year, he will qualify for early retirement and for a guaranteed paid medical insurance plan for life. Recently his company was acquired and new management has been focused unreasonably on short-term profits. Although the company is already moderately profitable, it has never performed spectacularly. The new President has vowed, “to turn things around.” The President is compensated primarily by a bonus and stock option plan tied to the growth corporate revenues.

Last year, Jonah’s wife developed cancer, and he was required to take FMLA leave to take care of her. The company is self-insured and Jonah has family medical coverage.

Although Jonah’s performance evaluations have always been “exceeds expectations,” his last review under a new supervisor was only satisfactory. Recently, he received a written warning relating to his failure to complete a project on time, although the delay resulted from conditions beyond his control.

Jonah understands that he is being set up and that he is likely to be terminated in the next reduction in force. Jonah is quietly working with an employment attorney to develop evidence to support an age/disability/FMLA discrimination case, and he is gathering basic employment data, documenting age and disability related comments by managers for his attorney, and contacting former older employees and employees with medical and leave issues who have recently been terminated. Jonah and his attorney intend to use the evidence to negotiate an appropriate severance package or to pursue a legal claim.

See Advice on the Job: When to Distrust Your Employers: Companies That Run on Greed


PROBLEM PEOPLE AT WORK - Trolls and Gremlins


Darya Encounters a Basic Troll

Darya is a young attorney at a large law firm. She spent six months working under a partner whom she respected a great deal and she loved her job. Two weeks ago she was required to rotate into another department where she encountered a Troll, who is also a very important partner in the firm and a national expert in his area of law.

Yesterday, the Troll burst into Darya’s office and demanded to see a legal memorandum on which she was working. When Darya told the Troll that the memorandum was not ready, he screamed at her that her response was unacceptable and demanded that she provide him with a copy of the draft of the memorandum on which she was working. Darya meekly muttered a few excuses, and her boss proceeded to pick apart the draft and outline her errors for what seemed an eternity to Darya. Darya went home and cried herself to sleep. The next morning, she found herself terrified of another encounter with the Troll, so much so that she began thinking of quitting her job.

A senior associate at the firm noticed how distraught Darya appeared at work and, after hearing about Darya’s problem with the Troll, gave Darya some detailed advice. She encouraged Darya not to give up, advising Darya to focus on the Troll’s needs and not on her own need for approval or reassurance.

Three days later, the Troll summoned Darya into his office and started to confront her concerning a second legal memorandum she had prepared. Her boss again launched an attack on Darya’s work, blaming her for omitting a major area. This time, Darya looked the Troll in the eye, and calmly said in a strong confident voice, “I can include that area and have it for you in the morning. Do you need anything else?” The Troll was somewhat taken aback by Darya’s response, but he recovered and said, “I am very concerned about the way you are doing your assignments. Omitting this area is a big problem because the client needs that information immediately to make an informed decision. If you have any chance of being successful as an attorney, young lady, I expect better work from you in the future.”

Without blinking an eyelash, Darya, said in a polite and respectfully firm tone, “I intend on being a successful attorney, and I would appreciate it if you did not pre-judge me in that regard or address me with reference to my age and sex. I welcome the opportunity to work with you, and I am sure you can teach me a great deal. I know your time is valuable, but when I receive an assignment from you, it would help me if I could discuss it with you for a few minutes at the beginning so that we are both on the same page with regard to your expectations.”

From that day on, Darya never had any more problems with the Troll. The Troll became Darya’s grumpy mentor, and Darya went on to become a very successful attorney and a partner in the firm.

See Advice on the Job: Problem People at Work: The Basic Troll


Jack's Secret Troll Encounter

Jack is a manager at T-EK, Inc. and enjoys his work very much. At first, he thought he was very lucky to work for his young boss, Stan, because Stan seemed so friendly and easy to get along with. Jack has observed that Stan has a very good relationship with the CEO and that his department receives an unusual amount of support from T-EK, Inc.

Jack is puzzled; however, by the fact that Stan has had so much turnover in his department and that other T-EK, Inc. long-term employees seem so wary around Stan. Recently, Jack came up with a brilliant idea of a way to save T-EK, Inc. a great deal of money and suggested the idea to Stan. Stan rejected the idea completely. Then Jack found out that Stan had, in fact, taken the idea and forwarded it to senior management as his own without giving Jack any credit.

About six months later, Jack and Stan disagree about an approach to a marketing strategy. Although Jack is certain that the approach Stan wishes to use will backfire, he does not feel he can confront Stan on the decision. Sure enough, Stan’s approach does backfire and is a complete failure. Jack finds out from a friend that Stan blamed the department’s use of the marketing strategy on Jack.

Stan is a Secret Troll. Jack should transfer away, if possible.

See Advice on the Job: Problem People at Work: The Secret Troll


Larry and the Love Troll

Larry is uncomfortable with his boss who is the sister of the company's owner. She spends an inordinate amount of time with him talking about her personal life and her marriage issues. She also has asked him a lot of personal questions about his love life. She sits on his desk, which he feels is very inappropriate. He has also seen her flirting with other good-looking, young male employees.

Last Wednesday, she scheduled a business meeting at lunch. He arrived to find that the meeting was scheduled at an intimate expensive French restaurant, that he was the only one invited, and that there was a bottle of wine on the table.

The next day, his boss was in his office again, talking about personal subjects, while Larry was trying to get work done so he could leave early to attend his daughter’s recital. Finally, Larry asked his boss to leave and she became irritated. Thereafter, Larry’s boss reassigned one of his key accounts to another manager.

Upset, Larry went to Human Resources and filed a complaint. Thirty days later, he was placed on probation for poor work performance. Larry reluctantly concluded that he probably could not continue working at the company and hired a good employment attorney. The attorney advised him not to quit his position but to wait. His attorney was then successful in negotiating for him an advantageous severance agreement in exchange for a release of his legal claim against the company.

See Advice on the Job: Problem People at Work: Love Trolls


The Good Ol’ Troll and Maria

Maria is a Hispanic female. Most of her co-workers in production are also Hispanic females. Besides the production workers, there are warehouse workers who are better paid and who are mostly white males, as is Albert, the Department Manager. Albert is friendly and gregarious and known as a good manager but not a particularly productive one. Albert is much more comfortable with the warehouse employees than with the production employees. Albert frequently jokes and socializes with the warehouse employees but is remote and uncomfortable around the production employees

Maria has just received 60 days notice that the company plans to close the warehouse. While she is permitted to apply for any other open position, she and most of the other production workers are unable to find jobs within the company. The warehouse employees have, however, almost all succeeded in finding jobs. While Albert did not systematically go about finding jobs for the warehouse employees, most of them naturally sought out his assistance, and he was able to help them secure positions. Except for Maria, none of the production workers thought about asking Albert for help. Although Maria shyly summoned the courage to ask for Albert’s help, he forgot to follow up and help her.

This is discrimination by a Good Ol Troll. At this point, Maria probably just needs to hire an attorney and file a formal demand letter with the company. Earlier, Maria may have been able to secure a job if she had been firmer (in a friendly way) and more relational in her approach to Albert.

See Advice on the Job: Problem People at Work: Good Ol’ Troll


Peter's Scary Dopey Troll

Peter has worked for a city agency for three years. Don, the Director is incompetent and he has permitted Richard, to run the department, pretty much as he sees fit.   Although most of the employees are aware that Richard has been using agency resources and employees to help him with the remodeling of his home, Don will not authorize an investigation.

Peter has never gotten along well with Richard, but he was pretty much under the radar until recently. Recently, Peter was required to hire an incompetent staff assistant who is a friend of Richard’s wife. Peter protested to no avail. Now he is facing a formal inquiry over his unauthorized use of the computer for personal e-mail. His personal e-mail for the last 90 days has been downloaded and provided to the Agency by his new staff assistant.

Peter does not have the stomach to go to the City Manager and try to oust Don. He has decided that he will just quit his job.

See Advice on the Job: Problem People at Work: Dopey Troll


Riana's Clean Result with a Messy Troll

Riana works for a Messy Troll. Her boss, Thomas, runs a small music festival and he does a brilliant job of it. But he is very difficult to work for. The other day, Thomas asked Riana to arrange for some public relations materials for the opening of the festival. When Riana showed him the materials, Thomas was furious because they focused on the wrong theme. A great deal of time would be required to fix them and they were already overdue.

Riana felt very frustrated because Thomas had not provided enough guidance and Riana had been unnecessarily placed under a huge time crunch because of Thomas’s delay in delegating the assignment to Riana. As angry as she was about a situation that was not her fault, Riana decided that she really liked her job and wanted to learn to work with Thomas. Riana decided that she would no longer passively wait for assignments. She decided to factor Thomas’s organizational limitations into her planning and that next time, she would anticipate her assignment as much as possible. Moreover, Riana decided that next time Thomas did give her an assignment, she would insist that Thomas provide the information and feedback necessary to complete the assignment in a satisfactory way. In other words, rather than blaming her boss for her deficiencies, Riana quietly took on the task of managing her boss.

Although Thomas was completely unaware that Riana was managing him, Thomas became more and more complimentary of the job Riana was doing and eventually Riana received a raise and a huge increase in salary.

See Advice on the Job: Problem People at Work: Messy Troll


Karen Handles the Vain Troll

Karen’s boss is Hilda, the Head of the French Department of the local university. She has held her position for at least a decade. Hilda publishes more than anyone else in the department and works very hard.

Karen is Hilda’s administrative assistant and Hilda has taken pains to befriend her. Hilda has encouraged Karen to travel to France, to take courses at the University and has invited her over to her home on several occasions.

Originally Karen felt she was very lucky to be able to work for Hilda, but now she is having some reservations. Karen is a very honest and direct person and there was a recent occasion when she witnessed Hilda behaving in a very rude manner to a colleague. When she refused to unequivocally support Hilda in a private discussion with her, Hilda became angry and vindictive towards Karen. Karen observes that Hilda does not respect or get along with anyone who challenges her views.

Karen decides that she will tell Hilda only what she wants to hear henceforth, and that she will look for another position.

See Advice on the Job: Problem People at Work: Vain Troll


Phyllis Meets a Creepy Troll

Phyllis works for an insurance company as an assistant manager under Ryan, her boss. Ryan is a rising star, and he is already a Vice President although he is only 32 years old. At first, Ryan made Phyllis uneasy because he seemed ingratiating and very insincere. Within a week, however, she was won over and developed a close relationship with him. Ryan was always accessible and Phyllis, always eager to listen to her problems and help. After awhile she thought she had the kindest boss ever.

Ryan and Phyllis became friends. Ryan confided in Phyllis about his problems with his wife and soon Ryan and Phyllis were having an extended affair. Eventually, Phyllis became uncomfortable with Ryan. She realized that he was not going to leave his wife and she found out that he was having another relationship with a female manager. She also became uncomfortable with his ethics. She observed that he had no problems planning a strategy to save the company millions by wrongfully denying victims insurance coverage.

Phyllis tried to break off the relationship, and Ryan became sulky. He started over-loading her with work, gave her a performance-warning memo and terminated her as part of a general reorganization. Phyllis needs to find an experienced employment attorney to help her pursue a legal remedy. 

See Advice on the Job: Problem People at Work: Creepy Troll


Adam and the Abacus Troll

Willa was transferred in as Adam’s new department head. Willa immediately cut the budget and laid off three of Adam’s co-employees, two of whom were older with significant medical problems. The other one was pregnant and planning on going out on maternity leave. Adam was working on an important marketing project and with his budget cut, he will not be able to complete it.

Adam should probably start looking for another job. Not much future here unless he thinks Willa is very temporary. 

See Advice on the Job: Problem People at Work: Abacus Troll


A Gremlin Named Gretel

Gretel and Shana work together. Shana thinks Gretel is her friend. Shana is required to prepare a report that includes numbers provided by Gretel. Gretel gave Shana the wrong numbers and the report had to be redone and, as a result the report was late. Shana took full blame and protected Gretel.

Gretel secretly goes to Shana’s manager and tells her, “I don’t want to say anything against Shana, I really like her a lot and I know she works really hard. I know she’s been having a hard time with the report, and she asked me to help because she couldn’t understand the data. I really don’t want to get her in trouble, but I knew she’s in over her head. If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know. Maybe I could help out and do next month’s analysis.”

When Shana’s assistant quit the month before, Gretel told Shana’s manager, “That’s too bad about Shana’s assistant quitting. Shana is really nice but she is really difficult to work for. I know Michael is thinking of leaving too for the same reason. Please don’t let Shana know I’ve told you this, but I just really want to help her. Is there maybe some course that you might suggest for her that could improve her management skills?” (Note: Shana’s assistant left for a better job offer out of state and really liked Shana, and Michael is still there but angry because Shana disciplined her for inappropriate sloppiness in her work.)

Gretel is definitely a full-blown Gremlin. In this case, unfortunately, Shana lacked any instincts or an ally to warn her about the true nature of Gretel before it was too late. Shana’s manager terminated her in a reduction in force and Gretel ended up with her job. Had she been warned earlier, she might have been able to wage a campaign to protect herself by which she:

  • Stopped protecting Gretel;
  • Warned her manager about Gretel and asked her manager not to make judgments or take action at work based on information derived from Gretel without checking it out personally;
  • Watched Gretel carefully and limited her opportunities to work with her;
  • Made sure criticisms of her work were not derived second or third hand from Gretel and confronting her supervisors if necessary about the source of their information;
  • Rallied her supporters around her to complain about Greta and to support her in front of her manager.

See Advice on the Job: Problem People at Work: Green Gremlin


Joshua Deals with a Green Gremlin

Joshua and Grant are both architects in the same office. Joshua is the creative genius, and he has received most of the credit for their last project. Joshua believes Grant is his good friend and he is very supportive of Grant. Grant is definitely green with jealousy, but he carefully disguises it. Grant is upset because he believes the owner of the architectural firm gives the best assignments to Joshua and that he is not treated fairly.

Joshua works mostly alone and he does not have close relationships with the other architects in the firm. Grant, on the other hand, is very friendly with the others. Meanwhile, with Joshua’s support, Grant gets a big project to head up on his own.

Grant slowly works to build a power base in the firm, carefully working to insinuate himself with the owner and dolling out favors in exchange for political power within the firm. While Joshua continues to support Grant’s climb within the firm, Grant systematically undermines Joshua. When Grant gets a project that requires Joshua’s expertise, he contracts it out to another firm. Meanwhile, Joshua works to involve Grant in his projects to the greatest extent possible.

Eventually, Joshua has a difficult client who complains about his work. Grant’s subordinates (at Grant’s direction) encourage the owner to believe that Joshua is at fault and the owner reassigns the project to Grant. Finally, Joshua sadly opens his eyes and realizes the truth about Grant.

Joshua decides to distance himself from Grant and stops recommending him for projects. Meanwhile, he works hard to consolidate his team of employees and to develop a solid relationship with his clients.

Eventually, Joshua obtains an enormous project. When he has trouble getting the control over the project he feels is appropriate from the Owner who is now firmly beholden to Grant, Joshua leaves the firm and opens his own office, taking his huge project (and his team of employees) with him. 

See Advice on the Job: Problem People at Work: Green Gremlin


Magda’s Mess

Magda was going through a divorce when she first started working with Jessie at her company. Jessie almost immediately latched on to Magda and in very short order became her best friend. She did everything for Magda including consoling her with her divorce woes, helping her on the job, and babysitting for her kids. They regularly socialized together, even taking their vacations together.

After a year of two, Magda began to mend from her divorce and started dating someone seriously. She began to find the relationship with Jessie to be tiresome with Jessie being possessive, overly intrusive and clinging. As she tried to get some distance in the relationship, Jessie became angry and eventually they stopped being friends.

At work, Magda tries to have a normal relationship with Jessie, but Jessie refuses to talk to her. Other employees have told her that Jessie has been making nasty comments about her. Magda tries to transfer to another department, but there are no openings. Eventually Jessie becomes so unpleasant that Magda is forced to quit her employment and seek work elsewhere.  

See Advice on the Job: Problem People at Work: Jilted Gremlin


Gregory Is Likely a Jilted Gremlin

Gregory works for Bill, a senior accountant and two other accountants as an administrative assistant. Gregory is absolutely dedicated to Bill, and Bill appreciates the attention Gregory gives his work. Gregory does not have much of a life outside work and some of the employees gossip that he has a crush on Bill.

When anyone other than Bill asks Gregory for help with his or her work, Gregory is usually “too busy.” This scenario will not end well. In the end, Bill will begin to feel that Gregory is a burden--maybe when he needs to work closely with someone else with different skills and Gregory gets in the way, or maybe because Gregory just gets too intrusive at some point. When Bill tries to push Gregory away, Gregory is likely to turn into a Jilted Gremlin.

See Advice on the Job: Problem People at Work: Jilted Gremlin


Wanda, the Wronged

Wanda, the wronged, is an administrative assistant for Don. Originally Wanda was the best assistant that Don ever had work for him. She was talented, extremely dedicated and had excellent interpersonal skills. In Don’s department, there was a very tyrannical manager with whom they had to work and Wanda was tireless in her complaints about the manager and in her efforts to protect Don from the manager’s unfair treatment.

Eventually, the tyrannical manager was terminated and Don was promoted into his position. Where before Don had only supervised Wanda, now he had many individuals reporting to him. Much to his dismay, Wanda became extremely critical of one of these individuals in a very unfair way. At the same time, Wanda became sulky and insubordinate and made a number of unfair and untrue statements to other employees about how badly she was being treated by Don. Suddenly, Don realized that Wanda was treating him exactly like she had treated her former boss. After several attempts by Don to confront Wanda and talk the conflicts out failed miserably, Don sadly felt forced to terminate Wanda.

See Advice on the Job: Problem People at Work: Wronged Gremlin