it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “Several months ago I inherited a part-time employee we thought we would have to fire. She’d been with the company a few months and wasn’t picking up the basics, and working with me was the last chance. She is in a new field, and I realized quickly she was nervous and had also received a lot of negative feedback from several people, which made her even more flustered. She responds well though to constructive feedback and thrives when she gets praise. Giving her deserved praise seemed to really raise her confidence. I took the constructive/praise approach to coach and manage her, and last week we asked her to step in and fill a temporary need that has her in the office more and doing higher-level work. Today, we had a problem I just couldn’t solve, and guess who solved it? The employee I thought we were going to fire three months ago.”

Update from this week: “She is now permanently in the role she was helping us with, and is ROCKING it. I’m just thrilled for her. She’s an asset.”

2.  “I have been reading your blog for a few years now after my sister mentioned how much she loved AAM. I always read the Friday Good News posts and thought ‘yeah right, that will never happen for me’ — but now I have some good news of my own!

I have been a non-profit/legal services attorney for my entire career. As much as I love the work I do with clients, it became more and more apparent to me during the pandemic that the work was not worth the lack of support from leadership, being severely underpaid, and little ways to further develop my skills as an attorney. About 4 months ago, leadership announced that our retiring ED would be replaced with an internal candidate who was unpopular enough that it has set off a wave of people looking for new jobs, or even quitting without a job lined-up. It was the kick in the pants I needed to start applying. I revamped my cover letter and resume with your (wonderful!) guidance and started applying to jobs both in and out of my current industry. Alison – this application process has been a night and day difference from any of my previous job searches! I feel so much more confident and am able to see an interview as a conversation where both parties are looking for a good fit.

During my interviews, I was able to give thoughtful answers (especially to behavioral questions I was not familiar with until reading AAM) and I received great feedback on my cover letter. Eventually, I was offered a position at a private law firm which would allow me to grow as an attorney but have a percentage of my clients from the firm’s pro-bono practice (which is a dream come true for me!) The benefits are astronomically better – and the pay is nearly about a 90% increase over what I currently make. I normally am very shy about asking for flexibility around a start date or other work accommodations, but after I received an offer, I felt confident enough to ask upfront. The company’s response was great and they were more than willing to be flexible, which I saw as a great sign. Best of all – I finally feel like I deserve to be treated well at a job. Especially as a child of immigrants, we are sometimes told by our families that we need to just take whatever we are offered, no matter how toxic. We do not. I finally feel like I am going somewhere where I am valued. I don’t think I would have gotten there if it wasn’t for this blog.”

3.  “I wrote to you a while back to ask about getting ghosted on an internship application where the employer (a national lab) had specifically asked me to apply and helped me apply to positions they helped me find, then dropped all contact with me afterwards. I later wound up getting interviewed (and sadly rejected) for two internships at a different employer I much preferred to the national lab. I was pretty devastated, but I went ahead and continued applying … and I got not one, not two, but three offers for internships within a two week period! I chose the one that meshes best with my career goals, which also happens to be a pathway to a permanent job in a field I love and a company that I used to think I could only dream about working for.

I also want to encourage any other students out there looking for internships to keep on applying. Everyone I talked to said the most important factor in getting an internship is persistence — there’s so many people wanting them and only so many positions open, so you have to apply to many, many positions to get a single offer. I’d also like to give a shoutout to your resume, cover letter, and interview guides. I used all of these to sculpt my application materials, including my ‘about me’ spiel for the beginning of interviews/introductions to people at career fairs, which I think helped me stand out from others and helped me secure three offers in a short period of time.

Again, thank you so much, and good luck to all.”

{ 22 comments… read them below }

  1. Sara without an H*

    All of these are wonderful to read, but I’m especially delighted with #1. Good management pays off!

    1. Anna K*

      I was just coming on to say the same – everyone’s good news is so lovely, but it is especially nice to hear from management! I’d also guess that this employee will think about OP for years into her career as an example of a great manager

  2. PassThePeasPlease*

    Love this update from the first, especially this part, “Best of all – I finally feel like I deserve to be treated well at a job. Especially as a child of immigrants, we are sometimes told by our families that we need to just take whatever we are offered, no matter how toxic. We do not. I finally feel like I am going somewhere where I am valued.” This is something I’ve been unlearning after a few years of just taking anything that comes my way and trying to be more intentional about what to apply and interview for.

    1. sewsandreads*

      Just want to add a +1 for the child of immigrants comment — I’m not sure how universal the experience is, but when I told my immigrant father I’d asked for (and received!) a raise, he was mortified that I had the audacity to do it and insisted I should instead be grateful I have employment. I was already so worried about asking, yet my boss treated it like it was weirder if I DIDN’T ask for it! So it’s something I’m trying to remind myself isn’t my narrative, too, but goodness it’s difficult after seeing my dad work hours and hours he was never paid for, and never advocating for himself.

  3. rayray*

    Really like #1, more leaders could benefit from working with people that way. Motivation goes a long way. I’ve worked at places before where the only way you knew you were doing your job right was if you weren’t hearing anything at all. It’s hard to thrive in an environment like that, but encouragement and leaders who have faith in you will really help you thrive.

  4. Glen*

    Lot of positive responses to #1 (correctly!)

    But I’m more concerned about the feedback she was receiving that was so harsh that this apparently quite competent woman was on the verge of being fired.

    1. Back To School*

      Came here to say the same thing. It might be worth taking a closer look at who was giving this employee a hard time, as that tends to be a pattern and others may be being crushed under that undue harshness.

        1. Paper*

          But I’m more concerned about the feedback she was receiving that was so harsh that this apparently quite competent woman was on the verge of being fired.

          This happens all too often, and it really makes me very angry. This is bad management, through and through. People do not respond well to being treated like dirt, including being nitpicked to death.

          I agree with Back to School that if this woman is now doing so well based on reasonable management that she is literally soaring, the managers who gave the previous harsh and/or negative feedback need to be investigated. They are likely unsuitable for management, especially roles where they are allowed to decide the fate of employees, or are allowed to give recommendations regarding the same.

    2. JSPA*

      The reset in management style made the difference between sinking and swimming, but the shift from swimming to soaring may be more a question of fit.

      For that matter, the LW’s style might not have worked if the employee had not already received the direct feedback necessary. (As the negative feedback was from multiple people, chances are that the employee was in fact screwing stuff up and needed to know that.)

      “Person who has the abilities to become competent but is starting in a new field” can’t be summarized as “competent” or as “incompetent.” They are on that path, The speed and curve of their trajectory is either adequate or inadequate for the company’s immediate needs.

      It’s excellent that they were able to level up at the magic moment, once provided both the essential feedback and then the expression of belief in them. But to treat them as somebody who was destined to be competent all along, except for being torn down by negativity, is somewhere between hindsight and revisionism.

      Sure more people would probably succeed if the workplace could allow them endless time to sandbox while already on the job, and if coworkers were willing to appreciate the unique challenges of shifting into new fields and positions, And not let somebody’s first couple of months color their assessment of what the person is capable of. But most people are not capable of ignoring two months worth of screw
      ups. (If they were this judgmental after 2 or 3 days, and it just snowballed from there, then yes they were the problem. But we don’t know that.)

    3. cncx*

      Yup. I had a boss who was putting me on a PIP for something I’ve done successfully at every job prior to that one and since. Sometimes it is the boss. But if management and HR think that person is bringing added value to the bottom line, a personality that toxic usually goes unchecked. I’m so lucky I ran into him mid career, had I worked for him when I was in my twenties the experience would have really messed up my self-esteem. I may or may not be keeping track of how many people he has run off before TPTB decide he might just be the problem.

    4. SofiaDeo*

      Perhaps not so much that “the feedback was harsh”, as a possibility that this person needed a *different method* of communication such that pointing out mistakes are not internalized. There are different ways of saying basically the same thing, and good managers will at least try to be aware of the different ways their remarks might be interpreted. For example, take the statement “that’s not what I wanted, you need to do it X way.” Sounds pretty straightforward, but some people internalize mistakes and especially when nervous, can get into a “I am stupid, what is wrong with me” or “omg I remember they said this, I must look like a fool” or even some might be “you didn’t state all the exact steps and I am now angry, you didn’t train me properly.” OP noted this person responds well to constructive criticism and praise. So instead of the original, somewhat basic straightforward statement, things along the lines of “this is good, almost perfect, to get there try doing it X way” or “I don’t remember exactly what I said regarding the process, what I intended to convey was doing it X way.” Or other similar modifications. Not everyone responds exactly the same; people have different personalities and needs in terms of what motivates them, as well as how to “have a discussion” that isn’t interpreted as an attack/supercritical. As OP noted, they used the “constructive/praise” approach in communication, and it worked well in this person. When a new hire doesn’t seem to be doing well/is flustered & nervous, a change of tactics by the trainer/manager often works.

  5. IndyDem*

    OP #1. Your post made me tear up. I’ve seen too many people just give up on others, people who can be capable of great things with the right support. You provided that support. Thank you for what you did. You are a great manager, and a better human.

  6. Bookworm*

    Thanks for all the good news. Especially #1: thought maybe the person might end up moving on, but glad to know it worked out.

  7. Adrian*

    Congratulations to everyone!

    OP #1: I also wonder about the negative feedbackers. Maybe they felt threatened by the new employee, and tried to undercut her before she could develop her rockstar potential.

    OP #2: More power to you! I work in legal but am not a lawyer, and I could see it being difficult getting into private practice with only non-profit/public services work experience.

    OP#3: Maybe something changed at the national lab and they couldn’t take you after all. It sounds like they got you where you needed to be, to land the position you have now.

  8. Alan*

    Re #3, we see this at work. My employer typically gets 10,000 applications a year for intern positions, from which we can hire around 700 people. I have seen college students get so, so demoralized when their applications aren’t accepted, but the reality is that we have no good triaging approach for those applications, and as someone who occasionally gets an intern, it’s luck (and existing connections) more than anything. Not getting an internship says essentially nothing about your value (which we can honestly not even judge from the apps), and I wish more people would realize that, fairly or not, it really is a numbers game, although prior networking *definitely* helps.

  9. Fishsticks*

    Letter #1, thank you for working with someone who just needed to be managed in the way most effective for her. You see so much of people who tie weights to someone’s ankles and then ask why they’re drowning, but you let her show you she can swim.

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