updates: the work note left on a grave and more

Here are updates from five people whose letters were answered here this year.

1. My coworker keeps asking his wife for input on our projects

I think my coworker figured out based on our ignoring his wife’s input that we weren’t going to listen to it, because he hasn’t since tried to do that again! I have also not heard him refer to his dad as “my dad” anymore, which, although I know some commenters didn’t think it was a big deal, was very off-putting to me and my team. My team has worked on a couple of small things with him since I wrote in, and they’ve been pretty much uneventful.

This issue was really not indicative of bigger workplace problems, like some folks thought it was. That’s part of why it was so weird to me: usually when relatives are hired, they don’t work very closely and they do everything they can to distance themselves from each other. Overall, our workplace is very healthy and I love working here. This was kind of the biggest problem I’ve dealt with in the past year!

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question! I feel like the advice you gave me is going to help me a lot in the future and equip me with something to use when someone suggests or asks for something truly bizarre or out of the ordinary.

2. My boss made me leave a work-related note at the grave of my bereaved coworker’s relative (first update is here)

I saw your post where you called for updates on past letters. I don’t have anything exciting to add or let you know about. I haven’t found a permanent job yet.

On the upside, I have been temping and/or working contract jobs which has given me tons of experience and new skills in the related industry I hope to find work in.

I figure it is only a matter of time before I find a permanent job. I need to keep looking. I am sure all of your posts on Ask a Manager will help in that regard.

I am appreciative of the supportive words from you and in all the comments.

Although my parents and other family and friends have been nothing but supportive and good to me, they all agree that I should have gone to HR right away and not delivered the note. But no one has said anything negative or I deserved to be fired or anything like that. Thank you again.

3. My mom says that using FMLA will prevent me from getting another job

About two weeks after you answered my letter, I got a new job as a credentialing specialist for travel nurses. It paid less but was much more relaxed than the call center job, and I barely had to touch a phone. So I made it work (and I did not use FMLA; the work was chill enough that I never got the Sunday-evening dreadfuls). I accomplished a lot while I was there, streamlining our process and filing and all that kind of thing, but unfortunately, most of our business was with a hospital in the Carribean. Hurricane Irma and Maria destroyed it so three of the four employees were laid off in the middle of September.

I was on unemployment for all of October but got another job within a month. I am currently a private investigator specializing in intellectual property. It’s only my fourth week working, but the job is challenging and interesting and lets me use the writing skills I never got to before. Two other women around my age were hired at the same time, so I got a new job paying significantly more money AND new friends.

Still not finding many friends at church, and Utah is still cold and polluted, but I joined a gym and have been doing my exercising indoors. I also found a tiny hula school about half an hour from me so I’m getting a little bit of a fix for my Hawaii homesickness. And got all settled on a medication regimen that is managing my depression really well in conjunction with the exercise, so all and all, I am a hundred times happier and healthier than I was when I wrote in February.

Still up for new friends though, so if any of you are in Utah, reach out! I really appreciate all the encouragement in the comments to my letter. You guys are the best.

4. My date to the office Christmas party is … a coworker (# 3 at the link)

Thank you and the commenters who told me to just be mater-of-fact. I’d been feeling uncomfortable about the office not knowing we were together so when you said I could use the opportunity to “come out,” I decided to do that.

I had this conversation about 6 times:
Colleague: “What are you doing for the holidays?”
Me: “Falcon and I are spending a Christmas with this family in Far Off Place.”
Colleague: “Oh are you two together?”
Me: “Yes!”

Early in the evening the response was generally, “Congradulations. + { general talk about traveling }”

Later in the evening (there was on open bar…) I got more questions about details and even had a group raise their glasses and toast us.

As a normally private person I wanted to die of embarrassment a few times but it was also nice to see that my colleagues care about me and like him.

The next day at the office everything was fine and normal :)

Happy Holidays!

5. My position isn’t mentioned in a job posting for my boss (#3 at the link)

The same day my question was posted, I decided to schedule a meeting with the new COO who was shouldering a lot of my ex-boss’s duties about my role and projects that we had in the future. The meeting was great! I was a little embarrassed (not sure why) to ask specifically about the job posting but I mentioned that with all my ex-boss’s failed projects, I felt like I didn’t have anything to show for the six months I’ve been here and that I felt like I wasn’t doing anything useful for our org and they didn’t need me.

She immediately stopped me and said our org 100% needed me, that the data part of my role was so integral, and asked where else I would like my role to go. I told her I’d like to explore more of the donor side and maybe even build a portfolio of donors. She immediately brought me in on an end of the year project in away that will help me gain some experience! Additionally, things became so much better after a month or so without ex-boss that the junior director (who is great) decided to stay in her position! So thrilled with how everything turned out, thanks so much for basically confirming that this was something I should bring up!

{ 46 comments… read them below }

  1. Lady Phoenix*

    #2: Unfortunately, while hindsight is well and good, it does not help that you got stuck in a powerplay that was rigged for you to lose. This is a scary thing I feel a lot of new, and often young, employees get to deal with and then we get all these wonderful stories of bullying, sexual harassment, and general terribleness.

    I hope for a day good companies protect their new employees and make them feel safe.

    Also, may you ex-boss step on a dirty nail barefoot, a la “Home Alone”. (Who else cringes and looks away when that moment happens?)

    1. SallytooShort*

      Yes! I know a lot of people couldn’t understand why she did it in the first place. But she was new to the workplace and had so little power compared to her boss.

      The circumstances are so absurd in this case that it can distract from that. But it’s really stuff we see everyday. Why didn’t you report your boss who grabbed your butt? Why did you go pick your boss up from the airport in the first place?

      It’s really hard to walk that workplace balance. And reporting your boss to HR can come back to bite you as often as it helps (we’ve all seen those letters.)

      1. Desi Jane*

        Yes, exactly. Hindsight is 20/20 and I do feel for the OP. My first job out of college was for a privately owned, father/son company worth over $100million. I was a good employee, but my time there was eclipsed by scandal. A boss who directed me to bait-and-switch a client (a law firm no less!!), and sexual abuse my boss turned a blind eye to in the face of hard evidence. You feel a bit powerless when you’re young and fresh out of college, and you never know how you’ll handle something until you’re actually living it and have a new apartment to pay for, etc.

        The OP seems to be focusing on the positive and learning from this, rather than the negative and beating him/herself up. I’m sending the OP lots of good vibes and will go on and do great things in the workforce, and maybe an even more compassionate leader after this.

        Now for that sorry excuse for a boss..

      2. All Hail Queen Sally*

        Sally, I like your comment about reporting bosses to HR coming back to bite you. That has been my concern since I first heard of this situation. What if OP had gone first to HR and HR took the bosses side? OP could have been the only one fired! If this had been my situation when I first started working, I probably would have done the same thing. I was so naive when I was young. Live and learn. Hang in there OP, things like this will make you stronger in the long run.

    2. Marthooh*

      Agreed! And in the meantime, OP2:


      Print it, sign it, hang it on the wall.

  2. Gadfly*

    To 1, I just was dealing with family in SLC, and the inversion was awful. Summer can be ok, but Nov-Feb the valley often has the worst air in the country because it gets trapped. We were up at Huntsman’s the day I got there and it was so bad I could barely see the UofU campus from the 5th floor.

      1. YarnOwl*

        That is such a funny mistake, because I am OP 1 live/work in SLC too! I was like, I don’t think I put anything in my letter about that, but the inversion has been terrible! Ha!

  3. Antilles*

    She immediately stopped me and said our org 100% needed me, that the data part of my role was so integral, and asked where else I would like my role to go… She immediately brought me in on an end of the year project in away that will help me gain some experience!
    Wow. Just wow. That’s an absolutely *incredible* response by the COO – listening to the concern, reassuring you, transitioning the discussion into ways to grow your career and keep you happy, then backing it up with action. A+ management.

  4. MissGirl*

    OP3, I’m in Utah. I’m not sure if you’re into the outdoors but the biggest thing that has gotten me and my friends through the winters is having an outdoor sport. I took ski classes in college and now I moonlight as an instructor on the holidays and weekends. Sometimes it’s warmer at the resorts than the valleys.

    My roommate is getting into snowshoeing and it doesn’t have the barrier to entry skiing does. If you have the proper clothes, the cold really isn’t an issue. There’s several Meet-Up groups with activities and a lot of the people who go are transplants. I will say while these groups gave me people to do stuff with, I had a hard time meeting friends there. The groups are very large and a lot of people seem to know each other already. I’m a bit of an introvert and shut down in big groups where I don’t know people.

    Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter. @WeekendWomanWar

    1. Maygen*

      I am also in SLC. My husband actually lived in Hawaii for a couple of years. I don’t like to do much in the outdoors and am very introverted, too. My best friend has a group (she met them on Meet Up) that goes hiking and does outdoor activities all the time and they love new people. How would I get in touch with you?

    2. Utahn*

      I’m currently visiting family in Texas for the holidays, but I live in Utah (northern Utah County). The inversion has been terrible this year.

    3. PersephoneUnderground*

      Agreeing with this- Utah has *fantastic* skiing in the winter. If you’re in Salt Lake there are great mountains nearby enough to just go on a day trip, no need to make an overnight stay of it. Just don’t trip in deep powder- my dad tells me stories of getting stuck upside down in snow deeper than he was tall, with just his ski-bottoms showing, and his brother laughing his head off instead of helping him out for a few minutes :P (I feel like he was probably exaggerating, but powder that deep sounds awesome to this Virginian whose nearest ski places the snow is half ice, half snow, maybe a few inches deep tops). Skiing can also be social or introverted as a hobby since it’s a destination sort of thing but an individual activity. Just a thought- might as well enjoy what the outdoors there does have, even if it’s 100% opposite Hawaii’s outdoors! Oh, and if downhill isn’t your thing, try cross-country, it’s pretty fun and you can do it around your own area whenever it snows, mountains or not!

  5. Artemesia*

    I get enraged with each update from #2. Of course you shouldn’t have put the note on the grave, but almost anyone who was new to the workplace who was ORDERED to do so by the boss on pain of firing would have done so. This is just not your fault and I hope you can put the guilt feelings behind you. Your mistake was like 10% of the problem and his order was 90%. The fact that you were penalized for this is entirely outrageous. Sounds like you are doing well and will find something permanent and one hopes with a boss who is not a complete jerk. We all make mistakes and alas many of us sometimes have unreasonable management. When you are old and gray, it will be a crazy story to tell your grandchildren.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Right on.
      I feel bad for what happened, OP. Nothing prepares us for workplaces, what is normal, what is not? Who knows. And it takes a while to get into the rhythm of all the stuff that comes up. I did not have AAM, so I was into my 30s before I finally decided to set boundaries with people and with demands of the job. I do think that reading here will help you get through that learning curve faster. You have a lot of good qualities that employers value. Things will get better for you.

  6. Esme Squalor*

    Oh, OP #5, I’m glad things worked out, but I couldn’t help but cringe through this part: “I mentioned that with all my ex-boss’s failed projects, I felt like I didn’t have anything to show for the six months I’ve been here and that I felt like I wasn’t doing anything useful for our org and they didn’t need me.”

    Please don’t undermine yourself to your employer like that! It’s OK to express concerns, and it sounds like your COO handled it like a champ, but in general (especially with less great companies), if your employer perceives you as doubting your own value or competence, they may start to as well. As a young-ish woman who struggles with imposter syndrome, this is something I’ve had to to learn the hard way, but I’d strongly encourage you to avoid expressing thoughts like this to employers in the future. Acknowledge your insecurities privately to yourself, and then be prepared to reframe it in an actual conversation to something more like, “I have some concerns about my future here based on this job posting, and I wanted to get a sense from you of what future you foresee for my role.”

    1. Artemesia*

      This. Never tell your boss you are useless and have done nothing of value. This kind of framing tends to stick. People who subtly share their successes and use their failures as lessons learned do a lot better than those who billboard their failures. He didn’t think of you as a failure but you did your best to put that notion into his framing of you. Go forth and downgrade yourself no more.

    2. Coywolf*

      Hmmm I’m not the OP but thank you for posting this. I didn’t see a problem with what they said because.. well.. it sounds like something I would say…

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I assumed OP said it a bit differently to the boss and she said it that way to Alison/us because it was quick and clear.

          I would like to say that one should not live in fear of every word they say. I used to be one who would not speak up at all because I feared people reading things into my words. Sometimes we just have to find a trusted person and talk things out. I know there have been a few times with jobs where I reached a point that I said, “Either I have a very candid conversation or I am walking.”

          In your situation here, OP, you got what you wanted. I would have to say that you did it right. I do agree that technique will not work in all situations or with all bosses. If I may, I would like to point out what you did right- you listened to what she said in reply. You considered it and gave her an actionable answer. When she accepted your request, you were HAPPY. Some people get their requests granted and they are still miserable or they act miserable. You let her know that she had satisfied your concern. This is very good. And these are the parts that worked in this instance.

  7. Aphrodite*

    OP #2, my heart goes out to you, and at the same time I am happy that you are feeling better. In addition to the skills and experience you are gaining through temping–something that may not have happened had you remained in your former position–I am beyond thrilled that never again will you have to work with that boss. If the note hadn’t blown up in your face, you’d probably still be there and still working with him and you might be thinking that what feels abnormal to you is actually “normal” with the boss. In other words, your rotten boss might have made you begin to think his toxic behavior was normal, something Alison often points out.

    So now, you are free of that and moving forward. Best wishes, and I would love to hear from you again once you do have a permanent position that you love.

    1. Aphrodite*

      Also, I wonder if any of your co-workers or in fact anyone at your old company has read your letters, recognized the situation, and changed their feelings about your involuntary role. In other words, changed their mind.

      1. SallytooShort*

        Honestly, the whole workplace sounded terrible. I get being horrified by what happened. But to all basically gang up on the girl who they know wasn’t behind it? And then allow someone to ruin her prospects with other work places?

        She is better off. That is a cliquish, reactionary workplace.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Co-signed! And although OP does not need it, this internet stranger gives OP#2 permission to stop blaming herself.

      As Artemesia noted, this was 90% the bad ex-boss’s behavior, and 10% on OP, but OP suffered extended and harsh repercussions. OP has more than paid her dues in reflection and consequences. I’m looking forward to hearing more about how she’s moving forward, developing skills, and landing a perma-position that she likes.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      This is a great point, Aphrodite. Hopefully, in the future, OP, you will be able to think of this more as he helped you to part ways with this toxic place. You did not fit in with these people, they were not of a similar mind as you. You are sincere and they are so not.

  8. Former Hoosier*

    OP#2 I am so sorry that you got caught in the middle of all of this. In hindsight, yes you should have gone to HR first but I am honestly not sure that they would have done something anyway given their unreasonable response after the fact. It is just unfair that you lost your job over this. I think you got treated poorly in this situation.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      Agreed/ For a new, very young employee to make a perfect decision, while under threat of firing, with a very toxic boss… It’s not going to happen, unfortunately. So forgive yourself, hope some of your old co-workers read AAM, and move on with life. And have some fun!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      BTDT. When I was caught in a toxic place, I stopped believing that HR or higher ups cared. Perhaps they did, I will never know because I did not talk things out. I went on the idea that these negative behaviors were well known and allowed.

      1. Elsajeni*

        Yes — I don’t think OP#2 has shared many other details about the environment, but I find it hard to imagine that this was the very first inappropriate thing her boss ever did or suggested. Who knows, maybe it was! But assuming it wasn’t, not only was she brand new to the workforce and in a position of very little power, she was also working off of previous evidence that, hey, sometimes the boss says or does something inappropriate (or assholish or totally bananas) and… everyone seems to be okay with that? So when this one, extra-inappropriate request comes up, well, no one has cared about previous bad behavior, why would they start caring now?

  9. Volunteer Enforcer*

    OP 2, hang in there. I’m sure with your positive attitude you will find a great new job soon.

  10. DrAtos*

    OP 2 – I originally missed your first letter and update, so playing catch-up. I’m horrified by what happened to you. I have sympathy for the co-worker who lost a relative, but the backlash from her, HR, and your other co-workers towards you was uncalled for. I can’t help but to feel some dislike for your former co-workers even though I understand their feelings. I’m at least happy to see that your boss was fired for this because he deserved it, but it is unfair that you were not given another chance. Honestly, that company and the people there sound horrible. A bad job still provides a pay check, but look at it as a chance to leave a toxic work environment while you are still young and fresh out of school. You can leave that job off your resume and not a lot of people will question you about your gap between graduation and finding your first job.

  11. Lucy*

    I just moved to SLC – are you others interested in a meet-up sometime after the holidays? I’d love to start meeting people!

    1. Searching*

      I’m in SLC! Would love to meet up with you all and OP3, but as I’m unemployed, daytime meet-ups work better for me. I got snow shoes for Christmas if anyone wants to go for a short snow shoe hike with me (if the snow holds). I also love coffee if someone wants to meet for that.

      OP3, the inversions do get awful. I don’t do downhill skiing because it’s so expensive, and we need a lot more snow before the cross-country trails get decent, but those are great ways to escape the smog for the day. Sometimes escaping to Park City for some shopping/sightseeing is the only thing that will cheer me up (but avoid that area Jan 18-28 when the Sundance Film Fest takes place there). My husband and I have also scheduled a weekend getaway to Southern Utah mid-winter. Those are some of our coping mechanisms. Other than that I tend to hunker down and knit and watch movies and try to avoid driving anywhere. Our fireplace goes sadly unused due to all the burn restrictions.

      Not sure how to organize a meet-up without posting my email address here, which I am reluctant to do.

      1. Candi*

        MissGirl from Utah posted her Twitter, @WeekendWomanWar , up above. Maybe that’ll be a useful starting point for you?

    2. Mints*

      It’s pretty easy to find Meetup groups with the proper name, or you can link to the group in the open thread once you’re going.

      I’m not in Utah but am very grateful for Meetup in my area!

  12. Bowels of Temp Hell*

    #2 – No, no, no! Temp work is designed to destroy the careers and resumes of highly-skilled people who have fallen on bad times. Fight and claw your way to an FT perm job. Prepare for your temp client to blame and badmouth you – they’ll throw you under the bus in a way that makes GraveNote Boss look awesome.
    Temp for too long and you become worthless as a human being.

    1. Candi*

      There have been many temp stories, both good and bad, on this site in the past ten years. With AAM’s guidance, she’ll be able to tell the (used) straw from the gold.

    2. Safetykats*

      Wow, I’m sure this may be the case in some industries but it is not my experience at all. Every company I’ve worked for has used temps as a way of bringing in people when we have a need but can’t hire; temps who are good are always asked to apply for permanent jobs when one is available. I think that it’s probably not fair to generalize all temp positions this way.

    3. PersephoneUnderground*

      Whoa! Temping can totally lead to good things, just resist getting stuck in a permanent temp role or series of temp-only, no possibility of hiring you, roles. Make it clear your goal is permanent employment, and never stop applying for permanent work while on a temp assignment. Some places are really temp-to-perm, others are *maybe, kinda, we might hire you perm but not really*…. But in general temping at a place that has hired temps on full-time before can be a great start. Use temping to develop your network and impress your superiors, and even if they can’t keep you you will have a good reference and possibly a connection to a permanent position in future.

    4. I'm ready for ice cream*

      Wooah, that’s not everyone’s experience at all. I’ve had mostly good experiences from temping. I’ve been hired on permanently to two places that I was a temp first. It was great since I could find out the culture of the company first which I really appreciated knowing before become perm.

  13. Pearl*

    OP4, great to hear it went well, and I hope you had a lovely Christmas together. I had my work baby shower last week (with my partner there because we’re on the same team) and I think a couple of people only realised we’re a couple when they noticed gifts addressed to both of us!

  14. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    Thank you for your updates, everyone! Very glad to hear that things are going well in general.

    OP #2, thank you especially for updating us. It sounds like you’re getting your life back on track. It’s good to hear from you as your situation is one that stayed with a lot of people, including me. As best you can, remember that what you should or shouldn’t have done is irrelevant at this point. Someone else abused their power and put you in an awful situation. You did the best you could and tried to make it right. No one can ask for more. All you can do is learn from the experience. Everyone in their life has had at least one life-changing experience that is very painful. We have a choice to learn (and change, if necessary) or ignore it. If we ignore it, it’ll just get worse the next time we find ourselves in a terrible situation. You haven’t ignored it, you’re dealing with it and you will be able to handle what comes your way in the future.

    If you feel up to it, let us know how you’re doing in the next few months/a year. Wishing you all the best for 2018!

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