updates: the screaming monkey toy, the contested plane ticket, 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. Can I confiscate my coworkers’ screaming monkey toy?

Obviously with Covid, the damn monkey is no longer a concern. However, soon after my letter was published, I was able to confirm that no one was willing to take ownership of the toy, and took an opportunity to confiscate it. I put it in my filing cabinet, and waited to see if anyone would ask about the toy. Not a single person asked about the monkey all year! Nor even in pre-Covid 2020.

Now that my job is 100% work from home though, the only nuisance noises I have to worry about are the usual apartment noises, none of which send me into ballistic-angry territory.

2. Company won’t reimburse me for my plane ticket because they canceled my interview (#2 at the link)

Fortunately, I can share a good update.

I appealed to the interviewing organization’s decision not to reimburse my unused flight using similar language as suggested. At first, the financial office said if I could have the flight credit value cancelled and provide proof from the air carrier, they could review my case and reimburse me. However, after a few calls, I confirmed that the airline would not do this and the credits would remain in my name.

I wrote back to tell them about the airline’s policy, and also tried to briefly, but completely, outline why I wouldn’t be able to use the flight credit as cash: 1. No business travel is permitted by my current organization, 2. How elective travel during a pandemic would affect my work and others who depend on me due to my organization’s quarantine requirements after flying, and 3., why elective travel was generally unwise (I’m in the infectious disease research field, so I felt I could state this with some authority). A different person replied, approved my request, and a check was delivered a few days later.

3. My manager told me I don’t seem passionate about my work anymore (#4 at the link)

This isn’t much of an update—I didn’t bring it back up. I checked back in after a few weeks of putting more work into being my “usual” cheerful self and my manager said he could see the change, decided it wasn’t worth the effort when I was already struggling so much. I could believe that my low mood was more visible than I’d realized (though I still largely think that shouldn’t matter as long as I got all my work done and was never a problem to any coworkers!).

However, the company has just announced a new bonus plan (we were never bonus-eligible before), and it factors these reviews into a formula determining the amount. If there’s any negative impact on a bonus for a year where I did excellent work but was depressed during Covid, I’ll absolutely bring it back up! In the meantime, I’m doing much better emotionally, my work performance has only improved, and the validation from you and the commenters that I wasn’t overreacting definitely helped at the time. I’ll give another update after we revisit the reviews/I find out what the bonus looks like!

4. Interviewing while pregnant success story (#5 at the link)

I’ve been in this position a year now and I’m still very happy I made the move, in spite of *waves hands at 2020*. I was able to get my bearings at the new company and received positive feedback that I was making good contributions before I went out on maternity leave, which really boosted my confidence. Two weeks before my due date we moved to 100% remote which was stressful but worked out fine. My toddler was now at home too which resulted in me working weird hours (switching off with my husband, during naptime, etc) but my new company was very understanding. Then I went on my 10 week maternity leave. Being at home with a newborn and a toddler during a pandemic lockdown with no visitors/helpers was…not ideal, but we made it through. Side note – My husband’s company also provided him 10 weeks of paid parental leave, which we used almost completely in tandem and that helped so much. Paid parental leave should be given to everyone.

Anyway, back at work now and I continue to feel very lucky that I am able to work from home. My company also increased our telework benefit during the pandemic which has been helpful. My initial impression from my interviewing-while-pregnant, that this company is supportive of staff and tries to do the right thing, continues to hold true. It’s been tougher transitioning back into work while remote – I think everyone else was in a groove by the time I returned and I had to catch up – but I’m doing well now.

{ 22 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    I’m so glad you were able to move into a new job while pregnant and work things out. My daughter did something similar and it also went well — but oddly in her case in both of her pregnancies her husband got more paternal leave paid than she did maternal leave — it really helps when Dads have time and you can do it tandem in situations like the current one.

    Back in the day my husband got only the day I was in labor and delivered our first child and was immediately back working long hours. When our second child was born he also got not paternity leave and I got zero maternity leave — I was working in a university and so tried to schedule the birth at the start of summer break when I got just not do my usual summer teaching — but we were immediately successful and she was born early so I had to either PAY someone to take my classes or find volunteers. A colleague did cover a couple of undergrad classes for me and proctor the final — although I did although the grading etc and I actually taught a grad seminar for 3 hours on Wednesday after giving birth on Sunday. (and my employer insurance did not cover maternity and childbirth so we had to pay it all out of pocket.). Some things have gotten better today with FMLA.

  2. LoV*

    Re:1: I went back on the original post and listening to the noise the toy makes. My goodness. I think I might have lost it listening to it.

    1. Artemesia*

      We got those for our kids for Christmas one year — they are horrific — but at home for a day is one thing — the office — like never.

      1. Some Internet Rando*

        I had the opposite reaction – I thought “my kid would LOVE those screaming monkeys.” Based on the post, I found them online and ordered them for her stocking this year. I may regret it. :)

      1. JustaTech*

        We had one at my office that was occasionally used. As the office “easily startled person who shrieks really loudly” when the monkey was (inevitably) shot at me I caught it and claimed it as my own. This was OK with everyone because I was *much* louder and more disruptive than the silly monkey.

        I wonder what ever happened to it?

  3. Pikachu*

    I moved to working for myself this year, and without the office routine I fell out of the habit of checking AaM compulsively every day.

    I’ve missed SO MUCH CONTENT. Oh man I love update season but going back to all these original stories makes for a fantastic evening, especially considering the COVID insanity. That DIY wipes story at link #2… wild.

    Thank you for posting so often this time of year Alison! I needed this little trip down thank-goodness-these-aren’t-my-work-memories lane.

    1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      re: the DIY wipes story.

      My school district, being unable to get ahold of actual Chlorox or Lysol wipes because 2020, but we have to go back to school face to face because Covid’s a hoax, made bulk “homemade” wipes for all the classrooms. Most of the teachers have REFUSED to use them, and understandably so, instead sourcing wipes and spray through their own sources and pockets. Further, there’s no instruction label on the buckets of death, as they’re known. They’re told to wipe down every desk every hour at our HS. There are five minutes between bells, so you’ve got 3 minutes to get it all done. The kicker is that when you actually look it up by the EPA number they’ve taped on the bucket…you have to let it sit wet for ten minutes, then wipe it off. The district is also not providing gloves, which the EPA number instructions say must be worn for use.

      Sigh. We’re looking into schools of choice for next year.

  4. armchairexpert*

    Artemesia, you seem like an extremely intelligent, articulate woman with lashings of common sense and wisdom.

    In light of which:
    Why would you voluntarily buy these toys for your children? Who presumably lived with you? WHY?

    1. Chinook*

      My guess is it is a preemptive strike before an aunt or uncle does so (stated as I proudly eye the large enough for a toddler to ride dragon with sound effects and wings bought for my nephews)

      1. Artemesia*

        LOL. Because I think they are fun too — and they don’t last forever. I will admit that as the first to have children in my husband’s huge family, I did take great delight in buying police cars with sirens, fire trucks with the same, microphones that distort one’s voice, percussion music kits and keyboards that play things like Mary had a Little Lamb for the countless nieces and nephews AFTER all his brothers had delighted in such gifts when they were young and carefree and unmarried and we were the only ones with toddlers. We got ours back.

          1. TardyTardis*

            No, we just stomped on the Birthday Card That Would Not Die and put it into long term storage in the big green garbage container out front.

  5. Mona Lisa*

    OP1, I am so glad you were able to get rid of the screaming monkey toy! Those things are obnoxious. My husband’s parents gave those to him and my SIL one year for Christmas as a gag gift when they were older teenagers. Years later they dumped the contents of his childhood junk drawer into a flat rate box, and when it arrived at our house, it contained the monkey toy. He played around with it for a day or so before the arms snapped off, and it went in the trash. For the next week, anytime we put something heavy in the bin, the monkey would emit a scream. When I finally took the trash out and chucked the bag into the dumpster, I heard the monkey give off one final dying wail.

    I like to imagine that some of our neighbors tried to throw their trash away and got surprised by the howling.

  6. BadWolf*

    “Paid parental leave should be given to everyone.”

    Yes, yes, yes! When both men and women will potentially be gone for parental leave, it helps everyone! Be strong, Men, in the face of colleagues (and bosses) who disparage taking leave (and like to tell their stories of “When I had my kids, I went to the hospital for 2 hours and came back to work” — yes, that was terrible, let’s not keep doing that because you had to do that).

  7. SherSher*

    A “screaming monkey toy” (WTH?!) in the workplace… This is the silver lining to my Meniere’s Disease! I can just say, Loud sounds really hurt my ears (very true) and impact me really badly. Can we please not have that here?
    (I could be in physical pain, depending on the sounds, not to mention what it does to my nerves!)

    1. TardyTardis*

      And then there’s the Annoyatron which my partly-deaf husband could not hear but we could…(actual name from American Scientific Supply formerly known as JerryCo. Their catalogs are a hoot).

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