I saw an email from my boss saying it’s a “relief” I’m quitting

A reader writes:

I started working as a temp-to-perm at an investment bank as an expense coordinator a few months ago. None of this job is within my interest. I took the job because I needed it and because the people I interviewed with seemed kind and respectful. Everyone had amazing things to say about each other.

They threw me into a stressful situation (cleaning up someone else’s mess) and I did a great job. Then all of a sudden I was an executive assistant to two investment bankers. They acted like it was a natural progression and I totally should’ve spoken up. I’m not a highly organized person and I HATE being someone’s assistant (I had done it before and thought I’d grown out of that kind of role). I naturally did a terrible job, waffled a lot, and one of the bankers had a very frank and respectful talk with me about how I need a greater attention to detail, etc. I stepped it up to 150% from then on. I took every word of his advice and worked on his things with the speed of light. I made a few mistakes here and there, but they were genuine and not careless. He was friendly and kind to me.

Cut to a month ago when I got accepted off the waitlist at my dream graduate program. As soon as I got the logistics settled, I gave my notice. My supervisor was kind and congratulatory. She told me she would take care of telling my bankers.

I have access to their inboxes so I can look for whatever info regarding projects that I need. The nicer of the bankers (the one who spoke to me about my performance) said to me at the beginning of my role, “I don’t have secrets, that’s all work stuff in my inbox. Nothing to hide.” So, after I gave notice, I had to look for something in his email. I saw my supervisor’s email telling him I was leaving for grad school. He responded, “That’s a relief.”

I was immediately mortified and embarrassed and then remembered … he knows I have access to his email. Why would he leave that there for me to potentially find? I truly wasn’t snooping. I see previews of emails so I saw his response while scrolling. I’m less offended by his comment and more baffled by his lack of tact. I cannot get over that part of it! I hope he’s not cruel enough to leave it there for me to potentially see, so I’m chalking it up to forgetfulness and tactlessness.

My question is: should I say something to him? He has always acted like such an open book, available and ready for questions and discussion always. I know I’m leaving so it won’t matter, but I want to get to the bottom of this. My thought is to say something along the lines of, “Your constructive criticism has been helpful to me, and it may be that I wasn’t a great fit for you in the end, but I came across this message in your inbox. Whatever the context, it was hurtful to see. I want to remind you that your assistant does have access to your email.”

I don’t care if I have a “place” to say this or not — I’m tired of having to roll over and take crap from senior employees because I’m younger. Mostly, I genuinely do not want him to offend another assistant some day. Should I say something? If so, should it be that?

Nah, let it go.

I’m sure he just didn’t think about the fact that you could see the email. When he told you “I don’t have secrets, that’s all work stuff in my inbox,” he almost certainly meant “you’re not going to find highly personal things in there,” not “there’s zero chance you might ever come across something I hadn’t meant for you to see.” And he was using his email the way people normally use their email — by responding to messages that come to them — without having it in the forefront of his mind that you might go in there and see it.

As for the message itself, I’m sure it stung to read it! But it actually doesn’t sound like a terribly surprising reaction. You note that you were really bad at the job, at least for a while, and even after you improved you continued to make mistakes. And since you didn’t want to be doing the work, it’s pretty likely that that came across. Given that context, most managers would be relieved to have you decide to move on, and that’s okay. You’re probably relieved by it too! It’s not unkind to recognize that someone isn’t the best fit for a position; it’s just honest.

And really, the most important thing here is that he did what a lot of bosses mess up: He had a frank but kind conversation with you when you were messing up. That counts for a ton.

He should be able to have private conversations about business changes without getting chastised for forgetting that you could potentially stumble on a relatively minor three-word email (one that he might have figured wasn’t in the scope of things you’d be looking for in his email anyway). And it’s not like he kept from you something that mattered; this wasn’t a rant full of personal, hurtful criticism. It was his honest reaction — that it’s better for everyone that you’re moving on.

You say that you’re “tired of having to roll over and take crap from senior employees because I’m younger.” But this isn’t taking crap because you’re younger. It’s not really taking crap at all. It’s just something you weren’t meant to see, and it’s understandable that he forgot you could stumble upon it.

Let it go. You’re moving on, you know this wasn’t a great fit, and it’s okay that your manager is being honest about that in an intended-to-be-private discussion.

{ 204 comments… read them below }

  1. Snark

    Oh god, as someone who’s wired to assume that things are personal and malicious, I feel this in my damn toes, OP. Yikes. But while it was obviously personal, I don’t think it was pointed at you, and I don’t think they wanted to bust you down a notch by letting you see it. My guess is he’d be mortified if he realized you’d seen it.

    But at the same time, it IS probably a relief. I had to fire a guy who was really nice, a good positive presence in the office, someone who I’d have a beer with…someone who suuuuucked at his job and had terrible instincts around professionalism and norms. It was a relief. Didn’t mean I bore him personal ill will. This, too, is not so much about you as a person, but you in a role everyone knows is just no damn good for you.

    1. earl grey aficionado

      This. Plus, OP, it also struck me that your boss could be “relieved” that you’ve chosen to pursue a career path that’s a better fit for you instead of feeling stuck in your current trajectory (which doesn’t seem like a good fit). I know that “What a relief” means something different than “I’m happy for them,” but in this case the two don’t sound that far off to me. It sounds like you’re stuck in a spiral of interpreting your boss’s words as personally hurtful, but in addition to AAM’s excellent points about how it likely wasn’t meant personally, I think that there are a variety of ways to interpret the intent here that aren’t as negative as what’s happening in your head.

      1. Ophelia

        I agree with this – it’s probably a combination of “good, she wasn’t the right fit,” and “I’m glad she’s going to be moving on to something that IS a better fit, phew!” If it helps at all, there’s no harm in assuming the latter for your own purposes, and letting the relationship you have with him stay a generally positive one.

        1. Snark

          Ambiguous wording is kind of a gift in that way. If he’d said “Oh goody, the nitwit is finally getting shown the door” that’s hard to read as anything but awful. This wording lets you choose your own adventure. Choose the one that stings the least and carry on.

        2. Elizabeth the Ginger

          Yes, in your shoes, I’d choose to take it as him saying, “Oh, good, this will be better for everyone.” Take his previous frank, respectful talk with you as an indication of how he does respect you. But if was picking up on you not being very happy in this role, him feeling relieved that you’re moving on from it is very natural.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule

            I’ve felt this way when people have moved on before. It’s a relief that they’re moving on because I know the place they’re moving on to is more in line with their personal needs/wants/goals – not because I wish them ill or thing they were a bad person or employee.

            It means that they now have a job that allows them things that I couldn’t offer: to take their kid to dance class or coach little league or have holidays off or just make more money and I’m relieved that they found something to make them happier than the job they were working for me.

        3. Anon today

          Yeah. If you were obviously unhappy in the role, he could be relieved that you are moving on to something that will make you happy.

      2. Different Kate

        Exactly my thoughts!
        Also, I kniw for myself – when I am tired, stressed, I tend to interpret things in a more negative way, so I try to fight it. This particular one comes as the great example of what can be interpreted anything from black to white, so it jumps out for me.

        I tell myself: “Don’t ever think you know exactly hat other people think! Not that you should care, but even putting your own meaning into someone’s words is wrong”. Maybe something tgat could potentially work for you too?

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I get the feeling this touched a nerve for OP and recalled other bad boss experiences that OP had. But I don’t think this was cruel or even inappropriate, and I would bet money it wasn’t personal.

      It’s ok to acknowledge something was a bad fit. If I had an assistant with OP’s performance, it would stress me out—it shifts a lot of work back onto the boss. Indeed, I had such an assistant and was so relieved when she transferred jobs (as was she). I was genuinely happy that she’s found a gig that better suited her, and I suspect that’s what OP’s banker boss also meant.

      OP, don’t make it personal, and let it go. He was entirely open and honest with you, as he promised. He didn’t badmouth you or get cruel or personal. He just acknowledged a satisfactory conclusion to a bad situation (it’s certainly a better outcome than if you’d been fired).

      1. OP!!

        Wow. How’d you know I have bad boss PTSD?

        I had one job in particular where the circumstances were almost illegal in how much they were taking advantage of me. It was one of my first jobs out of school, so I was super green. I’m still young and terrified that I’ll be put back in that situation. But…not everyone is that person (or that company). Bad jobs and bosses can do a number on ya :(

        1. No Mas Pantalones

          Bad Boss PTSD is totally A Thing. I feel for you on that one. Come sit by me. I have drinks and snacks.

    3. foolofgrace

      Good advice — he probably didn’t mean it in a mean-spirited way. You can choose which way to take it, why not take it with the best possible intentions? And plus you’ll have a job reference that you might need in the future. Ask him for that.

    4. The Doctor

      I’m wired the same way. Throughout my career, almost everyone I have worked with has acted in bad faith, so now I simply assume that everyone is acting in bad faith.

      If my Boss sent a message like that, I would assume that he wanted me gone.

  2. designbot

    While Alison’s completely right, I just also want to say, it’s okay to not feel great about having seen it! But not everything that doesn’t feel great means someone’s done something wrong. It’s never going to feel great to hear that someone doesn’t want us to stay! But you know it wasn’t a great fit, and he’s just acknowledging that he sees that too.

    1. KWu

      “not everything that doesn’t feel great means someone’s done something wrong” is good life advice to keep in mind!

    2. selena81

      It would be great if every job ended with ‘oh no, she is quitting, maybe we can make her a superduper offer to keep her around’: because you want to blackmail them into a much higher salary, or because you want your rage-quitting to cause the asshole company maximum damage, bust mostly just to stroke your ego.
      But i think that realistically speaking you have no right to expect your boss to be that much more positive about your performance and job-fit then you are yourself.

      The only really hurtful thing is when you honestly thought you were doing a great job and find out they were badmouthing you behind your back all the time.

  3. Detective Amy Santiago

    Ouch, yeah, I would have a hard time not taking this personally, but I am 99.9% confident it wasn’t meant maliciously given the context.

    One thing you could do is ask this executive if you could potentially use him as a reference in the future and acknowledge that you know this job wasn’t a great fit for your skills and that you really appreciated the feedback he took the time to give you.

  4. PiggyStardust

    I get the embarrassment but…he should be allowed to send emails to work related people. I doubt it was intentional, and you admit you were a bad fit.

    FWIW, “I thought I grew out of this type of position” is a little…condescending, like you were “too good” for that kind of job? It was a job, they paid you, and coached you when you messed up. They didn’t do you dirty.

    1. Let's Talk About Splett

      Ideally she would have had a serious talk with her supervisor when the role changed so much and then when one of the bankers had The Talk with her.

      1. PiggyStardust

        I’m just getting this vibe from the email that “this isn’t the kind of work I like so I faffed about until I got Spoken To.” I could be wrong.

        1. Wendy Ann

          OP also specifically says she worked harder on that banker’s stuff after the talk – so was she still faffing about with everyone else’s because they hadn’t said anything to her about it?

          1. Jen S. 2.0

            Not for nothing, “worked harder” =/= “suddenly was great at this job.” That goes double when she had likely already gotten a reputation as the mediocre assistant.

        2. nicepants

          Yes especially the ‘I thought I’d grown out of that type of work’ line – which rubs a bit like that type of work is below me.

        3. the elephant in the room

          I got that impression, as well. I’ve worked with a ton of people who “faffed about” at their jobs, but talked a big game about how much work they were doing (or simply made excuses and never tried to fix the problem). OP gave me that vibe exactly.

    2. Bea

      I side eyed hard at that line. With that kind of attitude and a bad fit in the job, I would have sent the “what a relief” response as well. It’s a relief when you don’t have to be the one who initiates the separation.

    3. Jake

      It’s not condescending. She took a job that radically changed, in a way that she perceived to be a career step back. She even acknowledged that she should’ve spoken up.

      1. selena81

        it comes of to me like there wasn’t a clear plan for what she’d do after ‘cleaning up the mess’, and she just *assumed* it would be ‘something appropriate for [my] level of expertise’

    4. Not Today Satan

      I don’t think it’s really condescending- personal assistant/admin assistant jobs are often first jobs for people moving towards non-administrative jobs. It’s a foot in the door to the industry or company. Administration is also a respectable career on its own (and some executive assistants make wayyyy more than the average worker) but for someone who’s not ad admin, I get feeling like an assistant role is moving backwards.

      1. Let's Talk About Splett

        I mean, while that’s true there’s a difference between “I feel like I am a couple years past X level” and “I am so over ever being an assistant again so I don’t care if I do this well.”

        1. OP!!

          Hey, uh, just for the record, I didn’t say the latter.

          I’ve been an assistant and I hated it. I could have said something other than that I feel I’ve “grown out of” this kind of role. But I certainly did not say I didn’t care to do a good job. I hate being an assistant because I’m terrible at it, not because I don’t care or it’s beneath me.

          1. Emily K

            I understand what you meant, OP. I had a job where I got snookered into a lot of EA work that wasn’t originally supposed to be part of my role, but became such when another employee was downsized. I struggle with organization greatly and at the time I had as yet undiagnosed ADHD. I was super unhappy in that role because I couldn’t stop making mistakes on the EA side no matter how hard I tried…I was always forgetting some detail or losing track of one of the dozens of deadlines I was trying to manage and it was really demoralizing. I woke up every weekday morning feeling kind of crappy about myself.

            The thing is, I’m really good at my chosen profession, marketing. When I left that demoralizing job I specifically took my time to find the right fit and made sure that it was going to be 100% marketing. If I had found myself 6 months later doing EA work again, I would have been crushed. That’s not to spit on EA workers – honestly, I’m impressed by anyone who can juggle as many things as an EA has to juggle because it’s so far outside my own capability. But I would have felt like, “Hey, I specifically left a job where I had to do this, hoping that I would never have to do this again, and yet somehow I’ve now found myself back in exactly the same difficult situation I thought I had managed to extract myself from already.”

            1. selena81

              i don’t like how assistant-work is considered a ‘stepping stone’ on the unspoken assumption of ‘every moron can do this: just talk to people and organize stuff’.
              can society please stop acting a if working-with-your-hand or working-with-people or organizing-stuff is something *everyone* can do if they just apply themselves, while working-with-your-brain is for people who can do all the former AND MORE.

              Of course you have to start somewhere and that means first doing relatively simple stuff where you can’t break anything. But if that start is ‘walking after the big guy and literally taking notes’ then it’ll force away all the people who are good at the actual job but not good at all the small tasks surrounding it.

    5. I'm Not Phyllis

      I read this as pretty condescending as well, though I’m sure it wasn’t meant that way. As OP found out, it takes a very particular set of skills to be an EA/assistant and not everyone can do the job well.

      1. Dust Bunny

        It’s entirely possible to be condescending without thinking you meant to be. It’s easy to think that the fact that you were bored by a job means you were too good for it, instead of that you were a bad fit. Sometimes the skillsets are parallel and not hierarchical.

        1. KRM

          +1000 to this. I might be bored doing an admin job, and I also might hate the work it entails, but that doesn’t make it beneath me. It makes it a job that I’m not suited for.

        2. Elizabeth the Ginger

          I think this is nitpicking the OP’s language a little too much, when I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt – which is actually a really good parallel to the content of the letter. People often write things quickly without scrupulously analyzing how their words might be taken by a wide range of readers.

    6. AnotherAlison

      Tack this on with the line about “not taking crap from senior employees because I’m younger” and the OP completely lost me. Seems like a bad interpretation of all the events.

      I think the OP read “That’s a relief” as “That’s a relief. . . I couldn’t stand one more day working with that dumb twit and I’m so happy I didn’t have to fire her.” Which, I completely read any negative comment about me with the same perspective, but a lot of things didn’t go right and the best thing to do at this point is to move on to your next adventure, learn from some of the bad communication on this job, and otherwise shrug this job off as a poor fit.

        1. Not A Morning Person

          Are you replying to something else? Because I don’t see Another Alison’s comments as mean-spirited at all. She even acknowledged the OP’s negative interpretation as something that she understands because she does that sometimes, too. I don’t see it as mean to say it’s a good idea to move on and shrug it off.

    7. Ladybugger

      I don’t think it’s condescending at all. It’s very reasonable to feel as though you’re beyond a certain level or type of work in your own career – that doesn’t degrade people who do it. I would see being made an assistant as a step down in my career progression, not because of the position in the hierarchy (after all, many admin jobs are well paid and valued, particularly at the exec level), but because it does nothing for my resume for the work I actually do want.

      For example, I was working in a tactical role that was still very involved in strategy at a company I enjoyed. They restructured and my job became strictly project management. Now I already had to do a lot of project management as a function of my job, they didn’t lower my pay at all, the role was desperately needed and valued – and yet to me it was the most crushing demotion because it had nothing to do with my career goals. I didn’t want to be the person who booked the meetings, I wanted to be the person that RAN the meetings. I had moved beyond taking those types of roles. And yet project managers are heroes without capes, for real.

      All this to say I think it’s very normal to perceive yourself as having moved beyond a certain line of work you may have done before but aren’t willing/enthusiastic about taking on again.

    8. No Mas Pantalones

      That struck me too. Perhaps it’s because I am an executive assistant (among myriad other things, as most EAs know all too well) and know that we’re commonly referred to as “just admins.” She’s just an admin. Actually, she [let’s me honest: me] knows so many more intimate details about the inner-workings of this company/corporation and its employees than you will ever be privy to.

      Whoa. Pardon me, I seem to have a case of the Projections today, and I’m sorry. Clearly I’m having unresolved feelings. I’ll make sure to eat those tonight in the form of ice cream. (Okay, I’ll use it as an excuse to eat ice cream.)

      That said, investment bankers aren’t generally known for their warm, encouraging demeanor. More often than not, they’re associated with a term that rhymes with smooshbag. I doubt your boss meant to hurt your feelings or be mean to you. I’d be surprised if he even thought about you at all when he typed it. See above re: smooshbag. Don’t think twice about it. You’re going off to your dream program! This guy will most likely continue to rhyme with smooshbag while you get to go on to doing what you love. That’s definitely a win for you. Take it, run, and don’t look back. (And good luck!!)

      1. OP!!

        I’m sorry you read my comments about my admin work like that! I never thought such a thing. All the women in my family have supported themselves and their kids by being admins for some really difficult people. It’s a thankless job! Which is why I hate it, lol! I also am just so incredibly bad at it. I’m sorry that translated into me looking down upon this profession at all. I’ve certainly gotten my own taste of it now, and it’s a position for only very organized, detail oriented, focused, and patient people.

        1. No Mas Pantalones

          No, don’t worry. After I typed it out, I realized I was totally projecting from comments two jobs ago. Thus, the “having feelings.” Hmmm. Maybe think of my reaction as similar to yours at reading his email? We both immediately went to FEELINGS! rather than “take a breath, big picture.” (At least, I did. I’ll own that. I went Zero to FEELINGS! at a scary pace.)

          Now, I have to ask. Does he rhyme with smooshbag? :-p

          1. OP!!

            To be honest, no. He’s a pretty decent person, from what I gathered during my time working with him.

        2. Kat in VA

          I’m fond of saying, “My executives can’t find their butts with both hands and a map unless I show them where it is.”

          Within proper context and company, of course. Discretion is a highly-valued attribute in EAs. ;)

          Even funnier, one of my execs would parrot that same phrase, substituting “I can’t find my butt with both hands and a map unless Kat shows me where it is.” He also used to say, “And this is the woman who RUNS MY LIFE AT WORK” but in a fond, “We all know I can’t work without her” tone…because it was true.

          But being an EA/admin does take a particular skillset, and it can be a persnickety, difficult, thankless, many-moving-parts job even if your execs are wonderful men/women. If stuff goes great, that’s just business as usual. If stuff goes sideways, all the wrath of the company can fall on your head, even if it’s out of your control.

          If you don’t like it, and you’re not suited for it, I can see full well how being moved into that position would be awful for you.

    9. neeko

      Just a reminder that one of the rules of the site – “Give letter-writers and fellow commenters the benefit of the doubt. Don’t jump to a negative interpretation of someone’s comment or situation; instead, assume good faith on the part of others, including people whose opinions differ from your own.”

    10. Cat Herder

      Really? I don’t get this at all. OP said it was not a job they’d enjoyed or been good at when they had it before — OP figured that out and knew they didn’t want to have that kind of job again. The wording maybe isn’t the best, but can’t we give OP the benefit of the doubt? Especially on a blog where the first rule for commenters is “be kind”?

  5. Monty's Mom

    I think it seems super-personal and rude (and possibly is!), but it probably isn’t. It wasn’t a good fit, as you said, and I’m sure the boss knew that, too, and is probably just relieved he may not have to oversee things quite as carefully as he’s maybe had to for you. However, as one who isn’t great at my own job, and who is slightly paranoid about it, I’d likely react as you have. Hopefully Alison’s (and my!) perspective helps you see this as the non-issue it is. Good luck at grad school, I hope it leads to great things for you!

  6. EvanMax

    Just something to consider: If everyone knew that you were only in this role temporarily, and had other aspirations (which it sounds like they did from the conversation when you were “accidentally promoted”), then he may also be relieved “on your behalf”. You were in a role that you didn’t want to be in long-term, taking it just “as a job”. I’m sure he would prefer having an assistant who enjoy assisting, and does want that to be their career, or else an assistant who aspires to be a banker, and intends to learn the trade from watching closely.

    I spent a while in retail, never intending to stay forever. I did a damn good job and got recognition for it as I moved up the later. I’m sure there were still people saying “that’s a relief” as I walked out the door, though, because they knew for day one that my time there was limited, and every bit of resources that they invested in me, even though it gave them short-term returns, wasn’t going to pay out very much in the long term.

    You don’t know whether or not he meant it his way, but if he did I’m sure it would feel better, so why not just choose to believe that this was the way he saw it, and move on with your life.

    1. Antilles

      Eh, for retail in particular, I doubt they reacted like that. Retail and similar shift work is very rarely a long-term goal for people; even those who end up staying a while typically wouldn’t list it as their absolute #1 overall preferred career path. Therefore, the whole business model revolves around setting up training, procedures, etc in a way to get people up to speed as quickly as possible, because the very nature of the work means that the vast majority of employees, even management track, aren’t going to be lifers.

      1. EvanMax

        Interesting that you feel as though you know more about my own experiences than I do, and without even knowing the specific retail firm, the amount of time I was there, what particular roles I held, or any of the individuals involved.

        You must be employed as the world’s greatest detective to be able to deduce all of those things based on just the one word “retail”.

        1. Antilles

          Seriously? That’s a pretty over-the-top reaction. Of course I don’t know the specifics of your firm; nobody here knows the specifics of anybody else’s. Each post comes with the unspoken disclaimer of “Based on my experiences…” and “My reading of the situation is…”
          And my entire post (and all posts, really) should be viewed in that lens – *my* experience (both personal and from word-of-mouth of many others) is that shift work companies usually have high turnover and are fully aware of it; therefore, they operate in a manner as to handle such departures as expeditiously as possible. Your company may be the exception…but my guess based on my experience is that if so, your company is much closer to “the exception” than “the norm”.

          1. EvanMax

            I was about to give you the benefit of the doubt that maybe you didn’t mean to single out MY personal experience, and were just going off on a retail tangent, until you doubled down.

            Let me just turn it around to this: what makes you feel that, with super limited information, your reading of MY situation is more valid and more correct than my own? Keep in mind, you choice to comment publicly on my post, you weren’t forced in to this. And you also opened your post with a dismissive “Eh” and then flat out told me that you doubted the validity of my statements.

            You may feel like I’m overreacting, but you showed up to dismiss me and tell me that you doubt my life story. Normally I ignore this sort of thing as “people being dumb on the internet” but I guess you caught me at the exact right moment to actually engage me.

            Maybe it’s the fact that your comment doesn’t add to the overall discussion in any way, either. I posted what I posted as a way fo reassuring and encouraging the OP that a former boss being happy to see you move on doesn’t only mean that they hated you, but it can mean other things, such as they are happy to see you developing as a person/worker.

            Your post just serves to come in here and quash what I was saying. At BEST, you are being non-sequitorial, and just felt like you had a “some one is wrong on the internet” moment (and as I’ve pointed out, one that you aren’t qualified to judge, due to lack of input.) but at worst (and I sincerely doubt this is the case) you are posting contrarian BS just to stir turmoil, and make the OP and other feel bad about themselves.

            What purpose does it serve to tell me I’m wrong about a personal and subjective experience that I was purposefully vague about (so as not to be identified, but with the side effect of you having next to no information about it) and posted in an attempt to send the OP some positive feelings?

            1. nom de plume

              Hey, come on now. You’re reacting really strongly and rather rudely to a fairly innocuous comment.

        2. Just sayin!

          I don’t have a horse in this race but I will say there is a big difference in what your meaning was if you meant “I worked at a retail firm” but you said “I worked in retail”

          When you say you worked in retail it’s pretty safe to assume everyone thinks you mean working at a store as a cashier/associate.

          1. EvanMax

            It was actually corporate retail for a larger firm, but even so working in retail is a lot more than just the bottom rung cashier.

            Not that I fault anyone for assuming that retail is just a clerk sitting behind a counter. There’s a difference, though, between having that impression, and feeling entitled to tell some one that they are incorrect about their statements regarding their own life experience solely because you picked the one word “retail” out of their post.

            1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels

              Jesus Christ, come ON.

              99.99999% of people, if you say you worked in retail, will assume you mean cashiering/stocking/floor help/etc., NOT anything corporate.

        3. Qwixly

          Wow.

          Antilles made a single sentence that they doubted your employers were “relieved” to see you go and gave a short, general summary of what the business model usually looks like. This read to me as casual reassurance that it probably wasn’t as bad as you thought coupled with a generally factual representation of common hiring and training practices. I didn’t see this as a blanket statement about your employment history and summation of your previous employers’ business practices.

          If your previous coworkers were relieved to see you go, I’d look at other reasons aside from the ROI of your employment there.

          1. EvanMax

            Antilles has no idea where I worked, what my role was, who my supervisors/co-workers/subordinates were, or any other details at all other than the one world “retail”. Retail could be anything from a corner bodega to a personal shopper at a high end boutique to retail financial services or tax preparation. The word “retail” is not enough to judge a person on, and certainly not enough to decide to doubt that they properly understand the circumstances of their life.

            The tell someone that you doubt their recollection of their own life, without anything at all to go on, is super judgmental, dismissive, and rude.

            As for reassurance, where was that warranted? My own post was reassuring the OP that their situation might have some positive aspects to that “relief” and give them a possible other way to frame things. Antilles’ post was dismissive of my reassuring OP, so the opposite of casual reassurance.

            As posted above, I’d take that as just an accidental “i feel like arguing on the internet” without considering what they were saying, except for the doubling down on it in their next post.

            1. Qwixly

              Interesting that you took it upon yourself to give me examples of retail jobs and a hypothetical list of retail industries without knowing my work history yourself.

              Perhaps I was overly generous in ascribing positive motivation to Antilles, and they were trying to be super judgemental, dismissive, and rude without my realizing it. You say that reassurance wasn’t warranted, though I would argue that since this is an advice blog for workplace issues, not just the OPs but commenters as well, there’s a theme here of giving (perhaps unsolicited) advice and commentary. I’d hoped to comment in a way that might give you an alternate way to frame your interaction where Antilles might genuinely hope to make you feel better rather than dismissed.

              That said, you don’t know whether or not they meant it that way, but if they did mean to give comfort I’m sure it would feel better, so why not just choose to believe that this was the way they saw it, and move on with your life?

  7. CBH

    OP is it possible that you are reading this out of context. I mean, yes you know the position is not a good fit. Both you and your higher ups seem to realize that. But I was thinking more along the lines of the boss realizing you are a great employee but not we’re able to meet expectations for this particular job. Perhaps the higher ups were trying to figure out a what to do – a job transfer, lay off, new projects, transitioning….. your resigning basically took away a stressful situation of them figuring out how deal with your employment at the company; it was a relief. Perhaps the boss is truly excited for your new position and wants to see you succeed.

    1. Dino

      This is what I was thinking. It’s possible that his relief was around not having to transfer you to a different role or put you in a PIP. The relief could be a few different things, not all of them insulting or malicious. That doesn’t mean it can’t hurt your feelings to have seen it, but I think chastising him may be premature since there’s a few ways it could have been meant.

      1. PiggyStardust

        If someone is a temporary employee, possibly through an agency, do they even do PIPs? Anywhere I’ve ever temped in the past would have preferred to just cut you loose instead of doing a formal process like that.

      2. selena81

        that he put in the effort to have an honest conversation with her gives a lot of weight to the ‘i am relieved on her behalf’ interpretation: he is relieved that he does not have to have to escalate the situation to ‘sorry, but after a few months of you trying harder it is clear you are still not a good fit and i need to do something about it’

    2. NotAnotherManager!

      This is exactly how I would have meant it in this situation. I am always happier when someone who’s not working out find a new job or other opportunity – it’s not just that I don’t have to deal with how to handle their less-than-acceptable performance, but it’s also a relief that I don’t have someone coming to work every day in a situation they despise. (I know that’s not my fault and they have the option to quit if their miserable, but I still feel better when someone finds a better fit for themselves, even if it’s not with us.)

      It sounds like this was a bad fit from all sides, and everyone involved will be able to move on to better things.

      1. CM

        Agreed — or it’s a relief that someone who you feel is a hard worker and good person, but not suited to this particular role, is moving on of their own volition. You won’t have to have a difficult conversation with them and force them to face the reality that this isn’t the job for them, because they realized that on their own. I have had that happen and it is a relief, often because I do personally like and respect them.

        1. Lily Rowan

          This 100%. It’s a total relief that I don’t have to deal with the person who is a bad fit anymore, regardless of the actual quality of their work. It’s also a relief that I don’t have to wait for them to give notice anymore, because I’m sure they’ve been looking for a while.

          Although I still wouldn’t (and haven’t!) put it in writing like that.

    3. Decima Dewey

      Except for the wording OP the the boss are on the same page. The employer wanted to give OP a permanent position, this is the one that opened up. It wasn’t the right job, and both OP and boss are happy it’s going to be over soon.

  8. Angela Ziegler

    Anyone else think this should be known as ‘Pull an Elsa’? (And now the song’s stuck in my head!)

    Great advice though, especially since OP is leaving and moving on to better things.

    1. Christmas Carol

      It must be earworm Monday, I’m still hearing Sister Sledge from Alison’s previous post.

    2. No Mas Pantalones

      I’m so mad at you right now. I’ve never even seen that movie but I know the song and am now singing it.

      1. Kat in VA

        *clears throat*

        LET IT GOOO, LET IT…

        /runs out under fire from tomatoes and vegetable peelings/

        I despise that movie, and that song, and I have three girls so I had to listen to it (and that dreadful DO YOU WANNA BUILD A SNOWMAN???? song) over and over and over and …

        I’m going to go listen to some Metallic now to scrub the awful out of my head!

    3. Jersey's mom

      As a wildlife biologist, Elsa, to me, means Elsa the lioness who was abandoned by her pride and raised by a couple in Africa back in the 60-early 70s? I keep hearing “born free, as free as the wind blows, as free as the grass grows, born free to follow your heart”.

      Frozen, you have met your match in terrible earworms…..

  9. Let's Talk About Splett

    I’m an admin, even though the sting is totally understandable I think bringing it up would actually be proving his point.

    When you’re an EA, it’s assumed that you will have discretion about emails & other correspondence that you come across, even if it’s something you’d really like to act on.

    1. PiggyStardust

      I agree with mentioning it would be proving his point. If the role was temporary, they could have easily let you go. You don’t have to “roll over and take” anything, but they invested time and money into you, including coaching you to help you be more successful in the role.

      You said you took the job because you “needed it,” and they kept someone who wasn’t necessarily a good fit and tried to work with them.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger

            Depending on the program, that might or might not be possible without turning the preview off for him as well – and he might want it on. I don’t think this was OP being nosy.

        1. SarahKay

          Email programs often have a preview function, though. I use Outlook and enable the three-line preview because it helps me triage my in-box. But a side-effect would be that I might easily spot the three-word response while checking through for other items – which is exactly what OP says is what happened.

        2. Pollygrammer

          It’s sort of hard to know whether or not you need to read something without reading it.

          1. Let's Talk About Splett

            Yeah, this kind of stuff happens when you’re an admin/EA all the time, so I’m willing to give the LW a pass for reading the email. You are legit doing a task for your boss and come across something that clearly wasn’t meant for your eyes.

            1. I'm Not Phyllis

              Yep! I’m an EA and have come across many an email that I would rather not have read (about other people, about me …). I don’t have access to my current CEO’s emails and I’m 3000% ok with that.

          2. Matilda Jefferies

            Yes, exactly. And I imagine it would take an act of superhuman strength to *not* read an email in your boss’ inbox with your own name on it! Just because OP wasn’t meant to see it, doesn’t mean she did anything wrong by reading it.

  10. Tuckerman

    I wonder if there’s additional info you don’t know. Like, the company decided to stop allocating funds for temporary staff and they were not ready to tell you yet.

  11. Tessa

    OP, I think you’re coming across as a little more offended than you should be. I totally get that his comment stung. It would for me too! But…you admit you did a poor job for much of your time there, you hated it, and you were happy to leave. You’re also puffing yourself up a lot and saying how good you did when you actually tried (which, to be fair, maybe you did do really good. I have no way of knowing). But it’s not really a secret that your leaving is a relief for the company and for you. Now they can find a passionate candidate who is a great fit for them, and you can move on to what you really want to do. No harm done.

    1. Lindsay Gee

      that’s what I’m getting too. OP admits they weren’t good at the job and made lots of mistakes…I almost get a bit of a sanctimonious attitude like “how dare you be relieved when I announced my departure, even though I wasn’t very good at my job!”. I would also totally be hurt by reading this comment, but it is a relief for everyone!

      1. Let's Talk About Splett

        “I think we should see other people.”

        “Really, Me, too.”

        “How dare you not be upset!!”

        1. mcr-red

          That’s exactly how I read their reaction too. No one involved was happy with the current situation, and when the situation is going to end, OP was mad they were glad it’s over. OP, aren’t YOU glad it’s over?

          1. OP!!

            It was rough to hear such a curt response to my departure after I felt he and I had created a good report. Recently, he acted like I was improving, so naturally, I thought I was. I think it’s a bit unfair to compare it to such a dialogue as the above posted by Splett. Honestly, I was unhappy with my job and my own performance but I thought things were looking up for everyone. I thought I would leave on a good note with all involved. It was a surprise at first to read what I read. I wasn’t looking for them to beg me to stay! I just didn’t want to see/hear that.

            1. Let's Talk About Splett

              I don’t know what the mistakes were, but it sounds like you were only there a few months. If they were serious mistakes or there were a lot of them, it takes longer than a few months to come back from that enough that boss’s opinion does a 180, even if there’s improvement.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Yep — a few months is a very short amount of time.

                Also, OP, things can be improving but still be obviously not the right fit — you can improve and still not be performing at the level they need.

                1. Elizabeth the Ginger

                  Or even be performing at the level they need but not seeming really happy there. If I were managing someone who was doing fine but seemed dissatisfied, I’d be expecting them to leave at some point – and there’s a kind of relief in having that point arrive so you’re not waiting for it anymore.

                2. Snark

                  Or requiring too much feedback to sustain performance at the level they need, particularly in an assistant role that is by design supposed to be a bit one-sided.

            2. Kathleen_A

              Of course you didn’t. But really and truly, it doesn’t sound that bad to me. Look at it this way: If you had an employee who needed a more-than-average amount of coaching and encouragement to become OK, an employee who didn’t want to be there, and employee who had ambitions that your company couldn’t fulfill, wouldn’t it be kind of a relief once that employee left? I mean, why wouldn’t it be? You’re both going to a better place, right?

            3. BethRA

              Right, but him being relieved that you’re moving on on your own terms doesn’t mean you’re leaving on a bad note, or that he doesn’t recognize the effort you made. He’s just acknowledging the same thing you are – that this position isn’t a great fit for either side.

              I get that it wasn’t a fun email to see and I don’t blame you for feeling hurt. But by the same token, I don’t think it was any more obnoxious for him to have said that then for you to have given notice.

            4. mcr-red

              But OP, if you look at it like Splett said, “I think we should see other people/me too” or the infamous “He’s not that into you” – your boss/job basically said that. They’re not that into you…but YOU’RE not that into them either! You’re both relived that an awkward situation is coming to an end. It wasn’t working out, and one of you ended it, and that’s in the best interest for everyone. He knew this wasn’t your strong suit/ideal job, and that this was an ill-fit. Honestly I don’t think that’s ending on a bad note with all involved. I don’t think by saying that he was saying you weren’t improving, because if he acted like you were improving, you probably were.

            5. Roscoe

              But the response wasn’t to you. It was to someone else. Has he said anything to you?

              Here is a better analogy for you. 2 of your friends are dating, and its a bad relationship. The guy decides to bite the bullet and break up with the girl even though he thinks she is a good person. She later tells you “I’m actually relieved we aren’t dating anymore, it was becoming toxic”. Then you tell the guy that she was relieved, and he gets mad that she other person wasn’t upset about being dumped.

              Both sides got what they wanted here. What is the problem?

              1. OP!!

                I think the problem is that I’m a human being and my feelings got hurt for a sec. I wrote into AMA to gain more clarity on this, and I certainly got that! I’m not as butthurt now. I feel far less entitled to say something to him and more like I should move on gracefully. But I stand by my right to be hurt for a bit. It’s my ego talking, but we all have one.

                1. No Mas Pantalones

                  It stings. The sting will fade. It might still piss you off from time to time but try not to let it burrow too far under your skin. (Hello Pot, I’m Kettle. Lovely weather today, eh?) After all, it is a relief. A relief for you because you now get to move on to what you’ve always wanted to do. Eff that dude; you’ve already won.

                2. Twenty Points for the Copier

                  I absolutely don’t blame you for being hurt in the moment – you were working your butt off to do a decent job with work you that wasn’t a good fit for your strengths or career aspirations and feeling like it still wasn’t “good enough” hurts.

                  But even if your (possibly burnout level…) 150% extreme effort led to doing an adequate job, the banker who was really open and honest probably also knew that this wasn’t what you wanted to do in the short or long term. If you were doing merely adequately and they cared about you as an employee they’re probably psyched that you’re moving on to something you have a chance to excel at and they can replace you with someone who can excel and feel fulfilled at what you were doing. (and I am also very poorly suited to admin work… I can focus in on doing it if it’s really necessary to my livelihood, but I find it exhausting compared to other work that’s a better match of my skills so I get that 100%)

                  Totally, totally gets that it feels like criticism in the moment and stings but given the background on the bosses, it was probably meant with kindness and echoed the relief you feel at getting to do something better for you.

                3. Kat in VA

                  It’s cool. Feelings are facts in our own heads. You got your feelings hurt, you came here for affirmation BEFORE you said anything (good call!), and now you’re realizing that meh, best to just move on and let it go.

                  You’re absolutely allowed to have your hurt feelings, even if some folks are saying it’s irrational. They’re not the ones feeling the feels, you are.

                  So…permission to feel feels from an internet stranger?

                  GRANTED

                4. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

                  Hey – I’m really glad to could gain clarity on this (despite some of the harsh and/or uncharitable comments). You have every right to your inner feelings/reactions; what really matters is how you act on them.

                  Just to back you up a bit. One time I was in a role where I “wasn’t the right fit”. I was basically forced out by a single person, but it got to the point where I was def going to get fired if I didn’t put in my notice first. So I put in my notice with the understanding that I’d be job searching and they’d be searching for my replacement. I remember the moment they found my replacement (they regrouped after a round of interviews and all agreed that was “the one”) and I could see/hear the entire department laughing and cheering about it. It was a pretty awful to see the entire dept visibly gleeful at finally being rid of me. The logical part of my brain knows that wasn’t the actual intent/context of what was going on in the room, but the “feelings” part of me was like “yeah sure, but that’s what it boils down to”.

                  So, yeah, I hear you. It sucks to have stumbled across that email. The sting of it will go down. Might not go away, but it will lessen. Try not to dwell on it. Try to remember that everyone says some callous/unthinking/boneheaded things every now and then. Don’t throw away a decent reference for a momentary vindication of slighted feelings.

                5. Tara R.

                  Of course your feelings were hurt!! This is a hurtful thing to see from someone you spend a lot of time with and someone who you’ve invested a lot of energy in as you tried to improve in your job. I don’t think he did anything wrong, but I would have been pretty upset to see it too. I think this is the kind of thing where you’re kind of slapped in the face by it, and you go home and rant to your family / write in your diary that your boss is a jerk / email an advice column, and then you think about it for a few hours, realize that it was a bad fit & he’s allowed to express that, and let it go. It sucks that it didn’t occur to him that you might see the email, but this is actually kind of valuable information to you– now you probably know better than to use him as a reference in the future.

                6. soon 2be former fed

                  OP, useful self-talk might be “yes, it is a relief, isn’t it?” Tell yourself that in your mind and keep it moving. I’m sensitive, I get being stung momentarily, but the statement was factually correct and not a personal indictment of your worth. You weren’t there very long to be so invested in this person’s opinion. Let it go.

            6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              It sounds like you ARE leaving on a good note? I do want to caution, though, against putting so much stock in others’ perceptions of you. I can guarantee that at least 1 person you work with won’t care for you, no matter where you work. Your reactions sound like you’re looking for proof you were disliked or on “bad terms,” but I don’t think you can reach those conclusions from his email.

              1. Kat in VA

                Very good advice.

                I was one of those “be all things to all people” and spent many a year twisting myself in knots like a virtual geisha chameleon to make sure that every single person I interacted with liked me (*cue Sally Fields voice* DO YOU REALLY REALLY LIKE ME??).

                Guess what?

                Sometime they just…didn’t. A really extreme example was when I lived in the country in Idaho. There was only one family near us, with five boys, and I had four kids at the time. Natural friend group! Everything was dandy, kids loved each other and played well, except…

                The mom was just…cold as ice to me. She was friendly with my husband, and her husband was friendly with me and my husband (not in a weird way, but in a “our kids are friends” manner) but she would barely look at me, gave me answers to questions in a monotone, single-word reply, and rebuffed EVERY attempt I made to build any kind of relationship with her.

                Years later (before we moved to VA), her eldest son – who regarded me as another mom-figure – finally told me that his mother got drunk one night and let slip that I looked just like the woman in college who stole her “one and only true love” away. (I am assuming her OAOTL was not the husband in question.)

                Now what do you do with THAT? Short of dyeing and cutting my hair and getting plastic surgery, there was nothing I could do to alleviate her visceral reaction to my face. She just didn’t like ME, and there wasn’t a dang thing I could do about it.

                That was my hard-learned lesson in not trying to be all things to all people. I am still cordial, polite, and reasonably friendly with literally everyone I work with and everyone I meet, but if there’s someone who remains cool, aloof, and/or remote despite a few attempts at outreach? Not my circus, not my monkeys. I’ll remain cordial and polite, but I’m not going to change out myself so that others are happy any more.

            7. Jane of all Trades

              Op, I wonder if part of your frustration isn’t really about the email but more of a generalized frustration that you ended up being pushed into a job you didn’t like, and didn’t succeed at, and even after trying hard it didn’t come easily to you? Maybe your boss acknowledging that on some level by writing “that’s a relief” just stung because of your frustration with the whole situation?
              I would definitely let it go, because it doesn’t seem like he was acting mean or inappropriate. Thankfully you are moving on to things that will be a better fit for you!

            8. Lindsay Gee

              but it does sound like you left on a good note, unless I’m misreading/remembering wrong. Was your boss’s reaction to YOU (in person, or email directed at you) positive when he was informed? This email was never meant for you to see, so reading it as not leaving on a good note i think is reading too much into the situation.

            9. Emily K

              You probably already know this on some level if you see a lot of your boss’s email correspondence, but IME the higher up the food chain someone is, the shorter their outgoing emails become, to the point that it can appear borderline curt or rude to junior staff who are still much more obligated to pad their emails with pleasantries and elaboration on what they mean. Perhaps it reflects poorly on office culture when people decide to forego pleasantries in the interest of time, but at the same time, that’s a trade-off that it’s very common to see very busy executives make, so it’s probably really not being pointed at you, you probably just have a busy banker who fired off a 3-second response to his colleague while trying to clear his inbox in the 15 minutes he had between meetings.

    2. Jen S. 2.0

      Agree. This reminds me of the post where the intern knew she sucked during her internship, which she hated, but was shocked! SHOCKED! when she did not get a job offer at the end of it: https://www.askamanager.org/2018/01/why-didnt-i-get-a-full-time-offer-after-my-internship.html

      Or like you went on a date with someone you disliked, and you could tell they weren’t into it either, but can’t understand why they didn’t ask out out again.

      Sure, it wasn’t super discreet to put it in writing, and it might have stung to read it, but … the sentiment should not have been a surprise in any way. OP is relieved to be leaving as well. What would having a powwow about it accomplish?

    3. Cat Herder

      Give the OP the benefit of the doubt — if they say they did a good job when they really focused on it, then we should believe that. And saying the OP is all puffed up is pretty mean. Rule number one for this site: be kind.

  12. Roscoe

    Yeah, I understand it must suck, but I don’t think its anything terrible. You didn’t like the job. He likely knew you didn’t like the job. And so he is relieved to possibly get someone in there who wants to be there. He may really genuinely have liked you as a person, but that doesn’t mean that you were a great fit for this role.

    Also, I’m sure he didn’t intend for you to see this email. Everything you have said about him sounds like he is a pretty decent guy. He responded to something with his honest feelings, not assuming you would see it.

    What would you hope to gain by confronting him with this. Best case scenario, he tells you why he is relieved you are leaving. Would that really make you feel better? Or is this just like a power play to make him have to have an unnecessary uncomfortable conversation, just so you feel you have the upper hand.

    Just as you are relieved to be getting away from this job, he has the right be to be relieved he can get a new assistant that will hopefully be better

  13. Budgie lover

    I’m curious about the line about mistakes being “genuine” rather than “careless.” If I were the manager I’d still be concerned about mistakes no matter the context so it’s kind of a distinction without a difference. It sounds like the job just wasn’t a good fit for OP even when they stepped up their performance. So I can see why the ending was a relief for everyone involved.

    1. Squeeble

      My understanding of that was that the “genuine” one was the kind of mistake anyone could make, like not having the right information to make a decision correctly, especially when the person is relatively new and still learning the ropes. That’s versus the “careless” mistakes like consistently forgetting to set meetings, setting them for the wrong times, other things that someone in an admin position shouldn’t be doing regularly.

    2. Antilles

      I think the difference in mistakes can matter though.
      A “careless” mistake is something that you could and should have easily caught. These are incredibly irritating because dude, couldn’t you have spent 15 seconds reviewing the email headers so the contract went to John Smith instead of John Sanders?
      A “genuine” mistake is something that’s wrong, but with a reasonable explanation. It’s wrong to file the Alpha Project under Chocolate Teapots, but I can get that a new admin who’s still learning the ropes wouldn’t know that. Maybe you could have figured it out if you’d asked the right questions, but it’s reasonable that you didn’t know what to do.

      1. NotAnotherManager!

        This is a really good explanation/example!

        I think, for me, another delineating line would be whether it’s a recurring mistake (despite correction) or a one-time thing. The first time you send the meeting request to Jon Stewart instead of John Stuart is genuine; the second and subsequent are careless.

    3. Bea

      Genuine mistakes are usually a thing attributed to being new and not knowing the process.

      Like filing by first name instead of last name perhaps.

      Careless is not checking your work. Data entry comes to mind. Not slowing down or checking an entry before submitting.

      Mistakes happen and it’s easier to understand and forgive a genuine mistake. Whereas the other one, like being cut off in traffic, can be rage inducing.

    4. ket

      Yes, this line stood out to me. I’d prefer an admin who didn’t make that many “genuine” mistakes, either. Of course people make mistakes — but if you have the choice between an admin who makes “genuine” mistakes and one who rarely makes mistakes, the choice is clear!

      1. Budgie lover

        That’s my feeling as well. The sentence seemed like it was thrown in to minimize the number of mistakes being made as if it wasn’t such as big deal when it obviously was.

  14. 4th Axis

    OP, I’ve been in your soon-to-be-ex-boss’ position before, except it was a gaffe by another manager that caused my employee to see a not-so-savory, albeit true, remark regarding performance made in an email between managers (PSA–people, please read emails before you print them off or forward them). I cringed internally at the “awkwardness” of the situation when I found out what had happened. This employee, like you, knew that there had been issues with their performance and was still furious at me for noting it. In an email. To other involved managers.

    I wouldn’t take it personally, even though it does sting to learn what others are saying or thinking about our performance–even if it is a confirmation of what we already know. In all honesty, the possibility of you seeing that comment likely did not cross your boss’ mind–I sure as heck never intended for my employee to see the other managers and I discussing his performance.

    1. NotAnotherManager!

      Oh, lord, I had to deal with the check-your-forward situation recently where someone forwarded an indelicately phrased complaint to one of my higher-performing employees. He’d worked really hard for the team, and he was dealing with someone who just refused to admit that something was not possible within the time allowed – the unkind comment was in an email that was forwarded, with the options he’d laid out, to the decision maker, who then circled back with my employee to ask some questions about one of the options toward which they were leaning.

      1. 4th Axis

        Ugh, that’s the worst. How did your high-performer handle seeing that complaint? Were you able to smooth things over?

        My comment was rather benign (something like “Cyril will need to work on Project B should he complete Project A while I’m still out, but I don’t anticipate him finishing given his productivity history”) and it set off a firestorm of closed-door meetings between the employee and the involved managers. The employee went so far as to demand that I see some sort of reprimand for my comment and that there was “no room for that sort of talk in a professional setting.” Clearly, I struck a nerve–wholly not my intention! I had to decide that I couldn’t cart around guilt or shame for an email that the employee was never intended to see, despite it being about a well-documented performance issue.

        We can’t control other’s feelings/opinions/reactions to or about a situation, even if we’re the top performer and/or are stuck in a no-win situation (perceived or otherwise). I suppose that’s my take-away for OP.

        1. NotAnotherManager!

          The high-performer was PISSED but also knew the complainer was difficult and did a good job considering the source. (We work with attorneys – litigators, in particular – and you have to be thick-skinned to handle the somewhat adversarial personalities.) Fortunately, before I had to twist myself in knots, the forwarder also caught it and apologized to High-Performer for sending, thanked him for all the hard work he’d done under tough circumstances, AND had a chit-chat with the initial complainer, who then non-apologized for the comment.

          I also had someone once who was walking around badmouthing one of my really good employees over something that I knew was easily disprovable, so I contacted them under the auspices of alleviating their concerns and was able to present factual information that showed that they were entirely in the wrong. Not that I said it that way, of course, I phrased it more of a, “I understand you’re having X problem. Based on the logs, right now, we’re doing A, B, and C. Can you tell me what else we can do for you to provide better support for your project?” Once they saw the log data, they realized that they were dead wrong and apologized to all involved. We made some changes to protocol to ensure they were getting what they needed, and the highly efficient lady who ran the project also had a chit-chat with them about how addressing feedback directly to the person you have a problem with or their manager the way to get a problem addressed, not complaining to other people, and she didn’t have time for complaining on her watch – in short, work to find a solution or put a lid on it.

  15. Lilo

    There is absolutely nothing to be gained by saying something and something to be lost. You know you weren’t a good fit, so let it go.

    Your boss probably expected some degree of privacy in his emails, despite your access, and never expected you thread it. His private thoughts are not meant for you and are legitimate.

  16. Genny

    LW, I get it. It hurts to see things like that. Several years ago I had a phone interview for a very prestigious overseas internship. I’d prepared to answer all the typical interview questions, but the ones I got were totally out of left field (one prompt was to pick an ally of the U.S. and describe it’s political structure). Needless to say, I mangled the interview, though it didn’t help that they were clearly looking more for a graduate student while I was still an undergrad.
    To add salt to the wound, the two men I was interviewing with didn’t realize they hadn’t hung up the phone before assessing the interview. They went on and on about how I wasn’t strong enough, would never make it in this field, would be little more than an office assistant like Sarah, their current intern (which was such a rude thing to say about both office assistants and Sarah). It hurt like heck. I wanted to interrupt them and tell them off. You know what would have happened if I had? Nothing. The most they would’ve done is offer a quick apology and then hung up. They wouldn’t have offered me the internship. I still would’ve felt like crap. In situations like that, it’s best to vent to whomever you need to outside of work and then move on.

  17. anonymiss for thiss

    I’m with you that if I were to read that about myself I would take it super personally. But I’m also with most other commenters that he probably wasn’t being malicious, just honest. And try putting yourself in their shoes- they have an assistant who doesn’t like their job, only took the position because they needed employment (which usually does come off/they know this/they find out), and this person wasn’t a great fit so they had to put in a lot of extra time and effort coaching you through it, plus looking for and catching mistakes. If you were in their position, you need someone who can do their job efficiently so that everyone else can do their job efficiently. I’ve been in a similar situation to your banker boss, and honestly it is incredibly frustrating, even if the person is trying really really hard and its just not working out for a plethora of reasons. Like alison said, he did the right thing by having that conversation with you, giving you lots of helpful feedback and generally being kind. I really don’t mean this to sound harsh, but if you weren’t very good in the position, isn’t it a relief that they can find someone who can do the job?

  18. Former Usher

    OP, I experienced something similar. I was asked to leave a project and then later management decided they needed my help after all. My supervisor gave a me hard copy(!) of an email to provide background information for the request. Included in the email chain was a discussion of my leaving the project, along with the principal investigator’s conclusion that it was good I was leaving the project. Awkward.

    As you suggested, chalk it up to forgetfulness. Enjoy graduate school!

  19. Jesmlet

    This happened to me too right after I resigned but I was probably a bit more at fault for the actual reading of the email. I was sitting next to my boss and she had put her computer down then walked away and the email that was open said along the lines of, “that’s a relief, she didn’t really bring much to the table anyway.” Never mind the fact that I now make double her salary, and she was a passive aggressive witch who literally put my well-being in danger. Talk about motivating someone to go above and beyond at work…

    Rolls right off my back because I know I’m in a much better working situation now and I’m happy. I wouldn’t get too hung up on this or say anything. He knows you have access but maybe didn’t expect you to go looking through his sent folder? It wasn’t personal and I don’t think it’s the best idea to admonish him on what he chooses to say in his emails. Congrats on grad school!

  20. Elise

    I would let it go. I’m sure it stung to read it, but I have a feeling the relief was due to the fact that you are leaving on your on volition when they knew you weren’t working out very well in your current role. I could see them thinking it was a relief as you were continuing to make mistakes (at the executive assistant level, that’s particularly problematic), even after taking the role more seriously as he suggested. Eventually, they would have had to deal with that in a way that could have been painful for you.

    I would be careful about describing EA roles as something you grow out of. They are highly skilled positions that you have learned are not easy.

    I wish you the best in your graduate program. Hopefully this will all come as a relief to you as well. I speak from experience as someone who has left a role I was not a great fit for to attend graduate school, and it was a great move for my career and well being.

  21. A.

    Maybe they were considering firing you and it is a relief that you are leaving on your own so they will not have to fire you. At my last job, my supervisor was going to fire someone. Confronting him would not do much good other than make you look unprofessional. Plus it would raise questions as to how you opened an email between him and your supervisor. Clearly the subject line of the email would have given you a clue that it was not the email you were searching for in the first place. Just let it go.

    1. A.

      Hit submit too soon. At my last job, my supervisor was going to fire someone and was very relieved when the person retired to avoid being fired. The employee was given plenty of warning and my supervisor floated the idea of retirement to the eomplyee’s friends at work so they could suggest it to her.

      My supervisor did not want to fire the employee but the employee was just terrible at her job and it was having a negative effect on the rest of the team. She also may have accidentally replied to a group expressing relief and happiness once the employee announced her resignation.

  22. Maddie

    He didn’t plant that email for you to see. You said yourself you are not a great fit. He was fair with you. Just go off to your new position, be happy, and close this chapter of your career. Nothing good will come from bringing it up.

  23. Lauren

    I hate this kind of stuff so much that reading this made my stomach hurt! OP, I understand your feelings – getting feedback is one thing, but hearing it second-hand and realizing someone wasn’t as straightforward with you as you thought they were (and in a negative way) still feels like taking a punch to the gut. Unfortunately, the advice here is the best advice possible – there’s nothing you can do about this except accept it and move on. You will heal from the

    (I once applied for a very competitive specialization in graduate school, after failing to manage my workload and basically getting fired from a research assistantship. Somehow, the selection committee managed to leave ALL the CVs for all the applicants at a local cafe, and mine was on top, so I had to go pick them up. Sure enough, on my CV one of the selection committee had written “Poor performance in xyz assistantship”. I deserved it! I had done badly! But I still cringe to think about it, nearly 10 years later. And what’s funny is that I actually was accepted into the specialization.)

      1. OP!!

        Oh no!!! I’m sorry that happened to you!! Thank you for acknowledging that while you deserved the criticism, it sucks to hear it third-hand.

  24. chocoholic

    I think this is a good situation where you just need to assume positive intent. He didn’t intend for you to see it/read it and it is good for everyone that they don’t have to discipline or fire you. You have a place that you can leave on your resume and you have a good reason for leaving.

    Congratulations on grad school!

  25. OP!!

    Hello! OP here!

    Wow! I appreciate your response, Alison, as well as all these comments. You guys are much nicer than I expected. Thanks for your thoughtfulness and honesty.

    I agree with the 99% of you who are saying I should “pull an Elsa” and let it go. It was super hurtful to see it, and I wrote this letter to Alison while it was still fresh. I’m rolling my eyes at myself at my last paragraph – you’re right, this isn’t really “crap,” and I am probably taking it out of context. That sounded majorly entitled of me. My knee-jerk reaction was to assert myself and you know…get back at him. That’s pretty immature. I was just hurt!

    I also was ruminating over the fact that he knows I had access to his email. And truly, I was not snooping! I refer to his inbox often to find information pertinent to my work. This was an honest to God case of me scrolling by, accidentally seeing something that I shouldn’t have. I see what you all are saying in that it probably didn’t cross his mind. I thought of that too, and I found it outrageous at first, but it does make more sense now. He’s got bigger things on his mind.

    I also agree, now that the weekend has gone by and I had a chance to cool off, that it is totally fair for my manager and for him to recognize that I wasn’t into this position. I should have spoken up when they made me an EA, but I didn’t. Here I am. Hopefully someday I’ll be accomplished enough to be a senior level employee and have a functional, passionate assistant too.

    That being said, while being an EA to a banker does NOT come naturally to me, I did try my best with him. I respond very well to respectful, constructive criticism. I appreciated that he took the time to try and help me out, which I think made it sting even a little more in the end. Your responses are giving me much more clarity in the way he might be thinking about this (or not thinking about this). It doesn’t have to be malicious and mean like I initially thought it might be.

    Thanks for recognizing how painful this was to read! My feelings were hurt. But it’s time to be gracious to him for his guidance and steer that energy toward graduate school.

    1. Matilda Jefferies

      I’m so glad to hear you’re feeling better about things. Best of luck in grad school!

    2. animaniactoo

      Awww! Sorry, I was still typing below and missed your posting this. I’m glad that you can pull back and appreciate the situation better all around. Good luck to you in your program!

    3. CM

      Hey OP, this was a thoughtful reply and I can totally relate to being stung by a comment like this and wanting to speak up about it.

      From what you say about your relationship with this boss, it sounds like a relationship that you may want to continue long-term if your grad school is going to be in a related industry. I’ve actually been in a similar situation, keeping up a relationship with someone I used to work with (sort of for, but not as a direct report) — I really was not into the job and left it earlier than expected, but neither of us took it personally and she turned into a great mentor for me after I left.

    4. NotAnotherManager!

      I think that sometimes people in those positions forget that people have access to their emails, to be honest. My EA doesn’t have access to mine, but my boss’s does, and most of the attorneys’ do as well. I still get emails from people at those levels that I imagine they’d generally prefer their EAs not see (not necessarily about the EA, but certainly about other attorneys/employees).

      Best of luck with graduate school!

    5. Detective Amy Santiago

      This is a perfect example of “we can’t control how we feel but we can control how we act on those feelings”.

      And I commend you for being cognizant enough to realize you might be wanting to act on your feelings in a way that wouldn’t be appropriate for the situation and asking for advice.

    6. Mr. Bob Dobalina

      OP, I’m glad you did some introspection on the real reason that you wanted a confrontation about that comment. In the rainbow-land of negative comments that one might read inadvertently in this situation, the comment from your boss is pretty mild, and understandable given the facts about the performance issues. Good luck to you in the future.

    7. J.B.

      Hey, OP, I’m sorry you had a hurtful experience. It sounds like you can take something from it and grow. Sadly the things that helped me grow the most are things I seriously messed up badly. I don’t want to do that again so learned from the experience.

    8. Gloucesterina

      Congrats on your starting grad school! Your insight into interpersonal dynamics will certainly stand you in good stead in the academic world :)

  26. been there

    Once, many years ago, I was in my boss’s email (which was also part of my job) and I saw a reference to how I was about to be fired!

    And then…they fired me allegedly for the reason that I was reading my boss’s emails. (Again, I was supposed to be, but I clicked on that email because I could see in the preview line that there was a reference to how I was going to be fired, and I guess they traced it, I still really have no idea what went down.)

    So um it could be worse!

    1. I'm Not Phyllis

      I found one of these once … I just wasn’t a good fit for the position but it still stung to see it. I’m kind of glad I read it though because it allowed me to quickly and quietly get the heck out of there on my own terms. And I did – resigned before they even knew what hit them and they were shocked that I resigned! I think my boss honestly forgot that I was reading his emails (or maybe he thought he’d filed it quickly enough that I wouldn’t notice it?). Anyway, best to let it go. It sounds like the best outcome for both of you, OP.

      1. been there

        I wish I had gotten the chance to quit before I got fired! I literally was like, can I come see you in your office with the intention of quitting and then they fired me…derailed my career for many years but oh well. It was a terrible, terrible place to work.

  27. Nita

    Well, LW, you hated the job and you’re probably relieved to be out of there. It was also very clear to your boss that you hated the job, so he has every right to feel relieved too.

    For what it’s worth, in the past when I’ve given notice, my bosses were usually happy to hear that. One of the jobs was clearly not a good fit for me (location), and leaving the other one would have been a big move for advancing my career. Seriously, I’m glad they were happy I’m leaving, so we could say goodbye on a positive note. I’d rather have that response than a “how will we do without you?!” because I feel pretty guilty on my own when leaving, even when it’s clearly the right move.

    It’s not great, of course, that you got stuck with a job you didn’t apply for and didn’t want, but there are more constructive ways to deal with it than messing up at it – looks like you figured that out in the end! Good luck with school, and I hope it helps you get where you want to be!

  28. Matilda Jefferies

    OP, have you ever heard of Occam’s Razor? It’s the principle that the simplest solution is probably the right one. If your boss had wanted you to know that he didn’t want you there, I can think of probably a dozen ways of telling you that would be easier than writing a passive aggressive email to someone else in the company and leaving it in his inbox hoping you would stumble across it. I mean, it’s *possible* that that’s exactly what he did, but it doesn’t seem very *likely.*

    The simplest explanation to me is that he just wasn’t thinking about your access to his inbox when he wrote the email. That’s it. And as others have suggested, he may not even have meant anything terrible by his words, either! There are all sorts of benign explanations for what you saw, before you get to deliberate intent to cause harm.

    So I agree with Alison and most of the others – the job in general, and that email in particular, don’t need to take up any more of your brain space. Of course it was hurtful to read, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to act on it – it’s totally okay to go “Ouch, that hurt,” and move on. Sounds like you’re really excited about grad school, and that’s a much better thing to focus on!

  29. Jam Today

    This feels on par with breaking up with someone, but still being torqued when you find out they’ve gotten over you. Even though you didn’t like or want the job, its still embarrassing knowing that they didn’t really like or want you either. Let yourself feel your feelings, then move on and go enjoy that program that you *do* want, and will enjoy.

  30. animaniactoo

    While I think Alison’s response is completely on the mark and the most likely scenario, I just have to ask one question:

    Did you see the entire contents of your Supervisor’s e-mail to him that he was replying to? (I sort of assume that you did because most people would not be able to resist opening that to see it, but maybe you didn’t in which case….) It would really suck to be sitting there upset if “That’s a relief” was a reply to “I have already lined up coverage and am arranging training now so that there shouldn’t be a repeat of the situation when Jane left that OP had to clean up when she came in.”

    1. OP!!

      Thanks for your well wishes above :)

      To answer your question: I went into his inbox to find some needed info. I saw that my supervisor sent an email to him with the subject as my name (come on guys, you’d look too!!) saying that I gave my notice. Then, I was searching for his response to an earlier email about a meeting and scrolled by his stingy response, which came through about a minute after the supervisor’s initial email. All this I could see in the previews, I never actually opened an email.

  31. Database Developer Dude

    I’m getting the impression that plenty of the commenters here didn’t really read the entire letter by the OP. He or she states that they were hired temp-to-perm as an expense coordinator, THEN moved to an EA job after they cleaned up a previous person’s mess. That tells me they significantly changed the terms of the job.

    That’s the key here. They changed the job, and then “That’s a relief” that he/she is quitting? WTAF? If I got hired for one thing, and wound up doing something completely different, I’d have an attitude too. Of course, I’ve got the experience to know I should do the best I can while dusting off my resume, but I’d say the “That’s a relief” guy needs to be Gibbs-smacked (for those who watch NCIS), and told “Hey stupid! You forced OP into a role they weren’t suited for, what did you expect?”

    1. Let's Talk About Splett

      I don’t think that’s fair. We have no idea if the bankers had any say in the decision to move the LW into the EA role. The letter (which I did read all of) states that she was reporting to a separate supervisor.

      I’ve seen this a bunch of times as an admin: an admin leaves and management &/or someone in Ops with little to nothing to do with the position decides to assign someone to the vacant role without the input of of the asst or the people they are supporting.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Eh, you’re taking “that’s a relief” as an insult. It’s likely it meant “that’s a relief because this is clearly not the right fit and this saves us from having to figure out what to do about that — such as firing her or trying to find another slot for her.”

      1. Database Developer Dude

        And why does the employer automatically get the benefit of the doubt, Alison? Plenty of employers are assholes and would mean it as an insult.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Sure, that’s possible. But it’s far more likely that he meant it the way I described in the post, because that would be a normal, reasonable, and most common reaction. When you hear hooves, think horses, not zebras, etc.

          It also doesn’t change any actions for the OP if that’s wrong.

  32. AnonResearchManager

    Another (adjacent) point for OP to realize is that senior employees aren’t “senior” because they are older than you or anyone else. They are in those roles due to the skills and experience they bring to the business (in a healthy/functioning company anyway).

    Often it takes time to acquire the skill and experience needed to become a senior-level team member so you’ll see that most of the time they are “older”, but it is incorrect to believe you need to be deferential to them only because you are younger. I’m speaking as someone with an employee who is 20 years older than I am…I definitely need the same working relationship from them as the leaders in our organization who are “older”.

    1. Lil Fidget

      This is so on-point; really puts a finger on something I almost missed in the initial letter. I remember feeling exactly the same way when I was in the endless “I guess I’m still paying dues” stage(s) of my career – that the people at the top were just sort of there due to time and inertia, not because they had actual experience that I didn’t have yet. It *feels* true but it’s rarely accurate.

  33. Alli525

    When I started at my last job, I ran into the only IT guy I’d ever met that I couldn’t get along with. When my supervisor left a couple months later, I gained access to her inbox – her boss needed me to have her institutional knowledge – and I came across an email from IT Dude to Supervisor that said something along the lines of “well she’s not going to last long here, that’s for sure.” (I think he was forwarding an email to her in which I had asked a silly question.) I took it personally, but didn’t say anything, and spent the next four years (!) striving to make sure my work was good enough to prove him wrong.

    My point is, it’s infuriating and humiliating, but if you can use that accidental feedback as fuel — fuel for improving those admin skills, or making sure you never fall into admin duties again, or WHATEVER — it’s a much better path than holding in resentment.

  34. Yourethicsconfuseme

    Think about it the other way. You’re relieved that you’re leaving, should your boss be offended? If no, then why is it offensive when they feel the same? They support your decision. They didn’t fire you. I think that’s a pretty good outcome. What he said doesn’t mean anything about your character, just your fit for the job. It’s a little one sided to think you can not like a job and not be good at it, but think that other people aren’t allowed to feel the same way.

  35. schnauzerfan

    I know it hurts to see or hear things that seem critical, but like others have said “assume that he’s relieved you are moving to a better fit and is happy for both your sakes.” But to my mind the other reason not to confront someone in this situation is the fact that we live in a small world and it’s possible, even likely that your paths will cross again. You want to be remembered as a person who tried hard, listened to advice, and moved on when it was time… Not as the person who raised a stink when s/he saw something not meant for her eyes. Your banker made a mistake, don’t compound that mistake by embarrassing him when he was a caring boss. Imagine your next boss, chatting with your banker about your application. You want to leave with as much good will as you can muster.

    We hire an entry level person or two every year and frankly it’s often a good thing when the person previously in the job moves on. They’re either going on to grad school, or being promoted to a better position, or they just weren’t the right fit and have now learned what they don’t want in their next job. A good thing for all of us. It’s really truly a relief when we can part ways on good terms and I don’t have to keep trying to lead a horse to water, or worse fire the horse…

  36. Pistachios34

    My main question would be, if it was such a relief that the OP was leaving, why not let her go before that? If she was terrible at the job, why not let her go? It sounded to me like OP did get better at the work, but I could be wrong.

  37. Sammytwo

    Anyone else curious about the structure of the organization? If OP is supporting two different people as their EA, why is someone completely different her manager? I’m in higher ed and work as an EA, so perhaps I’m just not familiar with industry norms.

    1. Not A Morning Person

      In some organizations admins report to an office manager although their main support work is for various executives. This could be one explanation.

    2. TonyTonyChopper

      Totally normal, especially in offices where admins support more than one person. Back when I worked as a file clerk, all admin staff (secretaries, paralegals and clerks) reported to a head of that “department” even if they reported day to day to specific attorneys.

      You probably don’t see it as much in education because there isn’t really a need for workforce management of this type (at least for non-faculty). You see it a lot in law, consulting, and banking were how much work there is for people to do shifts drastically due to cases, projects, etc.

  38. Miss Displaced

    Oh god OP, I do get why that comment stung, but honestly saying “That’s a relief” is pretty tame out of all the possible choices that could have been said in situations like this. Let it go.
    The position was a poor fit, there should be relief on both sides.

  39. LGC

    So, I scanned this, and…ouch. I do want to know something, and this is probably a really stupid question – is it normal for assistants to have unfettered access to inboxes? Because it just feels like it’s asking for the assistants to end up seeing things they “shouldn’t.” (Yes, I know, there’s no expectation of privacy at work. But it still feels a little awkward to me.)

    I do get how your (soon to be former) boss feels – and it’s one of those things that’s really hard to put into words and not have it sound a little jerkish. If I’m reading your letter correctly, you got moved into a role you actively disliked and didn’t perform well in. Perhaps you were letting important things slip and not really caring about them because of your disdain for the job. Maybe termination was an option.

    And if that was the case…I’d be relieved if you’d quit, if I were your boss. Not so much because I hate you and I want you gone, but because firing someone is usually painful for everyone involved. Plus, you’re going on to do something that you really want to do! That’s awesome, no matter how you frame it.

    To be clear, I don’t think he was pushing you out the door. However, like a lot of people here, I think that “It’s a relief” can mean anything, from “It’s a relief, I’m glad that OP is finally gone because she’s a witch” to “It’s a relief, this resolves a really awkward situation for everyone in the best way possible” (and a LOT of things in-between).

  40. Snowy

    There’s always the chance he’s relieved on your behalf. I know, not likely, but it’s one way to look at it, that he knows you weren’t happy in the position, and now you’ll be going on to follow a dream so he’s relieved for you.

  41. zipzap

    I wonder if he’ll remember that you have access to his e-mails and be chagrined about what he wrote. I personally would be mortified if I wrote that about someone and then remembered they’d be able to read it.

  42. carlitajuanita

    OP, I have been in your EXACT position before. I had access to an old boss’s email account because she traveled quite often and needed to have me answer urgent emails, access travel information, etc. One day I searched her email for something and came across a conversation she had with one of our clients—one I worked with directly—where they discussed my work in a very negative and insulting manner (despite the fact that I had received tons of praise from both of them). Seeing the comments was deeply hurtful, and I considered bringing it up with my boss a number of times.

    I gotta tell ya: I’m really glad I didn’t. I left the job six months later and continued to prove their rude comments wrong! It sounds like you’ve got a great thing going with your graduate program and I’d encourage you to let this comment go and embrace the chance you have to study what you want to pursue.

  43. Chinookwind

    As someone who has been on the other side and had a coworker (who was snooping, unlike the OP who accidentally stumbled on it) find an email where I detailed a complaint about said coworker to my boss and her attitude towards covering the reception desk, I have to say that you need to let it go. Complaining about hearing something that was not meant for you, was not malicious or rude, and was not a lie just looks on you.

    In my case, her snooping and subsequent complaining ironically became Exhibit A for what I was complaining about and led to many changes on the part of my employer in order for me to stay. In the OP’s case, if she were to look at it with an impartial eye, she can probably say that she feels the same way – that it is a relief that she is no longer going to be doing a job that she knows she is not a good fit for.

  44. doingmyjob

    In agreement with others who say let it go. Actually, aren’t you relieved too? So the two of you agree on something!

  45. Big Biscuit

    The key and also why this does not need to be analyzed to death is that the OP is moving on. It was not meant for her to read, it has no bearing on her employment there. Nothing to discuss with her boss. Onward and upward with her new endeavors!

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