updates: leaving without burning bridges, the lying director, 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 three updates from past letter-writers.

1. I was promoted under threat of retaliation and want to leave without burning all my bridges (#3 at the link)

I left the company! It didn’t end well, but it ended. I think I believed that me quitting would be a wake-up call to management that the third manager in a year and half was getting out of the department, but it wasn’t. I was contractually obligated to give a months notice, during which they heaped on the work load and also basically iced me out entirely. I would contact higher ups, both my manager and above him, asking for reprioritization or help on our teams workload, and get no reply to messages. In meetings, I would bring up things and was just fully ignored.

On my last day, I found out my manager had lied to my face about securing a budget for a farewell team lunch, so I chose to tell them it was my fault it fell through to try and keep morale up a bit after leaving, but honestly it really sucked to have to take that blame after putting a lot of effort to try and make things better for them already. I also found out my “big raise” when I moved to management was not so great, I was making barely more than the interns (and before my promotion, was in fact making less).

Since my departure a few months ago, several other people in the company have also left, all people I knew were also fed up with the work life balance. I don’t have any friends still working there as we all quit, so I’m not sure what it’s like now, but apparently the whole department was a total mess before they went. I can’t say I feel bad that they are reaping what they sowed honestly.

For me personally, I have been doing a lot better in my new role. I got a huge raise despite no longer being a team lead, which definitely says a lot about my compensation before. The work life balance at my new company is great so far and I like my co-workers a lot. I definitely felt the impact of burnout for a while despite being in a better place and it slowed me down in a lot of ways personally and professionally, but I recently was able to stop taking my anxiety meds that I had started due to work stress before, so, progress.

Thanks for your advice before, I’m glad to say I’m no longer dealing with it and doing a lot better in terms of mental health these days.

2. My director lied to HR about what I told him

This director continues to be a lying liar who lies. I was recently on the receiving end of an unprofessional email from a coworker in another department and raised it with my manager who raised it with the director. He claimed to have talked to the person who sent the email and that the person in question had said they were misunderstood, etc. etc.

I had an opportunity to bring it up with the email-sender and asked if the director had spoken to them about it, and they said no.

So, between that and the director continuing to be The Worst, I’m looking for another job.

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

I am now over six months in to my escape from an all-consuming job (not as bad as the recent investment banking letter, but 80 hour weeks and sending work emails while in labor weren’t great either). It was a tough transition at first. I hate to admit it, but it turns out I had a lot of self worth wrapped up in how prestigious my job was. The new job has a steep learning curve and some administrative quirks, and I do miss my old salary from time to time.

All that said…the overall positive change in my life has been unbelievable. I am actually happy! My work is interesting and I believe it makes a small positive impact on the world. I close my computer at 5 PM and spend the rest of the evening hanging out with my joyful toddler and laughing with him until my sides hurt. I started a new hobby and picked an old one back up. I am healthier than I’ve been in years. So to anyone else who feels stuck in their “fancy” job – the transition out won’t be easy, but I have found it to be so, so worth it.

{ 26 comments… read them below }

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      In it’s way, realizing that your boss is awful and isn’t going to change, and the answer is to put a new person in the role “boss,” is a positive update.

      1. The OTHER Other*

        …and hopefully the job market is good in their area/field. For many, there’s never been a better time to say goodbye to toxic bosses and terrible workplaces!

  1. Velawciraptor*

    #1 I’m happy you got out, but I wish you hadn’t covered for your manager falling down on the farewell team lunch. I know you’re newer to the working world, but you don’t have to take the blame for higher-ups falling down on the job, especially when those same higher-ups have demonstrated clearly that they don’t value you.

    I’m glad you and so many of your colleagues got out. You all deserve better.

    1. LW #1*

      Thanks! Yeah, I wasn’t really sure how to handle it but I didn’t want to make everyone else miserable too since they weren’t on their way out the door yet. I’m sure they could tell I was burned out since I cited health reasons for why I was quitting but I didn’t want to be like “hey, this guy is a manipulator and liar, enjoy working for him for the forseeable future”. But, yeah, the vindictive part of me wishes I’d just been like here are the screenshots byeee. At least the facilities person who told me there was actually no budget was also mad on my behalf!

      1. Kevin Sours*

        The best to handle that situation is a “just the facts ma’am” approach. You shouldn’t call your manager a liar, but you don’t really have to go out of your way to prevent people from drawing the correct conclusions: “Manager was organizing that and I’m not really sure what happened” or “I have no idea why he said that, but this is what I observed”.

      2. Boof*

        I understand but maybe they should leave too! Everyone out the door, that company sounds like a real dumpster fire

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I’ve learned that it never pays to lay the blame wrongly on yourself. Why make everyone hate you? If you simply state the facts as they presented themselves to you, people are perfectly capable of understanding what kind of place they are working at.

    2. WellRed*

      I was disappointed by this too. I also hope OP didn’t drive themselves crazy trying to keep up with the workload. I mean, what are they gonna do? Fire you? Glad you got out!

  2. BuildMeUp*

    #2 – I know in the original letter you said you told HR about the director’s original lie, but do they know about this new one? I’m not saying you can’t keep job hunting, but bringing a second incident to HR’s attention may lead them to actually do something about it. If I were HR, I would be concerned about the pattern and worried that this director would handle harassment/racism/sexism incidents like this too.

  3. Aquawoman*

    #1, I’m still trying to wrap my head around a permanent employee making less than the interns. Glad she got out!

      1. The OTHER Other*

        And are the interns learning how to get lower-paying jobs in the field when they graduate? The company sounds terrible on so many levels. They deserve everything they get.

    1. LW #1*

      Hi! I’m LW#1 actually. I recently got a bit more context about this from my old team lead that I was replacing when we had dinner a few weeks ago after I submitted this reply. Basically she was pushing for compensation adjustments before she quit for everyone on the team since after we were hired the industry in our city saw a pretty large increase in compensation across the board. I found out from her that my “promotion salary” was actually just the compensation adjustment salary she had already fought for as fair pay for my old role and I received no additional increase for the team lead role. So, yes, the interns were making more than me before that :/ I honestly still feel pretty crappy about it but I guess this is why it’s important to discuss compensation with your peers.

  4. Falling Diphthong*

    Me quitting would be a wake-up call to management that the third manager in a year and half was getting out of the department.

    I feel like across contexts of original letters, the odds of this happening in the update are at best 1 in 20.

    1. netlawyer*

      When management is this clueless, they will not. I left my last job in November 2019 after being ill-treated by the department head in ways that were obvious to my co-workers. And our department surveys dropped so precipitously and so quickly after that person took over that Corporate HR assigned someone to try to help.

      But as people left or expressed issues, the department head basically doubled down and told folks – “don’t push me, if you put your badge on the table I will pick it up.” They took discontent as a direct challenge to their authority rather than an indication they needed to change course.

      I 100% miss my former coworkers – I was there 13 years. It took me a while to grieve leaving that job because I thought I’d be there for the rest of my career and I took really good care of my direct reports. My new job is good and I’m making more money (a lot more, actually) the work isn’t as interesting, I’m an “individual contributor” and my new boss isn’t awesome but mostly leaves us alone, but that old department head is still in charge and I’m in still in touch with people who complain a lot but I’m *shruggy emoji* – you can’t fix it so if you hate it, leave – that person is apparently not going to be fired or demoted.

  5. Kevin Sours*

    Just a note. Once you’ve given notice, leverage for dealing with stuff shifts to you. What are they going to, fire you? This is especially true if you have savings to cover the gap or you can move up your start date with the new gig. So if they try to dump a bunch of extra work on you in the last month (on top of an already insane workload)… say no. If they refuse to prioritize, set your own priorities and estimate what’s going to get done. And start leaving at the end of the day. Mostly, never be more engaged in making the transition happen then they are. It’s no longer a *you* problem.

    1. Butterfly Counter*

      This! Especially as it seemed that OP was forced to work for that whole time. Just put in exactly 8 hours and go home. You don’t owe them anything extra. Certainly not your blood, sweat, tears, or even the slightest additional stress to fill THEIR objectives.

  6. Artemesia*

    Why take the fall for the lunch? Why wasn’t it ‘I have no idea what happened there.’ Please re-think your willingness to fall on your sword even for terrible managers — it will not serve you well going forward in your hopefully wonderful new job.

    And yes, once you have given your notice, put up with no nonsense. Be pleasant, work hard, leave documentation — but if they pile on more work than you can get done in the work day — well do what seems important and leave documentation of what is still on the pile for the person taking over.

  7. Red Acted Alone*

    “I chose to tell them it was my fault it fell through to try and keep morale up a bit after leaving, but honestly it really sucked to have to take that blame”.

    But… you didn’t have to! You chose to.

    Take this as a wake-up call and stop assuming the responsibility for things that aren’t your fault. You’ll be happier and a better manager to boot.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Also, I’m scratching my head wondering how that lie would even help keep morale up. For a start, it seemed like morale must have been pretty low (except for those well-paid interns except that probably don’t even realise their luck). And I’m sure everyone saw what a mess the place was, nobody would have been thinking OP was responsible for any of that mess, especially since she was very new to her team lead role.

      1. Fierce Jindo*

        Yes, and it also denies other people still working there info they might want.

        Because it sounds like they *should* be demoralized. OP got out; why shouldn’t they?

  8. CM*

    Yayyy #5! I made a similar transition and found the exact same thing — I had to let my ego down easy when I wasn’t in the high-prestige job anymore. Which is a positive thing, but surprised me. Glad you’re happy and finding time and energy for non-work activities!

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