updates: the unflushed toilet, covering for a remote coworker, 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. Employee isn’t flushing the toilet

I opened with telling her that this was going to be an uncomfortable conversation. I explained what was happening and she was MORTIFIED. She explained that her family taught her to always close the lid, and at the end of the day, she gets caught up in all she has to do when she gets home, and just forgot. It hasn’t happened since, and she is still a wonderful employee!

2. Do I need to keep covering a remote employee’s work?

I’m happy to report that I did take your advice! I had the conversation you suggested with my boss, and they were very understanding and said they would make sure they situation was resolved. I don’t know what happened after that, but Alice later reached out to let me know she was going to be coming into the office a couple days per week when necessary to complete her parts of our projects. This has been working out well since. I have been trying to complete my parts of each project well in advance so that she can get multiple done in a day and can minimize the trips she has to make. I believe her team is also working to hire another position to help relieve her of some work.

Thank you for providing great advice, now and always!

3. My family wants to live near each other — how do we do this with work?

In December of 2019, I reached out asking for advice on how to balance the jobs and wants of myself and partner, my brother, and my parents, when we all loved our current homes but also wanted to live closer to each other. The letter was published in Feb 2020 as an “Ask the Readers” question (a little less than a month before the pandemic hit the U.S. in earnest.) There was a lot of great advice in the comments, but the two big messages that came out again and again were: “You have too many maybes right now. Wait and see what happens – will you have actually have a baby and when? Will your brother find a partner? Will something change with someone’s job?” and “Someone (or multiple someones) is going to have to give something up or compromise in this situation. You can’t avoid that.”

A year and a half later, there certainly are fewer maybes, and some things have changed!

For one thing, there was that whole pandemic situation. Except for my dad, not one of us has a job that can really work remotely (two teachers, a nurse, my brother the “sea captain”), but the pandemic cemented the fact that it sucks to live far away from your loved ones, especially when things get scary and travel gets hard.

For another thing – I had a baby! My partner and I now have a 5-month-old wonderful tiny creature living with us. She’s so cool. This fact alone has already changed things. My parents (or us) still can’t afford to fly back and forth super frequently, but instead they’ve been driving here (an ~11 hour drive each way) for a five day visit every month, to help with child care and hang out with Baby. (My partner and I also spent ~3 weeks with them over the summer with the baby.)

And my brother now has a serious girlfriend – they live together now and just got a new puppy together. My brother definitely wants to have kids at some point, but they’re not there yet.

In a way, all of the same difficult situations that I had before still exist. We all still live really far away from each other. We’re making it work for now, with lots and lots of time in the car, but my parents are going to keep getting older, and driving so often doesn’t feel sustainable. My mom will be retiring soon, but they’re afraid that if they move here, then my brother will have a baby in a year or two and will feel left out or sad if he doesn’t get any grandparent help. They feel like they have to pick between kids if they think about a move. At least professionally everyone is doing well! And we have the cutest baby in the world, so that helps too. : D

Thanks Alison and commenters!

P.S. My mom is retiring soon, after working for about four decades as an esteemed and beloved nurse. She loves her job and it’s a core part of her, and the thought of retiring is starting to hit hard. Do you or any readers have ideas for resources for people who are retiring and, while they know the decision makes sense for many reasons, also feel pretty sad and maybe driftless at the thought? Maybe ways to frame it; books to read; types of community groups or resources to search for her in her local area; etc.

4. My manager said something odd in my performance review (#5 at the link)

Thanks for answering my question back in March 2020, but wow the start of some weird, weird times. I did approach my manager and used a bit of your language to understand what that comment was about. It went, well not great? The response was “I know you pushed the internal training group but you know what can you do.” That was ended in a wink. A WINK. From there things got well, worse because 2020. The company announced a 10% pay cut for all employees with the claims that it was done to avoid layoffs. Spoilers: they laid people off anyway and those that stayed still had ongoing pay cut. In our small team meeting my manager discussed the next phase, which was forcing us to use half our vacation time in the next 5 weeks. It was shared as a blessing because in the next breath he pointed out that he fought to keep me on, which was difficult due to my high salary. Again, I was not highly paid for my position. That was an extremely awkward thing to endure in front of my colleagues.

So I did what everyone else did in 2020 and looked for a new job. It was stressful as working in a lab meant I was in the office during the entire pandemic because it’s hard to take liquid nitrogen home. It took a while but I did take a chance on a consulting position with a growing firm back in my past industry. To say it’s been fantastic is an understatement. I now work from home, am well paid with good benefits and killer bonus structure, the work is exciting and cutting edge and I’m highly praised for my contributions. I’m just about rounding up a year here and it feels like I have been and could do this for a long, long time. I never addressed my past manager about the money comments again and honestly I ghosted them when I left, dropped my laptop and keys with an HR drone over the holiday break span and said thanks for laughs. It was 2020 and not worth the 2 weeks. Something I’ve never done in my professional career but was so worth the 2 weeks at home to detox and recenter prior to starting my new incredible job. Thanks again Alison for the advice but the result was just a bad manager unfortunately. Onward all!

updates: the remote employee without child care, the regretted recommendation, and more

It’s “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, and 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 employee wants to work from home without child care for his baby forever

The advice from everyone at Ask a Manager was hugely helpful and affirming in this situation. I ended up presenting the problem to my boss and our board of directors and we all agreed something needed to change immediately. We gave Larry a choice between truly committing to a full-time schedule (one that didn’t entail providing childcare at the same time) or switching to part-time work. He chose the latter option and it’s been incredibly positive for everyone. I no longer have this ongoing tension with him about his productivity, I’m not stressing about it and the rest of the team is more able to rely on him because the expectations around his workload are very clear. I think Larry is also happier and less anxious because he’s not trying to juggle so much at once. I could not be more pleased with the outcome!

2. I wrote a recommendation that I’m now doubting (#2 at the link)

I wrote in asking what to do about possibly revoking a recommendation for a university professor in IT who wants to go back to school for counseling, and more specifically, sex therapy.

I took your advice and had a conversation with her about her problematic social media post. At first, she seemed to listen, and she even deleted the offending post. I was heartened. But, a few days later she sent me a message telling me I was small minded, judgmental, and the friendship is over. Interestingly, she unfriended me and every other woman we are both connected to, yet kept my husband as a friend on social media. So, I’ve seen her subsequent posts, which are going more and more off the rails. Examples:

1. She changed her profile picture to her wearing lingerie with her legs spread at the camera.
2. She went on a rant about how she is monogamous and polyamory is an “alternative lifestyle” she does not accept. (One commenter told her it was borderline hate speech, she did not like being called out and totally denied it.)
3. She posted that she was done helping people. They don’t deserve her help.
4. This is the worst one, she bragged about telling a suicidal woman to “sit down, and shut up,” for having the audacity to give her some life advice.

She has started school, so it is too late to revoke my recommendation. Going to her school with this information now feels retaliatory, even though I know it’s more complicated than that. I wish this conflict had more resolution, but so it goes. I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with it or her anymore. I’ve just been diagnosed with ADHD at 45 and need to focus on exploring treatment options, but that’s a whole letter. I am curious to hear from readers, though, how ADHD has affected them in the workplace.

Thank you again for your sound advice.

3. My company wants us to meditate and do yoga and alternative healing (first update here)

I thought I’d just share a second update as your instincts were right all along, as were many commenters’, and it turns out things were even worse than I knew at the time!

As mentioned, quite a few people were let go or quit – more than half the staff, though they were replaced. And some of the issues I’ve heard from them since goes beyond a grey area to some outright illegal stuff, including being told to end relationships with people outside the company (because those people were “against” them), and full-on diagnosing employees with mental illnesses when they tried to critique practical problems at work. Previously mentioned “new age” practices like group meditation and tarot readings were also used to gauge employees’ energy, auras etc. and to make hiring and firing decisions.

In general the most toxic trend just seemed to be that they claimed to value honest critique and diverse opinions, and then fired anyone who shared them (with a troubling trend of favoring white, cis employees while outwardly promoting diversity – but what else is new).

4. There’s nowhere to lock up company electronics in my new space (#4 at the link)

I thank you and everyone who provided helpful advice. I did leave out some context in my original letter, which you can find in my comment here.

I especially thank those who replied directly to my comment. After your advice and reading those replies, I sent an email to my boss that summarized my concerns, formally requested information about locking drawers, and included a few acceptable accommodations if that wasn’t possible. He got the hint that I was formally documenting this and brought the matter up with the person responsible for the office consolidation. Shortly afterwards, he sent me the specs for the locking drawers that would be at my desk.

I am glad the matter ended there. The company was great to work at until they had a large layoff (which occurred prior to this issue). After the layoff, it became an ongoing battle to obtain *necessary* things needed for my job. I eventually became worn down from the stress of this and left for a similar position elsewhere.

At the new company, on my first day, I received everything that I was fighting for at the old company. My boss and coworker have these same things as well. It’s much less stressful and I wish I had left the old company sooner.

Thank you again for the advice!

my company gives terrible gifts

A reader writes:

Every year, my company (with around 70 employees) picks out one corporate gift and sends it to all of us. Every year, it is terrible. One year they delivered hams to our homes, despite us having a fair number of vegetarians and Muslims on staff. One year they sent us all branded hoodies, which would have been fine except that they seem to have just guessed at people’s sizes (which is already weird, right?) and got them really wrong in a lot of cases. Mine would probably fit my toddler, but it doesn’t fit me. Last year they sent us all gift certificates for a restaurant (while no one was dining out because of Covid) that was far away from where most of us live. I’d rather receive nothing than these vaguely insulting gifts that seem to indicate no care went into picking them. Is it worth saying something or is it rude to complain about a gift?

I answer this question — and many others — over at New York Magazine today. You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Should I give my boss a gift?
  • My boss wants an expensive gift!
  • How can I discourage employees from giving me gifts?
  • My coworker gives me a gift every year – should I be reciprocating>
  • Can I send a gift to a potential employer?
  • Is it appropriate to give my intern a gift?

update: explaining to clients that I’m pregnant with someone else’s babies

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

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 wondering how to explain to clients that she was pregnant with someone else’s babies (#2 at the link)? Here’s the update.

So, I was able to avoid most meetings in person. There were only two issues that came out of this and they both actually came later than I expected. I had one client I work very closely with and had to do in-person meetings with a couple of times. I gave them a heads-up because I was incredibly big at that point and with this client it made sense to just explain on a call beforehand. They all said how cool that was and wow so great. I got a couple of questions about my “maternity leave” and how long I’d be out for but that’s it.

I actually ended up in an emergent situation that you, Alison, have written columns about a few times. I was in the hospital because of an emergency with the babies and my boss was, ever so politely, asking if it was at all possible for me to do just one thing while I was there. It was a task only I could do, but it definitely didn’t need to be done ASAP. Still, I kind of felt like I had to because I was in a bit of a holding period in the ER and I had the capability. When my other boss found out about it, I guess they had words and it was made clear to me that it would not happen again and it was inappropriate to ask. I spoke with both of them to tell them what was going on with the pregnancy and that I will be unavailable to work and would be starting my time off now. This was unpaid time off as the parents were to reimburse me for lost wages. So, I offloaded what I could and asked that they only use the words “medical emergency” when explaining to clients why I’m out. Later I got an email that I was cc’d on to another client where Boss #1 had used words like “labor” and “delivers.” So that caused some confusion but I didn’t engage with it. I ended up on another call that week, while hospitalized, at the request of my boss. I think I could have said no, but since it wasn’t my baby I kind of felt like I had no reason to be freaked out. It was definitely more complicated than with my own child and work knowing that compounded that complication.

The second issue actually came from that client that knew I was doing surrogacy and not until months after I’d given birth. We were at a small event for the client and one of the people on that team I work with regularly asked me about my family. I mentioned that things were hectic right now because we were moving, we had recently bought a house. He said, that’s wonderful in this economic climate and I said well surrogacy is difficult but worth it in so many ways. And he actually said he didn’t realize it was a paid thing and that he thought maybe my surrogacy was less cool now because it was paid. I immediately was shocked because his tone got serious and judgemental very quickly. I still have a great relationship with that client and we never talked about it again, but it definitely made me think of the advice I got in the comments. A lot of people were saying, “oh if it’s for someone tell them that” and it wasn’t. I always get that question, “Did you know the parents” and we met via an agency. I know them now and have bonded with the mom as only one can when you’re carrying her babies. But apparently, the only kind of acceptable surrogacy for this client was if it was an unpaid, selfless act of torture for a friend or family member.

In reality, it was a very complicated and difficult pregnancy that ended in an emergency hospitalization, induction, and surgery. I was away from my family, my toddler, and my home in a special hospital far away from everyone, during a global pandemic. So, personally, I’ll never understand those who don’t think surrogates deserve to be paid. I know there are concerns, a lot of them discussed in the comments on the original post, about the exploitation of low-income women, but the agencies I spoke to all have requirements to avoid those situations. I had to meet a number of requirements to be able to be a surrogate in the first place. But I think of it as a job and took a lot of the advice you give on how to deal with employers and contracts in the early days of nailing down my contract with the parents. And to not be paid would be just as unfair as not being paid for my full time job.

I know there are concerns about surrogacy, even if that might surprise you. From a workplace perspective I think the most important lesson I learned is that when your boss knows it’s not your baby, they might not understand that emergency situations are still stressful for you. It’s important, as ever, to set those boundaries.

my boss wants me to host a product party for her, I compared my interviewer to my dog, 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 former manager wants me to host a product party for her

My former supervisor has been extremely helpful as a reference for me numerous times and I feel indebted to her to some degree for that. Perhaps she is aware of that, too.

Apparently she is “starting a business” and wants me to invite my friends/family/whomever to my house and host a “party” for her to build clientele who would be willing to buy overpriced costume jewelry. She says I would get a lot of free jewelry out of it. I quickly picked up that this is one of those pyramid schemes that preys on vulnerable, low-information women. A quick internet search confirmed my suspicions. Furthermore, numerous reviews online confirmed the actual jewelry is garbage; my friend told me she bought a $99 watch from them that broke the first time she wore it.

I told her I will see if I can get any interest from people I know to come to the party and get back to her. Even if I agree to host, I am honestly not sure that I know enough people in my area period (I’m a few hours from immediate family and only have a handful of close friends around), much less with expendable income who would be interested in something like this. What do you think? Should I agree to this and try to get people in? I really don’t like the idea of making people feel pressured to buy things, particularly friends/family.

Noooooo. She’s asking you to do the marketing for her business for her, and to annoy your friends and family in the process, and to help her promote a product that you know is crappy. Under no circumstances. You don’t owe her for being a reference for you; that’s a normal part of what managers do for good employees. (I mean, sure, you owe her normal professional courtesies, like taking her calls and congratulations her on professional successes or whatever, but a good reference does not obligate you to do something that makes you uncomfortable.)

Tell her that you decided it’s not your thing and you’re not interested in hosting. And stand firm if she pushes back.

2015

2. I compared my interviewer with my dog

I went into a interview and everything was going well. There was a assessment test on my abilities and the questions were normal.

On the way out, my interviewer walked me out and made a passing comment on the sunny weather. I replied, “Yeah, it’s really lovely out, nice and sunny with a cool breeze” — normal small talk. But she responded with “I prefer the triple digits.” And that’s when I said, “That’s just like my chihuahua.” I wanted to smack myself as soon as I finished the sentence.

Is this something you would count against a candidate? If so, how should I address this faux pas in my thank-you email, or is this something you pretend never happened on both sides?

It wasn’t the smoothest comment, no. But if you were otherwise the strongest candidate, most people aren’t going to take you out of the running for that, unless the position requires an unusually high degree of professional polish and schmoozing skills. (And even then, she may have just found it funny, who knows.)

I wouldn’t bring it up in the thank-you note; that would be calling more attention to it than you should. We all have awkward moments; try not to dwell on it too much.

2017

3. My top candidate has another offer but we can’t interview until next month

I’m hiring for a an open position and conducted a phone interview with a great candidate (we’d already interviewed him once before in a prior round but didn’t hire him) and told him that in-person interviews would take place after the holidays, with someone in place by early February.

I got a call from the candidate today saying he got an offer from another company and what was our timeline? This candidate is my favorite, but we’re hiring three people and were planning on having in-person interviews with four to five people with the whole team. Any thoughts on how to reply to this candidate?

You have to decide whether you want him enough to expedite things or whether you’re willing to lose him to the other offer. Since you interviewed him previously, you might have a good idea of how strong a fit he is for this role. If you don’t, you could quickly set up an in-person interview with him now (like in the next few days, if possible — which I realize might be tricky given the holidays). If you go that route, ask him what his timeline is for needing to give the other company an answer, so that you know how much time you have to work with.

But if you know that you wouldn’t be willing to make him an offer without interviewing your other candidates first and that’s important enough that you’re willing to risk losing him (which is often, although not always, the right choice), then all you can do is to tell him that he’s currently your top candidate but that you unfortunately can’t expedite your interviewing timeline (and explain why so that he understands — people’s schedules or whatever the reason is), and that you understand if that means he needs to accept the other offer.

2016

4. Coworker doesn’t want anyone to ask questions at meetings so they end faster

One of my coworkers does not want anyone to ask questions at the weekly meeting so that they can “get out of there faster.” Anyone who does ask a question is approached before the next meeting and basically warned not to make the meeting “longer.” Should the manager be told about this?

I’d sure want to know about it if I were your manager. Or you could just ignore the person who’s doing this, or the next time it happens you could reply, “Part of the reason for the meeting is for us to have a chance to ask questions. Please stop pressuring me and others not to use the meeting in the way it’s intended.”

(Of course, make sure that the questions you’re asking are meeting-apprpropriate — meaning that they’re on-topic and things that make sense to discuss in that forum, as opposed to following up on them one-on-one with the relevant person afterwards. If you’re not doing those things — if you’re the person who makes meetings drag out by asking things that genuinely don’t make sense to discuss in that context — then your coworkers are likely to be legitimately annoyed.)

2016

updates: new manager tells us we’re defensive, working from home without privacy, 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. New manager keeps telling us we’re frustrated and defensive

In retrospect, Kelly did not have the claimed managerial experience, and turned out to be making notes about topics unrelated to the actual meeting (as in, we’re explaining how to melt the chocolate and she’s drafting designs for the boxes). I used Alison’s scripts, and talked to the CEO, and separately started documenting everything in case it needed to go farther.

The CEO did understand and support me, and coached Kelly in certain aspects of personnel management (the weak points). My working relationship with Kelly continued to be strained, but actually improved during COVID when we were all working remotely, mainly because random drop-ins and in-person conversations became impossible, but also because it finally got to the point where Kelly had isolated one part of the department and just worked with them, only occasionally intersecting with the rest of us. This wasn’t great for the department, but drastically reduced the stress on Alex and me.

That said, Kelly helped me work with another employee who consistently had performance problems. I really felt that we were making good headway towards a decent working relationship. The chronically-underperforming employee finally realized the end was nigh and decided to leave. About 3 months later, Kelly also left for other opportunities. I really can’t say I was sorry, but I regret the lost opportunity to really cement the working relationship.

The CEO recognized my attempts to make it work, and actually noted them on my annual review, so I believe I may have only seen a small part of a bigger problem.

Kelly’s replacement is someone I already knew and respected internally, someone who really is a good team player and doesn’t cherry-pick the fun/high-profile projects. I have good hopes that we will finally create a strong, cohesive team, enhancing all our skills and helping us work better together.

2. Working from home without a private, comfortable spot to work in (#2 at the link)

I followed your advice pretty much to the letter. I reached out to my supervisor and mentioned accommodations. She was unsure who would handle the question and I was bounced around several different departments and various members of upper management, before landing with a quick Slack meeting with the chief of my own department. Somehow the ADA mention got lost in the message moving around, but the chief was already prepared to get me a laptop. I just had to fill out a form, bring my desktop into the office when IT was available, and came home with a fresh laptop. I now have a more flexible, ergonomic set up that works much better for my disabilities. All I needed to do was ask!

3. I’m afraid people at work will think I’m being abused (#2 at the link)

Exactly two weeks after I wrote you, I worked a completely uneventful 11 hour shift and then promptly broke my ankle on my own front porch steps as soon as I got home. Obviously not ideal when I work a job that has me walking 6-12 miles per shift, but in the course of telling the story and sorting out accommodations for sitting-only work and future physical therapy (I really did a number on it!) I think people are starting to realize that I’m kind of just like this naturally. It’s a relief to be able to joke about it!

(Also, a lot of your readers had great suggestions on potential things to bring to my doctor but don’t worry, I’ve had my bases covered for ages, I’m very fortunate to genuinely just be a klutz!)

4. Good news Friday (#3 at the link)

My job has continued to be amazing. I’m still singing in my car, still working from home whenever I want to. I was so traumatized after 20 years at the toxic company that I am still learning that it’s actually okay to be happy at work, that it’s actually how it SHOULD be, but I’m getting there!! And!! Three months after I started, New Boss walked in my office and out of the blue gave me a 7% raise – the first raise I’ve ever received that I didn’t have to fight for. What a wonderful, strange new world!

Old Company did NOT replace me when I left and instead dumped everything on my former work partner Dale. No raise. No title change. Unrealistic hours and ridiculous deadlines. No more WFH – five days a week in the office. From a team of five to just Dale and a 30 hr a week part-timer. She complained and got LOTS of promises, but zero follow up. To make matters worse, her new boss Zoe kept trying to take credit for the few little bones they threw Dale – like “graciously” letting her WFH one day a week – saying things like Dale should just be appreciative of all that Zoe had done for her. I saw the emails – gag worthy levels of “I went to bat for you, you should appreciate this since others aren’t so fortunate, blah blah” AS IF! Dale EARNED those things, deserved those things, but got treated like Zoe was doing her a favor! THEN Dale is told there’s no money for raises (even though my salary was not reassigned) but Zoe got a huge promotion and a massive raise. They don’t renew Dale’s executive level retention agreement but Zoe got stock options. And Dale’s supposed to be grateful to Zoe for a single WFH day?

When Dale got shoveled another pile of “maybe next year” BS the same week Zoe got the promotion, that was the last straw. She called up an old boss, who’d been after her for years to come back. I told her about AAM and after she used the AAM advice to update her resume and cover letter, he created a job on the spot for her. More money, title change, fab retirement benefits, the works. She cut the cord after 11 years at Old Company and never looked back. She is now as happy as I am.

The best part of the update (Warning – serious schadenfreude alert.) Dale’s been gone for three months now and they’ve been unable to fill the role at the seriously below market salary they’re offering for the work load they’re wanting covered. Per friends still there, the business guys are HOWLING about the lack of a person in this role. All Old Company had to do was value the person in this critical role but they didn’t learn and now they are paying ridiculous money for outside legal counsel to manage this work. Zoe is also apparently stressed since having her entire remaining team of long-timers bail within her first year and not being able to hire replacements doesn’t exactly look good.

I love a happy ending, don’t you?

update: the boss who fired me got hired at my new job — and she’s joking about how bad my work was

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 boss got him fired got hired at his new job — and started joking about how bad his work was? Here’s the update.

Let me begin by saying I really appreciate of the support and advice you and your readers gave me. It was nice to know I wasn’t making too much out of it.

Two things maybe I should mention that I did not before. First, I am a pretty laid back guy, and when folks have a laugh at my expense, that usually doesn’t bother me if I think it is coming from a place of affection. I can laugh at myself, and Lord knows I enjoy teasing the people I love. I think I have pretty good boundaries generally, and I enforce them if I feel it’s not coming from a place of affection. But I think in this instance my boundary setting radar got confused because this generally has not been a problem at work, and because I so wanted to give Jane the benefit of the doubt.

Secondly, Jane’s behavior in all of this tracks, if you know Jane. She is, let’s say, hyperrational. Appeals to her emotions, or telling her how things make you feel, generally don’t work. But if you can quantify your point, if you can back up your argument with data, she is very persuadable, up to and including changing her behavior or backing off on points she’s made in the past.

As you advised, I took the issue up directly with folks who seemed to be treating me differently, calling out what I saw and asking them to please judge me on my record since they’ve known me. Most denied any change at all, and that was enough to shock them back into their pre-Jane behavior. A small number admitted Jane’s stories had made some impact, and agreed that maybe was not entirely fair. For the most part, they too have returned to pre-Jane behavior.

Then I went back to Jane and made my point; the stories were unflattering and unfair, they were harming my reputation with my co-workers, and it needed to stop. She again said she was just kidding and doubted it influenced anyone at all.. I conceded she was just kidding and had no ill-will, but that wasn’t the point. We went through some emails I had with co-workers that I had printed out (including the exchange with the coworker I mentioned in my first note). The point I made was even if it was just this one guy (and it wasn’t) surely she would agree that if the stories kept coming more people might start thinking like this guy.

Having seen the evidence, she agreed. She promised she would stop, and she has. She even went so far as to email a couple folks we discussed (and cc’d me) apologizing for her behavior and saying she should not have put me in such a bad light. That was good enough for me.

And that has been it. We’re pretty much back to normal. The guy from the first e-mail is still double checking me, but less than he was before. Personally I think he’s just trying to cover his tracks.

update: our employee forged the owner’s signature on his mortgage documents

It’s “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! Every day from now until the end of the year, I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose colleague had forged the company owner’s signature on his mortgage paperwork? Here’s the update.

Thank you so much for publishing my letter, and your great advice! As it happened, when the letter was published I was on my first vacation since 2019, so I missed replying to any comments made, but I did read all of them when I got back home, and was very appreciative of everything said. Here is my update:

Most importantly of all, John’s wife is fully recovered, and doing great!

The IT company John uses recovered the files Rob deleted, and they were all of a personal nature. Nothing bad, but also nothing that related to the business, thankfully.

John did have his lawyer send a letter to Rob and the mortgage company regarding the forged mortgage documents on his own accord, and never heard back from Rob or the mortgage company, so he still doesn’t know if the forged documents were corrected, or not. Or if Rob got the house, or not. The only thing we know for sure is that Rob will have no reference from John after three years of employment, John has made that clear. Sadly, Rob is the type to think that he WILL be able to list John as a reference, AND get a great one. He is just that kind of person.

When I wrote my letter to you, it was literally the day after everything had happened, and I was just…enraged. I am definitely a “want to see justice done!” type of person, and it is something that I have been working on over the years, sometimes with success, sometimes not. But I did step back in this situation, and did not push/suggest to John to do anything beyond what he wanted to do on his own. I just listened to him vent/process the situation, and was there for him as a friend.

After the dust settled from Rob’s departure, and it came time to hire a someone to replace him, I put your advice to use, and suggested certain things regarding vetting the new hire, and John followed all of my suggestions.

This is where the update takes an odd, but ultimately good turn. John hired someone to replace Rob, and they had great references, etc. Total rock star. I was thrilled, he was thrilled. Until…yeeeaah…it all went bad.

The new employee lasted just a month, before walking out mid-shift one day, and the reason for them doing so was that they decided the client account they were in charge of was “fake”. By this I mean they thought the practice, doctors, staff, and patients didn’t exist. Seeing as how I have been doing the billing for this client for years, have been in their office numerous times, know the doctors, staff, AND the patients…I was whopper-jawed. As was John. The whole situation was truly Kafkaesque/Twilight Zone material. John and I had a lot of discussions about this situation after it happened, and in the end, could only conclude that there were some personal issues going on with the employee, that caused them to quit like they did.

At that point, I recommended that John hire my former assistant office manager, who was looking for remote work, and he did. She came on board in October, and has been just as great at her new position for the billing company as she was when she worked at my office. All is well that ends well, and all is better than well at this point.

I also want to add that I found the “Ask A Manager” site shortly after the pandemic shut down in March 2020. I went from working 50 hours a week to 10, so I had a LOT of time on my hands, and spent it reading everything in your archive, as well as many of your book suggestions. : ) Since then, I have recommended AAM to numerous people, and it has made me a better manager. It is an invaluable site, and I am so grateful for the all the advice on it!

the schedule for updates this year

A heads-up about update season: for the next few weeks I’ll be posting at midnight, 11 am, 12:30 pm, 2 pm, 3:30 pm, and 5 pm (all times are Eastern)* … as a minimum. There will sometimes be additional posts at 10:30 am and random times throughout the afternoon as well!

We have a lot of updates.

Also, if you’ve had your letter answered here in the past and would like to send in an update, there’s still time to include it so go ahead and email it to me!

* That’s Monday through Thursday. Friday will be unpredictable.

do I have to go to my office’s holiday Zoom happy hour?

A reader writes:

Last year my company hosted a holiday Zoom “cocktail hour.” I didn’t attend since it was at 7 pm and at that time I am getting my kids ready for bed. I didn’t hear anything about it until mid-October this year. My boss emailed me directly and told me that the company is planning another cocktail hour for the holiday party this year, and it “looked bad” that I wasn’t there last year.

I’m not in a senior-level high position. I work as a finance analyst in accounting. My day is typically from 7:30-5ish. I told my boss that the time of the cocktail hour does not work with my family schedule. If I were to participate, I would have to be logged into my computer in my house in the evening, which is hard because we have a small house and my office is in the living room. It would be too distracting and, frankly, not enjoyable.

Is this worth fighting? I feel like this is a weird “requirement” they are asking of me.

I answer this question over at Slate today, as well as:

  • Can I get just some of my team members gifts?
  • Attending a rowdy holiday party when no one knows I’m pregnant
  • What should I do if my company holiday dinner seems unsafe?
  • Can our company close for the holidays for a week and make us use vacation time for it?
  • Why aren’t my contractors welcome at the holiday party?

Head over there to read it.