update: my boss made me fire my boyfriend … and then hired her cousin

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.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

Remember the letter-writer whose boss made them fire their boyfriend … and then hired the boss’s cousin? Here’s the update.

I’ve thought a couple of times of updating you and your readers but hadn’t had the chance to because I have a new job!

After seeing my question posted and your and everyone else’s comments, I realized that the specific situation I wrote about was one of many. Too many. It was very good insight to read your perspective and every commenter’s feedback to consider the mistakes I had made and also the bad management the team and myself were under.

I took your advice and did not raise the issue with my boss or anyone in the team. Just as you mentioned, the board of directors is handpicked by the founder and were very unlikely to pick anyone else’s side or even provide a real counterside. Not surprisingly, the issues began manifesting in other parts of the organization: by July, about 12 people had quit, either citing burnout or just plainly disagreeing with the foundation’s policies and overall treatment of staff. About two of them took actual legal action and its become a huge thing (which is also a taboo subject within the team, we’re not allowed to “gossip”). The cousin has been completly incapable of handling the situation, even though she was promoted from HR to Chief Admin Officer.

I immediately started looking at vacants my experience could fit in February. I also took stock of how that job had been slowly depleting my mental health and decided I was willing to take a pay cut to get out of it. I know I was in a very priviledged position to do so, but after working nonstop for a really long time I figured it was the right moment to take pause and see what I wanted from my career in general.

After a really long hiring process (government position, overseas), I received a conditional job offer in May and at last a final job offer in August. I started my new position in September and it has been life changing. I am so excited to have a set schedule, to leave work and not hearing anything about it until 8 am the next day. I just set my vacation days for December and I was shocked there was no passive agressiveness at takingdays off, they suggested I take more time off! I’m not saying it’s perfect, all offices have their perks, but it’s so much better. I have time to myself for the first time in forever, and it also helps I have amazing benefits.

My boss was shocked when I left, especially after all these people had quit before me (she didn’t know I probably started looking for an out way earlier than those guys). She asked we do not tell the team until my very last day, and I had to convince her not to, which took a lot of effort on those last weeks. That was their MO for most of those exits, just let people disappear and don’t discuss why they left. I finally managed to get time to say goodbye and do a proper handover. I was offered a raise and a retention bonus, which I declined. Fortunately, my departure seemed to open some eyes and other team members were offered a preemptive retention bonus as well. I also had a somewhat honest conversation where I tried to put these issues to the front while not burning any bridges. I’m not very optimistic about any actual changes, but I like to think I tried for the people that still work there.

It’s honestly such a relief to hear back from former coworkers and realize I don’t have to deal with that insanity anymore. It was a turning point getting your feedback and scrolling through the very insightful comments others were kind enough to post (even the harsher ones! lots of wake up calls). I think it sparked a very interesting conversation on HR, personal relationships at work, what is an actual conflict of interest, etc.

Thank you for taking the time to respond, and now for following up. I’m glad to report I’m doing great at my new position! The advice was very appreciated and helped me realize what I needed to do.

{ 20 comments… read them below }

    1. ferrina*

      Woohoo! Congrats, LW! So excited you got out- that place sounded so dysfunctional in so many ways.

  1. Melanie Cavill*

    That’s awesome! I hope everything continues to work out for you.

    That said, I am aware government moves slowly when it comes to hiring, but a four month gap between a tentative and final job offer seems like it would cause quite a bit of attrition from preferred candidates, especially in a job seeker’s market. But I’ve never been a government worker, so I welcome the correction of my assumptions!

    1. Purple planner*

      I’m guessing that because the position is overseas, there’s probably visa eligibility checks and a lot of other stuff involved!

    2. Mockingjay*

      The four-month gap is not unusual for overseas positions. There are additional hoops to the hiring process from the host country, especially for posts in EU countries. Many countries have laws or agreements which favor hire of local or EU citizens before US; there’s a process to prove that the US citizen is the best hire, due to special skill, special program (military, state department, etc.), or confidentiality needs.

      Government service has quite a few perks which can sway candidates to hold out; base salary is usually lower than market, but locality pay, annual and sick leave, home leave (available overseas), robust retirement systems, comprehensive medical insurance, and so on, more than make up any salary differences.

      Really glad the OP stuck it out and is enjoying her overseas work.

    3. Observer*

      but a four month gap between a tentative and final job offer seems like it would cause quite a bit of attrition from preferred candidates, especially in a job seeker’s market.

      It does. Most people who apply to these jobs do know the score, though.

    4. mikoko*

      I work in government. We have delays like this (or even longer), waiting for security clearances to come through. We do occasionally lose people during the wait, but for my area of government at least, our jobs are highly specialized and we tend to stay in a given position much longer than folks in industry do, so it’s not as big an issue as you’d think.

      1. BasketcaseNZ*

        And its not just American government.
        I know several people who had to obtain various security clearances before they could start work.
        They had offers reliant on that clearance coming through – it took between 6 weeks and 4 months depending on the level.
        The thing is though as well, these “tentative” offers are ONLY going to fall through if there is a problem with the clearance, and the pre-screening before the offer is made is pretty thorough.

    5. Fedpants*

      I’ve been with the US government for about 7 years, and a hiring manager, and yes: we definitely lost some great candidates. Once you’re in the government it can go a bit faster, but getting that first government job can be a real slog.

  2. Calamity Janine*

    while i hate that it is an answer to so many problems, i am really glad to see how many of these updates are

    “so yeah it was even worse than i mentioned in my letter, but good news, i have now gotten out of dodge and life is GREAT”

    1. bamcheeks*

      It’s funny because people really feel like, “you need a new job” is like “DTMFA” on personal advice columns– it’s the nuclear option, and everyone wants to feel like there must be an easier way to sort things out, especially since it’s just this ONE LITTLE THING. But so often the reason that ONE LITTLE THING is insoluble is because of all the other GIANT BIG THINGS hiding behind it!

  3. Lyngend*

    My last job had the same policy on no announcement of leaving. Especially for managers and assistant managers. You’d be lucky to be allowed 2 days. (I had a weekend between mine, and the “friday” my boss wasn’t on, so I slowly bent the rules and let people know info I had they’d want that day. then on my last day I said I was leaving, and offered the info again, saying I was leaving the company).
    I hated it. This company also has HR reference only policy too. And We went through sooo many manager. I think I had 5 in less then 2 years.

    1. ferrina*

      This is such a terrible policy. It means that there is no transition plan. I spent my last 2 weeks helping my manager re-assign all my projects, training, and ensuring folks could find the documents they needed- that’s the whole point of the last 2 weeks!

      1. Ama*

        It’s so strange, too, because whenever I ask someone who has worked at a place like this if they knew what the rationale was for not telling people (thankfully none of my employers were like this), the only thing they have ever heard is that it is supposed to “keep clients from panicking” and yet the exact opposite happens because no one knows what’s going on when people just disappear and the employees picking up for them are starting with nothing.

        You look like a competent, professional company that people will feel comfortable doing business with if you handle staff changes well, not if you pretend they never happen.

  4. tg33*

    If you don’t mind me asking, how did your boyfriend get on? Are you guys still together? I know it isn’t the point of the letter, and I’m THRILLED you are doing so well, but part of me wants to know!

    1. grumpy old lady*

      Yes I wondered about the BF too – especially since the poster took an overseas job. OP, if you are reading please let us know, even if it’s sad news that the two of you parted ways.

  5. Event Coordinator?*

    When I read the first letter, it felt kinda like a tip of the iceberg situation. Boss with no boundaries? Nonprofit that grew exponentially in 3 years? There’s not a lot of nonprofits (relatively) where you don’t know your coworkers. Nepotism hire for HR? Yikes.

    I’m glad you’re out of that situation and I hope you and your partner’s new jobs are awesome!

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