updates: the 3-year probation, the furlough, and more

Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. I’ve been on probation for three years (#4 at the link)

I’m the person who emailed you last year about my supervisor keeping me on probation for over three years and I wondered if I should tell him it was my mental health issues that were causing me not to work as well as I should have. I have great news! Due to the pandemic he never went through with my evaluation but kept me on probation without ever discussing it.

I kept searching for a new job and in January I applied for a job that I knew would be a challenge but I got an interview! I prepared extensively for the interview by reading your advice and at the end of the interview I asked them your question about whether they had any reservations about my candidacy that I could address for them, and doing so changed the entire tone of the interview. They LOVED my bravery for asking, admitted that I didn’t have the level of experience they needed but would keep me in mind for another position. I brushed it off but two months later the same job unexpectedly opened up and they called me and offered me that job! I accepted it-it requires a move to another state and includes a 40% salary raise! My supervisor was shocked when I put in my two weeks notice and expressed doubts that I would be able to handle such a high-level job. He keeps trying to give me “advice” on how to be a better employee at my next job but I’m too busy moving to be bothered with him. Thanks to my medications I’m feeling more confident than ever and I can’t wait to start this next chapter in my life. Thank you for your advice and for your interviewing manual — they said mine was the best cover letter and resume they had come across in a while!

2. I might get furloughed — and may be pregnant (#5 at the link)

Things got a bit worse before they got better. As I mentioned in the comments, my organization did end up getting the PPP funding we had hoped for, which helped us keep everyone on for a bit longer. Unfortunately, as the pandemic continued and those funds ran out they did end up having to furlough a good chunk of staff, myself included. As you had guessed they did still continue to cover our health insurance during this time, which was great because I was about 6 weeks pregnant when I was informed of my furlough! Unfortunately, a few weeks later I suffered a miscarriage. In a way being on furlough at the time was kind of helpful since I was able to take as much time as I needed to recover (emotionally and physically).

So that’s the bad news. The good news is that I’m now back at work full time, and in fact during my furlough I was able to do some part-time work with another organization that works closely with us and which provided me great training that will be helpful as I consider the next steps in my career! Best of all, I’m now 11 weeks pregnant (not out of the “danger zone” yet, but close!) and my husband and I are keeping our fingers crossed that we can welcome our first child this winter!

3. Friday good news (#1 at the link)

I had a great time working in my contract position and like I said before, it allowed me more time to focus on my mental and physical health. I was able to get diagnosed with ADHD, which I had long suspected I had, and honestly the treatment has changed my life for the better. I was also able to visit my sister for two weeks and easily cut back my hours when I needed to. The flexibility was great and I was able to put money back into savings as well.

However, after about 6 months, I was itching for a full-time position once again. Though the contract job was great for the short term, I was getting bored and burned out with the task-by-task nature of it. Luckily hiring has picked up again and two former coworkers directed recruiters towards me for two great positions. It all happened very quickly but I received a job offer last Friday for one position and I will be accepting the offer today (it was my favorite of the two and I know the second potential offer would not be able to compete).

I am very excited for the new position! It’s very similar to the job I was laid-off from in duties, but a total upgrade in salary. As in a $30,000 more a year upgrade! It’s for a great company doing a public service and in the realm of sustainability, a field I’ve wanted to work in for a long while. I feel so lucky things have worked out as it has. It was a long 10 month journey to find a new full-time job, but believe it or not, I feel more confident in myself to make things work when things go wrong. I’ve also felt a strong desire to expand my skills into more technical areas, so I’ve enrolled in community college to take some courses I’ve long been interested in. I’ve been saying for years I was going to do it, and I finally took the plunge!

2020 was awful for everyone and it really changed the way I view work and myself in relation to work. I feel more confident about the path I’m on and I now know myself a little better. My journey feels very strange and twisty and I’m baffled at times about how I got here, but I am here, and I feel really good about that.

{ 68 comments… read them below }

  1. Imaginary Number*

    Who else thinks that OP #1’s boss’s reason for keeping them on “probation” was to keep them from realizing their true worth as employee and quitting for something better?

    1. Olivia Mansfield*

      It reminds me of a chief of staff I previously worked with who tried to keep people off-kilter about their own skills and value because she got her own sense of worth and power from being in a superior position to them. She kept people in a state of perpetual “training” long after they no longer needed it because she got her jollies from it.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Pretty much this.

      I love boss’ reaction, wait I kept you on probation for 3 years and now you are LEAVING? Let me undermine your confidence some more so I don’t have go through hiring someone else.

    3. ecnaseener*

      Feels just like an abusive romantic partner pulling the “if you leave me no one else will want you” crap!

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        That’s exactly where my mind went.
        OP: well, I had to accept the fact that I haven’t met your requirements. So found a new job.
        Boss: well, good luck finding a new job with your abilities.
        OP: No, I DID find a job. I start in two weeks.”
        wait, no. You are doing well.
        escalating to: you don’t want to leave. They are only hiring you to watch you fail. They know you can’t do it.”

        1. Candi*

          There’s also: where was that advice when she was constantly being told she wasn’t meeting the (probably always shifting) standards?

          My opinion falls somewhere between he’s trying to set her up to fail (like telling someone that a party is a costume party, and they show up in a bunny outfit) or he’s trying to make her believe she can’t function without him (ick).

    4. Sunrise Ruby*

      I think you’re absolutely right. Pure psychological abuse, as far as I’m concerned, related to the common abuser’s practice of telling their partner/victim that there are so many things wrong with them that no one else will ever love them, isolating the victim from other supportive people and compelling them remain in the relationship.

      I hope that boss’s voice won’t stick in the OPs head as she moves forward in her new job and new life.

    5. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This. Op, your ex boss is an ass. He abused you, his power and the company’s probation policy.
      Since you are happily on your way to the job I hope is deserving of you, I’d ask about the probation period in your exit interview.
      Tell HR that when they hire for your position they should really let candidates know that probation is not automatically up after six months. And that they should also create a document that spells out what it takes to complete probation
      Just drop something like, “Boss kept me on probation for my entire tenure. I was told that I didn’t meet the requirements for full time. I was working full time, completing all my tasks, and constantly told I failed. But when I asked the boss to clarify he’d just say I didn’t meet his requirements. That was hard to hear…every six months. For three years.”
      Let them suck on that.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I’d mention it, too. You’re on the way out, so you have little to lose.

        I do think boss’ behavior was manipulative and abusive and the whole trying to make you feel inadequate so you don’t take a good job? OP, run. Run fast to that new job and never look back.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Rats! I completely missed that part. How awful for the company that their human liaison is such a trash bag of a person.

    6. Been There, Done That*

      Yes. I had a boss like that once. It was a very public job, and while I was young and had some shortcomings, he never allowed me to feel good about my successes.

      If I received praise from a customer, he would pile on all the other things I did wrong, never allowing me a moment to bask. As a result, I lost confidence and stayed in the job too long. I know suspect he was probably a sociopath, because he enjoy stirring the pot, pitting one employee against the other.

    7. kittymommy*

      I was thinking raise. We’re I’m at (government) being on probation eliminates consideration for whatever yearly raise is allowed.

    8. RosyGlasses*

      It’s mind-boggling to me tbh. Our probationary period is 90 days, and honestly, if someone isn’t performing to par by then why keep them hanging? Either they are doing their job (and/or are showing aptitude to continue to achieve independence in their contributions), or they aren’t able to do and they should find a role that is a better fit.

    9. TootsNYC*

      I think that boss has been getting something out of it, at least. This insistence on “You might screw up in the next job!” is icky. It almost feels as if the boss relishes the role of “patient person who puts up with flaky employee.”

    10. PollyQ*

      1000000%. If you have an employee that’s truly not doing well enough after 90 days or 6 months to be moved off probation, then you let them go. Call it “negging”, call it “gaslighting”, but whether the boss was doing it consciously or unconsiously, the motivation for his behavior was to keep LW doubting their worth.

    11. allathian*

      The whole letter is odd, and the boss is abusive. I’m glad you’re out of there, LW1!

      Where I am, probation means that you’re allowed to leave a job with no notice, and the employer is allowed to fire you at no notice and without cause, as well. It’s a lot harder to fire someone who’s passed their probation.

  2. Ray Gillette*

    Sorry for your loss LW2, but it sounds like the way everything went down was the least bad way a miscarriage and furlough can happen. Best wishes for both your new job and your family.

  3. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    “My supervisor was shocked when I put in my two weeks notice and expressed doubts that I would be able to handle such a high-level job. He keeps trying to give me “advice” on how to be a better employee at my next job”

    My impressions are that your supervisor did not think highly of you and seemed to have put you in some kind of metaphorical box labelled inadequate.
    So i’m very glad to hear you escaped that box, don’t give him free rent in your head and move forward confidently to better pastures.

    1. Observer*

      Probably true. But also DEFINITELY true that he’s a major league jerk. I mean who does that?! I could see the boss being shocked. And it would not be so terrible if the boss personally thought that the OP might not be able to handle the new job. But it EXPRESS it? If by the expression on his face? Whatever the guy’s motivation is, it is NOT about genuine issues with the OP’s performance.

      1. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

        Many jerks convince themselves that they are “doing whats best” for their victim.

        1. Ali G*

          Yeah keeping the LW on probation is really just an abuse tactic to keep them off kilter and not confident enough to stand up the Bully Boss.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I think the box was labeled “underling.” Boss is the BOSS. His staff are not “under his supervision” they are “under him.” He is a petty despot who uses bullying tactics to keep people in what he feels is their place.
      I think everyone who is employed by that guy ends up in the box until they climb out and escape.

  4. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    LW2, very best wishes to you for a smooth, boring, uneventful and successful pregnancy, and for a new career move that leaves you in a stable and healthy place!

  5. Observer*

    He keeps trying to give me “advice” on how to be a better employee at my next job but I’m too busy moving to be bothered with him

    I am SO glad to hear this! The new job is great news. But this is even better. Because it means that he’s not going to be living in your head rent free, and he’s not going to get to keep on dragging you down.

  6. SentientAmoeba*

    As a supervisor, if I had an employee who was still on probation after 3 years, I’d have to either question my own training and judgement or I’d be relieved they are leaving because it’s obviously not a good fit. Then again, I wouldn’t keep someone on probation for 3 years because that’s nuts.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      re #1 – I’m reminded of the scene in Animal House, where the fraternity is put on “double secret probation”.

      I was in a place once where (allegedly) a manager tried to put an employee on probation – retroactively. She had been offered another job in the company and Mgr. Stupe tried to block it.

  7. emkaaaay*

    “2020 was awful for everyone and it really changed the way I view work and myself in relation to work. I feel more confident about the path I’m on and I now know myself a little better. My journey feels very strange and twisty and I’m baffled at times about how I got here, but I am here, and I feel really good about that.”

    I love this. Take care, LW3, and thanks for the update.

  8. SparkleBoots*

    #1 – “but I’m too busy moving to be bothered with him.” LOVE IT. Glad you found a new job that will allow you to grow! Best of luck!

  9. tiny_strawberries*

    Hello. I would like to be able to write in with something like LW 3. But I need help. How the heck do I get diagnosed and treatment for ADHD? Or at least find a therapist who specializes in ADHD management? It’s… so hard. I would love some encouragment or tips!

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Start with your doctor, and ask to be evaluated for it. They should be able to refer you to a specialist.

    2. Anomalous*

      You might want to re-ask this in one of the open threads coming soon. I wish I had some advice, but I don’t have any experience in this area.

    3. OP 3*

      Hello! OP 3 here! I already had a physician assistant who was in charge of my medication management for mental health conditions- I have PTSD as well. I have a good relationship with him, so for me, it was just a matter of bringing up my initial thoughts on a possible ADHD diagnosis and taking a survey they had to show what symptoms were affecting me the most. He prescribed me Adderall XR at 10mg to start and we did a check-in two weeks later to see if it helped me. Since it’s a controlled substance, there are no refills without an appointment- so we have a check-in around once a month.

      You don’t necessarily have to find someone that specializes in ADHD- though that doesn’t hurt. If you have a regular therapist or primary care doctor they may be able to recommend someone for diagnosis and medication management. If you don’t have those, I’d recommend going to Psychology Today (if you’re in the US) and search for people in your area. You can filter it to ADHD and medication management and look through the results.

      Best of luck to you!

      1. Stinky Socks*

        Just chiming in to encourage you to look into an ADHD evaluation. I only got diagnosed at 47.


        And I beat myself up less now when I struggle with organization.

        1. SwingingAxeWolfie*

          Thanks for sharing this. I’m 35 and currently on a looong waiting list for an assessment (I’m in the UK). Currently looking into private options because I’m suddenly, after long suspecting that I have it, desperate to know for sure and get some much needed help if so (I recently became a mum which is apparently a common trigger for those with undiagnosed ADHD to say, “heh, I’m in WAY over my head all of a sudden!”).

        2. Mannequin*

          Another chimer inner! I was diagnosed at 48, and I’m one of the very few people that medication only helps a little bit- and I still found it life changing!

    4. Parakeet*

      Hi tiny_strawberries! The way I did it (note that I’m in the US and assuming that you are as well) was through a neuropsychologist who does evaluations. It can be tricky to find one who does them for adults, but they’re out there. In my case, I was referred, but if you try searching something like “neuropsychologist adult evaluation” you’ll get some hits (I just tried it for a couple of different geographical areas). Be aware that it can be expensive – ideally, you’ll get most of it covered by insurance.

    5. Kaitydid*

      Psychology Today has a great search function that has filters for insurance, what your concern is, and demographic things like gender and whether the therapist is LGBTQ+ affirming. Most therapists can make an ADHD diagnosis, which you can take to your regular doctor for a prescription, if that’s what you decide to do.

      I got diagnosed with ADHD just before the pandemic started. Meds have helped, and tools and strategies from video therapy have helped even more.

  10. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    OP 1 -“I have great news! Due to the pandemic he never went through with my evaluation but kept me on probation without ever discussing it.”

    I would never stay around for three years on probation.

    If my performance wasn’t deemed satisfactory in a lot shorter time frame than three years, I’d be gone.

    And I’ve seen sleazy managers use the PIP/probation system to intentionally hold people back, so they can’t seek higher positions, or other positions within the company.

    1. OP #1*

      Believe me I went on many interviews and even turned down some job offers. I wanted to be strategic about my next job so the search took time.

      1. UK girl*

        I wish you all the best in your new job. Keeping someone on probation for 3 years is a horrible thing to do.

    2. LordyMe*

      And I’ve seen sleazy managers use the PIP/probation system to intentionally hold people back, so they can’t seek higher positions, or other positions within the company.

      As have I. It is utterly disgusting and so very common.

  11. The Rules are Made Up*

    I’m curious, if you’re on “probation” so your employer can let you go whenever they want without following the usual internal processes, do you even need to put in a 2 weeks notice if you leave? Of course it would be nice to do but after 3 years of this probation nonsense I’d be very tempted to just resign effective immediately. Not like you’d get a good reference from this dude anyway.

    1. OP #1*

      I thought that and just to spite him I REALLY wanted to just quit. But the policy stated that in order to get your banked vacation leave you HAD to work a full 10 days in office. I was not going to let that money/time go especially since it was almost $2,000 and I needed it for the move.

  12. OP #1*

    OP #1 Here! The timing of this letter being published couldn’t have come at a better time! I moved for my new job in early June and now work with an awesome group of people. My new manager is very accessible and we have weekly meetings so I don’t have to worry about where I stand with her. And there’s NO probation time or forced evaluations! I’m now in charge of a big public facing project. This month I started feeling stressed, worthless-thinking maybe my old boss was right and that I was the problem. That maybe I wasn’t intelligent enough for such an important task. Every bit of feedback or suggestion my new manager gave me would cause me to mentally spiral and I really started thinking about quitting and just being a stay at home wife (even though I’ve NEVER wanted to do that before nor can I afford to!) I had a realization yesterday- when I moved I never found a new psychiatrist and stopped taking my medications. I’m not lazy nor a failure! It is just my anxiety manifesting again! I’m now taking the search for a new doctor seriously so I can go back to being the rock star employee I am and can be.

    1. anonymath*

      This is such a great update! You are in such a better place: not only doing well at work, but when you’re encountering possible obstacles, looking at them and seeing several angles to tackle them and do well anyway. Amazing insight to be able to notice what’s going on with your anxiety, understand what’s going on, & take steps to truly care for yourself.

    2. A Wall*

      Love to see these updates, hope you’re able to get your healthcare sorted out soon.

      Exploitative bosses always have the audacity to be shocked when you leave for something better. They are just sooo sure that they are entitled to everything from you and that you are a crap person who deserves nothing, they can’t wrap their head around it when you can demonstrate directly that they’re full of shit.

    3. Observer*

      Can you reach out to your old doctor? Ask for a referral in your new location and also can he send you ONE re-fill?

      The request for a recommendation does two things. Firstly, it improves your chances of making a good match, since this is a doctor who already knows your case. Secondly it should make them more willing to give you a refill since they know that you are actually seriously looking for a new guy, not just coasting.

    4. allathian*

      Great to hear! I hope you find a new psychiatrist soon, so you can go back on your medications.

  13. CW*

    OP 1 – If you ask me, probation should last no longer than 90 days, tops. Your supervisor was beyond ridiculous I couldn’t even comprehend what his true intentions are. In my situation, I just passed the two year mark at my job, and imagining a scenario where I am still on probation at the end of September 2021 when I started my job in August 2019 is beyond baffling. And to add the stress of COVID in 2020 would just have made things worse.

    Either way, I am glad you are out of there. You deserved better.

  14. Toasted Coconut*

    OP 1 – I had a lovely former colleague who was basically not the right fit for our organisation, (it wasn’t really his fault) but my manager kept him on for a long time and refused to let him move on. He did not do this out of malice, but rather, he had a ‘vision’ for my colleague that somehow never came through, and because of constant organisational changes, the training and upskilling never happened for my colleague.
    This of course bred into alot of resentment and eventually, my former colleague left anyway.
    I do not justify my managers behaviour but I believe he may have had good intentions at the time, but lost scope of what my colleagues role was, and perhaps did not want to let him go for fear of being seen as an incompetent manager.

  15. LordyMe*

    LW1, I am so happy for you! Yay! I had two previous employers pull the same move on me, and it’s awful.

    Your now ex-boss is an awful excuse for a human being, as well as a terrible manager.

    I also can’t help but question as to if this three-year probationary period is actually even legal. In many industries and countries/states, it would be very, very illegal. It certainly turned out to be illegal when my two previous employers tried to do the same thing to me.

Comments are closed.