It was the employee's final day. The manager saw it as her last chance to find out how such a good manager/(contract)employee relationship had gone so sour. She approached the young woman as she packed up her things and asked:
- You gave notice two weeks ago. When did you quit de facto?
The employee froze. Her hands, holding pens she was packing, were suspended in mid-air. The manager wondered if her departing employee was searching her mind for some new defense or if she was searching her heart for the truth. The employee took a breath and replied, "I quit de facto the day you questioned my invoice."
"Thank you for telling me," the manager replied. She had suspected as much. The employee had acted like questioning her invoice was a criminal accusation. The manager had seen it as an opportunity to get clear about what was billable and what wasn't. The employee became so defensive that the conversation never reached a satisfying resolution. The questions were over minor amounts so the manager let it go, but communication felt strained and weird after that day.
The manager was sad to see someone who had shown such promise leave, but she was also relieved. If the employee hadn't quit she would have let her go. It wasn't the first time she had questioned someone's accounting and it wouldn't be the last. It could have been an easy conversation. But it wasn't. And this manager knew she needed to work with people who were willing to address issues as they arose and move on. She found another person for the job who was willing to do that.
She also found satisfaction in having her perceptions validated.