updates: my boss liked my work until we met in person, 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 four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My boss liked my work — until we met in person and she saw my weight

I really appreciated your advice, and the TONS of advice that came through from your readers. I approached the comment section with caution, expecting a bit of snark, but most everyone was supportive and helpful.

I took your advice and approached my boss shortly after the picnic, saying that her attitude towards me seemed to have changed and that I was wondering if I had done something to cause this. She responded rather curtly, saying that she didn’t have time to baby-sit my feelings or something to that effect. I was really surprised and saddened by how instantly and completely my relationship with her changed.

I did start looking for other work, sensing that the situation may get even more uncomfortable, and in the meantime, I kept my head down and focused and tried to do my job as efficiently and quietly as possible to give her little room to criticize me. I did end up becoming closer to my other new coworkers and eventually, a couple of them told me that they had heard the comment (and could tell that I had as well) and were horrified by it and reassured me that they loved having me on the team. That helped.

And then, just last week, my boss was suddenly let go. We aren’t sure of the circumstances behind it, but she was unceremoniously walked out the building and one of my coworkers (who, as far as I can tell, has no issue with me or my weight!) was appointed to take her place.

It was a tough situation and caused a lot of reflection for me. It may be naïve but it hadn’t actually occurred to me before that someone may actually dislike me simply for the fact that I am overweight, and that was a hard pill to swallow. As I mentioned, though, I did find a lot of support in the comments on the initial report, as well as from my lovely new co-workers.

So- all is well that ends well, I guess?

2. Trying to negotiate a higher salary when your company is bought (#3 at the link)

As I noted in the initial ask, my husband did not aggressively try to negotiate his salary when the new bosses took over the company. He just told them that he’d been gradually taking on more and more responsibility and felt that his salary did not accurately reflect that. The new company declined to change his initial salary, but after just four months of working under the new bosses, he will be getting a 25% raise! I’m really glad he didn’t listen to his out of touch friend and just continued to be reliable and hardworking. You are right that he’s really a “key” employee and as the merger got underway it became clear how key he really was.

3. Interviewers were obsessed with my commuting time (#3 at the link)

Firstly, I didn’t wind up being offered that job, which was honestly a relief! It wouldn’t have been a good fit for anyone, and I’m hopeful they found someone who is everything they were looking for. I accepted a temp-to-perm position with the option to stay on as a temp while I keep looking if I don’t like it, which is such a relief. My old workplace was so toxic, and while the work isn’t really doing it for me, the environment is so much better.

Secondly, there were a couple of comments asking what other red flags popped up in the interview – first and foremost was “we’re a family here”, which tells me they don’t respect work/life balance. It’s not uncommon, sadly, but if I can avoid it, I will. Next was “we all wear many hats”, which tells me they either can’t or won’t adequately staff their office, so everyone is overworked and probably underpaid. The last one was “we have some good employees and some lazy employees”, which is technically true of every workplace, but which (to me) becomes insidious in the context of the other two. It seems like the “lazy” employees just like going home at night, while the “good” employees don’t mind staying in the office till midnight.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering what my commute at the temp job is – it ranges from 40 minutes to 90 minutes, depending on traffic, with 50 minutes being the most common.

4. Manager keeps talking about everyone’s astrological signs

I wrote in earlier this year about my boss’s boss who used astrology in the workplace.

I’m happy to say I’ve moved on. I was already starting to look when I wrote in (there were a number of other toxic situations that I didn’t mention because they weren’t particularly interesting, just difficult) and had a few offers a few months after writing. I took one and am happy to report that my new supervisor has never mentioned her sign and seems to make workplace decisions based on legitimate criteria.

As for Astrology Boss, I’ve heard from former colleagues that they may be on the way out for other reasons, including employee turnover. They lost a significant portion of the staff during their tenure, and the non-profit lost some funding sources because of their decisions. Probably best for everyone if they move on.

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

It’s been a year, and all the changes I negotiated are still in place. I took every day of my three weeks vacation time with no complaint from the bosses. I’d say all in all, I’m super pleased with the way everything has worked out!

{ 102 comments… read them below }

  1. Dust Bunny*

    She responded rather curtly, saying that she didn’t have time to baby-sit my feelings or something to that effect.

    I can think of a lot of ways to respond to this but none of them should go into print.

    And then, just last week, my boss was suddenly let go. We aren’t sure of the circumstances behind it, but she was unceremoniously walked out the building

    . . . I confess that wasn’t the ending I expected but I’m not gonna complain.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Well it looks like Boss was the problem not OP.

      OP you did good work and your coworkers appreciate you. Let that be what you take away from this. You deserve to only focus on the positive.

        1. Candi*

          I think EPLawyer is reassuring OP. We can know logically that the other person is the one with issues, but the emotional part of us still hurts.

        2. Avi*

          The boss was always the problem, but it looks like the boss’ problem with op wasn’t the only problem. Unless she got canned for making body comments in front of the wrong executive.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Not only will I not complain about a lousy boss getting fired, I’m going to do a Happy Dance. I don’t like to glory in someone’s misfortune but, in this case, I’ll make an exception.

      1. Van Wilder*

        I wonder if someone who heard the comment complained. Or maybe, since she’s a known a**hole, she said other insensitive things.

        1. EPLawyer*

          That would get a talking, MAAAYBE managed out over time. Unceremoniously marched out – that is serious misconduct. Like assaulting someone or stealing from the company misconduct.

          1. Candi*

            Or her sizest attitude extended into other areas of a person’s appearance, some legally protected?

            Smart companies don’t like lawsuits. Someone like ex-boss who does a blatant 180 at seeing something they’re biased against in a worker they were fine with until then? Isn’t good at hiding their intolerance.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yeah, when you’re that much of an a-hole, it’s hard to stick to being nasty to one person only.
          It’s like when someone writes in about a truly whacky decision their boss made and it mostly turns out when OP joins in commenting, that the whacky decision was just the tip of a whole iceberg-worth of whackiness.

    3. L.H. Puttgrass*

      That update was a heck of a roller coaster ride. I’ll admit I did a little schadenfreude dance when I read the part about the boss being let go.

      “We aren’t sure of the circumstances behind it, but she was unceremoniously walked out the building . . . .” I like to imagine that the soon-to-be-ex-boss perp walk is a ceremony, of sorts. The meeting with HR, the ritual handing in of the access card, the careful observation while they collect their personal items—there’s definitely a ritualistic aspect to all of that. Like the scene in Mary Poppins where Mr. Banks gets sacked and the directors punch a hole in his hat for some reason—that’s definitely a sacking ceremony.

      1. Airy*

        I believe it’s based on the rituals historically used by the British armed forces when dismissing a disgraced officer – cutting the brass buttons off his jacket, breaking his sword across one’s knee, stripping him of the symbols of his former rank.

      2. .22 bookworm*

        Your comment just reminded me of the ceremonies ‘The Archchancellor’s Keys’ and ‘Hunting the Megapode’ at the Unseen University.

        1. londonedit*

          It reminded me of the bit in Mary Poppins where Mr Banks is sacked from the bank and has his buttonhole chrysanthemum squashed and his hat knocked through!

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Although this is probably just AAM fanfic, in my head I am going to believe that fatphobic boss was perp walked because of a consistent pattern of bullying. It was probably something more mundane, but my head = my canon.

    5. JSPA*

      OP, unless she was equally cruel to others (or cooking the books), I’d guess someone who was horrified went to bat for you, and that it was 1000 times more effective coming from a horrified bystander, than the aggrieved target.

      After all, when multiple bystanders are gasping in horror, even iffy HR or too-comfortable big bosses can’t accuse them ALL of having chips on their shoulders.

      Of course, if her filter and attitude were that bad towards you, it’s probably not the first time she’s been shatteringly off-base and cruel (whether pointed at coworkers, clients, vendors, outside assessors, or all of the above). Maybe she did the same, in a way that was particularly directly illegal.

      1. Prof Space Cadet*

        To be fair, it is standard operating procedure in some industries due to access to sensitive information or equipment. But yeah, it does sound like there was some kind of major problem with this boss.

    6. Hacker For Hire*

      LW1, in case you had any doubt, here’s the proof that your former boss was a huge asshole. Glad to hear your company got rid of her!

  2. HR Ninja*

    OP #1: It’s easy to say from the outside that her attitude and treatment of you says more about her. Clearly whatever her issues were gave the company enough reason to walk her judgmental a** out the door! I wish for you a much more positive workplace environment and hope your confidence will quickly forget her.

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      Came here to say this exactly! I bet you weren’t the only one she was less than professional with (and I do know that’s putting it VERY mildly) and the upper echelon got wind of it and buh bye to her.
      And clearly you rock, OP, so you just keep right on doing your thing!

    2. PollyQ*

      It’s not just that it’s 100% boss, I’d say there’s also a pretty good chance that if it weren’t OP’s weight, sooner or later it would have been something else petty & irrelevant. OP, so glad you don’t have to deal with her anymore!

  3. Dust Bunny*

    Also: “we have some good employees and some lazy employees”

    Lazy employees who are still there because owners/managers haven’t done anything about them, I take it. Yeah, no thanks!

    1. Threeve*

      Yeah, that is a really unappealing thing to reveal in an interview! You’re either judging people too harshly or not coaching/terminating people when you should be. Red flag either way.

    2. Massive Dynamic*

      Good point there – if employees are truly lazy, and not in the “I want to see my family who I love and cherish sometime during waking hours today” then it’s a management fail that they’re there.

    3. Bernice Clifton*

      It’s sort of like the job interview version of “My ex is horrible”. Even if she is, why are you telling me the first time I meet you and secondly, what are you going to tell people about me behind my back?

    4. Sara without an H*

      I suspect that, in this case, “lazy” means “unwilling to work hours and hours of uncompensated overtime.”

    5. Artemesia*

      1. lazy employees are those who have self respect and try to limit being exploited

      2. lazy employees are the flotsam and jetsam of incompetent managers who never manage out people who are not productive
      3. recruiter has no sense of discretion or loyalty to his own company

    6. SuperDiva*

      Wow, what a HUGE red flag. I’ve never had an interviewer badmouth current employees in an interview — it would make that job an immediate no for me. It’s inappropriate, it’s disrespectful, and it’s not saying anything good about your management!

  4. Anonny*

    #1 – Her disliking you because of your weight reflects poorly on her, not on you. If she gets into a snit with someone for something that doesn’t affect their capability as an employee, she’s a bad boss. Glad to hear she was unceremoniously removed.

  5. MuseumChick*

    LW 1 – I suspect that the attitude she displayed to you is indicative of a lot of other troubling behavior. Glad she was let go and you know have a better boss!

      1. Artemesia*

        It isn’t even the prejudice — we all have them. It is the expression of that prejudice and making decisions on it.

    1. jane's nemesis*

      I am even a little bit curious if any of the other lovely coworkers who over heard her AWFUL comment might have reported it to HR!

        1. Momma Bear*

          Same. What people like that don’t always realize is that those who are not the direct target may still be uncomfortable with what they do or say. The coworkers heard it, they know the OP did and they may have seen the change in OP as a result. I do hope it was reported.

          Being walked out like that indicates a serious problem. I’m glad OP has a new boss now but sorry they had to go through that at all.

          1. Bernice Clifton*

            Some places have a policy of walking everyone out, or following them to make sure they leave the building. That happened to me when I was laid off with a dozen other people.

  6. Warlord*

    LW1: Well, isn’t she a tall glass of dumpster juice brewed in the middle of July. Good riddance, and I’m glad you have supportive coworkers.

    1. The Smiling Pug*

      I don’t think I’ve ever heard the phrase “tall glass of dumpster juice” before. I’ll be using it in my conversations from now on. Thanks! :)

  7. dresscode*

    LW 1- That feels like Karma. It’s so ugly and disgusting that people are so ready to reduce others due to weight (or age, or sex, or…) and its even more awful when it’s so blatant. I’m sorry that happened to you and I’m glad your co-workers had your back. Good riddance.

    1. Bernice Clifton*

      In my experience, it’s usually people projecting their own body issues on someone else. That doesn’t make it any less cruel and damaging, of course.

      1. Well...*

        Idk I’d say fatphobia is widespread enough that it meets the standards of institutional discrimination. Reducing it down to individual psychology misses a lot of the picture.

        For example, many fat people have trouble getting medical care because doctors don’t trust them when they report pain or report their own eating habits, and refuse to give them care/run tests without requiring them to lose weight first. I don’t think those doctors are just all having body insecurity issues.

  8. The Smiling Pug*

    LW#1, I’m glad that your awful manager is gone. No one deserves to be treated like that.

  9. Bernice Clifton*

    “She responded rather curtly, saying that she didn’t have time to baby-sit my feelings or something to that effect”

    Translation: I’m aware that I’m being an ass but I have decided that’s your problem.

  10. HotSauce*

    LW#: I’m sorry that you had to deal with such a jerk & I’m very glad you don’t have to anymore. Don’t let one Catty Cathy ruin your work experience, it sounds like the rest of your coworkers are lovely.

  11. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    LW #3’s list of red flag cliche catch phrases could be in a how-to guide on recognizing a toxic workplace. I’m curious if readers have any additional ones to add to the list?

    Mine is “we do what it takes to get things done”

      1. Artemesia*

        everyplace I have known that pushes that ‘work hard/play hard’ line is an office full of drunks.

    1. Data Diva*

      “We have flexible scheduling options, as long as none of your co-workers complain that they don’t ever see you in the office exactly from 8-5.” Also, “we have flexible scheduling but our core job hours are 8-5.”

    2. Candi*

      One from a past letter, about an office with flexible hours: “We were at work every waking hour, but we could choose when to be awake.”

  12. Amethystmoon*

    #1 As someone who has battled weight issues all her life, only to find out in my 30’s that I’m hypothyroid, I can definitely tell you that sizeism is definitely a thing. My own mother was extremely sizeist (and I was an average-size child to begin with).

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve heard fewer comments at work. (I’m pretty average for the upper Midwest, but there are still plenty of those here who think women should just starve themselves.) I guess when you’re middle-aged, no one expects you to be skinny, unlike your 20’s? But yeah, there are still even some members of my own extended family who are still very sizeist, to this day.

    1. tessa*

      I’ve had sizeist relatives who have admonished me for my weight while grounding out cigarettes.

      I can’t make them understand that addiction is addiction, and that substance matters little. I guess looking in the mirror is too tough for them.

      1. Candi*

        Yep, every addiction damages the same part of the brain -the part that controls impulse and self-control. And it was first noticed in a study dealing with food addiction. They were doing brains scans to see what was going on it there.

        And the overall thing is, so many things CAUSE weight gain. From screwed up metabolism to temporary injury to permanent disability, it’s not nearly always sedentary behavior or all work and no exercise. Nvm “thinness is wonderful” is a culturally-implanted way of thinking anyway.

    2. Beth*

      The topping on the sh*t sandwich is that extremely low body weight isn’t healthy at all! Especially not for women!

    3. urguncle*

      I saw something that hit home yesterday to the effect of: our petite, probably at some point malnourished, moms (I’m specifically talking about mine, white, American and raised in the 60’s) married corn-fed 6′ tall football boys from high school and then admonished their daughters for not being as teeny tiny as them.

  13. starsaphire*

    Hey OP #1 – if you’re here and reading this – just know you’re not alone and there are SO many of us who’ve been through this and are 100% on your side and cheering you on!

    I’m so glad your horrible boss is gone. I’m also sad that the world has shown you how awful some people can be. It’s not anything to do with you; it’s all about them.

    Hope that your lovely co-workers and new supervisor are helping to make things more pleasant for you at work. And please accept virtual hugs from those of us who have been there too.

  14. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – if she was abruptly let go – she may have learned that her status was “on the rocks” at the time you met her. The attitude change may NOT have been directly with you but something else in her life, or work situation.

    1. Bernice Clifton*

      I feel like at least three people overhearing her say that LW was bigger than she expected her to be after meeting the LW in person for the first time, immediately followed by reminding the LW not to take too long a lunch and send her a list of what she gets done everyday . . . I’m pretty comfortable assuming the boss was judging the the LW on her size.

    2. biobotb*

      Why would that make her attitude change toward only one person? It doesn’t sound like other people were complaining about her being suddenly chilly.

  15. Wordnerd*

    This might be flagged as off topic but I think it could be valuable: I recommend the podcast Maintenance Phase as well as Aubrey Gordon’s book What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat. It’s especially valuable for straight-sized people who may not be aware of how pervasive anti-fat bias is.

  16. Elizabeth West*

    Me, reading #1 OP’s update:

    my boss was suddenly let go


    *basks in the schadenfreude*

    1. Beth*

      Schadenfreude, schadenfreude, schadenfreude pie
      Gaze at the haters and wave bye-bye
      Ask if I’m sorry and I reply:
      “Schadenfreude, schadenfreude, schadenfreude pie.”

  17. Toolate*

    Is it just me or is there more turnover reported in these updates than usual (including, happily, of bad actors)? Or is this the normal amount?

    1. Candi*

      For those who leave, they currently have better places to go.

      For the companies booting bad actors, smart companies (not necessarily good companies, but smart) know they need to get rid of things that drive away good workers -that includes the bad workers that damage a work environment.

  18. Sara without an H*

    As for Astrology Boss, I’ve heard from former colleagues that they may be on the way out for other reasons, including employee turnover. They lost a significant portion of the staff during their tenure, and the non-profit lost some funding sources because of their decisions.

    Oh, no! Surely not! Congratulations on your new position. May you continue in happy ignorance of your new manager’s astrological sign.

  19. Sara without an H*

    OP#2: We hear so much at AAM about bad management. Nice to hear that your husband’s new employers recognized his worth.

  20. GreyjoyGardens*

    LW1: I’m glad your coworkers and your new boss are nice and things seem to be working out well for you. IME, the “Pill” was your old boss! If she was nasty and rude to you on account of your size, then who knows what other prejudices she harbored. She sounds like what the Carolyn Hax people call a “glassbowl” and maybe she was rude to the wrong person at the wrong time.

  21. Bookworm*

    LW#1, thanks for writing in with the update. I expected to read you found another job and had to leave, despite the cool co-workers. Glad it turned out to be the boss instead. Wonder what else happened.

    Who cares, whatever. Thanks to all for writing in!

  22. Ata*

    I’m just sitting here realizing that this year’s Worst Boss vote had so many options that Astrology Manager didn’t even make the cut. Oh boy.

    1. Cat Lady*

      Neither did the boss who liked OP 1’s work until she realized that OP is fat. What a year this has been.

      1. ThereAreThoseWhoCallMeTim*

        The worst part is that it isn’t even so much that they were snubbed. It’s that this year was SO bad that the ones who did make the cut were legitimately that much worse.

  23. I'm just here for the cats!*

    #4 I’m glad you didn’t get that job because it sounds toxic and horrible.
    Maybe it’s because I grew up in a very rural area where the nearest big employers were 40 miles away (and a good hour or more commute) but I’d never heard of someone being so concerned about the commute. Even in the city I live in now it’s not in heard of for someone to come in to town for work. Heck we’ve got an intern whose commute is about an hour.
    I can understand if you’re needed for on call or something and need to be able to come quickly. But i don’t think for the most part it should be a problem

  24. Page 1*

    OP1, your ex boss is awful and I am so glad she’s gone! People like that should never be allowed to manage other people.

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