updates: the berating coworker, the higher salary, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, where all month I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. Our staff aren’t underpaid but think they are

I did use a lot of the techniques and scripts you and the commenters offered, and once I did it, so did other people. So at a meeting I felt emboldened to interrupt one of ring-leaders to say “This topic has been thoroughly explained multiple times and the decisions have already been made. Why don’t we move on?” Later I heard another person say something like, “We’ve heard from you on this topic on several occasions and it’s making it hard to get other work done.” It actually seemed to take them aback. I think one person really thought he was the white knight speaking truth to power and the champion of the little people! When the little people disagreed with him, he had to re-assess. The one person who was being mean to the payroll clerk was given a talking to (this happened without me, but I think the fact that they were hearing resistance in other places seems to have made it stick). So altogether, just some low-level peer pressure made this problem go away.

2. My coworker berates me all day long

The situation with Helen never really improved much, although the suggestions from the commenters did make her a little easier to deal with. I assigned all her communications into a folder on my inbox entitled PITA, and only checked it once a day. Once I addressed her issues, I replied back, once, and did not respond to repeated inquiries. She wasn’t happy about this, but luckily our office went remote for much of the year, so not having to interact with her in person was a relief.

Ultimately, though, I came to realize that Helen was just the loudest symptom of a much bigger problem: that I wasn’t happy in my role, did not feel supported, had few resources in order to do my job effectively, and a number of my colleagues were Helen-lites. When our firm was brought back to the office in early April, I talked things over with my partner, since I was deeply uncomfortable with the entire office returning so soon, especially since we’d all be crammed into a small space. I decided to give my notice and look for other work. It was a tough decision, but I knew the job didn’t suit me. I left for a job that was a much better fit, had a strong team mentality, and paid better. Sadly, the financial picture at the new company wasn’t as great, and we were laid off a week ago. I’m back to looking for work, but I don’t regret leaving my old role. The stress and nonstop demands burned me out and did a number on my mental health. I’m job searching and doing a little healing right now. While things aren’t perfect, I’m in a much better place.

3. My interviewer’s friend died right before I was supposed to interview with them (#4 at the link)

I’m the one who wrote about having a final interview that got cut short due to the interviewer’s friend dying moments before. I actually have an update with a happier ending!

So I actually discovered from a industry contact that they too interviewed with the same company for the same position but he was treated way differently than me. They had him do a case study and present it to the leaders (I did not have to do anything like that) and he told me they called him after offering the position to ask if he understood the job, then when he said yes and asked why they were calling him, they rescinded the offer. As for if the death of a friend was real, I’m sure it was, but they didn’t handle it well, as they followed up after silence for two weeks to tell me they hired someone else. No chance of a rescheduled last round or anything. Needless to say, I think we both dodged a bullet.

Fast forward a month later, I finally got a job! It’s 100% remote, full-time with benefits, and I really enjoyed getting to know my future boss. This really couldn’t have come at a better time as I was pretty down about the whole job hunting process and feeling like I was never going to find a job as long as the Pandemic was still around. This has really helped me feel like my life is getting back on track and I can start seeing a brighter future.

All I can say is that there’s no doubt the job hunting process is BRUTAL right now, but just know that you’re not alone. Something WILL come along and I wish the best of luck to anyone still trying to find a job.

{ 126 comments… read them below }

  1. middle name danger*

    “They called him after offering the position to ask if he understood the job, then when he said yes and asked why they were calling him, they rescinded the offer.”

    I know we’ve heard weirder job process stories but this one really threw me.

    1. Allie*

      I read that line 3 times because I was so confused. I genuinely don’t understand why they’d react like that, it was a weird call and very legitimate to ask why they were asking. Bullet dodged for sure.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Clearly they were looking for someone who only answered questions and was totally enthusiatic without daring to question the higher ups.

        Bullet dodged FOR SURE.

    2. OhNo*

      Right? Such a weird reaction from the company/hiring manager? I guess maybe they thought there was a serious disconnect about the level of the role (e.g.: entry level vs. director level), but… that’s still a weird way to deal with it if that was the case!

    3. KateM*

      “We know we were very unclear so if you claim that you understood us you must be lying”? That’s all I can think of.

      1. Former Child*

        I’m reminded of a basic truth that people often don’t realize when they’re in a miserable job:
        It DOES get to you and you may not be able to see clearly how it’s affecting you.
        You may be miserable but don’t see how it drains your energy and creativity.
        You may not see how you’re just “eking out” the competence to function.
        You may not see the full picture until you’ve left and can heave a sigh of relief.
        Sometimes you have to adjust your own reaction to a situation, but if it’s a really toxic job, the only solution may be to leave.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      My only guess is that they thought he might not fully understand the job and they were concerned about that … were hoping he’d agree that he didn’t so they could be like “yeah, we think it’s actually not the right fit” … and then when he didn’t play his part in that conversation, they’d already decided they didn’t want to hire him anyway so just moved ahead with saying it. But that’s still really weird.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I think you’re right. Kind of like how an inexperienced car salesman or call center agent has memorized a script for how the conversation is supposed to go, and will be utterly lost if you go outside of that script.

      2. Loosey Goosey*

        Yeah, I was thinking the question was a pretext, and they wanted him to say no. “Oh, you *don’t* understand the role? Well, in that case, we’re not going to move forward.” Terrible idea and it obviously backfired.

      3. Observer*

        Either that or the job is so toxic that they assume that most people who accept the job don’t understand what they are getting into. I wonder what happened to the person they actually hired…

    5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yeah – sounds like that company was all over the map. Bullet dodged indeed.

    6. BRR*

      I read that and was like like “wait what????” I wonder if they asked him to describe the job and then decided he didn’t understand it. But even with that they’re jerks. I hope the LW provides an update to the update!

    7. Phony Genius*

      We can’t tell from this whether they didn’t like his “yes” answer to their question, or that he asked them why they were calling. Either scenario is weird.

      1. LC*

        I read it the second way, that they were upset he dared to ask why they were calling. If I squint really hard, I can almost see their reasoning for that. I disagree 100% with it, I don’t think it’s okay, and I agree that it was a bullet dodged, but I can at least kind of see their thought process. They’re the type of people that don’t appreciate questions. Good information to have before an offer is accepted rather than finding out once you’ve already started.

        If they were upset that he said that yes, he understands the job, I just … I just have no explanation for.

        But either way is bonkers, for sure.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          That was how I read it too. Like they couldn’t believe he had the audacity to question them.

        2. Lily of the field*

          Yeah, I would think squinting that hard would give you a headache! That was just so weird for this company to do.

  2. Sacramento Jim*

    “All I can say is that there’s no doubt the job hunting process is BRUTAL right now”. I wonder when and which industry this is from. I’ve have jobs open for 5 months and am dying to even speak to a qualified and interested candidate.

    1. Allie*

      This is always going to be the case. I have a close friend who worked for a museum that’s still not back to full staff, so she’s had to pivot significantly, even though her education and experience are all in museum education. So some fields will often be tougher than others.

      1. Aiya*

        Wow! I’m surprised to hear about another museum professional’s experience on this site. It’s a very niche field, but has insanely high competition. There’s more and more academic programs offering Museum Studies as a masters degree and even undergraduate majors, so when the influx of these new grads, the competition has grown exponentially. There’s really not that many museums/arts orgs that have the kind of funding necessary to sustain all these new grads. The only museum jobs that are constantly recruiting are in development (aka fundraising), which isn’t exactly what these grads went to school to do (they want to be curators, collections managers, conservators, educators, etc).

        It really just depends on your field.

      2. MuseumNerd*

        We have hired 4 people since March but had dozens of qualified applicants. My boss said she had 10 absolutely outstanding candidates and it about killed her having to only take 4.

    2. OhNo*

      I feel like the differences in available jobs/job seekers between fields are worse than ever right now. I know some positions at the company I work for have been open for months without getting more than two or three applicants.

      Meanwhile, the one open job in my department got overwhelmed with qualified candidates within the first few days, because people are desperate to find a job in my field right now. I was terrible tempted to tell all the people we declined to interview to go apply to the other job (it’s entry level), both because my life would be easier if it was filled and because I know how hard it can be when you’re unemployed or unhappy in your current role.

      1. LTL*

        Not to derail but if anyone knows of fields that are truly lacking competition right now, I’d love to know what they are. Been job hunting for a year now and may be worth sending some applications that way.

        1. Heidi S.*

          I can say that the insurance industry, both company and agency side, are facing a dearth of applicants – at least in the Northeast. I suspect it’s actually everywhere though.

        2. Caboose*

          Well, software development has been in a deficit more or less since the field got started! I have found that there’s very few entry-level jobs, but once you manage to get one of those and get at least one year of experience under your belt, you’re basically good to go.

          1. Eden*

            Agreed but with the caveat that there’s a lack of GOOD candidates, at least in my personal experience. My personal hire/no hire rate when evaluating candidates has been abysmal for over a year. I’d rather stay understaffed than hire unqualified people. So anyone pivoting needs to make sure they’re being taught really well and not just skating by on trendy front end.

            1. LTL*

              Yes, this is my concern with software development. My search has revolved around data analytics and data science. It seems with these more technical fields, it’s almost impossible to get an entry level job. The mid-career opportunities are grand but I can’t start there.

              Not to mention the massive time sink one has to put in to be qualified for an entry level job, only to find themselves faced with a huge amount of competition.

              1. L Dub*

                If you know about data analytics, Workforce Management might be an option. You wouldn’t want a real time analyst role, but possibly a forecasting/capacity planning role. Some WFM teams also have reporting roles as well, which are often data analyst roles.

          1. Flower*

            Oh yeah vets’ offices near me have been SWAMPED. It’s always been tough to get into a vet that sees rodents but the vast majority of vets in my area that do have wait times of several months for anything that isn’t an emergency/urgent care thing, and even those they often have to push a week.

            1. Flower*

              And obviously part of it is that they need veterinarians but I imagine a shortage of techs would also cause a lot of issues.

            2. Arabella Flynn*

              I have a lovely vet who actually specializes in exotics. I happened to live down the street with my swarm of rats when she opened. I love her and you will pry my spot on her client list from my cold dead hands. She now has a waiting list with literally a hundred people on it.

        3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          We have at least three medical coding teams each with 2-4 open positions, and in over fifteen years in two states I’ve never worked on a medical coding team that wasn’t short staffed to some degree and hungry for applications.

          1. Mel*

            Early Childhood, especially if you are Infant/Toddler qualified. (You can work with all ages, but holy crap that one class gives you a ton of flexibility). Last I heard we had 4 positions open (full time! Good benefits- seriously I have the same health insurance as Mega Corp that my husband works for, retirement matching, but bc of Covid, no one wants to work with my little petri dishes. But we had no dx’d cases last year )

          2. just a random teacher*

            This varies a LOT by geographic area and specific job, though, particularly for teachers (rather than aides). In my area, if you want to teach social studies or elementary school, it’s difficult to get a job. If you’re endorsed in mathematics, speak fluent Spanish as well as English, and/or have a SpEd endorsement, someone is probably hiring as long as you’re open to moving within the state. (If you have all 3 of those qualifications, somebody is DEFINITELY hiring, and everyone else who isn’t hiring right now will wish they could make an opening for you.)

            School bus drivers, on the other hand, are something we’ve been consistently short on for several years. If you think driving a school bus is something you could handle, you can probably find a district that will pay for you to get your CDL so you can do it. (Of course, this is an inherently part-time job and does not pay particularly well, although pay has been creeping up due to the lack of applicants.) It’s also not hard to get a job as an aide, but that also tends to be part-time and not paid as well as it should be.

    3. Dr. Rebecca*

      Hello. I have a PhD and 8 years of social science research experience, as well as the same number of years of teaching experience. I have published three non-fiction, research/social science based books, including an edited volume, and half a dozen peer reviewed articles. I live in northern Indiana, but I’m willing to relocate. I cannot find a job.

      If you are comfortable sharing the company you work for, I would be delighted to see if any of the openings are relevant to my skills, because I’m looking at unemployment and food stamps in short order, and would LOVE to actually have a job.

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          You should now be able to click my name/symbol/photo thing—->>> which will have my email. I think.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              My understanding is that Alison turned that functionality off, because people were using it to subvert having links go to moderation.

      1. HereKittyKitty*

        Have you considered the user researcher field? UX is hiring like mad right now and I’ve seen a ton of user researcher jobs that are looking for people with PhDs and social science research experience. If you haven’t heard of it, maybe do some googling and see if it’s a fit?

        I wish you the best of luck. It’s difficult out there. It took me 9 months to find a new job recently and for a lot of people I’ve met, that’s a short amount of time.

      2. Public Sector Manager*

        You should look at a legislative editor or legislative researcher position. Both those jobs match your skill set. Downside is that the work is only available in the capital city of every state. Upside is that there are 50 states who are always hiring!

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        Honest question: What do you mean by “an edited volume.” One would hope that even self-published books were edited. Or perhaps “wish” is the right word, rather than “hope.” Or do you mean that you edited a volume of chapters by other contributors?

        1. Pippa K*

          In academia, at least, it means that last thing – several authors contributing different chapters. The editor of an edited volume usually organises the theme and invites the contributors and also typically writes one chapter of their own.

        2. Artemesia*

          This is a very well understood and common thing in academia. An edited volume is a volume of contributions by other scholars in the field; sometimes it is also peer reviewed i.e. the chapters are selected based on peer review. It is has nothing to do with copy editing of a manuscript.

      4. Anon Because Reasons*

        Hi! I’m not the person above but my (enormous 70,000+, Fortune 500, super remote friendly) company is also hiring for a bunch of positions. Healthcare has not slowed down at all so if you’re able to pivot your experience a bit you might consider a contract research organization.

        My Company: IQVIA
        Others in the industry:
        – Syneos
        – PPD
        – ICON (they ran the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID trials!)

        You can also explore other offshoots of the healthcare research industry like LabCorp, Quest, ThermoFisher etc

        I had NO idea this world even existed but an alum introduced me and I’ve been in love ever since. I get to help patients without any fuss or fluids.

        1. Clisby*

          I know nothing about IQVIA, but I’m still enrolled in the AstraZeneca Covid-19 trial, and I get check-in messages from them every week, so I assume they’re involved in this trial. (My personal involvement is with the teaching hospital here that actually works with the participants.)

    4. Allypopx*

      I have noticed a lot of entry level jobs available but have had to pick through a lot of crap for anything at my level or above (middle-manager adjacent in non-profits). The jobs I have applied for have been VERY competitive. I have a friend who works in corporate compliance who is also dealing with an insane amount of competition.

    5. RJ*

      My partner is a musician. They have some music-adjacent experience, but 95% of their work background is performance. Those jobs do. not. exist right now.

    6. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      “All I can say is that there’s no doubt the job hunting process is BRUTAL right now”

      It’s feast or famine, and if you’re in the famine, it is indeed BRUTAL right now. Structural economic transitions are often like this; a glut of workers in one discipline mismatched with a glut of jobs in another.

    7. D3*

      Are you paying enough? Are your requirements in line with the pay you can afford? (If all you can afford is $14/hour, don’t write requirements for a doctorate and 15+ years of experience!) Are the job duties realistic? Does your company/organization have good reviews online, or are there lots of similar complaints about working conditions and expectations? Did you treat employees with care for their health and wellbeing during Covid?
      The job market is pretty brutal right now, in part because many employers want so much for so little. I’d love to change jobs, but I’m not seeing anything realistic out there in my field, and I am seeing job listings that linger for months but I have zero interest in applying for.
      You may want to consider WHY no one wants that job. There’s probably a reason.

    8. A Person*

      If you’re really in Sacramento, is it govt-related? Can it be done remotely? (I’d love to talk also, but how can that happen?)

    9. KayDeeAye*

      Yes, we are having a really difficult time getting good applicants too! It’s a public relations position, and…well, we’re getting a few applications but not very many and only a few decent ones. As far as I know, there aren’t a million PR jobs open right now, so that’s concerning. We tried changing the title the job was listed under (the original one was a bit odd), and we just added something about a flexible part office/part WFH schedule, so maybe things will pick up.

    10. Who Am I*

      What’s your industry? I think around here there are a lot of factories hiring plus a lot of fast food and retail. I’m seeing very few professional or office jobs. If you want to work in a factory setting, retail, or food service you can pretty much walk in but if you want something different, it is pretty brutal. (So glad I was able to keep my job over the past 15 months and my company has actually a few people during that time – but only for very specialized roles high up the corporate ladder, requiring specialized degrees and training. No support staff of any kind.)

    11. ramses*

      I’ve been job hunting for almost 6 months. Tons of interviews but no offers. It is really competitive in my field right now (association management).

  3. OP1*

    I’m OP 1 and I want to add one other thing. I found many comments on my question very unhelpful and even quite worrying! For example: comments speculating on the part of the world I work in, when I specifically said I wanted that to stay vague for my own anonymity; comments suggesting everyone who complains should just *be fired* (which, as you’ll see in this update, is not at all necessary! You can treat people well even when they aren’t being their best selves); and comments that our staff couldn’t possibly actually be well-paid and I am obviously MANAGEMENT SCUM–basically repeats of the exact behavior that I was telling you was the problem (and this took place under a reminder from Alison to take OP at their word that the pay is good). So while most of these updates end with “and the commenters were so helpful!” I’m afraid that wasn’t my experience. It left such a bad taste in my mouth that I’ve stopped reading the comments on here. Finally, please advocate for better worker protections in your own jurisdictions. A few days after my letter ran I saw a news article about an employee at a supermarket chain (let’s say Entire Groceries) who was fired for wanting better COVID protections. You shouldn’t be able to just fire people who complain. They may be performing a valuable service. And though that wasn’t the case in my situation, we solved the problem without leaving people unemployed.

    1. Allypopx*

      I am not particularly fond of the commentariat this week, but I think that’s a tiny bit unfair. Your question was one where your location made a big difference! And firing people for wanting legitimate protection is a little different than having consistent griping and negativity after an issue has been addressed, so that’s not quite a fair equivocacy.

      Writing in is certainly overwhelming, especially when literally every response is directed at you like it is in a standalone post. I can see how the repetition of certain points would be grating. And personal attacks are never warranted. Also negativity can stand out in our memories more than positivity, but at the same time you did say in the comments at the time that it was helpful!

      1. OP1*

        Some comments were helpful! I used some of the scripts they suggested. But I don’t think I’ll ask for help again, people were just so incredibly rude.

        1. Pants*

          I’m sorry the comments to your letter were salty and unhelpful. I think pay is a huge hot button. With all the Covid news and the “great resignation” constantly being reported, people are wondering if their jobs are really worth the pay that they’re receiving. Non-profits in America are notorious for paying very low wages. You’re not in America (adopt me?) and have done the research and shown them. What I really don’t understand is their aggression in pushing the topic, going so far as to suggest the reports you’ve offered are faked. The company-wide emails, meeting interruptions, etc. would most likely result in termination here. (Again, I know you’re not in America. And again, please adopt me.)

          I am really glad that you were really able to quash the constant rumbling. I am not surprised there was a specific ring-leader (isn’t that always the way?) but I’m so happy that pushing back directly caused him to reconsider his opinion, especially when it came from various sources.

          From what I’ve seen of your writing, you know your stuff and communicate it well. I think the commentariat would be better with you in it, but I also understand the hesitancy. I volunteer as tribute if you need someone in your corner. :-)

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I’m curious as to what you are hoping to accomplish by commenting here now.

          1. Firecat*

            I find it helpful to hear from OPs about what was and wasn’t helpful in the comments section.

          2. Frank Doyle*

            I find it useful, actually. Sometimes when people comment on the internet, we forget that we’re talking to real live people, and we can be more blunt that we might be if we were speaking face to face. I think it’s okay to be reminded of this, that we might be coming across as rude when we don’t intend to be.

            1. Archaeopteryx*

              Agreed. I think some people may have felt like they were writing to The Concept of Underpayment, rather than a real person who is reasonable and reading what they said.

              1. Birdie*

                Yes, I agree. I also think a lot of people were projecting their own experiences on the situation rather than taking OP at their word about their specific situation.

          3. Velawciraptor*

            Perhaps to serve as a reminder that letter writers are actual people and that they should be treated as such? This follow-up pile-on seems to serve as an example of why such reminders might be necessary.

            1. Athena*

              OP, I just wanted to say that I missed your original letter, but I found it very relatable. I work in the US and manage a team in a large nonprofit that pays great wages, comparatively, and also qualifies in some cases for above average benefits and such because of our funding sources. Some of my employees are unionized and some are mot. I took over after my office burned through 3 directors in about 5 years and the last one was abusive to a lot of our colleagues, but really built up the team while telling them — in their reviews!– that they were underpaid and deserve raises and better compensation, but senior management denied her requests. Then did a bunch of really inappropriate things and ultimately quit while sharing a lot of her grievances with board members and donors. Since then she has been fired from the position she moved to and started a consulting business, which she has been engaging members of the team as consultants for. I inherited this team, and it’s been a pain in general — I concur with other respondents by seeing in your situation a deeper cultural issue. But dealing with it myself, I think people want to believe it’s easier than it is to deal with. You actually can’t just sack people, even when it’s evident that you should, and the same goes quadruple for people that need to be put on PIPs, since they remain on the team while you either correct the issue or manage them out.

              1. When you’re dealing with multiple people who coordinate their bad behavior, that’s hard to begin with, and it’s harder to get support sometimes for decisive punitive action because it’s a significant number of people of positions — and during COVID, we actually could not hire, so there was some emphasis on “making it work” if people were meeting other expectations.

              2. There can be other factors — my personal Jerk in Chief has been a toxic presence and fought with and challenged the interim director before me, and she outright lied to me and three other supervisory people in roughly a two-month period when it became evident that I wouldn’t let her bully another member of the team. But then she went out on maternity leave, during which she decided to engage in (conflict of interest) behavior that would be totally prohibited if she were in one employee classification, but she’s actually in another. So I’d love to sack her. I wanted to for 6 months before she went on leave, which by the way she didn’t tell me about — she announced to the entire organization before telling me, and didn’t communicate any details of her leave to me, her supervisor, until I asked her to do so. But our lawyers have required me to be cautious while they determine what can be asserted on the basis of her actual obligations vs. her behavior. I will, seriously, fire her the moment that I am given the go ahead to do so. She should have been sacked or put on a PIP before I arrived, and while she improved briefly she’s been an intermittently but persistently disruptive presence on my team.

              3. I would also say here that organizations, particularly nonprofits, can place some priorities (effectiveness, dedication to the cause) over others, such as the priority to be civil and work for the good and strategic goals of the organization. As a manager, if you don’t have clear consensus on that from the top, you have to get it. Or the radar will focus on you.

          4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            OP is letting us know what was helpful and what wasn’t, don’t you think, as a commenter, that it’s useful to know?

      2. Former Child*

        It’s always tough when a post on the worldwide web is so “vague” that it’s hard to respond to. Maybe some people could be recognized as that ONE person in the entire world, but I think it’s on the one posting to write well enough to elucidate the issue they’re asking for help with.
        Is it really all about you as the one person on Planet Earth who will be “found out”?

        Maybe someone writing in about his “car company and outerspace project” would be ID’d, but short of that, I dunno.

        1. LTL*

          If a person finds it tough to reply with sensitivity, perhaps it’s best to refrain from replying at all? “This is what’s going on and please note that I’m not sharing location for anonymity” isn’t vague.

          It’s rude guess at information the OP didn’t want to share, and it’s ruder still to then argue “well that shouldn’t have bothered you” and rationalize why you think it’s an unreasonable boundary.

          1. Just Another Commentator*

            The owner of the blog asked about the LW’s location as well, and gave address based off the LW’s IP address. I think people who write in here need to find a kind of peace with wanting complete and total anonymity to the point that we can’t ask about to the continent they might be on, with the fact that they’re writing in about pretty specific work problems and providing further information in updates.

            1. serenity*

              I agree with this, especially since the commentariat on this site seems (I say seems, maybe I’m wrong) has gotten a lot more international in the last year or two, with more commenters from the UK for sure.

              Workplace norms, labor laws, etc. are hugely different from country to country and being oversensitive to being asked where LWs are is a little puzzling to me. You wrote to this site for helpful advice, presumably. Your general location plays some role in getting it!

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Whoa, to clear this up, I did NOT give any location info about the LW! I told her that based on her IP address, she was mistaken about her country making it illegal to fire people and suggested she google the laws there.

              1. Just Another Commentator*

                I typed address twice but I meant “gave advice”, apologies.

          2. Lana Kane*

            I agree. I’ve replied from a manager’s perspective here and gotten some really uncalled for replies. I have noticed that the commentariat here has, on a *general* level (yes Iknow, Not All Commenters), become more judgy and rigid in the replies to letters and comments that they disagree with. There’s also a lot of “I don’t do things like this therefore you’re wrong” attitudes. I take breaks from reading the comments here every so often because it’s a bummer to see it running unchecked. I think it has the effect of silencing other voices because no one wants that turned towards them.

            OP, thanks for speaking up about it.

            1. AY*

              I’ve been noticing the same. LWs and commenters who write in from one perspective are too often attacked or accused of being unfair for not sufficiently including the opposite perspective. No one can be a panacea.

            2. JelloStapler*

              Unfortunately it seems to be a reflection of general comments and reactions on The Internet over the last few years. I am happy that Alison holds us responsible for our behavior here. Plenty of other places are awful.

            3. Non non*

              Yes, my perception is that I get attacked by some commenters if I don’t share the perspective of an employee in a traditional corporate workplace.

              1. Non non*

                In “traditional corporate workplace” I’m including academic and nonprofit workplaces, which seem to have a lot of representation on this site.

                1. Sasha*

                  I kind of assume that is what people write in for though – to see what is “the norm” in terms of workplace expectations and culture.

                  Is it normal or acceptable to bite a coworker? Possibly in some niche areas (that LW’s workplace seemed to be fine with it). But people write in to get the reality check that no, that isn’t normal, and in most places that would be off the wall behaviour and would get you sacked.

                  My own field has different norms to corporate America (I’m not in the US, and work in healthcare). I find it useful to get a different perspective, and honestly NHS management is generally pretty terrible, so it’s sometimes nice to read about how it ought to be done. I am fully aware I can’t take Alison’s scripts and transfer them wholesale to my role.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I agree that the location was important in OP1’s question.

        The firing thing is an issue that regularly shocks a lot of us Europeans since we mostly have far more protection for workers. For example, when I was the trade union representative, I was more or less unfireable. As we have seen here, many commenters were suggesting that OP find who was behind all the griping to fire them. 99% of the time that would be the trade union representative. I can attest that we do some very valuable work, I made sure that people were fired in accordance with the law, I enforced some rules that the boss had been blatantly disregarding. I got one guy’s pay bumped up considerably when it turned out he was being paid considerably less than others doing the same job. And I listened to a lot of griping and sorted the chaff from the wheat so that only actionable issues were brought to the boss. So even though we seem like thorns in the boss’s side, we do a lot of valuable work in keeping morale* up and helping employees navigate the working world. As such, we deserve extra protection.
        (OK, morale was plummeting at OP’s workplace, the rep just needed to be told that the issue had been dealt with and wouldn’t change, as OP said.)

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      I’m really sorry that happened to you. The first rule of the commentariat on this site is that we are to take the letter writer at their word regarding the facts, so it sounds like people weren’t following that rule.

      1. kittymommy*

        This right here. There have been times that I have looked a little side-eyed on the letter, but yes, we are supposed to assume that the LW is the best judge of the situation. The fact that it has to be restated with some letters you’d think eventually we (global we) would get it!

      1. Caboose*

        I’m not seeing a whole lot of bashing going on, reading through it right now!

        What I am seeing is a lot of:
        “Well, maybe your company is doing X terrible thing, and that’s why everyone is complaining! I’m sure there’s something you must be doing wrong!”
        “X is literally illegal where I am.”

        Someone from another country pointing out that American labor laws don’t apply to their situation is very different from the mockery that’s banned here. I don’t see anything that’s different from, say, a Canadian LW mentioning that insurance is less of a big deal on a job offer when comments keep bringing it up.

      2. ttt*

        There were only 3 comments out of their 50 in which OP1 mentioned America at all, none of them I would consider bashing.

        “Sorry Americans this solution does not work for us.”

        “I prefer this to the American style wild west…”

        “I think Americans need to organize for better workplace laws”

        1. Unkempt Flatware*

          So why write in to an American blog if our solutions are so so American and wild? Saying she should fire people is rude? Asking her country is rude? Alison even asked where she was located.

          1. ttt*

            Her reasons for withholding her location are her own, and I agree that it probably wasn’t the best idea to write to an America-centric blog for this type of question.

            My stance is that she didn’t bash the US in her replies. That’s literally it.

            1. Unkempt Flatware*

              Well, I’m American and I was offended. No need to say it at all and it sure seemed like these replies were locked and loaded by the OP.

            2. LTL*

              Re: writing to an American blog, to be fair, Alison’s advice did end up being helpful.

          2. Mental Lentil*

            Alison doesn’t specifically identify this as an American blog, though. Good management is good management regardless of where you are in the world. The same is true of bad management.

            What is different in different parts of the world are labor laws. Things that are de rigueur in one country may be illegal in the country next door.

            Alison did not ask where LW was located. She speculated that LW was outside the US, based on LW’s IP address (which you can see on the admin side of WordPress). And that’s assuming that LW wasn’t using a VPN, which can mask your true location.

            1. serenity*

              I think workplace norms, cultural and ethnic differences, language nuances, gender roles and expectations, and a whole lot else vary hugely from one country to another – beyond just laws and regulations. The questions on this site often go much deeper than simple bad/good management binaries.

              I can’t speak for Alison but I think she’s generally careful to caveat her advice when someone is writing in from other countries, or to at least point out that expectations can be very different based on lots of other factors. This may not explicitly be labeled an American blog but I think letter writers should generally understand that’s the perspective being offered here.

          3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I don’t think any particular comment was rude. It’s just that when you get 20 commenters all saying “fire them!!” it can be exhausting to keep explaining that no, that’s not a solution. If commenters were to all read all the comments before commenting, it would help, because then you might see that your solution won’t work and refrain from suggesting it.

          4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            If OP didn’t want to disclose her location, it kind of follows that she might not want to ask about her problem in a local AAM either.
            Why write in to AAM? Maybe because she likes Alison’s brand of reasoning. And the fact is that she did get some answers that were useful, and she thanked everyone for those answers. She just won’t bother next time she has a problem.
            She didn’t explain in her post that she had no managerial clout – sometimes it’s hard to imagine what information is useful and what isn’t. A lot of the time people get to a “can’t see the forest for the trees” situation where their perspective is clouded to the point they can no longer explain properly. To wit: we often read in these updates that “it did make me realise that this was only the tip of the iceberg and I started looking for another job” (there’s one of those here too in fact!).

        2. Name Goes Here*

          It’s not what I’d call “bashing,” but . . . we Americans know we need better workplace laws (and healthcare laws, and . . . ). People point it out to us in the comments here frequently. It’s not super necessary to bring this up and can sting a bit, as though the one thing that was remaining to galvanize us is an outsider’s opinion.

          1. Caboose*

            Right, but this LW didn’t bring it up out of nowhere! If it was unprompted bragging, that’d be one thing, but it was entirely in the context of correcting people who were very invested in arguing that the LW/LW’s company must be evil and abusing employees in some way. Every time American laws came up, it was LW pointing out that whatever convoluted scenario someone was inventing wasn’t legal or possible for their situation.

            1. serenity*

              The original letter is clearly a Rorschach test at this point and people are reading it quite differently but the LW resisted disclosing their country in the post – for reasons of their own – and there was some defensiveness when commenters pointed out solutions that may not work for them.

              I literally don’t understand writing in to a workplace advice column and refusing to divulge where you’re located when helpful advice depends on it – but I guess that’s me.

        3. Insert Clever Name Here*

          The “sorry Americans” comment was literally OP’s first comment, and considering that nothing in the letter told us OP wasn’t in the US, it’s understandable to read “…We live in a jurisdiction with good employee protection. Sorry, Americans, this solution does not work for us” as being a little snide. Every comment OP made about how sucky American labor protections are came after comments trying to explain that the problem OP was facing wasn’t “employees have opinions” but “repeatedly hijacking meetings to discuss their own agenda, berating a payroll employee, and prevent actual work from getting done to the point that a full half of an organization is complaining about a fake problem.”

          Regardless, I’m sorry that OP felt attacked by the comments, especially since the vast majority of their comments on the day seemed appreciative of the perspectives being shared.

    3. Caboose*

      I wasn’t around when your letter turned up, but reading through the comments today, I’m absolutely baffled by the way people were reacting to you. It seems clear to me that you were very thoughtful about how to handle things and appreciated people’s input on how to reframe things, but also frustrated from having to explain over and over again that American labor laws aren’t applicable to your situation.
      I’m very glad that you managed to influence people into cutting it out with the constant complaints!

    4. Mayflower*

      Unfortunately, a lot of people have an acrimonious us-vs-them attitude (“them” being management) and there is literally nothing you can do to change their mind. My small company (5 employees) pays people DOUBLE what they make in comparable roles and we still had one employee constantly complaining about being underpaid. What can I say, some people insist on being unhappy ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

    5. Chestnut Mare*

      I went to the original post and read all the comments, and I think that they were overwhelmingly polite and articulate. People went to a lot of effort to give you well-reasoned feedback, within the very narrow parameters you were willing to share. You wanted to stay anonymous in your location, which is your right but does affect the advice you’ll get, but then you were prickly when the proffered advice wasn’t relevant.

      As was explained to you multiple times in the comments, no one was suggesting that your colleagues be fired simply for complaining. Your description was of harassment, bullying and insubordination, as well as interfering with others’ ability to get their work done.

      In the comments of the original post, you thanked multiple commenters, who again went to considerable effort to give you good advice.

    6. D3*

      While you personally may not have this attitude, please understand that you hit a nerve with a lot of people who are dealing with this attitude from their employers. Many of them ARE underpaid. Many of them have employers who gaslight them and tell them that their pay is just fine.
      And your comments protesting that you really are a good guy also sound just like those gaslighting employers.
      Maybe you are right and your employees are not underpaid. Maybe you are not. Maybe your update just reads as “we managed to get them to shut up about it” but not “My employees are happy and feel valued now.” DID you solve the problem, or did you just silence your employees? There’s a difference, and I’m not sure you see that.
      Your comments about Americans and how commenters “just don’t understand how it works where I am” while not providing any context on the culture you are in also seemed a bit rude. You’re absolutely okay to be vague about your location, but you also need to recognize that the vagueness contributed to some of the issues. Similarly, your comments about how people should be advocating more – not great.
      You may not have intended to, but you absolutely hit a nerve with a lot of people. People didn’t respond well to you, but your behavior in the comments (and this comment, too) were not great, either.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think it’s also important to note that OP1 disclosed in the comments of the original letter that she is not even in a position to affect any change and does not manage the employees in question.

        1. serenity*

          That’s helpful to remember. Not to criticize the OP, especially if they feel wronged, but their aversion to even naming the country in which they’re located and their general hostility towards Americans was a little grating. I’m guessing others felt the same way. Sorry!

      2. GinoGinelli*

        “Maybe your update just reads as “we managed to get them to shut up about it” but not “My employees are happy and feel valued now.” DID you solve the problem, or did you just silence your employees? There’s a difference, and I’m not sure you see that.”

        This stuck out to me too. Alison’s reply to the original letter stressed that there seems to be something more going on at OP’s workplace, but the update is just “we got them to stop talking about pay.” I think a lot of people can identify with the employees who are unhappy and feel underappreciated, so it’s disappointing to see that the reported resolution doesn’t seem to address that.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        “your update just reads as “we managed to get them to shut up about it” but not “My employees are happy and feel valued now.” DID you solve the problem, or did you just silence your employees? There’s a difference, and I’m not sure you see that.”

        As OP1 pointed out in comments below the original post, they are not her employees and she has no managerial clout, so it’s not up to her to make sure employees feel happy and valued. All she could do was improve the atmosphere by getting the gripers to stop griping. The company had gone a long way to show that they had done their best and it was no worse than elsewhere.

        “Maybe you are right and your employees are not underpaid. Maybe you are not.”
        Alison always asks that we believe the OP. Of course, everyone lies, but we have to take them at their word or else we can start dissecting and disbelieving everything like “Dear Alison, I work at a-” Savage Commenter: “let me stop you right there. Do you really work? put in all the hours you’re paid for without slacking? how can we answer you properly when we have no proof that you ever do a stroke of work?”

    7. EventPlannerGal*

      I have to say that I do disagree a bit with your characterisation of the comments on that post. I just went and reread just now to refresh my memory and I think the vast majority of comments were perfectly polite. I do think that some people evidently found it a little frustrating that you didn’t include some pretty important information until way down in the comments section – specifically that you had no managerial authority over anyone, which would have massively changed a lot of the advice being given. I’m sorry that this experience has put you off AAM, and I’m glad that you’ve found a solution that works in your specific context.

    8. Patty Cake*

      I also think some of the commentariat have become more aggressive and judgy over the years. Last few times I posted what I thought of as rather innocuous questions on the open discussion threads, I got a surprising number of scolding, nasty, and completely unnecessary comments. On the other hand, if you you just mentally filter through them, there are usually a few people who are really great and make actionable suggestions. I wish we could up-vote (or down-vote) comments, and have the ones that drop below 10 or something be deleted.

    9. RagingADHD*

      That’s odd, I just went back to read the original comments, and it seemed to me that the majority (of top-level comments at any rate) were giving different insights and perspectives on why people might be complaining (workload changes, lack of advancement, cost of living increases, etc), or pointing out that being uncivil to coworkers who had no control over pay (like the payroll clerk) was a behavior problem that needed to be addressed in its own right.

      I also noticed how many times you chimed in to say thjngs like “good point” or “I hadn’t thought of that.”

      I’m not sure what happened between then and now to change your perspective, but your comment here hardly sounds like you’re referring to the same post I just read!

  4. EPLawyer*

    #2- I have very glad you are in a better place right now. Which says something about your previous job that UNEMPLOYED is better than staying there.

    Hang in there.

  5. Former Child*

    Re: Helen’s berating emails
    I wondered if Helen has a supervisor to talk to, since there’s such a long paper trail here. Even if LW doesn’t have a boss, Helen might. The sheer volume of printed out emails might be persuasive, even if s/he won’t read them all. The tone is bad but it’s also the number of them. Point out that your workload has increased.
    And I’d want to tell H. and her boss that she is the only person who is complaining about my work. And that you try just as hard on her work as anyone else’s. Sometimes that makes someone think. It’s peer pressure in a way.
    If ever a coworker was handing you evidence, it’s this one.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I commented on the original post suggesting something similar to what OP 2 did in ignoring Helen’s email barrage and only responding when finished. I too have a ‘Helen,’ who I call ‘George.’

      I can’t go to a supervisor about George, because when you read his emails, these are the voice of sweet reason, along the lines of “Mockingjay says this is the process/have to do it this way, but I don’t know what this way is/wasn’t informed of the change. Can someone clarify?” I presume Helen’s emails are similar.

      I’m glad OP 2 no longer has to deal with Helen and the Helenettes. I myself recently learned that George will be departing soon. *does happy dance*

  6. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – reading between the lines, it sounds like someone made a job offer mistake and offered the role to the wrong person, then had to walk that back. It was a lousy way to do it, if that was the case.

    1. Artemesia*

      I thought this was such a good way to handle someone like that. Anticipate it, put them all in one folder that only has to be opened once a day and then refuse to be drawn into endless responses. Sorry that it only exposed that the rest of the business wasn’t much better and hope the OP finds a good job soon.

  7. Heffalump*

    OP1: Good that the person being mean to the payroll clerk was put in their place. But why was that behavior ever tolerated for even a minute?

  8. Varthema*

    LW1 – glad it worked out! We had a similar situation in my last job. Problem was that our knight in shining armor was right, our working conditions did suck, but they were unfortunately also industry standard. So (in my view) it was worth pushing *some* on our single company but with realistic expectations of what they could give us and stay competitive, but this was apparently “what they wanted us to think.” So some of us “little people” did hate the tension and started to tell him off, but some of the others agreed with the knight; so the result was lots of bad feelings. The crusaders felt betrayed like their coworkers like scabs, the non-crusaders just felt tired and stressed and annoyed at being viewed as scabs. Not good. :( Glad I’m gone!

Comments are closed.