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Submitted by williamelledgepe on


I came in this morning after having been offsite yesterday and I saw this on the whiteboard of one of my former employees.

What should I do?

This was posted on his white board in his cubicle which everyone sees as they walk down the hallway.  About half the people on our floor must walk past his cubicle to get to the kitchen - it is a highly traveled corridor.  

About 7 weeks ago I and a peer were promoted.  The comments belong to someone who used to report to me.  He is a high achiever (High D, High I) who wanted significant (very significant) time with me.  I usually gave it to him - our O3's always ran an hour and there were multiple late afternoons discussing work.  Every now and then it was personal, but we tended to shy away from this.  

In the last 7 weeks, the employee who made the comments has continued to come to me on project specific issues, but is reporting to one of my peers.  Thsi is an arrangement all have agreed to during a 3 month transition period.  My peer, (the employees new supervisor) does meet with them weekly, but does not follow the MT agenda.  He also prefers to only get into details if it is mutually agreed to be needed.  

Although I tend to mostly agree with the individual statements and words - it is obvious he is sending a loud, public message (which is his style).  

What should I do?

He does not report to me.  I can't go so far as to disagree with what he has written.  I am positive people are interpreting this as a derogatory comment toward both my peer and I who (possibly even our boss who has only been in her position 7 months).  My emotional response was to receive it as a personal attack.  

If he reported to me, I would probably walk by, point to the whiteboard and ask him, "what's this?"  I might also, just walk by and silently start reading.  Maybe I would ask, "Can we go to my office and discuss the message?"  50/50 chance on if he woudl accept - based on his emotional state of mind.


JonathanGiglio's picture
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This is a tanturm - one does not give in to terrorists or children. It's simply unprofessional. This isn't a "Hey, I saw this article that had some good thoughts on management, you should take a read". This is picking choice quotes and HAND WRITING them to make a point. In a steel cage death match - how can anyone vouch for this person or even help them get promoted?

If you wanted to be helpful, you might explain to him how he has seriously damaged his career at this company. You could let him know that if he thinks it's annonymous, it's not - and in fact he would have been better off signing his name to it. If you want to make a statement, make a statement. And live and die by that statement. A public apology might be the first step on the road to recovery.

Remember, this is about inappropriate behavior, not about agreeing with the statement. If you liked blue and he painted the walls blue, that's still not ok. Remember, you are "they" and work for the company.

As a manager, you should feel empowered to address this directly. Even if you don't, you certainly need to bring it up with your peer - keeping in mind relationships of course.



mrreliable's picture

Whoa! The comments are directed at a person or persons. "Cruel, inhumane, monster, abusive." The fact they're thinly disguised as a list of discussion points from a magazine article doesn't change the fact that the comments represent a nasty personal attack. I don't t think you could find a better example of creation of hostility in the workplace.

No excuse.

The ignorance of the comments is secondary. Politics in the workplace is a fact of life, impossible to avoid. It's like weather. Complaining about bad weather is one thing, complaining that weather exists is ignorant. "Politics causes things I don't like..." "Weather causes things I don't like..."

I'll bet the person expects to be fired. I can't imagine what they'd be like to work with if there aren't swift and severe consequences for the hostile personal attack.

cynaus's picture
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Hi William, I agree with the comments above. That behaviour is totally unacceptable and you have a right, as a manager of the organisation, to mention something - even if in passing. And then follow it up with his direct manager (your peer). Depending on your relationship with your peer, you may be able to provide some suggestions on the best ways to deal with it (ie using the MT model). I have seen so much of this passive-agressive behaviour in my current workplace and I am slowly convincing the managers that they need to deal with it swiftly. Suddenly staff are being called in to their manager's offices for a discussion, or are given feedback and when this is ignored repeatedly, suddenly they are in my office with their manager and receive a written warning and they think they're being bullied (because no one has ever corrected them before).  But it's getting those managers to *have* those conversations in the first place AND to document them that has been the most challenging part (and of course when the managers don't do this, they whine: "we can't fire anybody around here"... smh).

Let us know the outcome.  Cheers, Cyndy

mrreliable's picture

I don't know if this changes the dynamics, but all the antagonistic comments were quotes from an article in Success Magazine. My impression was the author had a seething hatred for anything or anyone who represented authority. There were several quotes from college professors, who IMHO said some incredibly stupid things. I'd be surprised if any of the pointy-headed academics who stick their lower jaws forward and wax eloquent about their soaring knowledge of business have ever had to meet a payroll. But I digress.

Although the whiteboard rant was clearly a statement directed at a person or persons, I would expect the employee to say something like, "Oh, those aren't my thoughts."

I'd also love to hear about how this turns out.

Doris_O's picture

I was not able to see the image, but my response would to the former direct would be: "Can I give you some feedback? Dude, not cool. When you write something like that for everyone to see, it reflects poorly on you. It also reflects poorly on me as your former manager. Not because of what you wrote, but because of how you choose to communicate this information. Can you please handle this differently?"

ashdenver's picture

It's now almost a week later. What unfolded since you posted?

williamelledgepe's picture
Training Badge

The employee came to my office the day after I posted on MT.  The writing on the board had been there Friday through Tuesday.  He walked in, sat down, and shook his head - looking down the whole time.  I asked, "How you doin'?" to which he replied, "I am frustrated."  (This happens frequently.)  Long pause. "You OK?"  He said, "NO!"  - Long pause - "You OK?"  He stand up and starts pacing and complaining.  This is also a common thing for him - he is high drama, expects everyone around him to perform at his level and gets furious with others in the Dept.  All told it was about 45 minutes of venting, aggressiveness, and anger.  

From the highlight reel include the following tidbits and quotes:

  • "These are not my words - I just quoted someone else's words."
  • "This is my white board and I can write what I want to on it."  (Did not have the opportunity to clarify it was property of his employer.)
  • "I am tired of people not pulling their weight."
  • Multiple complaints about specific people who "do nothing."
  • "I do more than everyone else on the floor."
  • "I hate working here."  To this I responded, "I see you hate it here - you need to leave and find a job at a different company?"  He took pause and asked, "You think so?" - "Yes, I do.  Would you like me to help you find another job?" - "No, I just want everyone else here to do there job" - then went back to a couple more common complaints.
  • "Why are you accusing me?"  I asked what accusation I had made and he recalled my words differently than I remember saying them.  I tried to clarify and/or restate - he would not listen.
  • At one point, I asked if I could say something and he said no.  During the entire conversation I probably said no more than 2 minutes of words.
  • "You are lying." I responded, "that is a personal attack and I think we need to end this conversation - take a break and come back later."  By the time I was about a step outside my formerly closed door, he said "I am sorry - I'm good now.  Though I didn't believe it I went back in because I was calm (probably shouldn't have).
  • "Let's go talk to HR."  There's a cast for that - thank you M&M.  He did not follow me to HR.

A day or so later, I was talking with his supervisor (my peer) and we briefly discussed the situation (very briefly).  The next day, he came to my office and went straight back to talking about projects and doing what I asked of him.  With no mention of the previous day's explosion.  I have used the phrase with him (more than once), "Let's focus on your projects."

Situation concluded (if only).  

xigiff's picture

"Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work." I bought for one of my team members, and liked it so much I bought one for me. I share thoughts from it regularly with my team. Some of those things above are not small things. Yet, so often, taking care of the easy small things, makes attacking the bigger things easier.

my 2 cents

jmarkey77's picture

Three types of people to fire immediatly, the victims, the non believers, and the know it alls.

- G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón


I've never had success converting people of this type, I tried as they have passion and talent yet they always end up damaging the team more than they were worth. When I ran across the quote above I just started living by it, seems to me this person falls into all three categories from what you discribed. Time to move on.



Good Luck