updates: my boss accused me of writing a negative review but I didn’t, 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.

1. My boss accused me of writing a negative review, but I didn’t

Both HR and the second in command responded to my forwarded email with outrage. HR said that she would talk to my ex-boss about it. The second in command took a little bit longer to respond, mostly because she was in shock with how the email was written. We had coffee together and she agreed to be a reference for me.

I ended up switching jobs again and did need that reference. It went seamlessly and I am salaried for the first time, working for a non-profit in an adjacent field.

Being away from that company has given me a perspective of how unhealthy it was to work there. I have been told that the position I once was in has been split into 2.5 jobs. Some of the commenters did mention how they thought it was odd how I called my ex-boss my boss. I agree! That company didn’t do well with boundaries, as even a year and a half later my ex-boss would occasionally text me questions about my role. He would text me even after the review emails he sent and has never apologized.

I looked for the review today and noticed it was no longer there. Since I share a similar social circle to my old coworkers, we have talked and shared a bit of office gossip. I have been honest with them about my experience and I have not heard of anyone else being accused of this. Perhaps HR really did get to him.

Working there has given me some great stories and perspective of what is and isn’t a healthy work environment. I am very glad for that experience, and very glad it is over.

2. I had to clean up after my boss’s toddler

I was an unpaid intern for a nonprofit when this happened. As I mentioned, this nonprofit is very small. In fact, the supervisor was the boss’s daughter. So I couldn’t go to the boss, unfortunately. My boss, who is a woman, turned out to suck as you mentioned. She was very toxic not only to us — my coworkers who were also unpaid interns — but to her daughters as well. Oh yes, my other supervisor was her other daughter, she’s 19. The age doesn’t bother me as much as the inexperience. I would leave work most days either very angry or crying.
I couldn’t get work off my mind during my down time. The toxicity was too much for me and I got another internship with another nonprofit but much bigger and more professional. The place is outstanding, right now I have freedom to go into work almost any time, as long as I get my work done. The people there are understanding and well just awesome. This might lead to a paid job, I’m hoping it does.

Thank you for the advice and the understanding. I needed someone to hear me and you did. I appreciate that more than anything.

3. My coworker leans on me for too much help (#2 at the link)

Since my original post I had taken a medical leave from work for several weeks. During that time Meg would have taken over my responsibilities. When I got back I had a chat with my manager who let me know she did have some complaints from other staff about Meg’s lack of attention to detail, timeliness, and professional tone in communication. Manager told me in confidence that Meg has been working with her doctor to address her communication issues (Meg had mentioned this to me briefly as well). Manager and Meg have started a weekly meeting to get Meg a bit more up to speed on industry knowledge. We’ve also divided tasks a little bit differently, with us working on projects a little more independently now and me taking on a bit more work and more client facing tasks.

So far this change has been an improvement, I think, although Meg’s quirks still irritate me on a personal level. That I might just have to live with.

4. Suggesting I return to my old job … with a big raise (#4 at the link)

I saw a comment on the post that basically said, think about what made you leave. It was really simple, but — I left for a reason. In the end, unless there was a guarantee of a major salary increase, it seemed like a moot point. They weren’t knocking down my door, and I would have ultimately felt like a wolf at theirs if I sniffed around, but only with a certain expectation.

However, I’m in a new job situation that is ripe AAM territory. Basically, I left my job for a new position a few months ago. I’m normally not afraid of a new challenge, and I like change — I was really excited. I’m about 3 months in and the onboarding has been SO hard. Every day, I’m worrying that the devil I knew might have actually been better than the devil I didn’t know. I am trying so hard every day to just give myself grace and patience, but I feel like a fool leaving a job I had a relatively good handle on (also where I was well-liked and respected) for a job where the starting period is either a lot rougher than they intended, or I’m not moving at a pace that feels normal. Maybe I’m getting older and starting a new job is harder.

I read a few posts on the site about how it takes 6 months to feel good at your job and that it’s perfectly normal to feel unsure about the choice you made, especially at the beginning. I’m not sure if I’ll know at what point it’s newbie jitters vs. not that great of a fit.

I think there is a lot of opportunity at this job. I am learning and getting better every day. However, the work keeps piling up whenever I feel like I’m moving ahead. I took this job because I really wanted to learn and grow in my field, but I’m worried it’s at the expense of me burning out.

Thanks for all you do! AAM forever!

{ 43 comments… read them below }

  1. A former non-profit unpaid intern*

    Unpaid internships suck. I’m glad they’re illegal in the for-profit sector. I get that it’s the only way non-profits can afford workers while also doing actual good work at the same time, but often in that field, it seems like the stuff they’re doing is stuff the government should be doing but isn’t.

    1. Jolene*

      I was also unaware that you could set up a “mon-profit” as a family business and employ the whole family?

      1. Clorinda*

        File it under “mini-trump shenanigans.” I think it’s actually quite common for a wealthy family to create a charity or a foundation and then use it to employ the younger generation.

      2. GreyjoyGardens*

        I’ve seen “non profits” act as de facto sheltered workshops for someone’s otherwise unemployable family members or children of family friends. Sometimes this happens without any real intention of it being this way, but the owner/founder gets pressured to employ a sibling or family friend, “pretty please, with sugar and cream, give Jane a job because she’s been fired from every other job she’s had and is about to be homeless. You CARE about your SISTER, don’t you?”

        Not All Nonprofits, of course, but I’ve seen some doozies. This also applies to for profit small family-owned businesses. Key word being “family owned.”

        1. Happily Retired*

          Kudos for “de facto sheltered workshops”. That is EXACTLY what so many family businesses, both for-profit and non-profit, actually are. And if you’re not a family employee, have fun trying to work around the family clock-punchers.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Been there, done that; worked for an office that turned out to be in trouble and was let go–but the boss kept his daughter. I knew how much work she actually did and just smiled.

      3. Ama*

        It depends on what type of nonprofit it is classified as, a private/family foundation has very different rules from a 503(c) (and there’s probably several other types with their own rules – I’m mostly familiar with those two). But there are also a lot of “nonprofits” out there being run by people who say “I have a nonprofit” and never bring in anyone who knows what the legal or financial rules are so they just do whatever until someone notices (usually the IRS, but sometimes state/city district attorneys and/or the Department of Labor depending on what rules exactly they are ignoring).

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I’ve volunteered with a lot of small non-profits. Even with a good purpose, so many of them are a dumpster fire of empire building and egos that I end up leaving as a volunteer. I have managed volunteers, for free, in a non-profit, and even had to fire someone. But it gets real old, real fast to see some of the crap people try to pull.

      4. ecnaseener*

        I mean, it would be weird if a condition of nonprofit status was that you weren’t allowed to hire any family members.

  2. sam_i_am*

    Manager told me in confidence that Meg has been working with her doctor to address her communication issues

    Is it just me or does this seem wildly out of line?

      1. Penny bowdish*

        I had a coworker divulge medical info by telling a boss I had once that I had been rushed out of there by ambulance

    1. Return of the Jellybeans*

      It’s not just you! Medical info is never appropriate to share without authorization. But to give them the benefit of the doubt, it’s possible she agreed to sharing among managers.
      A slip of the tongue can still happen in the best of times, too.
      I used to be insanely private at work when I was younger, even when it would’ve really helped me out to share at least a little.
      It depends on too many factors for me to list if/when someone might want to share such things, but personally I’ve found that the older I get the more freeing it has been.
      People just don’t spend as much time judging you as you fear they will, and if someone does, I simply don’t care anymore ;-)
      Good luck to those trying to find that balance, you can do it!

      1. Venus*

        Yeah, my impression is that Meg had shared the medical stuff with both of them, so the ‘in confidence’ part would be about how to deal with the problem in a work context. But that’s not what is written in the update, and if the manager did share confidential medical info… ouch.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      In a vacuum, yes, but it sounded like it was also something Meg had been saying outloud herself around all the people involved anyway, so it seems like it wasn’t really in confidence at all…something that would normally be private but had already been made public by Meg?

      1. Chariot*

        There’s nothing in either the original or the update indicating that Meg had been openly discussing any medical treatments. The manager was wrong to have said Meg was working with her doctor. If she had said Meg was working on her communication without saying how, that would have been fine.

        1. #3*

          I‘d actually agree that manager probably should not have not me told be that info despite Meg telling me herself. I’m not sure that Meg let manager know if it was ok to tell me that. I have kept it to myself anyway (aside from this anonymous forum). I think her reasoning though was for me to have an understanding of what Meg is going through and to find best ways to work with her/have patience.

  3. Plebeian Aristocracy*

    LW4, you got this! It might be hard in the moment, but I believe you will make a good decision about the new job when the time is right.

  4. Imposter*

    Solidarity to LW #4. I’m about four months into a new job and it’s unclear to me if it’s just difficult to onboard or if it’s a bad fit. I left a decent nonprofit job where I was knowledgable and well-liked but bored, to a way higher-paying for-profit job that’s challenging and out of my comfort zone. I know a lot of people say it’s a great opportunity to be the least knowledgable person in the room but ouch, it’s rough.

    1. Roland*

      I felt JUST like this 3 months in to my current job. Closer to a year now and I don’t feel overwhelmed all the time and I’m no longer doubting myself – it simply takes time to build up the kind of long-term knowledge and reputation I had at my old job. I don’t think I actually want to stay here that long but I’m definitely more clear-eyed about the situation than at 3 months.

    2. Wenike*

      Honestly, I’d suggest talking to your manager to see if that 6 month statistic is accurate or not for your job. I warn my direct reports that that statistic is wildly inaccurate for their jobs, its more like 6 months to maybe sorta feel like you might maybe know what you’re doing but comfort with it is a full year. We deal with a lot of nuance on things and are involved in a wide variety of applications and its really hard to prepare someone for what they’re getting into prior to joining the team.

      1. Sally*

        I agree with talking to your manager. I checked in with my manager a couple of times after I was hired because it was taking me longer than I thought it should to learn some technical aspects of the job. He said that they hired me because of all of my skills/experience, and if they wanted someone to only do the technical stuff, they would have hired a part-time consultant. And… now I have a consultant working for me to do the technical stuff that I don’t know how to do (yet!). I still get anxious and insecure sometimes, but I have been here long enough to know that my bosses love my work, so I can talk myself out of freaking out.

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        …and that’s when you find out the last three people in that role left with burnout…

  5. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #4 – there SOMETIMES were occasions where I wished I was still back at OldJob. But I quickly dope-slapped myself out of it when I reminded myself why I LEFT OldJob!

    I was fortunate, however – in the last 30 years of a 45 year career , it never entered my mind.
    Early on in a career it can happen. Later on, it shouldn’t.

    1. Seriously?*

      I’m not sure “shouldn’t” is the right word choice. As a former teacher, I can say that the career itself changed drastically in the last 10 years, not because of me. Which is how I found myself starting a whole new career at age 55. I’m 4 months in and happy. My salary suffered some, hard to be entry level, but not, at the same time. But I’m learning and moving forward.

      1. Pine Tree*

        Yeah, there’s way too many twists and turns in life to say that a career “should” or “should not” be one way or another, no matter if you are 5, 10, or 35 years into said career.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          Not saying it DOESN’T happen – but it shouldn’t.. Quite often, people have found their “dream job” or are in a situation that they’re satisfied with.

          And by the time someone is 15 years into their career, they’ve often found the direction they wish to go in. But I’m aware it doesn’t happen for everyone.

          1. allathian*

            Sometimes people have found the direction they wish to go in, but technological change makes that direction, or the entire profession, obsolete. I’m a translator, and machine translations are beginning to be a threat to the future of my profession, at least in language pairs with huge text corpuses, say English and Spanish. Thankfully I mainly work in relatively small languages, Finnish and Swedish, so there should be work for me for the next 15 to 20 years, until I’m due to retire. I have no particular wish to switch to proofreading poor machine translations.

          2. Pine Tree*

            I still have a problem with saying “shouldn’t”… if a change in a career will improve someone’s wellbeing, or is necessary for one of many multitudes of reasons, what’s the reason behind “shouldn’t”?

            Why should it not? Who says it shouldn’t? Is there an actual reason or one that we as a society are forcing upon ourselves

        1. CharlieBrown*

          Well, yeah, it could be used to mean “something I don’t like”.


          It could be used to mean “now that we have the internet I realize how much this place sucks and I’m not gonna take it anymore”. (Cue Twisted Sister.)

  6. Goldenrod*

    LW#4 – I still think it’s better to leave the devil you know, even if you just end up working for another devil! Why? Because you have gained experience and learned something…and it’s no good working long-term for a devil of ANY variety.

    If this new job turns out to be a crappy job, it’s not because you made a mistake – you took a chance, tried something new, and had bad luck. You can always move on from this job, if that turns out to be the case. Unfortunately, there are LOTS of bad bosses out there, but I guarantee, if you keep moving forward, you WILL eventually land somewhere good.

    Keep us posted!!

  7. Dragon*

    LW 4: I’m also 4 months into a new job that’s a totally opposite setting from OldJob. Same industry, but I went from a megasize firm to a small one, and from commuting on public transit into downtown to driving in suburbia.

    For me it’s been about the actual adjustment. I wanted this change, and the people at my new firm are great. I’ve been most concerned about redeveloping some skills that got really rusty at the big firm, simply because I rarely got to use them there. Similar to the AAM commenter who didn’t have the industry-expected experience in a standard task, because their current employer had assigned that task to a specific work group.

    My former firm eventually started restructuring my dept in a way that’s bound to fall flat. I could’ve done the day-to-day work, but not everyone will make the adjustment and thank goodness I won’t see it firsthand. I was no longer happy there, and more money wouldn’t have changed that. Neither would more PTO, even if that had been an option.

    LW4, your story makes me feel better. We’ll both get there.

  8. Lana Kane*

    OP #4 – I just wanted to chime in with suport and to say don’t lose hope yet. I am a year into a new job and my onboarding was bumpy. I struggled with the same doubts (“At least I knew my old job inside and out”!) and found that at this stage of my career it’s a lot harder on me to be the noob than it used to be. I was told that this role would take about 6 months to work mostly independently, and about a year to work completely independently, but I guess it was just hard for me to ease into that and not worry.

    I hit my year last month and I was telling my supervisor during my evaluation that the 1 year mark was truly correct for me – all of a sudden I found myself knowing and doing things that I would have needed mentorship on before. I feel like I crested that wave, but man, I felt like I was going to drown very often.

    If you do feel like burnout is on the horizon, that’s definitely something to discuss with your boss. Asking questions about “now that I am at this stage in my role/training/etc, what can I expect a regular workload to be?” can help you gauge where this is going. I asked these kinds of questions using the “as I grow in this role, what is this going to look like in the future” lens.

    Good luck!

  9. Tom*

    LW #4: Onboarding to a new place is always rough, even when you’re transferring within an organization. I moved to a new location within my organization a month ago, and the computer systems are still under the impression that I’m at my old one, not to mention the adjustment to the new work subculture and the new town.

  10. curmudgeon*

    LW#4 I hope it works out for you! I felt that way at my my current job but then they moved me to a different department and I’m doing pretty well.

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