it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “After a year and a half at my current job, I during my performance review, my boss and grandboss told me the would be asking for me to be promoted 2 to 3 levels above my current level. That did not materialize because the CEO said “we don’t do that.” Because of you, I knew that is a stupid reason to not promote someone. At that time, I was willing to work with it because the commute was great, I loved what I did and my grandboss was strategizing to get me more visible.

As time progressed, I realized there were more systemic issues. I was in the meeting where the CEO refused to consider a townhall style meeting because “people will only ask for 401(k) matching and more vacation time.” I saw people be given their boss’s job but be told that a promotion won’t be considered until their next performance review (more than 6 months away). Turnover started to be a issue, and everyone I knew who left, was making at least 20% more. I realized that the people at my company who started the most drama would never be fired and would only get worse because they had been rewarded for that behavior with promotions/raises. And the icing on the cake: the CEO is only open to positive feedback.

So I brushed off my resume, reworked it and my cover letter. Thanks to your advice, I quickly started getting interviews. Well, this week I accepted an offer: 30% increase in base pay, larger bonus, significant stock options, 401(k) matching, 5 additional vacation days, and unlimited sick leave. And two former colleagues work at the new place and they all say the culture is infinitely better (which was born by the interview questions).

When my grandboss asked if I was open to negotiating, I said no. Because I’ve read your advice: the pay and benefits are part of it but really those are the symbols. I’m leaving because I’m undervalued, overworked, and ignored.”

2.  “I don’t know if this really counts as ‘good news’ but I feel I owe you and your commenting community a debt of thanks.

For six years I’ve been a member of a council which handles local decision making on things like planning, roads, etc. A few months ago, I was asked by a fellow member if I would be willing to take over as Chair. I took some time to consider this; the incumbent chair had taken over from a longstanding predecessor, but was finding that the role made her unhappy and had chosen to resign. In fact she had been pretty much bullied out of the role. (I should add that she was the first woman to occupy the chair on this particular council.) Despite my husband’s misgivings, I decided to take it on and I stood unopposed for election as chair. My husband thought it was a poison chalice, and I must admit I feared that (being of the woman-type variety myself), but decided that I cared enough about this council that I would give it my best until the next council election rolled around.

Without a doubt, I credit the fact that I am LOVING my role, and that others are loving having me in this role, to your column. Your advice has helped me to look at things in a results-focused way – acknowledging people’s feelings and needs, extending respect and grace, but always focusing on the results needed. I love that reading your blog has effectively trained me to think deeply and act effectively. So much of your advice is helpful for people in non-employment scenarios.

Our council employs a handful of staff, of which I am de facto ‘boss’. More than once, I have heard the words ‘best Chair ever’ being uttered by staff members (admittedly the most recent time was when I took them some cake I baked). I heard from one staff member recently that the whole atmosphere in the office has changed since I took over as chair – people are calm and happy, whereas they were frequently ‘at breaking point’ before, and tears were often shed in the workplace.

What your blog has helped me understand is how to focus on the real impacts of behaviour, without being bogged down in people’s motivations or vendettas or other emotional goings-on. When council members (all volunteers) misbehave, I feel empowered to simply name the behaviour that is causing the problem and describe the impact of it, and then request a change of approach. This is all thanks to your advice.

I didn’t really expect to have this role. I certainly didn’t plan to stay in it long term. But it seems I’m having a really positive impact on the organisation, so I think I will stand for re-election when the time comes. Thank you Alison. I really appreciate you.”

3.  “I just want to genuinely emphasize how much your blog has helped me. I’ve been in customer service for all of my 5 post college years and at its worst moments reading your blog while job searching has been what kept up my sanity. I was always concerned I wasn’t using my degree “properly” and that I didn’t have practical experience. Once I went back to work after covid, customer service became untenable and filled with cruelty and health risk. Using tips on your site I got the first new job and salary raise I had found in 4 years.

The new job didn’t really pan out (healthcare during the pandemic is tough), and I found myself miserable and stressed again about a year later. I remembered again the advice you give about applying beyond what you think you are qualified for and salary negotiation. I am happy to say I just started a job in academia with a 33% salary increase (and no more mean customers!). It is almost shocking to adjust to a workplace where people treat you with dignity and respect. I just want to thank you for everything you do for workers, especially people in groups who are given a disadvantage in the workplace.”

4.  “I wanted to share a story with your readers about how not accepting a job offer can actually turn into a positive experience!

A few weeks ago, I was looking at available positions (I work in state government, and we have access to openings across the agencies) and decided on a whim to apply for one that would provide the potential to keep doing the work I already love (FMLA/managing leaves) but also stretch my skill set with a different function. I thought about your advice on having a resume reflect achievements and not just job duties, and realized that with COVID, the initiation of a paid leave system for that reason, plus my other regular responsibilities, the rollout of a new leave tracker, etc, I actually was tasked with learning an enormous amount in a finite amount of time and had picked up new skills along the way.

Keeping that advice in mind, I rewrote my resume to highlight accomplishments at all of my jobs over the past several years. I was offered an interview right away, and I nailed it!

I ultimately decided not to accept because after a lot of reflection, I realized I needed to stay in my current position for a bit longer. I also FINALLY have reported to the same supervisor for 14 months, and in state government, especially since the pandemic began, that is actually a long time! I would have had to give up that kind of support and push to improve, and I’m not willing to do that after having 4 previous supervisors in less than 3 years before him.

HOWEVER-my interview panel was so impressed that they asked our interim HR director if I could help out with leaves until they hired and trained a staff in that role! (It’s called an interagency agreement.) The assistant HR director at that agency never brought up that I had interviewed, just treated it as a call-out to other agencies for help from a leave management coordinator. It was finalized a few days ago and I will begin helping either next week or right after the holiday!

Thank you SO much for your thoughtful, straightforward and compassionate manner in providing advice. It has really helped me in having tough conversations with employees and supervisors. I was really struggling in my role right before COVID took hold and have made a LOT of progress in these past 20 months or so, and reading the posts and comments gave me plenty to draw upon and apply in my own work life, and keep me laughing on really tough days. I even recommended your books to my favorite morning radio show!

Also a huge shout-out to all your readers and commenters. They are fantastic as well. My best thoughts and wishes for all of us as we continue to move forward while the pandemic continues and that 2022 will get better.”

{ 10 comments… read them below }

  1. Jackalope*

    Congrats to all the letter writers here for your good news! And once again #1 proves that trying to keep people by blocking them from promotions and career advancement works in exactly the opposite way.

    I also really appreciated the volunteer chair’s letter. I hope it continues to be a good place to be a leader and that you are able to make a long-term difference in the atmosphere.

    1. Helmswoman (op2)*

      Many thanks! I’m enjoying being able to make a difference. Plenty of time for me to make awful mistakes, I’m sure, and there are challenges ahead. But I would love to think I can get the organisation to a good place after a very difficult patch. Appreciate your support!

      1. ecnaseener*

        I don’t know why you said you weren’t sure it counted as good news – it definitely does! You’re doing so well, and it must feel amazing to know that people are happier because of you.

        1. Helmswoman (op2)*

          Thank you – it does feel fantastic and I do owe so much of that to reading the wisdom on this site. I wasn’t sure it was something Alison would want to include here but I sent the email to express my appreciation.

          1. Candi*

            Don’t underrate what you do, Helmswoman. A good council, city or otherwise, is worth its weight in gold and sapphires. Best wishes and may all results be for the greater good.

  2. KateM*

    “When my grandboss asked if I was open to negotiating, I said no.”
    I’m just imagining the Letter Writer saying “yeah, sure – give me and everybody else 401k matching and more vacation time, fire the drama starters, give me that promotion three levels up and all promotions to the other people who do their bosses’ jobs but have not been promoted, be open for negative feedback, … and then we could start a discussion”.

    1. OP1*

      I kinda wish that I’d said that I’d consider staying if they gave me a 40% raise. Just to see what they would do. But match that was highly unlikely. These are the same people who gave someone else a double promotion but the raise was on the high end of a single promotion (I didn’t learn about the other person’s promotion being a double one until after I’d written in).

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Well, two things. “We can’t do that” – that’s usually walking time. They CAN do it in the private sector. But doing so, might involve eating humble pie, or having to answer “if she’s that good, why didn’t you do this SOONER?”

        Then the parrot squawk “SQUAWK no money in the budget for raises no money no money” but there often is money OFF-BUDGET which can be tapped, if push comes to shove and they have to tap that to keep a prime employee in the fold. This can’t be abused, but if someone is being grossly underpaid and it comes to a “terminal moment”, suddenly the money “appears”, from somewhere.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I might add – at least one place I worked, there was an emergency slush fund, and an “emergency” could be a needed salary increase to prevent a critical employee departure. The employee’s manager likely will have to go up one or two levels to get approval.

        And sometimes, the counter-offer is prepared in advance (“if Anon-2 gives his notice, butter him up, love-bomb him, and start babbling about ‘maybe NEXT year’. If he calls bull**it and says ‘hey this IS next year, I’m not buying that crap’ then give him the prepared counter offer.”)

        Companies that are in dire straits may not be able to do this but if the enterprise is profitable, I’ve always known, the money is there.

        1. OP1*

          Part of the problem is allegedly the board would have to approve all promotions. I think that was probably…BS. But I didn’t know enough about smaller companies (<100) to know for sure. And from what I'd heard about the chairman of the board, he probably would have preferred for the company to have salaries at market rates and for there to be 401(k) matching.

          It was a moot point anyways. The pay/benefits were the convenient (but true) excuse for interviews. I didn't feel valued or respected.

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