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Manager's story of losing a star employee shows how the work culture is not employee-friendly

A good employee does not come by every day, which is why when you find one, keeping them happy should be a priority.

Manager's story of losing a star employee shows how the work culture is not employee-friendly
Representative Cover Image Source: Pixabay from Pexels; Ask a Manager

In the online debate about whether the people of today are too lazy to work or whether working conditions today are not conducive to work, we often read stories where people go above and beyond to blur these lines. One such story about a woman who quit her job without notice caught the attention of many via X. Even though it was submitted by a reader to work advice columnist Alison Green's popular Ask A Manager blog in 2016, it still somehow feels relevant. The story was titled: My best employee quit on the spot because I wouldn't let her go to her college graduation.

Representatiive Image Source: Pexels | Vlada Karpovich
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Startup Stock Photos

The manager wrote that they managed a team of workers whose job responsibilities included providing customer support via phone. During the launch of a new product, employees were expected to work outside their working hours. It required someone from the manager's team to come in on their day off. This person was generally chosen based on the lowest seniority since no one would volunteer for it. "One employee asked to come in two hours after the start time due to her college graduation ceremony being that same day (she was taking night classes part-time in order to earn her degree). I was unable to grant her request because she was the employee with the lowest seniority and we need coverage for that day," they wrote.


Instead, the manager told her that if she could find a replacement for those two hours, she could come in late. She asked her coworkers, but no one agreed to cover for her. To her surprise, many of the people who said no to her agreed to work overtime or switch shifts with other people who were scheduled previously. "These people are friends outside of work, and as long as there is coverage I don’t interfere if people want to give or take overtime of their own accord. Caveat: I did intervene and switch one person’s end time because they had concert tickets that they had already paid for, but this was a special circumstance because there was cost involved," the manager wrote.


When the manager finally told the employee that she would have to miss her graduation ceremony, she walked in an hour later with her ID and a list of all the times she had worked late or early or overtime for every coworker and then quit. "I’m a bit upset because she was my best employee by far. Her work was excellent, she never missed a day of work in the six years she worked here, and she was my go-to person for weekends and holidays," they revealed.

They then went on to ask Green whether they could reach out to the former employee and inform her that it was unprofessional of her to quit without giving notice. "This is the only job she has had. Since she’s never had anyone to teach her professional norms, I want to help her so she doesn’t make the same mistake again. What do you think is the best way for me to do this?" they asked.

Responding to the bizarre query, Green insisted that the manager not message their former employee to rebuke them for quitting abruptly. Instead, she said they should be apologizing to her. She said, "I'm not usually a fan of people quitting on the spot, but I applaud her for doing it in this case. She was raised in dozens of foster homes, used to be homeless, had no living family, and managed to graduate from college all on her own. That's amazing."


She emphasized that this was one of the reasons why she also deserved to make it to her graduation ceremony. Talking about good management, she said, "Good management requires nuance and judgment. Sometimes, it requires making exceptions for good employees so that you don't lose them." Lastly, she made a valid statement, "One of the frustrating things about your letter is that despite rigidly adhering to the rules with this person, you were willing to make an exception for someone else (the person with the concert tickets). I'm at a loss to understand how concert tickets are an obvious exception-maker, but this person's situation wasn't."


She ended her reply by saying, "There's a lesson to be learned here, but it's not for her." In 2022, she received an email, which was most likely from the woman who quit. She shared the contents of the email in another post. The person in the letter wrote, "This is about me. I know for a fact it is because this exact thing happened to me in that time frame. And I know exactly who it was." Explaining why she quit, she said, "And it wasn't about the graduation. At freaking all. It was so much more than that. It was about having one day that was just mine." She ended her email by saying, "The joke's on him though. That diploma has gotten me further in life than I would have gotten without."


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