update from the reader whose marital stress was impacting his work

This update is from the reader who was going through a divorce and was worried about how to talk to his boss about the impact that the associated emotional and financial stress was having on his performance. His update is in two parts — one update a few weeks after his letter ran (back in September 2010), and another one from this month. Here’s the first part:

After you wrote to ask me, “So why are you still driving your wife to work?”, I thought, “Yeah, why?” and came to the realization that there was only one weak pro (it’s a nice thing to do), and many strong cons (it’s costing me in gas money and parking, I’m on her schedule both leaving the house and leaving work, and I also can’t take part in the occasional end of the day beer with colleagues). So I told my wife I wouldn’t be doing it anymore, unless I was already driving in. (Parking’s $12-$15/day; taking transit is $5/day; and biking in is free.)

I communicated my marital situation, as well as the decision to commute by myself, to my team lead and the director of development during my review, and it was received positively. They also recommended I talk with the Manager of HR, so a few days later I sat down and told her the whole sad story. She listened patiently, empathized, and then reassured me that no one had come to her and said, “He’s not doing his job (and we should think about moving him out).”

I’ve also cut way back on idle time activities: I check my personal email first thing, at lunch time, and once in the afternoon if I remember it.

So, I’m now commuting on my own schedule, management and HR are aware of the stress that I’m under, and I’m in a better situation than I was three weeks ago. Thanks again for your feedback and assistance.

And here’s part two, from just this month:

I really enjoyed reading the Where Are They Now updates, because it concludes the story arc — we hear about the problem, we read your suggested approach, then we’re on tenterhooks wondering how it all turned out. It’s very satisfying to read these updates.

After writing to you with my update last year, I had my end-of-year review / bonus announcement. At the end of my first year I received a 10% bonus, and the following year (during the financial meltdown) just 5%. This year, the Head of Engineering looked at the numbers, then said bluntly, “You’re getting no bonus this year. How do you feel about that?” I mumbled something about having had a difficult year, but just didn’t have the heart to go through all of the excellent technical things that I’d done.

My ex-wife and I continued our negotiations during the winter, then she was terminated from her job in the spring, and moved out shortly afterwards. This removed a major stress in my life, and also helped make my new dating life a little easier. (Yes, dating! Who knew it could be such fun!)

At work, I still felt like I had a cloud hanging over my head, and after getting no feedback from my team lead (a personal friend of mine) since my review at the end of the year, in May I was brought into a meeting where I was handed a You’re Doing Very Badly letter, signed by him (my lawyer was almost positive it had been drawn up by a lawyer when she saw it).

I tried to hang in there long enough to get re-financing completed on the house, and I worked even harder after that, but was let go at the end of July. Interestingly, they let me keep my security pass so I could return to the office later and pick up my stuff — unsupervised. I heard that there were quite a few people that were shocked to hear I’d been let go — but, as the employment lawyer told me, the die was cast by the time I’d received the letter.

My team lead left the company about a month later.

So, after a very busy few months looking for work (and doing renovations and cleaning up to sell the house), I finally got a short contract in mid-October. I just got word today that my contract was being extended indefinitely. I’m hoping the indefinite contract will let me re-finance, settle with my wife and keep my house.

Oh, and as a postscript, I recently heard that one of team members (a great guy) was resigning from this employer. Too late, management realized that they couldn’t afford to lose him. They suggested that he was in line for a substantial raise, which he found a little incredible (his reviews up until then had been below average). I don’t think their arguments are working.

I’m a little sad about how it’s all gone for this employer — it could have been a great place to work, but their feedback and retention skills are the worst.

{ 7 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Sounds like this OP is going through some seesawing! Back and forth with what is bad and what is good.

    I’m curious as to why suddenly he was doing poorly again in his work. At first, it sounded like he was doing better once everyone knew he was going through a lot of stress with the divorce and dealing with his soon-to-be-ex-wife on a daily basis. What happened between getting the 5% and suddenly getting a “You’re Doing Badly” letter? Seems a bit odd, and that a few things have been left out. In my opinion, perhaps they were looking for a way to get rid of him, and when he decided to open up about this personal problems, they might have used that to find ways he wasn’t doing well. For some reason, the company shut down on him. What was that “cloud hanging over his head?”

    Hopefully 2012 will be better for this OP.

    1. anonymous*

      I think they were looking for a way to get rid of him, had already made up their minds, and took their time in making it “sue-proof.”

      I really feel for the OP. I work for a company that’s similarly bad.

      I am glad he’s going on with his life now in a positive way, and I’m REALLY happy for him about the new contract position.

      Things really DO work out, even if it sometimes feels like they won’t. He’s on his way to bigger and better things!

  2. ChristineH*

    I wonder if the OP’s employer had any Employee Assistance Program benefits. It’s not a good idea to discuss personal issues at work, but it sounds like the OP had no choice because of how much it was affecting his work. This is where EAP services might have been helpful. I hope the coming year goes better for him.

  3. Jen M.*

    OP, I’m happy for you. I hope that you are now coming out the other side of this and that you will only move onward and upward!

    Good luck to you!

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