update: my manager is urging me to drop truth bombs on the CEO

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.

Remember the letter-writer who manager and other colleagues were urging her to tell the CEO how bad a coworker was who he wanted her take an internal job working for? The first update was here, and here’s the latest.

It’s been about three years in the making but I have an update on how everything turned out. I was worried at the time that pushing back so strongly was going to reflect on me badly, but just a couple of weeks after I sent in the update… the CEO made me employee of the quarter!! I swear I’m not making this up. It’s always done as a surprise in the breakroom with a cake, and the CEO made a short speech where he said, “Some of you know this already, but I wanted (OP) to come work up front with us. She turned me down and said no, I want to stay in the warehouse and get into management and so that’s what she’s doing now and she’s going to do an amazing job for us!”

I took the job in the warehouse and worked my butt off while also assisting with training a replacement for my old role. I threw cases for 10 hours at a time in 100 degree heat, loaded and unloaded trucks, ran every machine out there, and did my best to help all the new people learn and be safe. I had been working full time since 19 and working my way through college ever since I was 24 and that year I also graduated with my B.S. in Business Management. After one year the warehouse manager made me a lead, which to them means you’ll be in the running the next time an assistant supervisor spot opens up.

But a month after that I was recruited to join a totally different department up front (not reporting to Dick). The department head that offered me the role seemed to appreciate my work and want me to advance and succeed. I decided to make the switch and I really enjoyed it, but unfortunately that department was completely eliminated 6 months later along with Dick’s. All of us affected by the downsizing were offered the chance to meet with hiring managers in other branches and locations to try and find something suitable within the larger company. The warehouse manager asked if I wanted to come back and work for him. I don’t know if it was the knowledge that they didn’t have to work with him directly any longer, but two senior women found an opportunity to tell me privately that I should not go back and work for him “because he talks a good game but he doesn’t promote women.”

The first hiring manager I talked to offered me an assistant manager position in a new facility opening that fall and I took it. I got a raise, my first office, and my first business cards. I had no idea what I was walking into helping to open a new production facility- I went from zero to 200 direct reports in two months and worked 70-80 hours weeks for 8 months. I learned how to make schedules and how to get the product out, but everyone was really too busy to coach a first time manager on how to interact with their people. But I did ok because I learned from you Alison! I followed your scripts so many times for approaching people about what they needed to do differently, shutting down unproductive back and forth, asking what I can do to help without prying into personal matters, straightforwardly telling people things that are hard to hear rather than blindsiding them with a write up or bad review, etc. Because of reading this site for years, I had a better template to follow than what I observed from many of my own past managers and I truly thank you.

A few months ago I was promoted and got my own department (not 200 people thank goodness! Something smaller but more specialized). I still read AAM every day or catch up on weekends, and I’m getting even more out of it now that I deal with these things on a daily basis. Thank you again!

P.S. I’m not a trailblazer of any kind, but dozens of women (mostly college age) have been hired into my old warehouse as generalists since I proved the old supervisor wrong when he said “a girl isn’t going to be able to make rate.” The orientation groups they walked through used to be ALL male and now I’m told there are women (plural!) in almost every hiring group. I ran into one woman earlier this year who had been hired as a clerk when I was a lead. She told me I was “the first girl she’d ever seen go by on a forklift” and she realized she could make this a career. Now she’s a supply chain major!

{ 57 comments… read them below }

    1. Mama Bear*

      Agreed! Glad to see that things worked out and that OP was able to show other women that there is a place for them in the company.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I know, right?

      I wish OP had been there when I was working in a factory. I wanted to drive the forklift; they let me take the training because they had to let me (I aced it, too), but then they never put me on it on any shift. “Well we need you over here, not over there.” Sexist jerks.

      1. TimeTravlR*

        Younger (dumber) me actually heard a hiring manager say they added a requirement to lift a certain weight just so they didn’t have to hire women. Oh if I knew then what I know now…..

    3. NW Mossy*

      Trails are blazed by those that felt the need to get to what was on the other side, even if their intent was never about showing others the way. Well done, OP!

      1. JessaB*

        Also most trail blazers have no clue because the trail they blazed is behind them and they’re still moving forward. But if they stop and look back, lo and behold, there is now a trail there where once was none.

        1. pandop*

          And crucially, don’t kick the door closed after them. Which some people do. But the OP didn’t. She kicked that door wide open for others to come through too.

    4. Alli525*

      Seriously! You don’t have to be The First to be a trailblazer. Sounds like OP is a trailblazer in her town/area.

    5. cacwgrl*

      I am several days late but all the +1’s here! You are, you clearly are inspiring women and inspiring change. Sincerely, way to go and thank you!

    6. AFRS*

      Yes! SO SO awesome, OP! Congrats on everything and for being a role model for other women in your company.

  1. Arya Snark*

    Can we have an award for update of the year now? You know, to counter the worst boss thing?

    This is such a great update, it deserves one!

    1. magc17*

      I second this idea; it was my thought immediately when I finished reading the last update.

      Congrats, OP — you deserve it!

  2. Observer*

    Fantastic update!

    Alison, we always talk about the terrible bosses, interns, etc. And sure, those are interesting to read and sometimes even instructive. But maybe we could also do some “best” ones as well?

  3. Observer*

    OP, you may not have set out to be a trail blazer, but in refusing to be pushed around or pigeon holed, you most certainly acted the role. And it was probably more effective because it was a side effect of your perfectly “normal” and recognizable ambitions that look like every other good employee rather than a “troublemaker”.

  4. Radio Girl*

    One of the best updates ever. OP, I got my training and education the way you did, but long before Ask a Manager was there. You did all the things I wish I had been smart enough to do.

  5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    This update gives me all the warm and fuzzy feelings. You don’t recognize how awesome you are, LW, but, in this internet stranger’s opinion, you are a trailblazer and a rock star.

    1. SeluciaMD*

      Came here to say exactly this. You are DEFINITELY a trailblazer OP, even if you don’t believe that! This is one of the best updates I’ve ever read on this site and it has totally made my day. OP, I salute you!!!

  6. Christine*

    This update made me tear up. You ARE a trailblazer, not just for women but for good managers everywhere! You’re amazing!

  7. MuchNope*

    What a great update!! I came up through the ranks of warehouse work/management and really miss the environment. Glad you’ve been able to do so well for yourself while showing other women the possibilities.

  8. Lana Kane*

    Don’t sell yourself short – at this company you most certainly are a trailblazer. What stuck out to me most is that you’re incredibly sharp: you notice things, you puzzle them out, and you come up with a plan. I think you have a bright future ahead, wherever you land!

    1. JSPA*

      Surely! Great nose for the right trail.

      Showing that [person from group X] can do the job is always going to be far more broadly and reliably persuasive than stating it by fiat from above. And acting like it’s no big deal / normal is hugely better, for others who hope to follow, than acting like only a rock star could hack it. (OP’s still a rock star, mind you.)

  9. EPLawyer*

    This is absolutely AWESOME. You are AMAZING.

    Such a great update. I hope the LW from yesterday with the sexist boss who found the female mentor reads this. She was feeling bad about staying, but knowing you can’t change the culture if you leave. T See what happens when you stand your ground and make little changes. Never saw a woman driving a forklift before, now the other woman is moving on up in the company. So LW from yesterday, your decision works for you — and may help others in the future.

    But again OP today — this is all kinds of good. You should feel so proud of what you have accomplished.

  10. It’s all good*

    You are a freaking rock star! My whole career I’ve been working with distribution companies and women in your previous role are few and far between.

  11. Uplifted*

    I hadn’t seen the original posts, but I work in a big box store and the best forklift driver here is the woman. So far only one though; but the culture doesn’t discriminate, so maybe others haven’t applied.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      WELL worth clicking the links to the first two. Just her decision to apply for third-shift warehouse made enough of an impression to get things to start changing…that and a discreet word to an HR rep who also deserves congratulations because we have indirect evidence of discussion(s) behind the scenes.
      Congratulations from me too, OP!

      1. Anna*

        I find it interesting to read that there is ONE woman forklifter in a culture that does not discriminate, and yet is also male dominated, with the reasoning that the women probably just don’t apply.

        If women aren’t applying, there is a lot of work that still needs to happen for not only the industry, but the individual business (from internal and external recruitment of women, to increasing the visibility and number of promotions for women succeeding in the field).

        On that note, I also highly recommend clicking the links to the original post and the first update. True trailblazer! I hold onto these stories and share them with the young girls around me, because you never know who seeks to be exactly like you, OP! You’ve made it possible for yourself, women around you, and women who dream to be like you to thrive in the workplace! Good job OP!

  12. GreyjoyGardens*

    OP, congratulations, and you ARE a trailblazer! I’m no longer enough of a spring chicken for that kind of physical work, but back in the day – if I had thought of it, I coulda been a contendah for warehouse work and earned more money than doing clerical. Good on you for stepping up and setting the example!

  13. Thankful for AAM*

    I love movies with characters that can see 5 moves ahead and beat everyone else (mission impossible, Sherlock Holmes, Jason Bourne, etc).

    Your story, OP, was better than those!!

    Trailblazer indeed!

  14. beanie gee*

    What a great update! I love reading ALL of the updates, but reading ones like this just warm my heart!

  15. HerGirlFriday*

    You ARE a trailblazer, a role model, and an inspiration! Thank you for keeping us updated. We could not have hoped for a better outcome for you.

  16. Lab Mouse*

    I think this is probably one of my favorite updates. Incredible job! How you’re still not working crazy hours though!

  17. 'Tis Me*

    You sound *so* competent, level-headed and determined – I am really glad people higher up in your organisation also see those things in you and realise that your ambitions and abilities were both directing you down a path that women have rarely gone down, and have never gone down before at your particular company (and this totally makes you a trailblazer)!

Comments are closed.