updates: am I the office jerk, missing photo, and more

Here are updates from four people whose letters were answered here in the past.

1. Am I the office jerk?

Immediately after I had the meeting with my supervisor and director, I scheduled a session with a therapist and started working on my anxiety. I’ve always been an anxious person, but the work environment I’m in had really exacerbated it and it was presenting, as some commenters pointed out, as an occasional prickliness.

I’ve been much more conscious of my behavior going forward, and things have been good. I’ve realized two things: the first being that, as I mentioned above, I was letting stress make me grumpy. The second is that my boss is pretty unpredictable and often picks up on unusual things to highlight as worthy of praise or critique. I’ve been using some of the techniques in this book by Robert Sutton to help me deal with the stress that unpredictability was fostering, and also to help me look inward and not let the more toxic parts of my workplace rub off on me.

So, not a very exciting update! I’m still here, and still working on improving (always!). I’m looking around for other jobs, but since I’m not desperate for another position, I’m able to really dig in at interviews and figure out if we’re a good fit for each other.

Thank you for all your help!

2. Our marketing department uses everyone’s photo but mine

Not long after my letter, the marketing person scheduled a quick photo session for new employees and included me and for once my schedule didn’t conflict. The resulting photo was pretty blah, but at least it was finally over and included in the staff directory.

However, that was over two years ago and since then I’ve lost 40 pounds and changed from brunette to blonde – I no longer resemble the photo in the directory.

We’ve had enough staff turnover that the marketing person hasn’t been able to keep it up to date anyway.

I think mainly my concern back then was not yet feeling part of the team and repeatedly not having my photo in the directory only exacerbated that feeling. Now I definitely feel part of this office and it was only due to time and connecting with coworkers that solidified that feeling, not my photo in the directory.

3. Candidate has applied for the same job 142 times in one month

So my worst fear came true. Fergus showed up to find out why we hadn’t called him for an interview. He came when my assistant was alone in the office. Luckily despite Fergus’ aggressive applying style, he was not angry or hostile in any way. (We do have on-site security if it the situation had gone differently.) My assistant did a great job handling the situation. She logged into our applicant tracking system and typed in his name. She showed him his 142+ applications that appeared. She then explained the process to him again. It’s now been about eight months and we have had openings in that department a few times and we have received 0 applications from Fergus. I’m not sure if he got a job or if he finally realized we really are looking at his applications.

To answer a few questions: There was no way to block him. We can’t legally block someone from applying and our system doesn’t allow us to just automatically reject someone. As for a system glitch, there is absolutely no way. First, I made sure our system is super easy to apply. Because just like the readers, I hate long applications. It takes less than a minute to apply with us if you have a resume or Indeed account, making it not that hard to apply 10 times a day. You do have to start over though, so it’s not like he just kept hitting submit thinking it didn’t go through. He would have also received 142 confirmation emails. He was also the only one with repeated applications. What are the chances of it only glitching on him? And when we I talked to him on the phone and my assistant talked to him in person he admitted to applying repeatedly.

Some people mentioned a safety issue, that something wasn’t right with Fergus. I don’t think I mentioned this in my original letter but Fergus had something on his resume indicating he was working with an organization that helps individuals with disabilities. From talking to him on the phone and from what my assistant said, I don’t think he is “seriously disturbed” as some readers commented. I just think he doesn’t quite understand some social norms like how many times to apply. Some people thought he was given crazy advice to keep applying. We work with several of these organizations and are very supportive of hiring individuals with disabilities. However, this organization is my least favorite due to their poor effort in getting clients ready to enter the workforce. However, I still don’t think they would give out this bad of advice. I think he just REALLY wanted to make sure we received his application.

Honestly I would have loved to hire Fergus (still would) in one of entry level roles. But he refused repeatedly to consider anything else.

4. My new job isn’t what I’d expected (#5 at the link)

I have an update for you! My question wasn’t one of the more memorable ones, but maybe what I learned will nudge someone else in the right direction- listen to your gut!

I was pretty naive to the job hunt world at the time, and now know how to read between the lines of a job description. Still, I should have listened to my heart more. A big sign something was wrong was that I didn’t even want to celebrate the job offer. My fiancé has never seen me refuse champagne before!

I felt like I didn’t have the financial privilege of turning it down and tried to make the best of it for almost two years. I stuck with it for that long because about a year into my time there my fiancé and I decided to move states, and I just thought it would be better to have one job on my resume for this time period. It became easier when I knew there was an end!

Still, there were so many times I ignored serious signs I should leave. It was a high-stress environment, and to top it off- they literally gave me all of someone else’s job duties on top of my own with no adjustment to my hours, pay or the duties I already had. My mental health was affected, and I would get physically ill most mornings. I never in my life have had such a reaction to work or school. I was so stubborn and determined that I could just push through it that I couldn’t see what an idiot I was being. I would never let a friend do that to herself- I don’t know why I didn’t treat myself with the same respect.

Even though my confidence took a dive, I left with glowing references and on a positive note with my coworkers. I’m now in a new city and searching for jobs again. I will be more careful this time. Just because you can do something, doesn’t always mean you should.

If anybody else is out there having panic attacks on Sunday nights- allow yourself a do-over and seek a position that you can look forward to.

Thank you again for your advice! I have your book and it has been a tremendous help during my job search. Cross your fingers for me — I had two interviews last week.

{ 39 comments… read them below }

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      YAAAAS. Seriously my favorite pair of books (No Asshole Rule, and Asshole Survival Guide).

  1. Sara*

    The amount of updates posted this week makes me so happy. I love updates, regardless of the outcome (though I do wish they were all happy)

      1. SilverRadicand*

        Nope, not possible for updates. They are like Pringles… “once they pop, the fun don’t stop”

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Great analogy.

          I was thrilled to sign on late and see more updates. And now I know to check on the weekend!

      2. Kyrielle*

        These are better for my health than an equal number of candy bars, and at LEAST as satisfying. Maybe more.

      3. Alex the Alchemist*

        Honestly, the amount of updates today are making me so happy! I was delayed going home for winter break until tomorrow and these posts lift my spirits immensely :)

      4. Foreign Octopus*

        You can never have too many updates. I really enjoy clicking onto the site and finding them all stacked up. It was a real treat today because I was out for drinks and when I came back I had all of them waiting for me, so thanks!

      5. tink*

        I got off shift thinking I’d read all the AAM updates for Friday and SURPRISE NEW ONES. It’s like a tiny, wordy holiday gift.

  2. Kyrielle*

    #1 – exciting? No. But excitement usually comes at someone’s expense. I’m very happy to take a gentle positive, feel-good update, as well – and this one is. Good for you for doing the work and developing a better way to deal with the job stress. I wish you good luck in your job search, whatever form that takes. :)

  3. Red*

    @OP 4: the second to last paragraph of your letter is so true, I couldn’t agree more.
    I went from that panic attack job to the job I look forward to, and it’s amazing.
    Well done for getting through it! That’s really tough but you’ve got some experiences and that’s invaluable.

  4. shep*

    #3 – Ah, his behavior makes a bit more sense to me now if he’s been working with a service for individuals with disabilities. I did a brief stint as an employment specialist working with individuals with disabilities, and I could imagine a scenario wherein I walk someone through the application process, and then in turn them believing that, well, more has to be better, right? And then continuing to reapply (on their own) until they hear an answer. Perhaps his team didn’t realize he’d been applying continuously, and he’d never asked to clarify.

    That’s all just speculation, of course! But it does make more sense in that context.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Is there any way you could let the organisation know about this? Perhaps don’t name the individual but just tell them it’s been an issue?

    2. Specialk9*

      I really liked the letter writer’s calm compassion, and interest in finding a solution rather than losing their temper and throwing the applicant away mentally. It was an inspiring attitude. Thanks OP.

  5. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

    #3, I feel bad for you and Fergus. Hate to see someone flounder like it sounds like he is, especially when you’d be interested in him for another role.

    Oh well, maybe he found a better fit.

  6. Awkwardest Turtle*

    Op4 I’m sorry you were having panic attacks! And I’m glad you’ve learned something from an otherwise stressful situation.

    I think a lot of people who don’t dread their jobs suffer from Sunday night anxiety though. Particularly I am friends with a few teachers who have very high anxiety on Sunday nights although they love their jobs. I think it’s about the shift from weekend mode to having to be “on.” (I recognize this probably wasn’t the case for OP – I just don’t want sufferers of Sunday night anxiety to think it’s indicative that they hate their job. You’re not alone!)

  7. Anxious person*

    I have SUPER intense anxiety during my (somewhat lengthy) commute to work on the first day back after the weekend. Here are things my therapist has suggested that might help someone else, too!

    1) Get my clothes, lunch, and breakfast ready the night before. That way I don’t feel rushed on the way to work and don’t start out stressed.
    2) Have a treat that I reserve for that morning — like stopping to get coffee, or wearing a new outfit.
    3) Listen to something affirming on my way to work — like podcasts that are positive and empowering or upbeat music

  8. Margaret*

    #4 – good university staff jobs can be hard to come by. Check if the institution has a history of budget cuts (especially prevalent in state schools, of course) and try to set up informational interviews with someone on campus to learn the inside scoop. What you describe — having all of someone else’s job duties dumped on you with no increase in pay — is incredibly common at the very large research university I work at. It’s happened to me. A friend and I call them Franken-jobs. I joke with colleagues on campus that our university’s motto is “attrition!” But once you are on campus, network your butt off and get your name out there as much as possible. A big campus is like a little town and it’s all about who you know. There ARE some good jobs that haven’t been a victim of Frankenstein-ing, but they are hard to get. Good luck!

    1. Clare*

      Yup, I used to work at a university as well and can second this is a real problem at most of them, especially for admin assistant positions.

    2. LAI*

      Thirded! I’m at a pretty large institution and even here, it is normal to see jobs get combined when there are budget cuts and to see people doing a weird melange of tasks that don’t seem like they are related at all. I hear it’s even worse at small universities. But it’s very normal for a job to consist of 100 different kinds of duties, some of which you might only do once or twice a year, plus “other duties as assigned”. I have learned to ask A LOT of questions in interviews, and to assume every answer is probably a little brighter than the actual truth.

  9. Cruciatus*

    #4 – Your comment about having panic attacks on Sunday nights really spoke to me. I’m also at a university, and when you wrote your letter in, I was about 3 months into my admin position, but I didn’t yet realize the toxicity of the department… I did about 3 months later. I didn’t have panic attacks, but I dreaded, absolutely dreaded Mondays. Not in the normal way. I actually enjoyed the position, but it was my supervisor. I never knew what her mood was going to be. I never felt like an adult able to control my own time, work, or desire to get away from my desk for 1 minute every hour just to move. I felt chained to my desk and at the whim of my supervisor’s moods. It took another year, but a library job on campus opened up and I had some previous experience and managed to get the position! I’m so much happier and dread Mondays in the normal way now. Sometimes I have flashes that my new supervisor will get mad at me because I did something like spoke too long with someone, or was 1 minute late getting back from lunch but she never does and it’s just a much better environment and I’m finally loosening up.

    I agree with you that if you are dreading Mondays more than is normal, it’s probably time to look for something else (if you are able). I didn’t realize how tense I was about my last position until a few weeks into my new one and I actually felt sort of…light. I didn’t realize just how much I was dreading work until I got a new position where I didn’t dread it at all. It is possible to like work! I wish you the best of luck!

    1. AllTheFiles*

      “At the whim of my Supervisor’s moods.”

      Thank you for putting words to an issue I’ve had trouble describing. It seems like how the day will go depends on if my boss is in and what mood she is in. I seem to be a magnet for people like this who swing from being super excited Tuesday to apathetic Wednesday.

      I’m not entirely sure how to spot these people in interviews so I can avoid it in the future but it drives me crazy.

  10. Bookworm*

    Maybe some of these updates aren’t very “exciting” but quite frankly some of the other updates were much TOO exciting so I’m glad it seems a few of these were resolved.

    Agree with #5. So happy you’ve found something else and I totally felt your letter(s). Took a job a few years after college and thought it was a sign I was moving up the ladder: more pay, benefits, permanent (vs. a temp job I was in that was good for experience but it was term-limited and internships/retail before that), in a setting that made me happy (less phone work, my own cubicle/space). Within 3 weeks I knew I had made a mistake but I couldn’t go back because I had trained my own replacement and the economy was dreadful, not to mention that I didn’t know for sure if this was me being immature about it and if I just needed to slog through it until it got better.

    I had the same reaction you did: eventually feeling panic attacks on Sunday and even getting sad on Friday evenings (ie, I was a little closer to Monday) and then I knew I had to stop “asking” for permission from my friends and leave on my own. It still has been a bit rough after that (economy was still terrible) and it would have been a nightmare if I hadn’t been living at home at the time with parents who didn’t want me to leave (long story) but I was so much happier being out of that job. And I found out later from other people that for whatever reason other incumbents tended to last about the same amount of time as I had, so it wasn’t just me.

    If you’ve really made the effort and you’re still genuinely miserable? It’s up to you and your own personal situation but for me at that time/with that job it was worth the price.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      It was the great insight I read in a travel book about the Odyssey–sometimes, what you want is not adventure. Sometimes you want to go home, pat your dog, sit with your wife, and never see the ocean again. Just lead a quiet, predictable, mundane life. There’s a quiet job to be had in an office where you never feel the need to write Alison and ask if you’re the crazy one.

  11. Falling Diphthong*

    I’m still here, and still working on improving.

    OP1, not all updates need to be dramatic! Sure, you didn’t leave for lunch, die your hair blue, undo all the buttons on your clothes, and corner your bewildered grandboss to dare her to fire you. But a surprising amount of the time, that’s really not the right move anyhow.

  12. ..Kat..*

    #3. Kudos to your assistant. She was able to make Fergus feel listened to, and after talking with her, he stopped. Hope you can do something to show her how wonderful she is.

  13. OP#4*

    I’m happy to share that I was offered a great position (with substantially higher pay)! It’s still early days, but I can tell that this will be a totally different office experience. People here really walk the walk! My new supervisor is so genuinely kind and has said she wants to help further my career by providing developmental opportunities suited to my strengths. Sometimes I feel like I have to pinch myself that this is real!

  14. Chelsea*

    Hi Allison. This might be an unpopular opinion but I much prefer new material rather than updates on old material and I noticed that recently there are a lot of updates. Of course you’re free to do as you wish, but just wanted to let you know :)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thanks for letting me know! I traditionally do a slew of updates every December, which also lets me take a bit of an end-of-year break (since there’s less content I have to write). Things will be back to normal after the end of the month! And you’ll continue to get at least one new, non-update post a day, and often two, until then.

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