updates: my company is doing drive-bys to check that I’m at home, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My company is doing drive-bys to check that I’m in isolation

Thanks for your advice and for the feedback from the lovely comments section.

The drive-bys stopped two days after I wrote to you, actually. I found out weeks later that the boss that I had looped in had told them to both knock it off and apologize for making me uncomfortable. Apparently my stalker-boss called it ridiculous but as I said, the checks did stop, although that’s not the end of the story.

About a week after my return to work my stalker-boss scheduled a performance review for a project we were concluding. Instead of discussing the project, they pressed me intensely to critique their management style and apologized vaguely for anything they may have done at any time that I may have taken offense to. It was a very strange meeting, and although it was probably the perfect time to bring up the interactions using your scripts, I just didn’t feel comfortable doing that in the context of a performance review. I had already decided before I returned to work to call it an extreme pandemic panic response, extend some grace and let everyone move on.

My other co-workers were pulled in for performance reviews/cross-examinations as well. We found out later that stalker-boss had gone for a promotion but was denied. Apparently one of the concerns raised was poor employee satisfaction and it seems now like stalker-boss was searching for someone to blame. Because the incident I wrote to you about was so fresh, I became that person. Since then things have been frosty with that boss. It may have been a blessing in disguise though – having a difficult relationship with them pushed me more towards working with my other boss and I’ve taken on projects that have substantially expanded my skill set and which I’ve really enjoyed. And although I didn’t use the responses you gave me for my own letter, I’ve been using scripts and advice you’ve given to other letter-writers about difficult bosses, neutralizing tense interactions, and setting boundaries.

Since you published that letter, I think about the comments occasionally and I wonder how the responses might have been different if it had been published at different points in the pandemic. I think by now we’ve all had some practice at extending the benefit of the doubt during difficult times and I believe I might have gotten more comments in that vein if it had been published later. Even I look at it a bit like that now – the first in many very odd and painfully human responses to the stress of the pandemic.

Lastly, some commenters were concerned about how my boss knew my address. I live in company housing in a small town. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone knows where everyone lives, so it didn’t even register to me that it might be a weird thing to know until I read those comments.

2. My coworker won’t stop declaring his feelings for me (#3 at the link)

I was quite lucky with how my situation got resolved. We closed in March due to Covid and furloughed all the part-time staff, including Jack. Then he moved to another state for family reasons before we officially reopened for the summer. He only briefly came in to turn in his key and say goodbye to the full-timers. Coincidentally, I’ve recently accepted a position at another organization (thanks askamanager interview tips!), so even if Jack comes back to town to visit, our paths should not cross at all! It was probably the best possible outcome.

Thank you so much for your advice! I recognize that these kinds of situations can sometimes escalate and end poorly. I took to heart the words of your readers who expressed concern for my safety in the comments. I hope my happy ending alleviates some of their worries!

3. My klutzy, unpolished boss is like a bull in a china shop

Your advice was helpful, and some of the comments accurately pointed out that I was letting my own secondhand embarrassment steer my thinking. It was the right move to distance myself from feeling awkward on my boss’ behalf, and instead just letting her do her thing. Some of the more obvious unmannerly details from my original post are not currently issues, since things like catered lunches and big meetings are not happening in this timeline. Agree to disagree with those who commented that licking your fingers in a work meeting is no biggie! The conference call etiquette stuff has, expectedly, gotten way worse with covid, and it is still pretty grating to me. It does affect how our team calls go with our grandboss (I have some other team calls with him that my boss does not join and it is incredible how much more productive and pleasant they are), but I’ve just accepted it’s not my problem. As you said, if it becomes enough of an issue for him to mention, he will do so. She really is great in many other ways, I fear that my letter didn’t adequately give her the credit she deserves, I wouldn’t say your advice changed anyone’s behavior, but it did help me stop worrying. Thanks for helping me find my inner zen!

PS – Some of the folks in the comments made assumptions that were a smidge off-base. Honestly I was too intimidated by the volume and intensity to really engage, but I suppose some helpful context would have been this: she spent most of her career as a freelancer, and her transition back into the “formal” workplace was a new and relatively recent career change for her. When I wrote in we were in the midst of presenting some high profile strategic plans, and were face-to-face with the highest level of leadership at our organization. Prior to that we had been more insulated, so much of my worry about manners and etiquette stemmed from my concern that those individuals either wouldn’t take us and our preojects seriously or wouldn’t respect her (very good!) ideas because of their presentation. Those plans were scrapped because of covid, so I don’t really know if my concern was warranted or not. I agree that it’s rad that a woman in her middle age can be at a high level and enjoy a successful career, whilst remaining her comfortable, klutzy self!

4. I was fired for “poor performance” after years of glowing feedback (#2 at the link)

Thank you again for posting my letter. It was really heartwarming to see that I am not alone during this difficult time.

I am happy to say that within one week of getting let go due to “poor performance,” I received and accepted an offer at a company for a “step-up” position, a much higher salary (twice my old salary), a fully remote/work from home position, and much better hours (35 hours per week during normal business hours).

I am thankful for your and the rest of the AMM community’s support during this difficult time. At the time, it seemed really horrible and I was wondering how I was ever going to get past this nightmare, but three weeks later, I can honestly say that getting let go was the best thing that happened to me. I had a two week break after I accepted the offer and I am looking forward to starting my new position on Monday!

For other AMM community members who are still looking for new opportunities during these trying times, do not give up. The AMM community is here to support you and we will all get through this together!

{ 19 comments… read them below }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP#1 – I hope you and your coworkers reported stalker boss’s bizarre behavior to someone. Those actions proved that they are not ready for a promotion and, in fact, probably shouldn’t be managing people at all.

    1. EPLawyer*

      And their response to the reason for not getting promoted shows it was the right call not to promote.

      If your first instinct upon being told that you have poor relationships with your report is to look for someone to blame — you took the WRONG message from that feedback.

    2. Even In an Emergency*

      Yeah, there is no need to give “grace” to this person. I don’t think this is a “human” reaction in the middle of a pandemic – it’s illegal, harassment, and way, way beyond acceptable!

    3. allathian*

      Hard agree. This person shouldn’t be managing people at all, not promoting them was the right call. Looking for someone to blame for the lack of promotion just proves it.

  2. Blue*

    Wow!! I got confused because I was like “didn’t we already have an update to the stalker drive by window peering boss letter?? But naturally there were two…the update on this one feels at least a bit more satisfying.

  3. Anon for this*

    #4 question: On applications that require a reason for leaving, this person has to put involuntary termination for poor performance. If they don’t and a future employer finds out, it could be falsification of application. How much can this affect a person’s future job search? How likely is it for potential employers to interview this person? Im just really curious as I am in a similar situation and can’t make sense of how much this affects my future. It feels very dire.

    1. JohannaCabal*

      I’ve been there. Fortunately, in my case it was a three month job, so I ultimately left it off my resume. The only time I had to put it on an application was after I had already been hired. I had been scared to put it down, especially since it wasn’t on my resume. Nothing ever came of it.

      For #4, it could be they’d applied to a job just before the firing or the new company saw they were no longer working and just assumed it was due to the pandemic, glossing over it. Or #4 came to an agreement with a their old employer to label it a “layoff” (this is something I wish I’d done as I think the company that fired me would have done it).

  4. Astrid*

    I feel like the bad park about #2 is the “offender” won’t have learned from the experience, but getting away from a problem is still a better solution than many people get.

  5. Mayor of Llamatown*

    I am genuinely sad that the updates will be done next week. It’s been a fantastic way to end the year. Thanks Alison, and all the updaters!

    1. allathian*

      I’m hoping that the updates will continue from time to time, if people send them in. Alison has done them occasionally, even when it’s not December. Fingers crossed!

      I think it’s very gratifying as a reader to learn how people’s lives have changed after writing in and getting some advice. These are among my favorite posts.

  6. EventPlannerGal*

    #3 – Reading through the comments on the original post, I gotta say that a lot of the discourse about finger-licking (and related handwashing and handshakes and touching of surfaces) reads REALLY differently at the other end of 2020…

    1. comityoferrors*

      I had the exact same thought. It’s wild how deeply some of our perceptions have changed throughout the year. There was one comment (not calling anyone out, it just stuck out in my mind) about not being willing to carry around wipes and hand sanitizer everywhere, and…well…I imagine that changed a few months later.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I got bogged down in that part of the thread as well! “WELP – probably not the case anymore!”

  7. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #4 – Very happy for you, and, that’s what usually happens with quality people.

    Just curious – did they try to get you to stay? One time I was facing a similar situation in Toxic Enterprise and was on probation (they didn’t use “PIP” back then) and when I said **** it, and just got another job – they tried to talk me into staying and were about to throw money at me.

    Weird. Wondered if they tried that or, they probably were like one American President on the bridge of a boat “Mission Accomplished”….

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      whooops sorry – I didn’t know that they went that far to actually let you go. I didn’t see that, I thought at the time you first checked in here they had just put you on a PIP.

  8. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    OP #1 – I once had a company gumshoe (let’s call him Fearless Fosdick) investigate me; it involved a neighbor who was also a company employee whose employment terminated, and a few years later I learned that there was another guy whose employment terminated and he won a multi-million dollar wrongful discharge suit against the company.

    My neighbor – I did not know him well – nor did I know if he also sued for wrongful discharge. I do know that I was upset that ol’ Fearless Fosdick made two calls to my wife when I was at work. I reported it, my manager intervened and said it would stop but , in the interim, my wife got another call at home.

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