updates: anxiety causing problems at work, error in offer letter, 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. My anxiety is causing problems at work (#2 at the link)

I wrote in to you last year and you answered my letter very kindly. I wrote in about my anxiety causing trouble at my work and how I went to my coworker’s house because I thought she didn’t like me. 

I was grateful to you and each person who took the time to respond and lend support.

The Bad: The new therapist and medication did not work out. I had a really bad relapse that led to more problem behavior and some drug use. It wasn’t just with my former coworker but a relative also. I ended up being charged and there are restraining orders with both of them.

The Good: The bad stuff led to me meeting the best and most competent therapist. He has helped me more than anything ever in my life. I had never used illegal drugs before the relapse and haven’t since. He has changed my life. Things like what happened with my former coworker that used to cause me anxiety no longer do. I am living alone and have done things like skydiving and dirt biking. I got a part-time job through a program for people on probation with mental health issues and I’m starting part-time night classes soon too. I have never felt better. I’m ashamed of my past behaviors but hopeful for the future.

That’s all. Thanks Alison.

2. How much detail do you have to share when you call in sick?

The “tell me exactly what’s wrong with you when calling in sick” manager has spent the last couple of months driving everyone on her team crazy, and a few of them even quit. There must have been a ton of complaints because she got fired this morning! We were really surprised – usually it takes more than complaints to get someone fired around here. Let’s just hope they don’t hire someone even worse to replace her!

3. Paying huge expenses up-front before getting reimbursed (#4 at the link)

I’ve read (and appreciated!!) all the comments and I have some updates to offer. But first, some more background — this is a religious charity that my atheist husband has worked with for abut 30 years. He is an actor and owns the rights to all of their characters, so they basically can’t function without him because if he quits or leaves, they have no mascot/popular representation.

We made some updates to our agreement:
• Every expense will be repaid to us within 7 days.
• My husband is getting a company credit card.
• The script writers are now required to consult my husband to ensure we use existing props versus generating a need for new ones. He’s an actor and the expenses all came from him having to buy entire sets in order to film.

4. There’s an error in my offer letter (#4 at the link)

I sent a variation of your suggestion. The director was actually really great, apologized for the mistake, and advocated for me with HR for our agreed amount. Unfortunately, the organization I’m working for is very large (and pretty bureaucratic) so I didn’t get my full asking offer. However, the director did make sure my contract specified that I would be up for a raise later this year (pending a positive performance review).

Thank you so much for answering my question and all the questions you answer on your blog. It truly has made a difference in my job hunt!

5. My boss wants us to buy a colleague expensive gifts from her wedding registry

I talked to the other admin staff, and we decided, instead of each of us buying a gift, we would pick a single gift from the registry and pool our money to get it. We told my boss this, and she agreed (she decided what gift we would buy, but whatever). Still, we did it this way and things went off without a hitch. Sansa was very surprised and grateful.

Also, I saw some people expressing concern that Sansa would feel obligated to invite us to the wedding, but it’s not that way at all. It is common for our office to do things like this for each other–we bring cakes for people’s birthdays and other celebrations. I got married two years ago, and I got a shower, cake, and gift card as well (I didn’t have a wedding registry). I just had to get Alison’s take on this particular situation because this is the first time that we planned something for someone at such a high level (apart from the baby shower a while back but, as others said, baby gifts can be bought at very reasonable prices, so that wasn’t as big of a deal).

{ 42 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    I’m sorry things got worse before they got better, OP #1, but I’m so glad to hear how much better they’ve gotten.

    1. Thursday Next*

      As am I. OP #1, I’m glad you’re doing so much better. Your anxiety was palpable in your first letter, and I felt for both you and your coworker. Kudos especially on seeking a new therapist—that can be difficult after having a bad experience with a less-than-competent therapist.

      I hope things continue to improve for you.

      1. Canadian*

        OP1: My heart broke for you when I read the first part of your update, and I’m sorry that your anxiety has caused you and others trauma. I suffer from severe anxiety (& paranoia as a result) as well & often fear what would happen if I didn’t have a good support system around me. Your bravery in writing your initial letter really helped to remind me that I’m not the only one fighting this, and the resulting comment section has proved to be a valuable resource for me.

        I reread through some of the comments from your initial letter and the very first one from DataQueen really struck home: “…your actions came from a place of kindness, but your disease chose to manifest that core kindness into actions you wouldn’t have chosen for yourself.” You still have that core kindness inside you; I hope you’re able to continue showing it to yourself. I’m so happy that things have improved for you, and I wish you happiness and peace in the future.

        1. Canadian*

          Rereading the comment section, I see that some strongly disagreed with the ideas expressed in that quotation. I don’t want to argue over that – my point is that I hope she can continue to find compassion for herself.

      2. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

        OP1 I’m so glad you’ve found a good therapist. It seems like you’re working very hard and are really turning things around.
        I have anxiety as well and have done some questionable things as a result. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just move forward with your life. (This advice based on my own experiences. Ignore if it does not apply. )
        Wishing you all the best!!! ♡♡♡

    2. KR*

      Same. I don’t comment often, but I’m so glad you are doing better. I hope that you continue to improve and don’t dwell on things that happened in the past.

      You’re doing something very hard. I’m so happy that you pulled it around.

  2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    Still think #4 is sketchy. You were told you’d get $X, but got $X -4 weeks. But you will go up to the level you you told in the first place if you are deemed worth it. Not worth quitting over if you are happy, but please keep track of your boss’ accountability and transparency. Just how often you are told by higher ups that it’s just he nature of the business, it’s bureaucracy, “I went to bat with HR, but they won’t budge.” and things like that.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My eyes narrowed at “pending a good performance review” malarkey. We hired someone, they agreed to Starting Amount and then Raise At End Of Probationary Period. No BS about a review that can easily be manipulated to screw an employee. What if you’re doing fine but it’s a company who never gives more than “satisfactory” reviews or has only a set amount of “exceeds expectations”. No. It’s too wishy washy for my taste!

      I’ll never be on board for HR being able to override an offer made by the hiring manager. Ick.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        Thank you. I’ve been thinking about it since I posted, and maybe because it’s Christmas, wondered if I was too cynical. But reading your points. Nope, we’re on to something.

  3. Airy*

    Often people think of mental health recovery as something you do and then you’re done; the reality that people may have a series of relapses that they have to recover from is often deeply discouraging for those directly affected and can attract unkind judgement from people who assume you didn’t “do” your recovery properly or it would have been permanent (ditto stopping smoking, alcohol or other drugs, ditto leaving an abusive relationship – false starts and returns are common). I think we’ll all be better off when it’s widely known that this is simply the normal course for a lot of mental disorders to take. I’m so glad you’ve persevered and found a really helpful therapist, #1. Long may it last.

    1. Margaery Moth*

      This exactly. I’m so happy for this OP, especially having gone through a period of extreme un-treatable anxiety that took an excellent specialist and the right meds to sort out. I too had a “false start” recovery after hospitalizing myself and going through two outpatient programs who still failed to get things right (surprise…it’s actually learning disabilities!) before coming out on the other end cautiously optimistic.

  4. Airy*

    Re: #3, I’m not going to try to guess the organisation, but there has to be some kind of sitcom in the scenario of an atheist actor working for a religious charity and playing their mascot that he himself designed. Someone should get on that.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        What was the cop show where one of the dramatized veggie tale guys was murdered? The main suspect was the guy who coveted the role of the carrot or asparagus or some phallic veggie because he gets all the single moms.

      2. Patty Mayonnaise*

        I do too, but that show appears to be backed by a much bigger production company than what the OP is describing, plus Veggie Tales is animated, which doesn’t fit the “use props we already have” issue. But I really, really wish it was.

        1. Gumby*

          Ooooh, Psalty. Though I listened to tapes rather than watching videos of any sort.

          Same era, less well-known: Colby the computer. (My name is Inspector Persnickety. I inspect everything that I see. And I point out each mistake as I write the rules I make and each inspection must be authorized by me!)

  5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Entire sets as an expense!! That makes so much more sense why the bills were sky high. I’m so relieved there’s a ton of leverage and that nonsense was figured out. They’ll get a better return on the costs anyways with corporate rewards programs for all that expensive stuff!

    1. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

      As a bonus, the new way of doing things will result in less costly sets. Like, you can use a de-badged Toyota Corolla in more than one movie.
      Win-win solution.

  6. PB*

    OP1, I’m sorry things got worse before they got better, but things sound like they’re really looking up for you. Best of luck to you in the new year. I hope that something good is on the horizon!

  7. suprisedcanuk*

    OP4 this sounds like a bad place to work. Unless it’s a fairly good raise close to 10% your still losing out. It also sounds like the can easily back out of giving you a raise or give you a small raise.

  8. 9yiho*

    OP1, jeez, at least you seem to got help before you really crashed and burned. just don’t break the restraining orders!

  9. Ellex*

    OP5, I’m glad pooling your money to get a gift worked out. Years ago I had a colleague who, similarly, had a wedding registry that included a very expensive set of china, among other pricey items. We were also not paid particularly well, and to top it off, that coworker had been with the company for less than 6 months and had not endeared herself to us, so many of us felt her “request” for gifts from the expensive registry was a bit…forward.

    Nevertheless, we did pool our money and selected several items from the registry. Sadly, she seemed rather less than grateful for the gifts. She quit a few months later.

    No one from work was invited to the wedding – although of course, we didn’t expect to be. This was also not regular behavior in our workplace – for other occasions, including another wedding, we’d all pitch in a dollar or two and someone would get a cake for the office, and that was it.

    1. WellRed*

      Did she request gifts? Like send an email with a registry link or some such? Cause, holy cow of inappropriateness!

      1. Ellex*

        That’s exactly what she did – sent round an email with a link to her registry. Considering what that company was like and which department she worked in, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she made a good bit more salary than most people in the company, and may not have realized it. She still seriously misread the company culture, and her reaction on receiving her gifts was…less than gracious. Considering the china and some very large ticket items of furniture comprised the majority of the registry, and the china – per piece – was quite pricey, she was lucky she got what she did.

  10. caryatis*

    Re LW#1: I hope all the commenters who were super-confident that the stalking was a one-time incident that would never recur read this. There’s a simplistic narrative that a mentally ill person should just “get treatment” = problem solved. Doesn’t work like that. Oftentimes people need to try many different treatments over years. Sometimes problems get better without treatment. Sometimes treatment makes them worse. Sometimes the problem never really gets solved.

    Judge people by their actions, not by their excuses. They may be valid excuses–I believe OP has a mental illness, although it sounds like more than anxiety–but ultimately, past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

    1. Observer*

      Yeah. Even the first update that the OP posted should have been a bit of a wake up call.

      I feel bad for the OP and hope that she’s really on a good path with her current therapist.

    2. Bird*

      I may not be reading this comment correctly, but it seems a bit unkind to the LW. They very generously updated us all and seem to be taking positive steps to help them manage the mental health issues that have contributed to their past struggles. They do not seem to be making excuses; they are actively in treatment and pursuing other avenues of healing and progress, while acknowledging their bad past behavior.

      1. Ellen N.*

        Actually, the original poster is downplaying his/her behavior. What he/she did was stalking. He/she has never referred to it as stalking. His/her victims have taken out restraining orders which means the original poster must have continued to stalk them. Yet, the original poster keeps focusing on his/her pain. I haven’t seen remorse for the terror he/she caused her victims.

      2. caryatis*

        I don’t mean “excuse” as a pejorative term. The point I am making is that knowing someone has mental health struggles (or any other kind of struggles) should not distract us from the reality of their actions. The fact is that OP has stalked at least two people, repeatedly, and whatever she did (which she isn’t telling us) was bad enough that both victims had to take out restraining orders and the perpetrator was convicted of at least one crime. This is a person who is a danger to those around them and is at high risk for reoffending.

        Is that harsh? Maybe–but it’s the truth. I wish the best for OP and hope the current positive trends continue.

      3. Observer*

        I suggest you read the comments on the original post. On that post there were a few people who insisted that the OP was being treated too harshly, that they were getting treatment so their behavior should be overlooked, that the OP should tell HR that their behavior was due to mental illness that was being treated and was a one time event that would not repeat itself. Those people doubled down on that narrative series despite people pointing out the egregiousness of the original misbehavior (which was pretty severe to start with) and also pointing out everything that @caryatis just said – ESPECIALLY that there was actually no reason to believe at that point that the OP would not repeat such behavior.

        And in fact the first update and this one prove that this was the case. The OP’s behavior did not improve in any meaningful way for quite a while. First they kept on pestering HR to pass on a message to the first victim, till they got fired. Then the behavior actually escalated – drug use and MULTIPLE orders of protection are a pretty big deal.

        I don’t think the OP is a monster, and I’m glad they are finally getting apparently useful treatment. But the people who were minimizing the problem were flat out wrong.

        1. Former Employee*

          Thank you, Observer. Someone left a comment to the original post about being stalked by someone who had schizophrenia. Some mentally ill people are dangerous. When someone is being stalked, it’s not their job to tell themselves that they don’t have to worry because their stalker isn’t dangerous, but merely suffers from anxiety.

          Not to be overly dramatic, but if you are killed by an out of control, off their meds mentally ill person, you are just as dead as if you were killed by anyone else.

    3. AnonAcademic*

      I find it interesting that many people view it as they can either have compassion for LW#1, or for their coworker and relative who were stalked, but not both simultaneously. Someone can be so ill that unspeakable actions seem necessary or unavoidable to them, but it doesn’t make those actions ok, or mitigate the suffering they cause. Downplaying stalking behavior because it originated as anxiety strikes me as similar to the excuses made for domestic abuse. It erases the agency of the ill person, when it’s that sense of agency that is often necessary to make major changes to behavior.

  11. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #4 – somehow my last comment disappeared – but those reading this should take note – some employers will try to pull a fast one on you like this, accidentally on purpose, and will fix the “mistake” when you point it out.

    Usually the trick is to get you to the interview – you are led to believe the job pays $X but it really only pays 2/3 of $X.

    The scene in the movie “The Company Men” demonstrated this, where the position he was going to interview had “been filled” but there was another one that paid a lot less …..

    1. suprisedcanuk*

      I think they have already pulled a fast one.Unless after a year they give the lw a large raise 8-10+%. I’m guessing they get a small raise 2-3%.

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