it’s more Friday good news … this time with updates

It’s more Friday good news — this time with updates. Here are three updates from people who shared good news here in the past.

1. The working actor (#3 at the link)

Do I love my job? Sometimes. Do I want to throw my laptop into a lake? Perhaps. I am just shy of a year into my position, and while I love most of my coworkers and still deeply care about the mission of the organization, some of the leadership makes me want to absolutely tear my hair out (think constantly shifting priorities, constant panic, complete lack of personal boundaries, the whole nine). Combine non-profit financial uncertainty post-COVID (i.e. still working short-staffed) and some VERY strong personalities, BOY HOWDY it feels like I am stage managing a circus a lot of the time. I have certainly been given WAY more responsibility than I bargained for, but my contributions are acknowledged enthusiastically (and half of it is my fault anyway because I see a process that needs a-fixin’ and I just can’t leave it alone to save myself, job description be damned). It’s also been made clear to me that I can move vertically in pretty much any department I like.

The upshot? I know it’s bananacrackers, and I know I could walk if I wanted to. I’ve given myself a personal deadline of when and if to reevaluate my situation (there are factors at play that I can genuinely see changing within another 12 months or so, and I’m holding out to see where the wind blows). I would not see it for what it is, or have the language to navigate it, without this site.

P.S. The acting? Still possible. I’m being much choosier about auditions, but it helps to work somewhere that thinks it’s cool that you’re on TV. Big ups to remote work and self-tapes.

2. The person who escaped a bad manager (#1 at the link)

I remain happy I made the move that I did – I’m loving my new position and very much enjoying the extra money. In this time of the Great Reshuffle, though, everything feels like it remains in flux. Since I started my new position, my new team has had even more turnover – longer tenured veterans moving on right after I got to know them, etc. We’re now running low on institutional memory with only a few people remaining who have been around longer than a year and only two who have been on the team longer than 5 years.

Most significantly, the person who started less than a month after me as my new supervisor ended up being fantastic. I felt so lucky, because I had been very nervous, but they ended up being a great leader, mentor, and we clicked professionally and personally. VERY unfortunately, they are now moving on again to a higher paying position elsewhere, so we’re going back to square one, and I am now worried I’ll end up with another micromanager. At least this time I can participate in the interview process.

As a slight update on my previous position, there have been no raises or anything there to improve the very low pay, and I have heard from colleagues I left behind that my former supervisor is, if anything, even worse now. So I definitely still made the right decision! Just wish this reshuffle would settle down, because I’m getting whiplash from all the changes all the time!

3. The person trying to escape a bad manager (#3 at the link)

There was bad news that followed on from that early good news, which is that I ended up with the manager I didn’t want anyway. She wasn’t as stressful and micromanaging as I had feared, but my suspicions that we were not well-matched were entirely accurate. My opportunities for professional development and growth gradually diminished as I was assigned operational grunt work she didn’t want to do and I was discouraged from supporting my international colleagues and asked to track how much time I spent with them, even though they were the ones bringing me the most interesting challenges to solve. Her limited understanding and interest in the systems I primarily worked in meant my skills weren’t leveraged and my ideas not taken on. We struggled on for a year, but things hit a breaking point over the summer and I began looking at avenues of escape.

I am immensely pleased to say I found an excellent one. There’s a team I’ve been unofficially a part of for over two and a half years and I am moving departments to join them properly. This is a group of colleagues I admire and respect, who work hard and laugh a lot, and get things done. I will be using the foundations of my skill set to step up into a global role, taking on complex challenges and making the system better for our internal users worldwide. It’s going to be hard work, and I’m going to learn a lot, and I am so incredibly excited. The whole culture of the department is one of support and helping each other to thrive and succeed. Appreciation comes in words, appraisal scores, and compensation. My new manager has advocated more for me before I even complete the transfer than the current one has in over a year and I’m going across to a 10% raise, both in my regular salary and my bonus, with a further increase in the spring.

I am so glad I didn’t let myself stagnate and kept my relationships outside my department strong as they’ve really come through for me, and I’m looking forward to being part of a team that understands what I do, and therefore appreciates it. And thank you, Alison, for your advice, confidence building, and encouragement, I didn’t let myself settle for less than I was worth, and in the end got more!

it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “After sending a question to you in May (which you didn’t publish, no worries), I realized that writing to an advice column might be a sign that it was time to look for a new job. I identified a large organization that I would like to work for that was posting lots of remote positions. I subscribed to their weekly job postings and kept my eyes peeled. The first one I was keen on closed before I could apply (why say ‘open until filled’ but only leave it up for a week?) so I pounced on the next one, using all the resume tips from your site. There were several hurdles to clear but I am thrilled to say I will be starting my new gig in January: One with total flexibility in terms of hours/location, better pay, more vacation, and that will give me a year of maternity/parental leave at close to full salary if I have a baby.

Ironically – or perhaps not – it was some of the qualities that I wrote to you about in my current manager (the hyperbolic praise and intensity) that helped me secure the new job. My current boss is so super supportive and enthusiastic about me, she had no problem being a reference and talked me up to the moon. My new boss has mentioned several times what a glowing reference it was and I think I’ve already earned some credibility going into this job because of it. It was a gift to realize that now was the perfect moment to leave: The longer I stayed in the over-managed situation, the less confident I felt in finding something else. But I also valued my boss’ appreciation and I’m glad to have found a way to channel it into a new opportunity.

Thanks for your site, it is absolutely my favorite thing to read and I check it first thing every morning!”

2.  “I wanted to write in to thank you and your readers for the incredible gift you gave my family! My husband is an attorney and has practiced in a couple of different areas of the law during his 7-year career. He is very underpaid in his current job and is bullied and frozen out by one of the partners at his small firm. So needless to say, he has been considering a change.

I read your reader’s suggestion about the data privacy field and shared this with my husband. He obtained the certification, updated his resume, leveraged connections, and now will be starting a job in the field of privacy law next week! He is more than doubling his pay in salary alone (not including bonus) and is extremely excited about the role and the people on his new team. We are so grateful for your blog and your reader who gave us this idea. This is truly life changing for our family!”

3.  “I have spent the last two covid years at deputy director level, struggling with an unmanageable workload and an unreasonable director. Between the Covid pressures, the struggle to deliver all our normal workload, all of the additional projects he would come up with, and his apparent belief that all of these things could be top priority simultaneously, by September 2020 I was in tears every time I spoke to him. I kept saying we shouldn’t take on more projects while we couldn’t resource the ones we already had, and kept getting told off for being ‘negative.’

I kept forcing myself to work and ignoring my sypmtoms, but by summer 2021 I reallly could not cope, at which time I got ‘why didn’t you tell me earlier?’ (Apparently tears 3 times a week and regularly telling him I couldn’t cope didn’t register at all.)

Our occupational health diagnosed me with burnout at a level amounting to a protected disability, and backfill was arranged so that I only had one person’s high workload rather than three, but I still had ridiculous and impossible deliverables on top of 70 meetings a week (no exaggeration), plus vendor failures etc. So I was struggling on but not recovering.

Throughout this he was planning a restructure, and all of the drafts had my role in them. But this turned out to be fake documents he produced specifically to mislead me, and my job was removed from the new structure. (I suspect this is targeted because he doesn’t want to deal with my mental health issues, but can’t prove anything.)

This was the last straw and I gave up trying to fake being well, and accepted I just couldn’t go back there. I luckily live in a country/industry where I get a lot of sick leave, so I have been using that, and applied for voluntary severance.

I suspected that the jobs in the new structure were paid significantly below market rate, and that has turned out to be quite true.

I have just been offered a 1-year contract role at 12% pay rise, doing essentially exactly the same duties. This is perfect because I am looking to make a big move in a year or two anyway, and in the mean time I can put the extra money and the severance payment directly into savings to help fund it. And laugh all the way to my leaving do, where I intend to make him make a speech about how great I am.

So there really is light at the end of the tunnel. :)”

open thread – December 9-10, 2022

It’s the Friday open thread!

The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on any work-related questions that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to take your questions to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

coworker is angry about a prank, contacting my daughter’s employer about her affair, and more

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. My coworker is really angry about a prank

Some of my colleagues decided to pull (what they thought was) a harmless prank on a coworker. The coworker, “Jane,” is particular about her car – she always parks far from the entrance because she is concerned about car door “dings” and does not want anyone to park near her. As a joke, several people pulled their cars around her one morning last week. No one touched her car or impeded her ability to get into the car or leave the parking lot.

When Jane saw what they had done, she went ballistic and started yelling at everyone in the office. Keep in mind, Jane is usually the first to pull a silly prank in the office (think printing out pictures and papering a coworker’s cube with them).

Fast forward to today, and the weekend didn’t calm her down – nearly a week later, she is still refusing to speak to anyone involved in the prank. She has started parking her car even further out to ensure it is the only one in the area. The office is typically a friendly place, but Jane feels hard done by and shows no signs of getting over this. The employees who engaged in the prank feel she is completely overreacting since no harm came to her or the vehicle. It is a public lot after all with no assigned spots. Thoughts on what to do?

Pranks tend to be highly controversial in the comment section here (I suspect they’re more controversial here than anywhere in real life, but who knows) but since Jane has a track record of pulling pranks herself, I can’t fault your coworkers for thinking she’d see the humor in this. (You of course shouldn’t do this to someone who’s known not to be able to take a joke or laugh at themselves, because then it’s mean-spirited rather than funny.)

That said, since she’s upset by it, the coworkers involved should apologize. It doesn’t need to be a groveling apology or anything that would be out of proportion to what happened. But they should say something like, “Hey, we’re sorry that upset you. We meant it as an affectionate joke and thought you’d find it funny. But we see that you didn’t, so we’re sorry it upset you.”

If Jane continues to refuse to speak to people after that, a manager needs to intervene and tell her to let it go.

2017

2. Contacting my daughter’s employer about her affair

First, the behavior coming from my daughter is not her. It’s as though someone has taken her away.

My daughter started a new job end of November. She has always had a strong working ethic and went to college for human resources. We just recently found out she had been partying with girls from work and they have been encouraged her in having an affair. Well, her husband found out she is having an affair and all of us have been losing sleep and are emotionally stressed. He (husband) did talk to her and they had a plan to work it out.

The following day she had lunch with these girls and since has changed her mind and is staying with this guy and his roommate. Last night I found out the guy she is having the affair with is also on a dating site.

My daughter has been with her husband for seven years and he is devastated and wants to work on the marriage. I would like to contact the company and let them know what’s going on and also ask if they have a fraternization policy. What are your recommendations?

Oh my goodness, no. Do not under any circumstances contact her employer. This is not a work matter; this is between your daughter and her husband. Contacting her employer would be incredibly out of line.

I’m sure this is painful for you to watch, but you can’t interfere with your adult daughter’s employment in that way (or her personal life, for that matter).

2017

3. An employee told me she found another job and gave me an “offer” letter with the option to terminate her

I just had an employee bring a letter to me saying that she had an opportunity to work elsewhere and that she will be taking that job but would still be available to work for our company one day a week. If we decided not to accept her offer for one day a week, then she would “terminate” her employment with us. At the bottom of the page, it had a place for me to sign whether I accepted her one day a week, or declined her one day a week and accepted that it would be termination. Because she used the word “terminate,” I did not feel comfortable signing her letter because WE are not terminating her employment, SHE has decided to stop working her full time hours with us. But at the same time, we do not need an employee that will only be here once a week. We had a conversation about this and verbally informed her that one day a week would not work for our company and told her to write a letter of resignation and turn it in as soon as possible.

This was then followed by another letter “from her to our company” stating her termination of employment with the company. It also mentioned that she had offered to work one day a week and that it had been declined by the company. Again, I did not feel comfortable signing her letter because I did not agree with her wording. I told her that the letter must state that she is the one resigning from the position offered to her.

I have never had an employee resign this way. What do I do? Have I done anything wrong so far? Should I just continue to not sign her letters?

Yeah, this is super sketchy. She’s trying to make it look like you are letting her go — either so that she can collect unemployment (which she probably can’t anyway, since she’s accepting another job) or for some other reason, which is probably just a misunderstanding of the law.

I’d say this: “We’re not terminating you. You’re telling us that you’ve accepted another job and resigned. We are accepting your resignation.” If she says not resigning because she’s offering you one day a week, say this: “Your position is full-time. There’s not a part-time role available. We consider this a resignation, and aren’t going to continue debating this.” If she keeps pushing, say this: “I’m confused about what your goal is here. Is there some reason why you want this to be considered a termination?”

Also, stop trying to get her to write a resignation letter; if she won’t, she won’t, and at this point it’s just prolonging the debate. Write a memo explaining what happened, being as detailed as possible, and file it away. Additionally, give her a letter documenting the fact that she’s resigned, you’ve accepted it, and her last day will be X. Decline to discuss further.

2016

4. I accidentally described myself as “outgoing” when I’m not

When I interviewed for my upcoming job, I was asked to describe myself in three words or phrases. I said “professional, a self-starter, and outgoing.”

The first two are true, but I’m not outgoing. I’m usually introverted and quiet, although I am very good at networking. Also, my last job required a looooot of customer service interaction (700 or so people in an 8-hour shift), so I was primed to think of that while I was interviewing.

I swear that saying that wasn’t intended as a lie! It was just something that came to mind and I said it without thinking. But when I start this next job — which is NOT a customer-facing position — are they going to be expecting me to be super outgoing, or can I be more like myself?

Nah, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. They’re probably not going to mention the exact details of your answer to that question, and even if they did, they’re not likely to hold it against you.

The only thing I’d worry about here is whether you may have inadvertently gotten yourself hired into a job that isn’t the right match for you — if they really want/need someone who’s outgoing and you’re not. But (a) it’s unlikely that a single word in an interview would result in that, and (b) it sounds like you’ve adapted to environments that required a lot of interaction in the past.

Either way, your best bet here is to be yourself and see how it goes.

2017

Read an update to this letter here.

updates: the wall of shame, the stolen laptop, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My manager posted a “wall of shame” of people who didn’t volunteer to work more

As many of you guessed, I’m an RN and provide direct patient care in my unit. I’ve occasionally thought of moving on, but honestly, I love the doctors I work with and most of the staff as well. I’m one of the most senior staff and I feel like we improve patient lives and make a difference.

For those of you who were encouraging me to take a pic – don’t worry, that is the FIRST thing I did! I sent it to Alison with my original post, but I didn’t want to out myself or my colleagues, so I asked her not to post it.

I gave myself the weekend to calm down and when I went back to work the next week, the posting was down. I asked my charge about it and he said, “Oh yeah, I told [supervisor], ‘You should take that down. It’s really pissing people off’ and she said, ‘Really?’ and looked embarrassed and took it down right then.” So I decided that was good enough for me.

In the meantime, there have been other management issues that I haven’t loved and I’ve been brushing up my resume. If any readers want to hire an RN with 20+ years of experience in critical care and cardiology, hit me up!

From the comments: I really do like my supervisor – she was a great coworker until recently. And yes, she HAS picked up OT to help us. She’s not a villain, IMO, but she was never taught to manage people (most nurses aren’t) and is in a bad spot. I didn’t shame any coworkers because yes, some of them were eager or at least willing to work OT. There were enough of us that felt like me, though, which is why I stepped up. My issue wasn’t with the OT, but how it was being presented.

That said, I have a super snarky sense of humor and I loooooved all of you who suggested posting job openings and “The beatings will continue until morale improves” and health boundaries stuff: you are my people.

For the commenter who said that if healthcare workers can’t talk honestly about mental health, then where are the rest of us: I feel you and I’m sorry. I’m an overweight, depressed (but medicated!) nurse and I CAN advocate for myself, but I still hurt when I hear the biased comments and thoughtless criticism. If you are my patient, I care about you and I will defend you and I know that I’m not enough. I’ll keep working to change the system from the inside, I guess.

2. My employee keeps freaking out that lower-paid coworkers aren’t as productive as he is

I took a bit of a middle ground approach with your advice. I emphasized to “Tim” that I was satisfied with the rest of the team’s work. After some time has passed, I have gradually raised expectations for the rest of the team (but privately and through individualized training that I didn’t go out of my way to let “Tim” know was happening.) Task by task they built up their knowledge and efficiency. And low and behold, the newer team members began taking on more. The relationship between them and “Tim” isn’t cozy, but they are at least civil and I don’t hear weekly complaints anymore.

I have also set “Tim” on an advancement path to another team where he will build on his existing knowledge, but his work will be more siloed and won’t require so much interaction with team-members. His role will be back-filled by a new hire that seems to mesh better with the team.

Lastly, “Tim” has also recently started seeing a therapist outside of work to deal with personal stresses, and since then, he has been more easy going and less irritable than before.

So far, it seems like a happy ending!

3. Employee is using disability protections to do whatever he wants (#3 at the link)

After reading your response to my email, I had a talk with our manager and what to do about his bad attitude and attendance. The problem child was off that day, shocker.

Didn’t need to do a whole lot though and everything kind of feel into place. The next day when he came back he told one of the people he was working with that he knew he didn’t have long in the shop so he might just smash up some material on purpose just to go out with a bang. Well that’s all she wrote, the person working with him relayed that message and we gave him the boot literally one day after you posted my email.

He was brought back in a few days later to meet with the owner to turn in keys and final paycheck. He cried, apologized and begged to give him another chance. Didn’t though and he is history! Last we heard he’s still unemployed.

4. Do I still need to invite my former coworkers to my wedding? (#4 at the link)

I ended up reaching out to the coworkers that had been kind to me post-termination and let them know they were still welcome at the wedding, but I wouldn’t be sending out invitations to those I hadn’t heard from. I also let them know I understood if attending would make things difficult for them with my former boss, and that there were no hard feelings if they weren’t able to come. One asked if I would serve as a reference for them, and another offered to serve as a reference for me which was very kind. For several reasons, I now realize this was just not a great place to work, and I feel as though our inexperience was taken advantage of in a major way, since most of my coworkers had little to no prior work experience themselves.

I know some folks were confused why I invited coworkers at all—I wasn’t planning on it until my boss mentioned something to me about coming to the wedding, and it seemed like they expected an invitation. Another coworker was also planning a wedding around the same time and there was a lot of discussion about them inviting the entire team as well, so I saw it as an expectation of working for a small company. Since this happened, I’m working on holding firmer boundaries in my personal and professional life. I realize now that after my termination, I got stuck in an anxiety spiral and became fixated on this issue, which really wasn’t much of an issue at all in the long run.

I was lucky to have my fiancé’s support during my brief period of unemployment, so I was able to laser-focus on wedding planning, mental health healing and job hunting. After these past few months, I can confidently say that the wedding went off without a hitch and, in the meantime, I landed a fantastic new position in a new field that I absolutely love! Thank you so much for your response and to those that commented advice too!

5. How to tell your boss a sex worker stole your work laptop

My friend wasn’t thrilled with your and the readers’ responses. I had omitted/changed some minor details to protect his identity, which led to some incorrect assumptions. When the theft happened, the first thing that he did was contact the police and hotel security.

Ultimately his work didn’t press for further details. He got the sense that they really didn’t want to know more. These weren’t the actions of a criminal mastermind so the perpetrator was apprehended quickly and the laptop was returned with no issues.

update: my interviewer sent me an email saying my scars are triggering

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

Remember the letter-writer whose interviewer sent her an email saying her scars were triggering? Here’s the update.

I didn’t expect to have an update on this, but here we are. Happy update season, everyone!

First, a huge thank you to both yourself and the commenters. I’m a daily reader of your blog, so I figured the advice would be that this is annoying, but ultimately not my problem.

My interview with Marcia was my first in-person interview, but I’d two prior phone interviews with someone in HR, and then a second interview with the HR director. Both went very well, and so I sent an email to the director with Marcia’s email attached. In short, I said that I had withdrawn my candidacy in no small part due to my interview with Marcia, and that the email she sent after the fact only confirmed that I had made the right decision. I also said that I was not looking for anything specific from them, but that Marcia’s comments toed the line of discriminating based on a disability and religion (thank you for that little tip!) and that I would not want any legal trouble to befall the company in the future. I again thanked them for the opportunity and wished them well in their search.

Less than an hour later I was on the phone with Bob, who said he oversaw HR and had been forwarded my email. He wanted to speak to me about what happened. I recounted the story, and he seemed genuinely appalled. Bob apologized profusely, asked if I’d like to throw my hat back in the ring for the position. I thanked him but declined, citing that this experience had soured my views on the company. He said he understood, thanked me for bringing everything to their attention, and wished me well. I presumed that would be the end of it and I wouldn’t have much of an update to send.

I was incorrect. That evening I got a phone call from an unknown number. I didn’t answer and truthfully forgot about it until later that evening when I saw the icon on my phone for a voicemail. It was from Marcia. I listened to it on speakerphone while I washed dishes. According to the voicemail my “baseless threats to sue [COMPANY]” had resulted in her termination. She “couldn’t believe she had wasted prayers on me” and “was only trying to help.” Marcia made sure to inform me that I was “totally unsuited” for the position I had applied for, and that a “heathen sinner like me” didn’t deserve gainful employment. I blocked her (but kept the voicemail) and emailed Bob one final time to notify him of the interaction (not that he could do much, but I had to tell someone). He thanked me for the additional info, and that was the last I heard from either of them.

A few other little bits –

The tart I was making was for Passover, so the irony in all of this was PALPABLE.

Some people asked – it was a blood orange custard tart, and it was delicious.

I actually decided to stay at my current job. I’d mentioned I was only casually searching because I wasn’t necessarily unhappy, but I wasn’t happy either. Well, I had my yearly review and had 1) some of the tasks I disliked removed from my desk, 2) picked up a substantial project to manage on my own, and 3) got a 10% raise, plus a very nice bonus. So yay!

I debated putting this part in, but in the spirit of the letter overall – there were a couple commenters who seemed to agree with Marcia, that I should cover these scars forever and ever because people might “think things.” Your opinion is of course your own, but I’d encourage you to think about the biases you have here. Scars are scars, they are part of life. People acquire them for all kinds of reasons, in all kinds of places. They aren’t really indicative of anything other than living life.

Thank you again to Alison and all the wonderful commenters!

update: my employee makes off-color jokes

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

Remember the letter-writer whose employee was making off-color jokes? Here’s the update.

Thanks for publishing my letter. I had my review meeting with Fergus a few days after it was published and used a script very similar to the one you described. I also approached it in a fairly low-key way rather than thinking of it as disciplining. As I expected, he was very receptive to the feedback, and as soon as I brought it up, he knew what I was talking about. I explained that there was always a chance someone might overhear something like that and not realise it’s a joke, but also that more simply it just reflected badly on him, which I didn’t want for him. I also acknowledged that Martin was the one to make the first joke about drug references, but that Martin isn’t generally someone to emulate anyway.

Fergus took it all on board and wasn’t resistant to the feedback at all. We talked about how joking around at work isn’t the same as joking around with your friends, even in a fairly casual atmosphere like our office. He did briefly bring up the idea that being close to the line was part of the joke, but I made it clear that at work that line is much further back. He agreed and said he’d be more careful with his jokes and comments in the future.

And he has been! There was once incident where someone brought a delivery to his desk and there was some brief joking around the idea that it might be sex toys or something, I piped up with a “guys…”, Fergus clocked it immediately and said “sorry!” and that was that (and the worst of the joking had come from the other staff member, anyway).

The comments on the original post were really helpful, especially from some people who had been on the other end of feedback like this and how it opened their eyes a bit. A few people felt that I should have been calling Martin up on his joke as well, and not singling out Fergus. However I don’t manage Martin and really wouldn’t have the standing to bring it up with him – my organization has a pretty flat structure and Martin and I are about equal in the hierarchy. Plus he’s much older than Fergus and has been in the workforce significantly longer (and been at my company about a year longer than me), and he is NOT the type to take feedback on the taste level of his humour particularly well. So he can keep making whatever impression he wants, I’m not going to make that one my problem!

my employee gossiped about a conversation she eavesdropped on

A reader writes:

I am the general manager of a large company. Recently I had a closed-door meeting in my office with our HR manager, Jenny, discussing the issues of the week, including disciplining a difficult employee and succession planning for Jenny’s unannounced new role in the company.

When we exited the office, we noticed that an employee, Patty, was quietly working late in the office next to us, and her manager Ashley (who I manage) was in there. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but I found out later that Ashley had moved into Patty’s office specifically to eavesdrop. The next day, all of the sensitive details of our hour-long conversation had made their rounds through all of the employees in the office. Patty had told Ashley to come over to her office to listen! We just had a training session on reducing gossiping a week ago, because of an incident with another one of Ashley’s employees, and it’s done nothing to stop the gossip problem.

I am livid. I chose not to respond immediately so I could cool down and not respond emotionally. I know that I need to confront both Ashley and Patty, but have no idea what to say.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

all of my 2022 book recommendations

All year long, I’ve made a weekly book recommendation when kicking off the weekend open thread. These aren’t work-related books; they’re just books I like, mostly fiction. Sometimes they’re books that I’m in the middle of reading, and other times they’re just long-standing favorites.

Here’s the complete list of what I’ve recommended this year (maybe in time for holiday gift-shopping!). I’ve bolded my favorites of the favorites.

Dava Shastri’s Last Day, by Kirthana Ramisetti. A wealthy philanthropist brings her family to a private island to disclose her terminal illness and plans for her death. Emma Straub said, “If Succession were about a multicultural family who actually loved each other, it might look like this.” I really liked it.

Ghosts, by Dolly Alderton. It’s light but it’s dark. It’s a rom com but it’s more. It’s about ghosting but it’s also about aging parents and changing friendships and career angst and the general mess of life, and it’s funny.

The Maid, by Nita Prose. The narrator, a neurodivergent maid at a high-end hotel, finds a wealthy guest dead in his bed and is accused of his murder.

Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper, by Hilary Liftin. Clearly inspired by the marriage of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, this is an account of an up-and-coming actor who marries a Hollywood A-lister and finds that life with him is not what she expected — and escape is not easy.

All This Could Be Yours, by Jami Attenberg. A family deals with the impending death of their very difficult patriarch.

My Italian Bulldozer, by Alexander McCall Smith. A Scottish food writer, reeling from a break-up, heads to Italy to finish his latest book. Mishaps abound (including a problem with his rental car, which leaves him renting a bulldozer instead).

The Christie Affair, by Nina de Gramont. This is the second novel I’m recommending about the time in 1926 when Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days, claiming on her return to her faithless husband that she didn’t know where she had been. This one is better than the first, although they are both good and apparently I will read an endless quantity of novels about her disappearance.

Fall or Fly: The Strangely Hopeful Story of Foster Care and Adoption in Appalachia, by Wendy Welch. Fascinating and heart-breaking and frustrating and important.

Paula, by Isabel Allende. A mother’s memoir of family, as her daughter lays in a coma. Beautiful and haunting.

Yearbook, by Seth Rogen. It’s presented as a collection of personal essays, but it’s really more of a memoir about growing up Jewish in Canada in the 80s and 90s, doing a lot of drugs, and trying to figure out family, girls, and comedy. At the start I thought it might be A Bit Too Much, but it’s genuinely funny.

Olga Dies Dreaming, by Xochitl Gonzalez. A wedding planner and her politician brother, abandoned by their radicalized mother, struggle with relationships, political corruption, and family secrets.

The Lifeguards, by Amanda Eyre Ward. Three mothers try to protect their teenage sons when they might be involved in a woman’s suspicious death.

The Intangible, by C.J. Washington. It’s about a woman who’s not pregnant but is convinced she is, and what happens around her.

Secrets of Happiness, by Joan Silber. In a story told by six different narrators, a family finds out their father/husband has a second wife and two kids living across town. This is about what happens afterwards.

A Splendid Ruin, by Megan Chance. An orphan goes to live with rich relatives in 1906 San Francisco, and quickly realizes something is off about her flashy new family.

Old New York, by Edith Wharton. If you need to escape the current moment in time, these four novellas will let you instead worry about the morals of the mid-1800s.

Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St. John Mandel. I don’t know what to say about this! There’s a writer on a book tour and a detective using time travel, and a son exiled from his rich family, and it jumps between centuries. I did not like it quite as much as the author’s Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, but she writes beautifully and the experience of reading this is almost trance-like.

Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. A scientist in the 1960s fights sexism, becomes a cooking show star (insisting the whole time that she is a chemist, not a chef), raises a dog and a child, and fights more sexism. It’s darkly funny, quirky, and satisfying.

Happy for You, by Claire Stanford. Midway through her dissertation, a woman leaves grad school to study happiness at the world’s third largest tech company, while grappling with race, family, (possible) marriage, and (possible) motherhood.

Counterfeit, by Kirstin Chen. Rules-follower Ava Wong gets swept up into her college friend’s luxury handbag counterfeit scheme. It’s both a crime caper and an exploration of race, stereotypes, friendship, and who we believe.

The Latecomer, by Jean Hanff Korelitz. A marriage borne out of tragedy produces triplets who feel a strong disconnect from their parents and each other. I do love a dysfunctional family saga and this is one of them, although I think I still prefer Korelitz’s The Plot.

The Golden Couple, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. A woman confesses her infidelity to her husband and tries to repair her marriage with the help of an unorthodox therapist, but all is not as it seems. I picked this up intending to read for 10 minutes before bed and was still reading hours later. Not all of it is entirely plausible, but you’ll find yourself not caring about that because it’s so riveting.

Love Marriage, by Monica Ali. An engaged couple each struggle with their own demons, their families, and each other.

I’d Like to Play Alone, Please, by Tom Segura. I love his stand-up comedy and he’s just as funny in book form.

Any Other Family, by Eleanor Brown. Three different families adopt siblings, vowing to function as one big family to keep the kids connected. It turns out, though, that chosen family can be just as aggravating as the family you’re born into — and then the kids’ mom announces she’s pregnant again. I really loved this.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin. After creating a wildly successful video game, two lifelong friends contend with fame, love, and their relationship with each other.

The Boys, by Katie Hafner. At the start of this book, the father of two boys receives a letter from a bike touring company, politely asking that he never use their service again. What follows is … a love story? A story of loneliness, connection, family, and grief. It is beautiful in ways that you don’t see coming, and I loved it.

The Startup Wife, by Tahmima Anam. A newlywed coder and her husband develops a wildly popular app with her husband, who soon becomes a messiah-like figure to users (the app creates customized spiritual experiences for the non-religious). Things go sideways.

The Foundling, by Ann Leary. A young woman in the 1920s gets a job at an asylum for women and begins to unravel the dark truth of what’s happening there.

Peter Darling, by Austin Chant. A transgender re-telling of Peter Pan, in which Peter returns to Neverland as an adult and forges a surprising connection with Hook.

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, by Sangu Mandanna, about a nanny to three young witches who must question the witching rules she grew up with. Cozy in a way that reminded me of The House in the Cerulean Sea. Highly recommended.

Happy-Go-Lucky, by David Sedaris. As always, he’s both funny and dark while writing about his family, and this time the pandemic too.

Girls They Write Songs About, by Carlene Bauer. The story of two friends over decades. Beautifully written and perfectly captures the intensity of 20something friendship, as well as how time can change the thing you once made together.

The Lost Ticket, by Freya Sampson. Strangers unite to help an elderly man who is searching for a woman he met on a bus 60 years ago. Someone called this a “hug in book form” and that’s pretty much right.

How to Fall Out of Love Madly, by Jana Casale. Three 30something women try to navigate friendship, roommates, family, work, and love, while grappling with Bad Behavior from men. Gossipy and often relatable.

The Complicities, by Stacey D’Erasmo. After her husband is arrested for Madoff-like crimes, a woman tries to build a new life for herself.

Lucy By the Sea, by Elizabeth Strout. As Covid lockdowns begin, a woman and her ex-husband isolate together in Maine. It’s beautifully written.

Everything I Know About Love, by Dolly Alderton. That friend everyone has in their 20s who’s always slightly tipsy and a complete mess with men, but enormous fun? That is this book.

These Precious Days: Essays, by Ann Patchett. She is a beautiful writer and the title essay will make you cry, or at least it did me.

Little Children, by Tom Perrotta. Two suburban parents, both aimlessly drifting in unsatisfying marriages, are drawn into an affair against a backdrop of stultifying suburbia. Very John Cheever meets Madam Bovary.

Now Is Not the Time to Panic, by Kevin Wilson. Two teenagers cause panic in their small town with a mysterious poster, still reverberating 20 years later. I love everything Wilson writes.

My First Popsicle: An Anthology of Food and Feelings, edited by Zosia Mamet. Various people writing about food, including Danny Lavery on the food literary children take when running away, Jia Tolentino on acid chicken, Tony Hale (Gary from Veep!) on his love of chain restaurants, and more.

Diary of a Provincial Lady, by Em.M. Delafield. This is Bridget Jones if she were married and writing in 1929, and it is hilarious.

And if you’re looking for more, here are my lists of book recommendations from 2021from 2020from 2019from 2018from 2017from 2016 … and from 2015.

Also: Please note that the HarperCollins Union has been on strike for 21 days and members have been working without a contract for months. Striking workers in this very underpaid industry are asking for a contract that reflects diversity commitments, union protections, and wage adjustments.

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