update: am I the office jerk, boss hasn’t talked to me in months, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are five updates from past letter-writers.

1. Am I the office jerk? (first update here)

After I wrote my update last year, things got a lot worse. Staff members who were key in keeping the negativity and disorganization in check left, and management really bungled the transition. Therapy, medication, and self care can only do so much, so I really revved up my job search. I ended up applying for a job in a completely different field. The hiring manager mentioned in my phone interview that she was going to toss my resume, but my cover letter really won her over (thanks to all your advice!) I took a pay cut, doubled my commute, and left a field I excelled in, but I’ve never been happier! It’s amazing how wonderful it is to work in a functional workplace — even if it isn’t my “dream job”. I’m still working through the intense toxic environment hangover I have from my old job, but I’m glad I was able to get out when I did. You are right when you say that working somewhere terrible gives you terrible work habits and normalizes strange things. I was turning in to the office jerk — but it’s because I was being treated jerkily by other jerks, and that’s no way to live.

Thank you for all your advice and for making me realize that there are people who actually like their jobs! I’m happy to finally be one of them.

2. My boss hasn’t talked to me since Christmas

Thanks to you and everyone who commented on my letter, it was good to feel heard.

I followed up on suggestions to initiate the communication that was missing with my boss, but things unfortunately didn’t get any better. Shortly after this letter was published, a colleague was signed off on long-term sickness with no cover for her role – I got a whole ton of extra work dumped on me and the only word on it from my boss was “you’ll just have to cope.” At this point, you can’t really see this as a oversight on her part, and I decided to start job searching before the stress from doing two jobs with a manager who didn’t give a damn about me started to have health repercussions.

I am pleased to say that I was interviewed for two jobs in the spring and was offered one of them, which I accepted. I started in July; it was a level transfer to a related field in a different town, giving me something of a fresh start. I suddenly had a boss who met with me regularly, made sure I was getting the training and support I needed, and only expected me to do one person’s workload. It has done me a lot of good and I’m starting to build my confidence up. My anxiety has improved, and I have even recently been promoted. Now that I am a manager, I am being careful about which model of behaviour I follow – and I have regular catch-ups in the diary for my own report!

3. I use a fake name with clients (#3 at the link)

Altho I spent 2 years in this role using a fake name, I did not have any trouble passing a background check when I started my new job about 1 month ago. I was a bit worried that the background check would have issues verifying that I worked at this company.

It was definitely odd to interact with clients on occasional phone calls as someone else, but I think it will be even odder for clients now since my replacement is a man (I am female) and we certainly sound nothing alike. (The pseudonym is gender neutral.) In the past, there have been mostly women but now at least 2 men in the role, and there was someone once who is not a native English speaker, who had a pronounced accent. I am told no clients ever noticed, or at least didn’t bring it up. There has been a lot of turnover in that role and the goal seemed to be to portray some stability and have this fake person take the fall or be the “bad guy” when needed. I am really happy to be myself at my new job.

4. The bad acid deal, the abusive boyfriend, and the threatening coworker

There’s not much to tell. I took your advice and said nothing. The coworker eventually moved back to her hometown sans abusive boyfriend, which everyone took as a good thing. The dealer still works here and now lives with my boss to avoid being homeless himself, which seems like a terrible idea imo, but I wouldn’t wish that on anyone so I see my boss’s perspective.

5. I’ve met the whole firm and still can’t get concrete details on an offer (#3 at the link)

I met with the company and asked for a formal offer. At a conference with the Managing Partner (MP) and 2 other folks (one of whom I met previously), I was given a verbal offer of salary only with no rundown of benefits.

I didn’t accept or deny the number and asked for a written formal offer. The MP kept on pressing to see if this number is workable. I told him that it wasn’t competitive. He responds with, “You know, you’re getting older and I just want what’s best for you.”

It was very awkward. The only other woman in the room jumped in and rephrased what he said in a less assholey kinda way.

Prob going to pass on this. They still haven’t followed up with an actual written offer. And the age comment was bullshit.

So thanks for the valuable insight – the advice and comments afterwards were really helpful.

{ 50 comments… read them below }

    1. H.C.*

      “So are you, unless you’re Benjamin Button…”

      Though I’d only really consider saying that if I had no intentions of negotiating or accepting that offer.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I would lose all of my intentions after this. They are pretty much telling OP how they are going to treat her if she has the nerve to continue getting older while she’s working for them.

      2. Lynca*

        That would have killed any intention of taking the offer for me. There would be no stopping me from saying “Well bless your heart, you think I’m going to beat you to the finish line?”

    2. The New Wanderer*

      Now I’m really curious how anyone could rephrase that in a less asshole-y way, because I’m pretty sure Blatant Ageist BS is a conversation ender. At least he was obviously showing you what kind of MP he is. What a weird ending to such a long process! OP, I hope you’re still happy with your current job.

      1. LeahS*

        Yes! This was my first thought after “What the hell?!”. Has there ever been a more crimson flag than this? OP deserves so much better.

    3. Antilles*

      It’s interesting that comment is so awful…because it’s so awful that it actually overshadows the rest of the company’s behavior, filled with screaming red flags:
      1.) You asked for a written offer and details about benefits and they have repeatedly delayed and refused to provide that.
      2.) They asked if the offer is “workable”, you replied it wasn’t “competitive”. Not to over-parse language, but these terms are not identical. The salary isn’t competitive with your current job almost ends things right there.
      3.) When you mentioned the offer was not competitive (translation: needs more money!), they didn’t respond with an on-point discussion with money but instead veered into the ageism and “what’s best for you”. You know what’s best for me? Money. You got more of that?
      4.) The original post was also filled with oddities like him making weird hints about “she hasn’t come work for us yet”, bringing other people to stuff, and similarly semi-pushy things.

      1. Avalon Angel*

        The odd comments and extra people made me wonder if this was a case of softly intimidating other employees. An unspoken “here’s who we’ll hire to take one of your jobs if you don’t do X or Y to our satisfaction.”

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I know it’s not the same thing, but their comment reminded me of an interview I had back in the 90s. They asked me how much I was looking for, and I said “in this range, depending on the benefits”. They started describing their benefits to me, and mentioned that they did not offer dental insurance. I said “ooh, that’s not good”, to which one of the men in the room (who I later found out to be the company’s CFO and HR) responded with, “Why? Do you have bad teeth?” I had a very vague idea back then of what’s professional and what is not, and even so I was stunned. Still took a job with them against my best instincts, and they turned out to treat their employees terribly in a lot of ways. I left them three months after I started. A bullet dodged, indeed.

        1. only acting normal*

          > “Why? Do you have bad teeth?”
          “No, and I like to keep it that way.”

          I mean, WTF?

    4. AKchic*

      “Aren’t we all, dearie. Thanks for solidifying my ‘no’ here, I’ll be heading to the EEOC directly now.”

    5. 653-CXK*

      “Thank you for making my decision about this position easier. I am withdrawing from any future consideration for this position.”

      What a patronizing asshole (and I usually don’t use swear words on this site, but this is a glaring exception; if my comment needs to go to the sin bin for review, Allison, please go ahead).

  1. anonymouse*

    “He responds with, “You know, you’re getting older and I just want what’s best for you.”

    It was very awkward. The only other woman in the room jumped in and rephrased what he said in a less assholey kinda way.”

    Pray tell, what’s a less asshole-y way of saying this?

    1. Autumnheart*

      And WTF makes that the appropriate thing to say after someone points out that your offer isn’t competitive? Is this how women at the company get treated? Bye Felipe.

      1. only acting normal*

        It’s such a non-sequitur. (In addition to being sexist, ageist, patronising etc etc etc).
        – Your offer isn’t competitive.
        – I just want what’s best for you.
        – Soooo, you’ll make it competitive then?
        – You know, you’re getting older.
        – Soooo, awesome health benefits and PTO too?

    2. PB*

      I know! WTF! “You’re no longer 26, therefore an uncompetitive offer is the best thing for you.” What?!

    3. CoveredInBees*

      Insert GIF here of Madeline Kahn describing flames on the side of her face.

      You’re getting old and I just want what’s best for you? Absolutely a no for me if that’s how a managing partner speaks to people. Even if everyone else there agrees that the MP is a horrible person, it sets a tone and it means there will be little recourse in changing that.

      The fact that they won’t make a solid offer was already bad, this was all the red flags waving at once. Run!

  2. Raven*

    “My boss hasn’t talked to me since Christmas” is kind of a funny headline to publish today. I would certainly hope your boss hasn’t talked to you since even before Christmas! :P

  3. Observer*

    #2 “you’ll just have to cope.”

    “No. I can also get another job. Indentured servitude hasn’t been a thing in the US for quite a while, you know.”

    I’m so glad you started looking and found something.

    1. Just Employed Here*

      “No … *you’ll* just have to cope!” would have been (the entirety of) my letter of resignation. In my dreams, that is.

    2. Garrett*

      I wonder how the non-communicative boss took the OP’s resignation? Did they even acknowledge it, or just give a mutter?

      1. Op#2*

        She looked a bit shocked – but the worst part of it was that she insisted on doing the exit interview herself. I think this was to dissuade me from using this as a negative feedback mechanism to HR, but it just resulted in a useless set of data for the organisation and one of the most awkward hours of my life!

  4. Girl from the North Country*

    “You know, you’re getting older and I just want what’s best for you.”

    Is bringing up age in this way putting the employer on shaky legal ground?

      1. TardyTardis*

        Which means nothing, ageism may be illegal, but it’s not like any sanctions are ever handed out for it.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      If they’re covered by ADEA (or a state statute equivalent) and OP is over 40, then this is textbook age discrimination with respect to compensation and hiring. Usually you have to show that “but for” your age, you would have received different compensation, which can be extremely difficult to prove (it’s a higher standard than other types of discrimination claims). The comment made to OP, however, is a smoking gun.

      It’s astounding that they let this person even participate in hiring.

  5. Jennifer*

    OP #3 reminds me of James Bond. I’m sure the job is much less exciting. But what she says is true. If it’s a customer service role, the customers really don’t care or take notice of who they are talking to. They just want their issue resolved. It would be better to change the email to customerservice@company.com. The signature at the bottom could be generic as well.

    1. LeahS*

      True! I’m in Customer Service. They do want a consistent name to know who to follow up with, in many cases. But it could be anything. Kind of off-topic but: I’m in a very male dominated industry and I’ve been filling in for a male co-worker. I’m sad to say, it’s a blast. I don’t get argued with a million times a day when I’m dealing with customers and they think their request is being handled by “Jeff”. Ugh.

      1. ChachkisGalore*

        There was an article I read somewhere (maybe it’s been mentioned here even) where a guy thought his female colleague was much slower at the job than he was (I think they both worked in recruiting). She said it was because she spent so much time arguing or going back and forth with clients and that it took much longer for clients to believe her or build up trust in her. They used each other’s email addresses for a period of time and by the time they switched back the guy completely validated what the woman said – that what clients just took from him with no argument would take rounds of back and forth coming from a “woman”.

  6. EPLawyer*

    #4, thank you for updating.

    Good for the one who got out. But the boss living with a drug dealer can not end well.

    As for the rest — I LOVE updates that are “I got a new job and things are soooooo much better.”

  7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    So relieved the woman got away from the abusive BF at least.

    Given the recent dysfunctional service industry stories I was treated to over Christmas…the boss rooming with the dealer is not the tiniest bit shocking.

    Just do your job and less that mess stay messy on its own!

  8. Observer*

    #4 – Homelessness is terrible. But I have to agree with @EPLawyer who says “But the boss living with a drug dealer can not end well.”

    You’re instinct that it’s a terrible idea is correct. Don’t let yourself be bamboozled into thinking otherwise. And, realize that your relatively drama free workplace is not likely to stay that way. It also may not stay in business – there IS a pretty significant different between a “drug user in the kitchen” and “a drug dealing in the owners pocket (ie home)”

  9. Falling Diphthong*

    The dealer still works here and now lives with my boss to avoid being homeless himself, which seems like a terrible idea imo.

    No… no, it’s not just you.

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