4 updates from recent letter-writers

Here are four updates from people who had their letters answered here this year.

1. I’m breastfeeding and was told to pump in the bathroom (#3 at the link)

Thank you for your advice! And thank you to all the commenters on AAM, who are amazing. The community of support was overwhelming, and I wish I could have thanked everyone for their kind words and commiseration.

So here’s the update — since I know I love reading them on your site:

Instead of stressing over wording to the office manager, I sent a note to HR, basically saying “the space earmarked for breast pumping is a bathroom — I’m thinking there is a better option. What do you think?” The instantaneous email back from my HR rep agreed that a bathroom was unacceptable, and we met to look at options minutes later. She was also horrified that this had been the initial solution, which, y’know, was kind of the reaction I was looking for. A lock was installed on the door soon after, and shared out that the room would be reserved for this purpose. I’m relieved it was a happy ending.

2. How can I confirm I’m really still confirmed to teach a class this summer? (#5 at the link)

A happy update for you!

Your advice on how to reach out to Jane worked quite well. She immediately put me in touch with the administrative team to get me in the system and set up. Our schedules never worked out for me to shadow her class, but we were able to meet up in person and talk through curriculum alignment between our classes. She also shared a number of general tips for teaching.

My class started this week, and while it’s definitely a lot of extra work on top of my regular job, I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to introduce students to a field of study that most have never considered before. It’s an elective, so it won’t be offered every semester, but I’m hopeful that they will continue to add it on to the schedule every year or so.

Thank you very much for helping me out!

3. Can I ask interviewers about their budget deficit? (#4 at the link)

This letter-writer sent in an update earlier, where she also asked another question about talking about passion in interviews. Here’s the second update.

After a couple of weeks of being told I wasn’t chosen, I looked on the organization’s website and noticed that they hired their acting director, who was the associate director to the previous executive director. Case closed.

Moving on. I still don’t have a job, but I have identified some of my blocks and I am feeling better, targeting my job hunt more strategically, increasing the number of job applications going out and am slowly getting more interviews. And of course, reading AAM religiously helps me a great deal.

Yesterday I got an email from one of the board members. It came from the woman who is the E.D. of a good-sized organization and attached was the job announcement for the associate director position of the same organization for which I interviewed. She was the person who was not giving me eye contact and was texting on her phone during the interview.

I scrolled down and saw where the newly minted E.D. wrote the email to ask her board members to send out the job opening to whomever they thought might be interested. Sad to say, and I know this reflects poorly on me, but I took a small amount of satisfaction in that even though it was a brief email, it wasn’t well-worded and sounded amateurish instead of professional. Although I realize she might truly be a kick-ass E.D., just one who doesn’t write terribly well.

I very politely thanked the woman who sent the email. I have absolutely zero interest in applying.

4. I was placed on a PIP, resigned, and then was asked to work beyond my two weeks notice (#4 at the link)

I wanted to provide a follow up to my email about being asked to work longer than two weeks after giving notice while being on a PIP.

After my boss made the request that I stay at my job longer than two weeks and work this conference, I had an unfortunate dental emergency. I ended up staying mostly because I needed my dental insurance and didn’t want to deal with paying out of pocket during the gap between my old and new insurance (FYI – root canals and crowns are expensive).

Anyway, I ended up working the conference, which gave me a lot of one on one time with my clients and I absolutely killed it. I did a great job and they loved me. After the conference, they called my boss to tell me how much they love me and appreciate my work and she had to tell them that I quit. I feel like this is the happiest ending possible for me. I didn’t really want to work, but I was able to get my tooth fixed and I left my job on a very high note. Even though my boss probably doesn’t care about my departure it was a little bit of an FU to have my clients tell her how upset they were that I was leaving.

{ 30 comments… read them below }

  1. OP #3*

    As an additional update, the same woman then sent a linkedin request, which I reluctantly accepted. I live in a large metropolitan area but the city within is considered a small town, by everyone I have met, and people know each other in this particular industry so I felt it in my best interest to accept instead of decline her invitation.

    1. Anonamoose*

      Well…and that’s what LinkedIn is for anyway, amirite? It’s like a FB account that you largely ignore. Perfect for this type of acquaintance.

  2. HigherEdHR*

    I just wrote a policy for breastfeeding mothers at the university, partially inspired for what I read here! It defines acceptable and unacceptable places to set aside for BFing mothers. I wanted a policy for employee and supervisors to refer to so it never got to this point! Glad everything worked out!

    1. ZSD*

      Three cheers for HigherEdHR! I’m sure many, many women at your university will be grateful for your efforts (even if they don’t know it’s you they have to thank).

    2. blackcat*

      Any chance you address grad students in that policy?

      At my university, us grad students are W-2 employees, but we are strictly written out of any policy for parents. By university policy, grad students are not entitled to use “health” rooms, and allowing grad students to use them falls at the discretion of the person who normally approves room requests for a particular building. The admin of my building (which houses 3 academic departments) absolutely refuses to handle any request from a student (she is the daughter of a dean and it does not matter how often faculty complain about her–as long as she doesn’t break *written* policies, her decisions are always upheld). So the TWO breast feeding moms who are grad students in one of the other departments were initially just SOL. Fortunately, a faculty member on leave as volunteered her office. This is a department where grad students are generally in labs or at cubicles all day–working from home is uncommon/impossible.

      Legally, I’m pretty sure universities do not *have* to accommodate breast feeding grad students (graduate students, even those whose jobs are 100% research are explicitly exempt). But it’s really unpleasant when they don’t.

      1. Annby*

        Are y’all unionized? I was a grad student until very recently, and the only way we were able to get some of these protections (lactation rooms, all-gender bathrooms, etc.) was via contract negotiations with the university. At the very least, I suggest you look into reaching out to grads from other departments — maybe you’ll be heard if this is framed as a university-wide issue. Good luck!

        1. blackcat*

          Unfortunately for the occupants of my building, it’s not a university-wide issue. The rest of the university has reasonable building admins who think grad students are people, too. So it’s basically just grad students in this one building–a building that is 1/2 mile away from the next big academic building with a “health” room. Everyone else is fine…

          The fact that there’s not a written policy to protect grad students that means a single individual can make life suck for small subset of grad students. So I’m all for expansive policies that can protect folks who are relatively powerless.

          And, no, we’re no unionized. There’s been lots of talk of it periodically, particularly when the NTT faculty/adjuncts unionized. The short version is that stipends depend wildly on departments. The grad students in departments that pay a living wage (which include mine–the women above are in another department in the same building) are unwilling to unionize give that it would likely cause all grad students to end up with a stipend somewhere in the middle of the current range. Given that folks in departments like mine (read: the male-dominated parts of STEM) earn ~30k and other departments are like ~12k (read: mostly female departments like English), the folks making ~30k aren’t willing to risk going down to like 20k to bring other people up.

      2. Jeanne*

        There are a lot of things employers don’t legally have to provide. But we should still ask and good employers will provide at least some of them. Grad students can sometimes get undergrads to help with protests and publicity and that can help.

  3. MissDisplaced*

    “Even though my boss probably doesn’t care about my departure it was a little bit of an FU to have my clients tell her how upset they were that I was leaving.”

    Love that! At least you know you were doing something right.

  4. Charlie*

    It is mindblowing to me that, in this year of our Lawd two thousand and sixteen, there are still people who think a bathroom is an acceptable place to pump. You don’t have to be a woman to realize that. You don’t even have to be married to a woman to realize that.

      1. Yucky*

        Too sad that some adults voluntarily (and even enjoyably) eat where they shit! Somehow, every man in my life thinks this is acceptable!

        1. Jaguar*

          Wait, what? You mean they literally eat in the bathroom or they date coworkers? I couldn’t imagine eating in a bathroom and I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of anyone else doing it.

          1. Queen Anon*

            Morning coffee. Morning pooh. Simultaneously. It seems to be strictly a guy thing. (I don’t mean that all guys do it; I mean that I’ve never met a woman who does – or at least who would admit to it – but the guys that do take their coffee into the john admit to it cheerfully and don’t see the big deal. Including, I’m sad to say, my husband.)

    1. Grrr*

      There are plenty of women who don’t get it, either. Sometimes, they’re women who put up with horrific treatment themselves, and think that younger women are ‘soft’ because they have it better. Back in 2009, I got this sort of flack from a senior exec at work who had pumped in storage room. She had little sympathy for me and another mom at work who didn’t want to pump in a dirty, dusty, conference room where the IT equipment was stored. (And the IT guys entered regularly.)

    2. Elysian*

      Not to make excuses, but some bathrooms are actually really big and pretty nice – they have like little lounges attached and stuff. I would balk at being asked to pump while having only a toilet to sit on, but if there is a lounge-area or big vanity (without sinks) or something, that is less repulsive. Still not ideal, and they should do something better, but still – not all bathrooms are created equally.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Yeah, some of the bathrooms I’ve seen are okay-ish – except they’re not private, and legally employers need to provide a space with a locking door. Also, many pumps are electric, so (although I’m not sure it’s legally required), the space should have an outlet.

      2. Aella*

        My new office is explicit that breastfeeding can be done anywhere in the building, but if you want privacy, there are two rooms in the ladies toilets, which I think used to be changing cubicles. They have nice chairs, though I haven’t checked out the power points yet, as breastfeeding at work is interesting, but currently irrelevant.

      3. Ann*

        My workplace just altered a single stall restroom/shower room and made it twice the size with a shower and toilet still but it also has a couch, a chair, tables, a mini fridge, a hair dryer, even lockers for the moms to use between nursing sessions. The space is huge and it’s so nice that if there’s any mess that comes with pumping that there are some of those usual bathroom amenities in there and it meets all the legal rules too. I just wish they’d had it months ago when more of my coworkers needed it.

    3. Emmy*

      I actually chose to pump in our work bathroom! My boss let me choose where to go and I knew she’d make anything work. I chose the bathroom because I don’t have an office and most of the offices have windows on the whole door. The bathroom is fairly large and pretty with nice lighting. My boss got me a folding table and chair. It was a fine set up. I agree with the law and totally get why many people wouldn’t choose that, but it worked for me!

    1. Yet Another JD*

      Awesome that your clients confirmed your awesome to the ex-boss. Very satisfying end to that chapter of your work life!

    2. Jeanne*

      This update makes me happy. The company had to listen to the compliments AND you got dental work. Win/win.

  5. NewDay*

    I just love reading updates, especially the ones where everything works out in the end! Thank you for sharing en best of luck!

  6. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #3 – back in the “wild west” days of IS/IT (70s-80s-90s) I often would apply for a job – usually placed through a headhunter (yes some say “we are not an employment agency / headhunter, we’re a search firm” — that’s like “I’m not a ticket scalper, I am a broker-reseller” – same difference).

    And I would sometimes be rejected for the job. OK, it happens. But then what happens – “do you know anyone else who would be interested?” My response = “I recommended the best candidate I know for the job, who can do it, but you rejected him. There isn’t anything else I can do for you at this time. Good day madam/sir.” And IMMEDIATELY hang up.

    You can also run into a situation where they call you back after rejecting you and, hat in hand, chewing on humble pie, someone is calling you and saying “perhaps we want to make you a candidate again, we probably should not have rejected you” OR “we know have an opening” – whether through expansion or the hiree didn’t work out. But you are the manager on that side of the phone – SAY IT THIS WAY. Don’t beat around the bush, because I’ll hang up on you.

    #4. Whenever someone is placed on a PIP, that person has to know that his/her future with the company is in extreme jeopardy. Some PIPs are issued legitimately. Some are issued as preludes to getting rid of the person – layoff, following the company handbook, etc. In either case, you have to protect yourself if you’ve been placed under a PIP.

    I guess in this circumstance, the OP made out – she stayed on until her dental work was done – and, the boss probably DIDN’T want to lose her, but – there is one thing – the boss fired the first missile, she took moves to protect herself, and it all worked out in the end.

    This can act as a good example to managers – before you take action on a PIP, think of ALL the results – YOU could end up getting burned. Quite often we read scenarios in here comparing hiring/firing to dating.

    I don’t like those comparisons – because as one of my idols, Al Davis (Oakland Raiders) said about certain players and staff members = “you don’t have to take them home with you at night.” But there is a reality – one valid comparison here – if you treat your “significant other” harshly, or dump him/ her – that person may not come back to you later on if you ask them to do so.

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