updates: quitting if I can’t get Christmas off, being too needy with a boss, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. Am I being too needy with my new boss?

I took your advice to heart, and tried both to ask more specific questions and to trust that positive feedback is accurate. And you were right, mostly it was normal new-job jitters. But about a month after you responded, it turned out at least some of that insecurity was justified – my boss left, and his replacement didn’t have the same expectation that I would grow into the more technical aspects of my role. Luckily, my former boss wasn’t the only person I’d impressed, and I got traded to a different department and had to start learning an entirely different role from scratch – still remote from my (new) team.

I was honestly pretty unhappy about it for a while. It wasn’t a decision I had any input in, and I felt a little trapped. And even though I was still getting really positive feedback, I felt more incompetent than I had before since I didn’t even understand the scope of the job I was supposed to be doing. After several months I was able to get my new boss to give me a job description, which was eyeopening – my role was explicitly different than the rest of the team, and tailored specifically for me. Evidently the extent of my job really was just to… be myself? It was both flattering and baffling.

And then my new boss left! In the reshuffle I got a significant raise, and I realized two big things: a) obviously I was still undervaluing my contribution, and b) until I figured out what that contribution was, I wouldn’t be able to express it to anyone outside my organization if I ever wanted to leave. I wasn’t going to be able to put “apparently bosses like me” as a qualification on my resume, right? So I started to look for external certifications to prove to myself that I had some concrete value to add, and it’s been a huge help. I’m not planning on changing jobs any time soon, but just knowing that I’ve passed a test and can objectively say I know something has been a massive boost to my confidence and it helps me feel like I have options. Feedback from my newest boss is that I’m a model of professionalism (which is 100% from reading Ask a Manager), and that he’s thrilled with my increased assertiveness. He gave me a bigger raise and a “senior” title this year, so I guess something’s working!

2. Should I quit my new job if I can’t get the week of Christmas off?

First, thanks for posting my question and being really caring about the answer. I was able to read and respond to some comments (not too many because I didn’t want anyone at work to see, obviously), and everyone was really respectful, even though I was definitely in entitled territory.

So, I did not end up quitting. I’m an only child, so my parents ended up coming out for a few days. Work was generous and I was able to leave early on the 23rd as well as having Christmas Eve and Christmas off. It was actually a really nice time with my parents and I got to participate in an event I would have missed if I hadn’t been in town. We all still missed seeing the rest of the family though, especially now that we can’t see anyone with the travel restrictions.

I will say that I almost definitely could have missed that whole week without much of an impact on service. We are able to see when everyone is scheduled, and we were really only down by about two people from fully staffed. I also ended up taking a fraction of the calls I would take on a regular day. But in the end not taking off wasn’t the end of the world. I even had to take a week of sick days in January, so it’s good I was able to get the pay I was.

The bad news is that I was going to extend my contract for a month or so (they were really happy with my work and also somewhat understaffed), but when COVID hit I decided to move home and they no longer wanted to keep me on. I understand that the burden of an out-of-state temp worker was too high, though I know my department is definitely in demand right now!

But the good news is that I was accepted into the graduate program for teaching in the city where I went to undergrad, so I’ll be an easy five-hour car ride from most of my family in a city I know and love and have friends in. Crossing my fingers that everything is able to start up again in August!

3. Returning to work after a miscarriage (#3 at the link)

I saw your call for updates and thought I’d send mine in. I’m sorry; it does come with a content warning for child loss.

I originally wrote to you in 2017, after I’d had a miscarriage and was worried about returning to work.

When I got back to work, one of the managers had shared the news with almost everyone in the team, but your advice was very helpful in terms of handling meetings with others. Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment; I don’t think I replied to everyone as I was a bit overwhelmed at the time, but I appreciated your kindness, thank you.

I fell pregnant again, but my daughter was very premature and passed away. My workplace was amazing; I was given my full maternity leave entitlement and told to come back to work when I was ready. My managers/HR let me decide how much or little I wanted to stay in touch, and were incredibly supportive when I went back four months after my daughter was born. I was able to drive the direction of my work, had regular check-in meetings and the team was incredibly protective and kind. They were a bright spot in a very painful time.

My update ends happily – I’m currently on maternity leave after having my son. Although the world is a scary place right now, I feel very fortunate to be able to spend so much time with him.

Thank you for your site and everything you do; it’s been a great help to me over the years!

{ 65 comments… read them below }

  1. m m*

    #3, as a grown man who doesn’t cry often, I am crying happy tears for you right now. Congratulations and best of luck in the future!

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        +1 on the dust.
        Wishing you and your son much, much happiness and health.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yeah, more than a few actually.

            OP, I wish you and your little one the absolute best. Thank you for your update, I am sure that was not easy to write.

    1. Casper Lives*

      Yes, what a bittersweet update. I’m sorry for your loss OP3, and I’m happy your work did right by you in a hard time.

      1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

        I’m thrilled that the office did right by OP3, but very sad that they had to.

    2. Dream Jobbed*

      Me too. (Although not a man.) Am so happy about the addition to your family!

    3. allathian*

      I’m so sorry for your losses. I’m glad you have a great employer and coworkers who supported you in your difficult time. Enjoy the time you have at home with your son, and good luck when you go back to work.

  2. jm*

    LW3, i cannot even begin to imagine what you’ve been through. wishing you and your son the best of everything.

      1. I'd rather be snuggling my cat*

        I came here to say the same thing, and am happy to see so many others wishing LW3 well too!

        LW3, I wish you and your family every joy in life. I’m so glad you finally got your happy ending.

  3. BenAdminGeek*

    #1, I really wish you could put “apparently bosses like me” on your resume. I’ve always had good working relationships with my bosses. That’s both good and bad, I’m sure, but it does tell me something about my ability to embrace change, work with various personality types, etc. I just wish I could say “You’ll love me” in interviews and be done with it!

    1. Mama Bear*

      Maybe something like “ability to navigate professional relationships and improve team productivity…” or some such?

      1. JSPA*

        From the prior post, I’m pretty sure OP could add most or all of the following to a resume (with examples/specifics, of course) as particular skills / areas of expertise:

        *translating technical information into everyday language
        *simplifying documentation
        *deconstructing complex processes and putting them back together in ways that are more intuitive, more enjoyable, and easier to master
        *weeding out ambiguous terminology and needless jargon
        *being able to channel the mindset of a new user, while applying the skills of a [actual skill level descriptor]
        * easing bottlenecks and streamlining workflow

    2. Llama Groomer Extraordinaaire*

      maybe like positive relationships with higher management? or higher management think highly of me? hmm. That last one sounds a little conceited though.

    3. Persephone Underground*

      Quick/steady promotions do say that as well, and you can say it indirectly in cover letters (reassigned to a new position custom tailored to my strengths, consistently received great feedback about , was approached by management for promotion to x, etc.).

      But yeah, “apparently managers love me” “my bosses nearly cried when I left” and “prevented manager’s usual yearly ulcer around tax filing time” would be awesome to actually write!

  4. Shenandoah*

    #3, I’m so sorry for the loss of your daughter. I’m just so grateful you got the right amount and type of support and care from your workplace. It shouldn’t be a difficult needle to thread, but it seems that often times workplaces don’t get it right.

    I hope you are getting ALL of those sweet baby snuggles right now!

  5. CJM*

    I just linked from here to “I think my boss hired my replacement” from Feb 8, 2016. I’d love to hear an update from the person if they still are around here.

  6. Mama Bear*

    #3 Enjoy your maternity leave and congrats on your new baby. I’m glad your company has been supportive on this difficult journey.

  7. The Rat-Catcher*

    OP #2 – I’m not too sure that you are entitled! I’m in a job where I can take the week of Christmas off and I love it. It’s really about your own list of priorities and tradeoffs. Are you willing to take a job with lower pay in exchange for guaranteeing that week off? A lower tier of benefits? Longer commute? Things to consider.

    1. Shira*

      I don’t think the entitlement was about wanting to take the week of Christmas off, but about quitting (3 months into a 6-month contract!) if she couldn’t have it. Thinking of it as one possible benefit that might be a trade-off or negotiable is better than framing it as “A job that doesn’t give me the week off isn’t worth minimal professional courtesy/effort.”
      In any case, wishing the OP best of luck in the future.

      1. TimeCat*

        I mean I guess if you can afford it? I think thr vast majority wouldn’t dream of doing so because then they couldn’t pay their rent.

        I am from a larger family but it’s never been a big deal for us to celebrate Christmas a week before or in January when we can get together. My Dad was military for a while when I was a kid and it wasn’t uncommon for us to do stuff whenever. It’s frankly liberating to not have to worry about the pressure of a calendar date and the crazy of travel right around a holiday.

        Just understand quitting for reasons like that will affect your references and ability to get rehired. And then resume gaps. If you care about establishing a career it’s not a smart thing to do.

    2. HB*

      I think what I really got from this letter is that family is extremely important to this person and they need to live/work near their family in the future in order to be close to them.

    3. Burned Out Supervisor*

      I feel you OP#2. I’m an only child too, and the pressure to spend time with your immediate family is intense, especially when you live a good length away. I’m glad it worked out.

  8. Professional Confusion*

    LW#1 – I’m really excited for you that you’re finally comfortable with your new job but I’m also worried that you keep using language that suggests you’re still not responsible for your successes. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of Impostor Syndrome but it’s something I struggle with pretty frequently. I suggest reading up on it and seeing if it resonates with you at all.

  9. DinoGirl*

    #3, I could not be happier for you to have your rainbow. <3
    I, too, experienced a miscarriage at work (after someone outted me as pregnant) (a reminder, to please, please not "out" the news – if they want you to know, you'll know…this same person did it AGAIN after my miscarriage, and frankly it would've been nice for management to intervene with her about this type of thing).
    Some people handled it better than others (like a boss who texted me constantly and pressured me to come right back as I was dealing with very physical healing).
    It's so important for those who have not been through this to read our stories and learn how they can better support employees experiencing pregnancy loss.

  10. PromotionalKittenBasket*

    LW3, I’m so sorry for your losses but I’m so happy to hear that you have a baby to snuggle with! Congratulations <3

  11. LAconfidential*

    LW 3, it’s so sad you had to endure all that. But it’s so nice to hear that there are workplaces that treat people humanely! I lost my son late in pregnancy last year and was told afterwards to do my job or leave. Hell, my boss asked why I wasn’t “over it” two months after the fact.

    Congrats on the baby and best wishes to your family.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        OP, send your boss to me. We are going to have a very long chat about what grief is and how grief works.

        I am sorry your boss acted so ignorantly. I hope you are taking extra care of yourself.

    1. Always Learning*

      If there’s one thing late pregnancy loss has taught me, is that there’s no wrong way to grieve. I’m glad you can see that your boss’ treatment was not OK. Sending you virtual hugs.

  12. Bookworm*

    #3: I’m so sorry for your losses but I’m glad you work with a reasonable group of people. Congratulations on the new addition to your family.

  13. Commisery*

    LW1, the arc of your experience has been very similar to mine. The issue of having a difficult-to-define job is certainly frustrating, and it’s exacerbated by unclear responsibilities and an ever-growing set of unrelated tasks and skills. It’s also unsettling when you think of whether you would be able to transfer your hodgepodge skill set anywhere else without starting over at an entry level.

    Your approach of getting certifications sounds right, when you can spare the time/energy. But the best sign here is that your company is letting you advance internally. All too often there is nowhere to advance until you specialize more, and at the same time you’re being prevented from specializing by the stream of disparate tasks. So congrats!

    (For me the light at the end of the tunnel is that I expect to eventually move into a position in the same company that has the specialization I started with. This didn’t really exist when I started, but as the company has grown it has opened up.)

  14. Fikly*

    Is it just me, or is not being given a job description until several months have passed a major red flag?

    1. TimeCat*

      Extremely. I just, what? Why? Why wouldn’t you tell someone their job description? Surely that’s vital information someone needs to decide even to take a job, let alone perform it effectively.

      1. KWu*

        Mmm, I can see it as a red flag if you’re singled out as the only person that doesn’t have a job description, but I think it can be pretty common to just not have job descriptions generally at a small organization. Or there’s an old set but it hasn’t been been worth it to update the descriptions to be accurate. I see it as similar to job ladders, some places I’ve been put way more effort into them than we ended up ever actually getting benefit from before they were revamped again.

    2. Generic Name*

      Maybe? I’ve been at my company for nearly 10 years, and I don’t have a job description. Granted, folks that start now have job descriptions, but I was hired into a 15-person team (we are now triple that size) and folks wore many hats.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      I think there should be a job description in the ad or during the interview process. Maybe it’s terribly out of date, but it needs to exist!

  15. eepeep*

    #2 Nobody will agree with me, but you were not being entitled and they were not generous.

    1. eepeep*

      In case the OP for #2 sees this: as someone said somewhere here once, No job is worth spending Christmas alone. Stand your ground. Jobs are a dime a dozen, yes, even in a recession. We have this one life.

      1. TimeCat*

        Lots of people have to work Christmas. The idea that denying a brand new employee a whole week off makes them unusual or reasonable is really out of touch.

        1. TimeCat*

          (My sister is a prosecutor, for instance, people still get arrested on holidays so there need to be bail hearings with a judge and the attorneys. None of those people are going to quit their jobs because their turn comes up to cover a holiday).

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Except she didn’t spend Christmas alone. She had to work the week of, and family came to her. My take on it is really that there is usually another solution.

      3. Avasarala*

        Many people have to work on Christmas. Many of them are the same essential workers risking their lives working right now.

      4. Fikly*

        So you’re fine with your house fire not being put out on Christmas, because no job is worth spending Christmas alone? Or the ambulance not showing up when a medical emergency happens? Or no one being at the hospital?

        This is an oddly extreme stance to take.

  16. Diatryma*

    A note for people worried about pregnancy loss and child death: if you had a live baby, you are entitled to maternity leave. You almost certainly should not return to work without a doctor’s note. You also get the tax deduction. It’s horribly sad to think about, but if I had known how much I could push back on returning too soon based on US law and my job’s policies, I would have been much closer to okay.

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      My institution recently added paid parental leave for all employees and included in the policy is some paid time for stillbirths past a certain gestation. It was the first time I’ve seen this specifically addressed in a policy.

    2. J. Random Tax Examiner*

      To clarify on the tax-deduction element, in case this helps anybody:

      If you have a child who is born alive but passes away within the year, that child can be claimed as a dependent for that tax year and can receive the appropriate credits, even if they never received a Social Security Number. You’ll need to attach the certificate of live birth, and possibly the death certificate as well, although I’m not 100% on that.

      If the child is stillborn, you unfortunately can’t claim them on your taxes. I wish this weren’t the case, but that’s the policy.

  17. I Will Steal Your Pen*

    #3 – I am crying happy tears for someone I don’t even know. Congrats!!

  18. Ketchikan9*

    #3 Congratulations on your baby boy! I am so glad you work in such a caring and supportive environment. I am just chuffed to hear of your blessing.

  19. Erin*

    Sending this woman a socially distanced giant hug through my tears! And many congratulations on your son!

  20. Do Teachers Work Christmas?*

    #2 are you a teacher/becoming a teacher after grad school? Do teachers work Christmas? I’d suspect they have time off/away from the classroom around Christmas, even if they need to a bit of marking or preparing at home. So this may all work out very well for you!

  21. Always Learning*

    #3…I’m so glad that your coworkers were understanding. Last year I was 14 weeks pregnant with twins (after 10+ years of trying) and then we had a traumatic loss of both of them. I took 5 weeks off from work on diability, and my manager was really wonderful through the whole thing. I had already shared our news with the staff since I was further along. I appreciated that everyone gave me space and compassion when I came back. When people who weren’t in the loop asked where I’d been, I just told them I took some time away for “health issues”. Most people didn’t pry. I’m so glad that you have your son, and I wish you all the best. <3

  22. Persephone Underground*

    LW1- I suggest if you have a lot of varied responsibilities but do them well, this gives you an opening to be more active in defining which of the things you do that you are most interested in developing. Basically, your company liked you enough to tailor a job to you- you can do that yourself as well, approach them about shifting your role to more x and less y, for example. Doing a lot of different things is great for figuring out what you actually like and want to develop.
    I did something like this myself. I started as a general office manager who assisted the accounting department, then was asked to help code some HTML marketing emails as well (it was a small business). The coding/marketing part grew over time and I discovered I was really good at it. I approached my boss about shifting off the front desk to focus more on marketing and a little of the accounting support, and they eventually promoted me to a new position they put together, and I got to drop the admin duties and shift to more marketing and coding. Eventually I quit to become a full-time web developer but all those baby steps got me to the point where I knew what I wanted. When I approached my boss about the job shift she was impressed with my initiative.

    Tl;Dr – My advice here if you want it is to take these good relationships with management and your diverse responsibilities and use them as an opportunity to take a bit more active control of your career. It’s scary, but amazingly empowering and can pay off in big ways!

Comments are closed.