updates: my coworker cried and called me militant, and more

Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. My coworker cried and called me militant

Turns out Jane was only the tip of a very dysfunctional, toxic iceberg filled with bullies and handled really badly by upper management. (Thank you to everyone who gave me advice on first post, I really appreciated the different perspectives.) When I got the chance to move to another part of the country for family reasons, I quit my job and left town. The pandemic was only one of my problems as I battled loneliness, chronic health issues and unemployment. 2020-2021 was truly the worst time of my life so far.

Then a lot of things happened. I realized one of my parents was not a good parent and what I thought was just childish behavior had actually been mental abuse. Me describing myself as being a “10 out of 10 on the Scared of Confrontations Scale” in my previous post suddenly made A LOT of sense. I went to therapy and talked about how I and others had behaved at Dysfunctional Job. I wasn’t crazy, it really was That Bad — but I didn’t cope with it very well either. I wanted to do better next time, and it was around this time I wrote to AAM asking for advice on Jane.

A lot of soul searching later, everything started to finally go my way. My health issues, which was thought to be chronic, resolved themselves(!!!). (A reminder that a toxic job not only effs with your brain, but your body too.) I started dating and met a wonderful man. And then I got a job! It was supposed to be very short-term, but they were so happy with me they renewed my contract. And when a spot for a permanent position opened up, I interviewed for it and I GOT IT!!! I now do the same work Jane did, and think of her as an example of how not to behave in the workplace. My co-workers are really happy with me, I am learning and growing so much and I can really see a future here! Thank you Alison, for all the advice and for this community.

2. Awkward text exchange with a boss-turned-friend-turned-boss (#3 at the link)

Things with my boss got worse for a long while. She had a major, scary health issue that left me functionally running our team for several months. It was stressful, and I had just found out I was pregnant and was sick half the time, but we got through it. When she was fully back however, she went into a depressive, alcoholic spiral, culminating in a rather horrific episode at our holiday party where she became very intoxicated, I was berated for “not loving her enough”, and then she had an altercation with Very Important People (it’s always the holiday party, isn’t it?).

After that, I’m not sure what happened but she took some time off of work and sobered up. Things at work started to get better, but then the pandemic hit, I was working from home with a newborn, and generally only interacting with my team over Slack and Zoom (which kept things pretty professional). When we resumed in-person work 1.5 years later, there were a lot of changes in our office structure and work loads, and some of the behavior that made me uncomfortable returned. She hired a new person, who quit within a few weeks reportedly because of her. At that point, there were concerns I would leave so in order to justify a pay raise for me, our office was going to assign me more responsibilities in a different area while expecting me to keep my old responsibilities until someone could be hired to take on my old duties. I wasn’t happy as I had no interest in doing this very different work, but didn’t see a good exit strategy since I work in a very particular niche of higher education and I wasn’t willing to move schools due to location.

But the good news! Just as this was happening, a position doing the kind of work I love opened up in another part of our institution, and the hiring manager reached out to me to see if I was interested. I applied, using your advice on resume and cover letters, and was immediately offered an interview. I read through all your interview advice, and of course asked the magic question, and I can say I’ve never felt so good about interviewing before. My interviews (5 in one day!) all felt like true conversations, and I really got a sense of the office culture, work loads, and expectations. More than one interviewer reached out the day I interviewed to thank ME for the interview and express how excited they would be to work with me. I had an offer in hand a few days later that was a 30% increase from my previous pay, mostly remote, and a much better title. I used your advice on negotiating as well, and got an extra few thousand dollars and a few other perks as well. Handing in my notice was awkward and clearly a bit of a gut-punch to my boss, but my notice period went well otherwise.

I’ve been in the role for nearly a year now, and I can’t tell you how happy I am. My boss is kind and supportive, and gives me the professional freedom while still being there to support me as I need them. At least once a week I’m told by someone how glad they are to have me on the team. And I just had my first performance review and netted excellent ratings across the board and the maximum merit increase for my position. Thank you so much for all your advice!

3. Is it okay to hang target practice sheets up at work?

I wrote in back in 2017 about a coworker who had hung target practice sheets in his cubicle. I left that job a few years ago and moved to a different state. Ironically, the area I work in now has a much more gun-friendly culture than my old city, but my office has a no-weapons policy so I no longer have to worry that any of my coworkers might be secretly carrying a deadly weapon because of some paranoid fantasy where they get to play the hero.

{ 62 comments… read them below }

  1. Eldritch Office Worker*

    “A reminder that a toxic job not only effs with your brain, but your body too.”

    Sooo true. Happy to hear you’re doing better, OP!

    1. Meep*

      My toxic job caused my blood pressure to go through the roof. I was told either my anxiety is causing it to go up or my blood pressure is causing my anxiety to increase. The fact they were feeding off each other! Never again.

      I cannot advocate enough that if your job starts affecting your health – leave. Even if there is a financial constrain, it will be cheaper in the long run.

    2. OnetoFindTheGiraffe*

      I’m in the middle of my two-weeks notice at my veeeeery stressful, very dysfunctional job. (Today’s reminder of dysfunction: my boss saw me eating takeout I’d picked up for lunch and said, in marvelling tones, “wait, I always forget we’re supposed to take breaks!” and someone else was like, “Yeah, normally none of us ever leave the office!”) I’m really curious whether the chronic migraines that have plagued me for six months will resolve when I’m finally out of this place… 

      1. quill*

        I stopped having headaches as often after I left Worst Job… also stopped having as many muscle cramps but that could have purely been from not performing the physical activities of that job anymore.

      2. DataGirl*

        Ugh I hate the ‘Oh, you get lunch?!’ jokes. Like, I’m working 12-14 hour days you really are going to make a snide remark about me taking 15 minutes out of all of that to scarf a sandwich?

    3. UKDancer*

      Definitely. I moved in spring from a job that was making me miserable and stressed to a job that makes me much happier (same company but different area and team). My quality of sleep has improved dramatically and I’m having fewer nightmares. My massage therapist also says my back is a lot less tense and has fewer knots. It’s funny what effect being happy at work can have on your physical health and wellbeing.

  2. RuralGirl*

    I cannot imagine working at a company that doesn’t have a no-weapons policy. It never even occurred to me in my liberal bubble that some people might have to deal with weapons at work.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, it’s like having a no-elephants policy. Just would not occur to me that that’s a thing!

      1. soontoberetired*

        My state became a conceal carry state and immediately the signs went up at work that no guns were allowed. I felt both relieved and sad when I came in and saw the signs.

        1. Ouch :(*

          While I wouldn’t carry at work, my husband and all his co-workers do. Our office has a no weapons sign, his prefers not to.
          The funny thing is, the sign makes me feel unsafe. It’s announcing to people who won’t obey the law that those inside who do obey the law are not armed. I’d prefer they just put a no weapons clause in the employee handbook bc only employees are allowed in anyway and not advertise on the door that we are defenseless.

          1. soontoberetired*

            we have security guards who are trained in weapons management who are armed. We occassionally get people showing up and threatening things. Nothing bad has ever happened outside of people being removed because we also have people trained in de-escalation. And I am glad I never worked anywhere near the front desk.

          2. Student*

            If you’re a woman, you are far more likely to be attacked by an acquaintance that knows you than a stranger. Your possible foes are most likely to be the people in the building.

            If you’re a man, the odds shift. Strangers and acquaintances are both risks.

            However, murder and nearly all other violent crime is much more likely to be an acquaintance crime. Armed robbery is the only violent crime that’s committed more often by strangers.

            So taking weapons away from your co-workers, overall, makes you safer against murder.

            It may put your workplace at higher risk of armed robbery, but most jobs where that’s a serious risk will take extra security precautions around protecting valuables. If your company isn’t doing that, you might recommend it to them.

            1. Ouch :(*

              I have to disagree. While untrained people should never carry guns, people who are properly trained and not evil are not going to shoot unless there is absolutely no other choice.
              Disgruntled employees are going postal more often. Abusive partners have shot up businesses where their “loved” one worked – and that counts as an acquaintance crime and if Betty’s abusive nut job buddy comes in ready to shoot her & all her friends, I don’t want him to be the only one armed. I won’t even go downtown when there’s protests or parades, bc too many nut jobs. If I have to go downtown when it’s crowded, I’m sure not going to go unarmed. Note I’ve had lots of training.

              1. FrenchCusser*

                Yes, stranger crime happens, but that doesn’t make it false that you’re much more likely to be harmed by someone you know than by a stranger.

                Guns are not defensive, they are offensive weapons. Having guns about does not make you less likely to be harmed by guns, it makes you MUCH more likely. If you’re really afraid of random gun crime, buy yourself a Kevlar jacket.

                1. Zephy*

                  Thank you. My husband is a hobby target shooter and when he started talking about carrying while out and about “””for safety,””” we had a long and serious conversation that you summed up in three sentences.

                  You are not an action hero. You are not a Good Guy With A Gun, you are not the solemn protector of People You Care About against Bad Guys With Guns. If you should find yourself in a situation where there is a Bad Guy With A Gun, you whipping yours out just increases the number of Guys With Guns in this situation by 100%. What I said to my husband is, if you find yourself in a situation where someone’s waving around a firearm, your job is to get your ass out of that situation and back home to me, alive in once piece with the same number of holes as you had when you left. Your job is not to defend the Home Depot or the Sunoco or your college campus or wherever you are when the fit hits the shan from some damn lunatic who’s out to hurt people. Things are just things and are replaceable, you are not.

              2. Sleepless KJ*

                And just because someone can “carry”, it doesn’t always follow that they’re properly trained or emotionally stable enough that they should be carrying. I’ll take a no weapons policy any day.

          3. It Might Be Me*

            Having lost a friend who was shot (along with others in his department) by a co-worker, the signs and stickers did not make him safer. She had an illegal weapon. Security is was no where near the incident. The sad thing is there were at least three people present who were trained and licensed to carry. They followed the rules though and didn’t bring their firearms to work.

          4. Critical Rolls*

            The presence or absence of a no-gun policy is unlikely to change the calculus for someone who’s on a mission to shoot people. Heck, it might just make an impulsive shooting more probable by an employee who’s already carrying. And the belief that having “trained” civilians armed in the building is likely to avert disaster — instead of simply adding to the number of bullets flying — is not backed by any statistical information or study that I’m aware of. Statistically, guns are much more effective at providing the emotion of safety than actual safety.

            1. RadManCF*

              Minnesota implemented its current CCW scheme around 2001 (they went from a “may issue” scheme to a “shall issue” scheme. From time to time, the Minneapolis Star Tribune runs a story about statistics related to CCW. The last one I read was from around 2015. The number of crimes committed by CCW permit holders was minimal compared to the number of permit holders (IIRC, a lot of them didn’t involve death or bodily harm, either) The number of situations where a permit holder had used their weapon permissibly was also very small. At the same time, IIRC, the percentage of the state’s population that holds CCW permits is very small. I’ve come to the conclusion that CCW won’t be beneficial to public safety unless a substantial portion of the population carries weapons and is properly trained. I’m skeptical that that could be achieved.

        2. Petty Betty Crocker*

          My state is OPEN CARRY (no CCW needed). Most of my jobs have been “no weapons allowed on property” types. Even the jobs that did allow them, most of my coworkers shrugged the idea off as a silly one because who felt the need or desire to carry all day in an office setting?

          Only a few jobs were you encouraged to carry, and they were all outdoors in bear country.

    2. jtr*

      I had to quickly update my member agreement and post signs saying no open carry (legal for guns here) of ANY weapons after a parent showed up with a gun on his hip. We teach effing SEVEN YEAR OLDS! So dangerous!!

    3. kiki*

      At a past job, I was volun-told to be on the safety committee, which was mostly a straight-forward hourly commitment once per month where we would put together and schedule fire and tornado drills. That is UNTIL we were told to put together an active shooter drill. That’s how we found out some employees’ plans for an active shooter was to shoot back, because they were carrying in the office. And then the volunteer safety committee turned into several weeks of multi-hour meetings debating the pros and cons of of allowing employees to carry in the office, listening to employees describe why they would quit if a decision was made in either direction, and everyone on the committee asking their managers if we could quit the committee because we wanted the relief of returning to our actual jobs.

      1. sadnotbad*

        If Jane from letter 1 had cried and called this workplace militant, she would be correct.

      2. calonkat*

        I work in a place with cubicle walls, and even the “offices” are basically closed cubicles. Nothing that would stop a bullet at all, not much that would slow one down (maybe the occasional bookcase with books?) Having an exchange of gunfire just means that _I_ get shot from more than one direction.

        1. kiki*

          Yeah, part of the reason everyone on the committee wanted to quit wasn’t just the heated debate about gun carrying policy, it was also because our office would not have been safe at all in any sort of active shooter situation. It was an extremely open floor-plan office (just desks, not even cubicles), all the offices and conference rooms that did exist were glass, and there were only two exits that were both located right next to each other (somebody could easily block both). The safety committee existed exclusively of folks who were volun-told onto it, so none of us had power or sway to enact anything. The plan was basically, “Okay, we’re all sitting ducks, but maybe try to run towards an exit or blend into the carpeting?”

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Public Service Announcement for anybody given the task of planning an active shooter drill in their workplace:

        Please create some kind of opt out mechanism for people who have been harmed by gun violence.

        A person with PTSD who had a panic attack in the office bathroom after active shooter training.

    4. Tze*

      I had a previous job in an area where hunting was a BIG thing. And so was firearm safety. So the week before moose season, for example, started the office would send around paperwork asking that anyone keeping a firearm in their vehicle to please let HR know. As far as I know, no firearms ever actually entered the building. (Yes, I was in rural New England)

          1. hamsterpants*

            That’s a good thing!!! We used to occasionally have deer jump through first floor plate glass windows during the mating season. They became badly hurt and made a huge mess of broken glass, broken furniture, and blood. And this was just White-tailed Deer, much smaller than a moose!

          1. Anonymouse*

            Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose say it is mooses.
            Don’t ruin my childhood.

        1. Petty Betty Crocker*

          I live in Alaska. I’ve had moose, bear, a lot of curious squirrels, some birds (including a very feisty eagle), a porcupine, a couple of beavers, a fox and a couple of bobcats wander into my workshop and/or house before.
          Animals are not shy. Especially when you live and work right next to wildlife preserves and national forests.
          It’s always “fun” to call your boss and tell them you’ll be late to work because a moose is licking the road salt off of your vehicle so you can’t actually leave your house or get into your car. Or worse, you have to evacuate your building because somebody left a bay open and a young bear smelled somebody’s bbq sandwich and wandered in and now you have to call Fish & Game.

    5. Koala*

      Yea because no-weapons policy and a sign on the door will definitely stop someone from walking in with a gun.

      1. Ouch :(*

        That is my fear. If there is no sign on the door then the perp doesn’t know if lead will come flying back at him or not. If there is a sign on the door then the perp knows that it is safe to enter with a gun and shoot whichever they see. With a weapons policy allowing trained employees to carry (I’ve had as much training as your average cop) everyone is safer bc if someone does enter with malice there’s a larger chance that they’ll be shot before they empty their ammo.
        Sadly, reading the news, people who carry do not have sick hero fantasies, we just want to be as armed as criminals are.

        1. Koala*

          Exactly! I definitely feel safer without signs advertising that no one in the building is armed. And it’s not like a crazy with a gun will change their mind to not enter cause there’s a sign on the door telling them not to.

          1. Here we go again*

            I read an interview with a reformed burglar on why he quit. It wasn’t the police he was afraid of shooting him it was the homeowners, and because he didn’t know who had a firearm or if they were home and if they were capable of shooting him, and since most states have it as a law that if someone breaks into your home while you’re there you can use lethal means to defend yourself. it seriously made him question if what was in the home was worth risking his life for.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I assume their concern is not about people planning to come in and kill somebody, who yeah, wouldn’t be deterred, but are thankfully rare, but rather about people who might bring in a weapon and not take enough care with it and let it fall into the wrong hands (heck, there was a hilarious story here in Ireland about somebody finding a gun one of our armed response unit had left on a tram or something by accident) or somebody who carries a gun because they are terrified somebody is going to attack them and is ready to shoot it at anybody who so much as bumps into them.

        I agree those signs aren’t going to stop a terrorist or career criminal coming to rob the place, but…the world is not divided up into criminals and completely sensible people who behave logically in every circumstance. There are plenty of people who are just irresponsible or careless or have a short fuse but who wouldn’t deliberately bring a weapon somewhere it’s not allowed. And I’d imagine those people are the ones the sign is meant to deter.

        It’s like driving laws. Yeah, if somebody is trying to kill somebody by deliberately driving in to them, then speed limits and other laws aren’t going to deter them, but…the laws aren’t really to deter people from using cars for crimes, but to deter people who just don’t drive carefully. I think the same is true with rules like this. They are to prevent CARELESS gun owners doing something stupid, not evil gun owners from committing crimes.

        1. RadManCF*

          I’ve generally assumed that the ability of businesses to ban weapons in their facilities is thanks to the influence of the insurance lobby, and that they would have a considerable amount of data to show a greater risk of unintentional firearm discharges than of intentional discharges.

        2. kiki*

          Right, I think also an attempt to reduce unnecessary escalations. There’s a chain bar/restaurant in the US that instated a “no guns on premises” policy after a few locations had a number of issues with patrons threatening staff with guns when they were cut-off of liquor and patrons escalating bar fights to shoot-outs. The bigger risk to patrons and staff wasn’t bad guys looking to execute a planned attack, it was mad/drunk idiots escalating normal grievances because they happened to have a firearm.

    6. starfox*

      I’ve never thought about this before…. My company doesn’t have a no-weapons policy, but I don’t *think* anyone brings weapons to work?

      I have considered getting some pepper spray, though…. I work for a psychologist, and there’s no lock between us and the waiting room. We have been threatened before by someone who was unhinged (and he somehow knew my name even though I’d never met him, so that was uncomfy). The building has no security. I’ve had to call the police multiple times for various reasons, and they never take less than 45 minutes to get there.

      1. RadManCF*

        If you’re going to carry irritant, keep a few things in mind. First, remember that there are numerous different formulations that may or may not be legal where you are. Second, be mindful of the differences between stream, gel, and vapor cans. Unless you’re wearing a gas mask, if you use vapor, you’ll incapacitate yourself, as well as your target. Gel makes less of a mess, but doesn’t attack the airways as efficiently, and stops working if your target scrapes it out of their eyes. Third, practice with it. Make sure you know how the stream acts in the wind. Fourth, expose yourself to it. If you have to use it, some of it will likely blow back at you. Last, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t have the desired effect immediately. Between adrenaline, determination, and various other issues, it can take a while for someone to notice that they’ve been sprayed.

    7. Jam on Toast*

      When I travelled to Texas a few years ago to do archival research in Austin, the research facility at the university had the usual storage lockers for coats/bags/personal effects AND a gun locker for visiting scholars to secure their personal weapons. It was deeply unsettling.

  3. Seashell*

    I wouldn’t use the word militant in Jane’s context. It usually is used regarding someone who is strident about a political belief.

    1. urguncle*

      Jane used it to describe OP for asking for more information in a ticket. OP never used it towards Jane, correctly or otherwise.

    2. PeanutButter*

      In the comments on the original post OP clarified that they are in a Scandinavian country and “militant” was the closest English term they could find for the word Jane used.

  4. joriley*

    “At that point, there were concerns I would leave so in order to justify a pay raise for me, our office was going to assign me more responsibilities in a different area while expecting me to keep my old responsibilities until someone could be hired to take on my old duties.”

    Ughhhhhhh. OP2, glad you got to move to a different department and get the pay raise you deserved without this mess.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Funny how places sometimes confuse ‘retention’ with ‘giving someone more reasons to gtfo’

  5. Heidi*

    If we are supposed to be kind to one another on this site, does this not apply to people who legally carry a concealed weapon pursuant to the laws of their state?

    1. retired3*

      (Have worked in law enforcement) The problem is that being able to legally carry a concealed weapon DOES NOT EQUAL knowing how or when to use said weapon. It just usually makes the situation more dangerous for everyone. The law enforcement weapons trainers I knew did not “need” to carry their weapons all the time.

    2. Occasional commenter*

      I don’t see anybody being unkind to gun carriers here. Some are expressing their discomfort being around guns which is just as reasonable as those describing their discomfort due to places advertising the absence of guns.

      1. Heidi*

        This language: “I no longer have to worry that any of my coworkers might be secretly carrying a deadly weapon because of some paranoid fantasy where they get to play the hero” did not sit well with me. I have a concealed carry permit and lawfully carry to work. I hope to never need to touch my weapon outside the gun range, nor do I have paranoid fantasies of playing the hero.

        1. Ouch :(*

          I hope they read the comments and gain a greater understanding. Communication is why we’re all here.
          They do have a valid point. My husband and I both have concealed carry permits. We have both taken tons of classes. The training is not cheap but it’s worth it.
          It bothers me when people have guns but do not take any training or make any steps to keep them secure or ensure they are handling them safely. Gun ownership is a responsibility and those who wish to own guns should take that responsibility seriously.

        2. quill*

          Welcome to the United States of America, where the fact that there are some people who do in fact own guns primarily because they believe that they will eventually be the “good guy with a gun” and the societal shrug of “another mass shooting happened, nothing we can do about it beyond encourage more people, potentially poorly trained if trained at all, to carry guns” making people uncomfortable is taken as a slight against reasonable gun owners.

          The simple fact of the matter is: the more explosive weapons are in a workplace, the higher the chance of an accident occurring with them. As a site, we are supposed to be taking OP at their word about their feelings regarding guns and their safety at work.

        3. Irish Teacher*

          I think that’s one of these “if it’s not about you, it’s not about you” things. It doesn’t sound like you are one of the people they have to worry about. Obviously, most gun owners don’t have paranoid fantasies and aren’t dangerous people and have trained to use the gun properly and so on, but…those aren’t the people that people are worried about. There are people in the world who see themselves as heroes who can save the day. There are people who lash out at the slightest provocation. There are people who are just very scatty and leave everything lying around and if they brought in a gun would probably leave it lying around in plain sight where it could easily be stolen. The fact that somebody is relived not to have to worry about these people bringing guns into their workplace and using them irresponsibly while there isn’t an insult to responsible gun owners. It’s not that people think every gun owner is going to do something stupid; it’s that they would rather not worry that the people who are likely to do something stupid might do it with a gun.

          It’s like when the festival in my town used to take place and they blocked off the main street to cars. It was nice to know some idiot wouldn’t come speeding at you as you were crossing the street. That doesn’t mean I think ALL drivers are idiots who speed, just that those are the ones I worry about.

        4. Meep*

          Many retail companies have to deal with gun owners deciding today is the day to play hero and chase shoplifters with a gun (and often shoot them). You are in the minority, friend.

  6. MEH Squared*

    OP #1, I am really happy for you. It sounds like you’ve done a ton of personal work to improve your life and got the hell out of a bad work situation. I hope that your new job continues to be rewarding and that your old job remains nothing more than a blip in your rearview mirror.

Comments are closed.