is my old boss ghosting me, no one will tell me what my promotion is, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Am I being ghosted by my wonderful former boss?

My amazing, flawless, inspiring manager, Sharon, left for greener pastures in July. My coworker and I cried. After composing myself, I wrote her a heartfelt congratulatory email and offered my assistance in her transition. Things went smoothly and we’ve been in touch off and on as things have settled and COVID was (momentarily) less of an issue in our area. She proposed some rum drinking and I found a great spot with well-reviewed food and outdoor seating, confirmed with her, and made a reservation. We had some back and forth in the meantime and she was having fun sending me all these customized stickers that I asked if she’d show me how to do when we got together. She seemed delighted and sent me a few more with even more special effects.

The day of our happy hour, she texted me a few hours before that she was stuck on a project at work and could we reschedule. I responded in the affirmative and proposed a new date. I never heard back. I chalked it up to her being busy in her new, more responsibility, role. Figured I would give her some time and circle back in a few weeks.

It has been pretty dismal at work since her departure (well, it was dismal before, but she was a glowing beacon I turned down an internal promotion to continue working directly for, which she knew/encouraged) and I’ve been applying for jobs outside my current organization. I made it to the interview stage for one and they asked me for supervisory references. I reached out to my last three supervisors (including Sharon) by text and was surprised when I heard back instantly from my previous two supervisors, but not Sharon. Instead of the messages looking like iPhone to iPhone, now everything was sending by text. In my experience, this is a telltale sign that one has been blocked, the person has a new number, or the phone has no internet connection at the moment.

The day of my interview approached and I sent Sharon an email on Friday evening to her new work address and asked if she’d changed her number and to please call/text me soon as my interview was on Tuesday and I was attempting to get references to the organization by Monday. She responded on Monday with her new work number and that she would be a reference. I thanked her profusely and gave her a debrief after the interview by email. No response.

I am absolutely bereft. I keep looking at her glowing performance appraisal, positive correspondence, and notes from our weekly one-on-one meetings and wonder what happened. Maybe I suffer from high expectations or remind her of a dark time in her professional history, but I’m not sure what’s reasonable to do right now if I want to stay in touch, even if the ball is in her court going forward. Honestly, it’s tough typing this out right now and not calling her sobbing asking what I did wrong (part of that may be living alone during quarantine, but here we are). Is there anything I can say/do to stay in touch that is less likely to go unanswered, but doesn’t come off as so desperate?

The most likely explanation is that something is going on in Sharon’s life that has nothing to do with you. She was enthusiastically participating in the relationship until suddenly she wasn’t, so either she suddenly had a spontaneous and extreme change of heart about someone she’s always been friendly to or she has her own stuff going on. The latter is much more likely.

It’s so easy to feel like the vibe we’re getting from other people is about us, but so often it has nothing to do with us. Sharon could be dealing with a family crisis, a health situation, a marriage issue — who knows. For now, give her space and assume she’ll reach out when she’s back in a place where she can do that. If she doesn’t, you can check in down the road, but give her a few months to deal with whatever might be going on. (If you’re tempted to contact her again now, resist that — you’ve made your interest in being in touch known, and following up again so quickly risks coming across as pressure that she doesn’t have room for right now.)

2. No one will tell me what my promotion is

I’ve been at a small organization for a few years. Management acknowledged I was overqualified for my initial position, and I was hired with the understanding that I would be quickly promoted. But that process has dragged on for years due to management changes, budget issues, and some interpersonal conflicts. I lost a lot of self confidence along the way; it’s been a long road. But, after consistent self-advocacy (which is new and uncomfortable for me), I learned I’m finally getting promoted! Managers are almost giddy as they congratulate me about my new role.

The problem? I have no idea what the role will be! I don’t know my new title, my job description, or how I will fit into the org structure. I think they may be planning a big reveal to the whole staff, but I’m growing more and more anxious about the whole thing. I was ready to start looking for a new job when things were confirmed. Now, management seems to think this new position will make things right, and that I’ll be 100% happy. Yet, no one—including my direct supervisor—offers information when I ask. Instead, I get some variation on, “Don’t worry–you’re going to be so happy!” I understand if there were budget concerns, and they didn’t want to overpromise/underdeliver . . . but after years of ongoing conversations with multiple managers, I’m kind of surprised they didn’t at least float what they were thinking past me at some point. Is this process normal? Is my asking for details out of line? Why are they treating a promotion like a surprise birthday party?

No, it’s not normal. Unless you’re simply being bumped up into a more senior version of the role you’re already doing (like going from llama groomer to senior llama groomer), they’re missing a key step here, which is offering you the role (because you may not want it, or may not want it for the pay they’re offering). It’s not a surprise party.

I would say this: “I appreciate that you think I’ll be happy with this, but before anything is official, I’d like to be able to discuss what the role actually is. Can we set up a time to sit down and discuss that?” And if necessary: “This sounds like it’s being talked about as a done deal, but I haven’t had the chance to sign on to whatever’s being envisioned. I want to be able to talk it through before anything is formally announced. When can we do that?” (Also, at whatever point they finally describe the role to you, they should talk about salary too. If they don’t, it’s okay to say, “What are you thinking as far as salary?”)

3. How to explain quitting because of stress and burnout

I’m writing on behalf of my partner, who currently… can’t. He’s burnt out in a fairly serious way (I’m worried about him, he’s seeing his doctor tomorrow) In short: either the doctor signs off on stress leave or he gives his notice tomorrow, but those are the only options on the table.

He’s scared of the professional consequences of taking stress leave (or quitting) right before the busiest period of the year. He can’t do the 70-hour work weeks and panic this year, though. I’m legitimately concerned that he won’t be on the other side of it, and I’d rather it kill his career than him. Because he’s worried: is there something he can do to mitigate professional fallout? Copies of (excellent) performance reviews, etc?

His boss is not likely to be reasonable about this (she gave him a lot of grief over taking time off to come to the hospital when our baby had major surgery in January – clearly empathy is high, and 2020 started off with a bang…). He’s terrified of having the conversation with her, breaking down, and torpedo-ing his entire career, and all my advice would be based on dealing with reasonable people, which… clearly not. Help?

In future interviews, he doesn’t even need to explain this was burnout or stress or anything specific at all! He can simply say, “I was dealing with a health issue that has since been resolved.” Which is true!

He can use the same explanation with his boss if he wants — he’s dealing with an urgent health issue that can’t wait and needs to leave to attend to it. He can add in a bunch of “really regret this, loved working here, wouldn’t do it if I had other options” padding if it makes it go down easier with his boss. Often with unreasonable bosses, a performance of regret and “I’m upset this is happening” and even “you’ve been good to me, thank you” (if he can stomach that) can really counter the pushback they might otherwise give.

It won’t hurt to make sure he has copies of those excellent performance reviews too, but this should go a long way toward managing it.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. When can I move to a two-page resume?

I am about 10 years into my professional career and am wondering when I should start submitting a two-page resume. I currently use a one-page resume but with my most recent position I am out of space on a single page. Is 10 years enough work experience to move to a two-page resume?

Yes, if you need it. Don’t feel you need to use the full second page — a page and a half is fine to do, and as always, the more info you cram into a resume, the less likely the most important stuff will be seen in a quick skim. (You may reach a point in your career where you truly need the fully second page, but if you’ve been fine with one page up until now, you probably only need half of the second one.)

For anyone who heard the old one-page resume rule and thought they’d be locked into it forever: It’s been outdated for a while now. New grads should generally stick to one page because they don’t have enough experience to justify a second, but once you’re ~8-10 years out of school, you’re fine adding a second.

5. A maiden name, a married name, and a job search

I’m getting married and changing my last name to my soon to be husband’s last name. Is there a place in my resume or on my list of references where I should include my maiden name? All my previous employers up until my current will only know me by my maiden name, so I’d hate someone to call a previous employer to do an employment check and then not be able to verify because they weren’t looking with my maiden name. If this is something I’d want to include, how and where would I put that information?

One option is to use your old last name as a middle name for a while — so if you’re currently Valentina Prescott and you’re becoming Valentina Warbleworth, your resume would say Valentina Prescott Warbleworth. If you don’t want to do that, though, it’s fine to just explain the situation on your reference list with a note like, “Jobs A, B, and C know me as Valentina Prescott, which was my maiden name.” Or you can note it under each reference: “Jane was my manager at Lllamaville Hauntings. I worked there as Valentina Prescott, my maiden name.”

{ 335 comments… read them below }

  1. EPLawyer*

    #1 — it is probably just Covid Stress. Some people are having trouble just getting up and functioning as this drags on. Even if they want to hang out, they just … can’t. Even if its safe to do so. Leave your former boss alone. Although you saw her as a Beacon in an Otherwise Bleak Office, she does have a life outside the office. Let her get back in touch when she is ready.

    #2 – If they strung you along for years, I would not hold out much hope that this “promotion” is really a promotion. Why not give you the details? Even if they want to do a company wide announcement, you need to know what you will be doing — so when you are asked after the announcement you don’t say “huh, dunno, ask my boss.” Quite frankly, I would keep looking for a job. Chances are the promotion is a new title or a designated parking spot. NOT a new position.

    1. Artemesia*

      Hope I am wrong but the ‘surprise promotion’ sounds like the kind of nonsense they spring on women they have strung along for years and gotten to accept less than they expected and now they are making up some janky title to make you feel like you are making progress. Unless they offer a substantial raise and a real promotion in duties, take this as your clue to get that job search underway that should have been started years ago. I have been there and there is nothing like a ‘promotion’ without serious money attached.

      1. Name (Required)*

        More responsibility, longer hours, a made-up job title, and same pay.

        OP should start a rumour about this ‘promotion’: “I can’t you what I’ve heard, but I’m so excited. It’s big, really big. Like big money big, and private office big.” Let the words wend their way around the grapevine to the lofty levels of the bosses. There’ll be a tipping point, either you’ll be approached before the ‘big announcement’, or it will happen at the ‘big announcement’. Colleagues will be happy for you (if the rumour is true, unlikely) or commiserate with you when the bosses say you’ll be getting “more responsibility, longer hours, a made-up job title, and same pay” when everyone was so sure you’d be getting so much more.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        I was once given a “promotion” that really wasn’t. Basically, the firm I worked for knew I was job searching because I hated my department and our manager (my supervisors were okay), so they gave me a title bump with no pay increase and transferred me to a new department. I was gone seven months later.

      3. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yup. You are so right.

        I had the offer of a “surprise” promotion when I was applying for a different internal job. My current management didn’t want to have to deal with hiring for my position, so they figured the promise of a promotion would be enough to get me to stay. When I asked about the salary and what the responsibilities would be, I was told “Just take the promotion and we’ll figure all that out later.” Adding insult to injury was having my female supervisor inform me “This is how it works for women. Men can negotiate but we need to prove ourselves first.” I, too, was told “You will be very happy.” When I pushed back, Grandboss informed me they would ruin my chances for the other job by telling the other department head that I was a terrible employee, so I had no choice but to accept whatever they offered. Fortunately, the other department made an offer and I got to leave three weeks later.

        Run, don’t walk, to find another position.

        1. Nesprin*

          The thing about “surprise promotions” is that you don’t have the usual opportunity to negotiate for higher pay in exchange for greater responsibilities.

          got one of those too, and had budgeted my projects for a higher salary and yet didn’t get a pay bump.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          Oh wow, she even spelled it out directly that it was gender discrimination. Ammo for legal action, if that’s a possibility for you.

      4. Green Goose*

        When I was reading the letter this is what I was worried about too. Since the company has a history of stringing the OP along, this seems very much in line with that. I’ve also seen this happen to female coworkers of mine, and especially when they were trying to find another job.

      5. Media Monkey*

        totally agree. i was stuck at a certain level under a boss who kept telling me i wouldn’t be promoted unless i showed i could do this thing or that thing. when i did them there was always another thing (that no one at the higher level was doing). funnily enough it kept me doing a huge amount of work that they then struggled to find someone to do when i left. 3 years later and i am currently 2 levels above that and pushing for a promotion on top of those. so clearly i was capable – it just suited my boss to keep me at a lower level and salary as he thought i wouldn’t leave.

    2. Beth*

      Agreed re: #2. If this was a real promotion with a real boost in title/responsibility/compensation, why all the secrecy? My suspicion is that it’s not that–I’m betting that it’s something that sounds enough like a promotion on paper that when it’s announced in front of everyone, it’ll sound exciting, but once the fine print comes out it won’t hold up to expectations. They want the thrill of anticipation to last as long as possible because they know the actual thing won’t give the same rush.

      Or maybe it is a real promotion and they really do think you’ll be excited about it, OP2. But even in that case, this process is weird!! It’s weird that they didn’t check that this is a job you actually want to do. It’s weird that they’re being so secretive about it; even if they were pretty sure this was a job you’d want, or thought it had already been communicated somehow, they should have given you the info on it the first time you asked. It’s weird that the first time you expect to hear anything specific about the promotion is in a company-wide meeting with tons of coworkers around you; that’s something I’d expect to be a one-on-one conversation with your manager (or maybe a small group if they wanted to pull in your new manager or a higher-up, but definitely not a broadly public thing). All these layers of weirdness make me think that even if they are genuinely well intentioned, this isn’t a well managed workplace.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        Agree! I’m getting the sense that the higher-ups may indeed be well-intentioned; probably they truly do think OP will be thrilled. But they’re losing any sense that OP is an independent agent with her own needs and opinions who might, you know, want to DECIDE for herself if she’ll accept a particular job with particular duties and a particular salary.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          The best case scenario is that the higher ups are treating this like a present, to be opened in front of everybody, with squeals of delight. Even if it is a genuine promotion with a substantial raise and duties the LW is eager to undertake, a promotion is not a gift. Treating it as if it were is telling.

          1. OP 2*

            This is absolutely what happened. It’s a small organization, and we’re all close. We also don’t have a formal HR department. They were just VERY excited that I could finally move beyond the cruddy first few years and into a position that I deserved (and had proven I deserved), that they blurred the lines. And you’re all right that it should not have been done this way. In the rush, they forgot I was an independent agent and should have been given the space to say yes/no or negotiate. I’m definitely going to tell them this and ensure this doesn’t happen going forward now that I’m part of management as well.

            1. Shirley Keeldar*

              Congratulations, OP! I’m so glad it turned out to be a job you feel positive about–I hope the salary is also what it should be! And how great that you’re in a position now to make sure that this is handled differently for others. Good for you! Sounds to me like you’re going to be great at being head of a team. You’re already looking out for your people.

      2. C M*

        Announcing it in front of a crowd makes it so much harder or LW to turn it down or really have any outward reaction besides seeming thrilled.

    3. DiscoCat*

      Yepp, I agree #2, it sounds fishy at worst and incompetent at best. It sounds as if they’re basically telling that you’d better act happy and surprised by the “promotion” when it’s announced. Announced so publicly that it’ll shame and embarrass you into accepting whatever they pulled out of their a… Like a very public marriage proposal by a seemingly loving yet mediocre/dumb/abusive person.
      My mother was passed over for promotions with the excuse that the salary raise will get eaten up by the raise in income tax she’d have to pay in the new salary band- instead of promoting her and ensuring that the trade-off in her net income is buffered well. That was in the 1970s, a British company in an African country though, we’ve (hopefully) wised up since then.

      1. Artemesia*

        I don’t know the rules in that country but in the US it is common for people to believe that ‘going into a higher tax bracket’ means you will make less money if you earn more. This is total and utter nonsense but I would bet that the majority believe it.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I did for a long time when I was just starting out, but then I got educated on how taxes actually work in the U.S. and happily started gunning for higher paying positions.

        2. C M*

          I think certain politicians perpetuate this myth that tax brackets are retroactive because it makes middle class people vote against their own interests. I’m constantly amazed at how many smart, educated people believe this myth.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Ding ding ding ding.

            The same politicians who used to try to convince gullible lower-income folks that a flat tax would be *fairer* to them and would lower, rather than raise, their taxes.

            1. Massmatt*

              Ugh, “Joe the Plumber” was the poster boy for this kind of misinformation.

              Funny how bosses never worry about the “higher tax bracket” on THEIR income. If low tax brackets are so great why don’t they make sure income is nice and low to save themselves from those nasty income taxes?

        3. Observer*

          The thing is that it’s not utter nonsense – it can happen. It doesn’t happen all that often, but it is possible that if you are very close the the top of your bracket, a raise will push you into the next bracket and eat up the increase in salary.

          The excuse was utter garbage though, because while that could have been true to start with (although in the US, it’s possible that there were enough other deductions to offset the problem), in the long term continued raises and promotions would have definitely increased her after-tax income.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            Not really? Only the income that is over the threshold for the next bracket is taxed at the level of that bracket. As far as I know, there is no bracket that’s taxed 100% so even though that might eat a larger-than-one-wants chunk of the increase, it’s still an increase. That’s the whole point people are making when they say it’s garbage.

          2. Can Man*

            How does that work, though? You only pay the higher rate on the portion above the cutoff. Or are you talking about getting higher pay, so they can classify you as exempt (though that reduction in net pay would have nothing to do with tax brackets)?

            Is there some complex interplay between subsidy and welfare rules I don’t know about that could possibly reduce your eligibility for stuff like EBT or ADA insurance assistance? I suppose that might reduce the gain from increasing your pay, but are there actually any circumstances that the increase in salary by itself would increase your tax liability enough to wipe out your entire increase in pay?

            1. Observer*

              Is there some complex interplay between subsidy and welfare rules I don’t know about that could possibly reduce your eligibility for stuff like EBT or ADA insurance assistance

              Separate issue, and definitely possible, although it’s a LOT less common now than it was.

              One of the best things that came out of the original welfare reform legislation was breaking the link between Medicaid and all other forms of welfare. It used to be Medicare was means tested, but if you were on welfare you were automatically eligible for Medicaid regardless of how much you were getting. And the income eligibility guidelines were such that you could actually be making the same (or less! in a job) than you would get on Welfare, but not be eligible for Medicaid any more. This was not an urban legend.

              That change was enormous, but because of the way many benefits get calculated, it is still possible to lose more in benefits than one brings home when a pay raise happens. The systems have been tweaked so it’s less likely to happen, but change is hard and slow.

          3. Evan Þ.*

            I don’t see how that could happen. Suppose the top of a bracket is $60K, OP was originally making exactly $60K, and then she gets a $10/year raise pushing her to $60,010. She’d pay the same amount of tax on the first $60K as before, which means she’s no worse off than before there. On the last $10, she’d pay a higher rate of tax. But, she’d still keep some of that last $10, so she’s still better off than before.

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              Exactly this. They will never take all of that $10. They may take more than you would prefer, but they won’t take all of it.

          4. Nanani*

            That’s not how math works.
            The portion of your new salary above the cutoff is taxed higher, NOT your entire salary.

            So it’s garbage not only for the reasons you state, but also fundamentally garbage since it is, in fact, utter nonsense.

          5. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            This is not how marginal tax rates in and of themselves work. Yes, your effective tax rate (as in total tax payable divided by taxable income) increases, but it’s not as a result of paying more tax on income below the threshold of your new bracket.

            When you start talking about deductions and non-taxable benefits being clawed back as your taxable income increases, that changes things a bit (which is probably why the tax bracket misconception is so prevalent among lower-to-middle-income earners and/or people with children), but that’s a separate issue.

          6. Lalaroo*

            I don’t think so, though, because tax rates are marginal. The only bit that would be taxed at the higher bracket’s rate is the amount you earn above the lower bracket. There’s really no way to end up making less money than before.

            For example (made up numbers):
            >$30,000 is taxed at 10%
            $30,001 – $50,000 is taxed at 20%
            $50,001 – $70,000 is taxed at 30%

            If you make $45,000, the first $30,000 is taxed and 10%, and the next $15,000 is taxed at 20%. If you got a raise to $55,000, only the $5,000 above $50,000 wuld be taxed at 30%

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        I hate this argument! My grandfather was an accountant and when my uncle was wondering about trying for a promotion for this reason he said, “even if the taxes go up, they will never take all of the increase.” Words to live by.

        Never turn down a raise because of a tax bracket. I mean, even if it were true you wouldn’t see it in your take home (this will never be the case, but for argument’s sake), you would absolutely see it in your gross income, along with your pre-tax withholding like your 401k. So, in that case, think of it as a boost to your retirement and preparation for your next pay increase, so when you ask for that next 5% raise in a year or so it’ll put you further into the new bracket and a real take home boost, rather than constant denial that keeps you bumping against the top of your current bracket with zero increase in compensation.

    4. Birdie*

      Re. #1 – Yeah, as someone who is barely functioning and hasn’t responded to any non-work texts, emails, or calls in weeks, I would definitely assume this has nothing to do with OP. And OP definitely should not call her sobbing about what she did wrong. If the boss is anything like me, she doesn’t have the emotional energy to deal with her own crap right now and definitely doesn’t need OP’s added to it.

      And honestly, the fact that OP is having that level of feeling over a former *boss* is a bit alarming to me. That’s an intensity of emotion I personally would be very uncomfortable with in a professional relationship. Right now, I think OP should focus on whatever her own hangups are instead of on reconnecting with her boss.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I was going to say the same thing. Like, this is a very intense reaction to have over someone who’s not family, a close friend, or a partner. I liked my last manager a lot, he was great, and though I was genuinely sad to see him move onto another team because we worked so well together (and I wrote here a couple of times in the open thread about how disappointed I felt that they transitioned him out before the end of the year), I wasn’t near tears over it.

        OP, is everything in your own personal life okay right now? Because this sounds like you may be upset by more than just this perceived ghosting, and maybe it would be helpful to really sit with yourself for a minute and unpack why you feel the way you do. We’re in the middle of the pandemic. And in addition to all the other really great possibilities Alison gave for why your former manager may not be responsive to you on a personal level right now – it’s possible she, or someone close to her, is sick and she just doesn’t have the energy to be bothered right now. Take a breather and give her some space.

        1. Well Then*

          Seconding this, and Birdie’s comment. Maybe OP’s own COVID/isolation stress is impacting how hard she’s taking this. I had a similar situation with a former supervisor (our close relationship evaporated after they left for a new job), so I do empathize. Being in a toxic workplace can really bond people, but once one person leaves, they might want more mental distance from the old job, or realize you don’t have enough in common to sustain a friendship anymore. Or, maybe the boss is just dealing with other stuff in her life. Whatever the case, it sounds like OP is overly invested in this relationship, and digging into why that is might help ease this hurt.

      2. King Friday XIII*

        I think OP might be having this reaction because she ties having this good reference to her ability to move to a non-dismal job; even in the Before Times I think it’d be normal (if unhelpful) to conflate the two.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yeah, having the person who’s possibly the lifeline for your whole career apparently ghosting you is terrifying.

          1. Daisy*

            But she’s not ghosting in a professional sense? OP emailed her on Friday evening and she replied on Monday to say she’d be a reference.

      3. c_g2*

        While I partially agree with you it seems like they did genuinely begin to build a relationship beyond work. The suggestions of rum drinking, stickers bit, etc — all reasonably suggest a potential friendship. I’m going to speculate a little bit here and say OP might feel a bit embarrased to be the one reaching out (and not getting responded to). It doesn’t mean former boss should bend over backwards to accomodate though.

    5. C M*

      Ugh, yes about #2. I learned the hard way when I was pretty young in my career. After announcing a plant closure and giving every employee except me an expected end date, management let me stew for a day about losing my job so when they offered a new position at the new plant I was desperate enough to accept it. It was a bait and switch anyway. As I got closer to my relocation date I realized that the job was very different than the one I accepted. Literally 3 days before I had to pull the trigger on the relocation process they officially removed that job and offered me a completely different one that was much worse (75% travel, different branch of the company). They were absolutely stringing me along the entire time and purposely timed it to pressure me into accepting. At that point I finally decided to cut my losses and search for jobs at different companies. At the time the experience was so upsetting, but in hindsight I dodged a huge bullet by them pushing me out of there.

    6. OP 2*

      Hi – OP 2 here. I was asked to join a Friday meeting and was told about my new position and title. It is a natural step up for me, so exciting (I’ll be running my current team and projects), but not like, mind blowing. Some people below thought management might have been little too excited and were treating the promotion like a shiny gift, rather than something I have agency to accept or negotiate. They are right. It wasn’t a great way to go about the process, and I need to push back a bit now and negotiate certain terms of the job. I’m also going to tell them that the promotion process needs to be formalized and leave space for the employee to say yes/no and negotiate. Thanks so much for commenting and your concern!

    7. BT*

      I was also once given a “surprise” promotion. It happened at my old company’s annual holiday party, where promotions were commonly announced (although it wasn’t common for the person involved not to know about it already).

      It turned out to be a way for one of my supervisors to offload some of the less pleasant management duties onto me that she didn’t want to do herself, and that I didn’t want to do either. And while technically the position was at a higher level at the company where I worked, I knew my new title would make it more difficult to find the kind of job I wanted elsewhere. (I went from “senior creative person” to “assistant management person.”) And, surprise, it didn’t come with a raise.

      Given the company’s culture, I doubt I could have negotiated a lot of changes even if I had known about all this in advance — but at least I could have asked for a raise. Part of the “surprise” was clearly to keep me from doing so.

  2. The Rat-Catcher*

    OP #3 – my DH quit a job with no notice. There were things going on there that were affecting his mental health and I had concerns like the ones you have. He had a new job in less than a month, and was able to find another job two years later with no issues. If this is an aberration, it will be a lot easier to recover from than a recurring pattern.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I really wish OP3 and their husband well. It’s so hard to quit a very stressful job with no plans but I hope it helps relieve a lot of your and his stress. <3

    2. Firecat*

      I also think OP 3 needs to reframe their goal from:

      “Explain his situation so his unreasonable boss understands”


      “Exit with the least damage and keep it vague”

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        Yeah. I mean, sure, go ahead and try for the medical or disability leave, it can’t hurt. But I do think, even if that works out and the manager isn’t a complete jerk about it, that Husband will not be all that happy when he comes back and will want to start looking for a new job pretty quick.

        Given what you’ve said here, it really does sound like if the medical leave works out it would likely result in him coming back to technically the same job, but with the worst projects, hours, and opportunities for advancement moving forward. Better to start getting the job hunting dicks in a row now and then you’re prepared however things play out. It is perfectly reasonable to tell anyone who asks that you had to leave due to a medical issue. Burnout and mental health issues ARE medical issues and you do not need to give any details other than that everything is fine now.

      1. JR*

        My maiden name is hyphenated so it doesn’t look good as a middle name, though in some settings I’ll use First (Maiden1-Maiden2) MarriedLast. On my resume, though, I have it as second line under my name, in parentheses, at the top of the page.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      If you want to be pedantic, née for a woman, and né for a man. :-)

      Using “formerly” would also work, (Valentina Warbleworth, formerly Prestcott). It would also cover things like reverting to your maiden name after divorce, as née literally means born.

      1. Roeslein*

        Thank you for this! My pet peeve is people using the word “fiancé” in the wrong gender. It creates so much confusion. As a native French speaker, if a guy writes “my fiancé”, I naturally assume that the soon-to-be-spouse is male (it´s fiancéE for a woman). Once a guy I worked with in a previous job was acting weird and I couldn’t figure out why until someone mentioned I had been referring to his partner as male (he had written something in an email about his fiancé and himself going on vacation, on something along those lines) but he was in fact straight. Nobody wants to misgender people, so please use the correct form!

        1. TechWorker*

          Probably also worth assuming that English speakers (well everyone really) can’t necessarily spell though :p

        2. Lady Heather*

          The most curious one I’ve seen is “fiancee” – referring to a man.

          Fiancer (to get engaged) -> past participle = fiancé -> French is gendered, il s’est fiancé, elle s’est fiancée.
          Naître (to be born) -> past participle = né -> French is gendered, il est né, elle est née.

          Though according to Wiktionary, fiance, fiancee and nee are all alternative spellings. (Ne is not listed.)

          1. RS*

            Well might that person be a shameless gold-digger? Because then that’s just a straightforward descriptive.

        3. LDN Layabout*

          English isn’t a language that uses genders though and it can be incredibly difficult to get your head around that if your native language is one that doesn’t.

          Mine does which made subsequently learning French and German a lot easier, while changing word endings based on word gender is what my stepmother (who put in A LOT of effort to learn a new language in her 40s) struggles most with.

          So as the word becomes more and more enshrined in the language it makes sense that the distinction between fiance and fiancee will be lost.

          1. allathian*

            Yes. I admit that as a formerly fluent French speaker, it jars me if fiancé is used to refer to a woman, but fiance without the accent doesn’t bother me nearly as much, mainly because the second e doesn’t change the pronunciation of the word. If you use the accent in English, it’s better to use the correct gendered form.

            Formerly is longer, but it’s easier because it applies to any name change. It doesn’t matter if you changed your name when you got married or reverted to your maiden name following a divorce, or even changed your name to a second married name following a subsequent marriage. It’s also gender-neutral, so it can easily be used to refer to a deadname if you’ve transitioned. Otherwise, which gender should the né(e) reflect, the birth gender, which is reflected in the deadname, or the reassigned gender? My guess is the former, as in “Joanne Warbleworth, né John Warbleworth”.

        4. Thankful for AAM*

          In English, using gendered versions (fiance, fiancee – and I did not bother finding the code for the accent) is falling out of favor.

          “Because English doesn’t have word endings that connote gender, differentiating between the male and the female betrothed seems unnecessary to modern English speakers. Especially given the increased social awareness of non-binary gender issues, the difference between fiancé and fiancée feels a bit old-fashioned and out-of-date.

          For those who don’t want to choose between the terms, there appears to be a growing trend toward using fiancé as the gender-neutral form for both a man and a woman.”

          1. Doc in a Box*

            See, I have an issue with using the masculine form as the gender-neutral default.

            Fiance (without the accent) feels like a loanword from French into English.
            Fiancé (with the accent) for a woman is either lazy or intentional misgendering.

            I learned French in the 1990s when we weren’t as great as we should have been about pronouns and gender identity, so I’m not sure what French speakers use for non-binary people. In Spanish I’ve seen the @ symbol as it sort of combines “o” (typical masculine ending) and “a” (typical feminine ending).

            1. Anne Elliot*

              But “fiance” without the accent would not in English normally be pronounced “fee-ahn-SAY,” it would be pronounced like “finance” within the second “n” — “FI-ans,” or “FEE-ans.” I think people add the accent to reflect the pronunciation, just like some people in English will add the accent to the second “e” in resume (“reh-zoo-MAY”) because otherwise it’s pronounced reh-ZOOM. My understanding is that in French that word should take accents over BOTH “e”s, but most English-speakers don’t do that because they don’t know that, just like they don’t know about the proper French endings for fiance. So you might want to acquit people of laziness or intentional misgendering, when it seems to me just as likely they are adding the ending to try to maintain/reflect the pronunciation of the word, but they just don’t know how to do it corrrectly.

              The lack of accents in this post are not a reflection of my position on this; I don’t know how to make them appear while posting.

          2. Roeslein*

            But then you could just… use a non-gendered word instead, like, say, “betrothed”? What you suggest is essentially the equivalent “let’s just use the word husband as the gender-neutral form to describe all spouses and too bad if that means people are misgendered”, which doesn’t seem a good solution. Anyway, sorry for derailing.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              I think if you used the word “betrothed” in earnest in a conversation people would think you were pretty odd. At least where I live that word is exceedingly outdated and is only used ironically.

          3. GothicBee*

            I have a degree in English and before this conversation I genuinely would have assumed “executrix” was some kind of weird typo (or assume it’s some kind of dominatrix-related term and thus been hesitant to use Google).

            Anyway, in my experience most people will be more likely to assume you’re sexist if you insist on using gendered terms instead of a neutral version rather than the other way around.

        5. .Sam.*

          For what it’s worth, I’m American and where I grew up, I did not know anyone who paid attention to or cared about a gendered difference in fiancé/fiancée and I observed both spellings used indiscriminately. Depending on where you live now, that’s a pet peeve I would strongly recommend you try to get over. Or feel free to continue being internally annoyed, but I would stop assuming you can draw a conclusion about gender based on how someone spells the word.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*


            Be annoyed that English-speaking people don’t know how to use the French word correctly all that you want, but if you already know that it’s an extremely common mistake and you continue to choose to assume the gender of people’s partners based on which form they use anyway… then at that point any miscommunication is definitely on you.

          2. Myrin*

            To be fair, Roeslein says she’s a native French speaker, so the “-ée” ending for female and “-é” ending for male is probably very entrenched in her in a way that’ll just automatically make her think a “fiancé” is a man unless she actively stops and thinks about it (just like I will forever pronunce “Motörhead” not like “motor” but with an actual “ö” sound or cringe at English-speakers saying “umlauts” although I know rationally that there’s no way someone who doesn’t know German will know its correct form) – but I totally agree with your general points.

            (And if I can be meta for a moment, if I remember correctly, Roeslein currently lives in Germany where she naturally wouldn’t encounter that word at work anyway, unless she works with English-speaking coworkers.)

          3. Mel_05*

            Yeah, I learned that there was a difference… today. Almost no Americans are making a gender distinction based on how they spell the word. It’s just how they were taught to spell it.

      2. buzzkill*

        I prefer “formerly” to “maiden” in all cases. There’s no reason that a name change has to be gendered and somewhat infantalizing.

      3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Agricola (m) and Manus (f). Agricola vetus (the old farmer) and manus dextra sinistraque (right and left hands). Those are Latin, but they’re examples of the same phenomenon. I wish I could offer Greek ones.

        The Italian neuters are marked by the -a plural, which they inherited from their Latin roots. It’s a different phenomenon.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Removed a 50+ comment thread here about language that had nothing to do with the OP’s question, and closing this subthread. Regulars, please don’t do this — it makes a lot more work for me (and drives other people out of the comment section).

    2. BonzaSonza*

      Yes, I came here to say this also.

      The use of née is perfectly acceptable and conveys the name change very concisely.

    3. Environmental Compliance*

      When I got married, I put Environmental (Regulator) Compliance in my emails for a while. Seemed like most people understood.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I think this use of parentheticals is much more common than using née. Née looks like it belongs on the society pages of the newspaper, not someone’s resume.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          IIRC, it got brought up in a TA group beforehand, and we somewhat all agreed that you don’t really see “née” anywhere anymore. It was much more common in our very international mixed group to see the parentheticals. *shrug*

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      yes, I don’t understand why Alison didn’t suggest that. Of course you can’t tell at what point Prescott gave way to Warbleworth there.

      Another solution is for OP5 to simply keep her maiden name for business and her married name just for social and admin stuff. I wouldn’t even take my husband’s name socially if ever I had to get married, and no way would I ever change it for work. I’m pretty well known with my name and I wouldn’t want that to change. I have a distinctively English name (living in France), and that’s the way I want it since I translate into English, it sounds like I’m the Real Thing.

  3. D3*

    #1 – it takes energy to be a beacon. Sounds like she’s out of energy, especially since she’s no longer paid to manage you and has a new job to devote her energy to. And, you know, the entire world is exhausting right now, too. Let your beacon be a little dimmer for a while.
    #2 – hate to break it to you, but there is no promotion. They’re planning to publicly surprise you with something superficially like a promotion, in a situation where you can’t say now without looking bad. Kind of like the guy who publicly proposes on the Jumbotron to ensure a yes.
    #3 – I think Alison’s advice is good. Don’t really have anything to add but I hope you and your husband are able to get what you need to recover.

    1. Tau*

      Re #2 – I was going to mention this – the fact that they apparently want to make this a surprise announcement is setting all my warning bells ringing. Because you know what surprise announcements in front of groups of people are excellent for? Twisting someone’s arm into going along with something they don’t actually want. Because there’s no good way to protest at the time of the announcement, and if you try to protest afterwards it’ll be “but we already told everyone/filled out all the paperwork/etc.”

      Like, maybe there is a real promotion and they’re just being oblivious as to what kind of pressure tactic this is, but in your place I’d absolutely want to get the details ASAP.

      1. Rez123*

        #2 my first thought was Carrie at the prom but that might be taking it a step too far. But yeah, promotion should be different not just announced. Bad vibes.

      2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        Absolutely this. I’d keep looking for that new job because it really sounds like a pressure tactic. I can’t think of a single time when someone wouldn’t tell me about something but kept saying “trust me, you’ll love it!” and it wasn’t something I did not like at all.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          One time I was told that something lovely would be happening on [date]. Eventually the person was pressured into giving me actual details. We would be flying transatlantic for a weekend away.

          Now, that’s a lovely thing. But it’s lovely if you know in advance so you can (1) get the cat looked after and (2) make sure you have appropriate clothing/footwear for NYC in August and (3) look up the details of things you’d always wanted to see, so you don’t miss out based on opening hours, etc.

          I really, really hate surprises though.

          1. allathian*

            Me too! That’s why I’m glad surprise birthday parties are not a thing in my culture, and hosting your own celebration is a normal thing to do.

            A friend of mine got married about 20 years ago. They went on their honeymoon straight from the reception. He had planned everything and only told her in general terms what to pack for the trip. She only discovered the destination at the airport. She loved it and thought it was very romantic, but if my husband had pulled a stunt like that, I would have applied for an annulment the day after the wedding. Well, maybe not, but I might’ve spent most of the honeymoon in a petulant sulk… Fortunately for us both, he knows me well enough that the risk of him doing something like that is non-existent.

            1. Derjungerludendorff*

              Yeah, that sort of suprise is only a good idea if you have their explicit approval to do something suprising for them.

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                And a great deal of trust – my husband planned out our honeymoon with me only asking that it was someplace warm and on the ocean. He set it up, made sure passports etc were good, I didn’t do any of the planning. (Fair was fair, I did the wedding majority). I did find out beforehand where we were going, but he is probably the only person that I trust to do something like this.

                My parents have joked about a surprise family vacation, and I have absolutely refused to take part. I have no interest in hostage situations, thanks.

                1. wanda*

                  I teach college students, and I had a college student once ask to not take a required exam because his parents had paid for a surprise trip to Japan for two weeks in the middle of the semester. This was a gateway course for his major that was routinely over-enrolled, and some students had to wait for more than a year to take it, so he couldn’t just drop the course and try again. What I wanted to say, but didn’t, was that his parents weren’t actually doing him any favors…

                2. Evan Þ.*

                  @wanda, I’m feeling sorry for that student. What happened with him in the end – did he go on the trip?

            2. MK*

              Eh, these kind of surprises only work if they are not hugely surprising. I mean, if someone tells me they are taking me for a trip in Europe, but not exactly where, it would probably be fine if it’s a standard vacation in a major city/tourist area, I can handlenot knowing whether we are going to Vienna or London as long as I am given an idea about the weather. But if they have something more extra in mind, like a train ride from Paris to Istanbul or a waking tour of the Scottish Highlands, it’s a bad idea to make a surprise, because I might not like it or want to prepare.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                A waking tour sounds rather like there’ll be someone going all “hey jolly holidaymakers, time to get up”, at 5 effing am…

              1. NotAnotherManager!*


                Nearly any sort of surprise would be highly anxiety-producing for me. The only surprises I recall not being stressed out by were my boss giving me a surprise bonus or a higher-than-expected raise. A surprise party or surprise trip are stuff of nightmares.

                Surprises are a know-your-audience thing.

            3. Zoe Karvounopsina*

              My father tried to keep their honeymoon destination a surprise, but a) told my mother’s maid of honour to my mother could be sure to have packed correctly*, and b) told a friend of his who forgot it was supposed to be a secret and said to my mother “Aren’t you looking forward to going to Mexico?”

              *She also drove them to the airport, took one look at my father’s single tiny bag for two weeks in Mexico, turned to my mother and said “It’s not too late for an annulment.”

          2. Washi*

            Yes, it really sounds like they are planning a surprise birthday party or something! And it could definitely be a pressure tactic, but I could also see it being a group of super clueless people (like your friend haha) who are thinking more about how the big reveal will be fun for them and not so much about how stressful it is for the other person who is just trying to get a WORK promotion.

            1. Artemesia*

              I am thinking the ‘promotion’ is a condescending title that carries no real upward mobility or real money with it.

      3. Sylvan*

        Oooh no. I mean, I agree with you, I just hadn’t put it together: I thought they were using a surprise announcement because they just have very bad judgment.

    2. Shirley Keeldar*

      “It takes energy to be a beacon.” This is very wise! I know some people like this; they burn so brightly and are so charismatic that everyone adores them, but they can get worn out and need to step back–and that can be quite hurtful for the adorers, but it’s only self-preservation.

    3. OP 2*

      Hi – I was informed on Friday that I’ll be moving up to run my team. The process was not great, and I definitely will flag that. I think that management was genuinely excited that I got to move beyond the BS of the past years and were treating this like an amazing gift (they expressed gratitude that I had stuck around through everything and that this new position was a long time coming). Unfortunately, that wasn’t the most professional way to go about it.

      1. Firecat*

        Oof. I mean, there is a lot of prep work to be prepared to lead former peers. A big surprise is not the way to go….

  4. Nita*

    #1 – I’m sure Sharon was a great boss, but it’s very common for people to become more distant when they move on to a new job. It’s not personal. It’s just that work is work, and even people who get along great professionally don’t necessarily want to become best friends outside of it. Don’t take it personally. Don’t analyze her silence under a microscope. Don’t assume it’s something you did wrong. Maybe she’s swamped at work, or stressed in general, or saving her free time for family or just “me time”. Give her space to move on to a new chapter in her life. Maybe reach out again over the holidays. You’re probably also stressed from isolation and from your work environment. Hopefully this will pass sooner rather than later, and things will be better for you, whether or not you and Sharon stay in touch.

    1. Viette*

      Seriously. Most likely Sharon is just… busy. It feels like a slight — how could she be too busy for me at her new job?? — but she has a whole new job to learn and do. It’s like when you’re in high school and your friend goes to college and suddenly they have a whole new life without you! But that’s how it goes sometimes.

      It’s worth noting that Sharon HAS in fact stepped up to do the professional things, like be a reference and keep her contact information updated. She was closer to you right after she left, and now she’s fully into a new job and she has a lot to do there. Maybe something bad’s happening with her or maybe she’s literally just moved on.

      Also, honestly, the LW sounds so much more emotional about this than is warranted by these fairly average events. “I am absolutely bereft…it’s tough typing this out right now and not calling her sobbing asking what I did wrong,” is not a normal response to a former boss being preoccupied with her new job but still keeping in professional contact.

        1. Jenkins*

          Same here. OP, you seem to be rather emotional about this relationship. Sharon might be picking up on those vibes and its making her uncomfortable. Leave the ball in her court.

        2. Batty Twerp*

          And me. I’ll be honest, it comes across as LW thinking of Sharon as a Beacon, and more LW using Sharon as a Crutch – a coping mechanism for dealing with an unhappy workplace (refusing a promotion to keep working for her probably signalled a lack of career ambition; saying LW reminds her of a dark time in her work life comes across as projecting LW’s discontent there – just because Sharon moved on (and both LW and her coworker cried?!) doesn’t automatically mean she left because she was unhappy; she could have been offered a can’t-turn-it-down opportunity)
          I’ve reread the letter a few times now, and the glowing positive words used to describe Sharon shout that this almost crosses a fuzzy little line between awesome boss into hero worship. Sharon can do no wrong, she’s perfect, my BFF. And she’s just taken a pretty big tumble from that pedestal. That might not have been the intention, but that’s how some of the language choice comes across.

          1. Miss Demeanor*

            Agree. Now, I could be projecting my own experience, so OP 1, please forgive if this isn’t a similar enough story-

            I had a peer essentially “adopt” me as their mentor-type figure. They’re lovely, but it was exhausting since I hadn’t opted into the relationship and they’re an intense and demonstrative person by nature. There was a lot of hero-worship and it made me SO uncomfortable, but I would’ve felt bad pushing back since… well, they were sweet! And excited! And meant well! Pre-COVID, I would see or speak with them twice a month or so, and I always had to go some extra energy-gathering because of how one-sided it felt. During COVID… I’m not proud to say I did the slow ghost. I really, really couldn’t manage what they needed and keep myself going.

            OP, give her space. Give her so much space. I am struggling to keep in touch with my chosen professional group, and she might be in the same boat. But if your need for her is made obvious through email- and they’re intense, frequent and lengthy- she might need a reset button in the relationship for a little. She’s no longer your boss, so the social contract you two have has to be opt-in on both sides. Good luck, and I hope the two of you can maintain something that works long-term.

          2. Disco Janet*

            I agree. It is a bit alarming that OP referred to her as “flawless-” no one is flawless! She is human as you are too. Let her be a flawed human, and do some things to take care of yourself.

          3. Paulina*

            Yes, the level of attachment seems unhealthy. Not just at the OP’s instigation, though, since Sharon encouraged the OP to turn down the internal promotion opportunity in order to stay working for Sharon. Depending on how long after this Sharon moved on, there could be some feelings of guilt there. Anyway, it’s very common for people to think they’ll have more time and attention for maintaining past connections than it turns out they actually do, and it’s important to move on from the dependency even when you’re the one “left behind.”

        3. Amaranth*

          +1 I think OP needs to maybe take a deep breath and look at their own stress levels and reach out to personal connections if they are devastated by the potential loss of a mostly professional relationship, even one that looks like it might turn into a good friendship. 2020 has been a bear for most people, but if your old boss is Dealing With Things she might not have a lot of emotional energy for starting new friendships. You might keep that in mind when you check back in a few months, and make sure you’re dialing back on the intensity.

        4. justabot*

          I think maybe that’s the emotion after feeling “ghosted” – that confusion, anxiety, paranoia, sadness, and hurt and trying to figure out a “reason” with no answers can send people into a tailspin. Except in this case, the former boss didn’t really ghost, she did respond regarding references.

          She likely just does not have time or emotional bandwidth or desire to carry on a personal friendship with a former employee/colleague right now. Hang on to your dignity and do not call asking what you did wrong. Your paths may cross at some point again in the future. Give her the space she is showing she wants.

          But I do understand that feeling of hurt and desperation to know if there was some “reason” that made her abruptly change her mind, and it does feel unsettling. And I think the brain associates ghosting/social rejection with all the things that make us feel bad so it’s normal to want reassurance that all is okay and to make that “bad” feeling go away. But don’t contact her again unless it’s in a genuine work contact/reference.

      1. Roeslein*

        I find it sad that sensitive people of either gender (but especially women) are so quickly labelled “emotional” just for caring. The commentariat here tends quite biased towards keeping work and life separate, but in my 10 years of professional experience the line has rarely been so clear. I suppose that if someone has been living in the same place for a long time, it’s easy to forget that many people have had to move around multiple times for jobs and may not have a strong social circle anywhere (and it’s nearly impossible to meet new people at the moment), and/or have a young family and no time or opportunity to go out / engage in hobbies with others, so work is the centre of their social life. I am in both of those situations – I have lived in 5 countries in the past 10 years and have a toddler. If my best work friend and mentor (who essentially got me my current job) just ghosted me without explanation, I would be really upset too, especially in the current circumstances, when many of us are struggling with loneliness and social isolation. I don’t have many friends and I would worry that something has happened to them. So yes, I think it *is* a normal response in some situations and for some people. I would not behave inappropriately because of it, but neither is the LW.

        1. Anonys*

          I agree that obviously people spend a LOT of time at work and many work relationship are also personal, not everyone knows many people outside of work and that from an outside view (which we as the commentariat of course have) it’s much easier to say “keep it separate and make other friends”. But with regards to direct managers, I do think a certain distance needs to be kept, for all the reasons Alison has outlined here before.

          I do think the emotionality OP displays goes beyond “caring”. Considering this was her boss, and not her “best work friend”, I do find that kind of worrying. I mean, you can have a warm relationship with your boss and you can certainly become friends once they are no longer your boss. But it sounds like they have only texted so far and not really enough time has passed to build a solid friendship that would warrant this level of emotional investment. It seems like while working together OP was already way to invested in the boss, turning down promotions to stay with her and such. Also, the level of detail OP goes into regarding their texting and making plans reminds me more of someone describing communications with a crush than a professional relationship turned friendly.

          Also, the fact that OP looks at the performance reviews as a sort of “we were close, why is she abandoning me like that” worries me, because glowing performance reviews truly indicate nothing but a good professional relationship (which the formed boss is keeping intact).

          I’m not saying this to be hard on OP, there are so many potential reasons for their emotional response: loneliness of Covid times, the toxicity of OP’s workplace might make her project some things on her boss, etc. So I’m not judging OP for that but I do think the emotional response is not proportionate and I think OP should talk to a good friend (or therapist) about their feelings (regarding the boss, the workplace and quarantine, etc) and probably for their own good try to take a step away from the relationship with the former boss.

        2. MK*

          Except the OP makes no claim that Sharon was her best work friend and mentor, or that they ever even interacted much outside work. And mu experience with having to move around a lot for work is that, just as you don’t develop string social circles, you aren’t likely to develop strong friendships with coworkers either, the kind that is likely to last after changing jobs. And it takes two people to have any kind of relationship, you can’t just decide your ex-boss is a friend now and act as if their not behaving like one is an inexplicable mystery and that it’s reasonable to consider it an abandonment that has broken your heart.

          If Sharon was a good boss, she probably wasn’t friends with the OP before (I find the congratulations via letter an indication that they weren’t that close). After that, Sharon agreed to go out for drinks, which might have been the beginning of a friendship or maybe not, and she had some casual contact via text with the OP (I wonder who was mainly initiating this). She canceled and isn’t making more contact. So, whatever your stance on work friendships, I do think the OP’s reaction is unwarranted in the context of the actual relationship they had, or rather didn’t have, with Sharon. It’s not the case that Sharon is pulling out of an existing friendship, it’s that she isn’t prioritizing forming a new non-work relationship with the OP. I do wonder if maybe she considered the rum drinking a goodbye party, after which they would have minimal interaction, and would be surprised to learn the OP is expecting more from her.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            This makes sense, particularly since she appears to be making the right noises regarding the professional part of the relationship, and only being quiet on the social part.

          2. Roeslein*

            That’s a fair point – I guess the tone of the letter made me assume the two were close, but upon re-reading the actual words it does seem to have been a good professional relationship rather than a deep friendship (you’re right that you don’t email a congratulatory note to your BFF). I guess I’m struggling a little with the social isolation at the moment (I moved here for my husband’s job two years ago, and let’s say that not being able to travel to see friends – former coworkers or otherwise – and family for over 9 months didn’t factor in our decision-making at the time) and was projecting a bit!

          3. Thistle Whistle*

            If the boss encouraged the LW to turn down a promotion opportunity to keep the LW with her then I’m not so sure that the boss was a shining beacon of light to start with.

              1. Batty Twerp*

                I had two reads on just this bit and it comes down to woolly language use again.
                I assumed it meant that Sharon knew about and encouraged LW *positively* in relation to the internal promotion, since, as one of the other letters indicated, it shouldn’t have been out of the blue being *offered* the position – generally, if another team is poaching one of your staff, it’s considered bare minimum etiquette for the current supervisor to know beforehand! For it to then get to LW’s acceptance/rejection doesn’t lead me to think Sharon wanted to stop the transfer.
                I suppose the other scenario is that LW applied for promotion and then Sharon discouraged her from persuing it, leading to ultimate rejection? But that’s the language choice – encourage vs discourage – and that’s where I’m not so sure.

                1. Roeslein*

                  “she was a glowing beacon I turned down an internal promotion to continue working directly for, which she knew/encouraged” – to me that sounds like Sharon *was aware* that the LW had rejected a promotion in order to keep working for her, not necessarily like she had actively *asked* the LW to do so. “Encouraged” could just mean that Sharon said “it’s great to have you in the team” or whatever. And perhaps Sharon could have reminded the LW that “nothing lasts forever” if she was already on her way out, but perhaps she wasn’t even thinking of leaving at the time and was recruited into her new role. In any case it doesn’t seem fair to blame Sharon unless this literally happened the day before she gave notice.

            1. MK*

              Generally, I would agree, but there might be more to it, if, say, the promotion would put the OP under an abusive manager and Sharon knew it. Or there might be less to it; the OP says she “knew/encouraged” refusing the promotion, which makes me wonder what actually went down.

          4. Thankful for AAM*

            Great points from MK.
            Also, about the emotional part of the OP’s reaction. I wonder if the OP is reacting to the stress of the toxic work environment she has been left in. The OP is not saying, “how could Sharon leave me in this place for a cool new job,” but the OP said the place is dismal and is sort of implying that she and the coworker who cried have been left behind. Even suggesting that being friends would remind Sharon of a dark time in her past. I think it is helpful to give feedback that we are seeing more emotion than we expected but we should be kind and realize it like has its roots in the way toxic work spaces can have an impact on us.

            1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

              This is an insightful point. Something that might be difficult for OP to gauge is the extent to which her relationship with Sharon relied on being “buddies in bad times”. In my experience, it’s common to have work friendships appear to take root more quickly and strongly when you’re collectively dealing with a toxic workplace. The problem is, though, that once at least one of you is in a better place, it becomes clear that the closeness of your relationship was mostly fed by the situation you were in.

        3. EventPlannerGal*

          I think the language and tone of the letter is rather more than “just caring”, though. I actually also am usually a lot more pro-work friendships than this blog tends to skew but this OP seems invested to a level that goes beyond that. The tone is more like someone describing a romantic breakup than not hearing back from a former boss – “absolutely bereft”? I completely understand forming close work relationships but I think this OP should maybe try to take a step back emotionally, if only for their own peace of mind.

          1. PVR*

            I agree. I think the former boss may also be picking up on those vibes as well. It takes a lot of energy to mitigate that which she may not have at the moment. Or, those vibes are making her feel uncomfortable. She did reset the relationship in a rather drastic way which leads me to believe she feels uncomfortable. She did not respond to OP about being a reference until OP reached out to her work email and then requested that she be contacted at her place of work. It could be a missed text, or that she switched to an Android phone… but something tells me it’s more than that.

          2. Ethyl*

            Not just the language, but over-analyzing whether the texts were going through as iMesssage or texts, is extremely intense. I think maybe Sharon is picking up on the intensity and is trying to re-assert some professional boundaries. Agree that LW needs to take a step back and take care of their own mental health for a bit.

            1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

              Yeah that part really jumped out to me too. There are SO MANY reasons for a text to come through as a text rather than iMessage. Just a few off the top of my head: got a new non-Apple phone; recently moved and didn’t yet have internet connected; the message came through at a moment when she happened to be somewhere with no internet connection (such as camping/in a subway tunnel/on an airplane); in the hospital with COVID. It’s odd that her mind jumps to “I’ve been blocked and she hates me and is abandoning me.” I’m very sympathetic to the intensity of friendships formed at work, especially when it’s in a toxic environment, but I think it would be really healthy for the OP to take a few steps back from pursuing this friendship and lean on her existing network of support, whatever that looks like.

        4. Jennifer*

          Good points. It seems that the OP was given reason to think they were friends. If Sharon doesn’t want to be friendly, she should have just been honest and said she didn’t have the bandwidth for a new friendship at the moment and didn’t have time to do the reference. Just ghosting someone is rude.

          Losing a friendship can hurt more than a romantic breakup sometimes.

          1. MK*

            Agreeing to go out for drinks with former coworkers and then canceling and not rescheduling, plus casual texting about stickers, is not a friendship, or even a sign that you want to be friendly.

          2. Daisy*

            Sharon replied to the reference email very quickly and said she WOULD be a reference. I think you’ve misread that part. She isn’t ghosting on the professional relationship.

          3. allathian*

            Oh, I don’t know. Sharon probably thought there was no reason not to be a reference. That’s what people who have a professional relationship do.
            The thing is, there was no friendship, at least not on Sharon’s side. It was all in the LW’s head.

        5. Traffic_Spiral*

          “I find it sad that sensitive people of either gender (but especially women) are so quickly labelled “emotional” just for caring.”

          I’m sorry, but all I can think of is Craig from Parks and Rec: “I have a medical condition all right, it’s called CARING TOO MUCH!”

          Your boss is sorta obligated to look out for you at work – kinda like a babysitter. However, like the babysitter, they rarely stick around to hang out with you once they aren’t paid to do so – even if they liked you. There’s nothing to imply they previously had a friendship outside of work hours, so there’s really no call for this kind of behavior.

          1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            Your babysitter analogy perfectly sums up why some people are cautious about work friendships, especially when there’s a reporting relationship involved. There’s always going to be a degree of professional obligation that makes it difficult to gauge whether a friendship can stand on its own two feet.

      2. Still anon*

        I agree. I’m tired and a little uncomfortable reading the letter. I don’t think I’d want to be the subject.

      3. restingbutchface*

        Describing Sharon as flawless was a red flag for me. Nobody is flawless and that kind of pedestal thinking is dehumanising.

        OP, wish Sharon well (mentally!) and use what she taught you to be amazing. She’s done enough for you, let her go. Clinging on isn’t good for either of you.

    2. Language Lover*

      I agree. It could be something going on with Sharon’s life. It could be that we’re all in a stressful COVID situation.

      But given the scenario described, I don’t think that either of those are the most likely reasons to explain what is a rather common occurrence. We bond with coworkers. We understand when they share their frustrations about the workplace, speak the language of the workplace and make jokes about the workplace. And when we leave, our bond sometimes is still stronger with what we left behind than our new place of work.

      But then we get into a groove at our new job. We start bonding with those coworkers, develop shorthand with them and share jokes that would only be funny to those coworkers.

      Old workplace bonds feel more like a thing of the past. Solid work relationships become purely professional references and people you might be happy to have lunch with at a conference. The urgency to maintain something more than that often goes away with distance.

      Not always but quite often.

      However, the person who does seem overly stressed out right now is the LW. The reaction LW1 seems to be experiencing is a lot for a workplace relationship. It might be worth spending more time looking at why that is and trying to find ways to cope rather than trying to guess what’s going on in Sharon’s life.

      1. londonedit*

        Absolutely. When I was in a stressful work environment, there was a group of us who really clung together for support. We’d go for drinks after work and vent about the latest crazy goings-on, we’d give each other advice about work and life…we knew all the details of each other’s trials and tribulations. When I left, we swore up and down we’d keep in touch and be friends outside of work. We did manage to meet up for one evening soon after I’d started my new job, but then…nothing since, and it’s now been years. I was busy getting to grips with my new role, they were busy at the old place, another one of them then left the old company a few months later…and it turned out that without the unifying madness of our former workplace, we didn’t really have anything to hold us together as friends. I think it’s very common for that to happen.

        1. Leavers view*

          Yep, had it happen too.

          I think if the group is a happy one and then if someone leaves then they are more likely to stay in touch. However if its really more of a support group then its harder to stay attached, on both sides. At the extreme end of the scale the ones left can resent the leaver getting new opportunities and a happier life and the leavers can find the old complaints and negativity draining them of the energy they need for their new job.

          1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            +1. I’ve been on all sides of this by now. What it’s taught me is that I really don’t want to use colleagues I’d like to be friends with as commiseration buddies at work.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, this. I’ve had good relationships with the vast majority of the people I’ve ever worked with. When I was young and single, I had much closer work friendships with my coworkers than I do now. Even so, I haven’t kept in touch with a single one of them. If I were to change jobs now, I’d be happy to talk to my closest coworkers at our annual training seminars and maybe meet them for lunch sometimes, but that’s about it.

        But then, I’m an introvert and I have the spoons to maintain only a very limited number of friendships outside of my immediate family circle. I’m a chatty introvert and I like talking to people, even if it drains me. But I can only do so much of it before it becomes a burden.

        1. MK*

          Even if you don’t lose touch, it’s almost always a casual relationship. I have kept in touch with at least one person from each of my previous positions, sometimes multiple people, but I haven’t made elaborate plans to see them during a global pandemic.

          1. allathian*

            No, definitely not during a global pandemic. I haven’t even seen my closest friend for months, and while we aren’t in lockdown, I really don’t like to wear a mask (I feel like I can’t breathe and my anxiety spikes). I will do so to protect other people (and myself), but I don’t do things that aren’t absolutely essential. My only exception to this is getting my facial hair removed every two months or so, because I’ve found that it’s so beneficial to my mental health. No mask then, obviously, but as this is the only risk I’m taking and I’m otherwise pretty much quarantining, I’ll keep on doing it. My beautician wears a mask and a shield to protect herself and me.

        2. Thistle Whistle*

          There is a modern phenomena in tv/books/film/print that people stay friends for life, through thick and thin. Friendships change over time, they wax and wane. And work friendships aren’t full friendships generally.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            As one of my friends once told me, when I was complaining about someone who wouldn’t let go, “obligation is not a reason to continue a friendship.” (Hilariously, I am no longer friends with her either.)

      3. Washi*

        I agree. Maybe something is happening in Sharon’s life, but also, this might have eventually happened regardless.

        I really feel for the OP because I had an intense job where when my amazing boss left, I did feel bereft. She was so awesome – smart, funny, driven, organized – and we really got each other and worked amazingly well together professionally. It was only when she left and I felt so down and missed her so much that I realized that she was basically the only thing I liked about that job, and I actually needed to leave too.

        OP, what you’re feeling is normal. It’s sad and hard when our favorite coworkers leave, and it’s ok to miss them. But from now on, you have a new relationship, and you have to read the signals of the new relationship. For now, don’t contact Sharon. If she wants to reconnect, she knows how to find you! Focus on your own life and finding satisfaction in a new job, and if she shows up again, it will be a happy surprise.

      4. Mother of Cats*

        Well said. Sharon may just be moving on. And she may need to for her mental health’s sake. It sounds like LW1’s workplace is pretty awful, and Sharon may have realized that staying connected to former coworkers isn’t good for her.

      5. Koalafied*

        Yes, I’ve always had a couple of close work-friends at each of my jobs, and many of them I still exchange the occasional like or comment on Facebook with, but the only coworker from a previous job that I ever see in person is one who happened to also be part of my broader social circle outside of work (we had mutual friends from activism/volunteer work). And these days, going on 10 years since I left that job, it’s only about 3 times a year when someone in our circle throws a party, because he doesn’t live in my immediate area and has a wife and kids that keep him busy. We worked together in an office of 4 total people and were very close during that time, but life went on for both of us after we left that place and carried us in different directions.

      6. Diahann Carroll*

        Agree so much with this. I don’t keep in touch with any of the people I used to work with outside of the occasional email to see if they can be a reference for me for something. Otherwise, the thing that really bonded us in the first place (the job) is no longer apart of my life (and many of my former coworkers have moved on from my various workplaces as well), so the relationships naturally died out. It happens, and it’s not always personal. I wish my former work friends nothing but the best.

      7. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Absolutely. I’ve met up with old coworkers months after leaving a job, only to find out we didn’t have anything in common anymore when we couldn’t commiserate over the petty annoyances of the job. There’s only one former coworker I’m still in regular contact with, and that’s only because we both had babies around the same time and it gave us new common ground. I like her very much, we’re facebook friends and I comment on her husband’s posts, but we wouldn’t have a texting relationship if it wasn’t to talk about our kids.

    3. Gav*

      This. While your former boss looms large to you and is an important figure in your life, you need to accept the fact that you are simply not the same level of importance to her. And that is not a bad thing. She is not sitting around thinking negative things about you right now – you are not on her mind at all. This is normal and good; it would be weird if your old boss prioritized you above her other relationships. It sounds like she was a wonderful mentor and an inspiration. Please give her some space, know that she is not ghosting you but definitely has a lot of stuff going on in her life that has nothing to do with you.

    4. Sparkles McFadden*

      We never know what’s going on with other people. I doubt this has anything to do with the LW directly. We see everything thought the filter of our own lives. It’s almost impossible not to. I like to remind myself that most things in the world have very little to do with me.

      Former boss might not have enough in the tank to deal with an overly adoring former employee.

    5. OP#1*

      A lot of these comments were tough to read. I was short on context as Alison encouraged questions with <600 words to increase response/publication likelihood. Sharon and I were not friends outside of work, though we had met each others' moms. She asked me to not take the promotion and to stay with her. I am a small-picture person who needs help on career strategy, which Sharon helped me with (or so it seemed). Frankly as much as I was looking forward to an al fresco cocktail in September, I'm more surprised that it doesn't feel like I can rely on a glowing and responsive reference that I had been counting on during my job search. Emotions are high and while I appreciate Alison's moderate take, it looks like some of the language I used came off differently than I intended. Sharon is really fantastic and I hope we work together again someday. She encouraged me to go back to school to better position myself to climb up the ladder. When she had an internal offer she asked if I would come with her and I said yes. The director in our unit seemed to make her an offer to stay for a while, but I just heard an unsubstantiated rumor that someone filed a grievance about Sharon before she left. Wager most of us have worked with people who did not relish being held accountable for their actions, which I feel like could have happened here, but I don't know for sure. It's the type of office that provides managerial buy-in for major projects and then changes its mind down the road after hundreds of hours of work and where the customer is always right, even when the law says something different. I hope Sharon doesn't miss it at all, when we talked after she made the move it seemed like she was finally in charge of her own destiny more and it was a promotion, with another one coming in a year. I'm miserable at work, it remains extremely dysfunctional, my team-lead and I seem to speak different languages most of the time. Making it work for now and hoping to find something else soon, without any input from Sharon.

      1. MK*

        OP1, I am very confused by your comment. Your letter seems very focused on your personal interactions with Sharon, and it was not clear to me at least that she ended up not giving you the reference you asked for and that this was your main issue. But you said she agreed to give you a reference, so I am not sure what exactly happened there, or what it is that you are expecting from a “responsive” reference. However, I don’t think it is usual to give debriefings of your interview to your references and expect them to respond… how?

        I am thinking that you expected Sharon to continue being an active mentor to you, even though she is no longer your manager, while she saw that as part of her previous job and is scaling back to being a simple reference now that you don’t work together. Plus, as Alison pointed out, there might be stuff going on with her life you don’t know about*. You are making the right call in focusing on your own work and job search.

        *Not to be macabre, but the last professional contact who disappeared on me turned out to have a terminal illness.

        1. OP#1*

          I don’t think she’ll be contacted for a reference, which is something I included in my three-line debrief.
          I was really expecting to either get a drink or a response that she had some stuff going on and now is not a good time.

            1. Bluephone*

              Exactly. OP is putting a lot of work into a relationship that has changed and isn’t even a romantic relationship. Sharon has already agreed to provide a reference if asked. Sharon is busy with a new job. Sharon may have gotten a new phone number, or a non-apple smartphone, or a dumb phone, etc. I don’t know why someone would immediately jump to “she blocked me!!!” As their first thought.
              OP, I have been in your shoes when it comes to putting way too much stock into various relationships. Please take several steps back and leave Sharon alone. Stop obsessing over this.

          1. MK*

            Getting drinks after the job interview isn’t usually part of a reference OP. Especially with someone you never interacted outside of work before, and who canceled and didn’t reschedule the one time you did make plans to meet.

      2. Sunflower*

        OP, I wasn’t sure I read your letter correctly but this response appears to confirm it.

        What was the reasoning from Sharon on why she encouraged you not to take an internal promotion? On the surface, this reads as a red flag. Was there other things in the works or did Sharon simply not want to lose you? Are your feelings perhaps amplified since she encouraged this(it sounds like the main driver was keeping Sharon as your boss) and then left herself?

        This sucks. I really miss my boss from my last job and she doesn’t seem as interested in staying in touch as I am. I’ve run into her at a few functions and she’s always thrilled to run into me. I expect she’s just very busy keeping the sinking ship at my last job afloat so I try to be respectful of that.

        1. OP#1*

          Hi Sunflower, Sharon relayed the understanding that a colleague was getting promoted and I would inherit his portfolio which would have been a lot. She promised and kept her word on giving me some more responsibility on some projects and exploring some temporary assignments to dip my toe in budget before diving in. I don’t think she wanted to lose me, just like I didn’t want to lose her. There is always something else coming around the corner, but when she announced her departure I wondered if I’d made the right decision to stay. I’ll never know.

      3. Mel_05*

        I hope you’re able to find another job soon. Working at a bad job makes everything else seem worse/harder.

        I get being upset about not having or almost not having (hard to tell) a reference from her. Over the years I’ve had one reference die and another just disappear. That’s stressful, especially since they were some of my better references. It’s not weird to be shaken by that.

      4. Diahann Carroll*

        She asked me to not take the promotion and to stay with her.

        This was lousy of her to do, OP. Unless she knew you would be going to work for a lunatic that ran off half their department, a truly good manager would want their direct reports to grow and thrive in their careers – even if it means doing so away from them.

        Going forward, do not let someone hold you back in their career because they’ve gotten comfortable with you where you are. As you now see, when that person gets their own opportunity to progress, they’ll take it without any regard for you and your situation.

      5. Fern G.*

        I always ask my references if they will be a reference and they respond back with an affirmative. That’s it. Sometimes they might shoot me a message “hey! Company Y called for a reference, sounds promising, good luck!” …but nothing more.

        After someone agrees to be a reference, they won’t necessarily keep in constant contact as you job search. Why do you think she won’t give a good reference?

      6. Birdie*

        OP, I wouldn’t assume that you can’t still rely on a positive reference from Sharon. I have a former boss who is generally hard to contact for personal stuff, but she considers responding to references part of her professional responsibilities and always makes time for that (at least for former employees she likes, and it sounds like Sharon did appreciate you as a member of her team). My ex-boss and I are similar that way – when I’m overwhelmed, my mental health is garbage, etc., I will still follow through on work obligations as much as possible even if I’m completely out of contact, socially. I think it’s smart not to rely on Sharon entirely, but the fact that she replied promptly with her work number makes me think she might follow through on the reference itself (meaning JUST the conversation with the prospective employer). But I wouldn’t ask for more than that bare minimum right now.

        I’m living alone in quarantine, too, and it’s…rough (and that’s coming from someone who’s incredibly introverted and can easily spend a lot of time by myself). If social isolation is partly fueling this reaction, do you have other friends you can set up regular conversations with? One-off video calls are nice, but the standing weekly chat with a friend who also lives alone has been an absolute savior for both of us.

      7. Prof. Toebeans*

        Woah woah woah…”Sharon and I were not friends outside of work, though we had met each others’ moms.” OP…this has cemented my gut reaction that you are treating this like a romantic relationship. Meeting someone’s parents means absolutely nothing in the professional world these days.

    6. jph in the midlands*

      And if you get that new job (I hope you do!), that would also be an appropriate reason to contact her. I am sure she would love to hear your good news.

  5. Raine*

    #2 – A promotion should come with a list of expectations and responsibilities. Not having that spelled out ahead of time means someone is setting you up to fail – and maybe it’s not maliciously so, but still. You need that defined along with your compensation and title. A promotion should never be like, “Surprise! I brought you flowers from the farmer’s market! And oh, by the way, would you please make sure to send me your TP reports in triplicate going forward? You’re in charge of them now.”

    1. mgguy*

      To be fair, I did get a promotion/title change/pay raise once kind of out of the blue(boss-“Can you come to my office right now” at 3:00 on Friday afternoon to be handed a print-out of an email and offered a handshake) that I’d been advocating for(for two years) that didn’t come with any new duties. In that case, though, the new job description just reflected a bunch of duties that I’d taken on as other people had retired and not been replaced, or never gave up after a vacancy was filled because the person hired couldn’t do that particular job. Of course, it helped that about a month prior, my boss had asked all of his reports for an itemized list of every single thing they were doing. I thought at the time it was just a “lay of the land” survey as he’d only been there a few months at that point, but it turned out he was actually comparing peoples duties to their job descriptions, and went to bat HARD for two of us who were going well beyond our job descriptions(our “secretary” who did a lot more than that also got very well deserved a title bump and went from $15/hr to $21/hr that she’d deserved years before, while I went from $20/hr to the salaried equivalent of $25).

    2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

      Hard agree that they *should* have that list, but in my experience they often don’t. The promotion before last was also a surprise department shift, and it took a solid year of me asking “But what does the Llama Analysis team *do*?” before I got a job description. My most recent promotion I found out about in a team reorganization email (“…and congrats to our new Senior Aesthetic Analysis Specialist!”), and had to corner my manager to figure out what I was doing now and what I was getting paid.

      1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        And for what it’s worth, in my case the surprise promotion ended up being fine, with compensation in line with market rate or maybe a little higher. It was a symptom of company-wide communication issues and a boss with a slight theatrical bent, rather than trying anything more manipulative. Still no clear expectations or responsibilities, though – we make it up as we go along, apparently!

    3. HR Exec Popping In*

      While the company is clearly not handling the communication on this well, it is possible that the promotion is real and that they can’t tell the LW what the position is for a valid reason. An example is that the person currently in that job has not yet been told of their job change. If there is a major reorg about to happen this could likely be the case. But, they should not have told LW that she was up for a promotion until they are able to share the details. It sounds like they jumped the gun because they are excited about OP getting this new role but by doing so they are trading their desire to share good news with putting more stress and uncertainty on the LW. I find inexperienced or poor managers do this frequently.

    4. OP 2*

      Spot on, and this is essentially what happened. Nothing malicious, just a weird over excitement from well-meaning managers who kind of forgot this is a professional situation that affects my life. I’m happy to be moving up being given the charge of my team (there are open positions, so that means I can basically re-build the team from scratch), but the whole process needed to be better. I plan to have a frank conversation with them about that.

      1. Daisy*

        Wow, that’s so unprofessional. I was so ready to think you should have keep searching for a new job because the promotion was going to be bogus, but that’s 100% an unexpected turn.

        To be honest, it happened on my company too: someone requested a promotion (as in getting the “senior” attribute) and was surprised with a team leader position. The position was not requested, not desired, and there was literally no team to assign to her.

  6. Kathlynn (canada)*

    For the last question, about resume length, it would mostly have to do with the number of long term jobs you’ve had right? I know I’m not ready for 2 pages, and I’m in my early 30s. But, I’ve only had 2 permanent jobs. and a few temporary jobs I have mostly removed from my resume (lasting less then 3 months. Only one is there, and it is mostly to keep people from going “she only had her first job after graduation” plus thinking I didn’t do anything for a year after graduation, since I also don’t have my 1 year of college on there.)

    1. Roeslein*

      I think so too. I’m 33, I have 3 degrees and am going into my fifth full-time job (the first was at the same time as grad school). I’ve had a two-page CV pretty much since defending my PhD in my mid-twenties, except when I was clearly applying in a field where one-page is preferred. But by now there is no way to fit even the most important information into one page.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Reasonably, aye. I’m in management and have fifteen years in my career field, but that’s been in four roles for two employers, so I still only have a one-pager. (The seven years of jobs before that, which were a pretty standard mix of admin and call center, are no longer represented.)

      1. allathian*

        I’m not in management, but I’ve been in my current job for 13 years. I only list this job and two others that were necessary for me to qualify for this job as relevant experience. I jumbled all other experience under one headline to stay on one page. This includes retail, call center and admin roles, and I didn’t even mention the employers I worked for, just the roles. Realistically, if I’m applying for a job, they’re only going to care about my experience in my current field. If I stick to applying for government jobs, I also have the government-issued “personal file”.

        I’m just glad I’m not in academia, I recently read about a prominent professor whose CV was 144 (!) pages long.

    3. Koalafied*

      I’d say substantive rather than long-term, but otherwise agree. My page 1 is my current job where I’ve been for 9 years and been promoted, some freelance work in the same field that I did on the side for 3 years, and the job I held before this one for about 2.5 years. Page 2 is the job before that (which was my first job in this field and I only held for 1 year), my field-specific software and skill experience, education, and a list of professional talks I’ve given at industry events.

      I’ve been increasingly feeling like soon it might be time to take the very first job off because nothing I did there is especially impressive a decade later, but for now it’s just been slimmed down to 3 bullet points and stays on there to convey that I’ve worked in this field at 3 different places – which does feel qualitatively different from having held only one professional job before my current one. It means I have experience changing to a new job more than once. I imagine once I’ve moved on to a new place after this I’ll drop that one.

    4. ThatGirl*

      I would agree it’s more about substance… though mine filled up quickly after I left my last company — I’d been there 9 years and spent the first 5 or so as a contractor, being bounced from department to department. I think I had 5 titles? Even with just a couple bullets for each it took up a lot of space, but I wanted to show that I’d been a valuable part of each team, which is part of why they kept moving me around.

      As I get further from that job, I’ll probably trim some of them down to just a line or two or drop some of my earliest jobs, but I’m pushing 40 and definitely need that second page either way.

    5. AnotherAlison*

      I’m in my 20th year of work, and my resume is probably shorter now than it was prior to holding my current position of 6 years. I’ve only worked at two companies. Some short term internal job assignments 10+ years ago are glossed over now. My first job (5 years) is a one-liner now, too. Pretty much the only experience that is going to be relevant to anyone now is what I’ve done in my current job, but I had to draw on all my experience when I was trying to prove my qualifications for this job.

    6. Firecat*

      I use to have a 1.5 pg resume but I paired it down to one page and it’s much stronger. Once I dropped fluff: skills section; awards; It was easier to showcase my acco.plishments without being two pages.

  7. Anonariffic*

    #2- My first thought was that the all staff announcement might be a way to pressure you into saying yes to something that you won’t actually want to accept unconditionally, like the guy who makes a huge public spectacle out of proposing marriage because he knows his girlfriend won’t feel able to hesitate or say no while they’re on the Jumbotron with everyone waiting to applaud. Especially since you mentioned that self-advocacy is new and uncomfortable for you.

    1. allathian*

      It would be interesting to know how many of those Jumbotron proposals actually turn into lasting marriages… I’d be willing to bet folding money that most of the engagements either peter out without an actual marriage or the couple has a flashy wedding and gets a divorce within a few years before the wedding’s paid for.

      I also wonder how many who have had a promotion sprung on them like that actually turn out to be happy in the role, and how many quit because they’re dissatisfied in their new role.

  8. Hapax Legomenon*

    #2: Are your bosses matadors? Because they are waving some big red flags. They’re ecstatic about your promotion but refuse to give you any details. Stand your ground and say you need to know the details of the promotion before you can accept it. And until you get those details, assume it’s going to be a lot more work for a minimal pay increase, because virtually any time someone doesn’t want to give you even basic information about a job they’re offering you they know it’s a bad offer.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      Agreed. And if they still don’t tell you, then they are not reasonable people and you can feel free to say that when it is announced, the first thing you will be doing is letting everyone know you have not accepted the position, you are still reviewing the details of the offered position and salary.

      I think at this point (you have already asked several times) I might be going around telling everyone that management is planning on offering me a promotion but have given me no details and plans a surprise announcement which will be awkward for management if I don’t accept it.

    2. KRM*

      Exactly. Them saying “don’t worry you’ll love it!!” would lead me to say “yeah, actually, I don’t know if I love it until I see it, so I want to see it”. This is a field of red waving flags that I would start backing away from. Definitely keep looking for a new position, because if (when) you turn this one down for being not what you want, they may push you out.

  9. Batgirl*

    OP1, it really seems like Sharon has big life stuff going on. She’s changed her phone, she has something sudden and unexpected going on which it appears is on top of the new job role she has to learn. All I know is that when I changed my phone number it was years before I got on my feet and a bunch of people probably felt ghosted or deprioritised. The takeaway is really that she’s always been enthusiastic and responsive to you and even now, when a new number and role is perfect ghosting territory, she didn’t and gave you her new number instead.

    1. cncx*

      ITA. if Sharon were really ghosting she didn’t have to give her new number out. This to me also reads a lot more like Sharon has a lot going on, maybe job maybe personal maybe both.

      1. Oryx*

        She gave OP1 her new *work* number. That is a pretty clear boundary if you have the choice of work and personal and give someone your work number.

        1. Sparkles McFadden*

          Yes…Sharon is resetting the work relationship back to its default settings of “professional contact”

          1. Ama*

            This seems possible, if Sharon was the kind of person to give out her personal cell to a lot of colleagues in the past she may be resetting to try to reclaim some of her work-life boundaries

    2. Sylvan*

      Haven’t been in a similar situation, but I agree. It sounds like a lot is going on and she’ll be in touch when she can. If she doesn’t reach out in a couple of months, I might send a pretty short, no-pressure “Hope you’re doing well, let’s hang out when things calm down” type email so she knows you’re interested.

      1. Malarkey01*

        They haven’t hung out before outside of work, the one time LW tried to set it up she backed out of it, it would be a real stretch to text in a few mo ths and ask to hang out. This would be very different if it was a coworker that you regularly saw outside of work or work adjacent happy hours.

  10. Dan*


    Tone down the hyperbole. Your former boss is a human being, which by definition makes them flawed. If you truly think she was “flawless”, well, she wasn’t. That goes for all of us.

    I know this is blunt, but assuming you’re writing more literally than figuratively, you’re looking for a relationship with “Sharon” that you’re not going to have. The reality with professional relationships is that they’re mostly ones of convenience. Which is fine. Hell, you’re actually being paid to be nice to each other. I have former bosses and colleagues that I would happily work for/with again, and that I would like to “keep in touch” with more than we actually do. I’d write them *stellar* letters of recommendation. But life gets in the way, and when people aren’t paid to deal with you, they probably won’t. Also, keep in mind that some people find “chit chat” awkward and/or annoying. There’s a whole host of people who could write to me and just say, “hey, what’s up? It’s been awhile.” Well, are they supposed to get the polite “everything’s fine, and you?” Or, are they supposed to get the tales of COVID woe on how we both just laid off and my spouse filed for divorce? Many people don’t want to navigate that path, so they’ll just ignore the inquiry.

    If you *need* something from Sharon? She’ll be there for you. But if you just want a BFF, Sharon’s not it. Another thing you need to be aware of is that if Sharon’s “greener pastures” are still in your same industry, that can make social interactions with you really awkward. It’s natural to want to talk about work stuff with work people, but Sharon’s role may involve a lot of things that are “company confidential” and that she shouldn’t be sharing with you. So if she shows up to happy hour with you and 1) Can’t talk about her own work, and 2) Doesn’t want to talk about the good old days (she quit for a reason, remember?), what’s the point?

    It’s time to let go of Sharon. Remember the fond memories for what they were and are, and know they’ll she be there *professionally* when you need it. Beyond that? You’ve got your answer – no BFF.

    1. Been exactly where LW1 is!*

      Exactly. I’m really surprised Alison didn’t mention that. LW comes across as obsessed with Sharon and to be unhealthily invested in a work relationship. The LW should not blame herself because it’s quite natural if there’s one good person in an otherwise toxic dump.

      It might be that Sharon is busy, but I’m willing to bet that once Sharon got out of the toxic work environment she realised how unhealthily enmeshed she and LW had become and hit the breaks. It’s not kind for Alison to say “assume she’ll reach out when she’s settled” – realistically I think there’s a good chance Sharon won’t be in touch again, not because the LW has done anything wrong but just because she’s moved on. And yes I’m sorry to say but it does sound like Sharon blocked her.

      1. Amaranth*

        It could also be she doesn’t have enough spoons to deal with LW at the moment, whether its simply trying to include any new person in her circle, or maybe LW is coming across as needing more emotional energy than she has to spare right now.

      2. BRR*

        I’m also surprised Alison left this out of her answer. I’m worried this will come off too harsh but there’s a lot in this letter that makes it sound like bad break up. I understand how one can end up very close to coworkers and managers but I would recommend the LW start to move on mentally from this and stop reading past correspondence and meeting notes.

        1. BRR*

          I’m also wondering if Sharon senses this level of attachment. These are some pretty intense feelings for any type of relationship and she might be trying to establish more boundaries.

      3. learnedthehardway*

        It could also be that the work situation at OP#1’s job is just so bad that she’s seeing Sharon as a lifeline that has suddenly been removed, and that’s causing her to flail about in her need for contact.

        Understandable, but OP#1 needs to understand that Sharon can’t be her emotional support. Sharon has a life too, is transitioning into a new job (which is very intense and stressful), and is doing the right thing by withdrawing, as she knows it wouldn’t be good for the OP to rely on her.

        OP#1 – you need to stand on your own feet here, and get yourself out of this company. Sharon will be a reference for you, and that’s as much as you can expect from her, right now. And that’s okay.

        1. Anon for this one*

          This feels like a really likely explanation, learnedthehardway.

          I’ve been the Sharon in this scenario. I left a job as a manager because I had entirely burned myself out and I had to step back and regroup for mental health reasons. I felt so awful and guilty about leaving my employees behind, and it took months to get over that feeling. But apparently, after I left things at my old job got pretty bad, and I got an email from one of my former employees that was along the same lines as what OP1 seems to be feeling right now. The person missed me so much and everything was wonderful and perfect when I was there and did they do something wrong that made me leave because everything is horrible now. All that guilt I felt when I quit my job came rolling right back in. This is a person I feel quite a bit of fondness for, and I’m happy to talk all day long about what a great employee they were, and I get that they were in a really bad place when they wrote that message. But it made me feel like complete and utter crap.

          OP1, if you care this much about Sharon, please don’t make her feel like that.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*


          If they were the only person that made them feel like their workplace was workable, combined with the lonliness of covid isolation, I can understand how that manifests in these strong feelings of abandonment. Plus the combination of personal feelings over the sudden lack of response in addition to the professional stress of not hearing back from a reference. I totally get it. But definitely in the long run, OP will be better off if they are able to take a step back from the relationship on their end as well.

    2. Xavier Desmond*

      I agree with this. The language used is way over the top for a former boss, even a great one. The former boss may be backing off from the friendship for this reason.

      1. kalli*

        There’s that, and if the environment at that job is truly dismal, it could be that Sharon has found that reminders of it, even in the form of a treasured former coworker, are triggering or depressing, and she needs some distance for her mental health. There’s nothing like meeting up with someone and all they can talk about is the workplace you left and how they miss you and here’s what Johnny did with the teapots this time, and that feeling of cold dread that reminds you why you left and sends you straight back into survival mode, especially after a few weeks or months away from it. Even if LW was careful to never talk about work, their interaction could be enough to set something off, especially if LW is looking to maintain a close relationship that would inevitably make some form of work talk or overlap unavoidable.

        And that’s not on LW, it’s just a function of what terrible workplaces do to people and how some people cope afterwards, and it’s not always something that can be explained without hurt feelings. ‘It’s not you, it’s me; I can’t cope with being reminded of my time at Teapot & Co.’ is not an impartial statement, because the ‘working with you’ is implied in ‘time at Teapot & Co.’ even if the specific person isn’t a directly contributing factor. Sharon may dearly want to stay in touch but just find herself in tears after a text message and not able to hide it, or may have shut off all contact with everyone so she can manage to still help LW out professionally when she has the capacity.

        tl:dr; if it’s that dismal for LW, chances are it wasn’t easy for Sharon either, and the distance may be necessary for Sharon’s healing and adjustment to non-dismal after leaving.

    3. Viette*

      “If you *need* something from Sharon? She’ll be there for you.” I think this is really important and not to be glossed over! Sharon showed up when she needed to professionally. The LW tracked her down and said she really needed Sharon’s reference, and Sharon gave it. It’s not even like the LW sent ten emails and only got a reply on the tenth — she texted, no dice, sent an email, success. That’s how it is with former bosses a lot of the time.

      1. PVR*

        At the same time though this was a pretty clear boundary reset from personal to professional right down to only giving OP the ability to contact her through her new workplace. I don’t think OPs instincts are wrong that Sharon has changed course on their relationship, and there could be lots of reasons for that. I’m sure it does hurt, and feels confusing to OP, but it’s time to mentally recatorgize Sharon into professional, not personal terms.

        1. Reba*

          That was exactly my take: this relationship was on course to make the jump from professional to personal (drinks), but now it isn’t. At least not right now! But it sounds like they still have a pretty strong professional relationship. I understand the disappointment of feeling like, unrequited friendship desire (is there a better word for this?). I really understand! And all the general stress is probably amplifying the hurt.

          But on the plus side, OP has a solid work contact who came through when needed in a professional capacity.

          1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            Unrequited friendship is such a real thing that doesn’t get talked about enough! It’s so painful to want a (non-romantic) relationship with someone and not be able to achieve it.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          I think this is a good way to think about it – OP has always had a professional relationship with Sharon, and to some extent still does. OP was hoping for a personal relationship, but it looks like that isn’t on the cards right now. But if she continues to push or allows the level of intensity that a lot of us are getting from the letter to become apparent to Sharon, she may lose the professional relationship as well.

    4. Leavers view*

      I went through this from the leavers point if view a few years ago. I left and tried to stay close to my old job “work friends” who I had known for 10+ years. But pretty quickly I began to forget who they were talking about (it had been a toxic job and so it was a way of moving on for me) and so conversations got stilted and shorter. I wouldn’t have believed I could wipe such a large parts of my previous life from my memory in a few months. But new jobs/people etc filled my memory and pushed out a lot of the old stuff and worries. And thats healthy. The indepth detail goes and you are left with a highlights reel.

      Plus, whilst I’d been happy to be a sounding board before it became harder as I was wanting to talk about my new job and new opportunities whilst those left wanted to complain about their jobs as before. It seemed to be hard for those still there to take pleasure in hearing someone move on.

      Moving on can be a scary step to take. But once you have done it you can quite quickly lose a lot of the emotional ties to former colleagues. Its not something deliberate, you just discover (on both sides) that you no longer have shared experiences (in my case of being in a toxic company and working together to support each other) to keep you close.
      Its easier to keep in touch with the people who need less and are happy with less frequent messages. More needy colleagues can be exhausting, especially when in the first year of a new job.

      1. londonedit*

        Yes! This is so true. I even have this experience with friends from my home town – I haven’t lived there for 20 years, so whenever we meet up it’s a couple of minutes of ‘So, how’s everything going with you?’ before everyone falls into talking about the latest local gossip. And it’s definitely happened with former work colleagues – people will always end up chatting about work, and the further removed you are the less you know/care about who said what to whom after Monday’s project meeting.

    5. Thankful for AAM*

      I think this is too strong – Sharon is the one who suggested getting rum drinks, she was reaching out to the OP.
      And I think the deep emotions on the OP’s part need to be put in context of the toxic (dismal, dark times, OP and coworker both cried when Sharon left) workplace she is still in. I think we would be more helpful if we could give advice based on the context for the strong emotions OP is having.

      I have found Alison’s advice most helpful for managing a toxic workplace and my own reactions: detach from the drama, get out the popcorn and watch the drama like it is a play, focus on things that impact my work and let the rest go, find things outside work to make me happy, etc.

      1. un-pleased*

        I think Dan’s advice does into account the context of the LW’s strong emotions. It can be helpful and kind to have people help you recognize when you are not paying attention to important cues or when you are having really outsize reactions, even when it doesn’t feel good. If you haven’t ever dealt with this situation from the other side, it’s actually harder to give useful advice to the LW because you don’t really understand what that feels like.

      2. Jennifer*

        Exactly. Sharon made a very specific suggestion about getting rum drinks, not just a vague “let’s get together some time.” I don’t get why people are acting like the OP made up the whole friendship in her head like some bad Lifetime movie. If Sharon no longer has the bandwidth for a friendship right now, she should simply say that. Why are we so quick to give grownups a pass for not just using their words?

        I agree with Dan that Sharon is now indicating that she no longer wants to be friends, but I understand why she feels hurt and confused. This isn’t all on her.

        1. MK*

          I really don’t understand what whole friendship are you referring to. Sharon “proposed some rum drinking” and then the OP researched a place where they could get some, during a temporary break in a global pandemic, and organized a get-together. Suggesting getting rinks once merits a break up? The OP isn’t making anything up, because she is not claiming they had a friendship, she even clarified in a comment that they had any interaction outside of work.

          1. Jennifer*

            I’m saying Sharon was the one that originally reached out. Some comments are implying that the OP made up this entire friendship or that she’s obsessed, which I think is a bit harsh.

            Work friendships can actually be friendships and not everyone is as strict about keeping a line between work and home that many here seem to. She clearly needs to move on now, I agree. But Sharon was a bit rude here.

            1. MK*

              This is not a work friendship, this is an ex-manager. Reaching out once is not a friendship or commit you to one, especially if you back out afterwards. Saying that, because Sharon was the one who proposed drinks initially, that immediately makes them friends and she owes the OP an explanation to not continue the interaction, is not reasonable. No one is saying the OP imagined anything; they are saying that, assuming everything the OP says about it is accurate, her reaction to Sharon pulling back is over the top. If your former boss doesn’t seem inclined to keep up a social interaction after she leaves, it’s natural to feel disappointment, not the heartbreak expressed in the letter.

        2. Observer*

          I don’t think anyone thinks the OP made everything up. But her reactions are still outsized. And it’s still not healthy FOR THEM. It’s to their benefit to be able to step back and see that Sharon’s stepping back from a personal relationship is not “abandonment” and also that they need to find a better (for them) source of supports.

          Hopefully getting out of that dreadful job will make it easier for the OP to re-calibrate.

        3. EventPlannerGal*

          I don’t think anybody is saying she’s made it up, it’s more that she has I think quite heavily misinterpreted what it actually is. While I assume the OP was writing the letter at a particularly emotional time, there is breakup-level emotion in the letter (holding herself back from sobbing phone calls?) that just isn’t warranted by an invitation to drinks that’s fallen through. So I think people are not saying she’s literally invented the relationship, but just that going by the facts that she’s stated it seems like she’s blown quite a small overture (note that it was still OP choosing the venue, making the reservation etc, eg doing the actual work to make it happen) out of proportion.

    6. OP#1*

      Dan, you’re right. Wasn’t sure how to better describe the first manager I had at Organization to have my back in over six years. This has been a reality check. Going to the game tape, Sharon initiated conversations via text three times, and I initiated four (including reference request). After she’d given notice, Sharon mentioned a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes she would share with me after she left over a drink. It’s ok that that’s not happening, but it’s unlike her to not be explicit with her not wanting to reschedule the HH she solicited. I’m letting it go.

      1. Qwerty*

        Hey OP#1, it’s really worth paying attention to how much covid and living alone is getting to you. That line made your whole letter make sense. I also live alone and having a very stressful job, so I can relate to having emotions spiral out of control. I’ll bet a lot of the anxiety that you projected on this situation came from other stressors in your life that are less easily defined and your brain latched onto this as something to over-analyze.

        I’ve been there and I get it. Just wanted you to know that you aren’t alone.

      2. Dan*

        Well, a good description might be, “I had a boss I really enjoyed working for, and who had my back for six years.”

        Those bosses aren’t as common as we would like, and that phrasing says enough. TBH, all of the detail you added here doesn’t change or clarify anything. All that matters is that Sharon is moving on. I don’t mean that harshly — to give you context, the former Sharon I had in my previous work life? I’ve spoken to him once in the 7 years since we parted ways. I’d happily work with him again, but in the mean time, we compete for work, and my org gets better contracts, which can make a mentor/mentee relationship a bit challenging. That’s just life for now.

      3. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Hrmm. Even if you want a mentor rather than a BFF, Sharon might not be the right person to fill that role for you. It sounds like she’s trying to reset her boundaries with you – that bit right after people give notice can be weird in that people often let their guards down, but after some time she might be reassessing that.

        Don’t take this personally; this is just what happens when someone recognizes that someone else might need more from them than they’re able to give right now.

  11. MBK*

    OP2, I would go so far as to say something like, “Please don’t make any announcements to the staff about my new role until we’ve had a chance to discuss the details. It’s important to me that we’re on the same page regarding any changes to my title, responsibilities, reporting structure, and compensation before it’s presented as a fait accompli.”

    1. V*

      I really like this language. A lot of the suggestions made by other commenters are going to come across a bit weird when the OP has apparently been gunning for this promotion for a while, and make it sound like the OP is unsure whether they actually want the promotion after all. This one clearly shows that they DO very much want the promotion AND ALSO want to be clear about the details (which is perfectly reasonable).

      1. Observer*

        Nothing weird – the OP *DOES* want a promotion. That doesn’t mean that they want a “promotion” or even ANY promotion.

    2. Münchner Kindl*

      That’s good – my first thought was that this was a fake promotion to further string you along; but it also shows bad management because whatever position OP2 is (supposedly) promoted into needs a detailed job description, set of responsibilities, skill set etc., and approriate compensation.

      A promotion shouldn’t be “we make up a title so employee feels better” nor should it be “there’s an empty supervisor spot, let’s put Wakeen there because they asked for a promotion” it should be like a normal job search, even if there are not (yet) outside candidates.

      So OP would need information to think whether she wants this job and can do it, and management should want the best qualified and best-fit employee for this post, instead of treating it like flowers as apology for not giving normal raise.

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      Would you add to MBK’s excellent language, I don’t want to embarrass anyone by publicly declining the new position?

      1. The Other Dawn*

        No, that sounds a lot like a threat.

        I think some of the suggested scripts would come off really weird. Why not something like, “Hey, Boss. I’d like to talk about the promotion and what that entails before it’s announced publicly. I’ll put something on your calendar so we can meet.”

  12. Brusque*

    5# I’ve always just noted somewhere in my header that I’m married, since when and my maiden name. Some of my attached certificates are in my maiden name, some are in my married name.
    Never had a problem. As soon as people read my marriage date they know what to expect when controlling my references.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Hmm, I get that the date serves as a reference point for “people before this knew me one way and people after this knew me a different way,” but honestly the idea of highlighting your marital status and putting your wedding date on your resume doesn’t quite sit right with me.

      1. allathian*

        It depends a lot on where you are, I think. Where I am, certainly any employer who’s at the point of running a background check on me will have my personal identity code (our social security number) and access to the national population database. This includes personal data like date and place of birth, marital status, number of dependents, current and previous names, current address, etc. I don’t put my birth date or maiden name on my resume, though.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          It’s not that I think that information should be secret, I just think it’s odd to highlight it at the top of your resume.

  13. Fried Eggs*

    #3 – I burned out hard from my last job, and quit after only a year. To my surprise, explaining it in interviews was really easy.

    I used different explanations depending on the job and the company culture. These all went down great:

    – “It was a great project and a great team, but it was also a really small team. As a result I was pulled in a lot of directions and working a lot of overtime to get it all done before the event. Over time, I realized it wasn’t sustainable and wanted to take some time to catch my breath and think about moving into a position I DO want to do for a long time.”

    – “Because it was such a small team I was wearing a lot of hats. Your classic combined communications role: press relations, marketing, speaker communications. But also things way outside my wheelhouse, like web design and a lot of event management. I spent so much time writing back and forth with people about tent dimensions! In the end, it was too much. So I decided to step away and look for a role where I can focus on what I’m good at: writing and communications.”

    – “Because it was such a small team, I was wearing a lot of hats and pulled in a lot of different directions. I was really unhappy, and realized I need to be in a role where I can focus on doing just a few things, and doing them really well.”

    – “It’s a great project, and I’m glad to have worked on it. But the reality of event work is there’s a lot of mundane stuff that needs to get done, and it’s a race to do it in time. As a result, there wasn’t time to sit down and create any sort of cohesive strategy, which I think is really important. I realized I’d be happier in a job where I can step back now and then to make sure all the details fit into a bigger picture.”

    Nobody ever batted an eye at these explanations. Of course, I went on to explain why I felt whichever role I was interviewing for was a much better fit.

    1. Fried Eggs*

      I’ll also add that in some ways, my career DID take a hit. Not because I committed a career sin by quitting a job, but because the reality is when you’re applying from unemployment you don’t have the luxury of waiting forever until an objectively “better” job comes along.

      Still the best decision of my life. When I look back, it wasn’t even a decision. There was simply no other way. My new job is less prestigious-sounding, but I’m still doing the kind of work I want to do, and I am waaaaay happier. Like, no longer crying while I brush my teeth in the mornings happier. Have energy and motivation to do home improvement projects on the weekend happier.

      Also, I have the energy now to think long-term about my career instead of just struggling to keep my head above water. I think in the long-run, this temporary step back will be good for my career. But even if it’s not, it’ll still be worth the change in my quality of life. You only get one life. No sense in making yourself miserable in it.

      Some things to keep in mind from someone who’s been there:

      1. Recovering from my burnout took way longer than I’d planned for. I thought I’d take a month off and then go out and get myself an awesome new job. During that month, COVID hit (fun timing!), and my job search ended up taking 5 months. And it’s a REALLY GOOD it did. I needed almost that time to fully, properly recover. When I did start a new job, I was fresh and ready to go.

      2. Getting to the place where I feel good about taking a less prestigious but less stressful job didn’t happen on it’s own. It took therapy to untangle my sense of identity and worth from my career.

      1. JobHunter*

        I can relate to everything Fried Eggs said. I started my search before I left my last position, though, and I have had 2 months to recalibrate from the weird wild ride of COVID.

        I’m taking this opportunity to pick up a few skills the new position requires and to refresh the knowledge I gained during the experience that caught the recruiter’s attention. I’m glad that I found AAM because I could see where the advice given here applied to my past experiences. The break gave me time to reflect and develop interview question answers with a managerial perspective in mind.

      2. WorkingFromCafeinCA(prePandemic)*

        Thank you for this. I just posted on the Friday Open Thread about my decision to resign due to burnout and mental health, and this is all so encouraging to hear. I’m talking with my boss today to work out details and my partner helped me run through practice scripts of what to say when he likely tries to push back or offer something to get me to stay. I have to keep reminding myself I’ve already given plenty. The “crying while brushing teeth” bit is SOO relatable. Thank you for speaking from the other side of this.

        1. Fried Eggs*

          Good luck! When I talked to my (surprisingly understanding) boss, I leaned hard on the word unhappy. I’d realized I was unhappy in the job and thought I needed an environment with [things the job could never be] to really thrive. Can’t argue with unhappy. What’re they going to say? Actually, you are happy?

          Good luck with your burnout recovery! I helped me to think of it like an injury. The more you rest and are kind to yourself, the better it heals.

  14. Larry Gossamer*

    #5 – What about just keeping your maiden name in professional contexts? That seems like the path of least resistance.

    1. Green great dragon*

      It’s an option, but has its own issues too (notably ‘no, there is no-one of that name here’ problems when your child’s school is attempting to get in touch with you).

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        My wife retained her maiden name both professionally and parentally, while the kids have my surname. The result is that when she communicates with the kids’ school, she always specifies that she is so-and-so’s mother, and if I enter into the discussion, that I am her husband.

        1. doreen*

          I did the pretty much the same – although I didn’t mind using my husband’s name socially and I also didn’t mind if the teachers addressed me using my husband’s name, all of the paperwork had my surname on it – including the emergency contact form that the school staff were looking at when they called me.

        2. Observer*

          It’s a LOT easier if your professional and personal choice are the same – either keep the per-marriage name everywhere or change to the post-marriage name everywhere. It’s not the just the kids’ schools.

          I ran into a medical problem because of this mistmatch, which is when I changed a bunch of stuff, so that at least all of my paperwork matches.

        3. Clisby*

          That’s what we did. I didn’t even consider changing my name when we married. Neither my husband nor I considered getting offended if either was addressed by the wrong last name. (Our children had my husband’s name, so it wasn’t uncommon for me to be addressed as “Ms. Hisname” at their school. On the other hand, I normally handled home repairs – not personally, but getting plumbers/electricians/other contractors in, so we’d occasionally get a price quote addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Myname.)

        4. allathian*

          Here the default is still that wives change their name upon marriage, although there’s an increasing number of couples where both keep their own names or the husband takes the wife’s name. It’s even possible for married couples to both take each other’s names as a hyphenated name. Some couples even decide to change to a joint, completely new name. From what I’ve heard, the latter is especially common among same-sex couples.

          More than half of firstborn children are born to single mothers or couples who live together without being married. By default, the child gets the mother’s name in such cases. If the couple is married and both have kept their own names, the child gets the father’s name by default.

          I changed my name when I got married, partly because I wanted all of us to have the same name, and partly because my current name is easy to spell in my culture, whereas I was forever having to spell out my old name and I got sick of it.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      I did that for a while. Do not recommend. Because I was still using my maiden name professionally, that’s what my health insurance and paychecks had. Then that’s what the doctors and bank wanted to see. But I had changed all my ids to my married name. It was a total pain not to have names matching. I really recommend picking one or the other.

      Women have been changing their names forever, so the reference-check people know about it. There’s usually a place to indicate “have you ever been known by other names?”

      1. mgguy*

        My wife of one month is still in-flux on her name change. She changed her DL, which surprisingly was easiest, but is waiting for her updated Social Security card which is a gateway to other changes. She’s an RN and is job hunting now for a couple of reasons, not the least of which because she wants to get away from 12 hour days/weekends/holidays for the family we want to have. She works in a different state than we live(we live on the state line next to a larger city) and has nursing licenses in both states. The state where she works changed her name with an online form that included her new DL number, while our state of residence needs a mailed form with copies of our marriage license, driver’s license, and new SS card. Fortunately, the applications she’s filled out have had the “any other names” line. The name she uses on the application depends on which state she’s applying in.

      2. Observer*

        It was a total pain not to have names matching. I really recommend picking one or the other.

        So much this!

    3. EPLawyer*

      Maybe the LW wants to change her name for … reasons. Just because its the path of least resistance doesn’t mean its the one the LW should take. There are other just as easy options — a simple line indicating her former name on the resume is just as easy.

      I wasn’t going to change my name professionally. I had been using it almost 10 years. Everyone knew me by it. But well, I found I liked being Mrs. new last name. So I hyphenated it. The looks on judges’ faces when they found out they weren’t getting the easier last name when I got married was soooooo worth it. Although some in courts where I am not as well know, just use the easier to pronounce name. Not thrilled with it, but not worth a fight either.

    4. Zephy*

      The path of least resistance would have been just keeping her maiden name, period. (It’s why I’m not changing mine.) But, since women changing their names upon marriage is A Thing, reference checkers and hiring managers will “get it” if OP5 just makes a note somewhere about having worked under a different name (which will also probably be addressed somewhere on the application – most of the time it does ask about aliases/other names). OP5 should also notify her references that her name has changed, the same way and probably at the same time as she notifies them that she’s searching and they should expect to be contacted.

    5. glitter writer*

      It’s fine. People change their names all the times, for all kinds of reasons. It’s super easy to say, when providing references, “Jane knew me as Emma Jones,” and to tell background checkers that your degrees went to Emma Jones before you changed your name in 2014, or whatever.

      (Women changing their name on marriage have it quite easy in this regard; nobody blinks twice. My transgender friends, who transitioned in adulthood after earning their degrees, report many more minefields.)

      1. fluffy*

        Came to the comments specifically to share the transgender perspective. Personally I see no reason to list a former name on a resume; at least in my experience (mostly software, mostly corporate jobs), nobody is ever going to just cold-call old employers without permission to check random prior employment, and when it comes to the background or prior reference check, that is when it’s time to disclose.

        I just plain don’t see why it’s relevant to your resume to state what your name was at the time of employment.

    6. Observer*

      That wasn’t the question that was asked. The OP didn’t ask *if* she should change her name, or whether it will harm her. She asked how to communicate the change. Telling her to not change her name does nothing to help that.

      Now, sometimes it does make sense to point out to someone that they might be asking the wrong question. But *IF* that’s the case, you need to explain why that’s the wrong question. And you present no reason why it’s the wrong question.

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      Having two identities can create issues, and most employers are going to require an employee to use their legal last name. (First names/preferred names, go nuts. Last = legal.) This is especially true if there is professional licensure or other certifications required for the job that are tied to identity. One of my coworkers passed away a few years ago, and her husband had a devil of a time with insurance and paperwork because her death certificate had her legal name, not her benefits paperwork name – bureaucracy is not made for dual identities, particularly with identity fraud being what it is.

      Reference checking is the easiest part. Every form I’ve filled out for background or reference as included a way for me to indicate prior names. Heck, I just filled out a non-degree student application that asked for other names that might be on prior transcripts.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        If you do anything internationally, you REALLY want all the names to match, not just the last names.

    8. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Not everyone wants to juggle two names. Plus, for many jobs, there is going to be a certain amount of overlap between things that are “work” and things that are “personal” and I would much rather explain on my resume that I changed my name, than explain to everyone I know that I go by two names.

      (The subject of married name changes is a bit of a sensitive one for me; I made the decision to change my name despite it being relatively uncommon in my social circle, and I’ve had to deal with people questioning it and suggesting different ways to combine my maiden and my husband’s names. Just let people have the name they want! /endrant )

    9. Media Monkey*

      this is what i have done and never really had an issue (in the UK). all of my work details are in my maiden name and everything else is in my married name (kid has married name so no issues with schools, bills come to married name, mortgage is in married name, bak account is in married name). the only thing i have ever had to do was to make sure that work travel is in my married name as my passport is (since you don’t want to have a passport in a different surname to your kid if you ever need to travel alone with them). if i need to prove both names are me i have a marriage certificate but no one has ever asked,

      1. allathian*

        I don’t know why traveling alone with a kid with a different surname would be an issue? At least not if the child has their own passport. It’s very common for women to keep their maiden name when they get married and their kids to have the father’s name…

        That said, it’s been common for a long time for professional women to keep their old names even after subsequent name changes. It’s been happening for at least the last 100 years. Just think of Agatha Christie. Her maiden name was Miller, but when she became a famous author, she used her legal name, which she kept as her professional name even after her divorce and subsequent marriage to Sir Max Mallowan. After the marriage, she was known socially as Mrs Mallowan, Lady Mallowan (when Sir Max was knighted in 1968) or Dame Agatha following her appointment as DBE in 1971, and professionally as Agatha Christie.

  15. EventPlannerGal*

    OP1, I am saying this with the kindest intent – you need to chill. I completely get that this must be confusing and distressing, but it sounds like you are putting a LOT of emotional weight into this relationship (understandably if you’re isolated and work is your only social outlet right now, but still, it’s a lot). If you continue to push then I think you run quite a real risk of freaking her out – to make another dating analogy, just as it’s lousy to ghost it’s also lousy to be the ex who just won’t leave you alone.

    I have so much sympathy for your situation of being isolated and lonely, but like Alison says, she probably just has other stuff going on. Leave it alone and maybe try reaching out with a Christmas message later in the year.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      This. Your old boss isn’t ghosting you, she’s responding exactly appropriately for an old boss. You reached out to her with a business request. She responded in time to it. There isn’t anything to be upset about here, let alone “bereft” or on the verge of calling her crying and wanting to know what you did. You did nothing, because nothing is happening here. It sounds like you might have The Covid Stress and you may be projecting all of your needs onto one person, but she’s an old boss, not a family member or a spouse or a BFF. Please take a look at making sure that you are taking care of you, because as friendly as she might be, she’s just someone friendly you used to work with.

      1. PVR*

        Well. But she didn’t respond to the professional request the first time and does sound like maybe OP got blocked. OP had to track Sharon down through her new workplace as her request to be a reference was coming down to the wire. And in fact that email and phone number are the only ways OP now has to contact her former manager which is quite a change from the way they had been in contact. To me, Sharon has made it perfectly clear that she only wants to keep the relationship on a purely professional level from now on.

  16. fruitcake*

    Dear LW#3 – I’ve been exactly where you are; my partner was rock-bottom at his job and it was the job or his life. We were luckily in the position where he could quit immediately and he had the worries your partner has: I’m burning a bridge here, and it may tank my ability to get a new job. He used Alison’s advice: health issue that needs immediate attention. What helped in making the call to his boss was having bullet points to refer back to if/when the boss started to try and talk him round or get shirty so I’d recommend something similar to help your partner through it.

    When he took up a new job less than two months later, he knew he’d have to stay there a while to compensate for the abrupt exit (and believe me it took a good 12+ months for him to settle and realise this workplace was not his toxic old place). When asked in the interview, he was honest: he had to deal with a family emergency which has been taken care of – and it was an emergency for our family. It probably helped though that the toxic workplace is known in the local industry as a sweatshop with high turnover – both he and I warn our contacts to take interviews there but keep their eyes open. He’s been at his current place 4+ years now and has been promoted twice, and I only wish he’d gotten out of The Bad Place sooner.

  17. WTF is Finland*

    #2 – I worked at an org where most promotions were surprise ones, announced at company/team-wide events.

    It was always a big surprise, they’d show videos of the person’s family congratulating them, read letters from loved ones, make montage videos of the person getting the promotion. LOTS of people left soon after because the promotions, whilst a nice surprise were often a band-aid on a bigger problem, and the company was laying it on thick to keep ‘flight-risks’ emotionally invested.

    When that same company got wind that I wasn’t happy they started making vague suggestions that I was getting a great surprise. I straight up told my boss that I wanted anything to be discussed with me before doing a big announcement, and found out that my ‘big surprise’ was being moved from my home market to the middle east market without an actual promotion. I said no and got out, without having a big public proposal that I had to accept. Take Alison’s advice!

    1. Zephy*

      they’d show videos of the person’s family congratulating them, read letters from loved ones

      What the actual eff? Like, it’s one thing to put an employee on the spot by announcing stuff for the first time in front of everyone at the all-staff (which is almost assuredly what OP2’s company is doing, 100% agree with all the calls for her to get out of this beehive), but to get their family involved? Presumably without their knowledge, the way you describe it? No. If I worked for such a place I can only hope my mom or my husband or whoever they contacted for these congratulation video/letter things would clock how UTTERLY NUTS that is.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Right. And I know my people would tell me about this mess like, “Is it normal for your company to be reaching out to family for congratulations videos on a promotion?! Did you even know about it?”

  18. Keymaster of Gozer*

    LW3: mental health is a fantastic reason for having a break.

    Those who have read my posts before know I had a nervous breakdown earlier this year. I’d actually walked out on a previous job due to it wrecking my mental stability a while before that, but the whole Covid stuff and me bottling everything up and trying to pretend that everything was fine broke the little defence I had.

    (Sidenote, mental wards are not scary. Boring though. I missed my computer)

    Now, on the other side of recovery (mostly) I’ve told potential employers that my nearly 2 year work gap was due to ‘now resolved health issues’ which is stretching the truth a bit (I can’t have a 100% stable brain if I’m honest) but otherwise accurate. It works. My CV was easier to heal than my brain.

    Sincere good hopes for your husband. I’ve been there. Best wishes to you both.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I love this site :)

          (Am currently trying to convince cat that there is a time and a place for making me laugh. On a call isn’t either. But he’s just attacking a bit of paper and ignoring me.

          One thing the psychiatric team were great at were helping me find tiny bits of amusement)

  19. Anonymity*

    I’m sorry LW1, but people sense neediness and desperation a million miles away. Virtually all work friends are situational, even if close at the time. It’s time to move on.

    1. Thistle Whistle*

      When in a toxic job its hard to recognise that “your bestie in work” is actually a “work friend” (which is actually a work colleague who provides additional support whilst you are in toxic job).

      When you realise that, it sucksand hurts. But pushing for more is likely to kill any chance the friendship has to last in any format.

      Real friendship tends to develop when neither side needs it but instead wants it.

  20. Slinky*

    #5, my practice for years has been to include my maiden name in parentheses (Slinky (Prescott) Warbleworth). I’m in academia, so there are greater odds of employers requesting transcripts or looking for old publications, so it’s more useful for employers to know that I used to be Slinky Prescott. This has never raised any issues.

    I’ve steered away from Alison’s suggestion of using my maiden name as a middle name on my resume, as this has led to confusion when an employer assumes I have a double last name (for some reason). I even received a reimbursement check once made out to Slinky Prescott-Warbleworth, even though I’ve never hyphenated or told them Prescott was part of my last name.

  21. Thistle Whistle*

    When in a toxic job its hard to recognise that “your bestie in work” is actually a “work friend” (which is actually a work colleague who provides additional support whilst you are in toxic job).

    When you realise that, it sucksand hurts. But pushing for more is likely to kill any chance the friendship has to last in any format.

    Real friendship tends to develop when neither side needs it but instead wants it.

  22. NotsorecentAAMfan*

    #2. Not a surprise party OR a game show (which is sort of the vibe I was getting from your letter)

  23. Luke G*


    I had a boss- not exactly a beacon, but my first good boss after a string of bad ones (and immediately after a TERRIBLE one) so I work-bonded with him pretty strongly. When he left I texted him a “good luck, let us know how the new place is” message and got… nothing. I felt hurt, like he’d lumped me in with his overall bad impression of his old employer and ghosted me for it.

    Fast forward a couple years and I’m trying to get some information on the salary history of the role he held, as I’m moving into something similar. He responded immediately, was chatty and friendly, gave me all the info I needed plus a bunch of helpful context, and even added me on Facebook because “he remembers me being really funny” so now he gets jokes and I get pictures of Florida sunsets. So the takeaway is yeah, it’s not personal, people have stuff come up. Don’t keep belaboring the point with her now, but reach out when it’s work-appropriate. If one day she responds to a routine reference request with “oh and by the way, I’ve been crazy busy but what about getting those drinks?” then you know she’s interested.

    PS: Given that she’s responding to you promptly on work stuff, it’s entirely possible that she just got a non-iPhone and made the switch- so put your mind at ease :)

  24. Katie S*

    #1. I’m the type of person who has a super solid group of friends outside work and struggles with some social anxiety so while there have been people I’ve worked with in the past who I’ve respected and learned from, I’m only good about keeping in touch with them on a professional level/basic social media hellos, nothing to do with the person, just my own comfort!

  25. Lucy Day*

    #1 – I agree with all the advice shared here, but it may also be worth considering this from a covid logistics standpoint to keep it from feeling so personal. Something you mentioned is that covid was momentarily controlled in your area and that’s when you two planned to get together. Based on your wording I’m assuming covid has resurged in your area now. Your former manager may have been responsive at the time because making in person plans was a legitimate possibility, but with fall/winter weather preventing outdoor gatherings and a covid resurgence, meeting up in person is off the table so maintaining the relationship isn’t as much of a priority. She may pop back up when this changes!

    Also, if your last communication still mentioned the possibility for an in person meet up, it could be that she thinks your feelings on covid are misaligned. Ghosting could be her way of politely avoiding having to say “there’s no way I am meeting up now that the pandemic is raging here again,” even if you actually agree but haven’t made that clear. I have had to ghost a few casual friends/acquaintances who couldn’t grasp why I don’t want to get together in person. Since I knew that their comfort level with meeting up was tied at least in part to deeply ingrained political views, after awhile it became clear it would be easier for me to ghost than get them to accept my discomfort. She may be just be trying to avoid what she perceives as a potentially uncomfortable interaction. I don’t think you should reach out now to clarify this, but maybe if the pandemic subsides sometime in 2021, you could reach back out and ask about meeting up for coffee.

  26. Bree*

    LW #1 – I feel like some of the comments here are a bit harsh! The nature of my anxiety disorder means that I tend to over-personalize and obsesses about whether I’ve done something wrong when a friend or colleague seems distant. 99.9% of the time it has nothing to do with me, in the end, but in the moment it feels truly awful. I’m sorry you’re going through that with someone close to you. I think Alison is right that Sharon has something else going on in her life – as a lot of people do right now – and the best thing to do is let it be for a little while. But I know how hard it can be to change those thought patterns (CBT has been helpful for me, in this regard).

    Like you, I’m also living alone during COVID and that has – quite naturally – intensified both my loneliness and anxiety. I think it’s especially important to be kind to yourself right now – to recognize that this relationship is important to you, and it’s OK to feel hurt by being brushed off this way, even though it’s not your fault and there’s nothing you can do to fix it right now. It sounds like you have invested a lot of time and energy into the relationship, so you can also look at this as an opportunity to direct those things to other parts of your support network or into self-care for the time being. I’m sorry you’re in so much pain, and this stranger is sending you love and support from a distance!

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I also think that if OP does want more of a professional mentor relationship or a career counselor/coach, there are many well-qualified people who specialize in doing just that, and they are probably best not to be the former boss. Finding someone who has the patience and capacity to be a mentor or counselor might be worthwhile to look into if you need help in this area.

    2. Dotty*

      Totally agree that some of the comments here, whilst perhaps with merit, are a bit harsh and having myself had a letter published in the past, I know some of these will be hard to read OP.

      Fwiw, I have been through a similar thing on both sides. I got on well with someone at a partner organisation, saw them informally as a mentor and they were actively in contact and then just stopped. I miss them so I can empathise with your situation, probably more than I should in a professional context if I’m honest (maybe because my own employer has never invested much energy in employee development / team building) so yes there probably is something in the comments that you’re looking for this contact because other things are lacking/tough at the moment. At the moment, I’m just having to trust that they’ll get back in touch if/when they’re ready, and resist the urge to contact them because the last thing I want to do is put more on their plate. I figured I’d send a new year’s message if I don’t hear by the end of the year since I’d send holiday greetings out anyway but beyond that, think I’ll just have to accept that this was a great, positive but ultimately temporary connection and move on.

      Part of that approach is because I’ve also been (and still am) on the receiving end from one of my direct reports who looks up to me which is nice yet at times the level of contact and guidance she’s looking for is too much to juggle around everything else I have going on (long hours, covering a second role due to a COVID-related hiring freeze, a big team (she’s one of 17), and a young family at home); I do; because she’s a current employee but I’d find it hard to keep the bandwidth if either of us left.

  27. Phony Genius*

    On #2, they’re not treating your promotion like a surprise party. They’re treating it like Godot. (Spoiler: he never arrives.) If it’s been dragging on for years, I would conclude that they’re constantly talking about it to keep you there, but may not have any actual intention of making it happen. You should think about looking elsewhere while you wait for something that may not be coming, especially not in the way that you expect it.

  28. The Other Victoria*

    This is the littlest thing, but Apple has confirmed that when you block someone on the iPhone, it reads like the message was received and there is no way to tell from the sender’s perspective. Something might be happening with her phone, but I wouldn’t read into it that it has anything to do with you.

  29. Maj. Pothead, reporting for doobie*

    A lot of people have already commented that this sounds like a setup to use overwhelming social pressure to get you to accept whatever this “surprise” is. I won’t belabor the point, but just say I totally agree.

    Please come back with an update on this situation. I’m extremely curious about how something this bizarre plays out.

  30. Edith Tita*

    This is a super minor point but I wanted to say, re LW 1’s observation about iMessage, that sometimes the reason why iMessages send as texts (with the green background instead of blue) might simply be because… the person is not using an iPhone anymore.

  31. Generalist*

    One point I thought someone would mention for the LW concerned about name change: the term many people use these days for “name used before marriage” is “birth name.” That’s because “maiden name” carries a whole host of patriarchal assumptions with it. Just in case anyone wants to know.

    1. JM in England*

      This reminds me of induction day at a former job. The HR staff wanted us inductees to put on the relevant paperwork both our legal names and the names by which we preferred to be known. One such example in the group was someone legally named Maria but preferred Ria.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      How about former name(s) instead of birth name? I’ve had relatives change their names at younger ages due to step-parent adoption, disowning a birth parent, etc. If they change again for marriage or other reasons, the former name is NOT their birth name.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        That works too! It’s just the “maiden name” construction that’s painfully outdated, because it carries a whole lot of stuff about unmarried women being virgins under their fathers’ control. Thank you, Generalist. I was going to make this same comment. “Maiden name” has the parallel-vowels thing going for it, but in my opinion, it’s worth losing that in favor of more accurate wording.

  32. anonymouse*

    OP1, when I left a company once I ended up in a high-stress, months-long legal battle with them. It soured my relationship with everyone who worked there, because I couldn’t talk about what was happening and how incredibly crappy they were being to me, so I just ghosted people I had worked really closely with for 2.5 years. It really sucked.

  33. Steveo*

    OP#2 – People don’t change and companies don’t either. If your work was a friend or romantic partner you’d have given up on them 3 years ago. Go find another job – this will never be right.

  34. BananaPants*

    #1 – This was a professional contact, not your BFF – work friendships usually don’t last too long once someone moves on. The intensity of your emotion is concerning for a professional relationship. If I was on the receiving end of these kinds of constant demands for attention from a former coworker, I’d block them rather than engage.

    Sharon has made it clear that she’s moved on. It’s time for you to move on as well. You’re coming across as more than a little obsessed with her, and that could easily lead to long term negative consequences for you both professionally and personally.

  35. Points for Anonymity*

    OP1 it really seems like you’re overly invested in this, and I suspect that’s because you’re not having a good time at work now that she has left. I’d try and refocus all of this energy on job hunting. I guarantee once you’re out, you will have new perspective!

  36. Arctic*

    OP#1 I don’t know if you are still reading but I’ve been Sharon. Well, not the really awesome, lovable part of Sharon. But the lose contact part.

    Honestly, what happens is I get busy or maybe I’m a little depressed and I don’t answer a text message or email. Then I don’t answer a few more. Then I feel SO GUILTY about it that I don’t know what to say to the next text or email. I absolutely understand logically the best thing to do is to just respond once thing slow down. But I feel like such a jerk about losing touch that I sort of shut down.

    I’d bet that she was swamped in a new job. Didn’t have time. She still respects you. She responded quickly about references. This happens.

  37. UKDancer*

    I wouldn’t in English use né unless it’s for a person who has changed their name. If I were talking about a company changing identity I’d probably say “formerly”.

    In French I’d probably say “anciennement” or “autrefois connu sous le nom de” if I were writing about a company depending on the context. I’d again only use né or née for a person who had changed their name. But then I’m not a French native speaker so I may be incorrect.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      The comment you’re replying to was deleted, but that does not diminish my appreciation of your response.

  38. Observer*

    #2- Why are you not looking for a new job? Yes, even during Covid.

    This is a serious question. I don’t know if your management is simply incompetent or acting in bad faith, but it’s taken YEARS for them to act on a commitment that they made – and they are playing some really concerning games with it.

    What is it about this job that makes it worth staying with an organization that you cannot trust? It doesn’t matter WHY this is happening. The simple fact is that they have not met their commitments and are treating you disrespectfully. Why not start looking for something better. NOW, while you are still employed, is the best time to start looking. And the sooner you start the sooner you will find something that is an improvement.

    If what they give you will look better on your resume or give you more money, take it unless you think that they are setting you up to fail or the move will actively be harmful. But don’t see that as a reason to stay – take it so that you are in a better position to find a good new position.

  39. RagingADHD*

    OP1, Sharon is not ghosting you.

    If she were ghosting you, you would have had a much harder time tracking her down. She would not have responded to you at all, much less given you her new phone number.

    She is acting exactly like an ex boss who thought you were a good employee. She is not acting like a personal friend. That’s entirely appropriate, since she was your boss, and you said you were never friends outside of work in the first place.

    Obviously you want to be friends with her, and that’s disappointing. But Sharon has done nothing rude, unreasonable, or wrong. You just expected / wanted something that she did not want.

    It would behoove you to try to put this out of your mind. Stop re-reading your meeting notes and old texts. The fact that Sharon is no longer your boss doesn’t invalidate any of that feedback, but it does mean that you need to move forward with new accomplishments and new work relationships. Overthinking past conversations won’t help you.

    And tbh, I have to wonder a bit about why you are so familiar with texts from numbers that have blocked you. Do you get blocked a lot? If so, it may be time to rethink your communication habits in general.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I have an android phone so I’m not familiar, but my understanding was that what OP is describing with regards to imessage vs text messages is common knowledge among iphone users. There’s no need to be so rude as to imply that they are getting constantly blocked.

      1. RagingADHD*

        She said “in my experience.”
        And of three possible explanations she gave, she chose “blocked” as the most likely. Why? Wouldn’t it be most likely that Sharon had a bad signal?

        I didn’t say it to be rude. I said it because if it happens a lot, there’s something going on that bears examination.

  40. MissDisplaced*

    1. Am I being ghosted by my wonderful former boss?
    I don’t mean to sound callous or cold, but sometimes when people leave jobs they just move on after a month or so. Not because it’s anything personal, or that they don’t like you, but they just get busy with their new job and life. In OP1’s case, it seems former boss did provide the reference (yes?) once she got a hold of them, but just wasn’t up for chatting about your job search. And I mean, that’s fine really, unless you have a deeper mentor/mentee relationship. As long as they are willing to provide a good reference when you need it, I’m not sure what else it is you’re really expecting from a former boss?

    4. When can I move to a two-page resume?
    Yes, probably about the 8-10 year mark. But it might be sooner if you have a lot of technical certifications and skills, or if in education/sciences, published articles or studies you’d want to highlight.

  41. Harvey JobGetter*

    Re #2, I think the response misses a key point: it is absolutely job growth/reference-torpedoing for a man to cry at work at the vast majority of jobs, and surely will be with this guy’s boss. The key advice is to do what he has to for his health and to move forward as Alison suggested. But also: he needs to anticipate not being able to use this job for a reference in any way if he breaks down during the meeting. If he can hold up through the meeting, he might be able to salvage a reference if he was otherwise very good at his job.

    I’m not defending this situation, but it is the reality in the vast majority of jobs.

  42. Tidewater 4-1009*

    #3 – I always keep copies of my evaluations because I never know when someone might try to punish, or set me up, or something. I saw a lot of that when I was young and it made me cautious.
    You, your partner, and everyone should keep copies of your evaluations at home where you can always get them. Especially in this situation – when your partner moves on, his unreasonable boss probably won’t give much of a reference because she’s unreasonable. He should try to find other people there to be his references.
    Good luck! :)

  43. Sue*

    Regarding the post about quitting due to stress and burn out: my partner did essentially that a little under a year ago. About this time, he was completely miserable at work, his boss was a huge part of the problem and he ended up having to take a medical leave of absence to get what turned out to be a major depressive episode under control. He went back after 4 weeks off to get his meds right sized and realized that even with his meds, he couldn’t stay. He ended up taking 5 months off and it’s the best thing he did. His original goal was 3 months off but we agreed that it was worth it for him to take his time and really figure out what was next. He pondered a direction shift, going back to school and ultimately found a job back in his field via a networking connection. The new organization is such a wonderfully supportive place for him to work. And, he’s making slightly more a year than he had been after 7 years at his old place, including a promotion to a supervisor role (he’s back to doing the work now instead of supervising and is SO glad he made that choice). All in all it was SO worth it for us to be conservative financially to give my partner time to heal and in the end, he’s in such a better place, professionally and personally. Know that it’ll get better!

  44. Pellegrino*

    OP3: I would suggest that even if your husband chooses to go the quitting route, that he consider not quitting outright but rather informing his employer that he is dealing with an urgent health issue and to use his paid time off and apply for any other leaves/programs that he is eligible for such as FMLA or disability leave. Even if these requests ultimately don’t work out, most companies are unlikely to abruptly terminate an employee that has informed them of a potential serious medical situation while they are getting the documentation/requests together. This will at least buy some time to look for a new job and depending on the leave provide some payment in the meantime. Wishing you two good luck!

  45. Prof. Toebeans*

    In regards to #1, the tone of the letter itself made me – a random reader – uncomfortable, and I can’t help but wonder if Sharon felt this way too. The flourishing use of language and hyperbole reads like a jilted lover rather than a business relationship. So much of this post felt like an ex when they tried to “just let me know how their life was going”, right down to their leaving me a sobbing voicemail about reading through old emails we’d shared. I’d not been in contact with them, and it only furthered a decision I’d already made to keep it that way. And that was someone I was *in a relationship with* – I cannot imagine having these kinds of reactions for a coworker or boss, no matter how much I liked them.

    Bottom line, by not responding to requests for a HH reschedule, maintained radio silence, and only offering work contact info moving forward, Sharon has made it abundantly clear she intends to maintain a professional-only relationship with LW. This wasn’t a friendship. Yes, the suggestion to grab drinks may have suggested otherwise, and perhaps at one point Sharon truly did entertain the notion of a friendship outside work. However, somewhere along the line this changed, for whatever reason, and Sharon owes no explanation for this. I would personally urge the LW not to contact Sharon further, unless for another reference or some other legitimate professional reason.

    One final thought – as much as I respect Sharon’s actions and think she deserves to be left alone – no good manager should ever encourage someone to turn down a promotion for them. To the LW: good managers want to see their team members flourish and succeed, even if that means sometimes losing them. It’s normal. Don’t ever let someone hold you back from a promotion in the future!

  46. RB*

    I really felt that the LW 3 letter was not really asking how to quit their job, more like how to tell their boss they were taking stress leave during the busiest season of the year. I think they were hoping a leave of absence would alleviate the stress problem and they might not have to quit their job. The answer focused more on how to quit their job, but I don’t think the LW’s partner was quite ready to quit, that they were hoping that would be the last resort.

  47. BooRadley*

    LW #5, I hate writing this comment! But I would encourage you not to mention your marital status or allude to maiden names (and say birth name or prior name, not maiden name, if you must). The reason why is that discrimination and sexism are real, and sometimes that manifests against women when an employer learns you are married or recently married, some employers (the bad ones, of course) may use this to low-ball on salary, or take a candidate less seriously (she’s just going to have a baby in a year type thinking). It should never happen, but discrimination based on your marital status regularly occurs and I advise you not to emphasize married names and maiden names. Valentina (Prescott) Warbleworth or Valentina Prescott Warbleworth is fine with no explanation, and you can let your references know to expect a call so they are prepared to recognize your new chosen name.

  48. Chaos Coordinator*

    OP #3 – This could have been written by me, on behalf of my partner, 8 months ago. Just before COVID hit, he was totally burnt out, working for a truly toxic, manipulative, and downright abusive boss. I was extremely worried about his safety as he was crying in the mornings, evenings, and lunchbreaks; (*trigger warning*) part of him truly thought that to drive off the road on his morning commute would be better than facing his boss for one more day.

    He was signed off with stress leave, which did NOT go down well with his boss (was initially told ‘you’re a liar’, and then the direct response to ‘boss, I need help, I’m seriously considering suicide’ was ‘well I have a holiday booked next month, if you don’t ignore the sick note and come back to work then I’ll have to cancel it, and the business won’t survive’). He ended up being signed off for a month – which helped a bit – and ultimately handed in his notice due to pressure from the boss.

    A few things we considered at the time, or have figured out in hidnsight (recognising that your situation is bound to be different):

    – Taking sick leave due to stress didn’t necessarily (for him) reduce the stress. He was still worried sick about the business, his workload (for context: he was just above entry level, with salary to match), and mostly about how his boss would retaliate against him professionally if/when he did return.

    – In hindsight, the company got off scott-free by accepting his resignation – although it was the right call for him (clean break), by rights he should have been on long-term sickness absence, and still being financially supported by his employer (UK!).

    – Be prepared for the workplace toxicity to still pop up in unexpected (or expected, but equally unsettling) ways. This could just be because of his boss’s gaslighting and manipulative personality, but we had correspondence at all hours of the day, on all platforms, swinging wildly from ‘I miss you/the company needs you/hope you’re ok’ to ‘never contact us again/threatening legal action’

    – References: if your partner is worried about references, consider:
    * HR.
    * Boss’s supervisor.
    * Colleagues(ideally superior, but even peers) – may need to note that these are ‘personal references, based on direct working with Partner, and not on behalf of Company’
    * Former colleagues from Current Company.
    * Previous bosses/colleagues.
    * Clients (probably field-dependent).
    * Project Leads/Managers from other companies that your partner worked directly (or closely) with.
    * Academic references.
    * Direct report references.
    * Copies of formal appraisals (like you suggested).
    * As Allison said, a lot of companies won’t give references as a matter of policy – you don’t need to get into the ‘why’s’ of leaving, if you don’t want to – dates of employment can be proved with pay stubs.

    – Be kind to yourself – it’s HARD. Take time to fill your own cup, recognise that it’s OK for YOU to struggle, whether it be with financial/emotional/practical support demands.

    It ultimately took a good 6-7 months to recover from the abuse at that company, and we still have wobbles from time to time. As another commenter said, thank goodness for Covid turning the world upside down and giving several months to focus on recovery, without the same external or self-driven pressures that come with job hunting at the best of times.

    All the very best OP

  49. Lolo*

    #3 sounds like working for a Big 4 accounting firm. I made it through 3 busy seasons before the stress was crippling and I just couldn’t do another year-end, much less quarter-end. I left, found a new career direction, and have not regretted it once. Good luck, friend.

  50. Alice's Rabbit*

    #5 Or one could do as Miss Manners has often suggested, and use the more formal naming convention. Say your maiden name is Smith, you would write Celeste Harrison, nee Smith.

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