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Yesterday I was offered a part time job in a gym facility. I have been a substitute instructor there from time to time, so I was very excited to have been asked to work there on a more regular basis.

Another employee of the gym (we'll call her Sarah) texted me to ask if I would cover one of her upcoming classes. "Sure!" I said. "And by the way, I'll be working there more regularly in the future on Thursday mornings. I'm really excited!"

Management had asked Sarah for my contact info earlier in the week, so she knew something was up. Apparently, Sarah then contacted the person I was scheduled to replace (we'll call her Mavis).

Mavis then calls the gym and tries to speak with management by leaving a message. Management calls me asking if I spoke with Mavis. No, I had not. Then is all dawned on me how information must have traveled back to her.

It was awkward and confusing, so I apologized to management, told her that I spoke with Sarah, and that information must have gone through the grapevine. Management was frustrated because they had wanted to "spare Mavis's feelings."

Now Mavis is texting me offering me all of her classes. She says her heart just isn't in it anymore, so I might as well take over now.

Do I respond to these texts? If so, how? The common protocol for someone who cannot teach a class is to find their own replacement, but this is a different situation. I'm not sure if it is appropriate for me to communicate with anyone considering how catty this situation has become.

  • The title say fired but it looks like management is reducing the number of classes Mavis is teaching; of course that could be step one in the process of firing. – mhoran_psprep Feb 27 '16 at 12:00
  • When you talked to Sarah, did you say "I'll be replacing Mavis" or anything like that? – DJClayworth Feb 27 '16 at 18:21
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    Whatever you do, trying to have that conversation with Mavis by text message probably isn't the best way to go about it. – David Richerby Feb 27 '16 at 18:36
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    Can't help thinking that if the manager wanted you to keep quiet, s/he should have told you! – colmde Mar 1 '16 at 11:33
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It's really unclear what's happening w/ Mavis except that she's quitting in response to something, possibly this and possibly not. I'd say that you should stop trying to analyze it, take it at face value, and just tell management "Mavis suggested I take over all her classes for a while; does that make sense to you or would you rather distribute them differently until you've got more experience with me?"

The best response to drama is usually to ignore it. Especially when you don't have all the info and may be misinterpreting it.

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    This answer hints at stopping a "drama triangle" from forming. "Drama triangles" require at least three people. If you communicate with management directly until you know what is going on while ignoring third parties then drama triangles are less likely to form. – LongThrow Feb 27 '16 at 21:06
  • Drama can exist with two or many. However you slice it, if you don't have an unavoidable reason to be involved, stay out. – keshlam Feb 27 '16 at 21:10
  • The easiest way to stop the drama triangle is turn it into a square! – blankip Feb 29 '16 at 19:58
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Just tell your boss. Without having all the information, it's difficult to make a good decision. You may feel some of this will cause trouble for people, but if you want to send a coworker a text about work with someone you hardly know, there's little expectation of privacy.

Management asked if you had spoken to Mavis previously, so I think they expect to know about any future contacts as well. You're caught in the middle. Mavis may have been a little hasty and regret sending you that message, but I think things can still be settled rationally if all parties wish.

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Do not respond to Mavis. You didn't initiate communication with her, so you're under no obligation to respond to her.

Talk to management about the text she sent you. If Mavis wants to quit all her other classes, and if she's really serious about it, then she should tell management (but do not tell her that, do not even respond to her).

Most likely, she doesn't have the authority to give all her classes to someone else (even if she's allowed to choose her own replacement once in a while).

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Ugh. What a horrible situation for you to be in. In your shoes, my goal would be to be fair and direct with everyone involved.

First, you can respond to Mavis and say that you're unsure of whether you should take her classes. You're new, you don't know how this sort of thing is usually handled. Make sure that Mavis knows that you're not trying to steal her classes. You had no idea why management wanted you to do more classes. There is no need to create a bad situation between you and Mavis because management didn't handle the situation well.

Second, you should tell your manager that you were offered Mavis's classes. If you want to take some or all of them, now is the time to register your interest. Again, you didn't know about the existing situation between management and Mavis, so your goal is to make sure that management knows that you're trying to do the right thing.

Most importantly, you should reflect on this experience with your management. It sounds like they didn't do a great job in informing Mavis about this upcoming change. Is this a simple mistake, or is it a pattern? If management isn't informing its staff when there are potential problems or otherwise giving useful feedback to help their staff be better, you could find yourself in Mavis's shoes sometime in the future.

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