here is your happy ending for the week

Something nice to end the week with. A reader writes:

This is not to ask a question but simply to thank you for giving me guidance and context to get out of a job that was terrible for me.

There was a letter I came across about a new boss who was trying to get her employee to stop apologizing for things, like a board member calling at the last minute and getting upset that she wasn’t at her desk. This, along with other things, started to set off warning bells for me. I WAS an employee like that and my first instinct when reading was, “Well, it was her fault for not anticipating that he might call in….” (I’ve been in that exact situation.)

My old job was the one I’d been in for the majority of my time post-college, and now that I’m in a new one I realize that everything you say about bad jobs warping your sense of normalcy is TRUE. My new boss comes into my office to chat kindly with me and ask how I am (not burst through the front doors in the morning demanding to know my progress on things and yelling at me when he feels I’ve mishandled things). We talk about a project we’re working on and then he tells me I’m doing good work and he appreciates me. I realize in typing this that it sounds….normal? But I’m young, and after spending four years in a stressful environment, this basic courtesy is new and amazing to me.

But without your blog and reading the comments, I suspect my sense of what’s normal would have been totally miscalibrated for a lot longer than it was. I’m so happy to have come to the realization that I needed to leave and have been easily able to find a new job. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your wisdom and the supportive community you’ve created.

{ 52 comments… read them below }

  1. solar flare*

    Not so much a happy ending as a happy beginning! Now LW can get started on a happy, healthy career. :)

  2. 30 Years in the Biz*

    So wonderful! Ask a Manager helps us in so many ways. I think Alison runs a “calibration laboratory” for the workplace. Her answers help us reflect and often reset as we go out in the world to do good work while supporting ourselves. Thank you Alison and hurrah for you OP!

    1. Kiwilib*

      Yes, I think you’ve summed AAM up very well. I often find myself quoting this blog in work conversations. Plus am currently interviewing, so my prep includes rereading certain posts. Thank you Alison.

  3. Red*

    Omg, this made me sooo happy. You really do some great work here. I just got a fantastic job with one of the best employers in the country using your advice, and even negotiated my pay! I had no idea you could even do that before reading your site, and I am so happy I learned. Thanks for all that you’ve done to make the beginnings of my career successful! I’m so happy to have found your blog so early in my work life.

    1. Hellanon*


      From the other side, I used Alison’s excellent advice (and the commentariat’s insights) to hire a fantastic young assistant whom I’ve just promoted.

  4. Cassandra*

    I have gotten so much better at navigating run-of-the-mill organizational and interpersonal issues since coming to AAM. I also, like OP here, am much less likely to accept a job with red flags flying — which I have a long, bad history of.

    Thank you, Alison and commenters.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Yes. I really appreciate Alison’s advice, I enjoy her writing, and there is some serious crazy out there. In addition, there is a community here, and I learn from all of you too.

  5. Properlike*

    Almost 20 years after my first post-college job, 1 1/2 years with an abusive, gaslighting, horrible boss and I still suffer the effects of that time. I’ve worked a lot of jobs since then (nature of my business), and sometimes a part of that pattern will surface in a different boss/supervisor and send me right back into old scripts. Even friends can’t send me a “I have something to talk to you about, no rush” email without sending me into severe anxiety, and I’ve had to explain that as part of my “early programming.” :)

      1. CPAinthemidwest*

        That part hit home as I read it. I was at my last job for 11 years, and had a horrible manager during that time. It made me extremely paranoid for a lot of reasons that I won’t get into. Now that I have a new job and a new boss, I’m having a hard time letting go of that.

    1. xtine*

      So glad to know I’m not alone in this. Was at my last company for 12 years and had dysfunctional bosses for about 9 of those years. My new boss (for the last 1.5 years) is very nice, takes me at my word, and tells me she appreciates me and yet I’m still paranoid every time she wants to talk. I think it’s going to take years to undo the anxiety.

  6. Zin*

    I used to feel like the “Red Flag” thing was just me being over sensitive or overly critical of situations that I didn’t really understand. While that’s always a possibility and something to be aware of, I’ve passed to two jobs that outwardly seemed like the “perfect opportunity” because alarm bells started going off. With one, they have you your salary upfront but if you were unable to make their productivity hours you had to pay it back. What? No. There’s undoubtedly fields where that happens but mine isn’t one of them because we’re largely dependent on them to find us clients to begin with. When I pushed on that point I got a lot of hand waving and not to worries and “Oh it probably won’t come up just sign here” and no. Come to find out, that company is on the verge of losing their ability to provide services in my area because of a multitude of reasons. The second one was different but still I went “Yeaaaaaahh no.”. And again, later heard my instincts were right on. I currently work with a lovely company that is working towards having me full time by the end of the year and I really like them. It’s odd, after so many years in toxic, unethical job environments to be in one that’s not. But it’s wonderful. So congrats OP and thank you Ask A Manager for helping calibrate normal for us.

  7. Kitrona*

    Oh, that’s wonderful! I know reading AAM (I’m working my way back through the archives, actually) is helping me feel less lost returning to the workforce after almost 10 years taking care of my kids, plus being in college… all of that, plus my previous jobs, really left me feeling adrift and overwhelmed, but with the help of AAM, I’ve actually broken things down to the point that I can take some action and I’ve had two interviews so far and a third next week! Thank you, Alison!

  8. gk*

    Sending virtual hugs your way, OP.

    Unfortunately a lot of us have been there! Now that I’m out of that bad situation what I’m trying to do is be the best mentor/boss I can to new hires and direct reports. I want them to have the best start and you can’t grow if you’re constantly being belittled and bullied.

    I’m still traumatized from my last job…

  9. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

    This is like the awesome update without needing the heartbreaking letter to start with. (Wait, did we get an update for the letter linked in the post above?)
    It’s just amazing that this site, Alison, and the AAM commentariat keeps giving and giving in so many positive ways – we spend so much of our waking time at work, we need to know what’s normal, what’s acceptable, and what works to keep our work sane!

  10. Anon today*


    This place has been so helpful to me–as I suspected my job was being eliminated, it was, and then I job hunted for the first time in years.

    I also processed a lot about dynamics at my old job, including realizing how bad it was that my manager never gave me feedback. I’m still skittish from some things that happened there, but, wow, it’s better.

  11. Lumen*

    This makes me so happy, and I completely agree. I think some of the greatest value of this blog is in helping people understand what is and isn’t “normal” (or okay) at jobs.

    A dress code? Normal.
    Biting your coworker? Not normal.
    Boss’s Day gifts? Normal, but shouldn’t be.
    Employers giving salary ranges to candidates? Not normal, but should be.

    And so on. It’s my favorite part of AaM.

  12. Mrs. D*

    Congrats, OP! It’s so liberating to get out of a bad job situation. I hope your new job continues to be a positive experience, and a place that allows you to grow in a “normal” environment. AAM is an excellent litmus test for a great many things work-related.

    I needed a feel-good story today. Thanks Alison! :)

  13. Elle*

    Congrats! I’m so happy for you!

    I related so much, especially the nice chats thing. One thing I couldn’t get over the first time I moved to a non-toxic job was that people reply thanking me for my work.
    It did take me a bit of ‘deprogramming’ time to learn not to be overly aggressive and to the point in my more friendly, relaxed office (like did you know normal people ask about each others weekends before diving into Monday status meetings?). Just something to watch out for, but I’m sure you’ll do great!

  14. formerDoDscientist*

    Same here. I am finishing my up my third week at an amazing company, after spending almost a decade as a federal employee, and I owe it to AAM. This blog made me see that my environment before was not normal, and gave me the encouragement to seek out something else.

    1. Tabby Baltimore*

      As a current fed, I’m sorry we lost you. But considering that really good federal managers are few and far between, it stands to reason that the Law of Averages wasn’t going to support your staying, for sure.

      1. formerDoDscientist*

        Yeah. I ended up with several offers (also thanks to the advice of AAM), including a really great offer from another government agency, but I thought I’d get out of federal service for awhile. Thus far it has been fantastic.

  15. the.kat*

    Same! AAM helped me identify when an old job was getting toxic and helped me with an awesome new opportunity that I am LOVING.


  16. Aphrodite*

    That is marvelous, OP. I am genuinely happy for you.

    And for me. In a nasty environment in the adult ed section of a community college, I suddenly found myself being transferred, because of a reorg, to a new boss that initially I thought I didn’t want to work with. To my utter and total astonishment, he has turned out to be the BEST BOSS EVER. I wish I could “out” him because he deserves to be known far and wide for the superb manager, best director, and all around fantastic person I have ever known. And I am especially grateful to Alison and to all those who write into her and comment here because I see how wonderful I have it. And even when I was elsewhere in this division and unhappy I had to admit that it wasn’t as toxic as many I read here. Perspective helped me get through a lot until I got to where I am now.

    Thank you so much, Alison!

  17. PhyllisB*

    Totally 1000+ on the great info/advice we get from Alison and commentators. I only wish this blog had been around when I was starting my career; but considering Alison is over twenty years younger than me, and internet/blogs weren’t a thing when I started out that’s impossible. :-) However, I have learned a ton from reading this, and have been able to share my knowledge with my adult children. They will even ask me, “What does your friend Alison have to say about….” of course, they could read it themselves but I’m glad they are asking anyway. Thank you for all you do.

  18. CatMintCat*

    Fantastic news!

    I’m nearly a year (10 months and counting) out of my toxic job and still finding new and interesting ways in which it warped my sense of normal. And I’m 59 years old, not exactly a career beginning – 5 years of toxicity really does a number. I’m definitely getting better, but will probably never lose that “called to the Principal’s office” feeling when the boss says he wants to talk to me – even though this man has never been anything but kind and pleasant to me.

    1. London Calling*

      I’m a little older than you and I find that after reading the blogs (I started at the end of 2016) I’m a lot more alert to situations in the workplace and what underlies them. We have one coming up next week – ostensibly about a chnage around in seating that’s really about a new member of staff throwing her weight around and demonstrating that she’s the most important member of the team and never mind anyone else. It will be very interesting to see what I can do to defuse that (mostly because it affects me as well).

  19. Database Developer Dude*

    the OP is right! Being in a dysfunctional place for so long warps your idea of what’s normal. Alison says this too, and she is right.

  20. Seeking Second Childhood*

    I have to join the thankyou bandwagon… except I’ve been using some of this page’s advice with my family…and I’ve passed a script or two to my middle schooler to use with fellow students.

    1. PhyllisB*

      So true!! I have a grand-son in middle school and I have passed relevant tips/scripts along to him.

    2. HelenB*

      Oh yes! So happy to hear all the stories about “this advice helped me”. I’ve been using it with my mum, following the general advice of “be polite, calm, assertive and don’t accept craziness from colleagues” (I’m forty-two… this is allowed!). It works. Thank you Alison :-)

  21. Bookworm*

    Thank you OP for writing in. I’ve had a long, LONG week and this was nice to read.
    And thanks to Allison and the AAM community.

  22. Cat wrangler*

    I’m 22 years out of one toxic job, and a couple of years down the line from another which veered from an overly-inquisitive in my personal life and I still have to give my head a wobble at times to remind me that it’s ok to ask if I don’t understand or need something or not to discuss my private life if I don’t want to. Having said that to be fair, she taught me some great gatekeeping techniques and only to handle any piece of paper or parts of a project once if you can which has served me since then.

  23. Tax Nerd*

    Congratulations, OP! I currently work (and have, for a good while) in a very good environment, with several great bosses, but it took a while to get over past bad environments. I have learned so very much from this website, but my favorite thing I’ve learned is how to take corrective feedback! I welcome it so much now! And I was able to help an intern with how to accept it, even to the point of the intern’s understanding that it was just a course correction, and how to respond to the person who gave the intern the information!

  24. Crisjen*

    I just had a long talk with my boss, planning my exit strategy from a small, dysfunctional company. I like my job and my boss, but there’s an entrenched bully – a missing stair – in the organization making it toxic, and this site has helped me realize that the culture is broken, not me. I’m not the sole source of everything wrong, as I was coming to believe. That the gossip and blowups and drama are neither normal nor inevitable.

    This site helps a lot of people.

  25. Essess*

    I was on a horrible and toxic team for several years. In our weekly team meeting, you had to go state what you accomplished and what you were working on but I quickly learned not to share ANY details in that meeting. The only thing that occurred when anyone shared was that the other team members jumped on the person for not doing it (whatever it was) another way, not asking them for help (even though it had nothing to do with their roles), giant litanies of everything that they didn’t like about the other team members, and anything else that could possibly drag the person down. Then they would start in on complaining about all the OTHER things that they wanted their coworkers to be working on instead (even if it wasn’t part of the duties of the person speaking). The entire discussion was just an excuse to insult and tear each other down. You quickly learned not to say if you needed help, never ask a questions, and never announce an accomplishment. The only safe thing was to say that you were working on your assigned tasks (never say what they were) and everything was on target.
    I later transferred to a different team in the same department (doing a different role). I went to the first team meeting and when they went around the room and announced what they were working on, everyone on the team piped up with offers to help if the person had anything slowing them down, gave helpful suggestions when asked for, and were genuinely happy to assist each other. I was mortified that I started crying right in the middle of the meeting because I was so happy because I’d never had a supportive team before.

    1. Essess*

      I forgot to mention that in the first team it was the usual occurrence that the meeting ended with everyone on the team screaming profanities at each other. It wasn’t just an unhelpful team, it was a very hostile and hateful group.

  26. Amber*

    Honestly, that bad job/good job culture shock can surprise you from anywhere! I’m in retail (which I really like), and the location I currently work at shocked me because in my part of the country, it’s apparently common for customers to actually read our name tags and use our proper names! I was so used to being called anything from “girl” to “hey, you” that hearing my name is still unusual to me, even after over a month in my newest position.

    But I love it!

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