At a previous pool I managed, I was elated when an unusual applicant walked into the office looking for a job, and asked to see me. She said she’d worked at the pool 10 years ago and was interested in working there again.

She named two other pools she had worked for since, and we went on to talk about teaching styles, generally meshing in our ideas. She was talented, had a great work ethic and was close to age 30, a decade older than most of my staff. I expedited the hiring process, checked her listed references and immediately bumped her up to senior guard status. 

For the first month things went pretty smoothly, but some questionable behavior patterns started to emerge. I began to hear rumors from patrons that my new staffer was bad-mouthing me and questioning the way I ran the pool.

After a few more months, I went on vacation and received daily text messages from other staff members: “She’s the devil! Please come back!” I began to grow concerned about what I might return to.

Upon arriving home, I talked with other staff members and, based on their feedback, wrote up a coaching plan to help my new senior guard learn how to better manage in a way that avoids an uprising. She refused to accept the coaching and stormed out of my office.

The next day I received a phone call from my organization’s human resources department. A laundry list of accusations had been brought against me and a formal investigation was under way. A private investigator was hired, and my staff and I were questioned about the integrity of my character. The accusations ranged in seriousness from “He said I wasn’t allowed to call him on vacation unless it was an emergency” to the outright defamation of “He buys alcohol for minors.”

As the investigation stretched on, I finally started to do the vetting that I should’ve done before hiring this employee. I called the pools she said she worked for previously. I discovered that she had been fired from both pools for insubordination and “trying to take over.”

At the end of the investigation, all charges were deemed unsubstantiated by the investigator and my name was cleared, or as cleared as it could be after a month-long investigation.