update: can I ask my boss to check on me more regularly so I’ll get more done?

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer wondering if she could ask her boss to check on her more regularly so she would get more done? Here’s the update.

I wrote to you in 2019 about wanting my boss to do more check-ins with me because his monthly 1:1s weren’t meeting my needs (and having ADHD and a ton of volunteer responsibilities outside of work didn’t help, either). You said that daily check-ins weren’t reasonable but weekly ones were, but also encouraged me to come up with other systems to organize and hold myself accountable.

I wish I could say I turned right around and fixed all my problems afterwards, but it was more of a bumpy road than I might’ve wished for. I expressed my need for more help, but failed to get through to my boss (some things changed, but only short term) and got increasingly frustrated/desperate until we hit our mid-year self-assessments, where I wrote a self-assessment that highlighted my successes – and failures – in fairly stark detail and, well, kind of accused my manager of expecting senior-level work & independence from an extremely junior-level employee. (Picture lots of lines like “I led X and Y projects this year, taking on responsibilities well outside the scope of what is normally expected for a Junior Level 1 Teapot Handler,” etc., including one line where I decided to make my point with italics… yeah). When we met to discuss it, he was pretty displeased. He felt blindsided by the fact that I was struggling and was defensive about the suggestion that his expectations were too high for a very junior employee. He pointed out that I had improved once before (he’d instituted weekly 1:1s when he noticed/I told him I was struggling previously, but then canceled them as soon as he felt I was doing better) and demanded to know how he could help that wouldn’t end with me just backsliding again.

I told him I needed the weekly 1:1s to keep happening and not to be canceled just because I seemed to be doing better. I said I needed this as an accommodation for my ADHD (which I had disclosed when he’d previously noticed me struggling). When I left that meeting, it was with the understanding that I would get my weekly 1:1s (along with some other changes I’d requested, like having me submit weekly reports/agendas to review at those 1:1s) but that if I didn’t show immediate signs of improvement with those 1:1s, I would be going on a PIP.

Within a week or two of additional structure, he was back to praising my work, my progress, my attitude, etc. We talked again about my mid-year review and he confessed that he had been very frustrated to hear that I was struggling again (at that time) because he saw me as a very promising employee and wanted to see me succeed (and that he generally saw me as a “go-getter,” smart and upbeat, so he was taken aback by the sudden deluge of complaints). In response, I apologized for not doing a better job of asking for the help I needed. Within a few months, he was talking about recommending me for promotion at our annual performance review.

Well, our annual performance review was last month – and he did! I am now a Junior Level 2 Teapot Handler. I still feel a bit overwhelmed by my work sometimes, but the weekly 1:1s help keep things from boiling over, and it also helps that I was able to wrap up my (very time-intensive) volunteer work, too. As a side note: the place I volunteered at actually came to me near the end of my time with them & said that they needed me to tack on an additional 4 months of work in that role – and this (coming on the heels of some drama there that was making me feel very unappreciated, along with the comments from Alison and the commentariat about the unsustainability of what I was doing there, which came out in the comments of my original letter) actually ended up spurring me to step down and hand things over to my replacement a little earlier than planned. I must say that that was a great relief… and also helped a lot!

{ 121 comments… read them below }

  1. User L'astnamé*

    I’m glad this worked out!

    Good job on calling out your boss for expecting too much of you for your title. Under-titling is a sneaky way of underpaying people.

      1. Nanani*

        Sometimes. A lot of people perform above level and don’t get a promotion because they’re such a good deal at their current low level of pay…

        1. Emotional Support Care’n*

          This. I performed above my level for *years*. The constant downplaying of my role to deny promotions and raises was so demoralizing. “We’re a non-profit, we can’t afford to pay more”, “this is just ‘other duties as assigned’”, “consider it ‘On The Job Training’”…
          After 8 years, when I was headhunted to a position that paid 3x what I was making, with only 1/4 of the work, absolutely I jumped ship. My job was divided up along 8 c-suite personnel, 2 program assistants, and the office manager. I have no regrets in leaving when I did.

          1. User L'astnamé*

            Love your username! Haha!

            I was definitely thinking about nonprofits when I posted my original comment. Too few nonprofit employees realize that sometimes “job hopping” is necessary to make more money. I’ve seen people lose out on $100,000s over the years because of loyalty to an org that won’t pay them fairly.

      2. LQ*

        Agreed. Don’t do it forever, but if you consistently refuse to do work that could possibly show that you can do more than you are doing now, why would you expect to be promoted? Do it and if you don’t get recognized in the time you want, take the skills and the work and go elsewhere.

        (Said as someone who literally yesterday got told that there was a second no to a promotion or pay raise and now my boss is onto tactic three, which I don’t think will happen. I still get all the work on my resume and I can decide to leave.)

        1. User L'astnamé*

          I think it depends on the circumstances. Did you grow out of your position quickly (that’s happened to me a few times)? Then, it’s not exploitative (for a time). Did you gain more responsibility because someone was on family leave or a coworker left suddenly (also happened to me)? Then, it’s not exploitative (for a time). Did you gain a new credential that increased your skillz? Then, it’s not exploitative (for a time). Of course, the longer your company *expects* you to produce work above your pay grade with no plan for returning to at-grade work or a promotion/raise, the more exploitative it becomes.

          Was the position advertised as junior but then you got to the job and they expect senior-level work? Exploitative. Did the company “restructure” and give you the work of 2 people without increasing your pay or title? Exploitative. Did the company promise you a raise/promotion but has not put it into writing and/or continues to push it off? Exploitative.

      3. Mid*

        Nah, it’s a way to get high level work from someone without the high level pay. 2 years of doing work above their rank and they just got a promotion? That’s a company that’s trying to underpay their employees.

      4. Geologyst*

        Orrrr it’s how they can kick back and enjoy upper level work while paying lower level wages.

        Ask me how I know.

    1. anonymous73*

      Yes, blindsiding your manager in your annual review instead of speaking with them throughout the year is always the way to go.

      I’m glad things seem to be working out, but OP is still relying on her manager too frequently. I have weekly 1 on 1s with my manager but it’s not so she can check to make sure I’m getting my work done. It’s because she’s very hands off with my projects and wants an update. OP needs to figure out how to get things done on her own without being checked on all the time or she’s going to find it hard to continue to advance.

      1. Nanani*

        OP has ADHD. She found a way to get things done, and it is to request this accommodation.
        Would you tell a person who needs reading glasses that they need to find a way to read documents on their own without glasses? I hope not.

        1. Threeve*

          Maybe not at OP’s level–or in fact any level she ever wants to reach–but anon73 is right, this does eventually put limitations on advancement; a VP who answers directly to a CEO simply can’t expect the CEO to be in charge of holding them accountable for doing their work on schedule.

          1. User L'astnamé*

            Maybe it will cause issues as the OP gains more responsibility at her job…or maybe she’ll find a way to make it work. There are high-level individual contributor roles where a weekly or bi-weekly 1:1 wouldn’t be that strange. There are more ways to grow as an employee than through the management track!

        2. Jessimine*

          I agree with Nanani. Being a working professional with ADHD, we often will create many systems to help ourselves do better but then that darn executive dysfunction kicks in and all systems go out the window. Sometimes asking for help from others is the best things for all. Or the other joy that a lot of ways to “figure it out on your own” do not work for the ADHD brain. I cannot even begin to count the number of planners I have gotten or lists and online calendars set up but keeping up with them is almost more worse than just not because you have to remember that too. If possible being honest with your boss and working with a healthcare provider to get medicated can work wonders. I am normally fine when medicated but if I am having a bad week (or goodness forbid forgot to take my meds for a few days), the most helpful tool is telling my boss and team so we can help each other.

        3. Florida Fan 15*

          “Would you tell a person who needs reading glasses that they need to find a way to read documents on their own without glasses?”

          No, but I would tell them it’s unreasonable to expect their manager to hold the glasses in front of their face continuously or to remind them to put them on when they can’t see. There’s help, and there’s expecting someone else to be responsible for you. To me, OP has crossed that line.

          1. Jacey*

            I think you’re taking the metaphor a bit too literally, and thus missing the important fact that different disabilities require different accommodations. Some accommodations, like assistive devices (glasses, mobility aids, etc) can be used by the disabled person without help. Other accommodations simply require someone other than the disabled person to be involved. And that’s not a weird thing—humans are social creatures, and the way people have survived for millennia is by getting help from both tools AND other people.

          2. Bird*

            I deeply, entirely, and sincerely disagree with you. A weekly 1:1 meeting to ensure that OP is prioritizing their work appropriately or staying on track in their projects is far from an unreasonable accommodation.

            In fact, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) specifically lists suggested accommodations for ADHD, which include “provide to-do lists”, “assign a mentor”, “assistance with prioritization”, and “meetings to discuss expectations”. Now, not every suggested accommodation is reasonable for every job, but OP and their manager are the best ones to brainstorm what reasonable accommodations look like.

            Finally, as a high-performing employee with multiple chronic conditions AND ADHD, it’s attitudes like yours that have stopped me from both disclosing my ADHD to anyone at my current job and requesting any kind of official accommodation for my chronic physical conditions.

            In fact, in a previous job, I received major pushback on my official ADA accommodations, was reprimanded for using them, and eventually had to resign because every email, document, action, and word I produced was so intensely scrutinized. The stress exacerbated both my physical and neurological symptoms, and I still experience intense flashbacks and panic attacks as a result; it has been almost two years since I was in that workplace.

            I’m fortunate that my current manager is a reasonable human and that I have ample sick time, a flexible schedule, and a job that caters more to my strengths and already has built-in SOPs and timelines for many of my tasks, but not everyone has those privileges. It’s not helpful to further stigmatize a disability just because you, personally, think it’s annoying or unreasonable for someone to ask for the help they need to succeed.

            1. User L'astnamé*

              This is not a huge accommodation from junior level employee! Maybe it will cause issues as the OP gains more responsibility…or maybe she’ll find a way to make it work. You can have high-level individual contributor roles where a weekly or bi-weekly 1:1 wouldn’t be that strange. There are more ways to grow as an employee than through the management track!

            2. quill*

              In most roles I’ve been in that’s been standard, we have changes to priorities and due dates all the time.

            3. MCMonkeyBean*

              Especially since it sounds like they were originally the boss’s idea and they only stopped because he thought OP didn’t need them anymore! Saying “hey, that’s actually an important thing that helps me do well not something I want to stop once I’m doing well” is 100% completely reasonable! It might also be reasonable for the boss to push back and say he cannot do it that frequently, but he didn’t so obviously this is working for everyone just fine!

          3. New Jack Karyn*

            No. This is a reasonable accommodation. ‘Just figure it out’ doesn’t always work. Maybe it does mean a cap on advancement, but that doesn’t mean OP (or many, many other workers) can’t do well in their role with this kind of support. Half an hour a week to support an employee who’s great in lots of other ways is a worthwhile investment of time. Fire them, and go ahead and try to hire someone better. Go ahead.
            OP hasn’t crossed any damn lines.

          4. feral fairy*

            Clearly, this manager sees enough of OP’s strengths that it’s worth it to meet with them once a week. OP got a promotion! And excelled in her position with the accommodation. I think that a lot of managers would rather accommodate a great employee in this way than hire and train a whole new person who could struggle with aspects of the work and need even more oversight

            There are a lot of jobs out there, including high-powered ones, where having ADHD is manageable. One of my parents is a successful attorney with a great reputation his field. He is on the executive committee at his law firm. He also has ADHD and medication did not help that much. He has skills that are unique and valued and his colleagues know how to work with him just like they know how to work with other coworkers who are neurotypical but have their own style of working, as most people do.

            One of the unfortunate things about ableism is that brilliant, capable people can get shut out of opportunities where they could exceed expectations with simple accommodations. The LW in this case seems to be relatively earlier on in their career and I am guessing that as time goes on, they will learn more strategies. When a person advances further up in the work hierarchy, their skills and knowledge often become more specialized and indispensable to their employer. In your hypothetical where someone gets to the level of VP, chances are they got there because they have strengths and experience that the company needs. Maybe the CEO won’t be meeting with them one on one as much, but they might have an assistant who can help them stay organized. Or they have the financial ability to hire a coach who specializes in helping professionals with ADHD learn strategies they can use to stay on top of things (I had an executive functioning tutor in middle school and I’m certain there are people who do this for adults).

            It is just narrow-minded to assume that accommodating a great employee is always a burden on their supervisor or company.

      2. JJ*

        I know that having an identifiable “deadline,” whether it’s for having something finished or just giving an update, makes a HUGE difference for me in my ability to focus and get work done. I can absolutely see how having a weekly check in could be VERY useful to someone, even if it is actually just providing an update to the manager. Because you need something to update them on, so it’s easier to force the focus when your brain is trying to go in 10 other directions at the same time.

        My job doesn’t really require formalized weekly check ins, because when there’s work that’s important to anyone other than my own sanity, there’s always a deadline I can benchmark to. But if that’s not the case, particularly if it’s just a lot of steady work with vaguer deadlines, I would definitely want that.

      3. Mid*

        “I expressed my need for more help, but failed to get through to my boss (some things changed, but only short term) and got increasingly frustrated/desperate until we hit our mid-year self-assessments”

        OP did speak to their boss throughout the year, and was ignored.

        And honestly, how are your 1:1s different from OPs? You check in with your manager weekly to let them know your progress. That’s what OP is doing as well. They worded it differently, but it’s the exact same thing.

      4. Ccjr*

        Yes, my struggle with this one is that Alison’s original answer and a lot of great advice about systems to try and also acknowledged that every other week may also be a reasonable suggestion since they were currently only meeting monthly. But this update doesn’t focus on what the LW tried on their own- just the manager’s piece and the weekly meetings. I can’t tell if the LW really tried Alison’s advice, or just doubled down on the need for weekly meetings.
        I think it would’ve been helpful to hear what systems worked and what didn’t, especially since many other commenters have similar issues.

        1. User L'astnamé*

          ADHD coping mechanisms are really personal and are a dime a dozen, so while I agree with your overall point, I don’t know how helpful any advice from Alison or the OP would be. Some people swear by bullet journaling and planners and to-do lists, etc. I could never get them to work for me until I found a very specific, pared back system customized to my brain. Also stimulants, but that’s a different story.

          It’s honestly really hard for people without executive functioning issues and who aren’t in psychology/OT to give solid organizing advice for people with ADHD. Advice on intrapersonal issues, sure. But, it’s harder with discrete tasks. When my extremely fastidious mother attempts to give me organization advice, it’s just so useless and often frustrating. The organization systems people with ADHD use often look similar to the en vogue systems used by highly organized people without ADHD (e.g. bullet journals). However, these systems function/are executed completely differently in spirit, so it ends up being kind of pointless. Like, my to-do lists would make a very organized person short-circuit.

        2. OP Here*

          OP here. Like User L’astnamé says, I’m not sure my systems are helpful to anyone but me, unfortunately. I don’t do anything terribly different from what you can find on dozens of blogs. The only thing that’s kind of unique about my system(s) is that I have to rotate them — if I use any particular system for too long, it gets to the point where it doesn’t stimulate my ADHD brain enough & it becomes background noise. (Like, if I rely on calendar alerts to help structure my day too much / for too long, I’ll end up unconsciously dismissing them because my brain has gotten so accustomed to seeing those alerts that they register as something like boilerplate. Especially when I’m stressed or busy, I’ll find myself clicking “Done” & never having even consciously noticed that I got an alert until hours later.) But using a new app for reminders, or switching between paper & digital, or incorporating another person (or multiple people) into my reminder system in one way or another “shakes things up” enough that the alerts don’t simply fade into the background.

          I would guess I end up doing this about every 4-8 months, but that’s just a guess.

          But if you don’t have ADHD (or your ADHD doesn’t make you do this), I wouldn’t recommend it. Building a strong system & sticking to it is MUCH easier (in many ways) than learning your way around a new app or whatever every few months. This is just what I’ve settled on after years of trial & error.

          Also — like User L’astnamé & Alison both said — medication is pretty crucial, too.

      5. Candi*

        Maybe she doesn’t WANT to advance above a certain level. Not everyone wants to get up to high-level management, or even move out of the individual contributor levels.

        I know I don’t. I’ve had those days of trying to advance in my past jobs. I’m done. I plan to be a helpful little worker bee and foundation stone helping those who do want to climb, and most of all, avoiding being in charge because I don’t like being charge.

    2. EmpathyBadger*

      I’d just like to say how helpful this advice is about working with someone with ADHD. My partner has it, and I’m hoping to share it with him. It is sooooo hard to find any useful, practical, down-to-earth advice about handling adult ADHD in any realm. Our healthcare HMO completely ignores our pleas for testing and treatment. And they expect someone with ADHD to follow up with them, check emails, return phone calls, answer the phone, check messages, ask for help when they need it instead of on a regular basis, and open up about all the things he hasn’t been able to get done (many of which are financially disastrous) which he feels humiliated about in order to convince them that he needs medication and regular therapy. Reminds me of when my mother was getting a form of dementia and the neurologist’s office whined that she “didn’t get back to them” so it wasn’t their problem that she didn’t follow up…on her tests for dementia. This letter writer’s workplace sounds really good in that they communicated and worked on the problem. I’m happy for them.

  2. Anonym*

    So glad to hear this! And good for you for continuing to advocate for what you need when it petered out the first time. I’m also glad to hear that your boss is so invested and supportive despite the earlier communication hurdles. Congratulations on your promotion, OP!!!

  3. JAM*

    “he’d instituted weekly 1:1s when he noticed/I told him I was struggling previously, but then canceled them as soon as he felt I was doing better”

    This part really frustrates me! I used to work in Special Education and it gets so frustrating trying to explain that someone doing well with accommodations doesn’t mean they don’t need the accommodations, it means that they’re working.

    1. The Smiling Pug*

      Exactly! When I was experiencing the treadmill of the American School System, I needed a few minor accommodations during classes. For some strange reasons, the teachers refused to consider my on-file, recorded-by-authorities differences. My parents fought tooth and nail, but ultimately they decided that the best bet was to move me to a different elementary school.

      1. Sandangel*

        Same. I had a handful of teachers growing up who Could Not wrap their heads around a special education student who was also clearly smart and capable. One year of high school my math teacher (she was very new) handled my accommodations so poorly that my parents pulled me out and found alternate schooling until the next year. I had to take the previous grade’s math and science classes when I came back, thankfully with different teachers.

        1. The Smiling Pug*

          Sorry to hear that you had to go through that, Sandangel. Once I got to middle school, things got better, but I was too young to fight for myself, and my parents were learning as they went, grade school was… rough, let’s put it that way.

          1. Sandangel*

            Luckily for me, my parents A) have a medical background, and B) recognized some of what I was dealing with in themselves (for example, my mom’s mildly dyslexic, so my dyscalculia made sense), so I had some solid backup. My school’s handling of special ed students wasn’t always great, but even just someone in your corner can do a lot.

    2. Casper Lives*

      This has happened to me a few times. Luckily I’m at a place where my manager takes her job seriously, including my weekly 1:1s I also need for ADD.

      I was reluctant to disclose for a long, long time. The last place I worked at was toxic. Toxic enough that I got let go for requesting accommodations. It is what it is. I’m glad OP’s boss finally heard her!!

    3. ecnaseener*

      I wish I can remember who this was – maybe Russell Barkeley? – but there’s a great talk somewhere on YouTube where the speaker talks about prescribing accommodations for students, and the teachers/parents saying “ok but how long will the student need the accommodations?” and he has to be like NEVER, it’s not a cure it’s an accommodation! You wouldn’t ask when you can take a ramp down for a student who uses a wheelchair for a permanent condition! (Not that physically disabled people don’t get held to ridiculous standards too, see recent HR service dog letter, but most people can understand a ramp.)

      1. ecnaseener*

        Oops, that makes no sense. What I meant was “When will the student stop needing the accommodation?” NEVER!

      2. The Smiling Pug*

        I’ll have to find that talk! For me, math was so difficult that it caused tears on more than one occasion. I NEEDED graph paper to make the numbers line up to get the right answer, but for some reason, the teachers thought that was “too distracting for the other students.” What???

        Those experiences have affected me deeply to this very day.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Found it! Even more fitting than I remembered, it’s specifically about how ADHDers need extra accountability (eg extra check-ins for this LW!)

          Links in reply, search “Russell Barkley ADHD More Accountability not Less” for short version, “Essential Ideas for Parents” for full talk. (Yes, primarily aimed at parents of ADHD kids rather than at ADHD adults but still lots of useful info.)

          1. learnedthehardway*

            I have come to the conclusion that this is very true for me – I need to have adrenaline in order to focus. That means I need deadlines and accountability. Having regular meetings with clients is important for me to keep on task, focused, and also for me to be confident that I am doing what they need done (it changes and 2 weeks is the longest I can go without getting paralyzed by the worry that something important has changed and that I’m off track – because it usually DOES change in that timeframe).

      3. OyHiOh*

        I have been known to ask “how long do you expect my student will need X specific accomodation?” (I have children with learning disabilities) in order to get clarity on specific goals and time frames in their IEPs. They will always need supports but the nature of those supports should shift over time as they meet IEP goals. The 2nd grader who needs to record test answers orally should eventually (3rd grade, 4th grade, middle school?) gain skills to record their test answers on paper or digitally.

        But that’s a very different framing from hoping that accomodations will just eventually permanently go away for forever.

        1. The Smiling Pug*

          Exactly. Accommodations don’t totally go away, but they change over time due to the nature of the work that the student is doing. I wish more educators knew this…

        2. ecnaseener*

          Yeah, this speaker was talking about the expectation that the kid would need no accommodations at all after, say, a couple months to “build their skills”

          1. NotRealAnonForThis*

            I’ve found this thinking to be a bit generational in some cases. Example? My mom has mentioned in passing before that my child “might outgrow the ADHD” (because that was the thinking once upon a time) and I’ve had to explain that you don’t really outgrow how your brain is wired. Its not malicious, its just a lack of current information on the topic.

            I’m really, really, really glad that my child’s school handles the accommodations needed extremely well. They’re in place, my kid knows he can use them, and the school actually helps him with making the decisions of how and when he needs them. He’s come a long, long way.

      4. Guacamole Bob*

        I recently found out that some insurance companies require a diagnosis of “uncontrolled” type 1 diabetes in order to cover an insulin pump… so if you successfully control your blood sugar to whatever threshold with an insulin pump, you could technically no longer qualify for coverage for the device that enables that control. Doctors know this and record patients in whatever way is needed to get the equipment covered, but good grief.

        1. Insurance sucks*

          A friend recently complained about something similar. She was able to control a condition by diet but found the diet to be extreme and unsustainable. She requested medication but was denied, because the tests were good so obviously it’s controllable by diet alone. The choice between continuing an unsustainable diet to stay healthy or dangerously getting bad test results next few checkups to get meds is bad. She shouldn’t need to make that choice.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I do believe I’ve heard of places (Italy?) where you can get a prescription for gluten-free food. Coeliac is typically something that is controllable through diet, but it’s pretty hard to do on a tight budget unless you have plenty of time for home cooking. It’s crazy that people who make efforts to manage their health without just popping pills all the time are then penalised.
            Similarly, in France where breastfeeding is for hippies, breastfeeding mothers often get brushed off when they bring their sick baby to the doctor. Doctors are far more used to having to treat formula-fed babies, and the breastfed baby just doesn’t seem sick enough to bother about.

        2. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Am I incorrect in my thought that an insulin pump is typically the best manner to control type 1 diabetes and provide a nearest to normal quality of life? I don’t understand why you have to put a body through hell to get one approved, much less keep one.

    4. kat*

      I take an antidepressant and my doctor was very stern with me that when I start to feel better, I am to keep taking the antidepressant. I guess a lot of people start to feel better and think they don’t need it anymore? But of course, we feel better because we’re on the medication, just like this LW was doing better because they were getting the help they needed!

      1. Casper Lives*

        I think it’s not uncommon. A few family members have gone off bipolar meds because they felt better. Which…was difficult for everyone. It can be a cycle unfortunately.

      2. Candi*

        It’s incredibly common.

        It’s probably because mental health is so poorly understood. Meanwhile, many kinds of physical ailments, you take the drugs for 7-10-14 days, take it all, you’re good.

        It’s not well understood -probably because it can be hard to explain in the first place- that stuff like antibiotics work by removing the thing that was making you sick, or sometimes, helping to repair damage.

        Meanwhile, mental health drugs for neuro-chemical wiring issues frequently work by replacing something you don’t have, or adjusting a balance that’s off kilter. The replacing, or changing the weights on the sides of the scale, must be done forever. Sometimes it might be tweaked, but it can’t be stopped.

        For some reason, I have better results comparing someone not having, say, Zoloft, to not having my Levothyroxine*, then I do comparing not having Zoloft to not having insulin. Dunno why.

        *Thyroid hormone replacement

  4. Purple Cat*

    Gosh I love this update.
    Definitely wasn’t smooth sailing, but you guys figured out how to set you up for success!

  5. RabbitRabbit*

    It’s wonderful you were able to find a solution that worked for you and for your boss, as well as to (eventually) advocate successfully for a promotion based on the work you were doing!

  6. Clefairy*

    Wow OP, are you me? Reading your original letter, I literally could have written it (minus the volunteer stuff) SUPER happy to see that everything worked out well, albeit with a bit of a bumpy road in between. I’ve found that people who aren’t neurodivergent REALLY have a hard time understanding how our brains work, and because they experience SOME of our symptoms SOME of the time, they really have a hard time understanding why experiencing ALL the symptoms ALL the time is incredibly difficult to manage/overcome, and it is a constant battle that sometimes you’ll lose (especially when accommodations that really help are taken away because “your work is good so you don’t need them anymore”

    1. WomEngineer*

      I liked Alison’s way of framing it in the original response: “It’s not that you’re just unfocused and disorganized; it’s that ADHD makes this stuff really hard.”

        1. LC*

          Same, I was very pleasantly surprised with that answer! (Not that I’d expect anything bad from Alison, it’s just not something that’s often understood, especially by people who aren’t ADHD.)

          I’m so happy for the timing of this too. Lately I’m feeling like OP was two years ago (which has come and gone over the years, as it does for so many of us, so OP, if you ever feel like that again, it doesn’t mean you failed!), so I loved reading about their experience, reading Alison’s compassionate and actionable answer, going through the comments, all on top of reading this very happy update.

          Also, this 1000x, well said Clefairy

          because they experience SOME of our symptoms SOME of the time, they really have a hard time understanding why experiencing ALL the symptoms ALL the time is incredibly difficult to manage/overcome

    2. Software Dev*

      Yeah I am medicated for ADHD and the meds work /really/ well for me but I skip a day a week to keep tolerance down and whoo boy. Without the benefit of the coping mechanisms the brain builds up over years (because the meds have replaced those mechanisms), I basically spend the day brainfogged and completely unable to focus on anything. It is not that I don’t want to focus, its the weekend, there are a ton of fun things I’d love to do—its just not possible.

  7. Zan Shin*

    So very pleased with your update – most of us do experience progress as a bumpy road, and it sounds like you’re learning how to be you more successfully!!!!

  8. Need More Sunshine*

    Great update! It seems like it needed to be framed very clearly to your boss that you were essentially asking for an ongoing ADA accommodation and not a temporary accommodation to get to set up to continue the performance you were able to achieve with the weekly meetings.

    Congrats on the promotion!!

  9. Nanani*

    “Wow your eyesight really improved with these glasses, lets get you working without glasses now that you’re used to the work”
    “Weird, why can’t you just -see-? You could see fine with the glasses, you know how to see!”

    ^ what it sounds like when boss stopped doing the 1 on 1s that LW specifically needed as an accommodation

  10. Bookworm*

    So glad it seemed to have worked out overall, OP. Sorry it was a bit of a bumpy ride, but it sounds like you got there. Thanks for updating us. :)

  11. Volunteer*

    Congrats also on stepping off the volunteer work if it interferes with your job. I’m a very dedicated volunteer as well but I’ve seen organizations take advantage of people. In fact one lovely person I knew lost her job due in part to excessive calls at work from volunteer organization. Unless they are offering to pay your bills, you have to prioritize paid work

  12. Gerry Keay*

    Man I get so frustrated when employees get penalized for not asking for help in the right way. Like, isn’t it literally part of being a manager to pose solutions for struggling employees? And then to just go cancel the agreed-upon 1:1s… I dunno, I’m really not impressed by this manager. These types of “manage up” dynamics always just feel like they’re designed to victim blame employees who aren’t getting the support they need. But maybe I’m just bitter because I’m experiencing something similar!

    1. SuperUnemployed*

      Yeah this letter has a lot of parallels to my past year at work, and unfortunately mine didn’t turn out too well. Even after disclosing my ADHD, I had to beg my boss for a weekly 1:1 in addition to a weekly senior staff meeting. (I was senior staff.) Then he canceled the senior staff meetings. So my only interaction with anyone at work all week was the one-on-one, which was frequently canceled.

      Also: my boss wouldn’t let me structure my work processes the way I needed them, but rather the way *he preferred* them.

      So rather than have the project timelines just in our shared calendar (that he set up to begin with?) and being done in 20 minutes so I could actually move forward on the project, I had to also put the deadlines in bullet point format into a Word document. And then again into an Excel spreadsheet. So it would take me two weeks to get the timelines ready for him. And then we’d discuss it on a call.

      Gerry, these were recurring projects! The content was new, but the project process and general timelines weren’t.

      Our one on ones turned into conversations around how to get my performance “back up to par.” Every time I asked for more human interaction and less documentation, he promised more human interaction and insisted on keeping the documentation. The human interaction, of course, never materialized.

      I didn’t want to resign. I’m not eligible for unemployment benefits, either. I’m going into credit card debt for the first time in my life. But I just couldn’t do it anymore. And it would have been so, so very easy to keep me.

      1. SuperUnemployed*

        Urm, spoken interaction. We had slack and email, of course. But I couldn’t hear anyone’s voice or see their face. Meetings were on zoom, like most.

  13. L.H. Puttgrass*

    “I am now a Junior Level 2 Teapot Handler. I still feel a bit overwhelmed by my work sometimes, but the weekly 1:1s help keep things from boiling over . . . .”

    ISWYDT. :)

    Also, congrats!

    1. Walk on the left side*

      Yeah I came here to say pretty much exactly this. At least I searched first so I can pile on the thread. :)

      Brilliant phrasing. And congrats on the promotion. Good luck!

  14. Rowan*

    I find it strange that your boss thinks weekly one-on-ones are strange. That’s been the standard in all my professional roles! This is not on you for waiting to ask for “special” help – you had to prod your boss to get in line with professional norms (which you shouldn’t have to do!).

      1. Public Sector Manager*

        I agree. In my world, being a government lawyer, a weekly 1-on-1 would be way outside the norm and be a sign someone doesn’t have the independence what’s required in the role. I would say that even in prior private firm life, a weekly 1-on-1 wasn’t the norm (maybe at other firms, but not the ones I worked for).

        But at my wife’s work, she has weekly 1-on-1’s and it’s entirely normal!

        I think when we read these letters, we immediately draw conclusions based on the norms of our current industry.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, this. I’m a senior IC, and we do quarterly 1:1s, with the option of scheduling an ad hoc meeting if necessary. With former managers and before the pandemic, these could happen just by going to their office and asking for a meeting, but my current manager is at a regional office, so even when we can go back to the office, this won’t happen very easily. When she travels to head office, she’s always busy in meetings.

          But our meetings aren’t really about keeping employees on track, it’s more to check in how we’re doing and if there’s anything we need. We also have team meetings, and three-person meetings with my manager and my close coworker who has the same job description.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I’d like to point out that when I supervised interns, THEIR 1:1 with ME, as the supervisor, was as effective for me as my 1:1 with my manager. When my department was holding stand-up tier meetings (2 minutes per person) that also worked. My 1:1 is now pretty much a 2 minute thing anyway–but prepping for is key to my staying organized.
            So no, OP is not asking for something insurmountable and the exact form it takes might grow over time.

    1. Wisteria*

      I’ve worked at a handful of white collar companies, and it has not been standard at any of them. I wouldn’t call them a professional norm, more like one of many tools that a manager can use at their discretion.

    2. anonymous73*

      As others have stated, this isn’t a professional norm. I have them with my manager to check in, but they are certainly not so she can make sure my work is getting done. And yes, if she needs “special” help it IS on her to ask for it. Manager isn’t a mind reader.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      In my roles, I’ve had two different arrangements:
      – weekly 1-on-1s, monthly team meetings
      – weekly team meetings, monthly 1-on-1s

      The LW mentioned in the original letter that their manager is a “weekly team meeting, monthly 1-on-1” person.

  15. IndustriousLabRat*

    It’s great to see an update where not only is the LW succeeding, but another person involved in the situation; in this case, the supervisor, has grown as well. Congratulations!

  16. Michelle Smith*

    So glad to hear that this worked out for you. And it gives me an idea for how I could improve at work.

  17. RJ*

    OP, congratulations on your promotion and for insisting on getting the backing you needed in order to do the work you were capable of doing….and beyond that. It speaks a lot to the character of both yourself and your supervisor that you put in that effort. More management should be handled in this way.

  18. Bamcheeks*

    People who benefit from weekly 1:1s like this — what kind of discussions do you have at them that have helped you? I have had a member of my team ask for weekly 1:1s for a similar reason, and I’m letting them set the pace and providing lots of, “no, that sounds fine— send it over to me when you’ve finished it — absolutely, if you’re focusing on X you won’t have time for Y, I will let Z know you can’t do that this week”. As much as anything else I think my team member benefits from vocalising their planning and getting reassurance that I’m happy, but I would love to hear any other suggestions that might support them more?

      1. Bamcheeks*

        Yes! They say it’s really helping them, but I was looking for any other thoughts as some of them might be useful too.

    1. Jane*

      What you’re doing sounds about right, and your interpretation of it sounds accurate. I wouldn’t be able to give more specific feedback, as I’m not your employee, and beyond the general shape of it specifics may vary between people. Since it sounds like you have the basics covered my suggestion if it were me and I wasn’t sure I’d be inclined to ask the employee if there were any additional things that would be helpful to incorporate into those meetings.

    2. OhNo*

      As someone who also needs weekly 1:1s, that sounds about right. Your employee would be the best person to answer that question, of course. From my perspective, though, I end up using the weekly meetings as a prompt and reminder to actually plan out my projects/workload for the week. Sometimes that means asking my boss for more work, sometimes that means soliciting her input on my timeline adjustments, and sometimes that just means verbally processing my plan in her general direction. We also fold a lot of project discussion into those meetings, just because I used to drop by her office, but that doesn’t work out so well with remote work. But YMMV on all that.

    3. Lady_Lessa*

      Where I used to work, I would check in daily with my boss. It was first thing in the morning. Partly because the lab was locked, and I considered it a safety measure. We would talk about project priorities, and any technical questions etc. I would fill him in on any progress/frustrations, etc. Tended to be about 15 minutes or so.

      Got some new supervisors, the sessions were lengthened significantly, and they finally pushed me out. (I was glad of that, though)

    4. anonymous73*

      I have them with my manager and it’s more of an update. She’s hands off with my projects so I just provide the update, and if I need her help or advice with something that’s usually when I bring it up (although she is available anytime for other things that are urgent). It’s hard to say without knowing the position of the employee you’re referring to in your example, but if it’s someone who isn’t brand new and is expected to work independently, that sounds like a lot of verification on your part and could end up being problematic.

    5. J.B.*

      The students who work for me almost all need weekly 1:1s especially while we are remote. In this case they are learning (students) and doing technical work which can have twists and turns. So the dedicated time is when we check in about what’s done, and what to do next.

      In this case I can’t expect students to pick up new independent work, and carving out regular time makes me check in. Of course, I am trying to prepare them for professional jobs and can’t expect them to be operating at a professional level yet.

      In my biweekly check ins with my boss it is planning schedule and direction. These are big consequential decisions and even when I have a pretty clear idea what needs to be done, I don’t want to commit our org without having that clarity.

    6. a thought*

      I have them with my manager and I find them super useful because he is SO busy that if I have a question for him, I usually can’t get an answer except during our 1 on 1s. So I save up all my questions for him. Sometimes our meeting takes like 5 minutes if nothing has come up. When I’ve had more accessible managers (who would, say, respond to an email question) it’s been less necessary.

      We also just use it as update time (like you discuss above). I also find it useful because he updates me on his stuff (oh, we are in 2nd interviews for a position that touches yours, I’m on vacation next week, etc) which I otherwise wouldn’t have a clear window into.

    7. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I use them to let my boss know what work I am planning to focus on for the next week and to check in with her on anything she could see coming my way to derail said plans. We also use it to strategize about clients and how to approach different issues and personalities, and how to work around both, something you don’t necessarily want to put in writing because email is forever.

    8. quill*

      Setting priorities and deadlines is my usual deal.

      “I finished the ramen snorkels report, what’s urgent for this week?”
      “Definitely the Pho Scuba Gear.”

      Also, things like “I found a problem in the computer calculating the pH of the miso flippers, it affects this entire lot, I asked Walkeen and he’s looking into it, should I delay sending out the data on the flippers until it’s resolved?”

    9. OP Here*

      OP here — this sounds about right to me. The weekly 1:1s are basically just a check-in like any other, letting the employee confirm that their prioritization is correct/reasonable. My manager also sometimes uses this time to look at certain metrics that he has access to & inquire about anything that looks unusual (like a project that’s been marked “pending customer feedback” or something like that for longer than you might anticipate). Most of the time, nothing’s really wrong, but every once in a while, it helps me catch something that was actually falling through the cracks.

  19. Hulda*

    I am confused about how your manager went into the meeting praising you and then ended it with a PIP threat? Otherwise amazing update!

    1. pancakes*

      I don’t know about PIP-worthy, but I would definitely be taken aback if a junior employee wrote much of their self-evaluation along the lines of, “‘I led X and Y projects this year, taking on responsibilities well outside the scope of what is normally expected for a Junior Level 1 Teapot Handler,’ etc.” Positioning themself as more knowledgeable about what’s appropriate to expect of someone in their role than their own manager is pretty adversarial, and at odds with asking for closer supervision.

      1. Threeve*

        I also found this overly adversarial. Why not “my relative inexperience made X responsibility a challenge, and I struggled with making Y decisions and staying on top of frequent emails” or something like that?

        Explaining that you didn’t feel primed for success with something is VERY different from accusing someone of giving you tasks they shouldn’t have.

        1. Tuesday*

          I think it would have been a less bumpy road if this were approached in a less adversarial way and before the review time. I think a tone like, “Our weekly one-on-ones were very helpful – can we keep those up?” would have made things go more smoothly.

        2. OP Here*

          See my much longer response to the commenter you replied to, but in short: I started with that language when I first ran into problems & didn’t get any useful results from it. I agree that my wording was adversarial, but nothing else was really working for me.

      2. OP Here*

        OP here. I agree that this phrasing was pretty adversarial. But prior to this, I had tried using language like Threeve suggests (e.g., “my relative inexperience made X responsibility a challenge”) and my manager’s responses ranged from, “Don’t worry, you’ll get more experienced!” to “You don’t seem to be learning this as quickly as I expected. Let’s do 1:1s to get you back on track” (and then, as I mentioned, canceling them shortly thereafter).

        And truthfully, I can 100% say that I WAS being expected to work *far* above my paygrade. My company is very explicit about the level of independence expected of employees ranging from Level 1 Teapot Handlers to Level 5 Teapot Handlers. At Level 1, you are to be working under “close supervision.” Level 2 continues to work in a supervised way (while demonstrating a little more autonomy). Level 3 is supposed to be the “working independently” level. Levels 4 & 5 are leading projects and training others in our processes.

        My boss had me leading projects (ones that he acknowledged were “extremely complex”) and training others while at Level 1. You don’t have to be an expert Teapot Handler to know that that’s not right.

        The problem with being expected to lead projects & train others when you yourself are still pretty inexperienced is that, in order to do so successfully, you have to spend a LOT of time either researching things independently or asking people questions (or both). Things that my senior colleagues could do in 5 min because they’d done it dozens of times took me 30 because I had to first go find our procedure, then check a different system to see our documentation on how it was done last time (because procedures sometimes got outdated, but the documentation alone was sometimes sparse).

        And sometimes I’d go to a colleague with a question & they’d just answer it (which was great because I had so many questions & so little time, but then I wouldn’t have the context to figure it out on my own next time). And sometimes I’d go to a colleague & they’d treat it like a learning opportunity (which was great because then I was better positioned to figure it out on my own next time, but also, I didn’t really have enough time to spare on learning some of those things — which isn’t something you can easily say as a junior person who is *supposed* to be striving for independence rather than constantly eating up her colleague’s time to get answers).

        And sometimes, after all that, I’d find out that I was asking the wrong questions all along because I thought that project B would work just like project A (as far as, say, every teapot needs a handle), only to find out that project B’s material meant we *never* made handles for them — it was impossible — and our clients just used potholders to tip those teapots, and no one thought to mention it because they’ve all been there for years & just assumed I knew like everyone else did. (Or sometimes, it was a specialty thing, which I didn’t know, so I was asking the Teapot Handle dept. for answers when I should’ve been talking to the Specialty Materials department, so the Teapot Handle person thought I must’ve been talking about something different than I was.)

        I was drowning in these projects such that I wasn’t able to complete my day-to-day tasks in a timely way. (And I couldn’t just prioritize my routine work over these projects because some of the most complex projects were related to serious regulatory changes in my industry with hard deadlines.) And because my boss didn’t understand that, it just looked to him like I went from being able to complete X & Y fairly easy and routine tasks in a timely manner when I was first learning them (and had no other major tasks) to failing to complete X & Y fairly easy & routine tasks in a timely manner (i.e., “backsliding”). And of course “completing routine tasks” was a significant part of what I was evaluated on as a Level 1 Teapot Handler (because that was honestly supposed to be the biggest chunk of what I was doing).

        It’s also the case that most folks on my team simply design standard teapots, whereas the subsection I was assigned to basically had to do the design & some aspects of the engineering, too, because we worked with a wider variety of materials, many of which my boss himself wasn’t familiar with the intricacies of. (And, for the sake of this analogy, you can imagine that I come from a general arts/design background, not even a teapot design background, so I was trying to learn ALL the regular teapot stuff plus ALL the engineering stuff at the same time. Meanwhile, I was also supposed to be picking up the phone & answering customer questions about our design & engineering processes, too. *And* I wasn’t supposed to pawn them off on someone if I didn’t know the answer, but seek it out myself.)

        So… yeah. IMO, while adversarial, my comments were completely in line with the situation. And weekly 1:1s have helped enormously — not just in keeping me on track, but also in making it more likely that my manager will catch that I’m working on something that could & should be outsourced to another department, or trying to design a handle that we don’t need to design, or whatever else. And he also understands better why routine tasks X & Y aren’t being completed as quickly when I’ve got something else major on my plate. I’ve also just grown in independence by dint of trial by fire, so that probably helps, too.

  20. a thought*

    Thanks for sharing this update!! I feel like it comes up frequently about the pros and cons of asking for something as a formal accommodation vs. just asking for it (especially in the case where what you are asking for is a weekly 1-on-1, which honestly seems like it should have been part of practices anyway, but I digress…). Anyway, it’s useful data to see that in your case the formal accommodation route ended up being more successful. Thank you for sharing!

  21. x*

    I’m glad that this is working for you but I am curious what would happen if your current manager took extended time off or left the company and there was no one to do weekly meetings with you for a period of time. If the job is only manageable to you because you have weekly 1:1’s, that still seems like a problem. I would keep working on Alison’s other suggestions from the original response so that you don’t have to rely so heavily on whoever your manager happens to be.

    1. Anna*

      Um, that’s a pretty unkind and unhelpful comment. The type of thing that could bring someone who is already feeling anxious and stressed completely unstuck. I also think it’s pretty unfair. OP has just been promoted.

      If a manager is half-decent, they’ll make sure a job is actually able to be done by one person (rather than three people, leaving the one person over-stretched), and they’ll leave decent support structures in place. They’ll also have actually provided adequate training and documentation in the first place.

      1. x*

        It’s not my intention to be unkind. I think it’s great that the OP has figured out something that is working right now and has been promoted, but things change all the time at companies. Not all managers are even half-decent.

      1. x*

        That’s not what I’m saying at all. In the original response, Alison gave ideas for things to try in addition to relying on the manager for accountability. I also have ADHD and I know that it’s difficult but relying on one single coping strategy could backfire if that strategy gets removed for some reason even temporarily.

  22. Anna*

    Awesome work, OP!

    As someone who has just been shoved onto a deeply confusing, but informal, PIP-style thing, all over a fairly minor mistake that was caused entirely by contradictory and confusing instructions from my boss, incomplete training, and out-of-date documentation (the most important part of which doesn’t actually exist in written form, and was never communicated to me verbally), I can understand your frustrations with your boss. (And yes, my new boss is a jerk.)

    Can bosses also please stop using PIPs, informal or formal, or the threat of them, as some sort of motivational tool? They are really counterproductive and damaging, unless they are actually needed. Which they usually aren’t.

    I have ADHD as well, and the weekly 1-on-1 meetings with your boss are something that happen pretty regularly for neurotypical people in this type of role, so I’d hardly even classify it as a workplace accommodation. But maybe that’s what your boss needs to see it as, as he’s clearly not getting the memo. Because if an ADHDer is overwhelmed by the job, it’s also pretty much guaranteed that a neurortypical person would be as well. (We’re the ones who thrive of busyness and crisis, after all!)

    But I’d definitely recommend getting rid of any volunteer work going forward, especially anything time-intensive, at least for now.

      1. Green Ruler*


        I have a deep and abiding loathing for managers who are this daft. I send you strength as well!

        One of the best managers I’ve ever had overall ended up doing this to me in very similar circumstances and it was extremely disheartening. It was all right in the end, thank goodness, but I didn’t feel comfortable for a very long time, and it damaged my productivity.

        When we finally had an honest conversation about it a couple of years later, it turned out it was a mix of covering the backside of the other (very new) manager who’d caused the confusion, trying to make their patchy training and documentation look stronger than it was, and someone important already being annoyed with my managers over something completely unrelated to this issue at hand. Awful.

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