updates: the bombed interview, the cheating coworker, and more

Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. I bombed in an interview I asked for

Thanks for publishing my letter. I appreciate your advice and all of the input from commenters. It helped me get a better understanding of how I had (and hadn’t) affected my goals, as well as the crisis of confidence my interview-face-plant had caused.

One common thread in many comments was a sense that the tough interview I’d received was unfair. I don’t share that perspective at all. It wasn’t fun. My grand-boss and I clearly walked into the conversation with different expectations. But I’m the one who asked for their time, and I’m the one who didn’t pre-establish the tone of our meeting. I expected a chat with some coaching and they expected me to make a case for moving to a leadership role — and that gap is on me. My job amounts to technical sales. I deal with aggressive questioners and tough extemporaneous scenarios daily. For grand-boss to expect me to perform in exactly those conditions is reasonable, a necessary skill for my current job, and only more so for a leadership role.

Since my letter, I’ve applied for two more management roles, one under grand-boss, one in a parallel organization, and not received either. The parallel organization was a long-shot, as it involved both repairing a team shaken by some leadership problems and delivering for the largest and most important customers my company has. It’s not surprising they chose someone more seasoned.

I lost out on the role under grand-boss for reasons that were partly under my control and partly out of it. Ultimately, even if I’d had a perfect performance in my application process, I think the reasons outside of my control would have prevented me from getting that job. They’re important technicalities to the specific position, but don’t really affect my ambitions in the long term, so ultimately was just a “bad fit” situation.

But it still had a positive outcome. I was able to get a good chunk of 1-1 time with grand-boss when they delivered the news that I didn’t get the job. It was the best rejection I’ve ever received. They explained the “bad fit” aspects of the decision, coached me through the areas where my application had come up short, and was very clear that they wanted to see me applying for similar positions in the future. We were able to talk through the concerns I had about whether grand-boss and the company saw me as a good candidate, and what I should be doing to be ready the next time.

That kind of conversation isn’t always easy. I knew it was coming this time, so I walked in ready to be pretty frank and “professionally analytical” about any shortcomings grand-boss identified. And there absolutely were some. They were called out kindly and constructively, but it was clearly on me to own up to them and embrace the opportunity to improve.

As always, there are no guarantees, and no job is ever mine-to-lose. I work for a competitive company with a lot of talented people, and they’ll be going after the same roles as I am. But after the post-rejection debrief with grand-boss, I feel like I’m back in the game, have a reasonable opportunity for success in the future, and a much better plan to grab it when the next opportunity appears.

2. My new coworker seems to be asking us if he should cheat on his wife

I don’t have much of an update, unfortunately. He still works with us and is proving more and more incompetent. I did tell my boss and she was pretty horrified but nothing has happened yet. With everything going on with COVID-19, things have been pretty crazy. We also have a bad track record of not letting people go. It’s annoying but other than that, it could be worse. i do still love my job. I’m still employed and my business is considered essential and is thriving. However, if and when something happens, I will absolutely provide a real update.

3. Favoritism from a team leader (#2 at the link)

My original letter was posted two years ago and I finally have an update.

My then-boss did nothing. Group dynamics did not improve once Cersei became our manager. If anything, things got worse. Shortly after my letter was published the company structure was revamped, and though I hoped for the best, I started actively searching for jobs. My field is fiercely competitive but I got a few interviews. When I finally thought I’d found a good match (the interview went really well and I have experience in their particular niche field) the hiring manager told me that she thought I was amazing but overqualified.

This fall, things started getting really bad. I was burned out and getting professional help to recover, broke my foot in an accident (and have the x-rays to prove it) and wasn’t able to do certain things for a few months. Cersei called me out for walking too slow and “obsessively focusing on illness”. At this point I was still in treatment for my burnout and walking on crutches. After a disastrous meeting with Cersei and HR I called my co-worker Jon in tears. And around that time I applied for a job in academia.

Well, I’ve been at that job a few months now! It’s a slightly longer commute, and it’s humbling to be the department rookie when you’re used to being the one who wrote the manual. The pay is the same, but the benefits are much better. (This university has been consistently placed in the world’s top 100 universities.)

During my last team meeting at the old job, Cersei brought in our CEO Tywin to tell the team who would take over management duties while Cersei was on parental leave. Cersei had asked Arya to be the interim manager. Arya has no management experience, Jon used to manage a large department before transitioning to PR. Jon was not asked if he was interested and felt very deflated. Any doubts I had about leaving evaporated during that dumpster fire of a meeting.

On one of my last days Jon confessed that he was actively looking for jobs, but unsure about his CV. I gave him a copy of my CV as a template, along with a few AAM pointers I’ve picked up over the years.

(Jon has had a few interviews and is currently considering an offer. )

Thank you to AAM and all those who commented on the original post. Writing about my situation made me see that it was time to move on.


{ 19 comments… read them below }

  1. Sara without an H*

    #1: You have a good grandboss. Good luck to you!
    #2: Work around Moral Moron as much as possible, but be sure to document anything he does that interferes with your work.
    #3: Welcome to Academia! We get a lot of bad press, but the healthy universities are actually great fun to work in. I hope we will soon learn that Jon has also made a successful escape.

  2. WellRed*

    I’m so curious about all these disastrous and dumpster meetings. And, my goodness, “walking to slow.” What does that even mean? Or matter? So glad you are out of there, though I’d love to see Cersei taken down.

    1. fogharty*

      I once had a manager complain about me walking with a crutch (after a long rehab from a broken leg) because it “made a clicking noise” and was driving her crazy. So I tried to use it as little as possible when she was in the office.

      1. Kuododi*

        I had a training supervisor who put in my final review that I was, and I quote:”blinking way too much!!!”.

        ***No that wasn’t a typo. She was almost fixated on the subject of my blinking.***

        She additionally would go on a small rampage regarding my choice to wear makeup and my choices in clothing. (Nothing was ever inappropriate or risque. I was 25-26ish and enjoyed the way I dressed.). My mother would have given me flaming hell if I ever wore something to a training program which couldn’t be worn in a conservative place of business. (She was a bank manager with a great sense of style. I ended up with a great business casual overall wardrobe.)
        I like to think my presence in the clinical training wasa big contribution to her subsequent choice to retire not long after my MDiv graduation.

      2. Them Boots*

        I used to work downstairs from my living space (all staff did) & when there were no clients around we dressed comfortably. My ex horrible boss complained that my slippers scuffing on the floor were what wore a path in the wood laminate from the door to the office. Umm, no, that was the hundreds of guests -wearing boots- we’d hosted that year. And I dragged one slipper more than the other due to serious knee surgery that left me with a minor limp when I was tired. You know, from doing my job plus half of hers. (She was fired for incompetence less than two months after she fired me for competence.) Floor was refinished as usual in November….

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        A former coworker told me that my using a cane to walk was ‘encouraging negativity’ and that I’d be fine if I went without it and thought more positively.

        1. Lynn*

          Wait but did she tell you about essential oils too? That’s an important part of it. Eucalyptus has positivity powers can replace a cane entirely.

    2. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

      And, my goodness, “walking to slow.”

      I know, right? OP even says that she was walking with crutches!!

      1. Kes*

        Yeah, a broken foot tends to do that to you. Seriously, of all the things to criticize.

        OP, I’m glad you’re out of there, and I hope Jon is soon as well.

        1. JessaB*

          This, even after the bone healed my sister still goes slowly over uneven ground. It takes firstly time to heal, secondly time to remember how to walk without favouring the injury and third sometimes you have residual pain from the muscles and stuff that weren’t being used whilst you had the crutches and cast, or boot or whatever.

  3. Sassy*

    Hi Alison, Love seeing updates! Just want to give some feedback to you: I find it really helpful when you start these posts with, “Remember the letter writer who experienced xyz? Here’s an update.” Thanks!

    1. TooTiredToThink*

      She hyperlinks to the original posts – its the title of each section :)

  4. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs*

    I can’t wait for a further update on #2! It’s shocking that the manager would allow him to meet with clients unsupervised after the conversation he had at a getting-to-know-you team lunch.

  5. A Cat named Brian*

    #1 That’s great they took the time to coach you. I’m a technical person that moved to leadership. I read books, actually lots of books on management styles, coaching, biographies. I found leadership people I liked a followed them. And I asked for leadership training. This was way before I found this blog, which would have been extremely helpful early in my career. Now I use it as comparative. I’m glad I handle situations similarly to AAM. And I know some of the things I have handled look relatively easy compared to some of the situations. Good luck to you!

  6. LGC*

    LW1 – I still feel like you’re blaming yourself a lot for what was…at worst, a misunderstanding. It happens!

    (And this isn’t to say that you didn’t make the mistake of not being clear enough. But it kind of seems like you framed it as if you were the one in control…over your skip-level boss, who you indirectly report to.)

    However, I’m glad to hear that you’re building confidence, and even though things haven’t worked out for you yet, I’m hopeful that they will soon. You sound awesome, and it sounds like your skip-level really thinks so as well.

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