it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “I wrote to you a while back after a vague but negative performance review at a major health care organization, asking if my boss was trying to get me to quit. I learned that she was just not a good manager or a good person, and that the rest of the department enabled her.

I brought the negative review to my HR business partner, who was supposed to be a career development advisor, and she forgot to dial in for our first call. We rescheduled, but on the second call she hadn’t read the review and gave me nothing but vague platitudes.

From your column, I recognized more than a few warning signs:
* She told me I couldn’t have the day off to go to my master’s degree graduation (I said it was non-negotiable and took the day, but still had to work the day before while I had family in town).
* She called me up, yelled at me, and then hung up on me … when discussing the correct aspect ratio for an image in a social media post (I had started following guidelines from Facebook and our central marketing office without her explicit instructions).
* I found out that the person who had this job previously had also quit to get away from this manager.
* Just as I got my master’s degree, I got a clear economic signal to hit the exits: a 1% raise with inflation at 8%, and a change in health insurance policies that reduced my pay by 5%.
* I had a panic attack when she emailed to ask me to call her.

I quit without a backup plan in place. There was no exit interview. Former coworkers who then had to deal with her began to text me to say how much they missed me and hated working with her.

I’m now temping (at a much higher hourly rate!) because I was afraid of committing to a permanent job anywhere. Where I work now, the review process for completing documents is supportive and produces good quality results. My new manager and her manager have both made it clear that they appreciate my work and want me to stay around. My contact at the temp agency says he’s almost never seen anyone get such rave reviews.

Thank you for your column. I have been in the weeds for so long, I don’t think I ever realized what a healthy and respectful environment looked like.”

2.  “I moved into the nonprofit space four years ago after spending almost ten years of feeling relatively unfulfilled in my private sector career.

And while I understand the dream job concept can be toxic, for me landing in the right nonprofit opportunity was eye-opening. Suddenly I felt passion for my work in a way I had never experienced, and many of my colleagues are some of the brightest, hardest working people I’ve ever experienced — and, wow, colleagues treated each other as human beings. I was working on projects that I felt had a real impact. And I quickly became a manager, which was so tough but incredibly fulfilling because I was able to be the kind of boss I wish I had earlier in my career.

But, then I started having issues with my boss, the department head. There were so many red flags: he played favorites with certain types of work our department did and favored the people doing that work, he took all of the credit for himself whenever possible, he was purposefully opaque about what he was working on, he never articulated a strategy or goals for the team, he became incredibly insecure about non-profit leadership seeing his shortcomings so he began over-delegating his department head responsibilities, adding tons of work to my plate in the process.

I met with his manager and HR separately to share my thoughts, but they said there was nothing for them to act on beyond recommending some executive coaching for him and recommending that I learn to live with it.

So I doubled down on my work and developing skills within my team and tried to minimize the impact he was having on me. Which only served to make him more insecure. He began actively pigeonholing me, minimizing my team’s contributions, and began regularly raising his voice at me in 1-1 and group settings. I was stressed to the point where I was losing weight, not sleeping well, and having intense anxiety before and during 1-1s.

Honestly this was a pretty dark time for me. But reading AAM let me know that I wasn’t alone!! I thought about leaving, but I was pissed — I loved this work, I was good at it, I wanted to stay.

And then, we had a leadership change. My boss got a new boss. Who heard me out and decided to get involved in understanding the issues. It took time, but six months later, my boss was gone and I was given the opportunity to interview for his job (and I got it!).

I’m back to loving my job. It’s difficult and wonderful and rewarding and tiring all at the same time. But I feel grateful to work for a company that values their staff, and for my new manager who was willing to get involved despite being new to their own role.”

3.  “You once helped me (privately) deal with a coworker who was making ableist and sexist jokes — his whole saga was how I became a commenter.

I documented that, and my whole job search process last year, which was a really stressful time, and I actually went against the general advice not to disclose my (recently diagnosed) ADHD because I had realized that whenever I had struggled at work, it was usually due to a symptom I didn’t realize I had. But letting the job know this was actually due to the many lessons I’ve learned from the posts and the fellow commenters — the way your job makes you feel is really important, and having become a father, I knew I couldn’t be my best self for him if I spent all day feeling terrible. The diagnosis just gave me a useful litmus test, and I did have a job, so I could afford to wait until the right thing came.

I finally found the right thing, and I’ve never felt more confident and comfortable in my own skin. I’m not sure what it means that so much of how we feel often ends up tied to our workplaces, but it’s really been a remarkable change to feel professionally supported (and much better compensated) in a healthy workplace where people are (gasp) working towards a common set of goals.

So basically the site and the fellow commenters helped me see that I really needed someplace new, and that, if I could afford to wait it out — and it was hard — finding the right fit for me was something worth holding out for.”

4.  “I took a job in October that ended up being a VERY bad fit. The team was incredible but the actual work was the exact opposite of what I am good at — plus the nature of this job meant I had to continually make mistakes in order to learn how to do things correctly, which was a nightmare for my sense of worth. My boss and I have a great relationship and I was able to be transparent about how miserable I was, and she gave me her full support in finding a new position.

Initially I was hesitant because I am a former job hopper who has done immense work to unlearn those habits. I was worried about how it would look that I was only at this job for five months, that it might look like I was back to my old ways, but I just knew in my bones that I was never going to be good at this job. Staying wouldn’t benefit anyone – not me, not my excellent team, not my clients.

I applied for 8 jobs, was offered 5 initial interviews, then 2 second interviews, and finally 3 job offers (plus, all of these are with state agencies, so it is likely more offers will show up down the line). I have accepted one of the positions which came with a 20% pay increase, 30% more PTO, and is at an organization that is known for having high-quality in-demand employees. I know I would not have had such a successful job search if I hadn’t started reading your blog all those years ago. Plus, I am over the moon to be returning to an industry that I am passionate about, in a role with responsibilities that I excel at.”

5.  “I’m a freelancer who applied to a contract position to create a monthly work product for the company. We interviewed and it was clearly a good fit, so they offered me an increase in the base salary and a bonus to sign on for 2 full years. A few years ago I would have jumped at that, but I decided it was part of a negotiation, so I asked for more money and a higher bonus. I was very nervous and had some feelings about being unworthy or ungrateful, but pushed through it because I knew they wanted my specific skill set, experience, and network — and I knew from years of reading your advice that I shouldn’t leave money on the table. Anyway, they accepted my counteroffer, I’m starting next week, and now I’m charging ALL my clients more (and none of them are complaining, either)!”

{ 29 comments… read them below }

  1. Justin*

    (It’s me, hi, I’m #3, it’s me)

    I definitely wouldn’t have had my “this isn’t right” suspicions confirmed without this site and Alison. I really would have assumed, as many of us ND people are forced to, that I was the problem. But now at this new place where I’m not only tolerated but celebrated specifically for (most of) the unique gifts I have, I realize that there are environments where I will shine. And I’ll never settle again barring some catastrophe.

    1. Random Dice*

      I’ve also been through this same late-in-life diagnosis process, and it was so unsettling to go through, but now it’s very liberating.

      A diagnosis let me put down shame, and pick up tools.

      1. Lily*

        “A diagnosis let me put down shame, and pick up tools.”
        Same. Still working on the putting down the shame (and self-judgment) bit.

      2. Magenta*

        I’m 41 and currently in the process of getting diagnosed, waiting for preliminary reports to come back and hoping my insurance will cover the full assessment. I know I am lucky in that the NHS will eventually see me, but the waiting list for Adult ADHD assessments is currently 21 months in my area, which is apparently better than most!

        I read an article on women diagnosed with ADHD late in life and my first reaction to the list of symptoms was “everyone struggles with those things”. It took a while for it to sink in that perhaps it wasn’t everyone but me!

    2. Maggie*

      I was recently diagnosed at age 38, and it has been really eye-opening. A lot of my performance issues at my last job were probably symptoms, and having a boss who disregarded my efforts (I told them that I was using ADHD coping techniques to work on my weak spots, they replied “Oh you don’t have ADHD.”) made everything so much worse. A year later, I have a diagnosis, medication, and a new job that doesn’t care how I do the work, as long as it gets done accurately. I didn’t realize how much energy I was using just trying to cope with my own ND brain. I don’t need a nap after work! I don’t have panic attacks anymore!

    3. Echo*

      Justin, thank you for sharing your update! If you’re willing to, could you share what support your new workplace was able to provide for your symptom? I’m always trying to think about how I can be a more supportive manager to neurodivergent team members and any tactical advice is a huge help!

  2. starsaphire*

    I know this section doesn’t get much commentary, but honestly, a lot of us do read all of these and just… really feel better for a while. :)

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      Exactly this. And just love love love hearing everyone’s good news!
      Congrats to all the LWs!

  3. Goldenrod*

    Yay! Big congrats to you all! Well done!

    I have a special place in my heart for those escaping bad bosses and these letters especially make my heart sing.

    LW#1: “She told me I couldn’t have the day off to go to my master’s degree graduation (I said it was non-negotiable and took the day”

    Good for you for taking the day! And yes MAJOR RED FLAG which I also learned from reading this site. So happy that you got outta there!

    1. Lizard on a Chair*

      That reminded me of the infamous boss who wouldn’t let his star employee take a day off to attend her college graduation, and was shocked when she quit. Maybe the terrible bosses don’t learn, but I’m glad LW made it to their graduation anyway!

    2. 2 Cents*

      I always wonder why that’s a hill to die on for the boss. Unless the OP is literally a brain surgeon or something, what’s so important that a major life accomplishment must be missed to … go to the office? Take a meeting? IDK maybe I’m just too cynical.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I wonder why it’s a hill to die on for the employees, though. At the end of the day you have the degree with or without going to the ceremony. I didn’t go to graduation ceremonies for my own qualifications as they were during work days and it wouldn’t have occurred to me to take that as a “non negotiable” day off! The degrees have benefited me but I can’t say I’ve lost out busy hot having walked across a stage and shaken hands with some university bigwig.

        1. Cruciatus*

          Because some people would like to celebrate their accomplishments publicly and that’s okay.

        2. Ariaflame*

          I guess for a lot of people it’s about the symbology of the finality and celebrating it with friends and family and having it acknowledged.

          For you that may not be that important. For others, it may be.
          Admittedly nearly all our graduation ceremonies are in the evening so it rarely comes up.

        3. tamarack fireweed*

          I think you’re missing a point here: Whether or not it’s a hill to die on for the employee doesn’t say very much about the employee other than what they value; however, if it’s a hill to die on for the employer, that’s a huge red flag.

      2. coffee*

        I think it’s the boss’s way of saying “This is important to you but not to me and I have the power to make my view count more”, possibly with a side of “Don’t expect this to change anything”.

  4. Momma Bear*

    I did something similar, LW. Took time to regroup and landed on my feet. If you like the temp gig and they like you, find out steps for a permanent role. Glad you moved on from your toxic boss.

  5. DayDreamBeliever*

    LW#1 – your story sounds like mine from four years ago. Toxic boss, was leaving me out of things, felt my questions were implying they weren’t doing their job, set very non-specific areas of improvement during my 6 month review, implied I had mental issues, and no matter what I would have done, good stuff would be her doing and any mistakes would be on me. I walked out days before a major event — left HER, not the organization (even though my colleagues felt abandoned), and let members of the board know why.
    Hardest thing I’ve ever done.

  6. Penny Hartz*

    LW #4–how did you explain why you were looking again so soon in cover letters and interviews? I grabbed the first job I was offered after getting burnt out at my old job and… it’s just not a fit. I’d like to start looking again but I don’t know what to say. It’s chaos here and I hate it, but that’s obviously not what you say to a potential employer.

    1. Lizzo*

      My two cents: try and tap into your network (or build one, if you don’t have one) to help you take the next step. I’ve come out of some incredibly chaotic workplaces and gotten hired right away because I’ve had honest conversations with connections about what I’m trying to get away from, and they’ve pointed me in the right direction to better opportunities.

      1. Random Academic Cog*

        Agree that this is an extra benefit of utilizing your contacts. “Why are you leaving?” is not even a question I ask when I’m interviewing. I often know the background either directly (lots of internal candidates) or through a mutual contact who has shared details that wouldn’t be appropriate for the candidate to offer.

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