updates: the treats, the fake tooth, 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. Should I stop bringing in treats for my team?

I learned a lot from your response. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question – it really made an impact in how I supervise and my mindset was changed for the better.

The parts of your response that really resonated with me were that no amount of food baskets would overcome people not being well compensated and that my motivation was possibly to be seen as a nice and supportive supervisor, which wasn’t where people needed to see me focusing and seriously I needed to recognize that it’s a workplace. Employees are not responsible for my personal self esteem. While compensation has not improved – and honestly, we’re in even worse shape now that we are under hiring and pay increase freezes – I am making sure that people know that my goals are primarily to be an advocate and keep our team organized with information and context they need to do their jobs. I’ve always gone to bat for people behind closed doors especially around compensation but I realized that people wouldn’t know that so I became a little more transparent about why my and other managers’ efforts haven’t been successful, which I think has been helpful, though I still have some work to do in this area. I do occasionally still send people gift cards for coffee or a treat for a job well done because I just like doing it, but I’ve changed my expectations around how that will be acknowledged and I no longer get frustrated when occasionally I don’t get a response. I also have been letting folks know “this is just something from me” because I don’t want them to think the agency is spending money on things like coffee gift cards when pay is such a big issue. In the past, I would have thought that would have been a weird thing to claim, but now I see it as necessary context.

Thank you again for the really helpful reply to my question. It wasn’t easy to accept that I needed to make some changes but once I did I definitely was able to move on in a much better direction!

2. Can we require our receptionist to wear a fake tooth? (#2 at the link)

Thank you so much for the advice and helping out. It really just validated what I was already feeling. I did stand my ground against our boss and refused to not only talk to her myself about her tooth, but also convince him of how inappropriate it would be for him to do so. Thankfully, he listened (which is somewhat rare). We supported her and her needs as a valued employee through the dental process completion and the successful (especially for her) conclusion. She recently retired from our firm and we were able to happily celebrate her moving on to her next chapter without ever having that ugly conversation that would have damaged not only the working environment, but potentially her own self-esteem as well.

3. Can I ask for a fancier computer? (#4 at the link)

Shortly after sending my letting into AAM, my company made a policy of only buying laptops as replacement computers due to needing work-from-home capabilities from most staff. I received a nice laptop that fits my needs nicely. I did use the encouragement from AAM to request new computers for a few critical areas of the facility and I was able to get those approved and installed which greatly stream-lined the work in that area.

4. How do I deal with a boss who “yells” in angry emails?

Unfortunately, I don’t have much of an update to give. Your advice and the advice of your readers was really useful. I practiced a couple of scripts on friends and family and felt pretty good about how I was going to handle things. However, just as I was gearing up to try and speak to my boss, my country went into lockdown and my job situation became increasingly precarious. I was furloughed and whilst I am now back at work, my department was not considered essential to keeping the business running so I’m manning the phones and supporting our front desk staff for now (not a job I particularly enjoy and certainly very different from what I was doing before but for now I’m just glad to still have a job). If and when my department opens up again and if the problem is still on-going I’ll speak to my boss then. Until then I plan to keep my head down, keep working, and avoid rocking the boat until all this is over.

{ 7 comments… read them below }

  1. Dragon_Dreamer*

    I’m very happy the OP was able to get her boss to lay off the receptionist’s tooth, and she was able to retire with her dignity intact. :) I told my own story in the comments, and the responses still make me tear up, so thanks to all of you who replied to me. My own mini-update: The tooth is still looking natural and I sometimes forget its even there! I still have occasional moments of “ohcrap, I forgot my flipper… oh! Right! I don’t need it anymore!”

    As for the other surgery I mentioned getting denied… Medicaid has agreed to pay for that 100%. It took a few months to find a surgeon who is familiar with my other health issues, AND was willing to actually remove as much as needed. My pre-op appointment is in mid-January, and I should have the surgery before the end of February! I’ll have a new body that no longer causes me so much physical OR emotional pain! (So many people think it’s their place to comment about EVERYTHING involving an AFAB’s appearance!)

  2. Observer*

    #4 – May I suggest job hunting? Even in a bad economy it can be possible to find a job. Not that things are bad enough that you should quit without a job. Nor should you jump at the first thing that comes along. But your boss is pretty bad. It’s not just the yelling, but his attitude towards people who are junior to him and to women.

    That’s just a toxic environment.

  3. Reba*

    Love this update for #1! We’ve had quite a few of these updates where there is no *dramatic conclusion* but rather some reflection and real growth within the letter writers! Thanks for sharing your insights.

  4. Sandra*

    #1, I have to say, more than snacks or cards for coffee, I’d rather have a compliment on a job well done. And that’s all.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, same here. But I really liked how the LW acknowledged that they needed to change their thinking about this whole issue, and that the impact has been positive. Some people just enjoy buying gifts for others and it may be unreasonable to expect that the LW stops that completely. It’s just enough to realize that especially in a situation where the gift itself is already a thank you, that people who aren’t that focused on gifts may think that it’s unnecessary to acknowledge it.

  5. Anonymous tech writer*

    On the flip side… I’ve decided to email a cross-functional manager who long ago left the company, because he’s still the only person who sent me a gift card thank you.

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