Things that they don’t teach in manager training

I’ve been a manager at my job for quite some time now. I think seven years at last count. So I’ve been through a lot. And yet, sometimes, I’m still a bit thrown by the curveballs lobbed by the folks who have the grand misfortune to report to me.

On Friday, one of my employees, a very hardworking and rather quiet girl came tearing into my office. I swear, if she was a car, she would have left black marks on my industrial carpet.

The employee looked at me with wide eyes.

“Is it ok if I go home?” she said, and paused…then tacked on…”I don’t want to barf here at work.”

I happen to know she’s three months pregnant and having a rough time of it, so I said, quickly, “Go. Now.”

She turned and peeled out of the building.

This got me thinking about back when I was first made a manager, and the anemic training course they sent me to.

They discussed “things you shouldn’t say” and “things you should say” and “what to do if you have to fire someone.” But never, never did they discuss “when it’s ok to let someone go home early because they are gonna blow chunks.”

I guess that’s where you have to rely on that ol’ manager gut instinct, hey?

Other oddball things I have experienced and was never properly prepared for:

Male employee spent all of our one-on-one session telling me, in detail, that he and his wife were trying to get pregnant and, to their dismay, had ended up having to resort to IVF. TMI. But wait, there’s more. We haven’t begun to TMI yet.

About a week later, he comes running into my office…”My wife just called, she’s at the doctor, she’s fertile right now, so I have to go give a…um….sample. I’ll be back in about an hour.”


“Just go!” I said, and to his retreating back, tacked on, “If this happens again, please just tell me you have to go to the dentist!”

Or the really, really good employee, like top notch worker, who felt the need to tell me that the only way she could deal with the stress of her job was that she and her husband would smoke a bowl as they commuted home from work every day.

“I’m thinking about smoking one at lunch too, this job is crazy.”

Well. Ok. *Technically* she’s doing this on her own time and off company property. And my employer at the time was pretty lenient about such things.

But still. Things I don’t need to know. Especially as the manager!

Also important to mention that managing isn’t just about direct reports, it’s about managing your own manager too.

So, in that same vein, at that same employer, I had a boss who delighted in telling me how much cocaine she did at her wedding. “It was the only way to get through it, I never really loved my husband. Still don’t.”

Oooohkaaaay. She only lasted a year at the job. Freak.

And the best was, not long after starting this newest gig, one of the ladies on my team had been out sick for a few days. I assumed the flu, a migraine, tummy upset. Whatever. I didn’t need to know. Upon her return, I simply inquired, “hey, are you feeling better?”

What followed was a long, detailed and gory description. Let’s just say…you can have a colon polyp burst and leave it there, mmkay?

You can’t unhear something, no matter how hard you try.

But, when all is said and done, I haven’t had to have the granddaddy of all uncomfortable manager situations. My dear brother-in-law has been subjected to this more than once. Poor guy.

We call it…the Stinky Conversation.

The one where you have to ask your employee to please shower…and use soap…because their coworkers are complaining.

Double ugh!

I’m telling ya, those fancy politically correct manager’s training classes do nuthin’ to prepare you for the real world!

About Author


  • Lucky

    Oh, I had the stinky conversation once! We sent people out, so it was the clients who were complaining, not the other employees.

    We also had a client who used to answer the door nude. I had to have a chat with him, too.

  • Karen Fayeth

    The nude client story made me exclaim "yeeow!" Wow, that's a tough conversation.

    "Could you…uh…wear clothes." Was he an adamant nudist? Because they can be *very* serious about the whole no clothes issue!

  • Natalie

    Oh, okay, I would say, "Don't get me started…" but I'm already started!
    I've been a manager, in every job I've ever had, since the ripe ol' age of 20. Not that I was necessarily a good manager at that time but I've learned and dealt with a lot along the way.
    First person I ever had to terminate was for… *drum roll* Personal Hygiene. How terrible is that? It was and, yuck!
    I once found a naked woman, covered in feces, in our women's bathroom in Barnes & Noble (Tucson). Very humbling and gross experience. She was not well… Obviously.
    My nicknames were (at various times), "Bodily Fluids Manager", "Factotum", "McGuyver", "Dragon Lady", and a few I've simply let go of since then.. lol.

    I have no idea why people feel the need to tell us managers such deep, dark secrets or dumb, "I got so fucked up…" comments, or long, elaborate stories why they called off sick (which I always think, if it's this elaborate, they are makin' that shit up. So… I watch their eyes… if they look up, they are making it up; if they look down, they are telling the truth. I saw that on one of those news shows and I swear it's true!)
    Anyway… would love to get together and kabbitz about the things we've had to deal with as managers.
    It would certainly be a three margaritas minimum convo!

  • Karen Fayeth

    I am totally onboard with managerly discussion over margs!

    I'll bring the guacamole! (Elise isn't allowed to make it anymore! heh!)

  • Lucky

    He wasn't an adamant nudist. He just thought that it was okay for some reason. He apologized and thereafter put on pants. Still. . .I could feel myself turning red.

Comments are closed.