update: my struggling new employee thinks her pushiness is “enthusiasm”

Remember the letter-writer last month whose struggling new employee was insisting that her problematic pushiness was simply enthusiasm? Here’s the update.

I had planned to have the discussion you suggested with my employee on her one day in the office last week, but had a sinus infection and was running a low fever so thought I would wait until I felt better.

I sat down with her that morning and went over a couple of upcoming projects. One was to draft a short email to a group of people requesting some information for a new project. When I read it I realized that the email described the end result of project as something I’d said specifically we would NOT do and had explained why we were not doing it. I asked her to revise the email because it wasn’t what I’d said. She argued with me that it was what I’d said, she’d simply phrased it differently. I told her it wasn’t and needed to be revised.

She shut the door to my office and continued to try to argue. I asked her to please just go do what I asked. Twice. I’m a small person. She’s bigger than I am and was standing between me and the door. I finally walked around the other side of my desk, went to the door, opened it and asked her to please go do what I’d asked. She stood there so I asked again and she finally left. Her behavior made me very uncomfortable. That afternoon she sent me an email apologizing for her behavior. I’d had to leave for a meeting so told her we’d address the issue when she was back in the office, but that her behavior had been inappropriate.

She was only working one day a week for several weeks in order to prepare for a professional exam so it was a few days before she was back in the office. I thought about it a lot and came to the decision to terminate her because I felt her behavior would be a continuing problem.

After she left I went through her email to see if there was anything I needed to follow up on and that confirmed that I’d made the correct decision. She was there two days short of 90 days and tried to start some projects that interested her instead of things we were asking her to work on. She didn’t get far with her projects because she hadn’t built up the knowledge, credibility or resources to implement them. It’s a pretty specialized job so requires a lot of background information to get up to speed.

If I hadn’t let her spend a day with the person who had the job last so she’d know what was involved, I might feel she didn’t know what all it entailed. However, we gave her a very clear idea of what she’d be doing from the mundane to the exciting. I think she may have been interested in the recognition the job could bring without having to do the work required.

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