A reader asks:
We hired Jane four months ago to take over a management position, and I was to partially oversee her, along with my boss, Lucinda. There were some issues on both sides (she had issues with Lucinda and vice versa), and about a month ago Jane told me she was considering giving notice. I talked through the issues she was having with my boss, and moderated some disagreements. It seemed like Jane was having trouble taking direction and criticism from Lucinda, and had gotten her feathers ruffled when Lucinda tried to manage her. Everything seemed to be back on schedule, and the drama subsided.
Last week, Lucinda informed me that Jane had given notice, with no reason. Jane informed me of this by text message with a frowny face. I was shocked by Jane's lack of professionalism, and immediately jumped into plan B mode and made a job offer to a current employee to take over the position. Currently, that employee is still considering the offer.
Then, Jane asked if she could rescind her resignation. She explained why she had wanted to quit, and it turned out to be very minor and a further example of her inability to communicate well and her tendency to let her ego drive situations. I don't believe it was another job offer that instigated the resignation, as Jane has told me several times that she didn't need to work and was working only because she loves to.
Obviously we need to see if the current employee wants to change departments, but if she doesn't, should we let Jane continue working? This is our busiest time of the year, training someone new would be miserable, and staff is already stretched very thin. Also, if Jane stays, the team's morale would be better than if she left, and that is very important to me. However, if we let her stay, I'm worried it may reinforce the dramatic behavior. At the end of the day, Jane is talented and capable, but she does not like being managed, which is inevitable, especially when one is still very new to a job. Help!
Do you want Jane in the position? Were you disappointed or relieved when you heard about her resignation initially? And while you're worried about dealing with rehiring during your busy period, will you be excited to have her there once that busy period is over, or will you feel like she's a problem that you're stuck with?
I can't answer those questions for you, but I can tell you that this is an awful lot of drama for someone only four months into a new job, and a manager who bristles at being managed herself is not a good thing. It might make sense to use this as an opportunity to end things with her cleanly and get someone else into the position who's easier to work with.
If that turns out to be your conclusion too, it would be entirely your prerogative to say you're going to let the original resignation stand and that you've already begun moving forward with other plans for the position. You could also say that given the back and forth and the issues that have come up in her first few months, you want to let things stand as they are now and not flip things back again.
But if you're convinced that keeping Jane in the position would be the best thing for the organization -- really convinced, not just panicking about the next couple of months -- you should sit down and talk with her before officially keeping her on. Be clear about how you'll need things to work going forward and ask her to really consider if that will work for her. For example: "We're going to need you to take direction and feedback from Lucinda, which is something I know you haven't been thrilled about previously. That's an aspect of the job that isn't going to change, and if we move forward, it will be important that you find a way to work more harmoniously with her so we don't keep revisiting those issues. Why don't you take a few days to think about whether you're up for the job with that as an essential part of it?"
And to be clear, you're not leaving this totally up to Jane -- if she says that yes, she can agree to that, but she qualifies it with a bunch of caveats or otherwise gives you the sense that she'll be raising the same issues a few months from now, you can say, "I really appreciate you talking this through with me. I've given this a lot of thought, and ultimately I think there's a fundamental mismatch between what we need in this role and what you're looking for, so I'd like to have your original resignation stand."
And if you do decide to keep her in the role, it might not be a bad idea to agree to revisit how things are going in a few months, so that there's an easy opening to bring it up if problems continue.
But again: This is lots of drama, and you're being given a clean path out of that.
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