updates: the virtual socializing, moving but not resigning, 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. My boss wants us to do virtual socializing all the time (#2 at the link)

Thank you for your advice! I did just stop attending happy hours all together and used grad school as an excuse.

I mentioned these to my mentor, and she was horrified. My mentor is very good friends with the Director in charge of HR policies. They are going to update training and talk to all managers about social activities during COVID. They are going to cover virtual social events in the HR training.

Bob did end the virtual happy hours over the summer in hopes that in-person happy hours would be happening. Well, Delta happened and the return to the office was delayed, so there were no happy hours! Hooray!

Outside the happy hours, Bob and his boss were paranoid about people leaving our department and blocked all possible professional development opportunities. Bob had told me on my development plan to lead an initiative then consistently blocked all opportunities. The last one was particularly frustrating. I was the number 2, and the project lead was leaving for a promotion. He constantly told Bob and Bob’s boss “OP should lead this. She is the only person that knows this initiative and I trust to lead this”. Well, they decided to bring in someone “more experienced” to lead it instead. Even the more-experienced person thought this was a stupid decision because I was basically leading it anyway since she had no familiarity with the initiative I was feeling hopeless at work and pretty sad that I was in this big city to work in an industry with a job I didn’t like.

So, I applied for a job in my hometown, where my entire extended family still lives. A big company posted a fully remote job I was a good fit for. I worked really hard on tailoring my resume and cover letter for the job posting, and I GOT THE JOB!!! I was able to start the new job in October and then move to my hometown before Thanksgiving. The new company has nice people with a good culture that has fully optional social events during work hours. My new boss (ironically enough named Bob in real life) is also a genuinely nice person that wants to see us succeed.

There is more to life than work, and I’m so happy I was able to make this move to be with the people outside of work that are important to me.

Thank you for all your advice on my letter, cover letters, resumes, and interviews!

2. Visible nipples (#2 at the link)

I wanted to thank you for answering my letter. I felt much better after reading the supportive comments. One of the things I didn’t mention is that I have fibromyalgia, so I’m limited in which bras I can comfortably wear for extended periods of time. (Though I do wear bras to work, since that was a question.) I did try the petal things, but they just seemed more obvious in a weirder way (not sure if it was just me or not). I’m still working on finding something that is comfortable and works, but I’m also working on being less self-conscious. I have also realized that I’m not at work to worry about my nipples and that I have a right to not feel sexualized just because I have nipples. Some of the commentariat pointed out that other people are probably less aware of it than I am, so I focus on that.

3. Can I leave right after getting a bonus? (#4 at the link)

I got one of the jobs right after I got my bonus, so I decided to treat them as separate matters and just go ahead and quit. Well, my boss went out of their way to make me stay and gave me a 35% raise with a new title to better reflect my responsibilities. But that wasn’t all! During the rest of the year things kept being added to my plate and I ended up on the verge of burn out so exactly a year after I tried to quit, I tried to do it again… and my boss gave me another 25% raise (!!). I wish I could say I was stronger to cut the cord but I’ve decided to stay (again!) although this time around I was asked to commit to staying and not interview for other jobs for 2 years and I got to hire someone to help me with my work. I’m hopeful this will help break the cycle of getting overwhelmed, trying to leave and balking when money gets thrown around. Let’s see where things are in a year…

4. I’ve moved three hours from my office but not resigned (#3 at the link)

My situation changed a lot since I first wrote you. Unfortunately it wasn’t job related, but family related. My father caught covid at the memory care facility he was in and had to be hospitalized. He was fully vaxxed but ended up passing away at the beginning of July. My brother was in a fatal motorcycle accident in September, which had me traveling to the west coast to care for my sister in law and their three daughters. My work was very understanding during these months and I used most of my sick time to care for my family and myself. We worked on a transition plan and I finished working for them in September. To be honest I don’t know how I would have worked. It’s been a terrible loss for me and work just isn’t a priority at this point.

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

I’ve been at this new job for 5 months now, and it’s fantastic. I’m getting the opportunity to do great work, and I’m getting noticed by VPs and Partners, which bodes quite well for my success here. My director is taking an active hand in grooming me for management and advancement. I’m struggling a bit with impostor syndrome, as I still have a hard time believing that I’m worth what they’re paying me and that I am as good at this as they seem to think I am, but it’s manageable! And I only go into the office for team functions (someone’s in from out of town, and we all go to lunch or something) – otherwise it’s 100% WFH, which is ideal for me.

At the old job? Since the beginning of 2021, 12 people have left. 5 of them (including me!) have ended up at my current company. The remaining few have been folded in to become a satellite of another office; I hear it’s still not a great environment. I’m so glad I moved on.

{ 67 comments… read them below }

  1. Observer*

    #1 – The irony is rich. In their paranoia to keep people from leaving their department, they wound up losing someone that they themselves knew is highly valuable. I wonder how your boss and grandboss reacted when you gave notice?

    1. Artemesia*

      I just watched someone get stifled by their boss, not promoted and be undercut in some excellent initiative and take this as a hint that it was time to move on — and they got a great new job at a whopping increase in already good pay and a great signing bonus. Boss? Shocked, shocked that someone under appreciated but highly effective could go somewhere else. It is like the people who block promotions or transfers out of their department because they rely on them staying and doing the grunt work and voila — they leave for another company and everyone but the employee who sensibly moved loses.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah. I can sort of understand the motivations behind the blocking, even if it would be totally unacceptable in any company that truly cared about retaining and motivating good employees, but I really can’t understand why anyone would be shocked to leave after being thwarted like that. The hubris is incredible.

  2. Heidi*

    Re Letter 1: The boss was paranoid about people leaving, and his solution was to make the job a total dead-end? That…is not a good plan. I’m willing to bet that he was shocked when people started leaving.

    1. Observer*

      I’d be willing to bet that it was “proof” that they were right. “See! People are leaving! If we gave them opportunities and training they would have taken that with them!”

    2. Prof Space Cadet*

      For some reason, the letter made me think of the two Bobs from the movie “Office Space” who were brought in to manage layoffs. I realize it doesn’t quite fit in this case (since the New Bob in LW’s case sounds like a good manager), but that’s how I’m picturing the old boss and grandboss.

  3. RunShaker*

    OP1, wow, what was Bob & his boss thinking on blocking all professional opportunities??? That’s a sure fire way to get employees to leave. Congrats on your new position and glad to hear all worked out.

  4. Florida Fan 15*

    “Bob and his boss were paranoid about people leaving our department and blocked all possible professional development opportunities”

    Nothing like letting your fear turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Bob sounds clueless at how to be a successful manager. Although I don’t know if much can be expected from someone who “said one of his biggest achievements was getting his entire department to attend after-work happy hours” (original letter).

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Bob would fit in with the toxic positivity crowd. “Thanks for a worldwide pandemic for forcing my employees to attend my happy hour!”

  5. Samantha F*

    OP #4 – what a shocking update… I am so sorry. Your original post sounded nothing like this. I am hoping for the best for you and your family.

    1. Anonym*

      OP #4 I am so, so sorry. Wishing all of you whatever form of peace and healing you desire. My sincerest condolences.

    2. infopubs*

      OP 4, my deepest condolences on your losses. Taking care of your family is so important. May fond memories help you all find some peace.

    3. PolarVortex*

      There’s no good way to say that I’m sorry life has sucked so hard for you right now. Take care of yourself and your family.

  6. Princess Deviant*

    My sincere condolences OP4. That’s just awful to hear and completely understandable that work isn’t your priority right now.

  7. Princess Deviant*

    OP3, are you obligated to stay for 2 years after the raises? Coz that sounds strange to me. Like they can’t force you to stay.

    1. mlem*

      Well, in some countries, some fields, and one US state, contracts are common. And the offer could be structured as a retention bonus that has to be repaid (or won’t be achieved) if LW3 doesn’t stay.

      From the outside, it doesn’t sound like a good idea, but I hope for LW’3s sake it works out.

    2. Ally McBeal*

      It doesn’t sound like there was any sort of contractual agreement – presumably just a verbal discussion. And even with a contract – contracts can be broken, for a price. I actually think the arrangement is a mutually beneficial one – employer has a reasonable amount of surety that they can at least hire and train (in two years) a second-in-command in case OP does decide to leave at the end of that period. And OP got a whopping SIXTY percent raise as well as that second-in-command to spread out some of the duties.

      1. This is the thing*

        One person’s “60% raise!” is another person’s “wow, they were underpaying you by close to 70%.”

        1. LisTF*

          This! OP if they can afford to raise your salary by that much I hope you realize how much they were taking advantage of you. And it makes me wonder what else you’re accepting from them that you shouldn’t be. This does not sound like a good place to stay.

    3. Recycle Bin*

      OP gets set to leave, boss offers more money, OP takes the money, boss dumps more work on OP, OP gets set to leave, boss offers more money, OP takes the money, boss dumps more work on OP… We’ve all seen that cycle.

  8. Observer*

    #4 – You had a REALLY hard time! I’m so sorry.

    It does sound like it was just as well that you were transitioning out. I hope that you’ll be in a better space to re-enter the workforce soon.

  9. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP3: So much to object to about this situation! Your boss certainly has you under his/her thumb. I think OP should have left the first time, and if not, should certainly have left the second time after the burn-out. Wouldn’t surprise me if OP is still underpaid, given the huge counter offers. Of course OP can quit after getting a bonus–super common in my industry to do that. And in my industry, a bonus is absolutely for past performance and is based on past performance and, as paid compensation for past performance, there are no claw-backs attached (such as you might find with a sign-on bonus). I don’t know how OP “committed” to staying and not interviewing (another bad idea), but I hope it wasn’t in writing.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Yeah, I’m sorry to say it, OP3, but your bosses’ promises haven’t really amounted to anything so far. I hope I’m wrong and that they do everything they promised you they’d do, but that’s not really what looks likely to an outside observer.

  10. Bookworm*

    #4: I’m so sorry for your losses. I’m glad they helped you transition out and were understanding. Wishing you the best.

    Thanks to all the OPs for writing in and updating us!

  11. Candi*

    #4 -I’m so sorry you’ve suffered so much loss. I hope you and your family are doing well.

    #1 -once more for the people in the back: People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. And this manager and his manager seem really, really unreasonable.

  12. Nannerdoodle*

    OP3, I know Alison has said it many times, but the issue with a counter offer is that even if the pay increases, the rest of the problems stay the same/get worse. And it sounds like that’s been the case for you and will continue to if you keep staying. I hope you can get out.

  13. Squirrel Nutkin*

    I’m so very sorry for your many losses, OP #4. I hope you’re able to rest and take care of yourself a bit before going back into the fray of work. Hang in there, and be as kind to yourself as you’re able during such difficult times.

  14. Pricilla Queen of the Office*

    Yeah OP3 let us know if this is a contractual requirement or just a good faith handshake. If it’s a good faith handshake, give it until things get bad again but don’t feel the need to stick it out the whole time.

  15. whynot*

    Oh, LW#4, I am so sorry for your losses and for the year you’ve had. I hope that you find some peace and rest this holiday season, and that when you are ready to return to the working world you find a good spot to be.

  16. Dana Lynne*

    No. 4 — I am so sorry. Wishing you comfort and better days ahead. Such a terrible pile up of losses.

  17. RagingADHD*

    Somebody please tell me that LW#1 didn’t just cheer for the Delta variant killing more people, because they didn’t want to go to happy hours (that they weren’t going to anyway).

    Yay, Delta? Seriously?

    1. Tiny*

      They were saying hooray to no more happy hours. It’s fairly clear. No need to assume bad faith, many here would phrase it similarly.

    2. JSPA*

      Cheering the relative timing, I’d say. (I mean, it’s not like Delta was somehow not going to happen; it’s great for that particular office–and for anyone else who dug in their heels about being non-essential and staying remote–that they were not already meeting in person, and thus exposing / exposed, when Delta swept in.)

      And having them home was also a clear good for everyone who did get the Delta variant that the emergency rooms were not slammed an additional 10%, 20%, 30%, or there would have been even more fatalities.

      I’ve been overwhelmingly flooded with joy after an out-of-control vehicle missed me by a whisker–even though the result wasn’t exactly perfect for the driver who’d fallen asleep at the wheel. (Sure, I was also glad in a general way that he didn’t seem more hurt than whiplash and a smashed car, and relieved that nobody else was hit, either. But I’m surely not immoral for taking a particular interest in my own good fortune?)

    3. Candi*

      I’m glad that covid meant interest was frozen on my student loans.

      But if I were given the choice, rather than it happening anyway, I’d rather have no covid, interest, and people alive.

    4. Tali*

      What a bizarre read of the phrasing. It’s very clear they were not cheering for Delta killing people, but for the lack of happy hours. Why would you assign malice where there so clearly is none?

      1. boo delta*

        Then don’t say “yay Delta!” — “yay no happy hours” would have conveyed that message better.

  18. GreyjoyGardens*

    LW #4, that is SO much loss to pile on your plate in such a short time. My condolences. I hope you have a great support system and can access therapy and/or a grief support group.

  19. Sarra N. Dipity*

    (I’m LW #5 here)

    update to the update – there are now SEVEN people from my former company at my new one. What a mess.

    1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

      Not a mess for your new company! Look at all the talent they now have access to, plus the ability to bring on board people with established working relationships.

  20. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    Letter Writer 4: I am so, so sorry for your huge losses and what you are going through. This internet stranger is sending you warm virtual hugs.

  21. JSPA*

    LW#4, you had your priorities right, being with family (close and extended) during this nightmare time. May that bedrock be a source of support and a basis for healing, in the years to come. All condolences.

  22. Lady_Lessaa*

    To LW #4, peace of mind and spirit. You are doing the right thing. May better things come your way, at the right time.

    LW1, and 5. Good News. Thank you for the updates, and may all see the same kind of success.

  23. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#2 — I think this is one of those things that is terribly obvious to you, but not so much to everyone around you. As long as you’re dressed appropriately by the standards of your industry or field, try not to give it much thought.

    Full disclosure: I just retired from a position in higher education, where schlumpy is considered professional apparel.

  24. Clare*

    LW#2, if it helps, my instinctive reaction if I ever notice women at work with visible nipples is: “Wow, that looks so comfortable! I wish I had her confidence”. Then I forget about it, because I don’t really care about people’s wardrobes that much (despite over-scrutinizing my own). I hope you end up with a solution that you’re happy with, whether it’s deciding you don’t care, or finding a comfortable cover up.

    1. Paisley*

      Re: LW#2, I just wanted to point out that this isn’t only a female issue. My boss (who is male) is a big guy (ex football player) and his nipples show in almost all of the shirts he wears, like, very visible. I just figure, we’re all humans and have nipples so what’s the big deal.

  25. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Sending love and condolences from Germany OP 4! My family has gone through similar losses recently and virtual therapy has helped keep my head above water. Whether they comment or not, a lot of people on this site are thinking of you.

  26. WoodswomanWrites*

    #4, I am so sorry to hear of your family’s losses. This internet stranger is sending you warm thoughts during such a difficult time.

  27. Feral Fairy*

    I would just remind LW3 that their relationship to their employer is a two-way street. You can “commit” to not looking for another job for two years, but I’d hope that your employer would in turn be committed to addressing the issues (beyond just pay) that have led you to almost quit two times. If employers want to retain their employees, they should do their best to ensure that they are not expecting you to do the work of two different positions when you are one person (for example).The fact that your company has tried to keep you on when you were trying to leave indicates that they do not want to have to look for your replacement. It seems like you are nervous about the potential conflict that could arise if you advocate for yourself, but I suspect that you have more leverage than you realize.

  28. Mmm*

    I have fibromyalgia too and have the exact same bra problem. The best bra I have found so far is True and Co and I size up for max comfort. I hope this helps!

  29. River Otter*


    I’m hopeful this will help break the cycle of getting overwhelmed, trying to leave and balking when money gets thrown around

    Hiring someone is great! You might not always be able to hire a new person, though. You should work on a variety of strategies that you can call on to manage your workload and your feelings of overwhelm. Your boss can be your ally here—they were willing to give you raises and hire another person to retain you. Use that willingness to work with you to find solutions on an ongoing basis. Don’t wait until things hit a boiling point. Other jobs are likely to also have a heavy workload, so if you leave this job without developing some strategies to manage both the workload and your feelings about it, you will have the same problems every place you go.

  30. GarlicSaltBae*


    I found a solution to this issue, and hopefully it can help others. I’m extremely large chested while being skinny everywhere else, so I look a little silly. I need smoothing underneath all my work tops so this is what I devised:
    Wear your non-padded bra, then wear a tighter tank top over top of it. I have a spanx type tank top that works well and tucks into slacks without being bulky. I took the bra pads out of a sports bra type thing and I sandwich it in between. So bra, pads, tank top. I can be in the most freezing environment and you don’t see a thing. Good luck fellow busties!

  31. Salsa Verde*

    The situation for #3 makes me so angry – clearly they had the money to give to OP originally, they only wanted to give it up when they thought they might lose her. It’s so frustrating to me that that’s so common in business. If the person is worth it, PAY THEM!!! It might not be the case for OP3, but by the time I get to interviewing for another job, I’m done with a place. No matter if they try to pay me more, I’m mentally done, so I might take their money for a few more months, but it’s never going to be the same and I’ll always have one foot out the door.

    It just seems so shady that they don’t have the money when one asks nicely and shows why they earned it, but then suddenly the money is there when they think they might actually lose the employee.

  32. Calamity Janine*

    sure, i’m days late and dollars short here, but shoutout to number 2 from the achey bad body trenches! as doctors inch closer to being convinced to steal my bones on a limited basis in order to make my shoulder not be such a brat, i am sitting here dreaming of when i am free of pain enough to wear bras. but alas, my spoons remain in deficit, and the twins continue to suffer due to the ravages of gravity. someday, poor badonkadonks. someday you will be able to rest easy, and the brave boulder holders will come back from the wars. but sadly, that day is not today…

    my somewhat slapdash solution? layering. having a nice cardigan on top means there’s less chance for things to poke through. maybe look at dresses that are a bit more like pinafores – something you can wear a blouse underneath so that you’ve got double coverage. (as a bonus, a lot of these will be in heavier fabrics. only the most determined of diamond nips bust on through some corduroy.) plus the cardigan does nice double duty if the office is cold. the term i’ve seen often on taobao, auto-translated from chinese, is “air conditioning tops” – shrugs that are meant to be tossed on not because the outdoors is cold, but because the indoors is! living in the south where it’s rare that the a/c doesn’t kick on at some point within mere days after the new year (quickest-to-new-year’s-aircon record currently stands at 13 minutes), this is a very useful concept. i particularly like modcloth’s cropped cardigans, lightweight but not *too* lightweight, stretchy and comfy, with nice buttons, and in a pleasing array of colors.

    and if all else fails, just wear the most bonkers pairs of work-appropriate earrings you can find. if you are sporting things like – hold on let me look at my jewlery cabinet here – “tiny bottles of coca-cola”, “resin charms that look like a goldfish floating in a plastic bag being taken home from the pet store”, “small enamel wreath of flowers and stars with a prancing white cat in the middle looking absolutely delighted with itself”, and “holographic print sheet plastic cut into the shape of gigantic bows”. okay, not all of those would be work-appropriate, but nobody is going to be looking at your nipples when you have something charmingly eccentric hanging out on your ears instead! for bonus points, just theme the earrings to your profession. you work at a furniture design corporation? great, there’s now a polly-pocket-sized bedroom set bedecking your ears. you work in the medical field? your earrings are now tiny stethoscopes. you work at a bookstore? your earrings are now tiny books. you work at a financial institution doing market research? your earrings are now little acrylic cut-outs of graphs showing the profit line going up and up. these earrings all exist. i have seen them. and really, with some shrinky-dink material and gumption, you could even have your earrings directly show slides from your big powerpoint presentation! …okay, maybe not those last couple of ones, but still. the point stands.

    i wouldn’t even necessarily be worried about some of them being unprofessional! i feel like professional dress and how much you can push it is best conceptualized as a ‘point system’. you ‘bank’ points with conservative and plain cuts, fabric choices, and colors sticking to the norm. and you can then ‘spend’ them. some workplaces are very strict about that budget, mind you. but some non-offensive, quirky-not-nsfw earrings is something you can easily ‘spend that budget’ on. they are small, not easily noticed from a distance, and not that distracting (despite my earlier comments – they really aren’t, but neither are nipples lol). it occupies approximately the same sphere as amusing tie prints or funny socks that are only seen for quick glimpses underneath work slacks. it is something where it’s easy to “get away” with spending those i’ve-been-good-everywhere-else points. and, i’m not gonna lie, they’re fantastic conversation starters. people normally don’t see whimsical earrings, but it’s small and non-offensive enough that nobody is going to be upset by them – just delighted.

    also, real talk, slapping on a pair of pretty earrings is a great way to counteract the “oh god i’m in the middle of a flare-up and my everything hurts but i still need to go to work and Do A Gender”. my pcos-related chin hairs and broad shoulders may possibly read as “wtf is this” while bringing on that uncomfortable “oh so this is that dysphoria thing my trans friends keep talking about huh” misery of simply being too sick to feel like yourself in gender-related ways. but you slap some pretty earrings on there and AHAHA, TOLD YOU I WAS A GIRL!, in a way that doesn’t get uncomfortable the same way a bra does! low spoons cost, high dividends.

    i may have just ended up doing nothing much here but wanting to go browse for more earrings, but what can i say. there’s just so many of them. and i’m good at niffling around aliexpress and other direct-from-china sellers in order to get the wacky earrings at appealing under-five-bucks-a-pair prices.

    welp. every man has his vices, and mine are silly earrings and comfy socks. as far as vices go, could be worse, eh?

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