updates: the loony reopening plans, too much jargon, 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. Our CEO’s plans for re-opening are loony and stressful

I really appreciated your response and the feedback from the AAM community. It was validating to have someone on the outside acknowledge the troubling nature of our CEO’s leadership. I shared your post with a few of my colleagues and all of us individually wrote to HR and our managers about how concerning these comments had been. Each manager shared that there had been an overwhelming amount of feedback following that call and they appreciated our outreach.

While we haven’t formally unionized, this initial conversation led to the forming of a loose coalition of (mostly) employees of color. It opened up a space for us to openly acknowledge the toxic culture in our workplace and hone in on what we want to change. In our discussion, we were able to recognize recurring incidents of racism and discrimination and our leadership’s resistance to hearing dissenting opinions. We decided that we have some leverage, as a group and given the current climate surrounding race and racism. We developed a comprehensive set of recommendations to improve our organization’s approach to racism and sent it to our HR department. Due to the pandemic, the financial future of our organization is unclear and some positions may be deemed unnecessary. Coupled with our leadership, many coalition members felt that this effort could jeopardize their jobs, so we submitted our recommendations anonymously.

We received a pretty generic response that they appreciated our outreach, but they have not yet presented a plan for addressing this issue. We plan to follow-up in the next few weeks and will continue to press them to act, even if we have to get more creative about our approach. We have all realized that we may not reap the benefits of our work, but we think it is important to keep pressing and try to make this a better workplace for the next generation of BIPOC employees. Thank you and the AAM community for spurring us into action!

2. How to interview with people you already know

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and assuage some of the anxiety. The interview was as awkward as I had feared. One of the commenters pointed out that government jobs (which this is) need to treat all candidates the same. I definitely had forgotten that, so at least that helped me get through the awkwardness!

I thought I bombed the first interview, I was so nervous and babbling at the beginning, but I got a call within a few days for a second interview. The second interview was with just the supervisor and much more comfortable.

When I got the call for the second interview, I did decide to let my manager know I was interviewing. I was worried they would find out so I wanted to make sure they heard it from me. I’m glad I did, because the organization did contact my grandboss, who in-turn asked my manager if they knew.

The exciting news, I got the job!!! I put in my notice a couple days after a coworker’s last day, and we’re a small organization, so I feel terrible about it. But, I’m doing all I can to make the transition smooth since I’ll still be working on projects with the organization in my new role. And no one faults me, it’s a huge move for me, roughly 20% raise, great benefits and more stability.

I also asked about meeting with my interviewers and current co-workers about an ongoing project. I have a fairly close relationship with one of the interviewers, so I was able to discuss with them and we postponed the meeting until the position was filled. It didn’t tip anyone off either, so obviously one of those things I was just overthinking.

Now there are a million more things to worry about, such as starting a new job remotely, but trying not to think about it until the time comes. Can you tell I’m an overthinker?

3. How do I learn to use business jargon? (#2 at the link)

I know you recommended against jargon use but that is how people talk at my company, so even after your response I felt worried. What I ended up doing was researching the field my boss was from and learning a bit more about commonly used terms and the context in which to use them. As a bonus this also taught me a lot about how businesspeople (or at least people from my boss’s background) think about and plan projects, thus giving me a better idea of what they were looking for in my own work. I use more “business-y” words now but still don’t sound like I feel I should. But I got praised at my performance review for my communication skills so I guess I’m doing OK.

4. Should I ask for more vacation time or more money? (#3 at the link)

I wanted to send you and the AAM community a quick thanks. After thinking about it and reading your response along with the comments, I decided to negotiate the salary instead of additional vacation time.

This wasn’t in the original letter, but the organization is a large nonprofit that holds contracts with multiple state agencies, AKA lots of regulations. Knowing that, and after asking a few questions during my third interview, I was fairly sure that the PTO days wouldn’t be flexible. I was told by the recruiter that benefits information would come with a job offer, but that “the PTO is generous and starts accruing immediately.”

When I got the offer, the pay was the middle of the salary range, within a few hundred dollars of what I was previously making. I’d read your negotiating advice and spent a day practiced saying the phrases aloud, so I was ready. After expressing excitement about the offer, all I said was, “I’m wondering if the salary is negotiable? I was looking for something closer to X.”

X was 6% more than the offer and still well within the salary range. The recruiter told me she couldn’t approve the change but would contact the hiring manager to see what they thought. It was nerve wracking to end the call without accepting the offer, but within 10 minutes I had a new offer letter (with the amount I asked for) in my inbox!

I started the job at the end of September, and I absolutely love it. Now that I’m here, and see how much they wanted me for the job, I think I probably could’ve asked for more.

The even better info is that I have more PTO than I did at my previous job—20 days plus a floating holiday! When the recruiter said the company’s PTO was generous, she wasn’t kidding. In the end, I got the salary bump AND more PTO.

{ 15 comments… read them below }

  1. TimeTravlR*

    ALl of these updates validate what I have already thought… AskAManager, Alison, and the Commenters are such a great resource. I’m looking toward retirement so don’t plan to look for a new job but I refer people to AAM all the time and help them with crafting resume, cover letters, and doing interview prep based on everything I’ve learned here. I am a trained federal resume writer, and I still learn stuff here!

    1. Lisa*

      Agreed, I’ve learned so much from Alison, but also the comments section is amazing. I’m constantly learning new things, new techniques, new products, you name it. My husband has ADD and we’ve also picked up a lot of stuff for him from the readers.

    2. Salary/PTO OP*

      As one of the OP’s and a beneficiary of the AAM advice, YES. This site was a daily, hourly some days, reference for me in my job search this summer/fall.

  2. Stephen Dedalus*

    I know it must be irritating for me to say, and I’m sorry – I just feel compelled to point out that 20 days of PTO (combined sick/vacation) is not really generous. It’s just slightly less miserly than you usually get in America. Over 10 years ago I left there and moved to Europe. Now, I get 30 days vacation, 1 floating holiday, 8 days uncertified sick leave (without a doctor’s note) and I don’t know how many certified. The funny thing is that I don’t feel any less productive over the course of a year, I’m just not ground down as I was back in the states. People in the US simply get a raw deal in so many ways.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      I think most regular commentators on this site are aware of this, it’s a fairly international readership. But for the OP, this increase is a win. They get a better salary and more PTO, without having to sacrifice one or the other.

      They used the advice they had here and their own research to identify the best course of action and it worked. They get to be happy about it.

      1. Stephen Dedalus*

        Well thankfully you’ve arrived to let us know why we’re allowed to feel and what topics are permitted to be discussed.

        1. USian*

          We are literally all extremely aware that workers get a better deal in Europe, but it never stops somebody smugly noting that fact when an American is happy about the fact they are getting better than standard treatment.

          Thankfully you were here to take on that task today.

        2. LDN Layabout*

          The commenting rules are ‘be kind’. The OP did something they’re proud of that also makes them happy and doesn’t harm others.

          When people achieve something they’re happy and proud of, is your first reaction to tell them, ‘well actually, you could have done better if you did X’?

        3. MCMonkeybean*

          You’re being unnecessarily snarky, especially since you clearly already knew your comment was going to be poorly received. There is a reason that Alison herself often ends up shutting down threads about how most Americans have so much less vacation time/sick time/maternity leave/etc than people in Europe. We already know, you already knew that we already know, so I’m not sure why you felt “compelled” to rain on the OP’s parade.

    2. allathian*

      I’m in Europe too, and I agree with you. That said, bringing our more generous PTO up every time is unkind to the majority of the readership, who are from the US. The LW is certainly entitled to be happy about an improvement in their circumstances.

      1. Environmental Compliance*


        If we’re in the US, we’re very much well aware of these differences and all the ways it sucks. We get to live with it. We really don’t need the reminder every single time.

        Allow us to be happy for small victories like this while we have them.

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