4 more reader updates

Four more reader updates:

1. The reader whose new boss was worried she might be too high-energy (#2 at the link)

I was lucky enough to have you answer one of my questions in late 2012, after I had just accepted a new job. Thanks very much to you and your readers for your advice – I read it thoroughly and took it to heart as I started my new job. I’m happy to say that the job is going extremely well, and it brought about an overall lifestyle change that I’m thrilled with (from a major city to a small rural town).

Some of my worries were quickly put to rest when I realized that what had been interpreted as high energy was my interviewing persona, and that I must have come across as far more “up” than I usually am. I very quickly realized that even with my levels of energy and drive there was a massive amount of work delegated to this position, and it would be nearly impossible to overdo the amount I put into it. All of that is good, if exhausting!

I have worked doubly hard to communicate with my supervisor and coworkers and to be explicit about my logic behind the new programming I am implementing, and to make sure that it is needed and wanted and not just for the sake of a fun idea. One thing that has particularly stuck with me from the comments was someone who cautioned me against being the “whack-a-mole from hell.” That was such a perfect analogy and is a good one still to keep in mind when I have the urge to toss out a new idea! No one wants to work with that person, least of all me, so I often ask myself if something I’m proposing actually adds to the conversation or is just a random mole jumping up.

2. The reader whose manager kept dangling a promotion in front of her that never happened

I finally was promoted. However….

When my manager promoted me, she made comments like my numbers warranted the promotion, but I still had things to work on. It was not what she said, but how she said it. It came off like “Well, I can’t find a legitimate reason to not to promote you, but here are the reasons I think you don’t deserve it.”

But it does not end there….

I followed the advice given to me after you posted your response: I spruced up my resume and applied for a new jobs.

About a month after I was promoted, I landed myself a manager position at another company.

Why did I leave after I was promoted? Because I still didn’t feel like valued worker, I still had to deal with the same manager, and my manager made me feel miserable.

At my new job, I felt more valued in one day, then I did my entire time at my old job.

3. Managing a mentally disabled worker who wanted to do more

I’d love to give you an update, but unfortunately it’s not a very happy one…

After I wrote to you, we decided to let him shadow someone for a couple of hours a week, like some of your readers suggested, to at least give him the feeling that he’s learning something new. We were planning on seeing how that went, and if possible, give him real training. By then, he would’ve had some “experience” with the task we were planning on teaching him.
This was going quite well. He seemed happier for a while.

But about three weeks ago he completely broke down. He has since been commited in a mental health institution.
His problems are far beyond anything we can handle here.

So now we’re trying to prepare for when and if he comes back, which will be a challenge of a whole different kind.
(if anyone ever had any experience with that, they’re welcome to let me know how they handled it)

We’re all just hoping he’ll get better, but it’ll take some time…

Thanks to everyone for their advice though, it did help.

4. My office landlord is rude and sexist (#2 at the link)

I don’t know how much there is to say, because shortly after I wrote in he just stopped doing it. I don’t know if my boss talked to him, or if my other coworker did. So, that was good.

But he still made sexist comments about women driving, and doing women’s work, etc. My coworker and I both kept calling him out on it. I actually kicked him out of the office after one incident. That felt good.

Fortunately, I am no longer in that situation. I was laid off several months ago because they ran out of money to pay me. The recession didn’t affect them until well after everyone else’s finances tanked. I did have a generous severance and thanks to the amazing cover letter advice you give here, I start a new job in a week at a company I have admired for some time. It’s a career change for me, but I could not be more excited!

Thanks for your help, you do so much good with your blog, books, articles, and everything you do.

{ 38 comments… read them below }

  1. The Editor*


    As the father of an aspie, the brother of a sister with bipolar, another with OCD, and a host of family members with depression, all I can say is that a world of good is done with being compassionate, and I get that feeling from how you are approaching this person and his unique problems. Good for you!

    But compassion doesn’t get you past the problem. One thought I’ve had is to explore what makes him feel valued. I’m thinking along the lines of Love Languages, and no I don’t mean you should express love to this person. However, if he responds to Words of Affirmation, do you tell him that he’s doing a great job and that you appreciate his efforts? If he responds to Gifts, do you award him specifically and specially? If he responds to Time, do you give him that one-on-one time that helps him feel like a valued person.

    It’s kind of an awkward situation because this is work, not a relationship, but I know with my family and my employees, understanding what makes someone feel valued and then doing those things creates the perception of their own personal worth.

    Just one example: I used to work with a severely challenged person both mentally and physically. He had the basic mental capacity of a seven-year-old. As a team, we found that smiling and talking to him was what made him feel valued, so we made it a habit to say, “Hi Darwin” EVERY time we saw him. He went from being disgruntled and angry to happy and cheerful. It took time, and we had to do it every day all day for the rest of time, but the two seconds it took to say Hi Darwin made a world of difference in his life and our lives.

    I wish you luck. These are amazing people with real strengths and value to contribute to the world, and I’m so glad that you are so aware of this one at your work and are trying so very hard to make his life better. You deserve a thousand thanks!

    1. Clever Name*

      This makes me so happy to read this. I used to work with disabled children, and several of my friends have kids with challenges. They absolutely have real contributions to make.

    2. Sara M*

      The biggest problem for #3, as you can see at the link, is that he’s a person who has lost considerable mental ability. He certainly knows that he is not capable of what he used to be. That adds to the trauma of the whole experience in a way which is simply different than it is for someone who was born that way. I wouldn’t be surprised if awareness about his changed capacity is a major factor in his collapse. I was temporarily disabled for a while (physically) and I mentally collapsed in a way that someone who was born with my condition simply wouldn’t. Sometimes the loss of ability hurts far more than the actual level of ability itself.

  2. nyxalinth*


    I’m never too sure what ‘high energy’ means. Does it mean being a yakkety blabby type? (I’m a quiet and introverted type). Does it mean constantly go go go do do do? A mix? something else? Because I suspect that that isn’t me!

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Yes, it’s next to “a bubbly personality” which to me means so-effervescent-it’s-annoying.

        1. nyxalinth*

          Definitely not me, and I couldn’t fake it all day, every day. So I know to avoid anything that requests ‘high energy’ or ‘bubbly’. Thanks!

      2. nyxalinth*

        Thought so, but because people sometimes use ters for things they don’t really mean, I thought I’d ask. Thanks!

    1. Ruffingit*

      I tend to think of it as that guy in the workplace who is always talking, always suggesting new projects and things to do, always needing to be on the go. It’s the person you want to say “Sit down and be quiet for 5 minutes. No talking, no moving. Just relax.”

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        This reminds me of that “Hollywood Minute” routine that David Spade did on SNL years ago. During one he flashed a picture of Katie Couric with her great big toothy grin, and said, “Katie Couric: I’ll give you $1000 if you stop smiling for 5 minutes.”

    2. ChristineSW*

      Haha, based on the subsequent responses, I’d definitely say I’m not “high-energy” or even “bubbly”. Yes I am friendly and have occasional bursts of excitement. However, it’s not something I could sustain for long periods.

      1. KLH*

        I get described as “high energy” a lot, and it’s not because I’m yakky or constantly suggesting changes. Bubbly, probably. But in my case it comes out as supreme retail personality–I like to get things done, I like to talk to people, I tend to be enthusiastic, and most importantly I have a sort of energy that flows into others and gets them on the idea or plan.

      2. Jamie*

        I also haven’t been accused of being either of those things, although I do have high energy when it comes to work mine is quieter as when I have the most focused energy at work I’m the most in my own head and keyboard.

        I think sometimes (not always) high energy is shorthand for energetic to the point of being annoying. Super glad to see everyone all the time – super enthused about almost everything.

        Unfortunately I’ve known a lot of people like that who would start things with great gusto, but lose interest once the work went past the meeting and talking stage.

        Then again there are jobs where this can really serve you well. Entertainment, some sales positions, etc.

        Not a big selling point in IT or accounting…we prefer our energy of the long burning stamina variety.

    3. Op#1*

      In my case, I suspect it was my enthusiasm at the interview – so a bit of over-talking – combined mostly with a long list of things I do on the side so a lot of go-go-go. I tend to be very introverted but not necessarily shy and am always excited about new ideas. I’ve had to learn to tamp down the pointless excitement and make sure ideas really can fly before I bring them up.

  3. thenoiseinspace*

    Oh no! OP 3, I’m so sorry. Thank you for doing all you did – it’s comforting to know there are managers like you out there! I think you did all you could. My fingers are crossed that he gets the help he needs and does get better!

  4. JulieInOhio*

    #1 – I love the “whack-a-mole from hell” analogy and will try to keep it mind as well, both in my actions and in dealing with others who may present that way!

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      This analogy perfectly describes someone I work with. I’ll be struggling not to chuckle next time I talk to her.

  5. ChristineSW*

    #3 was the update I was most looking forward to, and I’m sad to hear that he has been hospitalized. I agree with everyone else–you did a very good thing by offering to let him shadow a coworker. I hope he is well again soon.

  6. ella*

    #3–Do you know if he has an out-of-work support network (family, friends, professional caregivers) that you could also work with? You should do this with his express permission, of course, but it might be helpful for you both, because his caregivers may be able to name support strategies or things that they observe that he can’t articulate on his own, and they’d be able to remind him, when he’s not at work, of your expectations and objectives for his performance, if he needs it. (I’m not so much thinking about work tasks, here, but things like impulse control/outbursts if he has trouble with those.)

    Beyond that, I’d say be as welcoming and compassionate as you can, and be as explicit as you can with how things will or won’t change on his return. I don’t imagine that the shadowing of the other employee will continue, and he’ll notice that it hasn’t, but you can tell him why it’s stopped and the conditions under which it will resume at some point in the future.

    And kudos for being so compassionate thus far, and being willing to work with him.

  7. Anony*

    Re: #3. Managing a mentally disabled worker who wanted to do more

    Just wanted to say, I commend you and your boss’ patience. It’s hard to find people like you.

  8. Elizabeth West*

    1–“whack-a-mole from hell”

    HAHAHAHAHA that’s awesome. And good to know that going in!

    2–Ugh. I’m glad OP found something where she is treated well. Old Manager = :P

    3– Aww! :(

    How sad. I hope he gets better soon.

    4–What an ass. And yay for new job!!

  9. Poe*

    Oh my goodness, the moment I read “whack a mole from hell”, I got a terrible feeling…that was totally me at my old job. Yikes. I am less like that with my current job, because the structure is different and I don’t feel welcome to make suggestions, which clearly is a good thing! Thanks to the OP for using that term, I think you helped me recognize a potentially problematic trait in myself :D

  10. AF*

    #3 – just wanted to send your employee and everyone at your company positive vibes that he will be okay. It’s really awesome that you could help him, and I hope he can return soon.

  11. Not So NewReader*

    I have seen a few people come back after a major breakdown so I can relate what I saw. It might or might not apply to your setting.

    Sadly, it’s not good. The one person I am thinking of had the biggest change- he was a shadow of the worker he used to be. He went from power worker to barely working. There were many other changes that went along with the drop in productivity. I should say he was NOT violent nor was he even mean in any manner. He was extremely subdued, his reaction time was much longer and he did not take care of himself the way he used to.
    I was never afraid. I would try to make a point to chat with him each day.

    OP, you have a written job description for his position, I assume. When the time comes give him that description and ask that he talk it over with his doctor(s). It is possible that the doctor could decide that it is not in his best interest to return to work. OR the doctor could decide that it is best to use a trial period. OR the doctor may just say a clear cut yes or no. And one more possibility he may decide on his own not to return to work.

    Definitely get that return to work note. And definitely provide a job description. Notice how none of this involves going over the personal medical information that should be confidential but it does protect the company.

    If he does come back to work, welcome him back in the same manner you would anyone else and just take it one day at a time. I suspect that he will be out a while and the whole question will just melt away. Sad.

    1. Cassie*

      We have an employee who, one day out of the blue, started acting bizarre. Nothing violent or anything like that, but she started wandering around the cubicles, asking questions that were polite but not relevant, etc. It’s like if an elderly grandmother came for a visit and was trying to make small talk.

      We took her to the ER and she was out for a few weeks. It was the first time we’ve experienced something like that and we were worried she wouldn’t get better. Fortunately, the staffer returned back to her usual self and doesn’t appear to have had any long-term effects. In fact, the staffer doesn’t even remember the incident or what may have caused it (possibly something work-related) – although I imagine it is scary to not be able to remember such a major incident in one’s life, I guess she’s kind of lucky too in that she *doesn’t* remember.

      1. Anonymous*

        Lucky she had such caring coworkers who took her to the ER. I shudder at the thought of her leaving work and getting into an accident, or worse.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      I posted in the “I used to suck at firing people” thread about my one really terrible experience with firing someone.

      At one point, the employee had a grand-mal seizure at the office one day, and that was when he really started to struggle. I was just baffled, because he’d always been an extremely reliable employee, quite knowledgeable in his job, and about other areas as well. Even when he was having some major turmoil in his personal life earlier in the year, he’d managed to keep on top of things.

      I told my husband about it, and said I just could not understand his almost-overnight 180 from diligent, reliable employee to complete screw-up. My husband opined that the seizure had, essentially, rewired his brain, and in some ways he was no longer the person I’d known and worked with for the last couple years.

      That was only a guess, of course, as neither one of us are medical professionals, but it was the only explanation that made any sense. And it made me really feel for him, because as someone else posted, being aware of a change in personality or ability, and not being able to do anything about it, would be really frustrating, not to mention frightening and disconcerting.

    3. Anon this time*

      I was the person returning from a major breakdown once, and your description sounds very familiar. When I returned I was mentally running at half speed and spooked by the idea of doing anything new. It took about six months before I hit the point where I’d say I was functioning at acceptable levels, and at least another six months before I was really back to my personal definition of normal.

      1. ano*

        Indeed. Having been through a very harsh time myself this year I can say it does take time. I had 3 months off due to marital issues and managed 7 weeks back in the office before the situation forced me back out again. I’m still off sick now (3 months later) and I’m not really expecting to be even partially competent to manage my job for at least another 2 months or even more!

        The bosses have been great and hugely supportive telling me not to rush my recovery and return to work but their plan is my job IS still there for me.

  12. Anonymous*

    #2- I am ery glad you found a job were you are appreciated! It took me a while to get out of the mindset that it would be bad to leave a job just for more appreciation. I would dismiss my needs and tell myself to not complain.

    Now I am lexcited for new opportunities!

  13. anon-2*

    #2 – good for you.

    I guess there is a management style of “carrot dangling” but unless the carrot is delivered in a timely fashion, it sets up a “lose-lose” situation.

    When that happens, the employee-underling leaves – and WINS, not the way he or she wanted it, but wins.

    The boss and the company loses. Lose. LOSERS.

    Good for you.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Agreed. Carrot dangling is not the way to motivate anyone unless the carrot can actually be gotten within a reasonable amount of time. If it’s continually offered up as an incentive, there has to be a way to achieve it timely otherwise, after three months or so, a person says (if only to themselves) “Yeah, yeah, I know I’ll get the carrot if I do XYZ, but then you’ll tell me it wasn’t good enough or some other bogus excuse so whatever.”

      1. anon-2*

        It’s a DE-motivator. Dangle enough carrots and you get a staff of drones.

        NOW, that may be what you want, as a manager. You might want people who are not motivated to advance themselves, and have no personal ambition. There are places like that.

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