updates: the coworkers who asks what my clothes cost, the sleeping boss, 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 coworker keeps asking what my clothes cost in front of other colleagues

Update on my colleague “Ava” who asked awkward questions about my clothing costs. Shortly after I wrote in I had a chance to become the manager of Ava and a few other direct reports, which is a really great thing for me! I’ve been more easily able to coach Ava and give her the professionalism feedback I think she needs because of this role change, and I have been getting great feedback on being a great manager for the past 6 ish months. I really wanted this change to management and am very happy.

Unfortunately, since becoming Ava’s manager I have realized that she lacks professionalism and office etiquette in a more significant way than just the comments about how much my clothes cost (which have stopped) and I am not sure how this job is going to work out for her. She becomes defensive with feedback and has blown up on the team over minor miscommunication, and her behavior continues to be awkward and off putting in the same way the clothing cost comments were to others on the team and they really dislike her because of it. I was pretty removed from the rest of the team previously due to different responsibilities and was in the dark about just how bad it is with her, but I’ll continue to work with her on things and hope for the best! I really want her to succeed and be a great fit to the team.

2. My boss falls asleep in meetings (#2 at the link)

Well, an update – he fell asleep again. Just after lunch. Unfortunately, I didn’t have control over the meeting agenda, so I couldn’t make the after lunch portion more engaging. There were about 15 people attending (all seated around a conference table), and for the most part of the day the meeting was just presentations – there was a fair amount of “interruptions” to the presentations, where attendees would ask the presenter questions, but there wasn’t really any good way for me to try to engage boss during those times – it would have felt out of place for ‘Suzie’ to be presenting, but for me to say “hey, boss, what do you think about what Suzie is saying?”

It could be a medical thing? I have no idea. In response to other commenters – we are a small staff (less than 10) and there is no one else closer in reporting to him than I am – if anyone were to say something to him, it would be me. On the good side, we really don’t have that many in-person meetings, much less all-day ones that I should have to deal with that often in the future. I do think, however, that if we have another (at least, another small one like this, where his behavior is noticeable) that I should say something in advance…

3. Should I let job candidates know I’m going to be leaving soon after they start? (#5 at the link)

I went forward with posting the job and reviewing resumes; I talked to several great candidates and there was a clear frontrunner in my mind. After the phone screen, I invited them to come in for an interview and also shared that I would be moving, but we have a great transition plan in place, and the rest of the team is stable. They ultimately decided that they did not want to pursue the opportunity further knowing that there would be a new manager in place; they’d been in this position before and did not have a good experience, which I respect. Not only do you run the risk of not liking the new manager, but you then also have to deal with a big transition early on.

It did throw off our hiring schedule though, and by that point it did not make sense for me to continue trying to hire & train someone prior to leaving because there just weren’t enough calendar days left. My replacement joined, I had a three-week transition with them, and they hired someone right as I was leaving. It was for a slightly different, less specialized role than I envisioned but I’m still in touch with the team and it sounds like things are going well!

{ 49 comments… read them below }

    1. TinySoprano*

      You win the internet today. Jedi Mike is gonna be up there with the duck club and cheap ass rolls now.

    2. IndyDem*

      My cat was sleeping on my mouse arm yesterday, and I needed to use it to type something. I whispered “Jedi Mike”, he looked up, yawned, and jumped down. So it works on cats!

  1. cncx*

    Thank you so much op3 for being honest. I was in the final round for a job recently I really, really wanted, and the hiring manager was kind enough to tell me that I would be coming into a situation with some significant staff turnover if I accepted. As I had just come off of a stint with the same turnover (two full headcount) and no onboarding, I was really fried on doing that again because it was the main reason I was leaving my immediate prior position. The HM’s transparency helped me to bow out quietly and accept another offer with no guilt (because up until that point that position had been my front runner). Furthermore, it’s a small field and I’m always going to remember this HM as someone with integrity when our paths cross again.

    1. ferrina*

      Yes, shout out to OP3! This was the right thing to do.

      I once got hired by someone that did not do that. I had just a couple weeks with her, during which she did no onboarding. Her replacement was brand new and didn’t know much about the team structure and processes. He expected me to flag anything he should know….even though I had been onboarded less than he had! It was a disaster! I never got any of the training I needed, and no one ever actually gave me responsibilities, expectations or a guide (they never even told me if I actually had the direct reports I was promised at the interview- the reports themselves didnt’ know who their manager was). I was deeply demoralized, became very unconfident in my abilities, and eventually got put on a PIP (left before it finished). A waste of time for the company, and deeply damaging for me.

      It took me over a year to recover.

    2. Lyngend (Canada)*

      I’m going to pretend that you were the candidate to turn down op3’s job offer.
      Unlikely but amusing to consider.

    3. turquoisecow*

      Yeah I took a job with a really nice hiring manager…who left like less than a month into the job. Her (temporary) replacement was nice but had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, my predecessor gave me a half-day’s training, and then other departments yelled at me constantly for doing everything wrong because I had no idea what I was doing. I ended up quitting without another job lined up because I was just miserable and hated every second I was there.

      I don’t know if the HM planned on leaving when she hired me but if I had known she was, I probably wouldn’t have taken the job at all. I feel like she could have walked me through things a lot better than her replacement (who, to be fair, was a nice guy, but also in over his head, and completely understood when I gave 2 weeks notice.)

      And then, when I quit, they had a temp (who I think ended up being hired permanently) come in for my last day, which was scheduled to be a half day. I had given them 2 weeks, they could have had him come in much earlier than that. So they clearly didn’t change much.

    4. Maglev to Crazytown*

      I had a horrific experience recently where I wish the HM would have had this openness. Instead, they announce their resignation on day six of my job, I had effectively zero onboarding other than being thrown to the wolves, in an organization with substantial turnover prior. The reorganization phases kept occuring through my several months onboard until I got caught in a housecleaning as part of that. Thankfully ended up in a better career afterwards, but had I known the HM was already trying to leave, would have never given it consideration.

      1. JustaTech*

        I had a coworker who’d had a similar experience. She moved to a new state for a job a Prestige U, only to have the hiring manager quit on her first day.
        And then it turned out that the only reason the lab was even half functional was because of the person who’d quit, and the head of the lab was awful in every possible way. To the point that my coworker just quit and left, selling all her stuff and moving across the country just to get away from it.
        (Which was when she discovered that jobs in our field were no longer thick on the ground and that’s how she ended up as my coworker.)

    5. Jesse*

      I was the hiring manager in one of these situations recently, but I didn’t know until it was too late! I hired someone and on her first day let her know that I was being re-orged into a different position. I felt terrible for her, but I didn’t have any warning myself. (I think it’s working out fine!)

  2. Jedi Mike*

    I wonder if #2’s boss needs a keyword, a casual, fun phrase to let them know to take a walk or splash water on their face or something. Something fantasy related maybe?

  3. Penny Hartz*

    #2 – I really want to hear about the other meeting attendees. With 15 people around a conference table, others must have noticed your boss sleeping? Did they seem concerned about needing to wake him up? I’d think it would be a huge distraction.

    1. Artemesia*

      The CEO of the org I worked in was notorious for dozing off in meetings — meetings often with important people. He was a very energetic guy constantly on the go –so no reputation for laziness. But he would just conk out mid meeting. No one seemed to have any idea what to do about it.

    2. JustaTech*

      My direct boss (who I still work for) once fell asleep in the meeting where our group boss told us he was quitting and introduced us to our new boss, and at least one of my coworkers cried that group boss was leaving.

      I was mortified, but my direct boss was too far away from me to nudge him awake. Though I did ask him, after the meeting, if he was feeling OK (in case he was coming down with something). “Yup, feeling fine.”
      (It wasn’t totally out of character for him to nod off, but he usually only did it when our one coworker was pontificating.)

    3. Reluctant Mezzo*

      I have a terrible time staying awake in meetings. The only way that works for me is for me to take minutes (sshhhh don’t tell anyone! They’ll make me do it forever!).

  4. Curmudgeon in California*

    Yeah, I started a job once and had my hiring manager leave for a different company within a month. At that company I had five different managers over the span of two years (I think. Maybe it was six.) It’s very disruptive. The company was very dysfunctional.

    One of my managers got called in while he was on paternity leave to be informed that he was being replaced as our group manager. The jackass they replaced him with was such a poor fit and horrible manager that nearly all of his team quit or switched departments over the next year, including me. (“Kiss up, kick down” was apparently his code of ethics. He was also racist and sexist.)

    I tend to side eye companies where I end up with more than one manager change per year. It’s a warning…

    1. Lyngend (Canada)*

      Yes, constantly changing managers is hard. Last job, seemed like every 3-6 months I’d get a new manager.
      Preventing me from getting written up as fast. But also preventing me from getting additional training as quickly as I qualified for

      1. JustaTech*

        Part of the reason my husband left his first job was that he was constantly getting re-org’d to new departments and new managers, to the point that he couldn’t get a real performance review because his managers would say (reasonably) that they couldn’t review him because they’d only worked with him for 2-3 months. Which of course impacted his raises, so he left.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Plus, by their own account OP says that s/he would have hired someone more specialized than the new manager preferred. It’s nobody’s fault, but I wouldn’t want to be a more niche hire when my new boss wants a generalist!

  5. kalli*

    #2 – while COVID did make some people who have DSPS and other medical reasons for functioning better with a less traditional sleep pattern able to be more productive and improve their health and routine, it sounds like this has been going on longer than that, and boss’ work is good enough that it’s something you work around so he can do his job, rather than something you aim to correct.

    If he’s up at 3am and sleeping after lunch, that’s maybe, 10-12 hours after his wake up time, coincides with socially acceptable afternoon nap or siesta or power nap time, which some cultures are more inclusive of. But it also makes the all-day meetings extend his work time by a few hours and I have to wonder whether the meetings actually justify that – it’s overtime for him. Presentations all day with no points at which you can have discussion? Why can’t they be distributed by email; why do they have to be a meeting? Why does it have to be an all-day meeting and not a 2-hr session with social drinks or an extended lunch? That’s where I’d be looking.

  6. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#1 — Congratulations on your promotion! I’m relieved to hear that Ava has stopped asking you about the price of your clothes, but I’m concerned when you say: She becomes defensive with feedback and has blown up on the team over minor miscommunication, and her behavior continues to be awkward and off putting…

    When you’re a manager, it’s very easy to convince yourself that, if you try hard enough, you’ll be able to save a problematic employee. If Ava’s issues turn out to be the kind that respond to coaching, that’s great! But responding defensively to feedback and (apparently) alienating most of her team mates is NOT a good sign. Please take some time to clarify in your own mind how Ava would need to perform to be considered an acceptable team member, then what you’re willing to do to get her there — assuming she’s willing to work towards that goal.

    And then decide what the threshold would be for firing her.

    I once invested much too much time in trying to salvage someone who just didn’t want to be salvaged. (In retrospect, I think they were just a poor fit for the role.) Talk with your own manager and make sure they have your back. If you haven’t briefed your HR team, do it right away. They may have some good advice for you.

    Good luck! And please send us another update.

    1. CheerfulGinger*

      Yes to all of this! Think about all the letters from folks complaining about their coworkers. It may not be obvious that you are trying to take corrective action, especially since Ava is no longer receptive to your coaching. All they experience is Ava being a difficult coworker. You can really kill the morale of everyone else by allowing one person to not be a team player.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yes, definitely. See: all the updates from the past week that were about employees leaving because managers refuse to manage bad employees. One bad employee really ruins it for everyone else so if you don’t get rid of that bad employee (or help them improve dramatically) you will lose all your good employees.

    2. Ava’s Manager*

      OP1 here, thank you so much! That’s a trap I could see myself easily falling into and I appreciate you bringing it up.

      1. zuzu*

        Yeah, you need crystal-clear expectations and behavioral/professionalism goals for Ava to meet, and clearly-communicated and swiftly-enforced consequences if she doesn’t meet them.

        If you don’t set this up, you’re telling the rest of your team they can’t count on you to manage problem people. And that means they won’t trust you.

      2. for what it's worth*

        I’m a very new manager and the person I took on was similar to Ava in that he had an attitude problem and also simply wasn’t doing his job (and tried to hide it, albeit poorly).

        I was convinced I had to “make it work” because if he was fired or left, it would reflect badly on me. I’m his manager and obviously his success is my responsibility.

        Nope. I discussed his poor performance with my manager and we laid out a PIP. Unfortunately he didn’t improve enough so we let him go. It was a tremendous relief to not have to manage someone who didn’t want to be there and everyone who was affected by his crap attitude and refusal to do his job were almost instantly happier. (Seriously, as soon as his exit was made official, people were coming up to me expressing relief that he wasn’t there anymore)

        So TL;DR: don’t feel too bad if you need to let Ava go. I can’t imagine the rest of the team enjoy her tantrums or rude questions.

      3. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Good luck, OP. I hope you have success with Ava, either getting her to change or letting her go. Because if, as you said, she really is just a poor fit for the job, you’re not doing anyone any good by keeping her there. Please update us when you know the outcome!

  7. Software Engineer*

    OP2… this is just not your problem to solve! It’s your bosses problem. If you were his boss you would have standing to address it with him but… It’s not your meeting, and you’re not his boss, just wipe your hands of it

    But also an 8 hour day of just presentation after presentation sounds like torture and I would want to sleep too! If you were scheduling it I would say try to come up with better more engaging ways to spend your time. The interesting part of a meeting is the discussion (otherwise why not just write up what you have to say and email it to me!) so it’s best to make that take the majority of the time. But it’s not your meetings and not you falling asleep so there’s not much you can do

  8. Observer*

    #1 – coworker / managee with poor social skills.

    You say that “I’ll continue to work with her on things and hope for the best! I really want her to succeed and be a great fit to the team.

    Please don’t do that. Yes, it’s good that you want her to succeed. And it’s VERY good that you are willing to put the effort in. But “hope for the best” is not a viable strategy. You need to have a plan – both for how you are going to work with her, but also for how you actually evaluate the results, and what happens if you don’t see the improvement you need.

    Loop your manager in. But also, HR. Not for them to come in cracking the whip, but perhaps they can give you some guidance and suggest some strategies. Also, you want them to know what’s going on if you do need to drop the hammer.

    In the meantime, check the archives here. Alison has some good stuff on managing poor behavior. But one thing I can say to start with. Treat her behavior – especially the defensiveness and blowing up – like performance issues like any others. And if she is customer facing, you need to treat some of the social awkwardness the same way.

    Before anyone jumps down my throat, I don’t mean that she needs to become Miss Congeniality or best buddies with clients. But she does need to not be rude, overly personal and intrusive with clients.

    1. Ava’s Manager*

      OP1 here, thanks for the comment and advice! ‘Hope for the best’ was just a figure of speech here. I have both HR and my manager looped in and actively coaching me on the ever evolving situation. Thankfully too, because this situation is hard!

  9. Anomie*

    Just let boss sleep ha ha. It’s his issue. If you feel he’s missed a salient point regarding you, bring it up after the meeting.

  10. Kiki is the Most*

    OP#3–I think sharing this information IS key with a new hire candidate. If you will be working for the HM, then that is part of the decision-making process! I was SO EXCITED to take a new job, and the HM was great (part of my decision) and just before I moved to ANOTHER COUNTRY to take this position she told me that she quit (she knew this when hiring me). I tried to keep a positive perspective, go anyway and embrace the new experience but her replacement was…the worst. If she had told me in the interview, I never would have taken the position, and wouldn’t have lost a year to working for a horrible boss.

  11. NetNrrd*

    Might be worth asking the sleeping boss if he’s looked into whether he has sleep apnea. I used to fall asleep in meetings all the time – it became a running joke among my coworkers. I figured everyone was this tired all the time but it was some character flaw on my part that I gave in and fell asleep when they did not. While it’s not _too_ bad to fall asleep in an all-hands meeting where you’re one of several hundred people, it’s a bit awkward to fall asleep in a meeting of 3 or 4 people. After one time like that, my boss asked me if I had a medical condition. I spoke to some friends about this and one said “oh, yeah, you totally have sleep apnea.” Which led to “Sorry, I have what? Why didn’t you tell me!” “Well, you know you snore, so I figured you knew.” “HOW WOULD I KNOW?! I’M ALSEEP WHEN IT’S HAPPENING!” I went to my doctor and got a sleep study and it turned out I had pretty bad sleep apnea and they hooked me up with a CPAP machine and it was quite literally life-changing. Unfortunately, sometimes people don’t find out they have sleep apnea until they’ve been in an auto accident after falling asleep while driving. Untreated, it also has some negative health effects besides “tired all the time.”

    1. kiki*

      I do think it’s worth discreetly flagging to people when they fall asleep in a meeting or class, indicate that it was noticed, and ask if they’re okay. Sleep issues can be kind of weird, like NetNrrd said, where people internalize that they’re weak by giving in to sleep instead of suspecting a medical issue. Or I know some folks who believe they were out for “just a second” and “nobody noticed.” I think it’s a kindness, but I can understand why it’s awkward!

      1. LikesToSwear*

        Absolutely agree! But instead of flagging any specific possible medical issue, I’d suggest telling the person to talk to their doctor and get a full checkup. For me, it was my underactive thyroid causing me to sleep 13-15 hours/day and always be tired.

  12. starsaphire*

    I had a friend “Anna” stuck in a #3 situation. She’d been headhunted away from a good steady job, gotten a nice raise, and moved 2 hours away. Then, two weeks in, her boss left – and took the project Anna was supposed to be PMing with her. Lots of fallout, and unfairly, Anna got painted with it – so no one’s team wanted her.

    Then Anna’s company spent several months trying to figure out what to do with her – and she spent those months biting her nails, paying rent on her new expensive place, and trying to job hunt without a current-boss reference while her company decided if it could find her another project, keep paying her PM money to do busywork, or just cut her loose.

    It may sound wonderful to be paid well for doing nothing – but for her it was a nightmare, because she was totally waiting for the other shoe to drop the whole time. It was so demoralizing for her, and she got into some major debt problems using retail therapy. It took her career a while to get back on track, too.

  13. DivergentStitches*

    OP #1

    I won’t armchair diagnose Ava but speaking from my own perspective, there was a time in my 20’s when coworkers would have said the same things about me. I wasn’t diagnosed as autistic until age 39, which explained everything.

    Soft skills are important in workplace settings, no doubt. If you have access to soft skill training, I’d recommend seeing if you can get access for Ava. Soft skill training can’t hurt in this situation IMHO. It could also help if you ever reach the point where you’ve exhausted every possibility of keeping her on board.

    One thing I do want to point out though – there’s a line between someone just being annoying or unpleasant for others to work with and actually purposely being rude/obnoxious, which it doesn’t sound like she is. The first person deserves to be able to work to support themselves. Not everyone has the most winning personality. Her coworkers don’t need to socialize with her. So I’d just like to say that sometimes people don’t like other people, and that’s ok. I would never fire someone because her coworkers didn’t like her. If she’s breaking office rules regarding behavior, yes, but not if she’s just annoying.

    Having been that annoying/unpleasant person without realizing it, I feel for Ava and hope that she’s able to learn the soft skills that she’ll need going forward.

    1. Ava’s Manager*

      Hi OP1 here! I’m glad you mentioned this cuz I forgot to in my update. She isn’t autistic but she is part of the non neurotypical community with a different and recent diagnosis. It’s also something we’ve been trying to work on what works for her. It doesn’t help that some of the folks my team interacts with (not my direct team) have kinda written her off as incapable in a really passive aggressive way like going to the other team members instead of her and she notices which further fuels her spiral of insecurity.

      To your other point, a lot of people find her endearing and really like her (I happen to be one of them so it helps!). But she does act in ways that aren’t appropriate or emotionally mature sometimes like blowing up at the team. Still figuring out if it’s something that’s coachable. She has been less defensive/reactive to coaching than when I wrote this update so I’m hopeful it’s a good sign!

  14. Sleepy at work*

    My first job out of college (1997), my boss fell asleep at almost every meeting. I thought he was incompetent and lazy. It turns out he had sleep apnea, and once it was diagnosed and treated, I realized that he was one of the best managers I have ever known, before and since. It certainly could be a medical condition, and I learned not to judge people so severely without knowing the facts.

  15. Jenny*

    OP # 2

    If the meeting is in person and not via video, can you sit next to him and nudge him? Obviously, this is something that needs to be addressed directly at another time, but maybe sitting next to him and giving him a nudge or kick can help in the moment.

  16. Leighanne*

    #2 boss who falls asleep after lunch

    Your boss needs to get checked for diabetes, especially if he’s 50-60 years old. Falling asleep in inappropriate places was one of the first signs my dad showed of developing it. According to his doctor, it’s incredibly common but not really recognized among the general public as one of the symptoms.

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