updates: the “words of essence,” the secretly relocating employee, 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. We start every meeting with “words of essence” and personality types

It’s been almost a year since I first wrote to you. First, thanks to the readers for lighthearted and funny ideas in the comments – I definitely tried some of them and at least I entertained myself! It became apparent that these “exercises” were really a way for the CEO to procrastinate having to make any real decisions. In the 3 years of their tenure as CEO, they accomplished no previously-established strategic goals, and, in fact, have spent the entire time developing the next strategic plan (3 years to plan a 3 year strategic plan! And it’s still not done!). All of this pointed to the incompetence of the CEO. Unfortunately, the CEO’s method of attempting to hide that incompetence led to a lot of micromanaging, taking credit for other people’s work/ideas, pitting employees against each other – every sign of a bad leader that you can think of! Since the beginning of the year, 3 of the 5 VPs have resigned (including me). The CEO wants to hire for these positions by a consensus of about 12 people on the admin team, so they have plausible deniability in case it doesn’t work out. As a result, none have been replaced yet (one position has been open since January!) The Board of Directors finally took notice after the 3rd VP resigned, but it was too late. I declined the offer of an exit interview because it felt like it might hurt my reputation in the long run – I was so frustrated and disgusted with the CEO, that I don’t think I would have looked very professional, and a couple of months later, I’m happy with that decision.

The biggest lesson I learned from reading your column and from my experience is that NOBODY is obligated to stay in a job that makes them miserable! No matter how great the cause is, employment is a business decision, and if you’re dreading going to work every day, it’s time to make a change. My being miserable also affected my spouse and kids – I didn’t even realize how upsetting it was for them to see me so unhappy. It was hard telling my staff I was leaving, but they understood and were supportive. Many coworkers confided in me that they were also frustrated, and realized that if I, a 10-year high-ranking employee, made the decision to leave, perhaps they could too. I also want to thank you for your cover letter and interviewing advice. I spent a lot of time on my cover letters, and got interviews for the jobs I was really interested in. It was a great experience to remember that I was interviewing them as much as they were interviewing me, because there was no way I wanted to end up in the same kind of toxic environment I was trying to leave.

My happy update: I started a new position about a month ago, with a 30% pay increase and a much better work/life balance. I feel appreciated for the first time in years, and the CEO seeks me out for my advice, unlike my previous CEO who dismissed my 25 years of experience.

2. My interviewer asked about my personal finances (first update here)

I appreciated your advice, which I put to good use, and the support from the commentors on both posts. It was really heartening and encouraging during a difficult time.

One hour after you posted my update, I finally got a job offer! It’s a unique role that, among other great things, might help me broaden my skill set and get out of my current niche (I hope I’m not jinxing it!). It’s at an organization with a mission I’m excited about. Most importantly, the team seemed incredibly professional and was not at all interested in my personal finances or marital status. Instead of suddenly questioning the “implications” in my resume after discussing it with me for hours, the hiring manager told me she was “excited to see [my] resume” during our first call, and she and the rest of the team continued to affirm what a great fit my background was throughout the hiring process. I even used some of your other tips to research this organization’s corporate culture and to successfully negotiate salary for the first time in my career!

After almost a year and a half, this soul-crushing job search is finally over. Thank you again for all of your advice, and to the hundreds of strangers who encouraged me in the comments. You were all right that there was something better out there, even during a pandemic recession.

3. How do I tell my brand new job I’m leaving for a better offer?

I ended up getting the offer at the new company, but it took a few weeks longer than they originally had told me it would. In the meantime, I was learning that the company I was currently working at was a bit of a trainwreck. In my first day shadowing client meetings, two of the clients informed us that they were leaving because they didn’t see value in our company or product. On top of that, internal training and processes were pretty much nonexistent. I had no idea how I was performing because after the first few weeks, my manager stopped checking in on me or providing feedback. No one seemed to know what they were doing. It was all very frustrating and exhausting.

By the time I received the offer letter from the new company, I was so disillusioned with my current company that I decided I wasn’t even going to schedule a zoom call to let my manager know. I had worked there for five awful weeks and had a new offer, I just needed to quit and move on. I wrote my resignation letter and slacked my manager a few minutes beforehand to give her a heads up. I sent my letter, was locked out of all my work accounts within minutes, and I’ve never looked back.

I start my new job on Monday and I couldn’t be happier with the offer or the company I’ll be working for. I’ll be making the highest salary of my life and working for a large company with name recognition. I’m very happy with how everything worked out.

4. My employee relocated and didn’t tell me

Your advice about releasing the annoyance did help — as did confirmation that it’s not prejudicial to decide that you don’t want any given job to be remote. For Frank, I decided to split the difference: He can continue working out of Cleveland for 2022, with the caveat that we’ll re-evaluate the decision in a year. There’s a lot of changes going on at the company, some of which could impact how I feel about the role being there — but, because there’s a lot of change, I like the idea of not creating more in the short term if it’s not strictly necessary. Thank you!

{ 17 comments… read them below }

  1. Hippo-nony-potomus*

    #2 – I once had an informational discussion with a recruiter who quizzed me on every job, accused me of lying, and told me that he did a detailed comparison of my LinkedIn and my resume. It was just awful – I had no idea why he thought I was lying, repeatedly accused me of hiding things, etc.

    Got nosy because that’s how I roll and did some digging. The guy used to be in a highly-regulated industry requiring a license and then inexplicably moved into sales, then recruiting. Cynically, I’m wondering how much of his behaviour towards me was projection.

    1. Zona the Great*

      IME, when someone accuses me of weird shit that is unfounded and just odd…it’s because they’re doing it themselves.

  2. Bookworm*

    Thanks to all the LWs for writing in! Especially #2 and 3–while my experiences aren’t the same, let’s just say you’ve given me some food for thought. Appreciate the updates!!

  3. Sara without an H*

    NOBODY is obligated to stay in a job that makes them miserable!

    I am adding this phrase to my list of future needlepoint projects. Congratulations, OP#!

  4. Sopranohannah*

    LW 3. Seems like old job is awfully disorganized. I’m kind of wondering if you had ghosted them, how long it would have taken them to notice.

  5. hamsterpants*

    Really happy about the update to #4! Thanks LW#4 for being reasonable and making the decision based on true business needs, including allowing Frank to live in Cleveland while the evolving company needs shake out.

  6. anonymous73*

    #2 kudos on the restraint with the client while he was interrogating you. I probably wouldn’t have been so nice and professional about it. Congratulations on your new job!

  7. Nowwhat465*

    Great to hear the update about #4! I have to say, I did pull a Frank earlier this year. However corporate had released guidance that it was ok, and I was moving closer to a city I needed to travel to quite frequently. It was just my department head who couldn’t give me a clear yes or no.

    Thankful to be in a union where my rep sent a very loud and clear message to HR that unless they had solid plans for me to be working in person (and reasoning) they couldn’t keep telling me not to sign a lease in any locations and “just see how things go.”

  8. awesome3*

    I’m still confused about #4 for some reason! I’m not sure what is getting me stuck, since everyone else understands it is probably just a me problem.

    1. Also Confused*

      I’m confused about it too and don’t really see it as a good solution. It just seems like kicking the can down the road and muddying the waters by putting Frank essentially on a one year try-out in Cleveland.

      They still have to pay this year, for all intents and purposes they’ve both made the decision to allow it and put Frank on alert that he should be looking for a new job in case there’s a change of heart.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      This is the way I understand #4: There were three problems with Frank being in Cleveland. (1) The LW was annoyed with how he approached moving the Cleveland. (2) Cleveland doesn’t make sense for the role. (3) It costs $20,000 per year for Frank to be in a different state.

      After reading Alison’s advice, the LW decided to disregard problem (1). Allowing Frank to live in and work from Cleveland for a year will show how big (2) is. And with that data, at the end of 2022, the LW can decide if Frank being in Cleveland is worth (3) the $20,000 hit to the brand’s bottom line.

      I see it as a trial period more than kicking the can down the road.

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