6 more reader updates

Six more updates from readers who had their questions answered here this year:

1. The manager whose former employee was throwing a party to vilify the company during layoffs

I didn’t say anything to our staff about the party or try to figure out who did or didn’t go. But since we have pretty close group with an active grapevine, I did wind up hearing that there were people who didn’t read the invitation as quite so mean-spirited or damaging, and chose to go. Sadly, it seems like it did turn out to be a pretty negative gathering in spirit, but since nobody showed up at work on Monday seeming like they’d been soured on their jobs or the company over the weekend, I didn’t worry too much about it. My group continued to be in pretty good spirits (or, as good as they realistically can be during a big restructuring) through people’s last days and the weeks that have followed.

Happily, many of the people who reported to me whose jobs were affected in the reorg have found new positions which are upward moves for them, or are considering going back to school. So, on the whole, things seem to have worked out OK.

2. The reader spending hours every week sitting in useless meetings

First of all, thanks again for your advice about how to handle this situation. I’m glad to report that things have gotten somewhat better. There are still too many meetings, and the meetings we have are still much longer than they need to be (IMHO), but I’ve accepted that this is a part of the culture here and is unlikely to change. My manager has also been more supportive of my efforts to prioritize my time. If I let her know that I’m going through an especially busy period, she will almost always excuse me from any upcoming meetings as long as I send my contributions to my co-workers in advance. I’ve started excusing myself from meetings once they get to the point where my co-workers start talking about their fantasy football leagues and sharing pictures of their grandkids, too. It’s not a perfect situation, but since I’m otherwise very happy with this job, I’ll suck it up and make the best of it. Thanks again!

3. The reader frustrated over changes to her company’s benefits package (#2 at the link)

I spoke to the GM today with the wording you advised. Turns out she was surprised and apologetic about how we were handed the packages (by a branch manager). She admitted they were not ‘all good changes’ and they should never have been verbally presented to us in this way by the branch manager. As you can guess, nothing will change with the final outcome but she did seem genuinely apologetic that the changes weren’t communicated better and more personally as had been advised. She said she should have done it herself with me as I’m her direct report (unlike most others in this office) and that was her fault. At the end of the day I’m still out of pocket but that’s business and I understand. Now to build a business case for my salary review!

4. The reader training a replacement who wouldn’t pay attention to her

Sadly, my story has a rather unfortunate ending. I did the best I could in the time I had with my replacement, but she remained disinterested in learning processes — only about how to change them. I did end up letting my former boss know about the issues I saw with her, and he seemed to understand, and on my last day, I wished both him and my replacement the best of luck, and left my new email address in case anything came up.

About two months later, I emailed my boss to ask him for a letter of recommendation for an entirely unrelated purpose (academic), only to be met with the response that, “Given things about my work performance that have come to light since my departure,” he could no longer recommend me for anything, job-related or otherwise. I followed up to ask what specifically he was referring to, but never received an answer. I had nothing but positive performance evaluations during my entire time there, never used work email for anything non-work related, always had my work done on time, so I was, of course, curious about what could possibly have “come to light,” but my former boss never responded to my request for a follow up.

This month, I attended the company holiday party as a guest (my boyfriend still works there) and, while there, I started chatting with my closest former coworker, the girl who I used to work across the aisle from (and who still sits outside my former boss’s office). During our conversation (and ENTIRELY without me asking, because I was determined to stay professional), she informed me that anytime my former boss asks why something my replacement gives him is screwed up in some way, she places the blame on me for never showing her how to do it, showing her the wrong way, etc. She said that she always wants to speak up about it, but doesn’t know how. I told her not to worry about it, and that I’m sure that my replacement will eventually figure things out – and left it at that.

Obviously, without his response to my inquiry, I have no way of knowing for sure what’s caused my former boss, after two and a half years of excellent work performance reviews and no issues with management, to suddenly about-face on me, but I can assume based on what I’ve been told that it’s because my replacement is throwing me under the bus. I’m not terribly concerned – I have plenty of people at that company who have offered references should I need them, but it’s disheartening to have someone whom I respected and admired suddenly decide I’m not worthy of his recommendation.

5. The reader whose manager refused to tell anyone when she’d be on vacation

They implemented a calendar that would reflect a listing of who is out of the office on specific days. Unfortunately, it only updates automatically for vacation days submitted through HR. If it’s a travel situation or partial day off, we never find out til we try to contact her and I think I’m the only one actually updating it manual like we’re supposed to.

She’s still super defensive about being questioned and recently made a coworker cry when the employee asked for help. She even went so far as to tell a peer of that coworker that she was just too emotional and she needed to get over it.

Yeah, not a good example of management that works, I can tell you that. At this point, most of us try to avoid her and deal with things within our own group. The less interaction with the boss, the better. It shouldn’t be that way but she’s got tenure so she’s not going anywhere.

6. The reader anxious about leaving her bad job for a better one

I later found out from my friend who worked at the company that they had already begun to process my new-hire paperwork, when an internal canditate jumped up and said she wanted the job.  I was initially bummed, but after talking more to my friend, realized that there was a lot of drama there that didn’t sound too fun. 
Nothing much has changed about my job, but a lot has changed about myself.  My boss was sympathetic to how hard the cuts in hours are to the staff, and decided to keep us on full-time this winter, so that was good.  I used my downtime to enhance my skills with some programs, create some pretty impressive reports and tools, work on streamlining our workflow to save us some money, and assist my coworker in a (so-far) successful marketing campaign. 

I did some soul searching and decided that I want to try to stay in my same industry, if possible, so I’ve been more selective about where I am applying.  I’ve been quietly networking with trusted contacts and working at improving my resume and trying to just be awesome at my job.  I took a break from applying for jobs for a while, and just started looking again. I haven’t yet gotten an interview yet, but overall things are really looking up! 

{ 28 comments… read them below }

  1. ChristineH*

    #’s 4 and 5: Wow. SMH.

    #6 – Why did they let that internal person apply for the job when they’d already chosen a new hire (you)?? It does seem like you dodged a bullet though. Good luck!

    1. OP6*

      Thanks, ChristineH! I think that company has a really strong “promote from within” approach, but I still don’t get it. I think Big Boss had a lot to do with it because she already knew the new hire and I had gotten weird vibes from her during my second interview when I met her. I also heard she’s really difficult to work with, and I’ve already got a boss like that! Also, the whole situation made me think of past AAM posts where one interviewer will basically be telling the interviewee that thay are basically hired, but another one gives you mixed signals!

  2. Sara*

    #4 is absolutely depressing. Years of doing excellent work with excellent reviews and leaving your boss on good terms…..only to be badmouthed by the new employee and your previous boss freeze you out…..that’s extremely depressing.

    1. Neeta*

      I just don’t get the logic though.
      If she has been doing years of good work, why does the boss believes the new hire? Plus the OP warned the employer about the new hire’s attitude…

      Something seems fishy here. But since she doesn’t work there anymore, I guess there’s not much to do in this case, aside moving on. Hopefully it won’t become a problem for future jobs though. What a crappy situation to be in. You have my sympathy, OP.

      1. Kerry*

        If she has been doing years of good work, why does the boss believes the new hire? Plus the OP warned the employer about the new hire’s attitude…

        I agree, this seems really weird.

      2. Erin*

        I had a boss like that. He could not penetrate the surface/appearance to see to the reality of a situation. If something _seemed_ bad or if he was _told_ something was bad, he believed that instead of looking at the facts. I was happy to get out of that job before he decided that I was a villain contrary to a history of excellent performance.

  3. Yup*

    OP #4: that’s rotten, I’m sorry you got thrown under the bus. I certainly understand how disheartening it is to have your reputation questioned after the fact. But keep in mind that your replacement has been in the job for, what, 5 months? She won’t be able to use the “no one showed me how” smokescreen forever — maybe a year, tops. At a certain point, your former boss will realize that she’s been in the job long enough to have mastered certain tasks, regardless of how she claims she was or wasn’t initially trained, and her poor work product will speak for itself. And if she’s that willing to throw you under the bus, I guarantee she’ll do the same to other current colleagues who will be there to defend themselves and illuminate her pattern. Keep a professional attitude about it (as you’ve already done), and wait for the truth to emerge in the long run.

      1. mm*

        Very true! It happened to me once when I accepted a promotion with the same company but I had to train my replacement. I am so oblivious to gossip that it was weeks before I heard that people were very angry at me for throwing this poor woman into the deep end with no training. I was shocked as I had spent a lot of time training her but she never seemed interested. But after a few months, people started seeing the real person behind the con-woman who tells a convincing story.

    1. Steve G*

      #4 ruffled my feathers as well. But also the fact that the OP didn’t confront the manager about it, and the friend still at the company isn’t defending the OP. Sending an email, getting no response, and not following up in a weak response to this…

  4. Brett*

    I can’t stand the euphemism “X’s job was affected” for being laid off. I still get vibe that this manager might struggle to relate to his direct reports…

    1. letem*

      I agree 100%; it is exactly that patronizing, contemptuous, abusive letting-themselves-off-the-hook attitude of the still-employed decision makers – “See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” – that led to the party in the first place.

      That OP *STILL* doesn’t get it.

      1. The Manager in Question*

        OK, seriously, I am a human being who is doing my best, and I was reluctant to send an update at all because of all the negativity I got the last time around.

        I care about my staff. I care about my work and theirs. Our company doesn’t have a ton of upward advancement opportunity (one of the legitimate downsides to a place that gives people fun, creative work to do in a supportive environment with lots of autonomy, which I absolutely recognize).

        So, yes, I am genuinely glad that more than half of my laid off staff got new jobs that were absolutely upward career moves before their severance was over. The fact that they were able to do so, and to do so quickly, speaks well of the training and opportunities we as a company gave them before the reorg.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m sorry you’re dealing with those comments — I don’t think they’re warranted, and as I wrote in the comments on the original post, I think people are sometimes automatically inclined to assume the manager must be to blame or insensitive if people are being laid off. It’s frustrating.

          1. The Manager in Question*

            It’s especially frustrating since I didn’t decide to do the reorg or decide which jobs to eliminate. I just had to tell people (all of whom I hired, trained and worked with for at least a year … most for much longer) and then manage the group through it.

            1. Jamie*

              You were in a pretty untenable position due to factors beyond your control and did the best you could for your reports. I think it’s great that so many have done so well and you handled it as best you could.

              No one can ask anything more of a manager.

          2. The Manager in Question*

            Also, thank you. In spite of working online, I perpetually forget that the Web tends to bring out the meanest and judgiest in people.

  5. OP #4*

    OP #4 here. I agree, it’s rather unfortunate, but I should have seen it coming. When I first arrived at that job, my boss constantly complained about the person before me. He blamed everything on her. Now, he’s blaming everything on me. He’s willing to blame me for his new assistant’s shortcomings rather than admit he made a bad hire. It’s VERY easy to throw the person who is no longer there under the bus for things rather than admit you have an actual problem to deal with in a new employee. It’s a shame, because I did work very hard, and I looked forward to being colleagues with my boss rather than his employee, but I can’t control that. I can only control myself and how I relate to people from my former job now – which has been, and will continue to be, professionally.

    I really don’t understand what could possibly have been “discovered,” given that he never had ANY complaints while I was there. I felt terrible and like an awful person for the first week after his initial email. Then, my boyfriend said something that hit it home – given that he had no issues while I was there, if there WERE all these “problems,” he clearly wasn’t managing me effectively if things were that bad and he didn’t know it until after I left. Either way, I have plenty of other managers willing to give me positive recommendations, so I’m not terribly worried. I just can’t wait til the day my boyfriend moves forward into a new company so that I don’t have to attend events as a “spouse” anymore either! ;)

    1. Womble*

      Your update certainly reeked of “incompetent manager” to me as I read it. A major part of being a manager is knowing the quality of the work product of your directs, so you can improve the situation as necessary or provide appropriate postive feedback to reinforce the good work being done. If your work *was* substandard, but it was only noticed by your successor, then the manager needs a thorough kick in the pants for lack of appropriate oversight. Hell, I assume you took a day off or a holiday while you were working there… surely any deficiencies in your work or handover would have shown up then?

      Overall, this guy is a goose. He did one good thing for you — he at least said he couldn’t say nice things about you, rather than agree to be a reference and then bad-mouth you to potential employers. So you can be thankful you dodged a bullet there.

  6. $.02*

    4. The reader training a replacement who wouldn’t pay attention to her

    Since the replacement hire was experienced and trying to show the OP how to use filters and the like in excel; the manager realized how bad the OP was. It seems odd because if OP was excellent the boss will know it. Also maybe the boss was excited when you left because you were not good and the boss did not want to fire you

    1. EngineerGirl*

      That’s quite a stretch based on the information given.

      I really hate it when people take tiny bits of information, extrapolate selected data points (not all of them) way, way, way beyond where they ever should be, and then draw bizarre conclusions based on their biased extrapolations.

      I would adivse the OP to wait. Truth comes out, eventually. It may take years, but it absolutely does come out.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      Also, it takes excellence to recognise it. (A form of the Dunning Kruger effect) You’ve heard of the saying “A players hire A players but B players hire C players”. I remember one boss telling me I was incompetent and didn’t know what I was doing. In truth, he was the one incompetent and couldn’t recoginise that what I was doing was proactive and the correct decision. He later failed and was forced out of the company. I was commended on my correct choices.

      1. $.02*

        You could be right, I could be wrong but it’s all theory. I am skeptical because references are always tricky. Some people are lucky to get stellar reviews when they leave their jobs, yet some employers are just happy to let you go

        1. EngineerGirl*

          If it is theory then you shouldn’t state it as fact as you did. That is wrong and defamatory.

    3. Anonymous*

      “the manager realized how bad the OP was”

      This can happen. I don’t think it’s the case with OP #4, but I’ve seen managers adjust their evaluation of an employee after they’ve been replaced. Certain things can come to light, or a new employee can raise the bar so significantly that it makes the old employee look bad in retrospect.

      1. Womble*

        There’s no “in retrospect” in good management. As a manager, you set a certain standard you want directs to meet, and if they meet that, great, and if they don’t, you either adjust your standards (if they’re impossibly high) or you help employees to improve to meet your standard.

        If OP4 was meeting those standards, then there was nothing for the boss to complain about. If subsequently a replacement were to come in and perform significantly better than OP#4, the blame lies squarely with the boss, because the standards he set for his directs was lower than it could have been.

        Of course, all this assumes a competent boss who actually takes notice of what his directs are doing and communicates frequently about performance.

    4. Camellia*

      Actually, the OP said, “…anytime my former boss asks why something my replacement gives him is screwed up in some way, she places the blame on me for never showing her how to do it, showing her the wrong way, etc. ”

      So the replacement isn’t outperforming the OP, she is messing up and blaming it on the OP.

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