Sunday, 26 May 2013

Arnold has left the building!!

My employee drama of the last 2 months suddenly resolved itself in early May with the abrupt departure of Arnold, the employee who was causing me strife.  On Monday he emailed me to say that he was out sick; on Tuesday morning he sent an email to my manager and HR which said "I’m writing in order to indicate that I’d like to officially resign as soon as possible and to also apologize for the abruptness and any inconvenience it may cause."  My manager forwarded the email to me around 10am and then stopped by to talk to me about the news.  About an hour after I saw the email Arnold was gone.  And good riddance.

Arnold joined the team in mid-February, his hiring championed by our head of department who, for some unusual reason, had interviewed him before anyone else on the team had seen him.  The department head loved him.  "He has a spark that I like," he said.  "He doesn't have much experience, but he's eager to learn.  Why don't you meet him and see what you think."  Three of us - the other team lead and I plus our manager - met him and all agreed that he seemed like a good fit.  Admittedly he was entry level and we were ideally looking for someone with at least a year of experience, but he was older than most entry level candidates, having been studying for a PhD, and had a couple of 3month freelance stints in Advertising Agencies under his belt; he wasn't completely naive to the agency world and with a dearth of other good candidates we decided to take a chance and make him an offer.  

All seemed to go well initially, however after a couple of months it became clear that he either wasn't capable of doing the job or just didn't care enough to make an effort, I'm not 100% sure which.  Obviously as an entry level employee I knew he'd require more training than someone with some experience, but I wasn't prepared for was how much I'd have to correct him on the basics of spelling, grammar and addition.  His work was rife with spelling mistakes - trafic, awarness, Febrary - are examples that were repeated throughout his commentary of the first report he sent to me to review. It was so bad I did actually wonder if he had some condition, like dyslexia or something, but apparently not.  Overall his work was incredibly sloppy, but when I tried to give him feedback he wouldn't take it into account and the same old shit would come back to me 2 or 3 times.  I'm not even talking about feedback on how to do his job of actually analyzing client data, but on basic presentation.  I was spending so much time giving him feedback that it was a waste of time employing him, because it would have been quicker for me to do the work myself.  In hindsight I honestly think he believed that my only job was to oversee the team's work.  He didn't seem to realize that I had my own work to do and that he'd been hired to remove some of the burden on me, not add to it.

He'd been employed with the agency for just shy of two months when I became frustrated with him after a report - a report I'd gone over with him in painstaking detail twice before - came back to me to review for a 4th time and still included basic mistakes that had not been corrected from the first 3 rounds of feedback.  Admittedly I was a little sharp with him when I told him he should print out all the feedback he'd been given and go through it line by line and ensure all the corrections had been made before sending the report to me for review, but given the circumstances he got off lightly.  Do you know what he did...he went to HR and complained about me.  That's right, HE complained about ME!!  

I spoke with my manager about the situation.  He was aware of my frustration about the continued poor quality of Arnold's work, but advised me to be gentle.    "I don't know why he felt his first call should be to go to HR instead of talking to me, but he's clearly very sensitive to criticism.  We just need to ensure we are sympathetic to that." 

Arnold and I called a truce and went back to our business. I was as nice as pie.  No seriously I was.  It didn't make a blind bit of difference.  Two weeks later he was back at HR for a second time claiming both Chris - my other direct report who is the most mellow person you could meet - and I were being abusive to him.  This time he claimed that I'd told him to come in on the weekend and arranged to meet him at 10am on Sunday, but then did not turn up.  

I did no such thing. 

We'd been working late on the Friday on a report that was already significantly delayed, due to Arnold's inability to care about deadlines and manage multiple client deliverables, when we came across yet another issue around 6pm.  I told him that we might have to come in over the weekend, but over the next couple of hours we made more progress than I anticipated.  I asked him to email me some data so that I could review it at home over the weekend and on my way out of the office just after 8pm I said I would email him to let him know if I needed him to come in.  Pondering work the next day I realized that I could easily resolve the issues myself by working for a few hours at home on Sunday.  As a result I didn't sign on to my work email email until Sunday lunchtime, which is when I saw an email he'd sent at 8.30pm on Friday saying he would be coming in at 10am on Sunday and that he'd see me at the office.

Crap!!  I immediately called him to let him know he'd misunderstood and that I'd just seen his email.  I left a message to that effect when he did not pick up his mobile.

By Monday he'd emailed HR with his claims of abuse and at 10am I got a call from my head of department.  "Hi darling, I'm sat here with Arnold who is upset because he claims you arranged to meet him in the office this weekend and then didn't show up."

I explained what had actually happened.

"Okay.  Could you just come over to my office and the three of us can sort this out."

In the department head's office Arnold continued with his claims of my abusive behavior, our department head asked him to give him an example.

"She just is," he sputtered, "I have evidence to back it up."

"So, tell me how she's abusive, give me an example."

"I wrote down a few things from the anti-harassment training." He rifled through his notebook and started spouting legalese he'd copied down.

"Arnold, that's not evidence of her being abusive, you're just reading excerpts from the training. Can you give me an example of something she actually did.  These are serious claims."

"The data will speak for itself."

"I agree, but can you give me an example."

And so it went in circles for a few minutes. He then burst out with "You don't know what it's like for me, this is my last chance, I'm almost bankrupt."

It was at this point that I saw from department head's expression that he went from hearing Arnold out to thinking "oh shit, this guy is crazy."

We wrapped up the meeting shortly after that and I went to speak to my manager.  A few moments later the department head joined us in my manager's office and sat down heavily in a chair. "Guys, I f&@ked up.  I was the one that pushed to hire him, this one's on me.  I spoke to HR, they want to meet with you," he said to me "but don't worry, I explained the situation to them."

The head of HR wanted to know exactly what he said about being bankrupt and asked me to give feedback on him as an employee. I explained the issues with his work and she wondered aloud if the company was being set up to be sued.  "I'll be honest," she said "he seems to be out to get you, but we can't fire him now that he's complained, it looks like retaliation.  The best we can do is try and move him to another team."

That was about 3 weeks ago and in the weeks since then I did my best to be pleasant, but kept all contact to business only and put everything in writing as much as I could.  My manager promised that if we were successful in an upcoming new business pitch he'd transfer me to manage the new account and Arnold would be out of my hair.  As for Arnold, well he acted like nothing had happened and he'd walk around whistling as happy as Larry.  I do think he sensed that I was a bit more distant from him, because he started catching up to me if we were en route to the same meeting - something he never did before - and we'd exchange a 'hey' and then walk in silence to the conference room.  I think it bothered him a bit that I didn't make any smalltalk, but there was no way I was going to say anything that could be twisted against me in any way or put me at risk of a lawsuit.  On Friday before he resigned I ran into him at the lift as I was leaving for the day along with another woman Lindsay that I know.  The lift was packed with workers from other offices in the building and Lindsay and I chatted about our weekend plans.  I told her I was running late to meet a friend in midtown when Arnold piped up out of the blue "I'm rushing to get to a friend's memorial service."

"Oh," said Lindsay who I don't believe he'd ever met.  "I'm sorry."  She stared at him for a second and then resumed chatting to me. 


He bolted in the opposite direction as soon as we got to the ground floor and the following Monday he called in sick and on Tuesday he resigned.  By 11am on Tuesday he was gone, without bothering to give the customary 2 weeks' notice.  It was as if the last 2 months had all been a horrible dream. I couldn't quite believe my luck.

In the days since his departure I was in a bunch of meetings and had to let people know that Arnold no longer worked at the company. In one of my client team meetings it came out that he'd gone to HR about me twice and alleged that Chris and I were abusive to him. "Oh I wouldn't worry about that, as long as you have it all written down you have nothing to worry about." said the Account Director. "Someone once went to HR and claimed I threw a chair at them."

"And did you?" asked the media planner, because with this particular Account Director, you just never know.  Anything can happen. At the office holiday party he stripped to the waist and hit the dance floor exuberantly and alone to Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You"  

"No I did not."

"It was a stool," said the Account Manager laughing

"No it was not, I have never thrown furniture at anyone, but I did have a melt down and throw toilet rolls at the cleaning lady."

"You did what?"

"I threw toilet rolls at the cleaning lady.  I did!!" he exclaimed to our raised eyebrows. 

"Seriously, I was having a melt down and she was trying to come in to clean the bathroom so to stop her I started taking the toilet rolls off her cart and throwing them at her."

"Did SHE report you?"

"No, we were fine, we hugged it out, but she wouldn't be able to report me anyway, she works for the building not the Agency, so it wouldn't have been an issue."

Well okay then.  I'll say one thing, it's never dull!!


Amel said...

WHOA!!!!!!!!!!! Office drama! Prior to Finland, I never really worked for anyone else (not really). Now I work in a supermarket, but it's different than working in an office, I suppose, but I've heard snippets of office drama from my friends - affairs and such. Crazy!

I'm glad that there are no law suits and that Arnold left! Phew!!! What an "amazing" character! Doh!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Thanks Amel, I am so relieved he has gone, it was very stressful to have to work with him.

Amel said...

Yeah, I can imagine. On top of having to do your own tasks, you also have to coach him - but he keeps making the same mistakes over and over again anyway. Dear oh dear...