updates: the top knot, stranded without a hotel room, and more

Here are four updates from people who had their letters answered here in the past.

1. I get second and third interviews but no job offers, and my grandma says it’s because of my top knot (caller 4 in the podcast episode)

Thank you for picking up my question about third round interviews, defeated and depleted vibes, and my grandmas insistence that my top knot was to blame for my elongated job search. Your blog has been such an amazing resource to me for the last few years and I thought a happy update was in order given current events!

Shortly after you answered my question on your podcast I was offered a summer job at a much loved local museum and then a few weeks later, a permanent position at a small, well-respected non-profit. I was so down on myself after a year of searching that I for sure thought my (now) boss was calling me to give me another ‘no’, so I wasn’t prepared when she offered me the job (along with a better salary and benefits package than I have ever had in my life!!)

After a little over 9 months, I’m happy to report that I love my work, my boss, my coworkers, and our mission. This is my first permanent, grown up job and since I was coming from a somewhat disordered and toxic work experience, I’ve put everything I’ve learned from AAM to great use— though luckily none of the weird stuff.

We were able to go remote without much issue, and since about 2/3 of our work is online it wasn’t hard to pivot and continue to provide our services. The hardest part for our small team is not being able to physically be with each other, and I don’t know that there’s many Zoom meetings happening right now with everyone signing off with “I miss you!”

To my grandmas point about my hairdo— my boss also rocks a high bun from time to time and has made it abundantly clear that appearance is not that important to her. Work life balance, practicality, and open communication are her priorities and I couldn’t feel luckier to be learning from her.

I’ve also told literally everyone I know, some multiple times, to check out the blog. I think your answers are particularly helpful to young women like me who might put up with more in the workplace than strictly necessary because we’ve been conditioned to be “nice” and “accommodating” in all situations.

Again, thank you so much for your work, I send all my love to the AAM community and hope everyone is healthy, happy, and sane.

2. My boss stranded me without a hotel room

Thanks so much for answering my question, and thank you to the commenters for their insight.

With respect to the suggestion that I should have filled out the form for my grandboss and given it to him to sign, unfortunately it wasn’t possible. This particular hotel required everything to be done electronically through the credit card holder’s email account, I’m guessing for security reasons. For future accommodations, I will hopefully be able to complete more of the process myself to prevent this from happening again.

And now, the (not very exciting) update. When I spoke to my boss about it, he offered to talk to my grandboss as he was also impacted by the situation since he had to book it on his personal credit card. Unfortunately, nothing really came of it. My boss brought it up with my grandboss, but he said that my grandboss was already worked up about something unrelated and it didn’t seem like a good time to push if we wanted a good outcome. He said he would push it further if it came up again, but it never did so it just kind of fizzled. Since then, my boss has had my back in a sensitive and challenging situation, so I trust his judgement and that he wasn’t just avoiding a difficult conversation with our grandboss.

Your advice on how to handle apologies was very helpful, even though it didn’t happen for this issue. My grandboss came by one day saying he owed me an apology (he totally did). When he was done, I summoned my courage and said “Thanks, I appreciate that.” It was so liberating to let him accept responsibility for his actions instead of downplaying it with “It’s okay.” I can’t recommend it enough!

Thank you again to everyone for your helping me get through a tough time at a new job.

3. How can I do well in panel interviews? (#5 at the link)

I wrote to you back in July 2019 at the beginning of what would end up being an eight month job search (and four months of unemployment after being laid off). I’m relatively new to the professional world and at the time of my question, I had limited experience with interviews in general. Your advice to think of panel interviews as a business meeting helped me so much with relaxing during interviews (even the non-panel ones.) With your resume and interview advice, I got a job in early March of this year. It’s in an essential industry, so I am still working and going into the office everyday. My coworkers are great and my workplace has been doing their best to reduce exposure and keep our morale up.

P.S. I wanted to share an interview experience that I had towards the end of my job search. It had a lot of major red flags that I was able to identify thanks to your posts. I got the interview through a staffing agency, so I didn’t apply directly to the company or set up the interview. When I was first informed of the position, I was told that the recruiter at the staffing agency would be submitting my resume for Position A, which I agreed to. When the recruiter called me back about the interview, he told me they wanted to interview for Position B instead. Position B would have been more data based instead of customer service based, so I readily agreed. I did my research and prepared to interview for Position B.

When I arrived for my interview, it turned out that they wanted to interview me for both positions. At the same time. I sat with the interviewers and had to answer questions for two different roles that required two different sets of skills. Among other very questionable comments they made, at one point, the interviewers were discussing the company culture and described it as being like a dysfunctional family. From your posts, I know that a workplace that describes themselves as a family can lead to issues down the line, but I wasn’t quite expecting them to say they were a dysfunctional family. At that point, I knew this wasn’t the job for me.

Afterwards, the recruiter called me to follow-up with the interview and asked if I would be willing to move forward if they made an offer. I said no and explained my reasoning. Between the dysfunctional family comment and a story from one of the interviewers that sounded more like harassment than the joke he thought it was, it wasn’t the job for me. The recruiter was shocked and apologized for the experience. Thank you so much for all of your advice. It helped me avoid what could have been a stressful, dysfunctional, chaotic job.

4. Should a manager help out when there’s a tight work deadline? (#2 at the link)

I’m writing with an update to a question you answered for me in 2017.

Looking back at this question, all I can see is my anger and passive aggressiveness because I was so miserable at work. I remember angrily writing this email and then going back after the weekend and rewriting it to sound a little more objective. But the day of this situation, I was livid. I think it ticked me off so much because my boss was a micromanager in every aspect of our jobs, but when it came to a rush job that needed to be done in a few hours, she was completely hands off. My attitude was, “Really? For once it would be great for you to step in and you’re going to do absolutely nothing???”

Your answer was not at all what I expected. In the moment, I wanted validation that I was right, and I didn’t get it. Instead, I got a reality check. For reasons too long to list here, I had no respect for my boss and didn’t see her as someone senior or skilled, as you referenced in your reply. (I know I wasn’t alone in that assessment of her — all of her direct reports and some of her peers in sister departments felt that she bordered on incompetent.) And your response made it abundantly clear how I viewed her. For a while, I tried to adjust my viewpoint and treat her with more respect. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. There was too much negativity on our team (our private Slack thread was full of vitriol against her) and too many bad decisions on her end. I spent the rest of 2017 in misery, dreading going to work every day.

At the beginning of 2018, I resolved to find a new job. It took several months, but I was able to transfer to a new department in my (very large, multi-site) company, a department that has nothing to do with the old one. I’ve been in this position for over a year and a half, and I love my job. My manager is the best boss I’ve ever had–supportive, encouraging, and trusting. I’m in a much better place now than I was when I wrote to you 3 years ago. Thank you so much for the reality check. Even though it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear, it’s what I needed to hear!

{ 70 comments… read them below }

  1. Kage*

    Update #1 – FYI that it’s the second “Caller 3” in the transcript. I started to read the first one and got confused that maybe the link was bad. But found it lower down.

  2. Ads*

    OP 2
    > For future accommodations, I will hopefully be able to complete more of the process myself to prevent this from happening again.

    (I mention this only in the spirit of practical problem solving) Hopefully you get to a point where finances allow you to float the hotel charge for a few days – I know you mentioned “upfront” in your original message, but in case you weren’t aware, hotel charges (unless fully prepaid e.g. through Expedia or similar) are only charged at the end of the reservation, so the amount of time you have to float the money for is much less than airfare or other things you may have to pay for months in advance. It’s much more like a rental car, which I assume you were able to pay and get reimbursed.

    1. AY*

      My work is such that, even if I submit my receipts the instant I return from work travel, I will not see reimbursement for at least a month. I think this may be common for many workplaces–it’s been true for me in several different positions in state and federal government. Private practice was definitely better at timely reimbursements. When I have to float charges for extended hotel stays for work, it really, really hurts my finances that month, and I have excellent finances, spending habits, and carry only mortgage debt. For some workplaces, just floating the charge is not a workable solution.

      OP 2, I was really stunned at the negative tenor of the comments on your initial post. It’s not what I’ve come to expect from the AAM community at all. I appreciate your update!

      1. Stranded*

        OP2 here. Thanks, I appreciate you saying that. I didn’t expect the response I got, but was heartened by the commenters who were supportive.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          I think if this ever happens again: 1) walk the form into the office of whoever needs to sign it, and stand there until you get what you need; 2) if this is not possible, and people are dragging their feet, tell your boss you won’t be getting on an airplane until and unless the necessary paperwork has been submitted. It doesn’t have to be done in an obnoxious way — just “given what happened last time, I’m not comfortable taking the trip. I simply can’t be in a position where the room isn’t paid for and I’m stranded.”

          1. zora*

            Yes, I second this. I don’t think it’s the OP’s fault at all, but something I also learned the hard way is that I can stand up for myself while being polite and professional. I would caution anyone new to the work world to NEVER get on that plane without knowing for sure that all expenses were sorted out.

            In this specific situation, I would have recommended you either loop your boss in sooner that this problem is happening, or if the grandboss had an assistant or there were any Admin/Executive Assistants in your department to ask them for their help before it got so last minute. Maybe after the 2nd time you asked the grandboss and they hadn’t followed through? It doesn’t make you a bad employee to ask for support on things that be a genuine hardship on you financially or in some other way. All you should have to say is “I really don’t have the finances to wait for reimbursement on this expense, can you advise me on the best way to get this covered before I leave?” But if you have to, keep asking more people until you find the person who can solve it!

            1. Spencer Hastings*

              Well, I agree that she’s within her rights to do that now, “given what happened last time”. But if she’d been so vehement right off the bat, wouldn’t that have come off a little weirdly?

              1. JessaB*

                I can’t see why, there are a lot of people even those who make very good money who do not have any extra, even without debt in their lives they may have medical expenses, children or parents to look after, etc. I believe in this day and age it’s absolutely outrageous for a company to expect any employee to front business expenses.

                1. Spencer Hastings*

                  Oh, I was talking about the suggestion to go “I am not leaving this room until you fill out this form” with her grandboss that people were bringing up in the original post. I totally agree that people have valid reasons not to front these expenses!

          2. Observer*

            The OP has made it pretty clear why neither was an option.

            And telling your boss that you are not going to a required conference is a valid path – but the reality is that for most people no matter how reasonable it is, it IS going to have negative repercussions. ESPECIALLY the first time it happens.

            The second time there is a bit more standing as you can point to what actually happened in the past. But still, frequently not a viable route.

        2. Ads*

          Hey OP – I didn’t the read comments on the original post, so I apologize if I’d struck the wrong note with my comment. I’m fortunate to work for a workplace where my reimbursements do get deposited within a matter of days, and I recognize that’s also a privilege that many other commenters don’t have. I also recognize that in an ideal world none of us would need to float any money for work, but in practice we need to do the best we can with what we’re given, which is what I intended with my comment.

    2. Amanda*

      In my company, it can take up to 3 months for reinbursement to go through. In an informal chat with a colleague in the finantial department, they told me this is deliberate, so people would go through the proper channels to get their expenses paid *before* they travel more often. Travel planning is really easy and reasonable, but if you leave it too late and need to front your own expenses, it will take forever to see that money back.

      So, OP, even after you do get to the point where you could float your expenses, you should not NEED to, and some companies will actively try to prevent you doing that. So it’s ot what you should have as a go-to practice, ever.

      1. A*

        For bookings like hotels and plane tickets, sure – but what about… everything else? Meals etc? Not everything can be predicted ahead of time.

        I now ask about this in interviews, and I’m glad I do. It’s so much better now that I’m with an employer that handles all of the company CC payments etc. All I need to do is upload pics of the receipts as I get them, and they are automatically matched to the card, company makes payment. Easy.

      2. Observer*

        Well, if your organization is reasonable about making it easy to plan and get your expenses paid in advance, that’s really different. Your organization is being reasonable, even though it’s annoying.

        I agree – companies should never make it necessary for people to front money. And if it HAS to happen, they should do their best to make sure that money is reimbursed quickly.

    3. Le Sigh*

      A really important note on this though — at least in the U.S., hotels require a card up front for incidentals, and while they don’t charge the full amount until you check out, they do put a hold on your card up front (which gets reversed once you check out). But if you have a very low limit credit card or only have a debit card, you could find all of your funds tied up for days or weeks. And if the hold is more than you have in you checking account when you use your debit card, you could find yourself getting hit for overdraft.

      I would advise only using a credit card if you find yourself having to float costs, and even then, I firmly believe companies should not leave people in a position to have to do that ever.

    4. I coulda been a lawyer*

      Hate to burst your bubble but many hotels put a hold on your card for the full anticipated cost of your stay that doesn’t expire until days after you check out. On a credit card it sits in the background and isn’t a problem if your credit limit is high enough. With a debit card it’s more obvious and will cause overdrafts and fees.

    5. Observer*

      I’m not sure what you think is actionable in this post?

      Hotel charges can be high enough that even someone with reasonably decent finances is going to have a hard time with this. It depends on the area, length of stay, etc. Also, turn around on these things can be long. At my employer there is a real effort to move these things quickly. But given the documentation requirements we deal with (many of them stupid but out of our hands), it can take up to 5 weeks to get payment. Not always, but that’s enough of an issue that a lot of people are going to have a hard time with it.

      I just Googled hotel rates in Washington DC, for instance – “budget” options start at $95 + fees and taxes. A few days of that is a week’s take home pay (or more) for a lot of people. In effect, this is asking people to delay their payroll for weeks.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        Especially when you’re travelling internationally, like OP was. Then you’re dealing with fronting expenses at a rate that is just not manegable (or that can be cheaper, but it’s still not a good practice).

        Within Mexico, I could probably front domestic travel. Paying for my expenses in, say, New York, with the exchange rate? Or fronting a ticket to Tokyo? I’m looking at potential months, not days or even weeks, of wages.

        1. Mameshiba*

          I had to front a lot of my expenses for an AsiaUS business trip. I’m reasonably financially secure but it was a LOT of money. Thousands for the plane, several hundred for the hotel, 100+ for food for a week… that’s a lot of money!

  3. Mid*

    I’d asked a question a while ago also about appearance, because I work for a law firm. I currently have a buzz cut and no one batted an eyelash.

    Hair matters way *way* less than I was taught it would by well meaning, but outdated, advice givers. It’s really liberating actually. I was very worried I was going to “lose myself” when I started working in a “real job” but it hasn’t at all turned out to be the case.

    1. NeonFireworks*

      Oh, I know this one! My parents told me I needed “a more grown-up haircut,” whatever that means. Turns out no one cares.

      1. SansaStark*

        My friends and I still chuckle about my mother’s advice 15 years ago that the reason I wasn’t getting hired was because my slightly-below-the-shoulder hair was too long. It’s that I had no experience and was probably applying to wildly inappropriate jobs. Nope. Too long hair.

        1. hayling*

          My mom said the same thing to me about 10 years ago! I was like “Mom, I haven’t even gotten an interview yet, I promise it’s not my appearance.”

      2. Jam Today*

        One of the worst pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten — which I ignored — was from my dad who told me at the ripe old age of 21 that I should get a “business haircut” (I had waist-length hair which I wore in a bun almost every day) in order to be taken seriously and be successful.

        I am delighted to report that in the subsequent 25 years I have been *extremely* successful, only cut my hair at 29 and even now it is still well below my shoulder blades, and is currently dark crimson.

      3. Megumin*

        My mom was worried I’d get fired if I buzzed my hair. Despite the fact that I’d been working at the same university for 10+ years, have had several promotions, glowing reviews, and my bosses love me. So yeah, a buzz cut’s gonna be the thing that gets me fired? From a public university, no less?

    2. Batgirl*

      The thing is… a high hair bun is about as prim and proper a hairdo as you can get. How does anyone, even with an outdated view, think it would hurt anyone’s chances? The OP still thinks it’s some sort of avant garde statement that luckily her boss is ok with because appearance isn’t important to her. I don’t get it! How much more formal or traditional can you make a hair style other than an up do? I suppose you could make a hairstyle fancier and more elaborate …. but that’s “more like a beauty queen” not “more like a professional”.

      1. Wendy*

        Depends what they mean by “high bun” – pulled back and neatly pinned or messy bun/top knot a la beachy casual look?

        1. Eukomos*

          Surely everyone defaults to the neatest version of whatever hairstyle they wear at an interview though? OP didn’t say “my grandma thinks it’s because my hair is too messy”, she said “my grandma thinks it’s because my hair’s in a bun.” I mean, maybe a low bun is marginally more conservative than a high one, but that’s about as conservative and professional as a hairstyle can possibly get unless it’s too messy for a job interview regardless, a least in terms of women’s hair in the US.

      2. A*

        I’m assuming it’s a difference in bun style, because I had the same reaction. A high bun is my go-to for interviews because I have long hair and 1) sweat a lot when nervous, greatly amplified by hair being down, and 2) tend to play with my hair when focusing or nervous, not a good look for an interview.

        When I do that, I put it up in a tight spiral bun (I have no clue what bun styles are actually called, or how this differs from a top knot) so it’s very clean / no flywaways etc., and I’ll often stick a hair stick or pin in it just to add some flavor / move away from the ‘librarian’ look.

        I always assume it was a super safe and vanilla choice.

      3. Valegro*

        Depends on the bun. I worked with a young woman who would make a bun right on top of her head like Pebbles Flintstone and it looked ridiculous. She had a LOT of hair and it was messy no matter what. I can definitely see it looking unprofessional, but I wouldn’t hold it against someone in an interview.

        1. Dahlia*

          That’s the style a lot of people wear these days. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it looks ridiculous.

          Also if she had a lot of hair, it might have been much more practical. The weight of hair pulling at your roots instead can be really painful.

          1. Nantuckit*

            Valero is allowed to say that the hair looked ridiculous, we are supposed to believe each other here!

            1. AGD*

              I think it’s less about disbelief than wanting to be more accepting and reduce the pressure of arbitrary beauty standards.

      4. JSPA*

        I assumed male OP / Man bun (which gets considerable cultural flack).

        But tidiness-wise, a bun on a man is obviously exactly as tidy (or not) as a bun on a woman, in that hair is hair, regardless of the gender of the head it sits on.

        1. Avasarala*

          I assumed this too because I couldn’t believe a woman was getting flack for having her hair in a bun. Don’t flight attendants wear their hair like that? It’s literally the picture of professionalism, along with the French twist.

    3. LawReject*

      I’m impressed with your firm! The ones I worked at during my (brief) law career were insanely traditional and sexist when it came to office dress code and appearance.

      I once witnessed a partner yelling at the office manager for hiring a legal assistant with pink hair, because “obviously someone that lacked the common sense to not dye her hair the same shade as a highlighter isn’t competent enough to be a good assistant”. To be fair though, she responded by reminding him that they didn’t have many other choices because he went through 3-4 assistants a year and temp agencies would no longer send applicants to them anymore.

      1. CatMintCat*

        I had an interview with a law firm in the early 2000s that required all female staff to wear knee length skirts and hose, with heels, every day. No trousers, not ever. I didn’t work there, but can’t imagine them going for a buzz cut without hyperventilating.

        1. Mid*

          I’ve worn gym shorts for the last three weeks in the office because we don’t have clients. Jeans are okay on a daily basis (no holes or rips, but otherwise anything is fine.) It’s an amazing office to work for.

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I was out shopping with my Dad, he’d offered to buy me a smart interviewing outfit since my job was about to go up in smoke. At one point I was looking at something quite bright and cheerful (looking for a job as a creative writer) and my Dad coughed and suggested that a black skirt and white blouse would be more appropriate. I just answered that I wasn’t looking for a job at a funeral parlour and ended up buying something different entirely.

    5. Lizzo*

      @Mid, not intending to jump all over your comment, but I did want to address one thing that you mention: the idea that “hair matters way less” in a professional setting is not true for Black people. Please google “black hair discrimination in the workplace” as a starting point for some reading and research.

      It’s also worth noting that if you do a Google image search for “professional women hairstyles” you’ll get images of White women for the top results. Searching for “unprofessional women hairstyles” yields top results showing Black women.

      I hope this information is useful and eye-opening, especially in light of current news and events.

  4. mgguy*

    Re #2 and the “I appreciate that” follow-up to an apology.

    Coming from the other side of it where I’ve been known to make the occasional screw-up or lose my temper(the latter is something I need to work on) I do make it a point to at least make a heartfelt and personal apology.

    The regular response of course is “it’s okay.” My general response when someone tells me that after an apology-depending on exactly what it is-is “No, it’s NOT okay in any way that it happened, but I do appreciate your acceptance of the apology and just know that I’m aware of/doing X, Y, and Z to hopefully keep this from happening again.”

    Again, it’s a phrasing difference, but if I do make a mistake I want to own it.

  5. Ali G*

    My own top knot has made a reappearance during the stay at home times. I realized I missed it!

  6. Not Your Lawyer*

    Re #4, my manager very rarely helps out with tight deadlines, but I only realized that upon reflection. I think that the reason it hadn’t even occurred to me or bothered me is that she’s very good about giving me the “view from the top,” and making sure that I know what she’s working on, what her priorities are, and what upper management is tracking, in a very general sense. She doesn’t over share, but she’s good about keeping me informed and updated so I don’t feel like all of my assignments are disappearing into a black hole.

    1. Allypopx*

      That’s great! I know that I struggle if I don’t have a good view of what my work means in the greater sphere of things. Obviously I can’t know everything going on all the time (and have learned that maybe I don’t want to, after getting very overwhelmed by some oversharing bosses giving me a lot of information that I couldn’t act on but still caused me stress), but knowing how you fit into the puzzle is important for morale and motivation.

      1. Retail not Retail*

        We’ll get half the task and then my manager will say the work’s not right for the next half when the first half of the task could have gone in 5 different ways.

        Reading the comments on the original letter was eye opening – I really thought managers either knew how to do your job or had done it. Management at grocery store was limited by the union which was fine, they’d bag half an order incorrectly than disappear. My manager now will hop in a machine. And one day I went home sick from the task so he did it after I left and was like “oh no this is impossible,” which was nice to hear.

        I’m thinking of the head of specialized labor at my job and how that head is not a manager of people and is not our new president. Our new president has NOT done the same nonsense we do.

        1. Batty Twerp*

          I really thought managers either knew how to do your job or had done it.
          I would love to have worked somewhere where that has ever been the case.
          Leaving my last boss (for an internal transfer within the company) it became *abundantly* clear she had no idea on the minutia of how to do my job. Nor does she have the skills to do the job as proficiently even with work instructions. That’s not me blowing my own trumpet either. She may not be able to do my job, but she knew damn well that I was the star performer on her team and that I was compensated for it (I was the highest paid person on her team and I was still only just making market value – blame the company culture though, not her, she only had whatever budget they gave her).
          Most recently (due to lockdown) I had to work for her again for six weeks because she and the rest of her team struggled to do the job while working from home – entirely because they needed to be able to talk to each other in real time in order to troubleshoot the various queries, and being on an 8 hour Skype call (not Zoom. Don’t… just… don’t…) isn’t feasible. Whereas I slipped back into my old role, not needing to interact with anyone, and covered the work, ensuring that the team smashed their target and were set up for success going forward; including, yes, retraining my ex-boss on some technical details.
          Just don’t ask *me* to manage the team – I couldn’t do it. Had to do it for a month, briefly. Hated it. Not where my comfort zone lies at all.

          1. 'Tis Me*

            Managing and doing can be very different jobs. But it sounds like your skillsets are recognised and valued, so that’s pretty awesome :-) And it sounds like your old manager understands the job well enough to appreciate just how much of an asset you were to her team.

          2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            So much this. My last manager was barely able to complete our tasks (she had never done any of what we do in her prior experience), but was a reasonably competent manager (when she was there – she was randomly not there a ton of the time – she is now doing something else, and I’ve heard she is much better in the new role).

            My new manager not only knows all of our tasks, but is also good at managing people. It helps greatly when I need to ask for assistance to be able to trust the answers that I’m getting from my boss are accurate and not going to later get the department in trouble.

        2. DQ*

          At some point up the chain, it’s not possible to have done or know how to do every function in your purview, especially in large or complicated companies. Generally only the person who directly oversees the individual workers knows the ins and outs of that role. That Manager’s boss knows a little less and so on and so on.

          The day someone moves into leadership is the day their technical knowledge starts to gets stale. And so it should. Their job isn’t to do the thing anymore, it’s to manage effectively.

      2. Not Your Lawyer*

        I struggle with this as well. I also do work for someone else and sometimes his projects can take over whole days or weeks of my time, or be incredibly urgent for reasons that are unknown to me. Then I send him the final product and…get nothing. You don’t have to brief me like I’m the Board of Directors but at least give me something, even if it’s “the C-suite wants to go in another direction and we scrapped this whole project” or even a “Received” email, for Pete’s sake.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I had a boss who directly asked me once if I was upset that she didn’t stay late on crunch nights, etc. She wanted to be sure she wasn’t leaving me feeling abandoned or taken advantage of.

      And I realized that I didn’t.
      It was for the reason you mention.
      First, the tasks I did were not tasks she did; she probably could have done them, but it wasn’t her role at all.
      But most important, I knew that she was doing everything she herself could do to make sure I had what I needed to do the job, even if it was hard.
      And she made me feel appreciated.

      But really, it was because she was doing her part to make it as doable and easy as possible. Later I worked with someone who DID leave on time (or a little early), blithley waving on her way out the door. And I didn’t feel she was actually doing much to help. (Then when she came to scold me for planning to leave 15 minutes late on crunch night, instead of staying until 9pm, even though I’d been very vocal about arranging coverage–and then walked out herself 10 minute early, I went straight to that boss and said, “Don’t you ever let her speak to me like that again.”)

  7. Falling Diphthong*

    #3, would that all companies gave such honest answers. “We’re like a dysfunctional family” or “We are wall to wall bees” or “Well, Fergus doesn’t do anything and you can’t do your job without the part he’s responsible for.”

    1. Camellia*

      My first instinct was, ‘No! Don’t tell them the red flags because they might stop saying them and then the next person won’t be forewarned!’ Because it’s not like they’re going to suddenly wake up and change their culture; they’re just going to try to hide it better.

      1. 'Tis Me*

        But telling a third party recruiter isn’t necessarily the same thing? (Is there a tactful way to say “Did you really tell them that you’re like a dysfunctional family?! Yeah, don’t do that. Nobody who has any other reasonable prospects won’t run for the hills on hearing that!”?)

      2. LW #3*

        OP for #3. That is a fair point. However, the recruiter was nice but rather pushy. After every interview, he would call, ask how it went, and then ask if I would accept the job if offered. When I said no for this one, he asked why. When explaining why, I focused more on the latter issue (the story that sounded more like harassment than a joke) since the person who told it could’ve been my supervisor and I would be the only other person in that department.

        (The story was that he would flip off his former supervisor as a joke between them, but when she left, he would text middle finger emojis to her, and he mentioned he was trying to get her address so he could mail them to her. It could have been a joke that she was in on and found amusing, but it set off very loud alarm bells in my head.)

  8. Anonymous*

    To that final letter writer, i would be extremely careful about filling a private slack channel with vitriol toward anyone. Your company still has people with admin abilities who can see it. Nothing in slack — even in a private channel — is actually private.

    1. OP #4*

      Oh, trust me! I know! It certainly wasn’t a good practice back then, but all of us who reported to her were completely miserable and that was one of the only outlets we had for our frustration. When you’re at your wit’s end every day, you tend to stop caring about certain professional norms to save your own sanity.

      1. Solar*

        When a coworker and I were being routinely gaslit by our manager, we started talking on our personal gmail accounts. Just an idea for future instances, though I hope you never run into that again :)

  9. TootsNYC*

    re: apologies, and the response to them

    My grandboss came by one day saying he owed me an apology (he totally did). When he was done, I summoned my courage and said “Thanks, I appreciate that.” It was so liberating to let him accept responsibility for his actions instead of downplaying it with “It’s okay.” I can’t recommend it enough!

    As someone who has given apologies, I actually prefer this response!
    I’ve got to some effort to apologize, to take responsibility. Don’t excuse me.
    It doesn’t make me comfortable.

    I feel that when people say, “It’s OK,” or “don’t worry about it,” they are actually dismissing not just my offense but also my apology.

    If they say, “I appreciate your apology,” then I feel that they have truly heard my apology, and that they recognize that *I* have faced up to my offence.

  10. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    More for the record than for anything else, regarding this part of your original response to Caller #4:

    remember Bam-Bam on the Flintstones, where it’s kind of shooting up from the top of her head in a fountain of hair?

    Bamm-Bamm is a he, not a she… and it’s Wilma who has the fountain of hair.

    1. Remembers Watching the Original*

      Wilma’s got the bun; Pebbles has the cutesy fountain-o-hair.

  11. nep*

    Update/LW #1: Thank you for the update. So wonderful. (I want a boss like your boss.)
    All the best and be well, all.

  12. JerryTerryLarryGary*

    Pebbles was the little girl with the bone holding up her hair in a top tail, Wilma was the mom very overly styled pinned up hair

  13. Lyudie*

    I just read the comments for the stranded hotel room letter and I’m impressed the OP came back to update…some harsh words there. Glad that grandboss realized he screwed up and apologized.

  14. Chaordic One*

    OP3, the recruiter actually apologized! I’m impressed by the recruiter. Any time I ever expressed reservations about a job that I had interviewed for through a recruiter, they always made me feel like there was something wrong with me for my knowing that it was not a good match for me.

    1. LW #3*

      OP for #3. I was surprised too. He was nice, but rather pushy and would try to urge me to take jobs that I had reservations about. But, when I explained why I didn’t want this one, I focused more on the story that sounded like harassment instead of the joke and I think he was surprised by it.

  15. Bob*

    LW1: Sometimes when people are grasping at straws they convince themselves and you that they really know what they are talking about. Then they double down.
    This is something to bear in mind, grandma meant well but not only has the world changed since she was your age, she was trying to be helpful by grasping at straws.
    So i would forgive her but don’t give that reason free rent inside your head.

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