weekend open thread – December 4-5, 2021

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand.

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn. An island’s totalitarian government bans the use of more and more letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial to the town’s namesake.

 I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

updates: the loud neighbor, the pyramid scheme, 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 neighbor plays loud porn while I’m on work calls

I didn’t have a good way of communicating with the other building (i.e. no building management). After a few more occasions of hearing porn, I snapped and wrote a note that I posted through the front door of that building, which basically said I lived next door and could hear adult entertainment playing very audibly, and I realised they might not be aware but could whoever it was please turn it down or use headphones in future? I didn’t get a response, but a couple of days later it was back very loudly, so either they didn’t see the note or didn’t care. That was frustrating, but fortunately it has not happened very much since then, and never when I’ve been on a work call. If it had happened, I would definitely have tried to stay muted or if impossible apologised for generic background noise.

Also, having lived here for 7 years, my partner and I have just bought a house together in a different part of the city, so soon we’ll have moved and this neighbour won’t be a problem anymore! Here’s hoping our new neighbours are a bit more considerate…

2. I’m working for a pyramid scheme

I wanted to write in and give you a one-year update on this letter.

I decided to give my notice almost as soon as I sent you my initial question – I realized if I had to ask, I probably already knew the answer. But before I could give my notice, I tested positive for COVID (due entirely to the “sales” job’s lax safety policies). I spent my last two weeks of the job stuck in my apartment, the sickest I’ve ever been, but it was better than spending any more time scamming people.

I was picked up by a local temp agency after a few weeks of job hunting, and spent most of 2021 in various short-term office contracts. I knew I wanted to find something more permanent, so when I was between contracts in August I started really pouring myself into the job search, and I just started in an admin/support role with a major financial services company! I have a salary! I have benefits! I have so much support in this role, and the training and processes are systematic enough that I actually enjoy the “mandated fun” morale-building events – I feel like they have a point and are coming from somewhere genuine, rather than being part of a carrot/stick setup. There are a lot of options for potential growth in this role, and none of it relies on me finding five people who can find five people, etc. etc.

Thanks to you and the comments section for confirming that I wasn’t exaggerating how bad my situation was last year. I feel a million times better about my new role than I ever thought I’d feel.

3. How can I navigate office politics when I hate hierarchy and authority?

I’m the OP who had the question a few years back about hating hierarchy and authority and worrying about how that would play out in a more white collar profession. I was worried about my feelings being an impediment in such an environment. Well, it looks like my worries were unfounded, because I just found out yesterday that I got a HUGE promotion!

I excelled at that former position for two and a half years, setting records and growing the sales territory larger than it had ever been before. In fact, in the 2.5 years I was working the route, I never missed quota. I quickly became known as the top performer on the team and developed AWESOME relationships with not just my buyers but also all of my colleagues – I really like the culture where we work and everyone is supportive and kind. I developed a great reputation with suppliers, colleagues and managers which ended up really working in my favor.

A few weeks back, my former VP announced she was leaving to work elsewhere in the industry, and that led to a total restructuring of our department. Essentially, we merged with the California team, becoming one large west coast division, and a new position was created a level up from my previous role. The new leadership is FANTASTIC and for the first time I felt like everything was right: the right timing, the right role, and the right people to work under. I also felt confident that I would be successful given my track record and the management style of the new VPs. So I threw my hat in the ring.

As soon as they heard I was interested, they tapped me immediately and fast tracked me through the interview process. It only took about a week, and finally yesterday afternoon my new boss called to offer me the job, with a 33% increase in salary, a large bonus, and incentives/commissions available as well!

I am so happy! It really is just about finding the right fit. I giggle now remembering the “rawr hierarchy,” as I myself move up in it. But with the right people who view management as merely a tool to get things done (as you say), it’s really not a problem. I’m very glad to be growing with them.

4. I just started a new job — and then got a PhD offer from my dream school

I wrote in February 2020 and as you can imagine, my whole situation changed radically about three weeks after I sent in my email!

We lived in a state with a very strict and long shelter-in-place, so:

No meeting contractors; no campus visit; no vacation.

Given how uncertain everything looked in March, April, and May of 2020, I wasn’t even sure if my PhD was going to exist come fall. In June, I took the advice of some commenters and talked to my boss about two months ahead of the start of my PhD program. For reasons still unclear to me, the PhD program required that I live near campus, even if I was attending class remotely. My workplace stayed 100% remote, so I was able to keep my job with somewhat reduced hours. I *barely* maintained the workload for both, and was only able to do so because work responsibilities were very light due to the pandemic.

As things have started to normalize, the demands and workload for both work and school increased to unsustainable levels. Additionally, work is returning in a hybrid mode in the spring and I won’t be back in the area for at least 3 1/2 years, so I’ve had to (with deep regret) give up the job. In spite of the world briefly falling apart, I feel like I got the best situation I could have and was so grateful to be able to do both as long as I did.

updates: the muting, the pregnancy announcement, 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 three updates from past letter-writers.

1. Shouldn’t we mute ourselves during group calls?

I no longer mute myself in calls with my boss and our small team unless I’m sneezing, coughing, etc. and, as predicted, my boss stopped commenting on it. As I said in my letter, I knew what to do but really needed a gut check to make sure I wasn’t off base on virtual meeting norms. For that purpose alone, it was lovely and reassuring to read your response and hear from the AAM commentariat. I also really hadn’t thought about my boss thinking I was muting because of problematic reasons like you pointed out in your response, because, although I do have times throughout the day where I might be off-task, it’s never in a meeting (especially with my boss!).

A few people suggested a headset as a potential solution, which I have and use nearly 100% of the time. The problem with that suggestion is our meetings are in Teams, and using the mute button on my headset also mutes me in Teams. We do have another platform that allows for the headset-muted-but-not-showing-muted-in-the-meeting, and it is glorious. So if anyone has suggestions for a specific make/model of a headset that works like that in Teams or a way to change my Teams settings to allow it, share that knowledge!

One bit I left out is that my boss very much likes things done their way and generally believes that what they do should work for everyone else (and if you read the original letter, they don’t mute pretty much ever). My boss is also new to managing high-level individual contributors (my team) vs. entry-level employees (their previous team) which was likely a control/trust issue that was manifesting itself in being fixated on my muting behaviors (among other things). I’m happy to say that they’ve chilled out and just today, left for a week of vacation with me as the team’s point person for upper leadership in their absence. Should I find myself in any meetings on their behalf, I’ll be sure to mute myself when not speaking.

2. Announcing a pregnancy when I’m remote (#5 at the link)

I told my boss about the pregnancy during a 1:1 meeting, then told my 3 coworkers who do very similar work to me during a standing group meeting later in the week. I guess the news network was still partly intact during remote work because I got a few congratulations from others. But I completely missed out on these news networks because I found out only a few weeks before my due date that another person in my department was expecting with his fiance and his leave would partly overlap with mine (we have gender neutral paid leave at my company). His baby was due within 3 days of mine but ended up being born a couple of weeks early.

I had my baby in late May and received the standard card from work that a bunch of people signed (though mostly they were email messages that my boss printed out and put in the card due to remote work). I was surprised at how many former coworkers signed who are now in other departments, so I guess the news spread more than I realized.

I came back from leave in late September just as we were returning to work in person in a hybrid schedule. It turns out that two other people in my department had babies in September, and another is having a baby in December. We had our own little pandemic baby boom.

3. When I turn down a job, can I recommend someone else? (#5 at the link)

Thanks so much for your original advice! I did forward on candidates to the other places, most of whom got interviewed and a couple got accepted.

I took my top pick of the jobs in 2020 but it was not the job I expected it to be—not very much upward momentum, a tiny team in charge of way too much, and my (good) manager left, leaving a weird void where nobody took responsibility. We were doubly crushed by changes brought on by COVID. One of my former work-friends started at the place I recommended her for (call it company 2), and she thrived there. We chatted often, and I shared that I was kinda frustrated at the new place (not even looking for anything) and she immediately messaged her boss telling him to pounce and offer me a job. I was wary, but having a friend already working at company 2 meant I could really ask her questions and find out everything—strengths and weaknesses—and it made the application process more of a conversation than “we’re desperate for help so we’ll gloss over the problems on both sides.” I started a job there last month, and it’s already a much better fit, with better pay, better benefits, and it’ll be better for my career. Also they take personal time very seriously and have great structure for career improvement. I don’t think you should do good deeds because they might come back to help you, but in this case it really did.

So that’s my update! It was a little question, but I think (karmically) it’s pretty neat.

it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “I recently graduated with my PhD in Public Health and while I experienced some major burnout and frustrations along the way I’m excited and proud of myself for this accomplishment! On top of this, my graduate advisor was rather unorganized, “hands-off,” and rather frustrating to work with and made progress feel like torture. While I think they recognized that my output was lower than the average PhD student, they’ve made up for the terrible mentorship through stellar references highlighting my work ethic, independence, problem solving, and resilience when it comes to frustrating situations. This is to say I have a mixed relationship with them but I’m still trying to be positive about our relationship because I need it be good but professional to move on.

Since graduation and some recovery time, I’ve had a lot of attention in the job market in academia but I’m not always sure how to interpret some of the postdoc/job processes that I’ve been through. They are all at major institutions (ranked #1 or 2 in the country) so they have well established HR departments but my communication with individual professors vary significantly. One professor in particular has been communicating with me a bit erratically and under the impression I will automatically work for him. This informal communication style hasn’t been the worse- I know of others in my field who simply do not communicate any information at all- so it hadn’t been a red flag for me immediately. However, the assumption that I will automatically work for this group (without an offer letter no less) made me nervous, especially since I feel like this communication will make an impression based on how I react and how positive I seem to taking this position.

Fast forward a few weeks of radio silence after this intial interview process and I get an urgent text message from him asking if I was still interested in the position and there were still some pieces of the hiring process that needed to be completed. I ignored this text as I was busy interviewing at another place and felt like this was unprofessional. The next day I received an urgent call from him with a lengthy voicemail. I called back and left a voicemail only to be texted back about being busy in a meeting and unable to talk,etc but that he needed to know if I was going to move across the country and take the position. Essentially giving me an ultimatum without knowing the conditions of this position (which did have some but limited room for negotiation). I was pretty annoyed- this whole process took 3.5 months and frankly was a test of my patience (professor cited multiple trips out of town and vacation as a reason for being delayed) and I was still being asked to commit without reassurances. I’m not sure how common this is in academia but I turned down the offer. Turning down the offer was the best choice, but I felt really rejected and uncomfortable throughout that process and it really shook my already unsteady confidence (remember unsupportive PhD experience)

As for my good news! I ended up getting another job outside the grind of academic life that I start in two weeks! I don’t have to move my family across the country and will be paid 30% more than standard positions in my field. This position specifically values all my educational/research experience and I was hired at a higher level than another recent graduates because of my previous research experience and dissertation topic. This has been so transformative and I don’t feel like I’m sacraficing the years I’ve spent in graduate school to restart my career in my thirties. My new hiring manager has been nothing but warm and kind answering all my questions and reassuring me that any transition period to something other than research will be part of the process and that I don’t need to do homework on their different systems (I asked if there was anything I should be learning before starting). This has already been a breath of fresh air based on how organized and transparent this organization has been with regards to the communication (no texting), timelines, and expectations within the position.”

2.  “I’m in a job that I mostly like, but have been seeing a few red flags here and there, and lately started looking around for other options in my area. I was delighted to see an ad for a company that is well established, widely beloved in the neighborhood, and hiring in exactly my field! I dashed off a quick cover letter, which turned out to be easy when I really did have all kinds of Good Feelings toward this place, got an interview, which I could *walk to from my house*, was asked back for a second one… where, it really seemed that *they* were trying to impress *me* – and yesterday I was offered a job! I was all calm and collected when I got the call, politely gave myself an hour or two to look everything over before calling back, and successfully negotiated the salary up to where I’d hoped to end up. The hours are a lot better than my current office, and I can’t wait to start there in January 2022!”

3.  “In January of 2020, I learned that my company was going to be acquired. I was one of the first to learn because, as a small company, I was going to be a part of the external marketing campaign. The merger was voted on and approved in May, and in July I accepted a new position with the new company, the only hitch is that it was in another state. My husband and I decided to pack up and move and see what the new company had to offer. I was only 1 of 5 offered a new position so I was flattered and I really believed in the mission of what we did, so it felt like the right move.

After 8 months in the role, I knew I had made the wrong choice. They doubled my work, took away the remote work option (even though we thrived through a merger, covid, natural disaster, etc.) during the last year, AND halved my department which I led. The final straw was when they said we needed to start traveling, up to 40%. My previous position called from up to 25% travel, but was closer to 15-20%. With the reduced staff, no plans to hire more, higher workload, covid risk and honestly homesickness for the whole family, I made the difficult decision to resign. I gave them 4 weeks, with the idea that afterwards, I could stay home with my kid, while I look for another job in my hometown.

The day after my (to them) very shocking resignation, I had an interview at the first place I applied to in my hometown.I decided to purposely move towards a ‘step down’ role to take care of the burnout I’d had for the last year and a half. Using your advice, I addressed that in my cover letter, so it wasn’t a surprise. The interview was scheduled to be a half hour zoom pre-interview, but extended to over an hour. About 45 minutes later, the woman called me to offer me the job! She was really impressed with me and since she knew I was overqualified, she wanted to snatch me up because she knew that I would be a good fit for not just the role I got, but other roles in the company in the future. The other thing she was impressed with was that I asked, ‘Does anything give you concern about hiring me?’ She said she LOVED that I asked that. She said it was the most honest and transparent interview she’d ever done.

I’m so pleased to say that I’ve been with them a month and I’m so much happier. I’m 100% less stressed, my family and I are thriving, and we are even able to get into our dream house back home. Sometimes, the title and the pay aren’t worth the stress.”

open thread – December 3-4, 2021

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related 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 talk 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.

I had a fling with my boss’s son, should I sing a song at my interview, 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. I had a fling with my boss’s son

Within the last two months, I got a new job in my hometown and moved back there. I’ve been at my job about a month now and LOVE it. It’s a great culture fit and I really enjoy the work. However, I’ve run into a little snag. I went to lunch with my boss (Dwight) and my boss’s boss (Pam).

I hadn’t spent a lot of time with Pam previously, so we were chatting more about our personal lives. Pam is much older than I am, close to my mom’s age, and was mentioning that her son just moved to a different city for a new job as well. Through this discussion, I came to realize that I had a very brief fling with her son about two years ago. I’m assuming she does not know this (and I intend to keep it that way!) but I now feel supremely awkward around her. Should I just try to put it out of my mind? Any advice on how to compartmentalize this rather embarrassing situation?

Yep, try to put it out of your mind! There’s a good chance that it’ll never come up between her and her son, and if it does, she’ll probably assume that you still haven’t made the connection yourself. It doesn’t have to be a big deal! People have flings, and this was long before she was your boss.

Also, it might help to de-sexualize it in your head — reframe it to yourself as “I hung out for a bit with Pam’s son, long before I worked for her.” And in fact, if it ever does come up, that’s how you could frame it to her too: “Oh, we hung out a few times! How funny — small world.”

(Also, it feels like this has to have been the plot of a Kate Hudson movie at some point.)

2018

2. Should I sing a song at my interview?

I have an interview in a week at a well-established clothing company for a job doing phone and email customer support. If there’s a chance to sell something along the way, the support agents are expected to do a good job with that too.

They asked the candidates to bring an object and have a presentation about the object. It can be presented as we wish.

Straight away, I knew I had to bring my guitar and I have a whole thing prepared already. But then suddenly I got the idea that I could write a song about my guitar and present it that way? Do you think they will appreciate that? I don’t know if it’s too risky. I know they will remember me for it, but will they think it’s not serious? It just seems kind of boring to bring a guitar without playing anything on it.

Don’t do it. Exercises like this are generally supposed to give a window into your work skills. You’re not going to be singing to customers (I’m assuming/hoping), so doing your presentation in song isn’t going to give them information about how you’d perform on the job, which is what they’re looking for.

That said, I’m 100% sure that there are some hiring managers out there who would like this and think that it demonstrated personality and energy … but there are more who would feel like you missed the point of the exercise.

2016

3. Should I tell my boss my coworker doesn’t really need two weeks out for surgery?

I have a coworker who is consistently out of office. She yearly takes more time than is allotted, even though she has 30 years and is wanting to retire. Is it wrong of me to expect her to show up?

My boss doesn’t seem to be addressing it even though I’ve complained because her workload falls on me routinely — and our workloads as it is are vastly different. (I’d say my workload is at minimum 80% more than hers, with only one pay grade/title step difference.)

Here’s the thing — she’s been out most of last month and now this month. She took vacation knowing she had “surgery” coming up two weeks later. This surgery has her out one week and working from home one week because of inability to drive due to medication.

The thing is, she told me that her surgery is a simple breast cyst removal. I’ve had that done. It’s needle aspiration, out-patient with a less than 24-hour recovery with no harsh meds that would inhibit driving/working. So she’s milking two weeks out of this by not being honest. What do I do with this information?

If I weren’t so sick and tired of holding her load for the last three years, I would do nothing. But it’s the fact that she routinely takes above our allotted time and it falls on me to pick up her slack without ever a thank-you (in fact, if I don’t do her work say on Friday and let her catch up on Monday, she will moan and complain that I didn’t do her work Friday. Forget the hundreds of times I HAVE done her work.) She’s entitled, selfish, and lazy. I’m overworked, overwhelmed, almost on burnout, and here she’s going be out two weeks milking a less-than- 24-hour procedure. Do I take this information to my manager or not?

Nope. You don’t have enough information about what’s really going on; it’s possible she’s having more serious surgery than what she told you (and just didn’t want to reveal it to you), or that there are complications you don’t know about, or that you just don’t have all the details. More importantly, you really don’t want to be in the position of judging what other people do and don’t need for their health; it is squarely Not Your Business.

But there’s a part of this that is your business: your workload. If covering for your coworker is causing you workload problems, you should talk to your boss about that — you don’t need to just take on more and more until you break. Here’s advice on what to say when you do that. And if your coworker complains to you that you’re not handling her work for her, you can say, “I don’t have the time to do it. Sorry!” Maybe followed by, “If you need it covered, you should talk to (manager).”

2018

4. Coworker wants a bigger retirement send-off than we’re willing to fund

I work for a state government organization, which means we have no budget for anything extra or perks. When people retire, their office generally comes together to do something for them. It’s very usual to have cake and punch in a conference room open to the entire organization. We are a smaller office; there are eight of us working right now. The last person who retired got an engraved vase and a dinner out, which cost about $20 per person. We now have another person retiring (who is not a great coworker and has a very difficulty personality) who wants a lunch out, and a reception in the afternoon, and a gift. When it is up to us to fund our coworkers parties, what is reasonable? How do we manage her expectations when we can’t, or aren’t willing, to do a full-day retirement extravaganza?

It’s not great to treat people significantly differently with stuff like this, even when you’re funding it yourselves. If you know you won’t want to do a big hurrah for everyone, that’s an argument for keeping it relatively low-key for everyone. Sometimes people think “but if we’re funding it ourselves, why shouldn’t we be able to do something fancy for the good coworker and something smaller for the difficult coworker?” But this is work, and it’s unkind to do that, even if theoretically you have the right to.

Luckily, it sounds like that fancier retirement send-off was an aberration, and your usual mode is cake and punch. I think you can lean on that with this latest retiree. Say something like, “We realized after Jane’s send-off that we couldn’t sustain that because of the cost per person, and that the money involved meant people really wanted to stick to our traditional cake and punch like we’d always done before. Will you let Bob know what kind of cake you’d like to have, or if there’s another dessert you’d prefer?”

(But then you really do need to stick to cake and punch for future retirees, too, to keep it relatively consistent. That’s not to say, though, that people’s close work friends can’t take them out to lunch too, but that would something they do on their own, not the official send-off.)

2018

update: I got a windfall — how much time off should I take?

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.

Remember the letter-writer who came into money and was burned out and wondering how much time off to take? Here’s the update.

I followed your advice to think about what I actually want out of a job, and ended up doing a search to specifically look for jobs in my field with a strong work/life balance culture. I found a great company that offers unlimited PTO, and was hiring proactively to balance workloads to ensure their employees didn’t get overloaded. They agreed to let me have 2 months off before I started so I could rest and recover from my old job, so I got to do a little burnout recovery as well before I began. I did take about a 10k pay cut to join them, since they’re a smaller, newer company than my old one, but I don’t regret my decision for a second, because I’m getting to do more interesting work with less stress – and it has made me realize how truly toxic my old company culture was! They made me believe everyone in the industry expects huge amounts of overtime and work HAS to be your only focus to succeed, and that’s just not true. I hear they’re now hemorrhaging employees in my division since I left (I was the first in a few years to quit, and immodestly I did a LOT of the heavy lifting there), and I’m not surprised.

In the end, I would have probably liked a little more time off – even with 2 months off under my belt, I’m not back up to 100% energy yet. But my new job actively encourages people to take their PTO, so I’ve also already had two short vacations, which REALLY helps personally and also motivates me to do the best work I possibly can for them! As for the windfall, we’re putting it towards a down payment on our first house soon, knock on wood! :)

update: my employee sent me a “letter of intent” to look for another job

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.

Remember the letter-writer whose employee sent her a “letter of intent” to look for another job? Here’s the update.

I wrote in a while ago about an employee who sent me a Letter of Intent to search for a new job. When I sent in the question, I was honestly confused. I had never heard of such a thing, but perhaps that was the done procedure in some industry. After all, he had a contract (more on that later). My question was: does sending a letter of intent to job search constitute a resignation? (The answer was no.)

I ended up putting a lot of details in the comments. To recap: I’m the chair of a small academic department at a reasonably well-respected University. Fergus, the lecturer in question, had had a conflict with a particular group of students the previous semester, and had basically been told to get his act together, plan ahead, and stop chopping and changing his class at the drop of a hat.

He had several of the same students in the Fall semester, and immediately got up to his old tricks, brusquely informing the students that he was changing a class meeting from online to in-person the first week of classes, AFTER students had already set up their work schedules. The tone of the message was brusque, bordering on rude (“This change is MANDATORY and IMMEDIATE!”). The same group of students complained, as they have professional jobs in the area we teach in, and can’t change their schedules like that. I supported the students, saying that you really can’t change something like that partway in.

Fergus flipped out and wrote the letter of intent, which included a page of his accomplishments in the department. (True, he has been very helpful in many ways.) It also included a number of demands such as, a “real” Assistant Professorship with a “fancy title,” two different salary demands both of which were greater than mine, and equivalent to the Assistant Dean’s, and public acknowledgement of his contributions, otherwise he’d find a new job. It also used the phrases “mean girls” and “cancel culture” throughout. It also said I was undermining his “authority as the instructor of record.” The whole thing was about four pages long and, frankly, bonkers. (Note: a new Assistant Professor line has to be approved by the president of the university. There is no budget for such a thing, and the politics of our situation would make a request seem wildly tone-deaf. The university has no provision for “fancy titles” like what he wants, unless he could find a donor to endow a chair for him. NO incoming Assistant Professorships will offer anywhere close to his salary demands, unless it’s Stanford or Harvard wooing a rockstar. This guy is solid, but no rockstar.)

My first thought was that I had assumed he was looking for another job already, since he had already been complaining about his teaching load and wanted more time for research, and was not happy when I pointed out that he’s a lecturer, which doesn’t have a research component. My second thought was that this was bananacrackers. That’s when I emailed you to try to figure out how crazy sauce this was. The answer was very.

Shortly after I emailed you, I found out that he had not only sent this letter to me, but to my boss and the dean. He had also filed an official complaint against me with the Faculty Senate. I met with the dean and gave him the background and he told me not to worry about it, he’d handle it.

I talked to the contracts people, who told me that Fergus didn’t have a contract through June, as I had assumed (I started after him, so had never seen the contract). No, he had a 3-year contract! And a bonkers letter of intent doesn’t constitute a resignation. I needed him to give me a final date. After several one-on-one meetings, he did finally give me a letter of resignation with an end date of “mid-June.” Asked the contract people, nope, no good, I need an end date. After much fussing, I finally got one. Whew! The job ad for his replacement is wending its way through the university, and should be posted in January. Yay!

So all’s happy, except that he STILL can’t seem to get along with this particular group of students. The dean brokered a deal to allow them to join classes remotely, even when everyone else is in-person, given their schedules. Good, except that, apparently. he refuses to answer questions from them, and if they ask questions, he turns off the sound from the computer where they’re logged in, because “it’s annoying.” Even when in person, he will explain things to other students, but give brusque one-word responses to them. Students not in this group have mentioned it to me.

Most recently, the grandmother of one of these students passed away, and he refused to believe that she needed 3 days for the funeral because “funerals are only one day long.” If she wanted 3 days, he wanted a signed letter from her parents! The student is 25 and lives on her own. The student complained, and when I pushed back, pointing out that the student is of a different ethnicity and religion, and these practices vary, he demanded to know if all of the other faculty were being flexible (Yes, I’m one of them. We are.) and then grudgingly agreed to give her a little leeway.

Honestly, his biggest problem is the tone of all of his communications. I pointed out to my boss at one point, that I probably could have swung the schedule change if I thought it was important enough, simply by listening to student concerns, trying to meet them partway, and just not being an authoritarian jerk. Holding a grudge against three of our best students (all female, all POC) and treating them this way for over 6 months is so beyond inappropriate, and there’s nothing I can do about it. At least none of them have to take a class with him again, and I took one of his classes in the spring away from him and hired a new adjunct to teach it. It’s extra money from my budget, since he gets paid the same no matter how many classes he teaches, but it’s an intro class into a major part of our curriculum, and I need it taught well.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we make it through the rest of the semester and next semester without any more big blowups, that he finds a new job that he can move into, and that I find a replacement who will fit in with the rest of the program.

P.S. I forgot an important point! The letter of intent also included the phrase, “I expect an extremely positive letter of recommendation from you.” And, yes, he has asked me to be a reference for the jobs he’s applying for now! I haven’t been contacted by anyone yet, but I have no idea what I’m going to say if/when that happens!

update: HR questioned me for hours about a sex injury

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.

We have so many updates this year that I’m going to be posting six to seven times a day for the next several weeks — so keep checking back throughout the entire day.

Remember the letter-writer who was questioned by HR for hours about a sex injury? Here’s the update.

So it took me a while to figure out how to update you because SURPRISE there’s some legal stuff still going on that I don’t think I should talk about.

First things first, the injury itself was a huge rope burn across my face. This probably contributed to why I didn’t stick with roller derby to begin with. Black eye? Derby for sure. Rope burn? The how is a little vaguer there. Still, you and other commenters are right that if I could do it again, I would stick with it and never back down.

Second, turns out Lee (the friend/coworker who outed me) is well known in our local scene for being someone who outs those in kink so THAT’S FUN TO KNOW. I have cut ties and honestly, it really has been good for me. I never noticed a lot of friendship failings before and wow, now I sure do.

I did talk to a lawyer and I did talk to HR. HR was… not receptive and I had to move forward with the lawyer. There’s stuff happening there.

Also! I don’t have a job at the moment! I just… couldn’t stay there. But Mary also doesn’t have a job so there! It is because she quit and not because she got fired though. She didn’t want to work in a place that wouldn’t fire a deviant.

Gosh, I don’t know what else I could tell you. I feel better largely even if I’m unemployed at the moment. I’m doing a few freelancing gigs and even got paid to teach a kink class. I could be way worse.

Update to the update

OK, so I spoke with my lawyer and she said that I can mention the stuff with Mary because she’s not actually involved in the lawsuit at all. Also, you have a new fan in my lawyer.

So, Mary in the time between me deciding what to do after your letter and me leaving my job just got crazier and crazier. She was determined that I was being kept as a sex slave and that the people I worked with were in a conspiracy to keep me in subjugation. She printed out human trafficking reports and posted them everywhere. She called the cops once. Surprisingly, none of this got her fired. When she found out I was quitting, she tried to get the address that I live at from HR, but that, at least, they were smart about. That was the day she quit.

Lee thought this was all hilarious, by the way. They even put some pictures up on instagram.

Anyways, I have an interview tomorrow so cross your fingers for me!

“I will confront you by Wednesday of this week”

Several years ago, a reader shared with us this epic email that was sent by their company’s boss after a holiday party gone terribly awry, and as we enter the holiday season we remember its glory.

“This happened about ten years ago, but the email I received from our boss was so epic I preserved it.

Context: The second year I worked at this company, our holiday party was held on a dinner cruise boat. Our boss footed the bill for dinner and an open bar, and a few other companies also hosted their own parties on the boat at the same time. Since I was underage at the time, I did not drink, and actually left early with my date. Everything was fine when I left. The Monday after, I rolled into the office– the first person there– and was greeted with this email from our boss [identifying details removed]:

‘Good morning to all. I hope all of you had time to recuperate and reflect about the unusual chain of events and circumstances at this year’s Christmas party. Some of you went home early and did not take in the full range of events.

Unfortunately, some of our staff got out of hand, including the spouses. Things were said, and things were done, that quite frankly were very inappropriate. Also, we had people from the adjoining group that decided to take advantage of our open bar and co-mingle with our group.

In regards to the inappropriate behavior, I am not going to go into all of the details, but let it be said that the root cause was probably due to the open bar. Some of our staff decided that the open bar meant that the drinking could be unlimited, not only in how much, but how they drank. As a result, some our staff and spouses decided that shots were OK. Shots were ordered for some who do not even drink. Shots are not OK at a company Christmas party. Other staff and spouses got multiple drinks at once for themselves and for people not even in our group. Others decided it was OK to get openly drunk and beligerent, to the point of making racial slurs. I, myself, am guilty of attacking someone from the other group after he decided to retaliate by groping my wife.

Having thought about the circumstances and the fact that we have to work together as a firm and team, some of you need to apologize for your behavior and/or for the behavior of your spouse. We specifically implemented a no fraternization policy and some of you could get fired on that alone, while other staff exercised no restraint over their spouse for their drunken condition. It is not OK for a spouse to misbehave, just because he or she is not an employee. Many careers have been destroyed, and people get fired, due to the conduct of their spouse. You are expected to exercise constraint over your spouse, or take them home. And if that cannot be done, then you should not bring your spouse.

In regards to the Firm’s policy on drinking, there will be no more open bars. Unfortunately, some of you and your spouses exercise extremely poor judgment. Because of this poor judgment, it puts the Firm at risk. Given the poor road conditions that night, some of you could have ended up dead. It is also unfortunate that a few have to ruin it for the whole group.

I would like to start the apologies by stating I am sorry for not handling the situation that I was confronted with in a different manner. I feel embarrassed, and it was not conduct befitting of the firm’s president. I also felt betrayed by some of you for patronizing the one individual from the adjoining group, who’s behavior was lewd and offensive, not to mention the outright theft by running up our bar tab.

I invite others to make some form of apology, either by email or in person for what they did or said, or what their spouse did or said. You can do this voluntarily, and you know who you are, or I will confront you by Wednesday of this week. I do not intend to ignore what happened. If I have to confront you, you could lose your job. I will be available Monday and Tuesday late afternoon, or you can email me and/or others. Let’s not let this one incidence stop us from being [#1 company in field]. We have a lot going for ourselves and let’s keep it going.’”