updates: the personal goal-sharing, the lunching interviewer, 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 four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My boss expects me to share my personal health/diet/spirituality/fitness goals every week

Thanks so much for helping me out when I was dealing with this incredibly weird situation.

What happened (thanks to your amazing advice and to sharp fellow readers):

1. I shared what my career-oriented goals and plans of action were. No more. No less.
2. I confirmed with him that this would be acceptable.
3. He was happy because he saw that I was consistently bettering myself in a way that benefits his business.
4. I never mentioned weight, health, or any personal/spiritual goals (because ew).
5. He sometimes still brings up weight loss or religion, but I brush it off. I’ve decided it’s not about me. It’s about him.
6. Most importantly, I learned how to navigate the professionalism weirdness while not losing my job. I even managed to keep a straight face during my Zoom call.

That said, like many others, I was furloughed due to COVID-19, but as of today, I am working for my boss again as a freelancer.

While being back full-time would be ideal (and is an option for the future), thankfully, there are no life coaching pushes for freelancers. #ichargebythehour #livingmybestfreelancelife

On the plus side: My boss says my candor and professionalism are among the reasons I’m the first furloughed employee he’s brought back. This proves that not killing him and hiding the body was a great life choice!

Joking aside, thank you for giving me both a big smile and smart support when I needed it. For many like me, AAM is the lifeline of frantic employees everywhere.

2.

I wish I had a nicer update to share. I spoke with my boss and he just repeated that decisions about my contract would be made when they had a final budget for the rest of the year. Those last few weeks I really gave it my all and tried to do my best work and show them that I was a valuable resource. Bob’s taunts about my contract ending became constant, and the other co-workers actually started to join in. It was a really awful situation and I would actually cry on the way to work because I was dreading it so much.

I was responsible for a major project and the final deadline was supposed to be my last day. I managed to finish everything about a week ahead of schedule so that I would have plenty of time to tie up any loose ends and prepare to turn over my other responsibilities in case I didn’t get renewed. I told my boss the project was finished and sent him my final draft for review. Instead of being happy he called me into his office that afternoon and told me they were terminating my contract as of the end of day, because they didn’t have the budget to keep me on and because my project was finished there was no need for me to keep working. There was no thank you or feedback about my work, which had been consistently excellent. It was just the final punch in the gut to top off a terrible experience. I didn’t say anything to my coworkers and cleaned out my desk while they were all in a meeting I wasn’t invited to because I was a temporary employee. I left without saying goodbye. I don’t know what I did to make everyone treat me so horribly. I’ve worked as a temporary employee before and I’ve never experienced anything like this.

Unfortunately this put me in the position of job searching exactly as the Covid crisis started to ramp up and my prospects are looking dim. I wish I had never taken that job and just waited for something better, even if it meant a resume gap. Here’s to hoping things get better soon.

3. Interviewer was eating lunch during our Skype interview (#4 at the link)

Just a small update to say that I ended up being offered the job and started work in December. Turns out my coworker does the job of two people so has limited time to eat lunch etc. I never did bring it up to him. The job is going really well (partially to all of the great advice I’ve gotten from reading Ask A Manager).

4. My boss’s boss derails our meetings (#3 at the link)

I took your advice, and things kind of ended up resolving themselves. First, the CXO with a temper had his role removed during a restructuring and left the company at the end of the year. Secondly, my manager and the whole team started were stopped reporting to my derailing grand-boss and started reporting to a much more succinct and understanding grand-boss. Finally, the derailer in question left the company about 2 months ago. Scuttlebutt is that these restructurings were all performance related, but upper management remains tight-lipped.

All of this has resulted in meetings that run much smoother, as well as a severe decrease in stress for my team. So, good news for everyone except possibly the two people who left the office.

{ 79 comments… read them below }

  1. Dasein9*

    Oh, LW #2, you didn’t do anything to deserve that treatment! You worked with jerks. It’s as simple as that. I hope the experience gave you a solid gem on the resume and wish you all the best.

    1. WorkIsADarkComedy*

      This was a toxic and dysfunctional workplace. It’s really hard that you’re out of a job in this economy, but staying there would have caused endless stress and likely warped your understanding of what a functional work environment should be like.

      Good luck.

    2. Gila Monster*

      My heart goes out to LW#2. Seriously. Crying on the way to work is just so indicative of how traumatic and hostile and terrible that workplace was. LW those are garbage people. I sincerely hope your next job is with healthy and kind people and that it comes quickly. I also hope for healing for you, you didn’t deserve that.

    3. The Original K.*

      I said “awww” aloud when I read the second one – a sympathetic noise, because it made me so sad for the OP. I’ve been a contractor and haven’t had this kind of experience (though I have had contracts renewed at the 11th hour and dropped with no notice).

      OP, you say you’ve never had that experience before as a contractor. I hope you never have it again. Fingers crossed that better things will come your way!

    4. London Calling*

      OP2 – I worked as a temp for years. I worked for some lovely people and I worked for some jerks. Unfortunately it goes with the territory as a temp. Console yourself with the thought that you only had to work with these people, they have to live with themselves being like that.

      1. The Original K.*

        Console yourself with the thought that you only had to work with these people, they have to live with themselves being like that.
        In my worst contracting experience (one person made it clear that they didn’t want me there, but they were the only one with that opinion and our boss shut them down pretty quickly so they stopped being openly hostile early on), one of my friends said “They sound like a miserable person.” That helped me a lot. (And this person did have a generally sour attitude.)

    5. AnonEMoose*

      This. OP#2, you didn’t do anything to “deserve” this treatment or to “make them” treat you that way – they decided to do that all on their own, because they’re awful people.

      And if you doubt that, you said it yourself – you’ve been a temporary employee in other places and not been treated this way. So the evidence is pretty clear that it’s not you, it’s them.

      I’ve also done my share of temping (that’s actually how I ended up working for my current company). Some places have been great, some were terrible, most were in-between. It’s not you, it’s them.

      1. Jiya*

        Seriously, even if the situation was different and OP #2 was a terrible employee, who acts like that towards anyone, let alone a coworker?

      1. JM in England*

        Agreed.

        I suggest the OP leaves a review on Glassdoor to warn any future applicants of the toxic culture…

        1. Them Boots*

          +1,000. I’ve been a temp and this is not how the majority behave. Busting one’s butt to get a project done early is often going to end up with a job *with fair and reasonable* employers that told one that they are hoping to keep her on. This company used that line to string her along, that’s why they never shut down the nasty-pants. Though now they have a Lord of the Flies style culture that their management allowed to grow and fester that they will be dealing with for a long, long time. Wonder how long before they can’t keep new people/good people…

    6. BeesKneeReplacement*

      Yeah. That sounds truly horrible. While it is a really rough time to be job hunting, it is also a totally understandable time so it won’t count against you. Not that it should have before, but this will make it even less of a thing. It is never fun giving a bland, diplomatic answer to why you left your last job when you really want to go on a tear about what horrendous people they were.

    7. Jules the 3rd*

      Yep. If you’d been doing badly, trust that boss would have let you know.

      Take it that they are awful people. I’ve never seen this done to a contractor, and would totally push back if I saw it.

      Though, yeah, it’s tough to be hunting right now, at least you were a bad culture fit with jerks, that says something good about you.

    8. Glitsy Gus*

      Agreed. LW #2 I am so sorry you had to go through that. I hope your next position is wonderful and that you are treated with the respect you deserve. I know it’s a really tough time to be unemployed, but I’m glad you aren’t having to deal with that abuse anymore. All the good luck to you.

    9. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      Agreed. Bullies need a target to bully, and OP’s temp status made her an easy target, unfortunately.

    10. RB*

      Some people are just awful people. Unfortunately, having one or more of them in your office can be contagious and breeds a whole team of awfulness. It’s like a competitive thing sometimes, or a banding-together thing. Once it reaches that point, no one wants to be the outsider so no one says anything and all the nicer people just go along with it. (spoken from experience)

    11. Mama Bear*

      LW#2, I’m sorry they handled it so badly. I hope you find something better soon. The fact that they fired you for doing your work ahead of schedule just shows how toxic they are.

      Also, if you were an agency hire or you had a recruiter, I’d give them feedback about how it went down. Maybe spare the next person.

  2. Ray Gillette*

    LW2, you didn’t do anything to make them treat you badly, their behavior is entirely of their own doing. Your boss could have chosen to put a stop to it, but didn’t, and given his own behavior toward you at the end of your contract, he is 100% part of the problem. It’s likely there are larger issues with the organization as a whole. Losing your income is never fun, but you would be very hard put to find a worse job than that one.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yep. It’s the office culture to be awful to people. It’s starts with management and rots it way down.

      My heart broke when I read this. Hang in there LW2. You deserve better.

  3. FrenchCusser*

    I don’t understand why people are so afraid of resume gaps. I have a 10 year gap on mine (I was working as a nanny, which has nothing to do with what I do now) that no one’s ever asked me about.

    I would happily explain if asked, but that’s never happened.

    I think most employers are more interested in what you have done than what you haven’t.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      People have lives. They get married, they have kids, they take time off, they go to school, they take care of someone.

      Gaps don’t bother me. (What bothers me is a series of jobs that all lasted less than a year.)

      1. Sara without an H*

        Yes, I wouldn’t mind a gap that had a reasonable explanation. Taking time for young children, backpacking across Europe, meditating on a mountain top are all good explanations.

        I suppose there could be a good explanation for a series of jobs that last less than a year, but I’d be skeptical. If the applicant is just out of university, I’d be all right with a couple of obvious “training wheels” jobs.

        1. Cobol*

          The issue with gaps is you don’t always get the chance to explain. I view a gap like I view a short job stay, and frankly a long gap gives no pause at all.

    2. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs*

      I was asked about a gap of less than a year, when it was clear from my resume that I had moved across the country in between my last job and my then-current job. I don’t think it’s irrational to be concerned about the optics, since it is something interviewers will ask about and some will judge you for, fairly or not. (In these times, it will probably be less of an issue since so many people are in between jobs because of COVID.)

    3. Avasarala*

      I think the biggest concern is that while you have a gap of X years, other candidates have work experience during those X years.

  4. I heard a rumor...*

    Bob was intimidated by you and was probably sending his nasty, derisive comments up the food chain. He was the big red flag waving at you about this company. Good luck with your future endeavors and remember “Illegitimi non carborundum!”

  5. GreyjoyGardens*

    LW2, I feel so bad for you! I want to join my voice to the chorus of “it wasn’t you, it was THEM.” You worked in a cesspool. These people would have treated any temp the same way, and probably would bully a “perm” they disliked as well. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

    I really hope you are getting unemployment! (And if they fight you, fight back – I may be biased because I live in a very employee-friendly state but it’s usually worth fighting for.)

  6. J. R.*

    Oh, LW 2, I feel for you. My husband is also looking for work right as the pandemic went to full-swing after being pushed out of a team that seemed determined to make him leave. It’s a big stress and I am rooting for you finding a good placement with a company that has healthy team atmospheres and communication habits.

  7. That Girl From Quinn's House*

    Re: LW1, is it even legal for someone on furlough from a company to freelance for the company while furloughed? That seems sketchy to me.

    1. OP #1*

      I was only ever a contract employee, so my furlough isn’t probably the same as a full-time employee.

  8. Timothy (TRiG)*

    That’s a pretty shitty situation, OP#2, but it sounds like you handled it as well as anyone could. At least you can hold your head up high.

  9. Observer*

    #2 – I looked at your original letter, and I see that I commented that it seems to me like a company with a problem. Well, it turns out that I was being too kind.

    What awful, awful people. This was not YOU, it was totally them.

  10. Granger Chase*

    While I am loving the update from LW #1, I’m a little disappointed they didn’t use Alison’s advice to give some not-so-bland fake personal goals in response to all of Dan’s questioning! (;

    “ * Or you could go with not bland at all! You’re dabbling in the dark arts, or having more sex with your husband — or not with your husband — or working to dismantle the patriarchy.

    Perhaps not, but Dan is really asking for this.”

    1. OP #1*

      Ha! So true. I had thought about it, but I’m pretty sure he’s obtuse and wouldn’t understand the sarcasm. It might hurt the guy’s feelings. I just laughed and then managed to keep a straight face by steering him in the proper direction.

      1. Mockingbird*

        “This proves that not killing him and hiding the body was a great life choice!”

        Thanks for the great LOL moment!

        1. pandq*

          Does anyone else think that “AAM is the lifeline of frantic employees everywhere.” should be on the banner at the top of AAM?

    2. Third or Nothing!*

      I was pulling for my own suggestion: “increase deadlift by 5 lbs each week” or “PR next half marathon” cause I too like to dismantle the patriarchy. (I’m a 5’0″ overweight woman so not most people’s idea of a weightlifter or a half marathoner.)

      1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

        Yeah, be out there reppin’ Ladies Who Lift! Me mentioning my weightlifting really deepened my friendship with an enormous former soldier in my friend group. He’ll wander over at some point in a get together and ask if I’m still “jackin’ that steel”, and we’ll get into a detailed discussion of weights, techniques, and rest days.

  11. Misha Handman*

    Joining the chorus for poor OP2.

    I spent a few years as a temp, and it almost broke my entire work ethic, because I quickly learned that the harder I worked, the faster I was out of a job; only one company ever kept me on to the end of my assigned contract if all of the work they’d hired me to do was completed. I also developed a complex about vacations, because every single time that I took one (unpaid, of course,) even if I was told it was fine, I would inevitably get a call from my temp agency either the day that I was leaving the city or the day afterwards telling me that my contract was over and we’d have to look for new work when I got back.

    Too many organizations don’t treat their contract workers well. But in my experience, most of them are organizations that you wouldn’t want to work for anyway, so hang in there, and good luck.

    1. Jaybeetee*

      I temped too for a couple of years, and the most demoralizing thing was working alongside permanent employees doing identical work, who were making literally double what I was, with paid leave and benefits. I was making minimum wage, of course no paid leave or benefits, and the entire industry was in a hiring freeze (save for temping) at the time.

      I do now work permanently in this industry, the hiring freeze eventually being lifted. Interestingly, it looks like union contracts are trying to address temp rights as well, as it really did seem exploitative for awhile.

      1. London Calling*

        I found that a lot of people assume that because you are a temp you are paid more than permanent staff (I wasn’t and I didn’t have the benefits either). I did a long term (3 year job) and at one point was lobbying for an increase in my rate – my manager shook the invoice from the agency at me and demanded to know if I wasn’t paid enough already? I pointed out that that invoice included tax, National Insurance, VAT (value added tax, I’m in the UK) and the agency’s commission, so I wasn’t actually PAID all that. The kicker? he was the head of payroll….

        1. JM in England*

          I found this out early in my temping days this is how the agency makes its profit.

          Say my salary is £16K, the agency would charge the employer the equivalent of £20K. Also, I later found out that if the employer wanted to take me on permanently, they would have to pay the agency a severance fee of about 10% my salary. Perhaps this explains why employers were reluctant to do so…

          1. A Penny for Your Idea!*

            Wow, you got a significant amount of the pay! When I was a temp, years ago, the agency was paid $40 per hour for me. I got $8 of that, and the agency got $32.

            1. Quill*

              I always assume that the agency is making at least my entire salary off me.

              Which makes it ludicrous that they keep playing games with me re: insurance.

          2. Jiya*

            I’ve read through a loooot of temp contracts, and yup, that’s how it goes. Sometimes the gap between the what the client pays and what the worker actually collects is astonishing, and the worker is not making what they should. My rage at staffing companies is pretty much permanently embedded in me at this point.

    2. JM in England*

      Sadly, hostility towards temps seems to be ingrained into the working world in general; I speak from years of experience.

      Many years ago, was interviewing for a perm job whilst in a temporary job. My interviewer’s attitude towards temps became apparent fairly quickly, with comments like “Oh, so they get you to do all the donkey work, eh?”. At that moment, all I wanted to do was punch the guy but my self control was strong enough for me not to! Instead, I responded with terse “Excuse me?”

      With hindsight, should have walked out right then but I didn’t because the end of my contract was drawing near and my job search was getting desperate.

      Needless to say, didn’t get that job!

  12. Cookie Monster*

    Hope this isn’t off-topic, but have we seen an update from the “keeper of his zipper” fiasco? I keep thinking about that letter.

    I have a feeling it’ll include what all the updates include, in that the problem tapered off once CV19 hit, but I’d love to hear what happened before then.

  13. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    I’ve been a temp/contract employee and, while I’ve been often forgotten or ignored, I’ve never experienced the outright hostility you have OP#2. They’re just absolute jackasses and it’s better that you weren’t given a permanent offer because it definitely wouldn’t have changed anything.

    on #4 — CXO? I’m unfamiliar with that one…Chief Xylophone Officer? Chief Xerox Operator? Chief Xenon Obtainer?

    1. laura*

      I guessed Chief eXecutive Officer, though it seems odd to have a second abbreviation for something that already has a well-known abbreviation.

    2. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs*

      It can also be a used as shorthand for “C-level exec of some variety.”

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        That was my thought: CXO where X is a “fill in the blank” so it could be any of the Chiefs. I’ve seen that used as the generic form in a lot of places.

    3. Lirael*

      I read it as an unspecified C level executive – ie CFO or CIO or COO – just left vague because it doesn’t add to our understanding of the problem and leaves the OP less identifiable

    4. JessB*

      I agree, I worked as a temp for years and really enjoyed it for the most part. Out of hundreds of assignments, there was one where one guy insisted on calling me ‘the temp’ and refused to learn my name. That was unpleasant, but it was a short assignment, luckily.
      OP2, I’m so sorry about how you were treated, that would have been really hard. Good on you for continuing to work with integrity and holding your head high. I hope you find something great soon.

    5. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

      I’ve often seen CXO to indicate Chief [whatever] Officer; either a generic c-suite person or a specific attempt to obscure some detail.

  14. BeesKneeReplacement*

    OP1 touched on an upside to meetings that included consultants. They were never longer than absolutely necessary because we were paying for their time. The flip side is that our boss would accept anything they said without question even when employees had said the same and been brushed off. Luckily, at least one consultant was aware of this dynamic and we worked together on getting some changes made in how things were handled internally.

  15. Vanilla Nice*

    L.W. #2, I hope you leave a review at Glassdoor or similar website about your experiences. From my vantage point, terminating you early for finishing a major project is analogous to immediately terminating someone for giving two weeks’ notice; it’s a shady practice that future employees/temps should be aware of so that they don’t end up in the same situation.

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      They could certainly have done a MUCH better job of it, but if a temporary position is for a specific project, it isn’t shady to end the position when the project is complete. They should have directly communicated that when the project is over so is the position — but since the OP’s last day was already tied to the completion of the project it was implied. Maybe they hesitate to be that direct so that contract workers don’t intentionally prolong the completion of the project. That’s pretty common in contract jobs and completely different than a regular employee being terminated without notice. In terminating a regular employee as soon as they give notice, as long as the company pays those two weeks in lieu of working out the notice, that’s not shady either; not every position needs weeks to transition and it might be to the employees benefit to have those 2 weeks. I think the emotional investment the OP seems to have had in this position in combination with the hostility of the coworkers is tainting rest of it.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        They could also foster a company culture of decency and respect, including respect for temporary employees. It’s not just “they abruptly terminated LW” but “they treated them like dirt.” No bueno.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          Yeah, they way OP was treated is the bigger problem, not so much the early contract end. I would get why they would tell OP that since the project was done her contract was over, that isn’t all that uncommon, but the manager didn’t need to be a big ol’ asshat about it. That’s the part I would put on Glassdoor- the general disrespect and bullying, not necessarily the ending of the contract.

    2. Persephone Underground*

      If you were placed by a temp agency you should also warn your agency about the treatment they subjected you to. Some won’t care but others will take it on board and might have words with the client about treating their temps that way, depending on the relationship between the temp agency and the company. Even if they do nothing at first it might give support to similar claims if later temps placed there make the same complaints.

      This is in addition to the Glassdoor review. I doubt these people will be a good reference anyway so you’re not burning a bridge.

  16. azvlr*

    OP#2 – Based on the details and timing of your two posts, I feel like you could have been the person to come after me at a temp job I had a year ago. While I was there, they bad-mouthed the person who came before me, micromanaged down. to. the. pixel., yet ignored me and otherwise treated me like I didn’t deserve to be on the planet. They ended my contract early when I tried to find out the status of my contract. The manager seemed to decide suddenly that the contract ended at that moment.
    I thought perhaps it was just that one so-called team, but looking back I realize it is a company-wide culture. there are too many engineers with too much insecurity and over-sized egos. One employee that I bonded with from an unrelated team told me recently that the company has gone far downhill since I left. It’s a shame because I really believe in the mission of the company and the product they make.
    The moral for all: If you can help it, don’t take contract work. If you are in a position to hire contractors (as I now am) treat them like gold.

    1. JM in England*

      Were you a company or an agency temp? If the latter, did you tell the agency about the early termination?

  17. Caryn Z*

    #2, those people are a-holes. What horrible treatment, including the boss. But taunting someone about being a contract employee? Something is wrong with Bob and the rest who joined in.

    1. JM in England*

      It seems equivalent to bullying at school for not being a “cool” kid….

  18. Jay*

    OMG, OP#1, I need
    “On the plus side: My boss says my candor and professionalism are among the reasons I’m the first furloughed employee he’s brought back. This proves that not killing him and hiding the body was a great life choice!”
    On a T-Shirt, or something!

  19. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

    Oh, OP2, I feel for you. Many years ago, I was one of several temps working in a large bank’s mortgage division. Each team had a mix of permanent employees and temps. The first supervisor I had was great. After a few months, she was assigned to a different team, and the supervisor who took over our team was very much like Bob. The bank would frequently give things to their permanent employees- company swag, tchotchkes, etc. My supervisor would make a big production of showing whatever it was to the temps, saying “This is for permanent employees only. YOU don’t get one because YOU’RE A TEMP!” Same with meetings and special events. (“You don’t go because YOU’RE A TEMP!”) Gee, thanks for reminding me…I’d forget I was a temp if you did’t tell me multiple times per day.
    Years after that assignment ended, the bank failed very publicly and spectacularly. I can’t say I was sad to think about her going down with it.

    1. Jiya*

      I mean, there are going to be distinctions because companies don’t want to be accused of misclassifying an employee as a contractor, but there’s no need to be a giant asshole about it. And hey, that manager took pleasure in your pain, didn’t she? You didn’t even cause hers.

  20. nott the brave*

    Letter #2: It sounds to me like they only ever wanted cheaper labor for a specific project and had no intention of keeping you on once it was finished. Even worse, they either made that clear to the employees, or it’s a regular practice, or management is really that horrible that nobody even considered it weird to be so hostile to someone just trying to do their job.

    I’m so sorry that happened to you. Those people would have acted such a heinous way to literal saints, I’m sure.

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