Ask Amy: We supported our fired co-worker until this surprising pettiness

Dear Amy: I work in a department with around 20 people.

Recently “Jo” was let go. I don’t know the full circumstances, but I was told there was “cause.” Since then many of us have kept in touch with Jo, commiserating and offering support.

Meanwhile, my coworker “Hannah” is about to have her first child. A bunch of us chipped in to get a gift for her.

Today, the person organizing the gift got a message from Jo, asking for their baby gift contribution back.

We have already returned Jo’s contribution (in the $20 range), but most of us believe that asking to have money for a baby gift returned is tacky and even kinda petty.

Hannah had nothing to do with Jo’s termination, and I know that Jo and Hannah were close at work. Jo had even signed the card before leaving, and wrote Hannah a very kind message — a message Hannah won’t see since we all feel that we should replace the card, now!

This whole incident changed a lot of people’s opinions of Jo. A few people are rethinking giving references for Jo because of this.

Was Jo way out of line, or should we cut this person some slack?

Perplexed Present-giver

Dear Perplexed: My first thought is that Jo is in a spiral and might suddenly be very worried about finances. It is not necessarily rational for Jo to believe that reclaiming this $20 will substantially affect the outcome, and yet when your employment situation has suddenly changed, immediate choices are not always rational.

My next thought is that Jo is hurt and bitter. Hurt plus bitter equals petty. And, yes, this person’s pettiness is out of line. Pettiness always is.

Of course this will affect your opinion of your former coworker, and yet my experience tells me that you will almost never regret cutting someone some slack, especially when they are hurt and acting out.

Think of it this way: Once slack is granted, you can always “de-slack” later, based on the person’s subsequent behavior.

When offering a job reference, you should only comment on your specific knowledge of that person’s job performance.

You don’t know why Jo was terminated, but to use this episode as a reason to refuse a recommendation would, in my opinion, also be petty.

Dear Amy: A close cousin of mine just got her first dog (after a lifetime as a cat-person).

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