updates: my coworker’s a jerk to me because she’s pregnant, 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 three updates from past letter-writers.

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

1. Should my coworker be allowed to be a jerk to me because she’s pregnant?

Maria ended up going on leave a day after the article came out. My manager told Maria that I was busy on the floor and would not be able to respond to her emails. I never forwarded the email to my boss but I do have them saved if it starts happening again.

The months that Maria was gone were bliss. I was not afraid to check my email anymore, and things could be done without a micromanager off site. I ended up really flourishing while she was gone. I got compliments on how I was handling things from my manager, the person covering for Maria, and more importantly our boss. In that time, I decided when Maria came back I was only going to include her things that she needed to know, instead of before where she wanted to be included in everything.

Maria is back, and I have even gotten a simple thank you email, which I had never received from her before. Maria even gave me compliments through my manager. Unfortunately, Maria is now picking on a different coworker so I do not think she has changed too much.

2. When I ask for a raise, my company asks what more I’m willing to take on to justify it (#2 at the link)

I actually went to talk to my boss about a different issue and during that talk, my boss told me I was getting a promotion, a new title, made salaried instead of hourly, and getting about a 50% pay raise! I’m also supposed to talk to them about salary every other year going forward as they “didn’t realize” I hadn’t gotten a raise in so long. I’ve actually scheduled that salary talk as reminder on my calendar so I don’t forget and feel much more confident about approaching them now for a raise.

I haven’t gotten all the details on the new job yet but we’re supposed to meet to go over the full description “soon.” The pay increase is already in effect. I’m a little nervous because I haven’t heard what’s coming off my desk from my current job, if we’re blending the old and new or what. I’m already working 9-11 hours a day trying to keep up with my current job. We’ll see how the meeting goes, but a HUGE financial worry is off my shoulders!

3. Moving to a post-science career (#6 at the link)

It’s been a full decade and I thought readers might enjoy an update from a long-ago submission.

Long story short: I did end up leaving science. It did take me longer than anticipated to make a full pivot into my new field – one of the riskier things I’ve ever done. However, now my only regret is that I didn’t leave sooner. I read my letter to you and was saddened at the state I was in when writing it. Best to avoid being driven to despair.

My new field is a lot more volatile nowadays, but I’m also a whole lot happier. I’m grateful I was able to find a completely different path for myself.

Thanks for publishing my letter ten years ago and the good resource you’ve been to the AAM community since.

{ 43 comments… read them below }

    1. Qwerty*

      I believe it easily. Managers and highers ups aren’t keeping track of this stuff, especially if raises are generally tied to more flashy accomplishments. I’ve seen multiple instances in the last few years of companies discovering the quieter long time employees hadn’t kept pace with the higher salaries of new hires, especially as wages rose a lot in my field.

      However, I would have liked LW2’s company to establish an internal policy rather than relying on them to ask for a raise every 2yrs. Part of our remedy was regular reviews of all employees in a payband for equality and market value to *prevent* the situation from happening again.

      1. LW2*

        When I started this job I was told they do reviews annually and cost of living adjustments every other year. I’ve found everybody is very busy and I think it falls through the cracks. But agreed, it would be nice to have some formal system so employees know if there are no raises that year or not and not just assume, as I did, that silence meant no raise.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      This. Either they were deliberately underpaying LW#2 for as long as possible or they are so grossly disorganized that they don’t have a regular performance evaluation process during which salary is assessed or at least discussed.

      I don’t love the “promotion” with no job description, and the conversion to exempt while working 1-3 hours of OT daily sounds like much less of a bump. I would hammer down those details as soon as possible and make sure the math works out fairly. I don’t get the sense this organization is that interested in doing more than paying the bare minimum they can get away with unless pushed.

      1. NeverWasAManager*

        I am willing to bet that the real reason behind the big raise was that management “disc0vered” that a someone with an equivalent position was paid a lot more than the LW who is female/minority or some other protected status.

          1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

            I wanted to ask about specifically. You mention that your new job takes you from hourly to salary, and has a 50% pay increase. Since you *also* mention that you work 9-11 hours a day, I’m guessing 47-52 hours a week.

            Are you getting appropriate overtime? Because time and a half for an average of 10 hours a week means your current actual pay is about 33% higher than your rate. So a 50% increase and going to salaried is still a raise, but not as much as it could be (some weeks might even wind up lower).

            If you’re *not* getting overtime… Holy Hell. Your lack of raises in the last few years is the least of your problems. Assuming an average of ten hours of overtime every week for the last three years ago, your employer legally owes you tens of thousands of dollars. Even if you only make $15 an hour (unlikely since you’ve gotten at least one large raise) that’s over $35,000 they owe you just for the last three years. Add more years and a higher pay rate, you could be approaching $100K they’ve screwed you out of.

            1. LW2*

              I was absolutely paid overtime for every hour I worked over the normal 40 while a non-exempt employee, so no worries there!

    3. Michelle Carmon*

      I’ve been at my job 4 months and have had to talk to my manager to contact HR to get my pay rate changed in our computer system 3 times. This last time they made the error in my favor, so it’s not just about trying to be cheap! My pay has never been right for more than a few weeks at a time. Some places are just highly dysfunctional.

  1. dododododo*

    LW#2: check what your hourly rate is when you are on a salary. If you are working 9 – 11 hour days and being paid salary, you might not be making as much as you think.

    1. LW2*

      I know. It’s why I’m making a concerted effort to start reducing my overtime hours. The more hours I work salaried, the lower the “per hour” calculation works out. But I was working these hours while hourly and even with that recalculation as salaried, I’m still averaging more than my “normal” hourly wage. But it’s one of the first things I thought of, too. Gotta watch the math. And the hours. This girl’s tired.

  2. Todaloo*

    It looks like the original letter for #3 is gone when you click the link. Did it get re-posted somewhere else?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I can see the original letter for #3 at the link. It was question #6 on a short answer post, so you’ll need to scroll a little ways down the page to get to it (or ctrl + f / find in page for “Moving to a post-science career”).

      OP3, thanks for the update! I’m glad you were able to move out of the sciences into a different career.

      1. OP3*

        Thank you, Hlao-roo! I do occasionally still get a pang about leaving science – I really loved my first role. But I also let it completely define me.

        Grateful I get to have a second act.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          Seconding the thanks for a long-ago update. It’s always wonderful to read about a successful career pivot!

        2. Terrysg*

          It’s great to get an update! Could you say how you picked the new area? Just a general idea, and just from nosiness I’m afraid.

          1. OP3*

            Once I fully came to grips with how bad my work situation was (the one I was in when I wrote to AAM), that finally mentally freed me to consider other paths I could take. Before that, I just felt trapped. I basically just started researching – the most direct/adjacent careers to science first, and then branching out from there.

            I followed my initial desk research up with a whole lot of networking, informational interviews and more casual conversations about people’s day-to-day. Once I narrowed my interests, those conversations continued, just got a lot more focused.

            The field I chose, and eventually ended up in, isn’t directly related to my former career, but there IS an interesting storytelling arc that I utilize. I think it works because my happiness in my new field is genuine, so that’s easy to convey.

  3. Dust Bunny*

    I’m also supposed to talk to them about salary every other year going forward as they “didn’t realize” I hadn’t gotten a raise in so long.

    And I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

  4. I should really pick a name*

    LW#1 It sounds like things have been resolved for you, but in the future, I would suggest doing what your boss asked.

    If you passed along emails as you got them, action might be taken. If you don’t, you’re probably just going to get more and more annoyed.

    If you start having problems again, it will be kind of weird if you suddenly produce emails that you saved months ago without sending.

      1. Vio*

        It could even be worth letting this person know that she has a tendency to pick on people and that her boss has asked to be made aware of any issues.

  5. KatKatKatKatKat*

    LW2 – You should be getting ANNUAL raises, not raises every other year. Put the reminder on your calendar to discuss raises every. single. year. This is something your boss should be doing proactively without you needing to ask, but as we know that they won’t, you should ask EVERY YEAR.

    Get your money – you deserve it!

    1. BubbleTea*

      I think this varies. I’m paid based on a local government payscale and the pay goes up every two years. You can move increments each year (until you hit the top of your band) but actual increases are every two.

      1. 2 Cents*

        I’m in the private sector (healthcare) and in my particular division, it’s expected that you’ll get something yearly. Might not be fantastic, but you’ll get something. Yearly. If you don’t, you find out why (performance reasons, budget reasons). And usually if people don’t, they leave. I put up with the “it’s not in our budget” excuse from my old workplace for years, even when they said “oh, we had a banner year!” then three weeks later “…but no money for raises.” Like…something doesn’t track there. You’re just greedy.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        It looks like the original letter says it’s a small, family-run business, so it’s not locked into the government step/grade system. Even with that system, my spouse (who works for the fed) has still gotten regular performance reviews, COLAs, and the occasional tiny bonus. No one “forgot” when he last got a raise.

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Federal Govt here. I get a cost of living raise yearly, without fail in January.
        For performance increases – you get one every year for the first three years, then they shift to an increase every other year on your hire anniversary. Changing to a new position description in my agency resets your annual raise every year date. So if you take a promotion or a transfer to a new position you get the annual raise once a year for three years, and then back to the every other year.

    2. Parenthesis Guy*

      That only applies if they give standard raises of 4 or 5 percent. But if they’re going to give a huge raise like 50%… well that’s the equivalent of those raises plus two promotions.

  6. What She Said*

    1. What is with your co-worker? If she is in fact harassing another employee please ask if you could help with all the evidence you have on her pattern. Just because she switched victims doesn’t mean your history with her can’t help with a new complaint. I would understand if you didn’t want to but I would encourage you to at least consider it.

    2. I want to believe this is good news but I’m getting a feeling of “too good to be true”. Don’t let them wait too long to share the new job description with you. You need to start planning to transition out of your current position so things should start coming off your plate sooner rather than letter. Good luck!

    3. Congrats on making the transition and wishing you many wonderful years in your new profession.

    1. LW2*

      I’m working to schedule a meeting with my boss to discuss this and several other things. I’m a planner. I like to know where I’m going.

    1. LW2*

      Thanks! I’m excited about the potential. We’ll see how it ultimately plays out. At worst, it’s really good experience to take somewhere else. At best, it’s going to be a great position I’ll really enjoy!

  7. HeraTech*

    LW#2 ” I’m already working 9-11 hours a day trying to keep up with my current job.” Please, please, please talk to your boss about taking some work off your plate. Working those kinds of hours is not sustainable in the long run and will lead to burnout, no matter how much money you make.

    1. LW2*

      I was doing really good with the hours for a long time but they’d crept back up the last few months. I hit a wall this weekend. I know it’s not sustainable. More importantly, i don’t WANT to keep doing this. I’m tired and I need a solid work/life balance.

  8. Sick of Workplace Bullshit (she/her)*

    OP #1, please go to your boss, show her the e-mails and explain what happened before Maria left, and tell her she seems to have a new target. I know it’s not your responsibility to rein Maria in, but please put the person who can in the loop.

    1. Luna*

      Especially since she’s doing it to a different person now. Not only is this proof of a pattern, and a huge, on-going problem that now most-likely/definitely has nothing to do with pregnancy hormones, but telling the boss now and showing the email will be a papertrail. Even if it’s just the beginning of one, it’s a papertrail that can be used as proof to potentially get Maria let go from the office for her behavior.

  9. Luna*

    If Maria continues to be a jerk, even if it isn’t being done directly to you anymore, keep bringing it up with your boss. Even sending that email with how she was prior to maternity leave, and point out times (dates, time on the clock, etc) when she has been acting just as badly with this other coworker. Or differently, but still bad behavior, if it’s different from before.

  10. blood orange*

    OP #3 Thanks so much for the update! It’s very cool to see an update with the time that has passed, and seeing that you’re happy with your career move!

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