updates: the needy colleague, the holiday blues, 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 ex-mentee still comes to me with all of her questions (#2 at the link)

I know my question was posted not too long ago but I did want to share an update. Your advice helped me realize that, “helpful” workplace culture or not, I really hadn’t set any sort of boundaries with my ex-mentee.

In the end I didn’t have a direct confrontation with Jane, but I did set some boundaries with myself: if Jane came to me with something I knew the answer to, I’d of course help her out. But, as is often the case for my role, if the thing needed research or a detailed dive into the client’s folder, then I’d direct her back to her manager or a known SME instead of trying to figure out the issue myself. So instead of trying to resolve every item for her, I gave myself permission to say “I don’t have a lot of experience with X, but I know Tammy had a client with that” or “Jake’s the SME on that, he could tell you for sure” or even “I have a meeting and can’t help right now, but I know Thomas could help with that.” And that has really helped! Our desks got moved around so that we sit next to each other when we’re in the office now, so I still support her when she has questions – which of course is totally fine! I became a mentor because I wanted to help more. But I can tell I’m not the only one she goes to for questions now and that’s great for both me and her :)

To add to that: our company changed our mentor program to a group approach which honestly is so much better for both the mentors and the mentees. And…Jane is now a mentor as well, and it’s really fulfilling to see someone I helped doing well enough that she’s coaching newer associates.

Thanks again for your advice!

2. Holiday blues in a festive office (#4 at the link)

First off, I want to thank all of the lovely commenters who sympathized with me last year! I think intellectually I knew that a lot of people were in the same boat but it seemed like almost no one in my day to day was. So while it wasn’t “nice” to hear from others in my situation it was nice to not feel so alone.

I ended up mentioning my lack of holiday plans to a few coworkers and they either spread the word or people just read the room on not talking too much about holiday plans in general, because I didn’t really have to talk much about it at all! We did have our holiday party and festivities at work which I participated in. After work that day I went to the grocery store, went home, and then proceeded to live like an absolute dumpster fire of a human being in the best possible way for the next week. Seriously I consumed an amount of mozzarella sticks heretofore not seen by mankind, binged countless hours of absolute garbage tv, and I dedicated one day to champagne cocktails and a Twilight movie marathon (10/10 would recommend).

The actual holidays themselves were really hard, but I let myself be sad when I needed to be and then tried to look to the future. I’m very happy to report that I was able to spend Memorial Day and Thanksgiving with my vaccinated family and we’re very much looking forward to Christmas this year.

3. Is this job description full of red flags?

Back in June, I’d written to you about a job description with red flags and asked for your advice. I thought you and your readers might enjoy a follow-up.

I’m loath to admit that I asked George for clarification and context. Based on his reply, I felt comfortable moving forward. I joined the company and by day three, I had a panic attack and knew I made the wrong decision.

Between utter failings in leadership, using radical candor as a weapon, and the immaturity (professional and otherwise) of the team, I’d had enough. I asked to exit at the beginning of week two, much to their shock.

Five weeks later, I had three offers for senior roles with enterprise organizations. I’m now happily one month into my new career in analyst relations. My manager is competent, directs and redirects with positivity, and has tremendous EQ. She’s investing in me and it shows at every turn. The company, meanwhile, is profitable, mission-driven, and growing at 35% YoY. It’s 180 to say the least.

So, while I kicked myself (briefly) for moving forward with ol’ Georgie, I have zero regrets about where I am now.

I’ll call it a win. And next time, I will take your advice.

4. Showing I wasn’t demoted (#4 at the link)

I took your advice and put them all as bullets under the same employer, no one batted an eye or even asked me about it. But in hindsight, I can say that I was in fact demoted; my span of control was much more limited than I expected and it was very frustrating. The promised raise also never materialised. So after about a year in the new role, I started to apply for other jobs and found one at another company – it is at the same level, but with much more room to grow. Fingers crossed for the next year!

{ 52 comments… read them below }

  1. I should really pick a name*

    I’d love to know what his response to your request for clarification was.

  2. Antlerless*

    I too have left a role days after starting because the red flags I was desperate to ignore started to blink neon. And I too found exactly the right spot after the embarrassment and self-doubt I felt because of it. Listen to your gut when you can afford to!!

    1. PT*

      I have stayed in those roles and usually ended up leaving around the 3-month mark anyway.

      It would have been much faster if I’d said on day 2 or so, “I’m sorry, based on the information I’ve received so far, this isn’t a good fit, I am going to give my notice, please let me know how long it makes sense for me to continue,” it would have saved me a lot of headache and heartache than trying to ride the angry bull while also looking for new jobs in snippets of free time that were too short for me to actually submit applications in a timely fashion.

  3. EPLawyer*

    “Seriously I consumed an amount of mozzarella sticks heretofore not seen by mankind, ”


    Sounds like the holiday you needed. Also one I would enjoy very much.

    1. anonymous73*

      Same. I’ve enjoyed a pint of ice cream for dinner many times in the past as needed. In fact I had a very busy day this past Saturday, and since my stepson was at a friend’s and my husband was at his work holiday party, I had a box of jalapeno poppers for dinner because I wanted to put my feet up, relax and not do anything more than pop something in the air fryer. Self care is important.

      1. Candi*

        My opinion is part of adulting is being able to not adult at times -just use proper judgement for when and when not to adult.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve spent quite a few holidays alone. This is par for the course—pajama day, eating whatever I want whenever I want, and watching anything I please. Usually, I cook myself a spectacular dinner, but sometimes it’s snacks all day!

      1. PeanutButter*

        Same! This thanksgiving I was far from family, and my coworkers were very concerned, especially as none of them were staying in town so they couldn’t invite me to their dinners…it took some convincing but I finally got through to them that an awesome holiday for me was one where I didn’t change out of pajamas or yoga pants, and just bummed around, eating what I liked, watching what I liked, doing what I liked, and having absolutely NO to-do list!

        It was glorious.

  4. The Smiling Pug*

    LW #2: there’s nothing wrong with doing any of those things! Self-care is wonderful. :)

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I want to know exactly how many mozzarella sticks it was to see if I can break the record.

      1. OP2*

        Well in all honesty it was a combination of mozzarella sticks, chicken nuggets, pizza rolls, deep fried ravioli, and a bunch of other absolute junk food. While it was not biologically my finest moment health wise, spiritually it was amazing.

        Basically just fill a freezer with junk food and don’t leave the house at all for a week and a half while living off the food in said freezer and you’ll come close.

          1. TheMightyRosebud*

            If you like tots, I highly recommend Potato Saturday: you eat potatoes (tots pref), drink potatoes (vodka) and become a coach potato. Meld with the sofa!!

        1. YRH*

          Honestly, sounds pretty great. However, I have some friends that love to hate watch Twilight. After participating in several of these marathons, I still don’t understand the appeal. Sparkly skin for the win I guess (I feel like that pairs well with a champagne cocktail).

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I’ll break out chicken dinosaurs, egg rolls, potstickers and frozen cookie dough and we’ll zoom.

        3. PeanutButter*

          Heck yeah, OP2! This thanksgiving I kind of had the same situation as you – I ended up baking a salted caramel apple pie and I ate a good chunk of it for breakfast one day with a fried egg on top.

          I will join you in the dumpster. XD

        4. londonedit*

          Deep fried ravioli! I have never heard of such a thing but now I want some (and it’s not even 9.15am here).

        5. Don*

          In all things, moderation. Including moderation.

          Sometimes you need a good binge. Maybe we can start a cultural idea – “the detox from detox.”

  5. Terrysg*

    #3, so what was the company like? What did George say to clarify things?

    And you absolutely did the right thing leaving, it’s no good to you or them if you know the position won’t work out.

  6. Eat My Squirrel*

    I wish I had thought of eating an amount of mozzarella sticks heretofore unheard of by humankind before we ended up eating crab legs for thanksgiving dinner after I spent half the day crying because we couldn’t see family. That would have been an epic binge.

    Ah well. There’s always next year.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      e-hugs if you want them, because I hear you on the sadness of being far from family on Thanksgiving.
      But also here’s my attempt at humor: Count your blessings! For some of us, crab legs for dinner = severe case of hives, if not an episode of full-blown anaphlactic shock.
      Jalapeno pepper poppers would cause enormous gastric misery. Likewise the mozza sticks, chicken nuggets, and deep-fried ravioli. Some of us are stuck with sugary comfort food. :-(

      1. Eat My Squirrel*

        Eh. I’m sensitive to FODMAPs, so the vast majority of plants cause “enormous gastric misery,” including things as ubiquitous as garlic and onions. Sigh. But I’d be happy to share a jar of dairy free, gluten free, allergen free vanilla frosting with you. ;) Simple Mills brand.. it’s my go to safe sugar. lol.

  7. Clefairy*

    OP3, man, if someone is weaponizing radical candor, that sounds a WHOLE lot more like they fall into Obnoxious Aggression but they don’t have the emotional depth to understand the difference. Blech. Glad you got out of there!

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Frankly, if someone tells me they are using radical candor, I assume it is weaponized. I know the expression comes from a business book I have no intention of reading. Even stipulating that what that book describes is not obnoxious aggression, people who talk about how candid they are almost always turn out to be unbearable to be around. Also, what is the difference between “radical candor” and simply being candid? Candor clearly is sometimes–perhaps often–called for. But what makes it radical?

      1. The Vulture*

        Well, to be fair, I think that IS in the book, which I have also not read. And I believe what makes it radical is the kindness, which is what the “weaponized candor” people tend to be missing.

        1. TheMightyRosebud*

          IMO and IME, it’s a cover for behaving badly, lacking diplomacy, and not taking a step back to consider the bigger picture. They’re all about the book, but they haven’t the depth to understand it in practice. I so wanted to be radically candid when I resigned, but I realized, it’s not my job to teach him what as a VP, he should already know. As my partner says – not my monkey, not my circus.

      2. urguncle*

        Absolutely same. I have seen that especially for men in higher positions, radical candor becomes a way to just forget anything that they have ever thought of doing more gently and get rid of it. Can’t handle being berated? Well, that’s not very radcan of you. It’s a fun thing for them to give, but they can’t handle receiving it.

  8. TheMightyRosebud*

    #3LW here: He was happy to provide context and clarity and said it reinforced his confidence in me and why they needed me on board. I’d rather not recount all the nonsense I experienced and saw (it was exhausting enough to live through it), but suffice to say, I am so glad I’m not there. I was fortunate that I had several options and happy that I’ve landed well.

    1. Samantha F*

      Can you share whether the strange job description really was based on George’s past experiences? Did you get any insight into what he was thinking? For example, did George expect people to meet deadlines even if they had family members who were sick? Was any kind of social interaction discouraged?

      1. TheMightyRosebud*

        I have no idea. It seemed to be an amalgamation of input pulled from various team members, including very junior staff with no professional experience. And no HR oversight. I thought he was correcting it based on my feedback, but instead, he turned it into another document by which to “evaluate” whether or not I was “living up to the company’s ideals.” He claimed “at all personal costs” was merely them trying to express they wanted you to meet your obligations, for example. As for the social stuff, it meant you needed to be comfortable working from home and not having access to F2F meetings. But honestly, those things were the least of it.

        1. Samantha F*

          Interesting. So it seems the strange job posting was a general reflection of their lack of professionalism rather than pointing to specific issues. Anyway, glad you got out, and thanks for sending the update!

        2. Beth (not that Beth, the other Beth)*

          So the alert for “at all personal costs” can be downgraded from Defcon 1 to Defcon 4, but “living up to the company’s ideals” puts it right back up at Defcon 1.

    2. Captain of the No Fun Department*

      I think I may be working for this company now. Everything matches, except the names of course. I was hired in an HR manager role because of cultural problems. I started a month ago and submitted my resignation yesterday.
      My favorite thing about the great resignation is how much easier it is to leave bad employers.

  9. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #2 – it was the same for my wife, and me, in 2020. This year will be somewhat different.

    However, it was not as bad as 2004 – our daughter (military) was in Iraq, in a war zone.

    I nearly lost it on Boxing Day, which is a traditional extension of Christmas (I am an American but my aunt has Bermudian ties, so we celebrated it in the northeast). My sister lamented “oh my – my daughter is in California and I can’t be with my daughter over the holiday” — I reminded her angrily that I’d like to be able to get on a plane and be with my daughter after a five hour flight.

  10. I'm Just Here for the Cats*

    #3 I’m sorry you went through that (glad that it only took you a few days) but I’m not sorry that we got to see what this job was like!

  11. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#1 — it sounds as though you handled this in a kind and professional manner. I like the idea of a group approach to mentoring — after all, even the best mentor doesn’t know everything and it sounds like a good way to help new hires build connections.

  12. kanzeon88*

    OP #1, I’m so glad to hear that you found a balance that you’re happy with! Sounds like you handled it really well. I’d love to hear any changes the company made to the mentorship program that were particularly helpful. I’ve been involved in some of those programs and always wondered what the secret is!

  13. Wisteria*

    My old job had an end of year shut down, and last year, I also spent it on the couch watching TV. I hope Burn Out PTO OP from the next post reads this, bc I was burnt out AF at that place, and that week on the couch really helped. Raise a toast to Couch Week!

  14. starsaphire*

    When I was at ToxicOldJob, there was a point at which we were super understaffed, and everyone cheered when a new person was hired to start on a Monday.

    Then on Wednesday, the Empty Suit in the Corner Office burst into our room at 7 am and went on his usual screaming tirade about how no one was ever in their chairs on time (btw, we had flex time, plus we had a 4/10 schedule and many of us took Wednesday as our off day) and just tore everyone up for about five minutes, then stomped off.

    New Guy says, “Does that happen a lot?”

    We just shrugged and said, “Every once in a while, yeah.”

    New Guy then emailed our manager a resignation, turned off his computer, and disappeared.

    I smile every time I think about that.

  15. Liz T*

    THREE offers???

    Gosh that’s depressing to me. I realized pretty quickly that my current job was a bait-and-switch, and 2.5 *years* later I still haven’t been able to find another job. Got two more rejection emails this week.

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