(This is an education setting, not a business per se, so keep in mind some things work differently)

My coworker will be retiring in a few months, but is driving me crazy. Her personal tasks are becoming increasingly apparent on the job and she has done a few things that very much bother me in terms of ethics, in addition to the daily countdown of working days left. (I'm happy for her, as we have been friendly, I just find this annoying)

Underlying this is an (awkward for me) relationship with our dept of 3 people. Her and our other coworker have similar values (including both misusing sick time) and while they came more recently to the dept, feel that we have responsibilities in our workload that we shouldn't be doing. I am the dept head, but since it is an educational setting, it's different from being a "manager" in some ways. She is an assistant and so will help the other coworker very willingly on anything they ask but appears to delay the few requests I have. (She is an assistant in name although we call us a "team"). I have tried to maintain a friendly work environment for the sake of it, but have let her know when I think she has crossed the line (e.g asking if it's ok to leave work early for a clearly non-acceptable reason)

My question is - do I just suck it up for the remaining few months, or do I call her on it. She has been very adept about having "allies" at work and is very savvy about doing things strategically so she is shown in good light to those above. I think she is doing this because she is frankly "done" and also that she senses she can get away with things because I "need" her around and has a "good reputation."

  • I tried to find a more descriptive title for this question. I think there are thousands of questions on this site which could be called "How to deal with a coworker's questionable behaviour".
    – Philipp
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 15:12
  • 2
    She's retiring and isn't doing her job, how much do you really need her?
    – user8365
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 16:57

3 Answers 3


She has been very adept about having "allies" at work and is very savvy about doing things strategically

Sounds like it's not worth getting into a war with her, she will be gone in a relatively short space of time, and you can use her leaving to set some new rules amongst those that are left.

If she does anything, just remind yourself how good you'll feel once she's gone.


She's leaving, any action you take now will be:

  1. Entirely ineffective
  2. Damaging to morale
  3. Potentially damaging to your own relationship with remaining colleagues

As such, I see absolutely nothing positive which can come from bringing this up now in any "calling her on it" way, and several negatives.

I'd see this as a hand-off period - see her inactivity as a way to transition tasks away from her, as she won't be there to do them soon anyway, and her replacement won't be immediately up to speed.

I think your focus needs to shift from "she's slacking" (she's going to, there's nothing you can do to prevent it, suck it up), to "completing my own workload". She's leaving, you're annoyed that she's slacking, but you should only focus on it to the point of her helping you with your own workload. If you need a little more help, ask her for it, but may I suggest that phrasing it as a favour will do you a lot more good than phrasing it as a chastisement.


How will this affect your ability to manage the remainder of the team going forward? Do any of these people that choose to take her side, want to be the next assistant?

Anyone asks for time off that is inappropriate, say no. If you let them, you're just as unethical as they are.

Suggest she change her ways or you're going to use whatever disciplinary action is at your discretion. Stop using "this is an educational setting" as an excuse. I realize other industries may have it easier when it comes to disciplining people, but that doesn't mean it is impossible. They are still paid to do a job and should suffer the consequences when they don't.

Go through the proper channels. Document the infractions. Do your job. You choose to take on the responsibility as the department head. The others may not like it, but this isn't just a popularity contest. You have a job to do, so stop rationalizing it and finding excuses not to.It's no different than someone who thinks they get to slack of their final days because they think there is nothing you can do about it. She's leaving and is obviously going to be replaceable.

  • "Disciplinary action" - she's retiring, she almost certainly doesn't care and attempting to punish someone for easing off in the last couple of months of their career will absolutely annihilate morale in the rest of the team.
    – Jon Story
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 16:15
  • @JonStory - That's why I prefaced everything with "ability to manage the remainder of the team". If they're all doing their job, there's no need to take action, but if this person is undermining the department head's authority, it's going to make the OP's job more difficult.
    – user8365
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 16:56
  • @JonStory: Depending on the position, being fired shortly before retiring can be very painful. For example, my wife would have lost major benefits if she quit the job before retiring, much worse if she had been fired before retiring.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 11:18
  • @gnasher Indeed... but in this case I doubt there would be any real ability to fire her: a verbal warning, a couple of weeks, a written warning, a couple more weeks, then she's retired anyway. Assuming management even has the stomach/time for it, all she has to do is "look busy" for two months and they'd be powerless. Long term they may be able to defend firing her, but in the short term, firing her 2 months before her retirement for laziness would be very hard to defend if it came to legal proceedings. Especially if she has friends in the department who back her up.
    – Jon Story
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 11:23
  • 1
    I'm not saying it would have no impact on her, just that I highly doubt a threat of disciplinary now would make any real difference to her true productivity. Perhaps to her apparent productivity, but it would be bad blood for no practical improvement in the day to day situation.
    – Jon Story
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 11:25

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