updates: the lying director, the apology muffins, and more

Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. Dealing with a horrible, lying director and management that won’t act

Several years later, wanted to thank you, acknowledge how right you were, and give an update.

I stayed for 3 more years after the post. Funny enough, Lying Director quit, Terrible Executive Director tried to claim credit for it by claiming they fired the Lying Director, and I decided to stick around for a little bit longer because suddenly the organization was on track to do something really exciting that I and the other Good Directors had been trying to make happen for a while. We made history (international front page news and mentioned in books in multiple languages!), and my department was widely acknowledged to be at the center of much of the wins. My resume is fantastic because of staying the extra few years.

And all throughout, you were totally right that the real problem was the Lord of the Flies style executive director. Terrible ED actually got worse (which I did not think was possible), and got even more toxic when the pandemic started. Commenters were right that working at a place where the person at the top is the biggest obstacle to success just won’t work. A mass exodus did happen around the time I left, it didn’t wake up the Board and nobody asked why the ED couldn’t keep a good team together.

After we made history, I found another job, took a huge 30% paycut, which was totally worth it because now I do NOT have weekly nightmares about work AND I’m working only about 40 hours per week instead of the 60 – 70 I used to work so it’s probably actually not even a paycut if I think about it hourly AND my dentist has said that I’m not grinding my teeth as much!

2. My coworkers had to work late when I messed up — should I bring in muffins?

I’m glad that I listened to you and the commenters and did not bring in any baked goods. Honestly, the implications that you and the commenters suggested — i.e. seeming a little overly apologetic, unintentionally leaning into gender roles, etc. — had not occurred to me, so I’m glad I asked you first. For what it’s worth, I have brought in donuts before as a way of making up for an accident (years ago, I used something that belonged to a fellow intern, thinking it was common property), which worked then, but you’re right that doing the same would have been excessive in this situation.

It ended up that that project I wrote to you about wasn’t, as one commenter suggested, an overestimation of my abilities — rather, it was an ordeal that would’ve been made much easier with more time and more support from my boss. In fact, he liked the work I did on that first one and let me do two more — on topics of my own choosing! — later in the year, with more support (and more time, when possible.) It made a huge difference!

Thanks to everyone for their help!

3. Can I ask my coworkers to keep masking around me and not come to work sick?

I am the writer who asked about how to ask for accommodations at my work in March while going through chemotherapy, and whether I could really ask my coworkers to mask more for me.

I am very happy to report that I not only kicked cancer’s butt and went into full remission, but my coworkers could not have been more conscientious or accommodating. I wore an N95 mask religiously, took my breaks/meals in either my car or an empty office, and I was able to remove myself from any situations where I would have had more than passing contact with sick individuals. My manager absolutely went to bat for me, and while we couldn’t really REQUIRE people to stay home while sick, people were amazing about wearing masks and hand washing and sanitizing surfaces. I was lucky that my immune system only really tanked once or twice, and I managed to not get sick a single time. I also handled chemo symptoms way better than expected, and my coworkers and manager went above and beyond to be flexible for me. It’s really situations like this that let you know how much your coworkers care about you, if you’re lucky enough to have them! Thank you to you and all of your readers for the kind responses and helpful advice!

{ 30 comments… read them below }

  1. Nobby Nobbs*

    OP3, that’s wonderful news! And a good reminder that while many people aren’t very good at being kind and careful with the needs of humanity in the aggregate, they may be excellent at looking out for one specific person if given the opportunity to step up.

    1. Jojo*

      This is a wonderful update. I’m so happy you are doing well and that your coworkers came through for you.

    2. turquoisecow*

      Yeah, I’ve seen pushback about masks or vaccines from people when it’s presented in the abstract, but at least some of those people relent (albeit reluctantly) if you present them with an actual vulnerable individual, like for example a coworker undergoing chemo.

  2. Sara without an H*

    Every once in a while, I hear about something that restores my battered faith in the human race. Thanks, OP 1, 2, & 3, for sending in these updates.

  3. Goldenrod*

    “I am very happy to report that I not only kicked cancer’s butt and went into full remission, but my coworkers could not have been more conscientious or accommodating.”

    OP 3, you just made my day!!!!!!!!!! So happy to hear your good news. YAY! :)

  4. Jzilbeck*

    OP3, congratulations on beating cancer!!

    I have a coworker currently battling with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and I’m praying she will be able to share the same outcome as you.

  5. Girasol*

    OP3, you probably did a wonderful service for your coworkers. A lot of people are shamed into coming to work when they’re sick, so there may have been some who were very glad to be told that they should stay home.

    1. mf*

      That’s a good point! This gives OP’s coworkers a good reason to stay home and raises awareness of the potential impact when people come to work sick. It’s a win-win.

  6. starsaphire*

    Great updates!!! Glad to hear that #1 got out of the LotF workplace; glad to hear that #2 is growing and thriving in their position, and super excited to hear about #3’s health improving!

    The good news is incredibly welcome here on a very $#!^ty day.

  7. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    LW #3 – I want to thank you for writing in because the gender roles thing was also eye opening for me. As a woman who mentors other women, I refer back to that letter and that learning often.

  8. sole*

    OP3, as a person who also worked through chemo during a pandemic – I’m SO HAPPY that your coworkers were respectful and helpful with your needs. Congrats on your successful treatment, wishing for the best for you as you move forward!

  9. Event coordinator?*

    OP1 – glad you got out. The thing that shocked some sense into me at Toxic Job was when my dentist put her hand on my shoulder and said, “you’re grinding and clenching your teeth. Do you have a stressful job?” It’s so easy to ignore the signs, especially when it’s a gradual increase in stress.

    Happy for all the OPs in this update!

    1. SofiaDeo*

      In the US at least, there is often a culture of “powering through illness” “showing dedication to work” even IF the person has sick time. Many places in the US put vacation and sick leave in 1 single PTO bucket. And 3 weeks was generous at a lot of places, especially for newer staff. So that further contributes to people coming in when sick, when it’s not a separate line item they can draw from. You don’t want to call in sick when it means it eats into already meager vacation time, Plus, quite a number of people really can’t afford to take even unpaid leave. A number of employers routinely slash/limit hours so they don’t have to offer health benefits.(Like after Sam Walton died, virtually the first thing the new Wal-Mart Board did was slash everyone’s hours that they could, so they no longer qualified for health insurance, etc. to instantly cut business expense. They hired more part timers to make up the hours of people actually needed to run the business. It’s a major reason I don’t shop there.) I have seen this occur most often with lower paying entry level, support, and service staff, not the higher paid managers/directors/C-Suite folk. These people really can’t afford to take time off, even when an employer offers unpaid leave and doesn’t penalize them for “calling in sick” (and don’t get me started on employers who penalize staff who are legitimately ill and call in, which is an entire separate problem those of us in the US often deal with. Someone like LW#3 could actually have raises or bonuses denied in certain places, if one of their metrics was “does not call in sick more than X days per quarter.”)

    2. Science KK*

      When I complained about this after my friend died from RSV, I was told therea no policy and we can’t tell people what to do. Didn’t tell my bosses that four people thanked me the next day for speaking up, after she was angry with me about having to do damage control.

  10. immunorecovering*

    OP3, I am SO happy for you! As someone who finished chemo a few months before, I’m so relieved to hear everything worked out for you. Wishing you the best of luck and continued success!

  11. Sigrid says Hey*

    OP 3, I am thrilled to read that you are in complete remission. So glad as well that your co-workers gladly stepped up yo support you in this vital concrete manner. Hooray for all involved.
    I am 7 weeks passed my final chemo infusion and what astonished me is that you were well enough to work during treatment. I know it is different for each person but wow, that is amazing.

    1. EB-73674*

      LW #3 here – I was honestly shocked too! I will admit, I had comparatively mild chemo symptoms, and I didn’t work full time. I had 12 weeks of weekly chemo, and I worked 1-2 half days each week just because I was so exhausted. Then I had 4 rounds every 3 weeks – I was miserably exhausted & achy the first week, but last 2 weeks of each cycle I felt okay enough to work. My coworkers & boss really allowed me to be flexible with my schedule based on how I felt, and I honestly think I would have gone insane just sitting at home staring at my family waiting for something to go wrong. Work was a welcome reprieve & a good connection to my ongoing professional school topics, and got me out of the house!

  12. Michelle Smith*

    I love when I’m reading updates and I get to audibly cheer and do a little dance in my chair. Wonderful news all around.

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