updates: one of our coworkers is putting nails in our car tires, employees are afraid they’ll be ostracized after they’re promoted, and more

Continuing our annual December “where are they now” series, here are four more updates from people who had their questions answered here this year.

1. I think one of our coworkers is putting nails in our car tires

Long story short, nothing exciting really happened afterwards, which I suppose could be construed as a good thing. We ended up reporting the incidents to our security/facilities team so that they would have it on record to see if there would be a recurring pattern. Shortly afterwards, I was was put on a special project team based out of a different physical office location. I believe the timing was purely coincidental, but temporarily relocating me to another location helped ease my fears about any additional forms of vandalism or retaliation.

I returned to the permanent headquarters location after the summer months, and I now only park in areas with security cameras. I’ve seen a lot more emails from our onsite security/facilities team regarding suspicious vehicles, unlocked cars, doors ajar, etc. so it seems that they are monitoring the premises more closely than they were before. If anything, it’s still a bit unnerving to think that one of our own employees could be the culprit, but I’m hoping that the security cameras and increased presence of our onsite security/facilities team will be enough to deter them from doing anything further.

2. My employees are afraid they’ll be ostracized after they’re promoted

With your guidance and the guidance of your readers, I was as transparent as possible and also nipped gossiping and negative conversations in the bud by addressing them directly. One way I did this was by avoiding a department wide email (something I had done in the past and, surprise surprise, it didn’t go well!) and instead speaking with people in my department directly, in groups and one on one. I’m thrilled that people were supportive of their co-workers for the most part and I had more than one conversation with the people getting the promotions about why they were chosen, to help cheerlead them on but also support them.

Now all that said, I shortly accepted a new position at a new library a few months after this – a promotion for myself and at a larger organization! So I’m unsure of the long term impact but my impression is that things are still going well at my former library. But I know the long term impact for me has to do with communication and transparency. Being as clear as possible and also, sometimes speaking with people in person is way more effective than a group email!

Thank you again, to you and your readers, for the advice. It helped immensely, not just me but also for my staff. And that really is the most important thing!

3. Company agreed I could telecommute — and then changed their mind once I started the job

I have been allowed to work one day a week at home. That in addition to really liking the rest of the crew made me decide not to push the question. However … in the past few weeks, things have changed. When I returned from vacation, I was asked by my boss if I’d like to transfer to another division that really “needed” me. They were supposedly asking for help. This was right after he promoted someone in our group and hired someone else in who had been working in the mail room. I felt like it might be an opportunity to learn something so after asking him some pertinent questions, I agreed. He said I could work at home, ALL the time, unless I was required to come in for a meeting, etc. Sounds good so far.

Until I learned this week that plans were put in place for me to do busy work on a platform that will require nights, weekends, and holidays. That’s my big promotion.

So, I am looking, which is what I should have done in the first place. I may not be able to work at home but I will be sure that I don’t get a bait and switch this time and that my duties and job title are going to be relatively stable.

4. Paying for a team birthday lunch (#2 at the link)

Update: I didn’t pay.

However, a coworker DID pay. And just like that — I saw how awkward it was. Now I don’t know how the January birthday lunch will go.. Are we taking turns paying? Was it a one-time holiday treat? Great advice to keep the status quo, much more simple for everyone.

{ 33 comments… read them below }

  1. Jerry Vandesic*

    #4, in the original posting it said “Today he informed the team that the higher-ups decided no one gets to work at home, ever.” Did this policy get rescinded? Not sure if the offer to let your work at home is genuine if the no-WFH policy is still in place. Besides the issue about busy work, be careful that your boss lying to you about working from home.

  2. Zip Silver*

    OP#3: Experiences may vary, but most telecommuters I’ve known have been expected to have a much more different availability than regular 9-5ers because you typically get greater flexibility. It might be worthwhile to give it a solid try before you start searching in earnest. (but of course, brush up your resume in the mean time)

    1. animaniactoo*

      When that happens, people are upfront about what the difference in the hours availability is, they don’t spring it on you last minute after you’ve already agreed to the transfer.

      It’s also different to expect that you may need to do an occasional or once a week early morning or late evening conference call, etc. than that your entire schedule is shifting to regularly working nights and weekends, which is what OP seems to be saying has happened.

      Given that this is the 2nd or 3rd revision of what OP has been told is possible, I think they’re right in choosing to leave and not wait-and-see an arrangement which isn’t one they want to begin with and they can’t count on to remain stable to boot.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        This 100%. While I thought the company was in the wrong on the original post I now really REALLY think OP needs to move on. It sounds like a circus over there!

      2. Joseph*

        “Given that this is the 2nd or 3rd revision of what OP has been told is possible”
        As I’m counting, this is like *six* different ways they handle telecommuting in the past ~6 months:
        1.) “telecommute half the time” (interview),
        2.) “no telecommuting now, but I’ll reconsider in a couple months” (day she started),
        3.) “no telecommuting ever, no revisiting the situation) (when OP emailed),
        4.) “one day per week” (after the OP was posted),
        5.) “you can work from home all the time” (afterwards)
        6.) “we changed your job description so your working from home will include nights/holidays/weekends” (now)
        At this point, even if OP was willing to go with the current arrangement, it’s pretty clear that it certainly wouldn’t stay like that for long. Some companies make telecommuting a priority, some don’t – and this company has made their stance eminently clear.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          You missed a step between 3 and 4, where “no telecommuting ever” still entailed 2 of 5 people telecommuting in her department either most or all of the time.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah, this all sounds kind of dodgy. I was much more willing to give OP#3’s employer the benefit of the doubt b/c of the changeover in manager and the agreement not being in the offer letter. I thought what they’d done was not right, but I also thought it could have been the result of some honest mistakes, grandfathered agreements with older employees, etc.

        But now it sounds like the employer is just shuffling people instead of addressing whatever root problems are causing the unequal demand on time, and it also sounds like OP’s manager suckered her. If I thought my manager had misrepresented my future role/job to entice me to take it, it would have a huge negative impact on my morale and on my willingness to work the insane hours they’re now requiring. I would be looking, too.

        OP#3, I’m so sorry. This has been a rocky ride, and I hope you’re able to get off of it, soon.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          For some people this type of thing translates into “companies LIE”. It seems like OP is trying to work with these people, “human nature, etc, etc” and the more she accommodates them the more they just take advantage. They gave her a promotion and FORGOT (???) to mention it was nights and weekends? Really? That is a substantial change to what she had before and to not disclose that really takes the “good faith” out of any agreement she makes with this company. If it were me I would be looking at my paycheck to make sure that was done correctly.

    2. sstabeler*

      I think part of the problem is that the job is apparently just busywork- as such, it seems that the only reason why OP# is REQUIRED to work nights, weekends and holidays is because she is a telecommuter- if she wasn’t, they could have let the work wait for normal business hours. In short, it makes it seem like they are saying “you want to telecommute? OK, say goodbye to your free time” which is not a reasonable demand ( in essence, the nights, weekends and holidays almost seem to be lost as a punishment for wanting to telecommute)

  3. Anon telework grump*

    I’ve been on the supervisor’s side of #3, and I have to say it’s tough. I inherited an employee who claims he was told he could regularly telecommute when he got the job. However, his job is not very conducive to teleworking, and there are performance issues as well. Also, the higher-ups decided it “wasn’t fair” that some positions could telework and others couldn’t, so it was partly out of my hands. Granted I would’ve been more likely to push back on behalf of my employee if there weren’t attitude/performance issues in play. I can see it from his perspective: he took a job thinking he would have this benefit and now he doesn’t. But at the same time, I have an obligation to ensure the work of his program is getting done, and if I truly don’t believe that can be accomplished with teleworking then I have every right and duty to change it. My organization does have written telework agreements, but they specifically state they can be altered or rescinded by your supervisor at any time.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Have you been clear about the issues with both the role not being well-suited to teleworking and his performance?

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      The red flags were in the original letter, though. Because although he claimed the higher ups had declared no one could telecommute, period, 2 of the 4 other people in the OP’s department were still telecommuting!

      And if the problem is “performance issues as well” then the performance issues need to be addressed. It does no good to the employee or the company to pretend the problem is something other than what it actually is.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      OP’s company needs to have written agreements.

      I am surprised that neither the boss or the job applicant in your story caught that the job does not lend itself well to telecommuting.

      OP’s company sounds like mashed potatoes, just a wishy-washy company. But you, Anon, sound different, you sound fair minded and consistent. While the message, “You cannot work from home” is not something people want to hear, if it’s applied evenly and fairly, people will tend to understand.

      1. Anon telework grump*

        Yes my predecessor admitted he wanted to get someone in the role quickly and promised telecommuting. No one else in the state who has that position telecommutes outside of “hey it’s snowed and I can’t get out of my neighborhood but I have a deadline can I work at home today”.

        The employee is on a PIP after much direct verbal counseling, so they’re aware of the performance issues. Unfortunately I think it’s a bite of your nose to spite your face situation, they were “making a point” about having telework rescinded by having a bad attitude and completing the bare minimum of work, which means I can’t trust them to work independently at home.

  4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #2 – it happens. So much so that some managers refuse to promote people into advanced roles, but ask them to perform them, because a promotional announcement might cause “discord”. I actually was a victim of this once.

    But if a promotion is offered to you and you fear this happening – you have to make a decision = do you want career advancement, new challenges and responsibilities, and (ostensibly) more financial reward and gain, or is your popularity with your peers more important?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. I always like to read updates but I do not always comment. Probably many do the same. Actually the updates are a key part of the learning that goes on here. Someone tries X and how did that work out? Well maybe they had to tweak it or maybe it went great or maybe something unexpected happened and everything changed. We get to see all different factors that impact a situation.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I’m glad security stepped up (and appears to be actively monitoring the parking lot), especially because nails in your tires is so very creepy. But man oh man, I wish I knew what ended up happening to the batch of toxic new hires.

    1. Sherm*

      Same! The way they may have been trying to sabotage the OP was appalling and deserving of a serious dose of karma.

    2. Sabine the Very Mean*

      What I don’t understand is how easy is it for a person to just shove nails into a tire? Is it relatively easy to do? I’m seriously imagining having to use a rubber mallet to actually penetrate the tire. Or are the nails strategically placed so the tire rolls over said nail? Oh man, the images in my head!

      1. jb*

        It’s easy if you have a hammer, which, if you’re the type of person who would stick nails in someone’s tires (or even if you’re not), you probably do.

        As with many acts of vandalism, the actual execution is not the challenging part.

        1. Artemesia*

          But vandals do need to assume there might be surveillance so if you want to key or nail someone, you would need to figure out how to do it somewhat casually and in passing. Nailing with a mallet is going to get you caught.

          1. Zombii*

            If you know where the cameras are, you pretend to drop your keys on the side facing away from the camera, then you crouch down to pick them up. While you’re “searching for your keys,” you hammer in a nail. Pretty quick.

            If you don’t know where the cameras are, I have no idea.

            Or if your company makes a big deal about not having cameras in the parking lot—like my ExJob did whenever vandalism happened because “there aren’t any cameras out there so we can’t do anything about it” (seriously?)—then a whole new world of petty crimes opens up.

      2. Anony*

        Also easier if you wedge the nail in at an angle between the tire and ground so the act of backing up pushes it in. Friend of mine had a stalker who used that tactic, then followed her home waiting for her tire to go flat. Luckily it never did.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I was going to say this one. I’ve seen people put nails in tires in all sorts of covert ways.

          But I am so sorry for your friend—that anecdote is terrifying.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I worked in a place where contractor’s vehicles were in and out all day long. It was pretty normal to find nails on the ground. Sure, we tried to pick them up, but the nature of the setting was we could not get all of them. I had a couple flat tires until I learned that some places were better to park than others.

        After seeing this, it makes me realize that the perpetrator does not have to do anything major, just setting a nail or two behind a tire could be enough. This would explain why it was hard to catch this individual. A person could walk by a car, “accidentally drop” their car keys and toss a nail underneath a tire while picking up their keys. On camera the gesture looks innocent enough.

        Where I went to school some one decided that people driving SUVs were deserving of punishment for damaging the environment with their fuel-loving vehicle*. So this person or persons started slashing tires on SUVs. I don’t think they ever caught the person, but it seemed that the slashing stopped after a bit.

        * A different topic for a different day. But random acts of vandalism do not usually persuade people of the righteousness of the cause.

        I hope the catch the person doing this, OP, and criminal charges are pressed.

        1. Candi*

          “But random acts of vandalism do not usually persuade people of the righteousness of the cause.”

          A masterful piece of understatement and true to infinity.

  6. StartupLifeLisa*

    Removed — I don’t allow off-topic questions here because the threads get unwieldy enough as it is. Thanks.

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