it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1. I’ve been reading AAM for years, and put all your advice into practice when it came to improving my resume/cover letter and preparing for the interview (behavioral questions!). And, most of all, for the first time I truly understood both how an interview can be a two-way street, and what you mean when you talk about writing thoughtful “follow-up” notes.

I’ve been working as an academic librarian for about 3 years, being underpaid, underworked, and isolated. So I was thrilled when I saw a job listing at my alma mater, where I’d always dreamed of working; the particular student culture is one I’d love to work with as a librarian, it’s very queer-friendly so I’ll be able to talk openly about my queer fiancee, and it’s an area where my fiancee and I want to live.

The interviews flowed like a conversation about librarianship more than an interrogation, and when it came time for me to ask questions, I had genuine questions. I had prepared a few, of course, but in that moment, it was incredibly natural that I’d ask about their culture, about what they find most challenging about their work, etc. It’s all part of a substantive discussion, not just going through the motions! It was information that I wanted to make sure I understood the job.

And because we’d had such a substantive discussion, when I got home, I actually had things of substance to follow up on. For example, one interviewer had brought up that it is a challenge to return as staff to the place you went to college, since you’re seeing “how the sausage gets made.” I’d addressed that in the moment briefly, but in the follow-up email I explored a little more fully how I’d prepared myself for that kind of issue, and emphasizing how I genuinely felt that the library culture was a good fit for me.

I was offered the job today, and I’m so excited. It’ll be a huge culture change, but all in good ways.

My take away from this: when it’s the right fit in terms of culture and content of the job, asking questions and substantively following-up feels very natural. I’ve only felt like I’m going through the motions at jobs that I wasn’t strongly interested in, didn’t feel qualified for, or otherwise had ambivalence or anxiety about.

2. I’ve been reading your column for many years, through a number of jobs. Unfortunately I jumped from one job that didn’t go the way I wanted it to go into a toxic workplace. In fact, toxic workplace was so bad that I mentored a young colleague out of there into a new job. I explained that what we were experiencing wasn’t normal and pointed out specific behaviours she should not accept as normal.

She listened and scored another role in our industry with a different employer but stayed in touch. It was a great move for her and she flourished. Lo and behold, her new employer had a vacancy that matched my skillset and desired part time work hours so I applied and she put in a good word for me with the manager who had hiring responsibility.

I got an interview and aced it after reviewing lots of information on your site. But a week after I was promised an answer either way, I had heard nothing, so I sent a brief email reiterating why I was excited about the role and working for the company. Within an hour, I had a phone call offering me the role. The reason for the delay was because they had decided to appoint two of us to meet the demands of future and forecast growth – in an industry which has shrunk drastically during COVID-19! After reviewing my contract, asking a few more questions, I signed and then gave notice to toxic workplace.

My old boss rang my new employer and “jokingly” complained about him poaching staff. New boss just said both young colleague and I had applied for vacancies as we were entitled to do.
Old boss made a counter offer – more money, title boost, flexible hours – but nothing that actually addressed the issues that had now seen four members of that team leave in just eight months.

I started my new role this week and my immediate supervisor is also a former employee of old company and knew exactly why I was moving on! Two days in and the training has been systematic, the processes are logical, tested and proven, my new colleagues are welcoming and clearly enjoy coming to work, and I already feel appreciated.

An update one month later:

My immediate boss (not big boss) at toxic job has also found another job and given notice. This time the big boss got really angry and said we were all sabotaging his plans to retire! Perhaps he should consider why every member of that team has now left in an 18-month period.

As for me, I’m still relishing my new job and feeling very supported. I had to phone in sick in just my third week, feeling guilty but absolutely unfit to work. My new boss’s response was simply, “We don’t soldier on anymore. Let me know this afternoon if you think you’ll be well enough to come in tomorrow.”

3. My beloved manager of over five years resigned a few weeks ago and, though I will miss her greatly, years of reading your blog gave me the confidence to advocate for myself in the resulting reshuffle (and getting more help for my anxiety than my previous techniques, which proved not up to the challenges of the last 18 months, got myself out of my own way to act on that confidence). I argued against potentially changing to a manager who would not have been best for my professional development or able to leverage my niche skill set effectively and instead am now reporting to my former grandboss. Even better, I successfully negotiated for a title change to one that better reflected what I do and the level I’m at – thankfully my compensation was already at that level! But the title change makes me feel like the contributions I make to the company and my progress in the role are being recognised in a way that’s visible to others. I never would have had the confidence to speak for myself and know how I could do so without the advice and encouragement you dispense to all your readers. Thank you, Alison!

Additionally, I want to say that reading the comments of your posts about LGBTQ+ people at work and seeing how many members of the commentariat here are also Ace gave me the happiest, warmest, fuzziest feelings and made me feel a little less isolated in my orientation.

Read an update to this letter

4. Not exactly *my* good news, but my husband’s. He’s been miserable at his job for the past year. He’s worked at a managed service provider doing IT support, the company staff was kept bare-bones to maximize profits and his workload was unmanageable — he could work 12 hour days, and still not get caught up. Team meetings consisted of being berated for not keeping up with their tasks. Whenever the company did hire new staff, they went out and solicited new clients, so the workload never decreased. He was burned out — he had three weeks of PTO banked, but it wasn’t relaxing to take a few days off because of the enormous workload that would await when he got back, since no one had the bandwidth to help out. He was afraid of job searching, because the company has fired people in the past when they were discovered to be looking for a new position.

I convinced him that this job was becoming detrimental to his physical and mental health, and also affecting me because he wasn’t available to help me care for our son and our two elderly dogs. I used tips from Ask a Manager to help him rewrite his resume to highlight his achievements and pointed him to a few posts on interviewing. He got calls for interviews from nearly a dozen companies! Yesterday, he got an offer from one of them, the one he wanted the most, since it’s in-house and not another managed service provider.

Oh, and when he gave his notice to his boss, his boss asked him to be “brutally honest” if he’s asked to give an exit interview, in hopes that the company might wake up and make some staffing changes, but nobody believes that it would ever really happen.

5. I have been reading your site for almost a decade. You were my mentor and supervisor when I was without one as a new manager. Your advice guided me through handling tricky staff and patron interactions, always providing the perfect wording and coaching. I’m very direct now!

I most recently took your advice on how, when, and why to ask for a raise. I worked up my courage for four months, timing my request with the annual budget review. After a year of excellent performance, I felt confident I had earned it. I relied on my past performance and commendations from the patrons I serve to speak to my value I add to the organization. Thanks to your salary survey and my own research, I came to the table knowing I wasn’t earning what I should (and gave myself room to grow). Even though I was nervous to ask, I realized the worst thing that could happen is that they could say no. But…they didn’t! I earned a sizable raise–3% more than my initial request!

I feel so valued by my organization. No matter what tough issues lay ahead, I want to dig into the work and get it done! Dear Ask A Manager readers, ask for what you’re worth. You owe it to yourself and your organization!

{ 18 comments… read them below }

  1. x-it*

    LW#4’s comment about their husband’s new job at “not another managed service provider”.

    Boy this rings true for me. MSPs are all about squeezing as much work out of as little a staff as they can run with, while always increasing the workload. I don’t miss that life.

    1. Persephone Mongoose*

      I came here to say the exact same thing. I left my previous company at an MSP because they just kept acquiring new clients without hiring more staff, even during the pandemic, and there was a week where I had so much to do I was having daily panic attacks after not having one for years.

      Now I have a job doing IT in-house instead of with an MSP just like OP’s husband and while there are new sets of problems to deal with, I wouldn’t trade ANY of the issues here with the ones at my previous workplace. I’m really happy for LW and their husband!

    2. Mockingjay*

      Re: LW4, I would caution her husband about the exit interview. The Powers That Be are not interested in making changes (which is why the husband is leaving) and I doubt anything said in an exit interview would give the company an epiphany. I’d be wary of affecting any future reference from this place or being labeled as “not eligible for rehire.” Keep remarks general and bland (lie if he has to): “Enjoyed working with you all at Overwork Corp. Just time to try something new.” (Heck, skip the exit interview if he can.)

      I’m glad he’s out, though, for yours and his sakes. Congrats!

      1. anonymouse*

        Came to say the same thing. He’s leaving, so he doesn’t need them NOW, but…
        “Oh, and when he gave his notice to his boss, his boss asked him to be “brutally honest” if he’s asked to give an exit interview, in hopes that the company might wake up and make some staffing changes, but nobody believes that it would ever really happen.”
        If his boss wants to make changes at his company, he can use his capital and his voice to do it.
        “Oh, really sock it to ’em, OPHusband.”
        No. He’s out, Make a clean healthy break and move on.

  2. anonymouse*

    LW 2: “New boss just said both young colleague and I had applied for vacancies as we were entitled to do.”
    Oh, he must’ve felt glorious about that. Like yes, he’s took all the garbage treatment he got there and turned it into a corporate Eden that people run to. Nope, as a matter of fact, I don’t search out people at all. They come to me.”

    and Big Boss, “I don’t have money to pay you! I’m saving for retirement!”
    Me too. That’s why I’m leaving.
    “Well, I have money…and better hours…”
    Of course you do. Can you imagine working for that robber baron after he did you a “favor”? Sheesh.

  3. Casey*

    Here’s my own Friday good news – I recently started a new job at a company known for heavy workload and high performance standards. I went into this with a lot of apprehension, because I’m someone who is prone to people-pleasing and burnout. There have definitely been a couple “trying not to cry because I feel like I’m always behind” days, but! I’ve been reading AAM religiously and have tried to be incredibly upfront with my boss about setting boundaries on workload, turnaround time, etc. We have a weekly check-in where I come prepared with a list of priorities to discuss, and he’s helped me communicate to outside stakeholders when they need to adjust their deadlines. I just had my six month review and my boss said he was really pleased with my communication and technical output, and he just wants me to work on being more upfront/confident with sharing my expertise— and I’ve been able to do that while still maintaining a very sustainable workload! So, happy Friday everyone!

    1. demo88*

      Congratulations! I work in publishing and often had to do press checks pre-COVID. I would rather introvert and just watch the press run (it’s mesmerizing), but I had to learn to speak up and tell the pressmen what I required for good quality. I called it “putting my gut-suit on,” meaning, finding the guts to speak up about what I need and not be shy. Then I promptly took off the figurative gut suit once I was off the press floor. :) Maybe thinking of it like that will help you be more confident when it’s needed.

  4. Observer*

    My immediate boss (not big boss) at toxic job has also found another job and given notice. This time the big boss got really angry and said we were all sabotaging his plans to retire

    Honestly, I really laughed out loud and snorted. Which one of them was the one who called your new employer to complain about “poaching” staff? If it’s the one who is moving on, I hope he realizes that he’s going to need to REALLY reset his expectations and behavior.

    Also, it’s nice to see how helping your mentee see how insane things are wound up being the bridge to your new job.

    1. Tracey G*

      In a twist, I am now formally working with my mentee on helping to reset her workplace expectations.
      The old boss moving on is NOT the one who phoned my new big boss. That was the owner of the old company and I doubt he will ever recognise or understand the role he has played in all of this.
      After all, I worked for toxic old boss’s father when I was a teenager in my first job in this industry – let’s just say the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        It never does. Good for you that you recognized that things weren’t going to change, what you could live with, and making changes for you.

  5. Quantum Hall Effect*

    #2 Eep about old boss calling new boss. I am about to give notice at my job because I have a new one lined up, and I have decided not to say where I am going because there are ties there (in fact, my new boss knows people at my current company in a different city who by coincidence I have worked with, and he called them to see if they knew me before they ever interviewed me. That is how strong the ties are).I have been feeling like I am a little paranoid about the possibility of my current boss calling my new boss, but now I feel less paranoid. It is a real thing that happens.

    1. anonymouse*

      I agree.
      OP’s situation is a lightning in a bottle moment of “the jackass I used to work for called to complain to ME about people leaving him. And I get to say, I didn’t do anything.” and hear him bluster. And then I hang up.

    2. Observer*

      Eeep indeed. But would your new boss take such a call seriously? The ties may seem stronger than they are. And even if they are as strong as boss thinks, would the new boss really think that those ties are strong enough to mess with their hiring decision.

      Not that your employer is entitled to that information or anything like that. I’m more addressing the worry rather than what you should actually do.

  6. Artemesia*

    Kudos to all. And note that although #5 was well deserving of a raise, they were not offered a raise until they asked and made a case for one. Anyone who thinks they are underpaid needs to assess the environment and figure out the moment but they do need to ask or a raise is unlikely to be forthcoming.

  7. Bookworm*

    It’s been another long week and today was really stressful so I sincerely appreciate all the letters! Congrats to all!

  8. Tracey G*

    LW2 here – to clear up a couple of points raised by commenters: It was big toxic boss (owner) who phoned my new big boss. New big boss knows big toxic boss well enough to see past him.
    And my old boss who also resigned was the boss between me and big toxic boss.
    My new supervisor (who previously worked for the same first toxic company) commented we could “swap stories about big toxic boss” but I just changed the subject to avoid being drawn into it. Speaking badly about a former employer is something I try to avoid, no matter how much they might deserve it!
    And my new job is continuing to go really well. No question is seen as stupid, so I don’t hesitate to ask for help or clarification when I need it. The whole mood is much more upbeat, even as our area was plunged into another Covid lockdown.
    The owner of the company has made a point of introducing himself to me and other new hires. When we went back into lockdown, he came around to everyone and handed out free raffle tickets and then drew a series of small prizes for the lucky winners, just to boost morale.

Comments are closed.