updates: team won’t accommodate my allergy, mixed messages after lay-offs, 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 team keeps holding lunches at a restaurant that doesn’t accommodate my allergy

I do have an update, and it’s a happy one. You suggested that if I wasn’t getting anywhere with the person organizing the lunches, I should talk to someone above them. This didn’t initially help much because the reason my coworker was organizing the lunches in the first place was because our manager didn’t care to do it (managers have usually been the ones to organize this sort of thing). But your advice did make me realize that my coworker was just taking the path of least resistance to accomplish something that shouldn’t have been his responsibility in the first place, and that the root cause of the problem was my manager being extremely hands-off.

A few months prior to all of this happening, I had moved into a new role on the team at my manager’s request. I knew going in that it was going to be challenging, but I accepted because I hoped to grow into it. I eventually came to realize that although I was able to be competent in the role, it wasn’t a good fit and was very stressful for me. I approached my manager about moving out of the role, and he suggested a temporary assignment to another team that did different, but related, work to our team. It didn’t take long working for someone else to realize how much my manager’s hands-off approach and lack of feedback were affecting my morale (I also really liked the new work I was doing!) I asked the new manager if he had a spot for me to transfer to his team permanently, and he enthusiastically said yes! We’re all still working remotely, so no team lunches yet, but based on how I’ve seen my new manager handle other situations, I very much doubt that the allergy issue will come up again on this team. Thank you to you and the commenters for being part of the impetus that led to what has been a very positive change for me!

2. We’re sending mixed messages to our laid-off employees

First of all, thank you. The advice you gave and feedback from the larger AAM community definitely helped. Also, it made me feel like I wasn’t crazy thinking something was off (illegal) with the entire situation.

After my question ran in your column I reached out to our Finance Director and had a candid conversation with him about my concerns. He agreed with me, and we both approached the ED again to convey that it was clear people were confused about their status and that the organization needed to provide more clarity so people weren’t hanging on with false hope, or feeling like they needed to stay on top of emails when they weren’t being paid. The ED did agree with us, and there was a short flurry of activity to help remedy things – turning off access to people’s email accounts, getting the previous IT person to do a more formalized handover, etc. However, things quickly started to slip back into “there’s no harm in keeping our great team engaged, because we do want to bring them back eventually.” I would like to say that there was some big change or reckoning that made it clear what was being communicated wasn’t sufficient, but that never happened. I know that two of these ex-staff are still hanging onto the hope that they’ll be brought back in January (they won’t be) and haven’t been looking for other work. In fact, one of them reached out to me last week to ask for an “update on the 2021 start date.” The whole thing has been uncomfortable and yet the whole year has been such a challenge this issue started to feel less critical as we continue to struggle to keep the lights on and the rest of the team employed.

Thank you again for the clear feedback on this situation.

3. My father keeps responding to my employee’s posts on Facebook (#2 at the link)

I’m afraid that the situation resolved itself in a fairly mundane way. I chose to go ahead and unfriend my employee on Facebook, matching my typical stance of not interacting with any of my staff over social media. This meant that I was no longer seeing both his posts, or my father’s responses. Because of that, I don’t know if there were any future interactions between them and he never once mentioned anything to me. In addition, due to Covid-19 my employer offered early retirement incentives to all staff who qualified. Covid-19 and its potential health ramifications towards high-risk seniors over the age of 65 was a tipping point for him. He chose to accept the retirement incentive, and retired.

4. My background check is taking forever (#5 at the link)

About a week after you posted your answer to my question, I got a call from the full-time dream job I applied to asking me for an interview. I had my interview a few days later and it went AMAZING! I have to thank you for your interview guides. I had my answers practiced just enough to feel confident in giving them, but not practiced enough to sound rehearsed. They actually moved me on to speak to their chief of staff about 30 minutes after my initial interview, and that was more of a conversation and felt like a “vibe check” to get the final approval. I went home from the interview, relaxed, and by end of day I had an offer from them! I accepted right away and they sent their onboarding information later that evening so that I could submit my background check and complete my drug screen the next day. It all cleared, and my first day is tomorrow – just a week after I had my interview! It happened so fast and I’m grateful I took the chance in applying.

Now about the part-time job I had accepted. After I wrote in and learned from commenters that the background checks in that county could take 6-8 weeks, HR emailed me with a form that I needed to sign in order for them to request my records. This was 4 weeks after I initially sent in my information. Meaning, the 6-8 weeks hadn’t even STARTED yet! Who knows how long I would have been waiting. Once I got my start date for my new job, I called my would-be supervisor at the job and explained the situation, and she was incredibly understanding and apologetic that it took so long. She even said she was happy that I got a full-time job! I don’t feel a bridge was burned at all, and I’m glad I didn’t let that fear stop me from going through with the interview for my new job.

{ 32 comments… read them below }

  1. Watry*

    Background check OP: I’m so sorry, I just now saw your comment on the original post asking me for guidance on contacts. I’m glad it turned out so well for you!

    1. Chicagoan*

      How bizarre about the background check… I’ve lived in Chicago for over a decade and when I needed a background check for a job a couple years ago, it took all of 3-4 days to get the results back. Maybe it’s a Chicago vs suburban Cook County thing?

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I think it also depends on the type of background check that is being done. A basic background check that is mostly just confirming jobs and any criminal convictions is going to take hopefully no more than a week. But I can see how a more in-depth or security clearance background check can take longer (I have a family member who was government and needed a security level background check and it took six weeks to complete).

        1. Xenia*

          I’ve heard stories about six-month background checks for high security stuff, but that’s if you’re working on honest to goodness military level cutting edge super classified stuff. Three months for a basic part time job just sounds exhausting.

          1. Watry*

            I mean, my background check for work did take about three months for a part-time job, it’s just part of working where I do (I’m full-time now). But that involved calling references, a psych check, etc. The sort of check most places want is one that takes us like twenty minutes if you’re right in front of us and the people who run it aren’t too busy with their primary duties.

    2. ScampiForever*

      Oh, don’t even worry about it! Thanks so much!! It really couldn’t have worked out any better!

  2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    OP2 (mixed messages about layoffs) – I’m curious, what did you say to the two who you know are still thinking they’ll be brought back on board in January?

    1. oof*

      I’m confused as to why they can’t be more explicit in their communication with the laid off employees….?

      1. I'm just here for the cats.*

        I think they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or alienate them for the future. However what they re doing is going to hurt them a lot worse

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          You’ve gotta be cruel to be kind, in the right measure
          Cruel to be kind, it’s a very good sign.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        My assumption is that the “company line” is that it’s still open ended in the way that certain positions ‘may’ be available again in January, where ‘may be available’ differs in its interpretation depending on if you are the company (positions won’t be available, but we want/need to string people along, because it will eventually suit us to ramp up business again and in order to do that we’ll need people who are already familiar and engaged with our outlook and immediately available) vs if you are the employee (e.g., “they can’t guarantee a position for legal reasons, but I’m one of the better performers, and my role is one of those that are more ‘key’ to the organisation, so I’m hoping it’s that because they just can’t announce anything yet, but I haven’t had anything to tell me that I won’t have a job in January, so….)

        OP is probably (especially in a higher level leadership position) bound by pursuing the ‘company’ line, and can’t e.g. give subtle hints to those people that there is no job to come back to and they need to job search.

    2. Chinook*

      Ditto. I have been that person whose contract was not renewed but was never told it was not renewed (I was new to the profession and it had already been renewed once and was only told about that in passing). The boss literally did not want to deal with it and I finally had confirmation of the non-renewal when I was at a going away ceremony for a teacher who was retiring and I was also given a going away/thank you for your service gift. in front of a large group

      20 years later, I am still angry that no one bothered to be explicit so that I could have spent the previous 4 months job hunting (literally the amount of notice they had about the planned downsizing).

      Being explicit may seem unnecessary, but do it for the sake of clarity. It is a kindness to the ex-employees.

      1. Lizzo*

        That is an exceptionally crappy thing to do to an employee, and I’d still be angry about it 20 years later, too. I’m sorry that happened to you.

    3. Clorinda*

      This is terrible. They should heave enough information so they can make rational decisions for themselves, such as starting their job search now.
      Also, anyone out there who was laid off/furloughed/put on leave last spring and doesn’t have a firm restart date, maybe you should start your job search now. You don’t work for your employer. You work for you.

      1. Quiet Liberal*

        I agree. This is cruel to do to people. I know OP’s employer owes nothing to these two people, but geez.

  3. Mid*

    Oh I feel bad for those two employees in #2, and I hope they’re told explicitly that they no longer have jobs soon.

    1. Daniel*

      Sounds like they haven’t had jobs for months! OP2, by any chance, is there any risk to you if you tell them that you don’t think they’re coming back? That sounds like a pretty safe assumption if your office is still “struggl[ling] to keep the lights on” even after the cutbacks. (And I assume you’re looking for new work too.)

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I wonder if what happened is that upper management is being overly rosy so anybody who is below them is being outweighed. After all who should know more about the health of a company – the upper management or a low level manager.

    3. WellRed*

      agreed. the company is wrong here, but at some point, the former employees (Cause that’s what they are) need to wake up and smell the coffee/see the light/and read the writing on the wall.

  4. anon73*

    #1 – I’m glad things have worked for you, but please don’t make excuses for your former teammate. If he no longer wanted to take the responsibility of organizing team lunches, it was up to him to talk to his manager about it. I understand it can be difficult to find a place that works for everyone, but he chose the lazy way out because it was easier for him even knowing it would exclude you each and every time. I hope your new team is more accomodating and inclusive.

    1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      I’m here with you as far as scrunching my nose over the resolution. Being in potentially a similar situation every single time I have to attend a team lunch, off site meeting, etc. etc. etc., I know that its reasonable for me to plan ahead when possible, and I do keep spare food in my bag. What is not reasonable is for me to have to beg politely to be able to eat during an 8 hour meeting in the boondocks where there are no places to grab something to eat reasonably, and have someone “in charge” decide that I’m asking nicely enough.

      I really hope that the LW#1’s team is exactly like my initial team at my previous job. They were awesome. They had my back. And they’d raise unholy Cain if someone outside the department decided that we had to do a group lunch and I could just “pick out” my allergens. Yeah. Someone did say that. That’s not how this works, unfortunately.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I think there is some leeway for both points (and I’m saying that as a person with a food allergy that requires me to carry an epi pen). Some people who have never lived with an allergy (or a family member with an allergy) may underestimate the severity, and then to make it even more confusing there are levels of severity in allergies. However, that convo should only happen once – unless the planning person changes.

  5. JohannaCabal*

    OP2 – You mention there was a flurry of activity regarding access to emails yet now your senior management is saying “there’s no harm in keeping our great team engaged…” Does that mean that they still have email access or access was closed but is now open? I keep wondering how this will look if it was reported…could these “laid off” employees come back and argue they were technically still working? If so, could the company be on the hook? If the company has a general counsel or HR department, I’m surprised they haven’t put a stop to it. For example, I can easily see the two employees realizing next year they are not coming back next year, getting (rightfully) angry, and potentially contacting whichever agency handles payroll issues in your state.

    1. PT*

      If it’s a nonprofit, they’re probably keeping them engaged via their personal email. When I was at a nonprofit, only staff with a pressing business need got a company email, everyone else either didn’t have computer access at work and had to use their personal email on their personal device, or used a shared login on a shared computer.

    2. CommanderBanana*


      If you have laid them off, they are no longer part of your great team. This organization’s ED really, really sucks.

      1. Quill*

        Yeah. This did NOT get resolved. The organization is still saying “there may be positions” and stringing people along.

        Their line needs to be “we currently don’t have positions and we have confirmed that we won’t February through march” (or whenever)

  6. JohannaCabal*

    I’d still be wary. I mentioned LW2’s original post to a friend in HR and she almost fell out of her chair. Friend works for a state that’s very employee-friendly and could easily see a situation where “laid-off” employees accessing or even responding to emails could lead to issues.

Comments are closed.