updates: former coworkers crashed my party, asked to deep-clean the office, and more

Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My former coworkers crashed my networking party

I thought now would be a good time to provide an update on my letter because after a break for Covid, conferences and networking events are returning in full force in my industry. It’s embarrassing to say, but I did not take your advice. I contacted my old boss to complain and ended up escalating the drama unnecessarily — exactly like you said would happen. To make matters worse, my old boss is a terrible manager (which I knew, why on earth did I think calling him was a good idea??) and rather than coaching his employees or asking their side of the story, he made them all feel like awful people and like they couldn’t attend any networking events in the future. It was a terrible outcome for them and only in the last year has my relationships with my old colleagues completely recovered. On the plus side, I did take the great advice of the commenters, one who recommended I reach out to my client to make sure they were comfortable with everything. I did and am so glad because it turned out they had heard there was some drama and were happy I talked over what happened with them.

Now, almost four years later all is well. My largest client is thriving in large part due to our work for them and after years of being a bit dramatic, I feel like I’ve taken a huge leap forward in chilling the F out. Your blog has been so helpful, especially to point out that childhood issues often directly influence how people react at work. After reading I don’t know how many responses where you pointed this out, finally it clicked for me too! I was so used to operating in a volatile, high-stress environment, I didn’t realize it didn’t have to be that way at work. Every conflict is not an attack and every deadline is not an emergency. It sounds simple, but when conflict is so engrained from childhood, you almost get addicted to the rush and it becomes a normal way to operate. This definitely led to a management style that was not sustainable for me or my employees! After reading countless management books, including your Managing to Change the World, and allowing Covid to redirect my focus to my family and young kids, I feel like a very different person and manager than I was when I wrote in before. And my company is doing even better than when I was operating in high alert mode! Thank you so much for the time and effort it takes to put out your blog. And next time I promise I’ll take your advice.

2. Is it OK to ask my employee why she’s leaving?

I planned to take your advice, but as it happened, when I met with my employee to discuss the transition, she told me why she was leaving without my having to ask. She told me that she had gotten another offer that offered her a lot more pay plus the ability to remain fully remote (our office was starting to ask people to come in 1x week and will probably eventually push for more at some point, something that is beyond my control unfortunately).

I did ask her, if she felt comfortable telling me, whether there were other factors or anything I should be aware of with the team going forward. She told me that when she first started, under the previous manager, she did actually feel that there were some culture issues (and was fairly candid about them), but that this had changed a lot since I started and she was feeling good about the team and work environment, it just came down to money in the end. Which I totally understand (and have been there!). So while I am super sad to see her go, I’m happy for her and I’m also glad it wasn’t something glaring that I’d missed.

To clarify something that came up in the comments, I absolutely would not expect any of my team members to tell me they were looking or planning to leave (I have read AAM long enough to know this!). My worry was mostly that I had missed something important in our work environment or culture that was affecting her happiness at work, especially since she is a woman of color and we are in a traditionally white male dominated field. But it seems that it was a more mundane “money talks” situation.

Thanks for your advice and all of the helpful comments!

3. I’m paid a day earlier than everyone else (#5 at the link)

First of all, I was so sad that I ended up having a hectic schedule that week and completely missed participating in the comments as they came in! I loved how many people enjoyed this question. To answer a few major points: (1) My bank is not a credit union. (2) My workplace did NOT use the same bank as me. (3) I am not in the U.S. so some suggestions (like specific banks) didn’t explain it either. (4) Most strangely: a few other coworkers use the same bank and get their paycheck deposited Fridays, not Thursdays.

But ultimately I realized there is no need for an explanation, because it just … is! It was pretty hilarious to read this and remember how genuinely concerned that I was somehow “cheating” the system. One commenter called it “sweetly naive,” which is very funny (and true).

However …I have since left this job and I can’t help but re-read this with clearer eyes now and suspect my concern was impacted by other not-great experiences working there. There was a lot of competitiveness, extremely intense secrecy, and while I never saw any specific financial mismanagement, a lot of budgeting decisions were sketchy, to say the least. It wasn’t like I was an innocent, fresh-faced new grad when I wrote this question, so I think I had just absorbed a very weird and toxic atmosphere that made me feel like this was something I would be penalized for if it was discovered. After the first colleague who shrugged it off, the others I asked reacted like it was some kind of deep dark secret — which is what motivated me to send in my question! I think the fact that my letter was “will I get in trouble for being paid a day early?” and not “some of my colleagues think I should keep it secret that I get paid a day early” is … telling. This post is one of my favorites on your site, so let this be another example of how toxic workplaces warp your sense of normalcy.

My next job paid me every other Wednesday and I never asked anyone else their pay schedule :)

4. My boss wants me to deep-clean the office

When I wrote in, I was working an awful admin job where, among other things, I was expected to act as office janitor on top of regular admin duties. The day you responded to my question on your website, I learned that my position was being eliminated due to that particular office closing and all employees besides me moving remote.

This story has a happy ending. A few weeks after I learned my position was being eliminated, I got offered a contract position with another organization. The pay was good, so I took it despite hesitance about it being a contract role set to run out in six months. I have THRIVED at the new company — I have a supportive supervisor, helpful and kind colleagues, and I work on a team who are incredibly open to helping each other out when needed. The company prioritizes employee well-being and most people here work fully remote or hybrid (so I’m no longer expected to be in the office even when weather conditions make driving very dangerous, another lovely thing about my previous employer!). Everyone I’ve worked with has been extremely happy with my work, and now I’ve been brought on as a full-time permanent employee! I haven’t been this happy with my job since before the pandemic — it’s been a long couple of years so I’m very happy to be in a job where my work is valued and my skills will be utilized the way they should be!

{ 22 comments… read them below }

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Yeah, oops.
      I understand the point of networking, but after re-reading the original post I am not sure I would have put a lot of effort into repairing the relationships with those old co-workers.

  1. Prefer my pets*

    It may just be the way it was phrased in the letter, but I think you may be discounting how much the return to office vs fully WFH may have influenced her. There is a ton of information out there now about how much being totally remote improved the worklife of POC by reducing the daily microagessions. Especially since you say your company skews white male. I know you said return to the office is out of your control, but it might be worth sending some of the information on the that topic to the people making those decisions.

    1. DCDM*

      Agreed, and wfh can be a financial consideration in and of itself (cost of commute, work clothes)

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Hair. I’ve saved a ridiculous amount and I have very simple hair, just the occasional dye that I now do at home. I can imagine there would be an even bigger benefit for Black women who wouldn’t have to get a professionally (aka white) coded style as often, if at all.

    2. allathian*

      In spite of having worked in all-white environments all my life (I’m in Finland, where less than 5 percent of the population is non-white, and the percentage of POC in white collar jobs is sadly much, much smaller than that), I’ve been reading AAM for long enough that I was wondering the same thing.

  2. Aggretsuko*

    My mom quit a job once after they told her she had to come in on Thanksgiving Day to clean the computers off.

  3. Bookworm*

    Thanks for all the updates, LW! Was especially cheering for #4: SO glad you got a better situation!! Congratulations!

  4. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    LW4, so happy that you are now in a better job and a better work environment. I remember having to hold back an audible gasp when I read your original letter.

  5. Indigo Five Alpha*

    Just me that read the title as the party crashing former co-workers asked to deep clean the office? Took me a second haha.

  6. Aphrodite*

    OP#3, I’m glad to read your update.

    My college pays on the last business day of each month, and I further get social security on the fourth Wednesday of every month. However, a few months after Covid really hit–I’d guess early summer of 2020–my credit union announced it was no longer holding deposits. Once a deposit hit the clearing house it was credited and available. It took me a long time to get used to having access to the money about five days before it would normally be credited. But it was strictly a credit union decision.

  7. Waving not Drowning*

    OP #2 – I’ve got the opposite problem – I WANT to tell management why I left my role a few weeks back, and requested an exit interview, however, I was told that it wasn’t deemed necessary for someone of my (lower ranked) level.

    Meantime, they are lamenting that they can’t retain people in my (now former) team, particularly at the level that I was at, that morale is low, and that they have to look externally because noone from the organisation wants to transfer there. I’m so glad I’m out of there!!!!

    1. Despachito*

      It seems that they WANT their company to sink.

      If I were you, I’d grab a bag of popcorn and followed their development…

      1. Waving not Drowning*

        Already have the popcorn ready.

        So far the department has had 2 separate consultants come through in the past 2 years to work out why the team is not working. Both sessions I’ve been involved in have said the same – poor initiatives badly rolled out, lack of consultation from leadership, and inability of leadership to listen to feedback.

        Original Director was quietly removed after the first consultant report. No idea what happened after the second consultant report because it was buried. Team went from 90+ people to around the 70 people mark in 2 years. Over 50% of people have been employed in the team for less than 2 years. Replacements get put on for 6 month contacts, and then they have to wait til 2 days before it expires to hear if it’s being renewed. The good ones apply for other longer term/permanent roles (internally advertised) at higher levels before that time, because they need job security. Leaderships solution is to try to ban people from applying for roles until they have been in a role for 2 years. Word is the Union is getting involved in that one.

        So glad I’m out of it!!! Feel sorry for my former colleagues left dealing with it.

  8. Dennis Feinstein*

    OP1 – a very satisfying update. I love when people reflect upon their actions and adjust accordingly. Plus you learnt a very important lesson: always take Alison’s advice!

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