update: I was hired to run a department — but the old boss is still there, 10 months later

Remember the letter-writer who was hired to take over as a department director, but 10 months later, the old director still hadn’t left? The first update is here, and here’s the latest update.

After my letter was published last year, the situation resolved itself fairly quickly, with Old Boss finally finding another job and me being promoted as planned. I love this gig and my small team, which is great!

I’ve learned since writing that letter that I shouldn’t be afraid of initiating direct conversations because they might be awkward or uncomfortable (and it sounds silly even writing that, but I can tell from other reader questions that I’m not the only person who has struggled with that idea). The conversations we fear are rarely as dramatic or uncomfortable as we imagine they will be, and “direct” does not necessarily equal “aggressive.” Maybe that’s obvious to some, but it was a lesson I needed to learn.

In my situation, I didn’t speak up to Old Boss sooner because I didn’t want to appear pushy, but in retrospect, it would’ve been completely reasonable to initiate a discussion about the reason I was hired and our expectations/timeline. The responses to my letter (both from Alison and commenters) resulted in a little epiphany about how I should act in the workplace to accomplish what I want, and I’ve actually become much more direct and assertive in how I conduct myself – with good results. So, thanks everyone for the advice!

{ 14 comments… read them below }

    1. Pennalynn Lott*

      Same here. I’m using Google Chrome on a laptop and not only are the ads auto playing, but there’s sound even though the sound icon within the ad shows that it is supposed to be turned off.

    2. Jez*

      The easiest way for Alison to resolve this is for you to send her this information with a link to where the ad goes. Bonus: if you include the link in a post here, it will go into moderation and she’ll see it and be able to address it without it even showing up here to be off topic. Hope this helps!

    3. Cautionary tail*

      For me, over the past few days, on my mobile, when the ads finally appear, a minute or so after the AAM text, they cause my phone to reboot. Very frustrating.

  1. louise*

    Another good update.

    “The conversations we fear are rarely as dramatic or uncomfortable as we imagine they will be, and “direct” does not necessarily equal “aggressive.” Maybe that’s obvious to some, but it was a lesson I needed to learn.”

    It’s obvious to me…but only after becoming a regular AAM reader and internalizing everything here. :)

    1. afiendishthingy*

      I’m still working on totally internalizing that concept, but I’m definitely better with it than I was a year ago, thannks to AaM and Captain Awkward (whom I learned about from commenters here). There are still times when I find myself saying “kind of” wayyyy more than necessary, but I’m learning!

  2. Minion*

    I can sympathize with the original situation. The person whose position I took over in October of 2014 is still here, even though when they hired me it was because she was retiring. She didn’t retire, just went down to fewer hours and moved into a more senior position, which was basically created for her. Now she spends her time “monitoring” the departments, though it seems that mine is the one that gets the most monitoring. She just sent me a document outlining things I need to correct. I’ve only been here for 14 months, but I guess it’s time to polish up the old resume and get out because I absolutely refuse to stick around and be micromanaged by a would-be dictator who doesn’t even directly supervise me.
    I’m glad things worked out for you, though, OP.

    1. Colette*

      Have you talked with your manager to confirm that those are things you actually need to correct as well as to clarify how her role relates to yours?

    2. MillersSpring*

      I’d forward the outline to your manager and add, “Let’s meet to discuss Cornelia’s directives.” In person, you could state, “I’m confused by her continued input. I joined the company because Cornelia was retiring, but I’m not sure how to navigate her feedback versus my own judgment and your direction. What are your expectations regarding input I receive from her?”

    3. Ben*

      That’s a strange move, making somebody more senior but with fewer hours. Generally it works the other way!
      She is clearly managing upwards very well, maintaining some strong relationships which enable her to maintain this position.

      Have you also discussed this with managers from other departments to verify that she is being critical mainly towards yours? I guess it’s natural because your predecessor would think she knows how your department *should* run (given she had that role before) so she’s having trouble letting it go.

      Also, what MillersSpring said sounds like a good idea!

  3. Mae West*

    I was hired to replace a beloved employee who was moving to be with her husband who’d been transferred out of state. She was supposed to stay for 2 weeks. She stayed 2 months. After finally leaving, she would visit the office every month for about a year! During her 2 months training me, I learned she wasn’t selling her home and that her husband’s job was a long-term assignment, not a permanent position. I was convinced that I was hired as a place-warmer and that she’d soon be getting job back. Everyone loved her. She was close with our boss. She said she didn’t want to leave and she wasn’t planning on getting a job out of state. She also complained about her future living arrangements. Also, I found out that they had hired soneone before me but that person quit within days! I almost quit too but decided not to because I was looking to gain experience in this particular field and had been searching for this type of opportunity for over a year. I’ve been there over 3 years and it’s been great! She finally stopped visiting and our boss has told me more than once that I’ve surprassed her expectations and has shown her appreciation with amazing pay increases. I’ve since learned that my predecessor might have been well liked personally, but she was not a great employee.

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