updates: I compared my interviewer with my dog, the Halloween costume, and more

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. Here are five updates from past letter-writers.

1. I compared my interviewer with my dog (#2 at the link)

I saw update requests in the comments when you reposted my letter from 4 years ago.

I got a job offer the same day you published the letter, before I even had time to compose the thank you note. I know you’re suppose to negotiate all offers, but they paid at the higher end of the salary range for my job and area already and the value of the other benefits like IRA, profit sharing, and PTO put it over the higher end of the range, so I accepted the offer the next day.

I found out that my I interviewer is also a dog person plus one of the partners fosters dogs. So my comment while not smooth wasn’t a huge thing either. I’m also the official “no kids, because my dogs are my babies” person in the office. One of the Partners walked in on me searching Petfinder and he just asked if I was going to get another dog.

It been a lovely place to work, the hours are extremely flexible as long as your 40/wk is in and all you appts are covered leaving early or coming in late isn’t a issue.

2. Should I wear a Halloween costume my first week at a new job?

I’m the person who sent in a low stakes question a couple years ago about wearing a Halloween costume when you’re new in a workplace. The short update is that I followed the advice I was given and did not wear a costume and it was the right move, which I had known before writing in but hadn’t wanted to admit to myself. The longer update is that the new job I’d just started was me escaping from the toxic workplace I’d been at for years. I spent those years at my old toxic job reading Ask A Manager obsessively, as an outlet to be able to imagine a working world where everything is professional and reasonable. Now that I’ve been in my new job two years, I no longer need that outlet, because my new workplace IS professional and reasonable! I’m working on unlearning the maladaptive coping mechanisms I’d developed at my old job to deal with the many issues there, and I have had nothing but support from my manager here as I’ve worked to do that. So thank you to Alison and everyone in the Ask A Manager comments for being there for all the years I needed you; this blog was all that kept me going some days when my old job was making me feel like I could never expect anything better.

3. We can be fired if our friends and family don’t follow the company’s religious values

Thank you (and your readers) again for the advice and support through a very interesting time in my life.

First, I moved across the country, successfully graduated law school, and am now a licensed attorney. These past four years have been some of the hardest for me personally, three years were some of the hardest as I lost several dear family members during this time, including one of my parents as well as nearly losing my spouse. Despite my chaotic personal life, I was regularly placed in leadership positions for my extracurriculars—likely due to picking up tips from AAM in how to work well with others and manage. During school, I would go back through the comments from time to time as the commentariat was so encouraging and ultimately interned in a few different government agencies with a focus on federal and state employment issues. From navigating the legal work world to setting reasonable boundaries to recognize toxic bosses, I either personal dealt with that or had friends who did and I always pointed them to you.

After graduation and passing my first bar, I spent a year doing employment law litigation—very timely with all the pandemic problems! I also passed my second bar exam during the time while working. This still wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do and I recently accepted a junior corporate counsel position where I’ll be working with employees around to world as well as assisting with various other corporate transactions. Of course, your advice regarding applying, interviewing, and negotiating was invaluable and I was able to get a 65% raise plus amazing benefits.

I’m glad that I can reference the lifestyle covenant issues as “crazy people do crazy things” and actually shared it recently with one of my partners who was completely aghast. Especially since we were at a restaurant where, funny enough, we had wine and pizza for lunch. Glad I didn’t have to worry that I’d get fired for that!

Thank you again for all of the help and advice you’ve provided over the years. I’m glad to not submit a new employer to the list of 2021’s list of the worst employers. There’s some doozy’s on there.

Hope everyone has a happy holiday season!

4. My terrible boss asked for feedback — should I be honest?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a very good update. I considered your advice and I also read every single comment. I ultimately decided not to give any honest feedback on the survey. But when it came time to hit the submit button, I couldn’t bring myself to not say *anything*, so I gave one piece of honest feedback in the nicest way I could think. However, nothing even came of the feedback survey that I was mandated to fill out.

Besides that, I’m still in the same awful job with the same awful manager at the same awful organization. It has really affected my mental health. I’m following your advice and applying to jobs and networking all the time.

5. Friday good news (#2 at the link)

I have an update. I wrote to you in November about my new job having a (My Name) Day. I mentioned in the original letter that I was originally hired for a six month term but had hopes it would become permanent. Well, last week they posted the job for a permanent position, and yesterday I found out I got it! I get to stay in a job I love with people who value and appreciate me, and make sure I know it. I am so grateful to you, I used your resume and cover letter advice when I applied for the original six-month term, and again for the permanent position. I am beyond thrilled! Thanks so much to you and the AAM community.

{ 34 comments… read them below }

  1. Starbuck*

    Glad to hear LW #3 seems to be doing well – alas, I’m still dying to know how (or if) the implementation of that ridiculous policy went! They were talking about monitoring people’s personal internet activity at home!! Hopefully it didn’t end up affecting them since they don’t mention it.

    1. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      IMHO, the problem with the policy is that they were applying it to everyone, not just high-ranking people, and were trying too hard to not say what the actual problems are.

      Bear with me!

      Imagine if a provost’s spouse owned a brothel or the college president’s spouse was the head of the local Satanic temple. Regardless of what anyone reading this personally thinks of those things, it’s the kind of thing that, within a religious environment, lends itself to scandal. The problem is, they aren’t drawing any distinction between that and the administrative assistant’s significant other having a drink before they go off to dancing lessons.

      It’s reasonable to ask that leaders within a religious org hold themselves to higher standards and take burdens upon themselves that other people do not. (Note that there are legal issues with applying a ministerial exception to certain laws.) It’s just nuts to expand that to everyone and to things that might not be approved of by the religion but are not considered remotely scandalous. However, an institution that can’t figure out how to make those distinctions is likely to have a whole host of other problems.

    2. OP 3*

      I wish I had the answers for you! As far as Imm aware, they didn’t end up monitoring people in their homes, but everyone that I was work-friends with resigned around the same time I did so I lost my source of inside info. I’ve sent in a few other updates over the years to AAM, but the school lost a LOT of employees over this policy and they really backed down on all the extreme measures that they wanted to take.

      That said, I do keep a light pulse on their hiring board and they’ve had to fill my old position at least annually since I left if that tells you anything.

  2. MI Dawn*

    I was very happy to read all these updates, especially LW#3. I, too, worked for a while in a religious-owned institution, and it literally nearly cost me my life. Thankfully, some friends-in-high-places were willing to put their positions on the line and lie to let me get the care I needed. Would never go back to that job, and always told my children not do so. (My condition scared them to death, so it had a lot of impact, blaming it on my employer).

    1. OP 3*

      I’m glad you had friends in high places willing to do that for you! Both my dad and sis have worked at religious institutions (not education though) and my experience just made them laugh at how ludicrous it was. I’m glad I worked there for a short time as it helped me transition out of food service and retail (kudos to those who make it a career but I couldn’t cut it).

      I’m with you, though. I’m pretty open about what I dealt with there and warn people away from working there if possible.

  3. Curious*

    As someone who has often been guilty of typos, I’m not in a position to throw stones — but I was amused by the fact that OP1 hadn’t “had time to compost the thank you note.”

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Who says something that started as a typo cannot evolve into a new, better way to recycle thank-you notes? Note composting FTW!

  4. Leelo*

    #3 is not really an update. What happened with the policy? Did the manager confirm employees would be fired if they didn’t sign it? Was there an employee uprising? And When did the OP decide to quit? That was very unsatisfying.

    1. OP 3*

      Apologies that it wasn’t as thorough as you would’ve liked. I have quite a few more details in my other past updates, but here’s the gist:
      – the policy got reduced way back to essentially be what we had signed when we were hired
      – there was no major employee uprising, but dozens of people (including several professors) chose to resign or retire early rather than deal with the school anymore
      – it is my understanding that those that stayed signed and I have not heard of anyone who didn’t sign. That said, most of my inside sources quit around the same time I did
      – I quit in June and the new policy went into effect in either July or August

      Hope that answers your questions.

  5. TimeTravlR*

    I’m sorry #3, but white wine with pizza is probably a criminal offense, let alone a fireable one! LOL jk of course But please pour red with my pizza!

    1. OP 3*

      The only time white wine and pizza work is if it’s an Alfredo pizza. I had a margherita pizza with obviously calls for a red!

    2. OP 3*

      The only time I would have white wine with pizza is if it was an Alfredo sauce pizza. Fortunately, I had a margherita pizza which calls for red so we’re all good here.

  6. Lucy Skywalker*

    2. ” I spent those years at my old toxic job reading Ask A Manager obsessively, as an outlet to be able to imagine a working world where everything is professional and reasonable.”
    That’s funny, because I feel like most of the letters here are from people who work in places where everything is NOT professional and reasonable. LW, your work must have been really toxic!

    3. I once saw a job posting for a position that was near my home and that I am qualified for, but I chose not to apply because it was for a Christian college where all employees have to abstain from smoking, drinking, recreational drugs, sex with anyone other than one’s spouse, porn, and gambling in order to be positive Christian role models for the students. Now, I would have no problem following this requirement as I am a Christian myself and do not have a habit of doing any of those things. However, I chose not to apply as I didn’t like the idea of working for an employer who wanted to have that much control over my life outside of work.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Re your second point, I agree that it’s unreasonable to exert so much control. I mean, where does it end? In my experience, when you give people that much power over others, it escalates the danger that they’ll push it too far.

    2. OP 3*

      I agree regarding the control aspect. It was also disheartening because that school was my alma mater and I also am a Christian. However, my interpretation of “Love your neighbors as yourself” is much greater and encompasses more people than theirs did. I know make it a point to not work for religious institutions to avoid similar situations in the future.

    1. LW #4*

      Thank you :-). Things have actually started moving in the right direction for me since I wrote the update! It all happened quite quickly, but I will be leaving my toxic workplace at the end of the December for a much better job (in every way).

  7. jay*

    Regarding #3, that’s a topical issue in my community with a large employer who has fired people for getting pregnant out of wedlock, among other violations of “righteous living.” It’s wild! Not sure if links are allowed, but google “Dave Ramsey Nashville Scene” for some details about some serious overreach on rules for their offsite Christmas party.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Wow!! Will look it up, thank you!

      Only time I heard of something like this happening was when my high school English teacher (one of the best the school had, btw) got pregnant while not being married and the father not being in the picture, and the principal called an all-staff meeting to discuss her moral failing and to condemn. This happened before my time, and was told to me ten years after I graduated, by another teacher. She said the principal was standing guard at the front door, and had the only teacher loyal to her watching the back door, to make sure no one would sneak out of the school before the meeting. People were climbing out of first-floor windows to get out. Not even a religious school, religion was actually forbidden in Home Country – it’s just that the principal was a (can’t think of a good insult) (help me out here) oh, oh, got one – an Aunt Lydia. (Also literally her first name!) The kid is now in her 40s and the teacher is still happily giving private lessons and enjoying being a grandma. The principal lived to be almost a hundred years old, was in great health to the end, and got a massive funeral in my home town, because there’s no karma in this world.

    2. OP 3*

      I thinks it’s an unfortunately common phenomenon with religious employers. Also, I have other issues with Dave Ramsey and Googling that have me some serious flashbacks.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Coming back with another comment – last night I went down the rabbit hole of Ramsey Solutions. What a mess. So many articles about the company, all of them absolutely horrifying. Someone I know follows his financial advice and I am now concerned for that person.

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