updates: the boundary-violating boss, the scars, 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. I don’t want to tell my boundary-violating boss I’m pregnant

Sending that letter and reading not only your response but some of the comments really landed me where I am today.

First of all, I did take your advice to tell the group at work and of course my intrusive supervisor got very intrusive throughout the process. I worked hard to keep my boundaries and consulted with GrandBoss to do so. But something you said and that was in the comments really stuck in my head. Which was that the fact that there had been so many instances of inappropriate behavior on her part and support but no action from GrandBoss made it really clear this was not a healthy work environment.

The birth of my son coincided with two things, first was that I finished a masters degree I had been working on for a while. The second is that a position opened up at work in a different department that I was directly qualified for because of my experience and my advanced degree. I approached my GrandBoss and let him know I was interested. He said they were looking for someone with much more experience experience than me. And then a few months later, as my pregnancy progressed, they hired a man my age with the same level of experience I have. I confronted Grandboss and asked when the requirements changed and why I wasn’t given a chance to apply. And he said that yes, they did lower their expectations for applicants, but he just didn’t think to give me a heads up.

Everything culminated to the point where I was done. I got lots of advice from commenters on my letter to you that it was time to look for a new job and thats what really pushed me. Now I am in a wonderful job, on my ideal career path, with amazing bosses. I am pregnant again and this time not only do I not worry about boundaries, I also have incredible support in terms of flexibility and time.

You might also like to know that your site was a godsend to me during my job search and with your help I did successfully negotiate my salary to reflect my worth.

2. HR told me to cover up my scars (#2 at the link)

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. My update isn’t as uplifting as I wish it was. I was talking to my spouse, Chris, at the time about how ridiculous this whole situation was and it came out that they were in agreement with Brandy. Chris didn’t understand why it was such a big deal for me to just wear long sleeves so people wouldn’t have to see my arms. It turns out that Chris had had multiple conversations with Brandy about this in the past and that was why Brandy went to HR. Apparently, Chris is uncomfortable when people ask them about the scars and has long wished that I would just wear long sleeves all the time. They claimed that they didn’t care about seeing the scars themselves but did call my scars ugly. After a lot of soul searching, I decided to move out at least for now. While we did start marriage counseling last month, I am feeling that divorce might be the best option.

In terms of work, the situation sort of resolved itself due to the COVID situation. I decided to move to a different company and away from lab work so that I could work remotely. I am still in the science field but now work on designing experiments and have a desk job. My new job is wonderful and it is a sigh of relief to feel as though I can be myself. Over the summer, I met many of my new coworkers in person (at an appropriate social distance) and, although I saw a few people notice my arms, not one person said anything and no one treats me like a pariah or walks around on eggshells around me.

Thanks again for all of your help!

3. How can I get feedback on my management from an employee before I leave? (#3 at the link)

Understanding that the power dynamic made things awkward, I never had a conversation with Jane specifically about my management of her before I left for my new job. At one of our last 1:1 meetings, I did ask what kind of support she needed going forward so I could include recommendations in my exit memo, and that gave me some insight into what I could have done better.

What made a bigger difference to me improving as a manager, though, is that my own manager in my new job (well, it’s been 18 months, so not so new anymore) actively helps me be a better manager! A whole section of my annual review is about my management of my team, and I know I can go to her any time with any questions or concerns I have about my juniors and my management of them. I honestly didn’t know I could expect to be trained in management, as naive as that sounds, so it’s been a very pleasant and productive surprise.

4. My overworked colleague is missing deadlines that affect my work (#3 at the link)

My update isn’t as exciting as I would like. But the short version is COVID hit and leadership decided to push the project back 3 months due to uncertainty that the virus caused. The extra time gave myself and Amy time to meet deadlines and get our heads back above water. Prior to COVID hitting my region, I did follow part of your advice and was more direct with Amy regarding the impact of missed deadlines. She did show some improvement, but I honestly don’t think it would have been enough if COVID hadn’t hit. In the end we got there and all things considered had a successful rollout.

{ 151 comments… read them below }

  1. MissGirl*

    Amazing how many problems everybody getting to work from home has solved. Guess it wasn’t the company ending catastrophe so many managers thought it was. I’m very curious if everyone has to write another update in six months when they’re back in the office.

    1. Introvert girl*

      Yes, it seems that putting people together in one room so you can watch them work has a negative impact on about everything. And when you let go of the control and start to trust your adult employees to do their work, they actually do their work. It’s like the 19th century factory model just doesn’t seem to be working in an office setting…

        1. Mel_05*

          Yes! There are many people I now find charming – since I only see them in a couple zoom meetings each month – who were an absolute nuisance in the office.

          I’m also way more chill myself, since I don’t have to worry about how I look in the office. I know there’s been a lot of advice out there about dressing up to work from home so you’ll perform better, but I find that my sweats and a nice fluffy blanket give me the best work performance.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          My only (and for now theoretical) problem with fulltime WFH is that, when you start a new job, how do you figure out who the cow-irkers even are? I know who I can and cannot trust at my job, but that came from years of face-to-face interactions, happy hours, observing them in the office and so on. What will I do if I start a new job and everyone is just… pixels on my screen? how do I know who the good ones are?

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I changed jobs a few months ago and everyone I work with is determined not to talk shit about anyone so I can’t figure out who is a raging incompetent. My last job was also all remote but I had enough people on my team who would dish on who was not to be trusted that I got the lay of the land pretty fast. Meanwhile at my new job I was filling in for someone on a project that ended up getting grievously mishandled and I have heard murmurs that it’s because someone on the project totally dropped the ball but I have no idea who, and I was too new at the time to figure it out!

        1. DArcy*

          The evidence indicates that those fires were actually set on purpose by the factory owners. Who, of course, never faced any consequences for it.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        I mean… it works well for some people, and some types of work. It goes terribly for other people and other types of work.

        I have an extremely hard time doing my job from home. Partly because I just plain can’t focus with all the distractions at home, but also because so much of my work is made easier by face-to-face interaction with my colleagues. It’s very hard to run a training on zoom that’s as effective as doing it in person, for example, and any sort of collaborative process is much easier when you can just pop your head around the corner to discuss a quick question instead of trying to do it through phone or email. Plus, for me, never getting to see my coworkers in person feels incredibly isolating… I’m not a super chatty person at work, but the 5-10 minutes of small talk per day makes a huge difference in how comfortable I feel around people.

        I think having the flexibility to work from home as-needed is great… some people really thrive doing that. But I really REALLY hope this doesn’t end up with employers permanently closing their offices and moving to 100% remote work either.

        1. Nope.*

          Could not agree more.

          100% remote work is not a godsend, perfect solution for everyone – and I’m not just referring to whether the job CAN be done remotely or not.

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Interesting that maybe half of the issues you describe are to do with your personality and the other half to do with your particular role – work that involves close collaboration between individuals who energise each other is always going to suffer if organised remotely.

          There are other areas where tasks or even projects are very individualised and discrete from one another, and we’re seeing how suited those are to remote working. I’ve been WFH as a paralegal for some years and it suits my personality and working style very well to have two or three online meetings a month and in-person only a few times a year.

          Before The Plague, my spouse thought he wanted to move to full-time WFH. It’s now clear that that doesn’t suit him at all, so he’s looking at a hybrid WFH/shared space model, involving public workspaces in the short term (eg coffee shops when local regulations permit) and official remote working locations when they open up.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Yes, it’s very much a person to person thing. WFH isn’t a new concept and many have lusted for it, only to be forced into it and hate it in the end. But many have also found out they do better than they thought they would have.

            The good news is it’ll be more of an option for folks! I don’t want it personally and yeah, I can do my job from home but I don’t like my job nearly as much when I’m doing it remotely.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              I wish we talked more as a society about how different kinds of roles and working environments suit different personalities. Do you prefer concentrating or collaborating? One place or a variety? Indoors or outdoors? Public or anonymous?

              I think there could end up being a big shift in the next five years or so when people are able to make more informed choices about how they work best. Employers will be able to assess which roles/ functions worked out remotely, and which didn’t, and what management styles didn’t translate. I think it will be really interesting.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Yes. The Sales department is usually full of extroverts who fuel, inspire and feed off each other. There’s usually lots of joking and laughter and networking.
                Then there are those of us who have to produce documents, who usually need to be left alone to work in peace.
                At my last workplace, there were four quiet workers, we all worked in the same room, called the silent office, even though we were in two completely different departments. We would message each other to preserve the peace for the others, but then at lunch we would natter non-stop and after work we’d often get a bottle of wine out and have some fun. It was pretty ideal, until they decided to close the office, at which point I saw no reason to continue working there, and went freelance instead.

        3. ATM*

          Tbh I hope that as well. I’m currently wfh without a good set up because I just don’t have the space/funds for one. If this became permanent, I genuinely might have to look at either moving, or renting an office space, neither of which I can actually afford right now.

        4. EvilQueenRegina*

          Seriously, I could have written exactly that. They’re talking about offering us voluntary temporary work from home contracts at some point in the new year and I already know I don’t want to take that up. It’s isolating, I find training people more difficult, I don’t have an ideal space, I don’t think it would suit me.

        5. MCMonkeybean*

          Yeah, I have been liking working from home but every time another email came out from my company telling us that mandatory WFH had been extended most of the people on my team seemed pretty upset by it. They are itching to get back to the office!

          My company did permanently shutter one small office and made those employees WFH. For other offices I have hear whispers of potentially moving to hotdesking, in which case I would definitely talk to my manager about wanting to be WFH full-time!

  2. Anonymous Pygmy Possum*

    My jaw dropped when I read the update to #2. OP, I wish you all the best, and I’m glad you’re at least out of that job and away from your spouse, who apparently couldn’t just say “It’s none of your business” when asked about your scars??? Ugh.

    1. Dragon_Dreamer*

      I hope things get so much better for you, OP! *offers hugs* I’m facing major surgery next month that WILL leave nasty scars. I and my polycule agree: Anyone who doesn’t accept my scars and new body and love all of me, doesn’t deserve to be with me.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        Good luck on your surgery, I hope all goes well.

        OP, as someone with many ugly scars from surgeries as a teen, you absolutely did the right thing by leaving Chris. Scars quickly become a part of who we are, part of our history and the events that shape our personality, especially when you get them early as you have. You are a survivor, and anyone you allow in your life should appretiate that and be proud of you. Even if you end up not divorcing Chris, they absolutely need to learn to value all of you before you can go on.

    2. allathian*

      Yeah. OP, I’m so sorry. Chris seems like a real piece of work, I’m sorry you aren’t getting the support you deserve from your spouse. I’m wondering about your former job, though, why on Earth would so many people think it appropriate to comment on your scars, either to your face or to your spouse? I’m glad you’re in counseling and I hope you can resolve this issue in a way that gives you some peace, I don’t blame you for considering a divorce. I’m very happy for you that you’ve found a more reasonable job.

      1. AKchic*

        I am going to assume it’s because Chris made the topic so easy to discuss with Brandy. Brandy was nosy, yes. However, Chris didn’t shut it down and gave vent to their own misgivings and negative feelings, which provided a feedback loop for the both of them, which wound Brandy up, who felt like she was being a savior for Chris (“I can get OP2 used to wearing long sleeves at work so they’ll wear them more often at home and save Chris the pain of seeing that uGlY stuff at home!”) while also “benefitting” herself. Her faux concern was fully to benefit herself at first, but once she found out that there was someone else to “save” (Chris), she went even further so she could pretend like it wasn’t about her own discomfort, but someone else’s, someone closer to OP2 who felt they couldn’t say anything at all.

        Brandy is the type we don’t trust around anyone because she will always be sidling up to people to gather dirt to benefit herself.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          Yeah, I was wondering why Brandy is so buddy buddy with OP’s husband that she could bring it up “several times” in situations where he felt he needed to dignify the questions with responses. Why is your coworker spending so much time with your partner??

          OP, I know it’s a really tough thing to go through, and I”m sorry you have to. At the same time it does sound like you are going to come out the other end of this in such a better place. I hope everything from here on out keeps getting better and better.

    3. SwitchingGenres*

      #2, as someone who also has scars on my arms (and doesn’t wear long sleeves) good on you for realizing your partner’s wirds/actions here are awful. I wish you the best of luck. You deserve better.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        I have scars covering large parts of my arns, legs and trunk that are visible even though they’ve been slowly fading over the years. I covered up for years but then decided I didn’t want to bother anymore. I got a few looks and questions over time but I give one or two word answers that make it clear that they aren’t up for discussion.

    4. Fish Microwaver*

      I get the fury for OP2 but I’m really feeling the flames for OP1. They lowered the requirements for the open position, “forgot” to tell her and then hired a man with even less experience? WTAF. In any case, I’m glad both OPs decided they were done and have moved on to new pastures.

      1. Observer*

        Yeah, the mentor didn’t “forget”.

        If they were big enough to be covered and the OP wanted to take the time and energy, I would be willing to be that they would win a case they brought in no time flat.

        Having said that, I do think that the OP is much better off in her new position.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          It might not be so clear cut. Legally speaking it is an interesting question. Was OP actually denied the chance to apply, or was OP only discouraged from applying? A “No you can’t apply” vs. “I don’t think you should apply.” If OP was only discouraged and didn’t apply the company did not technically deny her application.

          Not to say the company isn’t crappy, IANAL but employment discrimination cases are hard.

          1. Observer*

            Please. The mentor EXPLICITLY told her that she doesn’t qualify. THEN he admitted that they “changed” the requirements and he “didn’t think” to give her a heads up, even though SHE HAD ASKED ABOUT THE JOB *and* He was her supposed mentor! AND she had a good reason THAT SHE HAD BEEN DISCUSSING WITH HIM to want to move out of her position.

            I can’t think of any jury looking at that and saying “oh, the was a genuine mistake that had nothing to do with her pregnancy or gender.”

    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I very much hope OP2 has a fantastic 2021 and that no judgmental dicksplats darken their path.

      (I’ve got scars and visible disability from a serious car crash. My husband has been approached by a few people who ask him if he’s ‘seriously okay with having a broken wife’. I just cannot comprehend the level of rubbish someone has to be to think that)

      1. Beckysuz*

        What??? My favorite thing to do with people like that is just stare at them silently until they get real uncomfortable then walk away.

      2. Sara without an H*

        Hi, Keymaster — Words rarely fail me, but your second paragraph did it. I hope your husband has a formula for dealing with idiocy.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          He’s a total rock. Like he will just stare at people in total silence until they get creeped out and go away.

          Me, I’m more of a full ‘core meltdown’ person.

    6. Sleepy*

      As someone with self-harm scars of my own, I’m seeing red at reading #2. Chris majorly sucks and you deserve SO much better, OP!!

    7. Fiona the baby hippo*

      OP 2, I know you said your letter wasn’t uplifting but honestly I found it inspiring. Your partner sounds like a piece of work, but I read so many advice columns where people are stuck in painful relationships. The fact that you are getting out and taking care of yourself made me say a little cheer! I hope now, or when things settle down a bit, you can see this as a time when you put yourself first and did the right thing by you, which I think is rad.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I’m with you. OP2 is loving their own damn self and doing it so well! I hate how hard this experience must have been, and probably still is, but I’m so glad that OP2 is on the path to better things.

      2. shhhhimhiding*

        I definitely agree. Sometimes the good ending isn’t the one you’d see written in a book. The good ending is understanding your value as a human being and advocating for the treatment you deserve. It’s honestly very rewarding for me to read that another person with pain in their past is taking care of them self so wonderfully.

      3. MEH*

        I was trying to find a way to say exactly this. The fortitude the OP has shown is inspiring and a good ending in and of itself.

      4. MCMonkeybean*

        Yeah, it’s not exactly a happy ending and I’m sure it all just feels terrible for the OP right now, but I hope it helps them at least a little to know a bunch of strangers on the internet think they sound incredibly strong! I am the type of person who sort of just lets life happen to me (which has thankfully worked out mostly okay so far) so I am always amazed at people who can take these strong stances and make big decisions about what needs to happen next in their life.

    8. lilsheba*

      I’m so glad you got to see Chris’s true colors and could leave, as well as get a better job in a better place. My partners have these lipomas in their arms, and they are fairly large and noticeable, and I would never dream of talking about them behind their back or suggesting that they wear nothing but long sleeves! That’s so rude!

    9. Observer*

      I’m glad you’re at least out of that job and away from your spouse, who apparently couldn’t just say “It’s none of your business” when asked about your scars???

      Yeah, that was really horrible! I agree – I’m glad they are separated and the the OP recognizes that this may not be salvageable.

    10. Nines*

      Agreed. I’m honestly shocked that so many people in the OPs life had such terrible reactions to all of this! Chris, Brandy, HR?!? What the AF! But the I also agree with many commenters that this does actually sound uplifting!! In that OP has found a better employer and is dealing with the spouse. Good for you if it’s something you two can resolve, but there is no shame in walking away from this relationship!
      OP. It sounds to me like you are dealing with this whole situation with a lot of kindness and grace that wasn’t given to you. And that’s pretty awesome.

    11. zaunfink*

      #2, I have the same kind of scars for the same reasons.
      I remember how devastating it was when my mom asked me (as an adult) if I was ever going to have them covered or removed and I can’t even imagine how much worse it would be if my partner told me he thought they were ugly and he wanted me to cover them up.
      He’s asked me if the tattoos I’m planning are meant to cover them and when I said no, he told me he sees my scars the way I see them – as signs that I clung onto life with all I had and that I survived the bad times.
      Our agreement back then was that if I needed to, I could, but I had to try talking to him before.

      They’re part of your history and your partner doesn’t have to love them, but he has to love you and that includes all of you.

  3. Alaskapdx*

    #2 I’m glad you are in a better work environment and I hope you relationship resolves in the smoothest way possible. I’m sorry your partner is so unsupportive you deserve better…good luck in 2021

  4. 'Tis Me*

    Virtual socially distanced hugs to OP 2. I’m glad your new job is wonderful, and hope that the therapy helps you get to a point where you can either part amicably or get to the point where your husband views your scars as a reminder of the experiences you went through that made you into the person he fell in love with and you can move past the pain he caused you.

        1. Dragon_Dreamer*

          You’re putting the onus on the OP, who shouldn’t be subjected to such rude statements to begin with.

          1. NapkinThief*

            I may be wrong, but I get the sense this is in response to OP’s spouse, Chris, saying they’re uncomfortable when people ask them about OP’s scars. So not that onus is on OP, but that spouse should have had OP’s back with shut-it-down scripts.

            1. Birdie*

              That’s how I understood it, as well. OP’s spouse shouldn’t be subject to such nosy comments either, of course, but I am particularly appalled that Chris not only privately agreed but that they actually TOLD Brandy and seemingly encouraged her to complain to HR? This is not the behavior of a supportive partner, and I’m glad OP is reevaluating the relationship. OP deserves better.

      1. Non. E. Mouse*

        I mean if you *really* feel like you absolutely positively have to give the person asking an answer just make up something that sounds amusing.

        I have told people, straight faced, that the cigarette burn scar they’re asking about came from losing a fight with a unicorn.

        I find it funny, it can discombobulate whoever’s asking and it makes it pretty clear that I am not willing to talk about it.

        1. Mel_05*

          Yup. I had surgery that left a big scar when I was a kid. My grandmother regaled me we stories of her uncle who had a very noticeable scar and how he had the best stories about how he got it (Sailing with the pirates! Looking for buried treasure! Fending off bears!) and suggested that I should have some fun with it.

          I never did, because honestly people don’t ask/notice, but I’m all for creative explanations that are 100% not true.

        2. S*

          A friend did that with a noticeable scar on his face – every time he was asked, the answer was different. He was an actor and just took it as an improv game. Some people totally believed him, right up until he’d come up with the next story “Oh, I got into a knife fight” “Cleft palate, what’s it to you?” I must say this was in the context of poker games with other actors, so I’m not sure how he handled it in professional situations. But I always appreciated it that he a) made it fun, and b) made it crystal clear that the real story was none of your beeswax.

          1. many bells down*

            I have had two open-heart surgeries that left a dramatic and visible scar and I do this sometimes too. “Lost a sword fight” or “velociraptor attack”.

          2. AKchic*

            My current husband had shoulder surgery. We had fun with the excuses for why he was all bandaged up since everyone would automatically turn to the cliche of spousal abuse [insert eyeroll here].

            “Always let the Wookie win” was a popular one, followed by “arm wrestled a baby for a sucker”.

    1. Ms Frizzle*

      Also sending hugs!

      It’s worth noting for commenters that OP used the word spouse and they/them pronouns for Chris.

    2. Observer*

      Honestly, Chris’ opinion of the OP’s scars is not the worst problem here, which is saying something.

      The broader and I think more fundamental issue is basic trustworthiness. The MOST BASIC thing that one should be able to expect from a partner is that they have your back and not discuss your private issues with people other than yourself. Not only did Chris fail on both counts, they went further and actually encouraged someone to effectively harass the OP! (Yes, not in a LEGAL sense but in a practical sense.)

      Which means that even if Chris SAYS that they see the scars are part of what makes the OP who they are, how can the OP believe them? And if Chris somehow manages to convince them, how it the OP going to ever be able to trust that Chris will handle any other issues that come up with integrity and decency?

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Agree, that was the part that left me dumbfounded. When a new coworker, who has already been flirting with you knowing full well that you are married, approaches you to trash your spouse’s appearance, the proper response is not “what you need to do is complain about my spouse’s appearance to the HR”. That’s the point of no return, I wouldn’t even waste time and money on marital counseling to be honest.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Had an acquaintance who knew they were going to divorce the ex but still went to counseling to help them both figure out how to separate in the most kind way.

          Counseling isn’t always about putting the relationship back together – sometimes it can be about learning how to separate your lives while still staying a person you want to look at in the mirror.

      2. EmmaPoet*

        THIS. It’s a question of integrity, which Chris has shown they lack. Not trashing your spouse to their coworkers is minimum level decency, not exactly a stretch- or it shouldn’t be.

      3. BluntBunny*

        Yes it said that HR asked her to cover up her scars which is ridiculous I have a scar on my face and one on my hand, would they ask that I wear gloves or make up to appease a coworker? Also their opinion that their scars are ugly is irrelevant, coworkers aren’t there to look pretty people don’t choose scars or imperfections.

    3. nom de plume*

      Just a gentle note to point out that there is no indication that OP2’s spouse is, in fact, a “husband,” and perhaps a couple of clues that this would not be the chosen label.

    4. Batgirl*

      People don’t have to be amicable to a spouse who gaslights and belittles them. I think civil silence and blocking may be as amicable as they deserve.

            1. AKchic*

              I think that would temporarily reward Brandy, and possibly even Chris. I don’t want either of them rewarded for even a nanosecond, even if they may deserve each other.

  5. Bob*

    LW1: This is a perfect example of not taking care of your best employees thus you lose them.
    Glad it worked out great for you and they get to live the school of hard knocks.

    LW2: “While we did start marriage counseling last month, I am feeling that divorce might be the best option.”
    I agree with you here.

    1. really*

      I hope Chris marries my former spouse. I could not figure out anyone I hated enough to wish him on until today.

    1. Batgirl*

      Yes, I don’t know who to side-eye more. The silent and hidden abuser, their ally who volunteered to help gaslight their spouse, or the company who thought it was a good use of resources to join in berating someone’s partner for clearly nefarious reasons.

      1. EmmaPoet*

        I feel like the answer to this is “Yes” because they’re all horrible, but the spouse is the worst because your spouse should have your back in a situation like this.

  6. MEH*

    LW#2, I’m sorry you had to find that out about your spouse; it must have been such a difficult conversation. I want to say, however, that you sound like a strong person to be able to have the conversation and walk out with your head held high. Not only that, you found a job that will hopefully be better for you in the long run. As someone with similar scars that I tried to hide for decades, when I finally said, “Screw it! I d0n’t care who sees them”, it was very freeing. I wish you the best of luck!

  7. Manana*

    I wish I didn’t read this before bed because now I have flames on the side of my face! LW#2- I’m so happy for you. You have a great new job and about to rid yourself of an absolutely pathetic cretin. I’m sorry you married a complete nut sack, but we’ve all been there and you’ll surely thrive once you toss them in the trash where they belong.

  8. Fish Microwaver*

    I get the fury for OP2 but I’m really feeling the flames for OP1. They lowered the requirements for the open position, “forgot” to tell her and then hired a man with even less experience? WTAF. In any case, I’m glad both OPs decided they were done and have moved on to new pastures.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Same flames. It’s as though the last fifty years of gender equality in the workplace never happened for some people.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, this seems like really obvious pregnancy discrimination (although it’s hard to prove in court even when it’s this blatant). I guess there are a lot of crappy people in the world.

  9. hbc*

    OP2: Wow. There were some different ideas about the motivation for Brandy speaking up, but I’m pretty sure no one got “Maybe she’s trying to leverage a change in outfit at work for OP’s spouse’s benefit.”

    For the record, here’s what a person who *isn’t* selfishly and cowardly using other people’s questions as a shield for his own opinions would do: “Hey, babe, I got asked about your scars the other day–do you have a preferred response? My instinct is to tell them to mind their own business, but I wanted to run it by you.”

    1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      OP mentions that Chris and Brandy had multiple conversations about her scars, which is a whole issue on its own, but I’m a little confused as to which of them started the ‘complaint’. Because if Chris was the one driving the pressure to get OP to cover up, that’s a whole extra layer on the divorce cake.
      I absolutely agreed that if Brandy or anyone approached Chris about it, their response should have been to just shut it down and check in with OP going forward. But actually discussing and apparently agreeing that OP’s scars are ugly and should be covered up, multiple times, and seemingly without even informing OP of their feelings until specifically questioned? Nope, I’d be having serious reservations about the relationship too.
      I hope it all works out for you OP, best of luck in your new job!

      1. EPLawyer*

        I got confused on that too. Did Chris know Brandy previously? Otherwise in what context were they having multiple conversations about OP? Did Chris not know her but just approached her as “another woman in the office who might be able to say something without sounding sexist?” Did they request Brandy intervene at work so that CHRIS wouldn’t feel uncomfortable (narcissist much?). Just so many questions.

        Also side eyeing the boss who didn’t shut down Brandy from the get go.

        OP2 soooooo glad you are out of BOTH toxic situations.

  10. Bookworm*

    #2: While I’m glad it seems things are looking for you professionally (yay!), I’m so sorry about the person. Good luck!! :(

    Thanks to all the LWs for their updates!

  11. Sled dog mama*

    OP#2 I too have old arm scars. Mine are not from self harm although to the uninformed they can appear as such. Long story short my arm went through a shoulder height pane of glass and required stitches.
    I have gotten rude inquiries too.
    I’m so glad you are in a better place for your mental health and it sounds like a step up for your career.

    1. Minnie Mouse*

      Yeah, one of my former co-workers went through something similar. Put his hand through a glass door and left scars on his arm that look exactly like an attempt on his life. People ask him about it! He told me one on one about them when we became close, but I didn’t ask or even notice prior. I couldn’t imagine interrogating him or telling him to cover it up!

  12. Not So NewReader*

    OP 1: He *forgot*???! “Gee, I am leading a group of people and sometimes I forget various members of the group.”
    Ugh, there’s times where we get ONE chance to get it right. He blew it. If I forgot one of the employees in this manner I would be so upset with myself. Good for you for moving on, that’s the only response there is to that.

    OP2: My heart goes out to you, OP. I don’t mention it too much but I have legs that don’t go out in public much. I usually wear long pants because of the running commentary. (Different reasons, but it lands on I cover up for my own peace of mind.) But my husband’s response was that was a part of me but not ALL of me. If I needed something to help take care of my legs he made sure we put the time/money into it. To my way of thinking, Chris should be limiting his discussions of your arms to just conversations with YOU. There is no need to involve others, unless it is to tell them to mind their own business. I hope Chris radically changes his thinking here.

    1. Student*

      I wish we’d just say, “That sure looks, sounds, and feels like illegal pregnancy and gender discrimination,” rather than credulously treat a very flimsy excuse like this as if it was genuine.

      Most people who illegally discriminate in their hiring practices are smart enough to know it’s against the law and come up with a fig leaf to justify it. We’ll never make progress on this front unless we start saying that we don’t accept fig leaves any more.

    2. Observer*

      “Gee, I am leading a group of people and sometimes I forget various members of the group.”

      Here’s the thing. What he ACTUALLY should have said ““Gee, I am leading a group of people and sometimes I forget various members of the group. MY MENTEE

      Which is to say, I do not for one minute believe that he actually “forgot” or “didn’t think”. He did not WANT to tell her – and given all of the surrounding circumstances, it’s going to be VERY hard to convince me that it wasn’t because of the pregnancy.

      1. Amaranth*

        Right. There is something especially off about them having occasion for multiple conversations…to talk down his wife. I just assumed he worked for the same company but, regardless, so inappropriate and sadly suspect.

  13. LB*

    LW2 I’m so glad your work situation has got better. I’m so sorry that somebody you loved was so unkind, I wish I could give you a hug! I hope you’ll find someone who gives you the love and support that you deserve.

  14. RinaL*

    #2 I‘m so sorry that you had to go through this not only at work, but in your relationship as well. I have scars on my arms, too (lets just say my upper arm served as a sandwich for a big dog) and had to live with many stupid comments when I was younger. Now, I am a proud owner of my scars (I aquired some more over the years) and plan to celebrate that fact by designing a tattoo around them ;). I also have friends with obvious scars on both underarms, but I would never ever comment on them or force my friends to wear long sleeves. That‘s beyond stupidity and your former HR deserves a virtual kick in the butt for suggesting that. For your spouse.. what we can‘t tolerate/love on other persons says a lot about ourselves and has absolutly nothing to do with you! It is their problem, not yours! Accidents happen, scars happen, sometimes even depressions happen. That‘s life with all it’s ups and downs. If you can‘t accept that somebody went through a rough patch in life, you need to work on your own mindset. It is not always happy sunshine and rainbows and the idea to cover up scars to make other people around you more comfortable is honestly appalling.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      I love tattoos around scars! I think they are such a beautiful testament to courage and resilience.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      I have a bite mark (nothing so severe, I just picked up a snake that didn’t want the attention) that I’ve been strongly considering tattooing around. Maybe next open thread I should ask about that sort of thing, my parents are still in the mindset that tattoos cause cancer so I’ve had to do all my research on my own.

  15. Astrid*

    #2 I am surprised/not surprised at how many people think it’s their business to ask about scars…let alone to a spouse and not the actual person. Definitely feels like a ‘not my business’ situation, but since when is anyone shocked at how tasteless and rude people can be.

    Sorry people suck OP. Best of luck on moving forward.

  16. Harper the Other One*

    OP2, I’m so sorry that Chris turned out to be so awful about the scars but you are so strong for having separated over it! Your partner should be the person in your corner. Since you’re already in a job that is better, I hope that you will find a community – friends, coworkers, and if you choose, a different partner – who support you the way you deserve.

  17. Nicole*

    LW #2, I’m sorry things turned out this way with your spouse. But it sounds like you’ve taken a sucky situation and turned it around to kick butt in 2021 and I’m so happy for you for that!

  18. EPLawyer*

    LW1 — I’m glad you finally realized your place was TOXIC. No one “forgets” someone wanted a shot at a job. They wanted to hire a guy so they did. Which says a LOT about that place. Boundary violating boss was just one dish at the lovely smorgasbord of toxic.

    1. Sara without an H*

      This. It sounds like one of those places that is superficially “caring” and fundamentally dysfunctional. LW1, did your GrandBoss ever refer to your company as a “family?”

      Anyway, congratulations on your growing family and growing career. Best of luck in 2021!

    2. Them Boots*

      EP Lawyer! I should not have been sipping leftover eggnog right then, it’s harder to clean off my screen than tea!! I am so going to steal your phrase “just one dish at the lovely smorgasbord of toxic.” Thank you!

  19. Mockingjay*

    LW3: I loved your update and am really happy that you are getting ongoing training and feedback in management skills.

    Funny how companies provide all kinds of technical and project training, yet rarely offer advice or frameworks on how to manage general staff and teams.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Hi, Mockingjay — I’m also puzzled by how rarely management training is offered, especially to first-time, newly-promoted managers. In the long run, it’s probably more important than the technical skills, and lack of it is truly destructive.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      I was a manager for a couple of years, and we never got any training whatsoever about the actual work of managing, like how to put together a fair and equitable schedule, how to have hard conversations with staff who need to make changes, how to evaluate and write employee reviews, none of it. We had a whole 2 hour session on ice breaker games we could use in meetings, though. *insert eyeroll emoji here*

    3. OyHiOh*

      Humorously, when I went to check LinkedIn today, an ad popped up for a company offering virtual management training. I’m about to ask my boss about it – there are a couple of people in my org who could benefit either immediately or in the near future.

  20. HB*

    LW#2: All my love to you.

    I also have self-harm scars on my arm though the most visible ones are covered up even by short sleeves (the ones on my lower arm healed better for some reason). I don’t think anyone has ever asked me about them at work or in my personal life… though I assume my husband had a conversation at some point about them (I mean we must have I just don’t remember it!). My feeling is that people who would make a big deal out of such a thing clearly *want* to make a big deal out of it. I’m sorry about you and your spouse, but you deserve much better.

    1. Beth*

      At one point, I worked with a woman who had self-harm scars, and tattoos that partly covered them and partly interacted visually with them. She did me the great honor of telling me what they were. I was, and remain, deeply in awe of what a baddass kick-ass survivor she was (and is), and I loved working with her.

  21. MsGuacamole*

    OP #2: I’m so sorry you’re going through that with your spouse. I can relate a little. I have self-harm scars on my arms. It doesn’t come up at work because I’m a teacher where it’s cold most of the school year.

    But about a year after I left my ex, I stumbled on a Reddit post he had made years prior complaining about my scars. Even though we were already divorced at that point, it still really hurt. I’m sorry you’re experiencing that with your current spouse, and hope he learns to be respectful to you about it.

  22. Observer*

    #1 – This sounds like a classic case of pregnancy / gender discrimination. From what you said about it, it’s possible the organization was too small to be covered and in any case, it sounds like you are well rid of the place. So, this is not an actionable comment. More like a re-affirmation that this place was a total basket case of trouble.

    I’m glad you are out of there and doing well.

    The only thing I would say it to think very carefully about any of the advice you ever got from your former “mentor”.

  23. Mimmy*

    #2 – Maybe I missed it but how did Brandy come to having conversations with Chris about OP’s scars? Did Chris work with OP and Brandy too?

    Anyway, OP#2, I’m sorry you had to go through all of that. Insisting that you hide those scars sends a negative message about how you should feel about your body and about mental health issues. I wish you all the best going forward.

    1. qed*

      In the original letter, OP added in the comments the important (and increasingly significant) detail that spouse-Chris worked in the same lab, and that Brandy had been attempting to flirt with Chris but wasn’t getting anywhere. Or, at least, that’s what OP thought at the time. It sounds now like Chris hasn’t been giving OP the whole story on a lot of things.

    2. Batgirl*

      I’ll give you three guesses why they were insulting Chris’ partner interspersed with flirting. Not that the motivation matters. I have very little time for people who badmouth their partners at work even when it’s just a bad habit. It’s still a betrayal.

      1. qed*

        Interestingly, at first I agreed with another commenter who described OP as burying the lede by leaving the spouse-coworker flirting aspect out. Now, however, I admire OP for reducing it to the work-specific question.

        Too often people misdirect what they probably know are relationship problems into worrying about a tangential work problem. This OP was able to separate the two, and upon realizing that this was both a work problem and a relationship problem, set about addressing both separately.

        OP, I admire your self-respect and clear-headedness, and like others here, I find this update inspiring.

        1. Batgirl*

          It was a very serious work issue: That HR joined in with with personal and nasty insults originating from any motivation is bad. They betrayed their duty of care too.

  24. Observer*

    #2 – I’m so sorry to hear about your spouse. Talking to Brandy and encouraging her to go to HR is just an incredible betrayal. Especially since they couldn’t even be bothered to tell you in the first place that he had an issue with people asking them about your scars. Although for the life of me, I can’t understand why they thought that the questions were even close to appropriate and why they thought that anything other than “this is an inappropriate question to be asking me” was a reasonable response.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not ignoring that they also told you that your scars are ugly. It’s just that how they feel is one thing. How they act is a CHOICE they make. And, it’s a choice that would egregious on its own even if they were objectively correct about your scars, which is a fairly nonsensical notion. Which means that this is not a single issue that you / they could work through. This is about their general expectations, their failure to be honest with you and a serious lack of trustworthiness. At least, that’s what it looks like to me sitting here, on the outside.

    1. Batgirl*

      There’s no logic in it because it isnt true. It’s a red herring. Chris doesn’t care about the scars outside of their usefulness in a “Do you want to compete with my spouse?” proposition. It’s like one of those hook-a-duck contests at the fair designed to be easy to win. “Round One: the winner is someone ….. without scars!” Brandy gets to feel like she won something, and gets a piece of junk for a prize that didn’t cover the cost of admission.

  25. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#4: I’m glad the Blasted Virus is occasionally good for something. I’ve been saying since this started that the most important thing management can do under pandemic conditions is reevaluate all deadlines and make sure they’re doable under present circumstances. It sounds like your managers did that. Good!

    That said, please keep an eye on the situation with Amy. Are there plans to get her unit back up to full staffing? If not, you’re going to have to stay in close contact with her and be very explicit about the consequences of not getting stuff on time. You should also talk with your own manager about the situation and how to build some slack into your scheduling, so that an occasional late response from Amy’s unit doesn’t foul everything up. It sounds as though Amy’s trying her best, but one person cannot do the work of two (or three, or four).

  26. H. Regalis*

    OP #2 – That sucks and I am so sorry. That is such a betrayal for Chris not to have your back on something like this. They’re supposed to be your partner. You deserve better than someone who is ashamed of you.

  27. Them Boots*

    OP#2: Oh sweetie, I am SO sorry that Chris is *apparently* so shallow instead of immensely PROUD of your for your battle scars so to speak. To many of us, those so-healed-&-old-that-they-are-faint scars would be a badge of honor for beating something tough, which is what they are. If a woman has lines from carrying a child, should she not wear a bikini? Eff that!! I have a huge surgical scar on the front of one knee. My gifted surgeon took great pains not only with the key internal part of the surgery (which was my main concern, because walking pain free is good!), but he also took extra care with the stitches on my skin to minimize the scar. I earned that scar doing something I loved to do and that scar is the external symbol to remind me to be grateful that I can still do all the physical things I enjoy—which my dad didn’t because they didn’t have the surgery when he blew his knee. I am so proud of that scar and all the people who helped me recover & rebuild. And yet I did have someone in my college sorority who commented on how it was ugly and the sight of it bothered her. Yeah, I made sure to cross my legs when wearing shorts & skirts, scar on top when she sat near me. Learn to control where you look or get acclimated b$tch! Eventually someone overheard her being a jerk and the full weight of our sorority dropped on her head. Peer pressure-sorority or office mates- can & should be used for good. Wear your chosen clothing and let jerks go live their lives-away from you. Anyone who has lived to adulthood without *any* internal scars is lying or not very self aware.

  28. Beth*

    OP #2, I am SO sorry you’ve had to go through all that! I am utterly appalled on your behalf. Shame on your spouse!!

  29. Batgirl*

    Op1, of course you know you’re better off without them. I almost feel sorry for the guy who got that job! It does beg the question why such illegal activities are flourishing still. I know the company will crumple eventually and the women they overlook will go on to succeed elsewhere but it’s not acceptable that women will have to go through at least one of these mazes before they find that success. I don’t know what the potential answer is to that which doesn’t place a burden on women to fix it.

  30. Lizy*

    #2 I’m so sorry. As someone who’s spouse has scars, I can’t imagine someone being such an ass that they actually ask me about them.

    I keep writing something and then deleting it, but essentially – I’m sorry you’re going through this with your spouse. Mental health is something that’s still so stigmatized and you should not be made to feel uncomfortable with showing your scars.

  31. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    OP2, how painful to hear something like that from your spouse. You’re not ugly.

    I think hearing hard things from your spouse has a time and place, but to be so negative about past scars (which unlike, say, overwork or binge eating/drinking don’t affect your health NOW and thus warrant a talk), is a low blow. If you’re going to approach a hard topic with your spouse, it’s really vital to be able to come at it from a caring place.

    Chris did not do this. It would be another thing to speak honestly about how your scars make him feel. But he should not talk behind your back, demand you cover up, etc.

    Personally I would be rather uncomfortable seeing those kinds of scars on a spouse or close friend- it reminds me of hard times with that, since my wife and I both dealt with it to some degree. But feeling sad or ashamed or w/e- that’s on me. And it would be the pot calling the kettle black, since I have scars as well.

    A friend had a good approach when someone was staring at me once, clearly bothered, and tried to question me. He said, “if it bothers you, don’t look. It’s hot. They can wear what they want.”

  32. DaisyQueen*

    I have many scars from several surgeries but they would only be seen if I wore a bikini. I haven’t worn one of those in years but it’s one of my goals to wear one next summer. I know people will stare at my scars but I don’t care. I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for those surgeries so I wear my battle scars proudly.
    Your scars are part of you, OP. Be proud of who you are and where you are.

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