updates: the crush, the up-front salary question, and more

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

1. I have a crush on my boss and he’s being standoffish

Shelter-in-place was really good for an introvert like me. I made a whole bunch of progress on my writing, did my regular home strength-training workouts, became an active participant in a popular online community instead of just a long-time lurker, made sure bright sunlight hit my skin every day through wide-open windows, had a few satisfying phone and online chats with friends and family, and discovered the eerie beauty of Sigur Rós. To make the transition back to getting up early for work (whenever that would be) as easy as possible, I kept my alarm set most nights to my normal weekday wake-up time.

I still have pleasant thoughts about my still-out-of-work supervisor (along with a few sturdily-built East Coast Italian men on Instagram I will never meet), but only occasionally, and always keeping in mind his habit of rolling his eyes when he’s annoyed with me, and the fact that he never once texted or called during shelter-in-place to ask how I was doing. You, and all the other respondents, were right: Work is for work, at least for socially awkward people like me. I like my job, and it pays enough for what I need and the things I like to do.

In terms of finding other guys with whom I share just about every taste in music, a sharp mind, and a love of good conversation? Who knows.

2. Can I ask about salary up-front? (#3 at the link)

Thanks for answering my question about discussing salary up front when returning to a previous company! In the end, it was no big deal. I guess I was anticipating some kind of “grown up” formal conversation, but we fell easily into our old mentor/mentee communication pattern.

We started with a broad discussion about what I wanted from my next role, so it was easy to work in salary as part of that discussion. I know you normally discourage sharing current salary information, but I said “For reference, I’m currently making X, and in order to be able to take the job feasible for me, I’d need to make at least 80% of that.” Right or wrong, providing the context made me feel like I wouldn’t be misinterpreted as selfish or unreasonable in my salary demand.

Then COVID happened and they had a hiring freeze. After the hiring freeze ended, they reached back out to me with a position that actually had elevated responsibilities – and with the offer of 85% of my current salary. I would have been pretty offended if they’d come in at my bare minimum number after I’d been so candid (not that that’s rational), but I’m glad it was a non issue.

The thing is, COVID made me realize that what I really wanted from my next job is to work from home. I really, really love it – and that it gives me the freedom to live in lots of different places. I tried to negotiate a WFH arrangement with this job. They were on board, but just barely, and my gut told me that even if I did an amazing job, they’d always feel like they were “making a sacrifice” or “helping me out” by allowing it. So, I walked away from the offer and am going to keep looking. I feel a little crazy for turning down a job right now (especially when my current job is threatening layoffs), but I hope it will end up being the right call.

3. Can I call an employer back with additional questions about why I was rejected? (first update here)

After you printed my update, a few commenters stated that it seemed like I was being really negative and taking everything personally. There was a grain of truth there, and I was having an especially bad day when I sent the update, which probably wasn’t the best idea. I mentioned in the comments that I was having a rough time as a few days after getting the rejection discussed in the update, I also lost my existing job, and being unemployed during a pandemic was really dragging on my mental health. A couple of commenters had some really kind and encouraging words which meant a lot to me!

Even though it was tough to continually receive rejections (or rather, no response at all), I kept reaching out to organizations that I thought might be able to use my skills during the pandemic, and eventually one email that I sent to a local business owner paid off. He put me in touch with a contact who he thought might be looking for someone like me to develop an initiative they were starting to aid other businesses with some COVID-related issues, and it has been one of the most positive work experiences I’ve ever had. While it isn’t full time work, it has led to a few small short-term contracts where my expertise has been highly valued, and I am able to do really rewarding and useful work to support the community during this tough time.

So, thanks to the commenters who encouraged me to not throw in the towel, and also the ones who called me out on my negativity :) I am so glad I didn’t give up and kept at it, and I’m excited to see what comes next with the new connections I’m making this summer.

{ 53 comments… read them below }

  1. Diahann Carroll*

    OP #2, I don’t think you made a mistake. If working from home is truly important to you now, that’s a valid line to draw for yourself. I hope you find something that was meant to be full time permanent soon – I’ve had that kind of role for over a year now, and I can’t see myself ever going back in-house.

    1. OP 2*

      I have an update to the update: I was able to accept a different 100% remote job the day before my current company announced huge layoffs. I even used Alison’s negotiating tips to get them to increase their offer by 7%! I forced myself to call and negotiate salary over the phone, rather than over email, and that made a big difference because we were able to have a two way conversation.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Awesome! Congratulations. And see – had you not turned down the other job, you would have made less money and had people side-eying you for working from home. Now you have the salary you want and the flexibility to work wherever you want!

      2. The New Wanderer*

        Congratulations on the job and the successful negotiation! I was just going to comment on the original lower salary offer for more responsibilities, but then I read the original context (you were/are moving to a lower cost of living area so the salary cut was something you already expected and accounted for).

        But definitely agree that a company reluctant to grant WFH, in general but especially now, is not a safe long term bet to retain WFH privileges when things change in the future. Sounds like you made the right call!

  2. Ace in the Hole*

    OP3, glad to hear things worked out for you! I know how frustrating it can be to ask why you were rejected and get a bullshit-sounding answer, especially when you suspect (but can’t prove) it might be a cover for discrimination. Overall I think you handled your updates well in spite of the frustration.

    I’m so happy your job search has taken a turn for the better… here’s hoping it continues that way!

  3. 2 Cents*

    OP#1: We sound like similar people, at least as far as being introverted. When I was busy crushing on cute guys in the office (I was young!), I also signed up for eHarmony. Ended up finding my husband and we’ll be married 10 years this year. I met a lot of nice people on there, and it was helpful to do away with the awkward “approach someone in the bookstore and strike up conversation, but omg, how do you do that if you’re an introvert and hate talking to strangers and hate being disturbed while in a bookstore yourself…”

    1. RemingtonTypeType*

      As another socially awkward introvert, I also recommend online dating. I met my husband on match.com 20 years ago (it just now hit me how long that is) and even though I had to weed through some definite non-matches, we spent a summer emailing and chatting back and forth and once we finally met we were inseparable.

    2. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah, I met my husband on ok Cupid. If it wasn’t for online dating, I’d be single. There’s no need to play any games or not be upfront about what you want when you’re online dating. I did go through a number of duds before I found him, but I wouldn’t have found him without it.

    3. Queenie*

      Also recommending online dating! Tried it in person (terrifying) and being set up by friends (never ever a good idea), both with disasterous results. Online dating allowed me (a introvert with social anxiety) to pick and choose who I talked to, and to make a more informed choice about who I was dating. Knowing basic information about someone before you go on a date really helps tamp down some of the awkwardness!

      Plus, I know the cost can be hard to swallow, but paying to be on Match or eHarmony or something like that means that people who are on there are serious about finding someone. Less of a Tinder-y

    4. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      Another introvert here that highly recommends online dating. OKCupid was how I met my husband. It does take a little bit of work but gives you the opportunity to find someone that has things in common with you, which makes starting the conversation a lot easier.

    5. Matilda Jefferies*

      My husband and I are also an online dating success story. :) But more importantly, OP1, I want to congratulate you for that lovely update. It sounds like you took Alison’s advice to heart, and you were able to change your perception and your behaviour.

      And I would bet that your boss has forgotten your slight misstep earlier, when you texted him about the album. Or if he does remember, he has also noticed that you haven’t done it again. Either way, that’s a terrific win. Good for you!

      1. solitarywalker*

        I admit to making ONE small mistake – texting him once with genuine concern (he got it, and is recovering). That was fine, but when he responded a few days later, I texted him again about the recent sociopolitical happenings. Needless to say, he never replied.

    6. Quill*

      One of my best friends met her fiancee online, something like four years ago now. Seems like that, and “friend of a friend” are the primary ways of meeting people after college.

    7. valentine*

      The original post has a discussion of online dating. (OP1 commented as solitarywalker, which seems like a sad way to identify, and one that doesn’t serve you.)

      OP1, I don’t think I saw your original comments. If you’re still having trouble sleeping, especially if you’re a night person, try working nights or at least starting your day after noon. And try to get nine or more hours of sleep before plateauing at eight (though you might just really need more than eight).

      Being into “sturdily-built East Coast Italian men” is an ’80s cliché/stereotype.

      1. solitarywalker*

        I saw my handle as more like “happily solitary daydreaming wanderer” – which would probably have been too many words.

        (I’m assuming that by “80s cliche/stereotype” you mean “haha, totally understandable”, and not “geez, be more original in your feelings”.)

        1. Helena1*

          You are attracted to whoever you are attracted to! I’m into androgynous floppy-haired men, if that makes me a 90s cliche, so be it.

          I can also recommend online dating – I met my husband at college, but my brother and several of my friends met their spouses on various dating sites, and are very happy.

          1. valentine*

            happily solitary daydreaming wanderer
            Good to know!.

            I’m assuming that by “80s cliche/stereotype” you mean “haha, totally understandable”, and not “geez, be more original in your feelings”.
            Neither. I don’t know that you can have ethnicity-specific feelings for strangers without stereotyping them.

            I’m into androgynous floppy-haired men
            This doesn’t stereotype them. You could also be into California surfers, for example, without stereotyping them, and I’m not aware of a related history for either of these.

      2. Jenna*

        Interesting, was not aware that “being into “sturdily-built East Coast Italian men” is an ’80s cliché/stereotype.” I’m curious about the spirit in which that observation was intend. — I could be misreading, but it felt critical of the OP, esp. in combination with the comment on her username.

        OP: great to hear such a happy update! As another poster said, it sounds like you really did take Alison’s advice to heart, and it’s great to hear that you’ve been intentionally doing things that bring you joy. That’s awesome!

    8. Jenna*

      I can zillionth the rec for online dating. It’s how I met my boo, and every other person I’ve dated longterm since college. It can seem intimidating how many people are on the apps, but I loved being able to sift thru OKC matches to find people with shared interests/values.

      [And, you can 100% in good conscience not reply to someone’s initial message if you aren’t interested. (*Especially* the the spammy “I’m msging every woman this same pickup line ones”)]

    9. allathian*

      I’ve crushed on guys at work when I was younger and either single or in a dysfunctional relationship (I liked the idea of having a boyfriend much more than I liked my boyfriend). These things happen, it’s not the end of the world. In my case, though, the guys I had a crush on probably never knew it, or if they did, they didn’t let on. I’ve had one workplace crush while in my current relationship, but that petered out naturally one summer when we didn’t have any contact for several weeks thanks to both of us being on vacation.

      Before I met my husband I tried online dating. I discovered very quickly that it’s not for me, at all. I’m utterly incapable of casual dating at the best of times, I have to see where things might go with one guy before going out with someone else. That’s OK as far as it goes, but it does limit your options when I can’t even face the idea of a possible date going out with other women between dates with me, I’m essentially exclusive with a potential date before I even know if we click. It’s just too bad that I expect the same from him, and that’s too much to ask of most people. Especially as the guys who would be okay with that are mostly religous with conservative ideas about gender roles, and that wouldn’t work for me either for other reasons.

      I’m very lucky in that I met my husband though friends. My best friend’s husband was a coworker of one of my husband’s friends and they set us up. One reason it worked was that before I met my husband, I didn’t know my best friend’s husband’s coworker socially, and if it hadn’t worked out, there would have been no awkwardness.

    10. Aitch Arr*

      I met my husband of 6 months (we’ve been together for over 5 years) through a combination of OKCupid and a Meetup group.

      We matched very highly on OKC (96%) and then ended up meeting in person at a Meetup a week or so later.

      Also, Sigur Ros is fantastic. At one point my OKC profile quoted Hoppipolla.

  4. mph student*

    LW#3 – “kept reaching out”

    Hmm dare I say that gumption can actually be an effective way for locating and obtaining work?

    1. fhqwhgads*

      I think this is less an example of “gumption” and more an example of “networking”.

      1. Cat*

        Yeah, “gumption” would be reaching out to the same organization over and over again even after they said “go away.”

      2. mph student*

        oh cool, so it’s networking (and not annoying gumption) if i send cold-emails to companies that I think would use my skill set?

        1. KayDeeAye*

          I don’t know what sort of email you have in mind, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with the concept of writing a short, polite email saying basically, “I have these skills – does your company ever hire anyone with those skills?” And then seeing what they say (which may be nothing).

          What makes it “gumption” is doing it too often or doing it in a “You simply must hire me because I’m that good” sort of way.

          1. KayDeeAye*

            Or, God forbid, doing it in *person*. :-)

            But a short, easy-to-respond-to/easy-to-ignore email is fine.

          2. Helena1*

            This is how my husband has been hired for almost all of his contracts – emails his CV to head of department, and tells them he is available for consulting work and do they want to meet for coffee.

            It obviously helps that he has a good CV, and if he has a contact in the department he will speak to them too, but he’s had success with that method when we moved to a new country where we knew nobody, so personal contacts aren’t mandatory.

            As far as I know, most jobs in his industry are filled that way – they definitely aren’t advertised. HR keeps a file of CVs, and when there is work available they reach out and see who is free to do it.

        2. Cat*

          Yeah, I mean the only difference between networking and annoying gumption is appropriate boundaries, most of the time!

  5. Luckypurplesocks*

    OP#1: I love Sigur Rós. I think you’re description of their music is on point.

    1. Phoenix Wright*

      Indeed. Ágætis byrjun is a masterpiece, even if it takes a few listens to fully appreciate it. Glad to hear OP1 took the advice to heart, and I wish her good luck in the future!

      1. solitarywalker*

        My favorites as of now are Takk, then ( ), followed by Agaetis byrjun (haven’t yet figured out accent-formatting on my phone). Favorite song so far? Se lest.

  6. alienor*

    Somewhat related to update #1, lockdown has really underscored how shallow my (non-romantic) work relationships actually are, and to what extent I’ve relied on those friendships for social interaction without even noticing it. Most of my non-work friends and all of my family except my daughter have moved out of state over the last 10ish years, but because I’m also an introvert, I was still getting enough interaction just from working in an office every day, so I wasn’t that bothered by it. Then in lockdown it seemed like all my social media feeds were filled with people bemoaning how much they missed their friends, sharing screenshots of their Zoom hangouts, planning ways to meet up while staying six feet apart, and I realized “Hm no one has missed me or even really checked in with me for anything non-work-related. If not for my daughter, I could be dead of covid and no one would know.” I’m not quite sure how I feel about that, but I definitely do feel some sort of way. :-/

    1. Lily Rowan*

      I’m sorry to hear that. I have found that everyone doing social life online has meant better connection with my out-of-state friends! So you could check in with them, schedule a Zoom hangout yourself, if you’re interested…

    2. solitarywalker*

      Oh wow, totally agree about this pandemic really making it clear who are your friends and who are acquaintances. Occasionally it stung a bit, but mostly it was just a calm reality.

      1. D'Arcy*

        I would kinda argue that it’s *completely normal* for work friends to actually be more on the line of acquaintances. I wouldn’t expect my work friends to check in on me during a pandemic, and I would definitely not be very happy with anyone who got passive-aggressive at me for not doing so.

        1. alienor*

          To be clear, I’m not mad that work friends didn’t check in on me–although most of them are people I’ve known for 20+ years, so not exactly fleeting acquaintances at the coffee maker–and I didn’t get passive-aggressive at them, or indeed mention it to them at all. It was more a realization that I no longer have many of the sort of relationships where someone *would* check in during a pandemic, because those people have gone.

    3. juliebulie*

      I think I might feel some sort of way too. Lately I feel like my best friend in the world is the guy who works at the corner store. I certainly see him more often than anyone else.

  7. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

    I hear you on this one, I’m sorry. I think that shelter-in-place is bringing some uncomfortable realizations to the surface for a lot of us introverts who relied on work to get our social needs met. You end up in a tricky spot: if you stay in your social comfort zone, you may end up more isolated than you feel comfortable with. To get your social needs met without having those default work interactions, you may have to start doing social maintenance things that you might find initially exhausting. COVID makes all of this way more challenging to deal with.

    I suspect that a lot of introverts end up in a vicious cycle of (1) relying on superficial situational friendships (like work friends) for interaction, (2) not doing the work to transition them from acquaintance to friend because we don’t deem it necessary, (3) becoming more and more isolated over time because we realize our work friendships aren’t really that, and (4) beginning to find a lot of interaction unrewarding because it ultimately doesn’t go anywhere. It’s a tough realization that even if you have pretty minimal social needs, relying on acquaintances to get them met may not work well in the long run because your acquaintances have or want to have friends.

    It feels scary to confront the fact that my comfort zone seems to be at odds with what I want to some extent, and it calls into question what good self-care looks like as an introvert.

    1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      Oops, that was meant as a reply to alienor’s comment above.

      1. juliebulie*

        OK, but when you lay it all out logically like that, it sounds kinda bleak. :-(

        Except that some of the people who are my acquaintances, I’d like to be friends with. But they already have friends and I don’t really fit into that scene.

        But I can definitely relate to my comfort zone being at odds with what I really want. I need to think about this some more.

        1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          You know, it really isn’t that bleak! I probably should have written the rest of what I wanted to write, which is that if your acquaintances have room for new friends in their life, you could be one of those new friends but it requires stepping up your friending game if you’re accustomed to keeping people at an acquaintance-level of intimacy.

          It’s just that I think that a lot of us find that option to be far out of our comfort zone or think that we can’t tend to our introversion effectively if we put more effort into maintaining friendships. Both of those things are kind of not wrong, but really, which comfort/discomfort combo sounds better? The comfort you get from your business-as-usual approach leading to discomfort from isolation down the road, or discomfort from investing in relationships to get at the comfort of more durable friendships?

          1. allathian*

            I’m fairly introverted too, and I find that my handful of true friendships are rewarding and definitely worth the effort. The same thing goes for extended family, although here my privilege shows, because I have a great relationship with my parents, in-laws and sister. I find I have less and less people energy for casual acquaintances, and that includes work friends.

        2. Alexis Rose*

          I guess I would ask, what makes you so sure that your acquaintances already have all the friends they want? Yeah, if they have a super close-knit friend group you probably won’t be part of that, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want any new friends at all.

          When I’m exploring if I could be friends with an acquaintance, I invite them to do something one on one because that’s my comfort zone more than group activities…during the pandemic, a virtual happy hour or to livestream something together that we both like. If I have a good time, I’ll suggest something else. At that point, I wait for them to suggest a joint activity. If they never suggest anything, I assume it’s not meant to be or wasn’t a good fit. Maybe they didn’t enjoy it as much, or they don’t have time / energy for a new friendship. Either way, you can’t force friendship, but you can create an opening.

          1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            If they never suggest anything, I assume it’s not meant to be or wasn’t a good fit. Maybe they didn’t enjoy it as much, or they don’t have time / energy for a new friendship.

            Or they might be like me and struggle to feel comfortable and secure in inviting people to do things, regardless of I had a good time the last time we hung out together. I have trouble with this even when it comes to inviting people who invite me to do stuff all the time! It sucks for everyone involved because I’m totally sending the wrong message to people I’d probably like to be better friends with.

  8. I am Jack's Something-or-Other*

    LW #1, I came here mainly to second your sentiment on Sigur Rós. Y’all, it’s true. Give the band a listen. They’re excellent.

    I haven’t seen your original letter yet, but I relate to you so much right now. Shelter-in-place has been good for me in many similar ways. I too became an active participant in a popular online community instead of just a long-time lurker… THIS one! (5+ years-long lurker). :)

  9. Jess*

    To OP number 2: I feel you so much! I turned down a job offer in May because I had been dreaming of working at a fully remote company for years and then that possibility suddenly became much more likely three weeks later, moreso than it had been my whole life prior. This company also was open to some WFH, but not 100% remote. And it feels crazy to turn down job offers in this economy but for people with dreams of remote jobs, it’s a reality. Best of luck!

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