updates: coworker reported a colleague for injuring a client but it wasn’t true, 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.

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

1. How do I raise performance problems that I didn’t address earlier? (#3 at the link)

I am thankful for your advice and that of the commenters when this was published. I felt so supported! I took your advice and the conversations went well enough. One direct report told me previous managers have had the same conversation with them!! (Argh.) But performance has improved since my post. It’s still not where it should be, but we’re on the right track. I’ve done some reflection and realized that I need to more directly communicate my expectations as well.

On the other hand, the last few months have been insanely hectic, to the point where I’m only able to manage the day-to-day. Without revealing too much, I am dealing with community safety issues that I don’t have the training for. And I am also spending enormous emotional energy making sure my team is ok too. I mentioned we serve the public, and while most areas of the U.S. have rebounded well after the pandemic, my area has not, and this spills over into our work. I’ve talked to our EAP coordinator, who knows everything, and they use the term “compounding stress.”

I have also talked to my manager about the toll this has taken on my ability to manage well, and while I have gotten support, I am just tired. In addition, my organization is facing severe budget cuts, and we need to have tighter control over our hours. Through the pandemic until now, I’ve been able to give my team some flexibility with their hours; half of us have children to pick up in the evenings. Now I have to take that flexibility away, which is not going to go well at all, and I may end up losing more staff. I have done just about all of the change-management I can do. I feel like an old laptop battery: even after a full charge (i.e. a good night’s sleep), I am still operating at 50% capacity. In short, I’m burned out, I don’t feel that I’m doing my best work, and so I am starting to look for other opportunities

This is kind of a bummer update. But maybe I’ll have a more positive update to the update in another 6 months or so!

2. How do I avoid being the go-to person for questions from our new people? (#3 at the link)

Thanks for answering my (relatively boring) question! A lot of helpful debate in comments, and I couldn’t exactly take your specific advice because the new team members don’t have a specific manager, but are “managed” by senior leadership on whatever case they are staffed on. But I did get better at telling them that I couldn’t help right now, or asking “what have you tried so far?”. That one came from the comments! Sometimes they had to figure it out for themselves, or sometimes they went to other team members with more management responsibilities first. It ended up going fine, especially as this coincided with more people gradually being in the physical office once a week or so.

One thing to note is most of them were MUCH cooler to me after I tried this a few times, to a point where it felt like they were resentful. Most are fresh out of college, so I think some are still learning professionalism – there have been other issues there (to say the least). But anyways, thank you for your response and the comment section’s helpfulness.

3. My coworker reported a colleague for injuring a client, but it wasn’t true

The day my letter was published, a couple days after everything went down, Jane announced she was retiring at the end of the week. As many commenters suspected, we do provide in-home health care. No wrongdoing was found on Anna’s part. The training I mentioned is just standard practice in our industry if there’s a complaint. Everything settled down immediately after Jane’s sudden departure. Thanks for the extra perspectives.

4. Llamas (#6 at the link)

I first wrote in to tell you about the llama zoom I organized for my student employees (#6 here). I can confidently say that in the year and a half since that fun day, my life continues to be substantially improved by the llamas and our local entrepreneurial llama farmer.

Right around that llama zoom, outdoor activities in our state started to open up. Inspired by my social media posts, several groups of friends and co-workers (both local and around the country) arranged to visit the llamas at the farm and/or zoom them into meetings. I’ll totally take credit for introducing something joyful and a little silly in the midst of, well, the dumpster fire of 2020 …. (BTW, several commenters noted it was bad optics to be paying for such entertainment while other employees were being laid off. This was an excellent point; I was relieved to learn that this awesome farm does educational visits for no fee. The llamas actually visit schools and nursing homes throughout the year! I did choose to personally donate to the farm to acknowledge the time they spent with us, but that was not a required expense.)

A few months later, I finally had the chance to meet a llama in person when a birthday surprise showed up at my house; here is a photo of a festively-dressed Earl on my front porch. My neighbors and I were all shocked to discover Earl and his llama buddies travel in a MINIVAN, which they gracefully hop in and out of, and our dogs did not know how to feel about this giant strange creature. No birthday will ever top this.

The summer of 2021 brought more in-person llama fun and I managed to drag multiple friends and co-workers to LLAMA YOGA at the farm. In case you have ever wondered, it’s way more sanitary and less stressful than goat yoga – no need to worry about stepping in random poop (see: llama have communal poop piles that are out of the way, like litter boxes). As much as I enjoy yoga, these sessions were really about interacting with the llamas and getting great selfies. Between the breath work and these goofy and friendly animals, we always left feeling refreshed! Here are Sully and Poet checking out our yoga mats.

Once I’d memorized the names of the full herd of llamas (10 at that time), thus obtaining my VIP status, I had to kick it up a notch. The farm has an adorable vacation rental house on the property so *of course* it was the natural next step to host a holiday meal for 10 at the farm… Thus, Llama (Passover) Seder and later, Llama Rosh Hashana, came to be. The main attractions aka the very curious llamas come by the backyard to see what the guests are up to, so everyone got to meet them. Even the skeptics (not that there were any… many…) were won over by these silly, friendly creatures who enjoy nose-to-nose greetings.

And finally, the pinnacle of pinnacles – I started a new job on campus earlier in the year, which is a whole separate update, and I got to host the LLAMAS (REAL ONES!) at an on-campus event for my job. To clarify, this job (while incredibly awesome) does not involve animals, cameloid species, or anything remotely relevant to llamas … When I first proposed this to my supervisor, he said “well, that’s a novel idea…” but I was luckily able to get him to see the light and it was a hit! We had over 200 students in line to meet the llamas and take selfies, including several who heard about it from their instructor and came 30 minutes early because they were *not* missing this. Oh yeah, and we got to share information about our project, which I’m pretty sure none of those students will ever forget! Here is Earl again, with his campus-appropriate graduation outfit.

So, there you have it, the llama update, which is probably a lot longer than you expected. Bottom line – they are a joy, farmers are amazing, and you should get out there & support your local small business! Thank you again for all the wise insights, great advice, and all the laughs that your site provides every single day. I’d be lost without it!

{ 165 comments… read them below }

  1. Paris Geller*

    The llama update is amazing. (OP, I fully expect your next update in two years time to be that you realized you enjoyed the company of llamas so much you opened up your own llama farm!!)

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I realllllly want to know where this farm is located so I can go visit! I imagine you probably can’t reveal but if you can at least reveal what part of the world it’s in that would satisfy my curiosity. And I LOVE your update!!! And your original letter too!!!!

          1. Pointy's in the North Tower*

            @Slow Gin Lizz The article linked in the original letter to Alison has the name of the farm. It’s Sweet Farm in New York.

            1. Llama Zoomer (OP)*

              @slow gin lizz and @Pointy’s — just jumping in to clarify that the farm in NY described in that linked article was the inspiration for my original llama zoom in 2020, but it is not the farm/llama herd described in this update. I hope they are still bringing joy to their neighbors too :-)

              I reached out to the farm owners to see if it would be ok to post their website and social media links but haven’t heard back yet, so I’ll hold out. I will say that some googling of the names mentioned should yield results, as I mentioned below.

              1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                Oh, thank you!!!! Llamaween sounds super fun and if I lived in your part of the country I would definitely pay them a visit. That said, perhaps I need to plan a trip there!

        2. Princesss Sparklepony*

          I believe they are usually shorn by sheep shearers. There are some great sheep shearing videos. One that I sort of follow does all kinds of hobby farms – sheep, alpaca, and llama. It’s interesting and relaxing. I can’t remember the name of the firm but it’s in TX and the owners are lesbians if that narrows it down any. It’s a long day with lots of travel between farms and a lot of physical work – it’s part working with the electric shears and part animal positioning which can be more like wrestling.

    1. Abogado Avocado*

      That is one of the best updates I have EVER read! I am in Texas and am now looking for similar llama experiences here. Or maybe I’ll just travel to Iowa. . . Thank you, LW#4!

      1. Quinalla*

        Agreed, thank you so much for the pictures! I totally understand why folks normally can’t share photos, but this post needed them so much and we got them!

  2. Bye Academia*

    This is an amazing update, and thanks to the OP for sharing it and the pictures!

    But FYI, the picture links display what I assume is the full name of the OP – maybe they don’t mind, but thought I’d point it out just in case they were unaware and wouldn’t want that!

  3. Heidi*

    This update makes me realize how often llamas are used to anonymize someone’s job in AAM. I was actually trying to figure out what the llamas were representing in this story. But it’s llamas!

            1. Indigo a la mode*

              Well, someone’s got to make sure people don’t do ridiculous things that they’ll try to expense, like, say, adding guacamole to their lunch.

    1. Artemesia*

      Me too. Assumed she was in some other business and straining to llamaize it LOL. Years ago driving from the South to inlaws in the Chicago area I shouted out — there are llamas in that field. The family ridiculed me for the entire weekend — yeah, right llamas in Indiana. Must be cows or maybe deer. On the way back we went by a llama farm and everyone saw how right I was.

    2. AGD*

      It’s like that SNL opening from 2008 where some guy shows up to a party in a Barack Obama mask and then he pulls it off and it’s Barack Obama.

  4. Jedi Mike*

    Ah , the first update referencing actual cute llamas , instead of using them as very practical euphemisms for job titles. Very awesome and joyful

      1. Ralph*

        The llama groomers are obviously skilled and well-managed! No AAM issues here. Just wonderful, lovely llamas and their wonderful llama farmer.

    1. Squishy*

      I can’t be the only one who had to do a double take to make sure OP was actually talking about literal llamas and not metaphorical ones.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I second the nomination! Also shoutout to OP for providing delightful pictures and Allison for linking them.

  5. DC Kat*

    I’m laughing because it took me several lines into the llama update to realize we were talking about real llamas and not llamas as a stand-in for whatever OPs real job is. :D

    Llama yoga and the llama seder sound delightful!

  6. Cheerfully Polite Grey+Rock*

    I think this is my favourite update so far this year. It’s definitely the cutest!

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed. It sounds as if on top of being burnt out – the org is doing everything they can to increase the burnout by driving away staff.

      No further advice – just sympathy.

  7. Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom*

    The Llama seder looks like a lot of fun. I can imagine the 10 plagues done in Llama fashion. This is the best update for me!

  8. Sharpie*

    Llamas!! This is hands down the best update ever. And Earl looks so very dashing in his party and graduation outfits! I am jealous you get to hang out with such fun creatures!

  9. Sharon*

    When a llama comes to the Seder, do people say the blessing “y’hei sh’LLAMA raba min-sh’maya”?

    1. Bryce*

      The See Spot Run-equivalent book I (unsuccessfully) tried to learn Hebrew from was Shiri the Llama, so I instinctively think of llamas as a Jewish animal.

      1. Keira*

        I have seen llama Hanukkah wrapping paper on more than one occasion, so I now think of llamas as Jewish, as well.

      1. Bananagram*

        I mean, seems theologically appropriate. Definitely I’ll be confusing the children when we light candles on Sunday

    2. bratschegirl*

      Llamas at the Seder: the best possible answer to “Why is this night different from all others?”

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Drat, I should have known someone would beat me to saying this – I commented it elsewhere before getting down this far.

      2. Kit*

        I want the door to be opened for Elijah and also the llamas! (Peeking in through the window is just. Amazing.)

  10. Erin*

    Omg I have wanted an update from the llama fest!! I love everything about it, especially handsome Earl!!

  11. Manders*

    That llama update made me laugh! We had a rescue sheep attend a party for work this week, and it showed up in a Prius, LOL!

  12. ChrisZ*

    Dear posters not posting about llamas: Thank you so much for sending in your updates… it’s always great to hear back. And I very much hope things get a lot better for #1 and #2 :) However…
    I have fallen for Earl and cannot decide if he looks more devastatingly handsome in his festive garb or his graduation ensemble. Thank you so much for this!!!

  13. Llama Decorated Teapots*

    I didn’t see any prior traffic on this, so all the “Llama” discussion, I thought was like “teapots” then I read further, and I was like, oh wait….

  14. Kristin in Deutschland*

    I think it is vitally important for everyone to realize that Earl the Llama is wearing a llama birthday party hat in his dashing birthday party photo. I want to very sincerely thank the OP for an utterly delightful update that brought llamas into what had up to that point been a woefully llama-deficient day.

  15. Llama Zoomer (OP)*

    Dear AAM llama fans – you have made my week with your awesome and hilarious comments. I am so glad the llamas brought you joy! Everyone in my real life is probably tired of hearing about them by now, though now they will have to pretend to be impressed by your responses :-)

    I’m not quitting my day job to run a llama retreat center quite yet but I would be 100% supportive of anyone who decides to do it. Please invite me to your inaugural llama party!

    Also – I was surprised to learn that googling “Earl the llama” results in multiple hits. FYI, he is not the Earl that was shot by his awful owner in 2019 (!!!) nor does he live in a castle, but his minivan adventures might come up social media.

    Finally, while we won’t be at the llama house for Hannuka, I will totally be reciting @ecnaseener’ llama-version she’hecheyanu blessing on Sunday night and forever more…

    Thanks, Alison, for creating this awesome community!

    1. Diatryma*

      I think you might live near me. Unless there are multiple Earl-the-camelids around. Or I am misremembering the name. Anyway, in my area, there’s a minivan-schlepped llama and alpaca for rent. Hello llama friend!

    2. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Thank you for this! Your story and photos brought a big smile to my face as I sit here recovering from my first bout of Covid,

  16. Llama Neighbor!*

    My mom also met a llama named Earl a couple of time over the pandemic—I sent her this post to see if Earl is just a coincidentally common name and she confirmed no, she and OP have definitely met the same one! My mom had an Earl llama-gram for a friend who graduated high school in 2020 and didn’t get to have a ceremony or party—her mom (my mom’s bff) loves llamas. He arrived in a cap and gown! Mom and her friend met Earl again, along with his alpaca friend Simon, at a finals study break at the college where they work. Such a cool thing this farm is doing!

      1. Llama Neighbor!*

        She said based on context and the picture she didn’t think you were colleagues but neighbors (at least in the same city) is plausible! Small world :)

  17. OyHiOh*

    I am, at this moment, wearing a llama-hanukkah holiday sweater a few days early because my kids got to wear holiday sweaters to school today.

    Having grown up in an area with numerous llama farms, can confirm that groomed and well socialized/trained llamas are curious, social, hilarious beasts. If none of they above, they can also be cranky and cantankerous, and that they spit and kick when displeased. Earl and his companions are clearly of the former sort!

  18. Drew*

    On behalf of those of us know “Llama Lady” for over 20 years – this is entirely in keeping with her creative and joyous personality that makes us all love her and value her as a colleague and friend. She goes out of her way to facilitate unique experiences for everyone around her. Llama yoga, llama B&B, and llama Passover are just the tip of the iceberg for her.

    1. Zelda*

      They are herd animals… so clearly you’d have to convince everyone you share property lines with to get llamas too.

  19. Lizzo*

    I read the llama update and at first thought this was another instance where llamas were a stand-in for something else to maintain anonymity and WOW I AM SO HAPPY I WAS WRONG! Yay Earl!

  20. Lizzo*

    I read the llama update and at first thought this was another instance where llamas were a stand-in for something else to maintain anonymity and WOW I AM SO HAPPY I WAS WRONG! Yay Earl!!!

  21. Metal Librarian*

    Thank you for the update on the llamas! I hadn’t seen the original post either so this has really brightened my morning. One of my colleagues has llamas so I’ll be showing her the photos next time I see her :3

  22. Harriet Vane*

    I need to look for llamas in my area now!! All you llama lovers might like Mrs. Hinch’s Instagram. Her llamas stroll into the house at will!

    1. Llama Zoomer (OP)*

      THANK YOU! This one is new to me but I can already tell there will be hours spent looking at the archives…

  23. Anonny*

    I know ‘llama zoom’ means ‘viewing llamas over internet video chat’, but I can’t get the mental image of extremely high-speed llamas out of my head.

    1. Llama Zoomer (OP)*

      Hey there — fair question. I’m not a vet or an animal expert, so I can only share what I have observed, and hopefully this doesn’t just sound defensive – I truly feel the llamas are treated like beloved pets by the farm owners.

      Given the enormous demand for in-person visits at the farm, with tickets selling out in literally minutes, the owners could probably pave over some of the llama pasture areas to create more parking and book three times more guests. But that’s not their gig. They manage human interaction VERY strictly with time-limits that are very clear in advance (and hold to them even in face of pressure from a crowd of college students who waited in line for long time and were disappointed to learn that Earl’s socializing time was done!). The llamas rotate in and out at any event so they are not “on” all the time, and the younger ones are gradually exposed to people until they are comfortable. At any event/interaction I have attended (and it’s been *many* at this point) there is an orientation/introduction about llamas, where they are from, what they eat, etc. and more importantly, how to appropriately interact with them and approach them – how to pet, where to pet and not to pet, what not to do around them. The owners are always there supervising and correcting. At the farm rental, the llamas barn pasture is off limits to guests – if they choose to visit the backyard, great, but you can’t go barging into their space.

      I do think this is an important question anytime live animals are involved, but I feel very confident in saying this is not an issue in this case, though I can’t speak for other farms.

    2. Hen in a Windstorm*

      No, you don’t “gotta”. You could assume the best, instead of the worst. But I appreciate the OP coming back to explain how well they are treated.

  24. JelloStapler*

    “I feel like an old laptop battery: even after a full charge (i.e. a good night’s sleep), I am still operating at 50% capacity.”

    This… really resonated with me.

  25. Linda Evangelista*

    This is literally the greatest update I’ve ever seen and the photos made my entire morning, thank you <3

  26. lurkyloo*

    I love you! Thank you so much for this early morning giggle (on the West Coast)
    Happiest of holidays to you and everyone!

  27. 404_FoxNotFound*

    I have to also express glee at the llama update. Thank you dearly for sharing photos, doubly so of Earl in his graduation appropriate bowtie.

  28. Aisling*

    I did not know that I needed birthday llama Earl in my life, but I am so glad he is there! And later with a celebratory bowtie!

  29. Abogado Avocado*

    LW#1: A lot of us who work with the public and have been on point during the pandemic know exactly how you feel. And, so, allow me to say that your post is not a bummer, but insight into how change happens on a personal level when you’re dealing with the stress that a job is inflicting amidst the trauma of a pandemic (or other societal forces that are well beyond our personal control). I know from my own experiences that addressing the trauma and dealing with personal change like this is difficult, it doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes dedication to get through the change. (How many times have I said, “Oh, screw it; it’s easier to hide in my closet and eat chocolate.”) But you will get through it. And I thank you for sharing the journey with us.

  30. Screw You, Jane*

    Re: #3: So Jane just wanted to screw over a co-worker on her way out the door and in the process cause a whole lot of hassle for a whole lot of innocent people, including the client and the family of the client? Jane is an abusive piece of sh*t, and I hope someday she sees this comment. :) THIS is how you’ll be remembered, Jane–not just by your former co-workers, but by people all over the world. May the only person who shows up at your funeral be yourself.

    1. KTB1*

      I wonder if she wasn’t on her way out the door until she realized that her plan wasn’t going to succeed. Like, she genuinely thought she was going to get rid of Anna, and then when that backfired spectacularly, she threw in the towel.

      Which, given the level of self-awareness we’ve seen elsewhere on this site, is not nothing. But Jane definitely sucks

      1. Screw You, Jane*

        Now I’m kinda hoping a spontaneous retirement WAS the case! Retiring without having done all the proper preparations beforehand (which take years for most people) can, as you phrased it, “backfire spectacularly” on the retiree.

    2. LilPinkSock*

      Agree. Jane is trash. The penalties for mistreating vulnerable adults are severe (as they should be)–and Jane made up lies what the consequences could be for Anna.

  31. ProducerNYC*

    I’m a huge alpaca fan (llamas are ok, but they’re more spitty and not as cuddly looking), so for my final week at work, my then-boss arranged a zoom meeting with an alpaca farm in VA! It was so fun, and a perfectly-tailored sendoff!

  32. Llama Zoomer (OP)*

    (Alison, I hope it’s ok to post these links, please remove if not)

    Earl fans — I have permission to post his/the farm’s social media handle so you can keep following his, and the herd’s adventures: @prairiepatcfarm. The instagram/TikTok videos are pretty hilarious, and if you go back through the older ones you’ll be able to see him jump in and out of the minivan. I guarantee that you want to see that.

    You can also learn more about the farm, the llamas and alpaca, and their awesome rental in eastern Iowa here: http://www.prairiepatchfarm.com. If you book the llama house for a Jewish holiday (really, any holiday!), please invite me!

    And lastly, don’t we think it would be amazing to interview a real llama farmer/groomer on AAM?? I’ve got the hook up!

    1. tangerineRose*

      So cool! If you haven’t already, you might think about putting this on the weekend thread. I started going through some of the pics on this site, and I loved the llama unicorn!

  33. La Triviate*

    A while ago I saw a story about a man who told his sister – when they were both children – that if she got married he’d bring a llama to the wedding. It was her wedding day and he was there with a llama. Since it was a male llama, he was wearing a tuxedo. Since it was a Jewish wedding he was wearing a yamulka (llama-ka?). It was pretty darn cute.

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