update: my company is issuing new work-from-home standards because we should have the hang of it by now

Remember the letter-writer whose company decided, six months into the pandemic, that people should be “used to” working from home by then and would be required to “eliminate distractions” (pets and family members) and follow a strict dress code on video calls? Here’s the update (previous updates here and here).

I’m still with the company, but a number of things have changed since my last update. In January, a lot of things happened all at once. There was, of course, a mass exodus of employees. Once they started seeing multiple resignations a week, my boss (one of the few VPs who stayed, who is also a single parent) decided that the teams they oversee would only be going back to the office one day a week, period. I have no idea what their conversation was like with the CEO, but we have been in the office one day a week since. Also in January, I was injured in a ski accident, which paused my job search (I’m fully recovered now). For all its faults, my company has great health insurance and generous sick leave, so I was able to take off all the time I needed to recover and go to my various follow up appointments. I also started traveling more (for both work and pleasure) for the first time since Covid and that really helped my mental health.

I thought I would be updating you with a laundry list of ridiculous things that have happened over the past year (and believe me, there have been a LOT of ridiculous things going on), but once it was settled that we were going back only one day a week, I completely disengaged from any office drama. There were committees I could have served on and meetings I could have gone to about “improving company culture”, which so far have made no measurable impact, but I realized that, while a lot of crazy things were being said and done, they weren’t really affecting me or my staff. It was clear that the company wasn’t going to change significantly, but there was nothing targeting my department specifically. In fact, we kind of flew under the radar, probably because we are a small team of high performers. I consider myself a people-first manager, and I wanted to keep my team together if possible, so I focused my energy on…managing. And I learned about a bunch of benefits of working at this company that I hadn’t been taking advantage of, so I decided to maximize every. single. one.

I started taking my team out for lunch periodically after learning we have a yearly budget for staff lunches (I think it’s meant to be used for having lunch meetings, but I just take them to restaurants and talk about non-work related things). I maxed out my professional development budget taking classes that have helped me both as a manager and personally, and worked with my staff to help them find professional development opportunities to take advantage of too. I used all of my vacation time this year and made a plan to use it all next year (I highly recommend this, by the way, especially if you’re a manager or someone who feels like they’re always too busy to take time off). I encouraged my team to use their vacation time and tried to make it as easy as possible to do so (one day I decided to just close our department because everyone had requested a vacation day). I promoted my highest performer into a new role and gave them a decent raise. Recently, I spent all of our department’s remaining yearly office supply budget outfitting my team with ergonomic workspaces. I’ve taken periodic mental health days/partial days and have encouraged my staff to take time off for their health whenever they need it.

I’m currently the only manager who has had no staff turnover in 2022.

I have to give a lot of thanks to my boss for whatever they did to allow us to only have to come into the office one day a week. It doesn’t seem to me like the issue was really about the number of days in the office, but about staff feeling valued and respected. While my boss doesn’t have control over everything dysfunctional in the company, they have really tried to make it as positive a work environment as possible on their teams, and I do feel like they really value and respect me. I will likely leave the company in the next year or two to move closer to family (sooner if my boss leaves), but as long as things keep going as they have been, I feel good about staying a bit longer than originally planned.

Update to the update:

One more update: our company announced a decent cost of living raise for all staff about a month ago, and I just heard today that they are backtracking on it. Any raises will now be merit-based only and capped at 3% – while inflation in our area has been over 12% this year. The reasoning for this was that the org wanted to make a large political donation and didn’t have the funds for it – so they are taking it from our promised raises. I think I will start my job hunt again.

{ 93 comments… read them below }

  1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

    Re: update to the update: WHAT?! If an org I worked for told me I was not given as much money as I was told I was getting *for a political donation* I would lose my mind. (Insert stronger word there.)

    1. Darsynia*

      Boy that sure does feel punitive, doesn’t it? Like some decisionmaker’s favored candidate didn’t win and they’ll doggone punish the employees who probably voted for their opponent!

      Seems like the gist of these combined updates is that OP is a superb manager that everyone wishes they worked with, and the company is making the kinds of decisions that drive good managers away.

      1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        I wasn’t even thinking that- I was just thinking that I want politics out of my job. I don’t want my business associated with anything political. If it’s the company’s employees, that’s their own money and not the business’, go right ahead- donate to whomever they want. My last company’s owner sent an email in 2020 about “voting for the right candidate/policy” during the presidential election and I was livid. I don’t know what she PERSONALLY donated to- that’s her money- but if the COMPANY donated, boy howdy, that needs to not happen. If it was out of the company money, it goes DOUBLE that that money shouldn’t come out of employees’ pay and raises. I….am so furious for this LW.

        1. Katrinka*

          I work for a family-owned business that operates like a business, not a family. To the point that one of the CEO’s brothers ran for political office and, other than a sign out along the road, nothing was said. A lot of us didn’t even known he was a relation until somebody pointed it out (different last name from the CEO). And there seems to be a unspoken consensus that politics are not discussed at work, ever. Which is so damn refreshing, I can’t even tell you.

    2. AnonInCanada*

      I would be losing my s*it over that too. And dusting off the resume. Especially if that political donation was to a party or candidate I wouldn’t give my vote to if they were the only candidate on the ballot. And voting was mandatory under penalty of death. You know, like North Korea.

    3. Just Another Cog*

      I literally went “ugh” when I read the update. How tone deaf can that company be? I’d start looking for a new job, too, OP. Thinking good thoughts for you.

    4. Artemesia*

      My son worked for a company that promised their top developer a big bonus if the profits for the year exceeded X% — he was working on a big new initiative with profit potential. He succeeded. But they hired a new CEO and literally gave that guy the X% profit that had been created that year as a signing bonus and then claimed, well we didn’t exceed X% since we gave it to Megabozo, so you don’t get your bonus.

      Slagging the workers in order to give money to a politicians they probably don’t support — even worse.

      1. NotRealAnonforThis*

        Wow. That its a new level of egregious. I hope he found a new job and beat it out of there.

        And I thought it was bad in retail, in hindsight and by comparison its downright hilarious – management had a bonus that was tied to sales. Our little store in a crap location never made goals. One year, in December, we did! By enough that our bonuses were going to be four figures, low four figures, but when you’re barely making enough to be exempt from the OT you had to work…yeah.

        Then the brand’s CEO decided that instead of CASH bonuses to management for hitting goals in December, instead, every staff member on payroll in December (at stores that hit their sales goals) would receive ::drumroll:: “this gorgeous holiday vase created by local artisans”! “Gorgeous Holiday Vase” = it looked like a bong and a snowman had an illicit affair and a baby. MSRP on the stupid thing was $40.

        They saved three management bonuses (probably a total less than $5000, not each, totoal) and looked like absolute @$$es in doing so. Plus the teenaged retail associates really didn’t appreciate the “bong”.

    5. MomTired*

      Me reading it…good, good, overall decent update, great boss…wtf update to the update?! Taking promised cost of living increases to give a political donation?! I hope everyone who can up and quits.

    6. Chauncy Gardener*

      What the actual F to the taking the political donation out of employee raises? After they’ve already been announced? And messaging it that way? And, back to, What the actual F???

    7. Please tell me it’s a joke*

      I think I vomited in my mouth a little when I read that extra update. What the effing eff.

      I’m sure whatever maybe-semi-tangible benefit the leadership feels they get from that donation will greatly outweigh the self-inflicted fallout of tanked morale and employee turnover.

    8. Quinalla*

      Seriously, this is awful! Do a fundraiser at work to raise money for the cause, use other $$ set aside for boss bonuses or something else, but don’t promise raises and then yank them for any reason except – oh the business will go under actually. YIKES!

    9. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Are the company leaders high? How do they think people will react to being told “oh, we’re going back on our commitment to you and you’re getting a functional pay cut because we want to buy some politicians”?

    10. TrixM*

      Frankly, I think any company, “charity” (since to me they don’t count if they pay politicians), or trust should be banned from making political donations, full stop. You want to pay a politician? Do it yourself.

      Yes, I know lots of orgs fundraise to support politician campaigns for good causes – I’ve been part of LGBT orgs that did precisely that. I don’t care, ask your members to donate in their own names.

      Maybe there could be some kind of trust that could be constituted for the sole purpose of political donations – as long as all the members are individual persons and their names are in the public record.

      Yes, donations would drop by a lot across the board. I don’t see that as a problem.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I know. My happiness came to a screeching halt on the addendum.

      Now I don’t know the candidate or party the company is taking employee wages from donate, but if I was placing bets…

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        Oh I see it’s for reproductive rights. Even so…don’t take said wage increases! While a worthy cause, make a smaller donation then. (I do feel this isn’t the whole reason though)

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yeah, if they want to help people get needed medical care, they can invest it in their employees first. I support the cause and all, but that’s really tone-deaf. Or, actually, despicable, to promise needed wage increases and then walk that back. It’s sort of the equivalent of someone with a lot of money giving you a “we planted a tree in your honor” gifts instead of something you need or would be able to use. Do I support planting trees? Sure! But I also need to pay my rent and eat food, so your planting a tree for me is kind of a kick in the teeth.

  2. FrivYeti*

    Well, that was some whiplash.

    I can’t imagine telling people that your *justification* for not giving them the raises that you promised is that you want to give money to a political cause. Regardless of whether I supported it or not, that would be the height of rudeness.

    1. IT Manager*

      Yeah this is actually horrifying. Of course the actual raise -> contribution debacle, but also the sheer audacity to just say it out loud like no one should be mad about it. Wow.

      I’d be looking too!

      1. Ozzie*

        I just tried to picture what would happen if my company did this, and I think there would be actual rebellion – despite the fact that generally our staff is fairly politically aligned, I would say (broadly).

    2. Tom*

      Right? The only way that would be even slightly justifiable would be if the “political donation” was to an industry lobbying group/PAC.

      1. Observer*

        No, not even then. Not even if the cause were something staff really supported. You don’t tell people that you are “supporting” a cause by taking away the COLA (ie effectively cutting their pay.)

        1. Tom*

          That was more in the context of “we need certain laws passed/not passed so we can keep the lights on.”

          Which, still, you should not be taking out of the budget for pay raises, especially not these days.

    3. anonynow*

      Something similar-ish happened at my workplace a few years ago. At a faculty meeting, the school head came in and announced–in an otherwise very positive meeting about a massive expansion of our financial aid programme–that the fin aid expansion was made possible because the school had decided to freeze teacher salaries for the next several years. And she obviously framed this as a noble sacrifice we all made (like we were aware?) in order to serve our students, but like…we all love teaching, and we want to get paid.

      Naturally she delivered this with a smile, but it was just crickets in the auditorium. Just a theatre full of faculty members staring, completely enraged and completely baffled that this woman thought this was a positive note to end on.

      In the intervening years, we have received both cost-of-living raises and a new school head who possesses a bit more tact, but this has always stuck with me. Obviously the justification here is a little bit better, but we have an endowment and donors, and it’s never not seemed tone-deaf to me to try and explain away a salary freeze with “but we’ve identified some other more important cause that we assume you will also prioritize over your raise.” No matter how much

      1. LW*

        This is very similar to how it was presented. It’s a campaign around protecting reproductive rights (so not a particular politician) and the framing was “we’re fighting for this excellent cause!”

        1. anonynow*

          Yeeeep. And it becomes so clear that “we” aren’t fighting for anything, because we on the ground wanted better financial aid and salaries because we care about education and both of those things are critical for student success. The school just wanted to be able to point at a more diverse incoming class (and I’m not joking about that, “we will be able to recruit more students of color” was a direct quote–and I’m a teacher of color at a majority white institution so I get it why that matters, but framed in the way it was it felt more cynical than any kind of restorative justice).

          All of which is to say that I feel for you, LW, and I’m sorry your job did this. It doesn’t matter how good the cause is if the people leading it are out of step with the needs of the people nominally pushing it forward (financially, in this case).

        2. MEH Squared*

          Oh wow. OH WOW. That makes it even worse somehow. Like, I support repro rights AND paying people what they are worth!!!! Dang.

        3. Observer*

          I’m sorry, but this is just SO gross. It almost feels like a psy-ops type of thing where the real goal here is to get people upset with reproductive rights activists.

          I don’t really think that that’s what they are doing – they are too stupid, tone deaf, and and out of touch to come up with such a plan. But the move is just SOO disgusting that that’s what it feels like.

          I don’t believe for one minute that they care about this cause. They just think it’s going to make them look good with some people.

          1. Lydia*

            These are the kind of people who, if anyone pushed back on it, would insist it’s because the person pushing back thinks women shouldn’t have reproductive rights. Because being pissed about a bait and switch is the same as hating reproductive rights.

        4. OlympiasEpiriot*

          That’s f’ing ridiculous. I sent money regularly to PP and NARAL…I don’t want my employer to be doing that…I don’t want them to be donating to anything. Pay us right and let us decide if, when ,who, how much.

        5. Emily*

          This is so crappy. Your employer is trying to put on a public face of “look how progressive we are” while being decidedly un-progressive in how they treat their employees. I’m so sorry.

      2. lunchtime caller*

        woooow that almost reads like they wanted to purposefully pit the teachers against students who needed financial aid. “Don’t support us making our college more accessible or we’ll take it directly out of your paycheck” (as if there aren’t plenty of other expenses at the school they could have likely rebudgeted to free up funds!)

        1. anonynow*

          Eh. We’d been lobbying for it for a while, since accessibility supports our goals as educators, and it’s in line with the school’s stated mission (and, more cynically, it makes the school more competitive in a modern market) so the school wanted to do it too. But you’re not wrong that there are other places from which they could have drawn funding, starting with donors. Not the best news to receive at a faculty meeting when you have papers to grade and classes to prep for, but it was what it was.

          On the other, the financial aid expansion did work as intended, and we tripled the number of kids on full tuition aid in a year, then doubled that number the next year, and retention and student success has been pretty high for students on aid. I am actually pretty happy with the programme–it does more or less exactly what I and other teachers had been lobbying for, not just about getting students in the door but giving them full access to the school in the same way wealthier students do. So while I do still get angry when I think about the funding/framing of the programme, I don’t actually think the school did it with malicious intentions–just poorly thought out ones.

    4. Observer*

      Well, that was some whiplash.

      That was the exact sentence that came to my mind when I read this update.

      Regardless of whether I supported it or not, that would be the height of rudeness.

      Very much so. Although I would probably use a stronger word.

  3. Phillippe II*

    “The reasoning for this was that the org wanted to make a large political donation and didn’t have the funds for it – so they are taking it from our promised raises.”

    If this is something that the rank and file don’t know, it’s time to print it on a poster and put it up for all to see. At the very least, print something about it and “accidentally” leave it in the printer. And the other printer. And the one down the hall. And every other printer you can.

  4. Paris Geller*

    My mood when reading an update has never shifted so quickly.
    (But you sound like an awesome manager, OP! Hope you find a new job soon!)

    1. Goldenrod*

      Agree with Paris Geller – OP, you sound like an awesome manager!! As such, you are a rare and valuable commodity. I hope you find a new job soon, one that actually deserves you!

      “It doesn’t seem to me like the issue was really about the number of days in the office, but about staff feeling valued and respected.”

      YES, yes, 100 x yes. I could never get my former boss to comprehend this (despite telling her, explicitly, “I do not feel valued” during our telework discussions) which is a major reason I left.

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        Yes! LW you are my manager role model – I loved everything you wrote here, and am taking notes

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yes, the whole time I was reading this I was thinking that OP is a hero. I hope OP can get out and find a place to work where their fantastic managerial skills are appreciated!

  5. SereneScientist*

    Wow. They really came out and said it. You sound like an excellent manager, LW, but you absolutely deserve better than this mess!

  6. Four lights*

    I also think this is a terrible reason to backtrack on promised raises…However, I want to point out that this could make a little sense if the company relies on government contracts, because continuing employment is based on making sure politicians that will keep up your contracts are elected.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      In my country, making payments to politicians to win government contracts is the subject of a major scandal at the moment.

    2. Observer*

      That actually makes the contribution WORSE. Overt payoffs are illegal. And payoffs that manage to skirt the law but glaringly obvious tend to blow in fairly spectacular ways.

    3. Insert Clever Name Here*

      No, not even then. And that isn’t how government contracts work in the US — Congressman Jim isn’t personally making the decision that the dining facilities contract needs to be rebid *or* reviewing the bids for the DFAC.

    4. Generic+Name*

      So you’re saying it’s okay if the “political donation” is actually a bribe to get/keep government contracts??

  7. MEH Squared*

    I was grooving along thinking what a kickass manager you are, OP, and then BAM! The update to the update pissed me off in the time it took for me to read it. Your company sucks and I hope you GTFO stat.

  8. Elenna*

    My response to the update: 1 day a week is nice at least, and your company’s sucky culture aside, you sound like an awesome manager.

    My response to the update to the update: Wow. WOW. WOOOOOOW. Yeah, time to run.

  9. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    (just a note that the wording of the first link is a bit confusing with its reference to “last year” meaning 2020)

    The update to the update reminds us that companies and people don’t tend to change. Pulling raises for a political donation is … awful, even if it’s for a cause you might be expected to be committed to, eg working at a wildlife non profit and making a donation to a Green party campaign.

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Yes, exactly. Just because it’s a good cause doesn’t mean that any means to donate are acceptable!

  10. Chilipepper Attitude*

    I’m so impressed with all the ways the OP supported her team and coped with all the issues. Your team is lucky to have you. I have a friend who is a boss like you. When she left for a much better step-up job, several on her team cried, men included! You have made their lives so much better and I applaud you!

  11. My Bad*

    WOW. I don’t know what’s ballsier, walking back the raises for a political contribution or then saying it out loud. Either way, at least they told LW who they are.

  12. Emily Bembily*

    I work for a nonprofit whose work is … let’s say we were particularly germane this summer and election season for reasons that everyone could guess. We would be HORRIFIED if a company screwed over all their workers like this in order to give to us. And that’s besides the fact that there’s no guarantee this money was going towards a worth cause at all!

  13. squirreltooth*

    You could give that political donation to my own mother’s campaign* and I would still be furious about my company backtracking on a promised raise.

    * Just using hyperbole. My mom has never run for office, unless there’s an afterlife move to politics I don’t know about yet.

  14. GermanGirl*

    Wow, that was such a good update and then the updated update happend. Time to get out, I think. You’re a great manager. Find a company that deserves you. We’re all rooting for you.

  15. Glazed Donut*

    I really appreciate the ‘given a sucky situation and here’s how I re-framed’ side of this (looking past the final update). Concrete examples of what happened, result of no turnover.. OP you sound like a gem.

  16. Purple Cat*

    I was so happy for LW, until I got to the Update to the Update and my eyebrows shot up into my skull. Holy *&%(

  17. Looper*

    LW, despite everything else, you are an excellent manager and any organization would be lucky to have you. When I read all that you did to support your team I legit got choked up. I would give anything to have had a manager like you at any time in my working life. It’s good to know there are folks like you out there so I can keep dreaming. Best of luck to you.

  18. Mr. Shark*

    The initial concern didn’t seem like that big of a deal, as long as, as Alison suggested, their were caveats that would allow understandable distractions. The intent to dress nicely (not business casual or anything), have nice backgrounds in Zoom calls, and to limit distractions are all reasonable to me.
    Forcing people to go back to work during the pandemic is obviously less so, and taking money from raises for donations is ridiculous.

    1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Requiring out-of-home childcare when it was literally impossible was not “reasonable.”

  19. JelloStapler*

    I would in no way be cool with profits being used for a political donation instead of my pocket. WTF.

  20. OlympiasEpiriot*

    About that Update to the Update…

    Oh. F.F.S.

    Please have your next update being either that all of you unionized and the CRO had a heart attack and died apoplectic at all of you OR that you AND your team are all working elsewhere.

  21. Carol the happy elf*

    She had already sold her house, got a great job with a doctor’s group in Hawaii, airline ticket in her suitcase and a new swimsuit in her carry-on bag. Her husband had retired, and
    would be waiting for her at their new apartment, wearing only a lei, flipflops, and holding a drink. No, he was not hot, but he was very, very cool.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I’m guessing this was meant as a post on a completely different website. Either that or Carol is writing the AAM fanfic we all dream about.

  22. learnedthehardway*

    OMG. I honestly think I would have had to walk out of the meeting where this was announced. I am not sure I could refrain from setting their hair on fire with what would come out of my mouth.

    All the very best in your and your team’s job searches.

  23. Yay! I’m a Llama Again!*

    I’m sorry, WHAT?!

    Like others said, first part of the update is great and LW sounds like an amazing manager, but the update to the update? WHAT?! Furious on your behalf!

  24. LW*

    LW here! A bit more context for the update to the update (I was still in shock when I wrote in!):
    The COL increases had only been discussed among the most senior management and hadn’t been widely announced. I was out sick for the meeting where they backtracked on them, but apparently the folks that were there were NOT happy. The political donation was announced separately but it wasn’t hard to put 2+2 together. Someone asked about it in that meeting and they basically admitted that’s why we weren’t getting COL raises. This is a small city where my employer is very prominent (a big fish in a small pond, if you will) and I think they wanted to be “known” for supporting reproductive freedom. It’s definitely helped business….

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      /epic facepalm If they want to truly help peoples rights they’d start at paying them well. Ye gods are they clueless.

  25. HellifIknow*

    I am gobsmacked at the lack of self awareness of a company rolling back raises for its employees so it can make a political donation. Based on that a$$hattery alone, I can prolly guess the party it’s going to. I wish the OP much luck in the job search. You need outta there, and it’s too bad because it sounds like you were one of the few doing things right :(

  26. Former Employee*

    Sounds like something to be posted online so in future people will think twice about joining that company!

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