updates: the upset colleague, the evaluation input, 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. Colleague was upset that I didn’t support his bid for promotion (open thread, commenting as “Academic glass half full”)

Recap — I voted no on an academic promotion and the failed candidate expressed extreme unhappiness at my betrayal and stopped speaking to me personally, privately, and in public meetings

I took the advice from commenters to heart. This was on the candidate and I should continue to be professional in all my interactions and leave the candidate alone.

Due to personal issues I had to take a leave a month after I wrote in, so it was easy not to engage with this person.

A month later, I was asked to serve on a small committee to help the candidate rework their promotional packet with two other colleagues. The candidate was not professional in the interactions, and continued to waste time complaining about the “unfairness” of the process and why his original packet should have been enough for promotion.

My small committee and I persevered, keeping focus on the task at hand. I continued to be professional and civil in all interactions. The candidate re-filed in August. (I heard from my supervisor.)

Today after one of my classes, the candidate came to me in the hallway and apologized for their behavior over the past year. He said whatever happens he will be grateful for my efforts on his behalf.

Here is where the AAM advice on how to accept an apology had taken root. I DID NOT say “that’s okay, it has been a hard year, pandemic…bygones.” I said, “Thank you. I appreciate you saying this and recognizing how difficult this experience has been for me.”

I would never have done that without you.

2. Employer said they don’t care about cost of living (#4 at the link)

I wrote to you recently about my employer’s poor response to a question about cost of living increases. I’d been feeling increasingly frustrated with my job because it takes a heavy emotional toll, the pay is generally not great, and the retirement plan is just bad unless you intend to spend your entire career there. I also found out I was having some health issues that are in part caused by stress, and then my personal life took a huge hit shortly after. All in all, I was starting to feel like I was drowning, but I felt so guilty about wanting to leave so soon (about a year after being hired), that I was really struggling to get started on any kind of job search.

Well, a job I’d worked at before happened to be open, so I figured I could at least pull myself together enough to apply for that. I loved that job, and only left because it was part time and I needed to go back to full time work. Turns out, some things have changed and the position has been made full time, with the opportunity to expand the duties into some areas I’d always been interested in, but never had time to get into in 20 hours a week. I obviously had a huge advantage being able to hit the ground running, and they offered me the position!

For the first time in my career, I also negotiated a higher starting salary than what they initially offered (about 13%). I’ve only ever worked in government and positions at the lower end tend to have a hiring salary that’s pretty much take it or leave it, so I was scared to try, but reading Ask A Manager let me know that what I was asking for was appropriate, and it worked. I won’t be making much more than my current job, but it’s enough to make up for the difference in insurance premiums, and with a significantly better retirement and better leave, I’m happy with it.

I’ll miss the people I work with now, who are all wonderful even when the job itself isn’t, but I’m so thrilled to go back to something I enjoyed so much. And bonus, my new/old job has never caused me to wake up panicking in the middle of the night, which is something I really took for granted! Anyway, thank you for your response to my original question, because it helped me to see that even outsiders could recognize that there were issues, and thank you for answering all the questions over the years that pushed me past my guilt and helped me get to a much better situation, overall.

3. Giving input for my manager’s review (#3 at the link)

I did bring this up at my manager’s review, and it went over really well. She actually had ended up giving her resignation notice this morning and privately told me it was because she felt burnt out at this company, and hearing me mention it validated her feelings and empowered her to ultimately take a role she was offered a few weeks ago. Her boss reached out to me this afternoon and offered me a pay raise to take on some of my manager’s responsibilities, and said they would hire two people to replace her, to make sure no one else on the team ever feels pushed out the door due to burnout. All in all, a positive development, and I’m excited my boss gets to move onto something new!

{ 21 comments… read them below }

  1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

    #3 is interesting to me. Seems like I’m the initial letter LW thought her boss was a bit of a crazy workaholic, but in reality she simply really did have too much to do. Which on the one hand, kudos to grand boss for recognizing that, and splitting the duties moving forward. On the other hand, grand boss let it get to that point in the first place.

    If I were LW, while it’s great that she’s getting a promotion, I’d keep an eye on responsibility creep. It’s possible grand boss is the type to keep piling on load, and only realize it’s too much when the horse collapses. Or when some one says something.

  2. Antilles*

    #2: If they couldn’t afford to pay a 2% cost of living raise, I’ll bet they’re having a tough time backfilling that position.
    They might have *said* they offer raises “to keep pace with cost of paying employees”, but if your supposed keep-pace raises aren’t even matching inflation, there’s not a chance their salary bands are *actually* keeping up with market rates.

    1. Rachel in NYC*

      yeah, I work someplace where our COLA raises are 2-3% so its rough if you don’t get a promotion raise every few years. but luckily the retirement benefits are actually somewhat decent.

      plus I live in NYC which has a lot of definitions of affordable housing.

    2. LW 2*

      I worked in human services, so most of us went into it knowing we were going to be somewhat underpaid, but yeah, they seem to have a pretty hard time with hiring and retention. The salaries aren’t really even close to competitive – my job was similar to a paralegal, and paid $10-20k less than paralegals make anywhere else in this city, even at entry level. It felt like they figured we went into human services because we cared, so they could pay for shit and we’d stay for the sake of our clients (which many people do).

  3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    Well done, LW1! I completely understand the impulse to minimize/excuse/attribute to outside forces past behavior someone is apologizing to me for even when I know damned well it was 99.9999999% just them being jerks. You are my hero for your response

    1. MissMeghan*

      I so love #1. That’s something I’ve started doing more from reading AAM too. When someone really owes an apology and gives it, saying thank you instead of minimizing. You can be gracious with someone and move forward without minimizing the impact they had.

  4. Res Admin*

    #1 He is lucky he already had tenure. I am shocked that anyone going up for full Professor would turn in something like that and even more shocked that his supervisor would allow it. At first I though it was a newbie who didn’t know better, however for Professor, he has done this before. My Dept Chair is well known for refusing to submit packets that do not meet her exacting standards–which is probably why we rarely have a packet denied.

    I am very happy that you had a good outcome and that he recognized his error and apologized. Never feel bad for upholding standards. You would be doing no one–and certain not your department/college an favors by pushing someone forward who couldn’t even be bothered to put together a proper packet. (And he doesn’t want to know what a packet for Distinguished Professor looks like… that makes the one for Professor look like kindergarten).

    1. DJ*

      What got me: his formatting was wrong! I know that seems small to those who’ve not done the academic thing. But I’d be willing to bet his formatting is on-point when he submits to academic journals. And for when he applied for faculty positions. He’s need dealing with formatting since he applied to grad school. Maybe even before. And frankly, that is usually the easiest part of a paper/application/proposal/etc.

      It’s kinda like having a chef come in for a tasting/demonstration with dull knives. They could be the best chef ever, but you’re going to wonder if he’s sloppy there, where else is there sloppiness.

      1. LizB*

        That really got me too! Even in my undergrad, when you were submitting a major project, you could expect to be docked points if you didn’t follow the formatting guidelines. It’s such an easy thing to get right and a lazy thing to mess up.

      2. It's Growing!*

        This reminded me very much of my daughter in the 11th grade. She was an excellent writer and had been in accelerated classes since 6th grade. English was her best subject and she hadn’t had less than an A in forever. For whatever reason, she had started using a variation on e.e. cummings punctuation (i.e. none) because ?; sort of a variation on dotting your i’s with hearts in middle school? Her 11th grade AP teacher took one look and failed her first paper. She had a hissy fit. She had another hissy fit on her second paper. Her teacher didn’t back down (go, teacher!) and the much offended daughter eventually began adding back correct punctuation. One can sort of understand this sort of thing in middle and high school, but a professor? Give me a break *eye roll.*

    2. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Holy moly! How can someone who has already managed to get tenure manage to turn in such a sloppy promotion package? Was it hubris? Entitlement? A (catastrophically incorrect) sense that their promotion to full professor was just a formality, so they didn’t have to worry about the paperwork?

      I do sort of get why they might have felt betrayed by LW1’s “no” vote, particularly since LW1 said that their colleague’s work merited promotion even if the packet didn’t. But it’s still on the colleague for not taking the effort to put together the kind of packet that will get approved.

      1. Rachel in NYC*

        he had to believe that it was just a formality…

        but than why would there be a multitude of workshops on putting together these packets if they didn’t care about the packets. was this guy playing a game of ostrich with himself?

      2. Prof Space Cadet*

        It’s also possible that he was oblivious to the formatting issues. At one of my previous universities, a lot of faculty were initially tenured in the 1990s or early 2000s under less stringent standards and would probably not make tenure if they went up today. They also tend to have a hard time when they go up for full professor because their portfolio isn’t up to park.

        1. anonymized grad student*

          [sarcasm incoming] My favorite thing is when tenured faculty who are currently serving on hiring committees hop on twitter to go, Gee whiz these applicants are incredible–I’d never get hired if I were applying now!

    3. Kevin Sours*

      I’ve known some professors who couldn’t organize a piss up in a brewery. Time management issues that would put a checked out senior to shame. But *they* know how to pull it together when it comes time to put together a grant proposal or a publication. It might go out super priority overnight for $$$’s in mailing fees because they waited until the last minute than dithers for sixty seconds but was damn well going to be *right*.

      The inability to put together a portfolio as directed calls into question basic qualifications for the job.

    4. LW #1*

      I was trying not to second guess or read his mind but commenters pretty much nailed it.
      1. entitlement, “I’m a rockstar in my field and I shouldn’t have to prove it” (wouldn’t it be nice instead of having to put together a promotional packet, we could just submit our CV and say hey why don’t you google me
      2. Covid- we have all been struggling with on-line teaching, pay reduction, multiple stressors etc.
      3. yes, the packet shouldn’t have gone past our director but again “covid”

      1. Retired Prof*

        LW, you are far more patient than I am. I was chair of the dept. committee for retention, tenure & promotion for many years. We are unionized so we *cannot* make RTP decisions on anything not in the file. I always met with junior faculty as they prepared their tenure files to make sure they did not screw up the format and required materials. If someone had ever given us a half-assed promotion file (which never happened to me) I would have chewed them out for wasting our time, and if they wanted to talk about betrayal I would have kicked it upstairs to the Dean’s office where her terrifying secretary would deal with the offender in no uncertain terms. That is just not acceptable. I’m glad the person finally realized what a jackass we was being.

        And just to annoy you the way it annoys me, in my husband’s R-1 department they have a staff member who prepares all the files – she has to nag faculty to get her all the pieces she needs. Unbelievable.

        1. LW #1*

          We are not union but…
          And yes, we aren’t supposed to consider any thing not in the packet in front if us- which in his case ran over 300 pages, un-indexed.
          We are R1. Our tenure and promotion process is onerous and frightening. Those who are not meeting expectations of national scholarship, service and outstanding teaching are counseled out in year three or risk losing their job after 6.
          I went up for tenure and promotion to Associate, early in year 4 ( bragging on myself) and went up for Full 4 years later (in year 7, I had published two books, a peer reviewed article in a journal of record, served on a prestigious nation committee, had significant University service, keynoted a national conference, led an international initiative, and was the target of a Book Banning campaign.)

          I believe part of my extreme disbelief was because I had just had been promoted to Full the year before.
          The packet felt like a part time job that summer of 2019.

  5. Bookworm*

    Yay to all the OPs! Especially #1: that was a kicker and I’m glad AAM helped (also gave me food for thought).

    Sorry you’re leaving behind people you like, #2, but happy it seems like you’re going to a better situation.

    #3, Happy that it looks like you’ll be getting helped, although unfortunate for your old manager and sorry it took that for the workplace to recognize that. Hope things improve!

  6. Chris*

    #3 is an amazing update! Good on the LW for pointing the issue out, good on the manager for taking the LW’s feedback to heart and acting on it in a way that will hopefully put her in a better place, and good on the employer for recognizing that burnout in this position is an organizational issue rather than just an individual issue and actually doing something to prevent it from reoccouring!

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