updates: I had to stay in a horrible hotel on a team-building trip, and more

Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. I had to stay in a horrible hotel on a team-building trip

I am the letter writer who had to stay at a horrible hotel on a team-building trip. I am happy to report that I have a new job!

When I wrote my original letter, I was feeling stuck and discouraged. As many commenters guessed, the trip and bad hotel were just the tip of the iceberg with my old job. I had a director who was indifferent to the fact that we were understaffed and overworked, and a manager who didn’t support us or advocate for us.

I was out of the workforce for an extended time to raise my family, so I am older than my former manager and my colleagues at a similar career level. Even though I have strong technical skills and an excellent reputation, I had become pigeonholed as the department workhorse, always there to solve a problem or pick up the slack, but not expected to advance. I also have a professional designation and was trying to move up within the “Professional Designation” department because I thought that was the best way to strengthen my resume.

About a week after my letter was published, a former manager told me that “Cecelia,” a manager in another department, was hiring for a role he thought I’d be great at. It’s in an area of the business not related to my designation, so I thanked him but didn’t plan to apply. The next day two more colleagues reached out to tell me about the opportunity. Both had worked for Cecelia and had nothing but praise for her. The phrase that stuck with me the most was, “I always knew she had my back.” I thought to myself that someone like that would not have stuck me in a fleabag hotel and expected me to work around the clock.

I had a closer look at the job posting and realized that it probably would suit me. It’s about half work related to my professional designation and half work on larger projects and initiatives. I got excited when I realized it could be a way to move my career in a new direction. I applied and got the job!

Cecilia is as great as everyone says. For the first time in a long time, I feel valued and respected at work. Ironically, I probably wouldn’t have considered this job if the horrible hotel hadn’t been the last straw for me. I didn’t end up going to HR about the hotel or having an exit interview, but the VP (Director’s boss) reached out before I left; we’d worked together on a few projects and had a good rapport. I tried to give her a neutral account of the reasons I was leaving without burning a bridge or throwing my manager under the bus. I don’t know if it will change anything, but I tried.

I’d like to thank Alison and the commenters for your advice and encouragement. Good luck to all the discouraged job hunters out there. I hope you will soon have good news of your own to share.

2. How to talk about a personal crisis at work (#4 at the link)

I was able to find a way that felt right to me to talk about my partner’s health crisis and as several people advised, was approved for FMLA time to help structure and protect added flexibility to accommodate my family’s needs. I’m really glad I did—I was able to get support I needed at work without feeling as worried about what impact it might have had on my performance. And, being at least somewhat open with folks about what was going on allowed me to more authentically decline meetings if things felt overwhelming, if I needed to move things around to get longer blocks of focus time, or make space to get family members where they needed to be.

It also helped me be a lot more confident in the kind of support my manager, team, and company were willing to provide.

My partner died suddenly about a year after I sent in that letter, and when my manager told me to take several weeks off right away, I completely trusted that I could take that time, focus on getting us through that initial shock, and work with them to develop a plan to ramp back up responsibly. At other jobs I’ve had, bereavement policies allowed time off in the order of days, not weeks, and I really don’t want to know how it would have gone had I been required to return to work before we’d even been able to hold the funeral.

3. How do I pass on institutional knowledge before I retire? (#5 at the link; first update here)

Longtime commenter Free Meerkats here. Well, today is my final workday on payroll. The new person is going to be excellent in this job and I’m comfortable passing the fasces on to him. I’ve also suggested AAM as a source for him as it’s made me a much better manager than I would have been without regular reading of your sage advice and the comments from your readers. Thank you all, you’ve made my life simpler and easier to navigate.

I’m still not sure exactly what I’m going to be doing with myself in the next phase of life, but I have time to figure that out. I won’t be gone from the site completely, but will be reading it less and commenting even less than that.

{ 40 comments… read them below }

  1. glitter writer*

    OP #2, I just want to say I’m very sorry for your loss, and glad your job was able to extend you grace in that difficult time.

    1. Emma*

      Absolutely, heartfelt condolences, LW. My nan lost her husband when their children were very young, and I know how difficult it was for her. I’m glad you have a supportive workplace and hope you have others around you too who you can rely on. X

  2. ThursdaysGeek*

    Free Meerkats – enjoy your retirement! Mine will be in less than 2 years, and my boss and I are already working hard to make sure knowledge is documented and available.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Yes, enjoy your retirement!

      I’m still more than 2 years away but we are planning a bit. I thought I would see it one way, but that has changed over time and I’m surprised by that!

      I think we should start a weekend thread just about retirement!

    2. Indigo a la mode*

      Congratulations, Free Meerkats! I’m so happy for you. Hopefully your next phase of life still involves hanging out here and advising people in the workforce <3 Enjoy yourself and a reward of all your years of hard work!

    3. Bronze Betty*

      Yes, Free Meekats, enjoy your retirement! Especially your sailing. I suspect you may hang out here at least occasionally. I’ve now been retired a couple of years and, to my surprise, I still visit this site and comment from time to time. (I’m spending a lot of time on my hobby of quilting, and couldn’t be happier at this new “job.”)

    4. fposte*

      Free Meerkats, I was going to say, as a recently retired person myself, come on in, the water’s fine! But then I realized that as somebody who worked in water treatment you would know that better than me :-).

      Have a great time. It’s really fun. I documented what I could before I left, answered a couple of followup questions, and mostly just left them to sort things out in their own new and exciting ways.

  3. Decorative Rocks*

    Horrible Hotel LW:

    I was out of the workforce for an extended time to raise my family, so I am older than my former manager and my colleagues at a similar career level. Even though I have strong technical skills and an excellent reputation, I had become pigeonholed as the department workhorse, always there to solve a problem or pick up the slack, but not expected to advance.

    Yes, I know that job place. It’s pure ageism. I’m sorry you were stuck in that way, and I hope you are now advancing the manner that you want.

    1. Letter Writer #1*

      Thank you so much. I do believe it was ageism, but thankfully I have landed in a much better place.

  4. Mockingjay*

    Congratulations! Enjoy retirement. And thanks for the thoughtful advice you offered over the years.

  5. Me (I think)*

    Free Meerkats — have a great retirement and enjoy figuring out what comes next. I have a year left, and we were able to hire my replacement last fall so I could work with them. It’s been great, and I am very ready to hand over the reins.

  6. WantonSeedStitch*

    OP #2, I’m so very sorry for your loss. Best wishes for you and your children, and I hope you get all the support, love, and help you need in this difficult time.

  7. Sara without an H*

    Hi, Free Meerkats — Congratulations! I hung it up two years ago, and I’ve been very happy since.

    A word of advice: This is a phase of your life where you can experiment. It’s perfectly fine to decide that a hobby/pastime/gig you had planned to do in retirement isn’t actually for you, drop it, and try something else.

    I still check in with AAM, although I don’t comment as much, just to kind of keep up with what’s going on out there. And the more I read, the more I realize that using work as a source of personal identity and satisfaction is a trap and a dead end. You are not your resume!

    It sounds as though you and your organization handled the transfer very well. Now go forth and enjoy yourself!

    1. Just Another Cog*

      “ And the more I read, the more I realize that using work as a source of personal identity and satisfaction is a trap and a dead end. You are not your resume!”

      I second this!!!!!!!!

    1. EPLawyer*

      I loved the reference. But I read a lot of historical mysteries set in Ancient Rome. I highly suggest the Lindsay Davis Falco/Albia series or the Steven Saylor Gordianus the Finder series (using actually Cicero cases as the starting point).

      1. Curious*

        My favorite series is Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome. But, given the symbolism of rods (symbolizing the power to beat) and axes (symbolizing the power to execute) and the association with Fascism, I feel a bit queasy about using the term fasces in relation to myself…

      2. Sharpie*

        Same on all counts. Lindsay Davis has a wickedly dry sense of humour. And if you can find them, you might also like Rosemary Rowe’s Libertus books set in Roman Britain.

    2. Decorative Rocks*

      I parsed it first as “faeces”, which kind of also fits in some workplaces.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        Thank you all for the good wishes.

        And it would definitely apply at my workplace, there is a pond of a quarter billion gallons of partially treated sewage 30 feet from the front door is the office. :)

  8. Bibliovore*

    #2 I am so sorry for your loss. And I am relieved to hear that your work remembered to be human in your time of sorrow. Be extra kind to yourself even a year later. Grief hits at odd moments.

    Hey Free Meercats! I still want one! Enjoy your retirement. Even though Mr. Bibliovore enjoyed his work (super corporate) I loved that for the five years of retirement he found meaningful ways to engage. He served on boards of literary magazines, tutored kids at our local 826 (826MSP) supported small presses and rights organizations and participated in getting out the vote campaigns. Have fun!

  9. Tedious Cat*

    Best wishes, Free Meerkats! As a fellow BCN fan, your userpic always makes me smile.

  10. Elizabeth West*

    Yay @Free Meercats! I’m glad you feel confident about your successor. Enjoy every minute of your retirement; it’s well-deserved!

  11. Tuna Casserole*

    OP#2, I am so sorry for your loss. I hope many wonderful things come to you in the future.

  12. ACM*

    OP #1: You being seen as the “workhorse” just reminded me of a youtuber who’s been doing workplace skits. Like a forklift driver or a machine operator who can’t get promoted to manager despite busting his ass for years because he’s “too valuable to production”.

  13. CoinPurse*

    For Free Meercats: congratulations! Welcome to the retiree club. It’s an amazing opportunity. Everyone told me I’d never be happy retired but I’ve not had one bad day. It’s delightful. Enjoy!

  14. soon to retire*

    Congratulations Free Meercats! I’m looking forward to doing the same – I have just told my bosses that i will be retiring at the end of August. It was going to be June but then i figured out what all i have to do first (and who do i give all those coffee mugs to??)

  15. Venus*

    It’s great that you were supported. Our workplace policy has one week of leave for the loss of close family and that never seemed enough except that at the end of the policy there is vague wording about management discretion to give as much time as needed. I know one coworker got many weeks of leave after his spouse suddenly died and it felt good to know that our workplace is so supportive.

  16. Llama Llama*

    I feel 2 was me right around the same time the original letter came in! Except my daughter’s problems became intense out for 3 weeks because she was in the hospital problems at the end of March. I am thankful my daughter is relatively healthy now but I still struggle with what to tell managers.

  17. Chauncy Gardener*

    Congratulations, Free Meerkats! I hope you enjoy your retirement and continue to hang out here!

  18. VixLynEll*

    Free Meerkats, congratulations on your retirement. I’ve often enjoyed your comments. Have a wonderful, healthy and safe post-work life!

  19. Former_Employee*

    My condolences on the loss of your partner, OP#2.

    I’m glad you had the kind of support from your manager that everyone deserves at such a difficult time.

Comments are closed.