updates: coworker prayed I’ll return to Jesus, the awful corporate jargon, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

1. My coworker prayed that I’ll return to Jesus

I’m the writer whose colleague prayed for me to come back to Jesus even though she knew I was Jewish. I talked to my boss and also HR even though I knew it would be a lost cause. Nothing was really done minus for them to tell her to stay away from me. Thankfully, she did. A month ago, she retired. There was a huge building party for her that was thankfully on one of my remote days so I could avoid going. Good riddance to her.

This has definitely made me re-think working in the division of the university I do, and I am actively job searching in a different school at the university as well as other universities in my city. I have a few applications in but no bites yet, but I polished my resume and cover letter with the help of the on campus Career Center as I am also a part-time student.

These things have hit my mental health hard. I’m not doing well between being stressed over work and dealing with post-COVID issues, but I am managing. I know there are other departments and divisions that are not toxic. And there are several universities in my city. I have hope of better days. I figure as long as I have hope, then I’m hanging in there.

Thanks for posting my original letter and all your wonderful advice. It’s helped me a lot over the years.

2. Can I get my coworker to stop using awful corporate jargon?

Like many commenters noted, my aggravation with my coworker’s choice of corporate jargon was a real “bitch eating crackers” sort of thing. Jargon can be grating in the best workplace, but the reality was, this coworker also been aggressive and condescending toward me from day one, and when I brought up the issue with my boss, my grandboss, and HR personnel, everyone was in agreement that this person had a “strong history of disproportionate criticism” — and no one expressed any interest in making any sort of change. Her bullying was dismissed with “But she’s such a great worker,” which was weird, because when I joined, I was tasked with completing a project she’d been managing and discovered it was missing so much work it was effectively nonfunctional. The situation forced a change in release date while I rushed to build out more than half of the program and write more than 18,000 words of necessary new content (most of which happened while the bully was on maternity leave). The whole project was the opposite of great work on her part.

As you can probably guess, the work environment surrounding this situation was pretty awful overall. We were working internationally in an aid context and doing things that I felt were often mismatched to needs, or in one notable case, likely to be destructive to the organization we had pushed into a collaboration with us. One major project involved volunteers, and one had severe founder’s syndrome, which was causing ethical issues that the manager and grandboss acknowledged but refused to address. I had a painful and preventable work injury, and my direct supervisor spent half of a weekly meeting reprimanding me for the harm I caused her (!) by reporting it as per company protocol (!!). The list goes on.

Eventually, facing the prospect of traveling internationally with the bully, I just… couldn’t force myself one step farther. I resigned with nothing else lined up, knowing I could freelance and had enough in the bank to cover an eight-month job search. The bully was promoted on my last day, so she would’ve become my direct supervisor if I stayed. I felt I’d dodged a bullet.

Here’s the plot twist: it took less than eight weeks to be offered three new roles, including being snatched up by a place that values my creativity, is far more functional, and is paying me DOUBLE what the last place did. It’s a big change for me and my family, and while it’s mighty early to draw any conclusions, I’ve considered that I might end up retiring from this place — in 30 years. We’ll see. For now, I’m just so relieved and happy to have that last place in the rearview.

Oh, and no one at my new job is saying “touch-base.” Which is nice, too.

3. My abusive boss was fired after I complained about her — what do I say to coworkers? (earlier updates here and here)

I first wrote you in December 2019 about how to deal with the aftermath of blowing the whistle on a serially abusive manager (“Hedra”) who suddenly resigned after HR found in my favor. Shortly after my first update, Hedra’s enabling boss (“Jared,” he-who-swore-and-shouted) also resigned. His successor Cecil then began legally, compassionately, and efficiently cleaning house.

I’ve now been promoted twice in a company where that’s unusual, resulting in significant salary bump. Even happier news is, I successfully fought for my team to hire a quiet overachiever (Kaya) I recruited away from a much smaller role in another department. She’s as great as I hoped and has just been promoted! Another previously-overlooked colleague (Lindsey) moved to our team and was promoted too. This means our team is being noticed as a place where women can be themselves and still thrive. (We’re in tech.) This rep has been a well-deserved feather in the cap for our manager Owen (who has taught me loads and has been so patient when I occasionally experience episodes of PTSD) and grandboss Cecil.

On the note of mental health—it took me a long time and the help of a book called “Forgive for Good,” but I have forgiven the one remaining employee (Amy) who directly participated in harassing me. She was Hedra’s other report and is still here. Like most follower types, Amy is currently harmless under good managers. I pushed myself to be collaborative and professional after Hedra left, but I didn’t stop wishing Amy her “just desserts.” The book was critical in that it let me see what a long-term burden I was taking on in exchange for the dark, momentary pleasure of righteous anger. First, I was able to nudge Hedra and Jared out of my brain, and am now at a point where I could be normally happy for Amy if she overachieved on her goals and was promoted. That to me is a victory. Carrying the burden of hatred numbed me to joy. After I quietly forgave Amy, the news of Kaya and Lindsey’s promo hit and I felt like I’d won the lottery—it made me so happy, I was goofy with it.

I’m going to share one last thing: the reason Jared gave for resigning. He announced that he’d been offered a position that he knew would be his life’s work, and even though our Big Tech asked him to please stay, he had to carpe diem. According to LinkedIn, he went to sit on the board of an also-ran delivery app available in just a handful of cities. The gap is so painful, most people in my org who remember Jared take it for granted he was fired.

4. How do I tell my coworker not to bring his kids to work every week? (first update here)

I have a good news update! I’ve finally been moved to an above-ground office that isn’t full of cubicles. It’s still a shared space, but I have two wonderful office mates who are great about coordinating our schedules so that we don’t disrupt each other, and I should be getting news of being converted to an ongoing contract soon.

I also put my reading of your site to good use so that I could stay in this office. I submitted a request for accommodations to get a UV filter added to my window, and the person in charge of accommodations for my department suggested moving me back to the windowless basement cubicle pit of despair. I used what I learned on Ask a Manager to professionally push back and explain that I did not want to lose the professional opportunities afforded to me by being in the same building as my colleagues. And they listened! It was a little scary, but I had good support from the folks who work with disability accommodations and also from knowing that I wasn’t asking for anything ridiculous.

Thanks so much for answering questions big and small!

{ 88 comments… read them below }

  1. Silver Robin*

    #1 had my blood boiling. That coworker should have been fired, her behavior was wildly unacceptable.

    #3, so so happy for you! So often the updates are “I left awful manager and am happier elsewhere” – which is good! people should leave awful places if that is what works – but it is so gratifying to see examples where staying and fighting for oneself works out so well. Major kudos!

  2. enc*

    I’m going to be honest, I missed the original letter on #1 and when I read the headline I thought it meant they were praying for OP to like… die. Yikes! OP1, I hope you have a quick and easy job search and find a place free of any proselytizing.

    1. Trina*

      I mean, we’ve already had one of those, it’s not out of the question! (“A coworker prayed for my fiancé’s death so we didn’t invite her to our wedding – and now there is drama”)

  3. DataGirl*

    #2, is that the book by Dr. Fred Luskin? Sounds like something I need to read.

    I’m happy for all your success!

    1. Writer Claire*

      Do you mean “Forgive for Good” from #3?

      I think I need that book too, but for a personal situation. I might or might not want to forgive, but I do need to let go.

      1. DataGirl*

        You are right, I got the number wrong. I looked up ‘Forgive for Good’ on Amazon and a few different books came up so I was hoping to confirm.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I like Anne Lamott’s description of forgiveness; it means you’re laying down your end of the tug of war rope; you’re done. You don’t have to like the person or have lunch with them, you just are finished with the relationship in this definition and context.

        1. Vio*

          I sometimes wonder if we need different versions of the word. One to mean “I forgive you and welcome you back into my life” and one that’s “I no longer carry a grudge but you are a stranger I do not have any inclination to get to know”. It’s the same with “sorry” for “I did something wrong and truly regret it” or “wow that’s awful, I have empathy for your situation”.

          1. CC*

            I think having two different words would be really helpful. Far too often victims of abuse who would benefit from meaning #2 (stranger not in my life) are pushed to enact meaning #1 (welcome back into my life) which is super damaging and makes discussion of getting to #2 so much harder!

    2. CB212*

      Thank you for asking this! I found two different books with that title – I’d love to hear which one OP read.

  4. Not My Money*

    Anyone else questioning LW#1 using the campus career center when the general consensus is that they’re pretty bad at giving good advice re: resumes and cover letters? I wish you the best #1 but maybe rethink that strategy.

    1. ecnaseener*

      They’re not a monolith. I’m sure LW is capable of weighing their CC’s advice for themself.

    2. Ahnon4Thisss*

      Probably a YMMV situation. When I was in college, my career center was great and helped craft really good resumes and cover letters.

      1. MsM*

        And if OP’s planning to stay in higher ed, they might be particularly well equipped to advise.

    3. LW #1*

      I am LW #1.

      I am also a non-traditional student at the University, so the resource is there for me free of charge. And it was in a completely different division of the University. I am hoping to stay in Higher Ed, so it was the best option to craft a cover letter. If you are not familiar with Universities, in many cases the different schools or buildings have completely different vibes, politics, and everything basically. While my division is getting more increasingly toxic, the division I am a student of that has a CC, is absolutely fabulous on all levels. I would love to work there but turnover rate is very low because people get in there and stay! And getting to know the career counselor, with my intentions to stay in Higher Ed, and desire to switch over to that division is a great networking opportunity.

      1. Silver Robin*

        My cover letter was based entirely on the template my career center gave me (and only kinda looks like something Allison recommends) and my manager mentioned loving the format. Great job, great manager.

        Which only means that if you feel the career center works well for you, go for it!

      2. CommanderBanana*

        LW#1, I am also Jewish and had a Mormon try to importune me on public transit a few days ago. In case you want to try my approach, screaming I’M JEWISH AND IM CONVERSION PROOF!!!!!!! makes them scuttle away.

        1. Jessica*

          With Mormons specifically, I usually tell them I don’t discuss religion with gentiles which usually confuses them enough to make them stop.

          1. Selina Luna*

            I usually invite them in for lemonade and offer to let them watch Disney Plus while making it clear that I am uninterested in joining their religion. With JWs, I tell them I’m an apostate. I’ve never been banned from their church, but usually, this is enough to get them to leave me alone.
            I did once scare the hell out of a couple of JWs by answering the door to my apartment holding a black cat and a bloody knife (I was trimming a cut of pork loin for dinner and my cat was known to escape). I asked if they were “here for the ritual.”

          2. Silver Robin*

            love it! So glad my time in SLC (1.5 years) did not involve folks trying to get me to convert…did have plenty of Mormons visiting our synagogue to watch services and learn more about Judaism which made me feel a bit like a zoo animal, but they were generally polite and well, we were in Utah.

  5. Hiring Mgr*

    I’ve had to have a couple of “come to Jesus” meetings with employees over the years, but I only used that phrase in my own mind. I certainly wouldn’t try and push my religion on anyone, especially Jews since I am one myself.

    1. madge*

      It’s funny, I’ve never thought of that phrase as religious, but, yeah. The person who introduced me to it was a warm and efficient 60-something Jewish HR director. Whose personality could turn on a dime when someone blatantly broke the rules. Kind of entertaining watching all of the 6-foot-plus former athletes at work be terrified of her 4’10” self.

    2. Antilles*

      Calling it a “come to Jesus meeting” is just an expression. Maybe it’s not the ideal way to describe that scenario due to the religious origins*, but it’s not really intended to actually convey the religious meaning so it’s different than OP’s scenario of someone actually proselytizing.

      *Though totally off the top of my head, I can’t really think of any equivalent idiomatic expression? “Shape up or ship out” is a common phrase for the concept of fix-this-or-else, but people don’t really say “we held a shape up or ship out meeting”. Anybody have ideas on other phrases you’d use instead?

      1. ferrina*

        I’ve used “Come to [CEO] meeting”, but it’s also clearly a callback to the “Come to Jesus” phrase. The other equivalent phrase I can think of would be “intervention”, but that also feels problematic and worse.

        I’ve also used “We will have [ominous pause] a chat“. But that needs to be said with a bit of levity.

      1. Random Dice*

        But I don’t use it at work.

        Because it would be inappropriate (though nothing like the Jesus version, which comes loaded with a whole box of steaming patties).

    3. Query*

      Nothing was really done minus for them to tell her to stay away from me. Thankfully, she did.

      So…something was done, and it appears to have been effective. And now she’s retired. The problem is solved.

      I agree that the proselytizing behavior was terrible, but what more do you want?

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        They did nothing and let the clock run out. You agree the behavior was terrible… except you don’t think anything needed to be done. The problem is not solved. One of the problem people went away. Not the same.

        They should have told her to NEVER TOUCH A COWORKER. NEVER PRAY AT A COWORKER. NEVER PROSELYTIZE AT WORK. Dang, it’s simple. I want HR to act like they know the law and will uphold it. I want HR and management to do their jobs. I want to know I don’t have to put up with crap from other coworkers.

        I’m truly shocked that this university doesn’t care about religious harassment. I’m sorry, OP, I hope you can get out soon.

        1. Query*

          They absolutely did something: they told the offending coworker to stay away from OP. Did you even read beyond the first sentence?

          I think it is also likely they told her to stop proselytizing; those kinds of conversations usually take place away from the complainant.

    4. El Muneco*

      There are a number of similar idiomatic phrases that are, at best, problematic … but for which there is no true alternative. For example, in the tech sector, there is “cargo cult programming”, which should not be used for obvious reasons, but which conveys a sense of “implementing code by rote or by external appearance without really understanding its purpose or deep structure” that no other pithy term I’ve run across can convey in so few words.

      1. CC*

        Yeah, I’ve been looking for an alternative to “cargo cult management” for a while now – where people latch on to the form and appearance of a management technique without understanding what it *does* or why/how, and therefore mis-implementing it or going off in a completely different direction. Pretty much all useless management fads that I’ve looked at probably started that way. Like, oh, anything “team building” related, to pick an obvious example.

  6. Beth*

    The come-to-Jesus story was so bad it apparently crashed the server! Glad we’re back!

  7. learnedthehardway*

    #1 – I still shake my head at the logical fallacy of thinking someone Jewish would be RETURNING to Jesus, but that’s what you get from people who are both uneducated in their own faith and insistent on pushing it onto others. I’m glad you’re no longer being religiously harassed at work, and I hope that you find a new role that has a better culture and management. It’s very disappointing that your managers and HR were not able/willing to do more to support you.

    #3 – what a great turnaround!! I think you’re probably right that Jared was actually fired or “strongly invited” to resign. Cecil sounds like a treasure. Congratulations on gaining the recognition you deserve and being promoted.

    1. TranMod*

      Well, #1 was a convert. She didn’t actually what she converted from, though.

      It’s a little beside the point, though. Whether someone converted to their non-Christion faith or was born to their non-Christian faith, praying OVER them to convert them to Christianity is appalling.

    2. LW #1*

      It’s been a theme with them not doing anything about issues in the building I work in. They spend a helluva lot of time trying to show a facade of “one big happy family” while hiding real issues with minimal to no solving them. They have a, “if we ignore it they’ll go away” mentality that’s catching up to them.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Good, because they deserve some consequences. I hope you get to sit back and watch.

  8. TranMod*

    ‘my coworker’s choice of corporate jargon was a real “bitch eating crackers” sort of thing. Jargon can be grating in the best workplace,’

    Ironically, BEC is jargon.

      1. ThatGirl*

        well, the definition of jargon is “special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.”

        this isn’t a profession, but it is a group with its own in-group expressions. not everyone knows what “bec/bitch eating crackers” means.

        1. goducks*

          BEC is widely used on the internet, it is not an AAM thing. Which doesn’t mean that everyone knows it, but the group of people that it’s specific to is users of the internet and anybody else who has encountered this meme, which I’ve seen in workplace contexts, friend group contexts, and on a greeting card.

          1. Peanut Hamper*

            Yeah, the internet is not a monolith, so I would say that it’s widely used on a very narrow slice of the internet.

            1. Gumby*

              Yup. I know what it means here (and this is the only place I generally encounter it) but in my non-internet life BEC is Bose-Einstein condensate. And that is still what my initial read on it is, it always takes me a second to translate to the AAM definition.

          1. Hanani*

            I had no idea that was an AAM phrase (versus a general one) until I used it at work and had folks get really excited about this shiny new word.

          2. Artemesia*

            Sometimes a word comes along that expresses an idea succinctly — grandboss gets the idea of boss’s boss across efficiently.

        2. Usagi*

          It’s reasonably well known across the internet, and referenced on prominent podcasts as well. Just because someone hasn’t heard of it doesn’t mean it’s not widespread.

          1. Peanut Hamper*

            As I said upthread, it’s well know across a narrow slice of the internet. There are a lot of hobby sites where I doubt anybody would know what this references. It’s pretty much limited to advicecolumnland.

      2. Kevin Sours*

        It’s probably more slang but the boundaries between jargon and slang are not a bright line.

    1. Giant Kittie*

      I would hardly call a saying that was widely distributed on an internet e-card/meme “jargon”

  9. Teapot, Groomer of Llamas*

    #1 Yikes. I’m glad they told her to stay away from you, but that’s not the proper way to deal with religious harassment.
    # 3 I’m glad you decided to come back and touch base with us.

    1. MsM*

      I suppose it’s too much to hope that she was strongly encouraged to take retirement at the next pension buyout opportunity or something along those lines. Which is still not ideal, but better than just waiting for the problem to go away.

      1. LW #1*

        I honestly wonder if that was the case. I know she had harassed another colleague who is openly gay to come to her very homophobic probably would do conversion therapy type of BS church. And they had to put a stop to her prayer mailing list after she kept adding non-Christian colleagues to it. I never had to deal with her professionally so I blocked her e-mail so I never got them. But honestly? No, I think nothing was done because that’s typical of them AND they knew she was getting close to retirement.

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      “I’m glad you decided to come back and *touch base* with us.”

      I see what you did there :P

  10. Lynne*

    I’m not sure where #1’s university is located, but the public university I work for in Colorado has an Office of Equal Opportunities that works swiftly when they get complaints of discrimination. HR, less so. If other people are facing similar situations, that might be a good alternative to HR.

  11. HoHumDrum*

    It’s funny to me so many dislike “touch base” so strongly, because I find it a useful phrase and I tend to be pretty anti-corporate jargon (I also don’t work in a corporate environment). I wonder if folks have suggestions for alternative phrases that are less grating or jargony to them- would love to hear them.

    I tend to use “touch base” when I’m trying to snag a quick chat with a coworker to ensure we’re on the same page before we separate out to work independently. I do a lot of shared projects with coworkers where we all have a lot of random other stuff on our collective plates, and we often try to cover stuff for each other when one of us has a lighter load than another. Touching base in my mind means a short, quick meeting vs. when we need to meet in order to go over everything in detail or brainstorm, are there other euphemisms y’all are using for that type of chat?

    1. MsM*

      I suspect it’s probably less annoying when it’s the only bit of jargon you use as opposed to the final part of a long string of acronyms and buzzwords. But I think “check in” conveys the exact same thing, and might feel a bit more informal. Or simply “got five minutes to go over the tasks for X?”

    2. WellRed*

      I wondered about that but I think she was using touch-base as a noun instead of a verb? So it was “let’s talk about that at the next touch-base.” Where meeting would have sufficed. And in that case, it would drive me up the wall, too.

      1. Chris*

        At my place of work a touch-base, or touch-base meeting, is a specific type of project, order, or task status meeting. It typically implies a *very* brief (one or two sentence) check-in or status update on what you’re working on and whether you need management engagement. It may fall under jargon… but it has a specific meaning that it conveys that ISN’T effectively conveyed with other more general terms like “check in” or simply “meeting”. It’s specific, which IS useful. I can see where omitting the word meeting after touch-base might be a bit jarring sounding but that’s just how language works; it grows and evolves with the user base. You learn to get used to it.

      2. Quill*

        Ahhhhh. You can verb a noun, so long as you do it with style, but nouning a verb is trickier.

    3. Selina Luna*

      Is “touching base” corporate jargon, though? I use it when I talk to my parents about something that we’ve been discussing, but had to set aside for some period of time.
      I thought it was a reference to baseball.

      1. celeste*

        Yeah, this seems like such a common phrase to me, I was surprised to see that someone was categorizing it as jargon.

      2. CC*

        Loads of sports metaphors have become management jargon. They’re annoying, but they’re not nearly as awful as the violence/war metaphors.

    4. Susan Calvin*

      For me, that would be a “check in” or a “touch point” – though not necessarily because I find “touching base” annoying; in fact nobody here uses it. It’s kind of funny to me, because while I speak English at work every day, it’s rarely with native speakers, and even more rarely Americans, and while most of the non-natives I encounter are extremely fluent, including idioms, most baseball themed expressions are apparently a bridge too far!

  12. L*

    #2’s original letter: The funny thing about using “out of pocket” to mean “out of office” is that, in current slang, “out of pocket” means “out of line / going way too far”. So I had a good laugh at Alison’s coworker saying “I’m going to be out of pocket” as if he was planning to unleash a scathing personal attack at that time.

    1. wendelenn*

      And, as I’m sure was hashed out to death in the original letter, many of us think of “out of pocket” as expenses from our own funds that won’t be reimbursed (“I had to pay 50.00 out of pocket for that dental appointment that my insurance didn’t cover.”)

    2. Bit o' Brit*

      I didn’t realise “out of pocket” meant anything other than having to spend your own money when it should have been covered/reimbursed. E.g. having to buy your own lunch at a company dinner because there’s no vegetarian option would leave you out of pocket if you couldn’t claim it as an expense.

  13. Hiring Mgr*

    It turns out the jargon letter was about much more than jargon, but as an aside, do people really care if someone says touch base instead of meeting? Or bandwidth instead of time, etc..

    They just seem like synonyms

    1. celeste*

      I don’t – seems kinda picky to me (and bandwidth encompasses more than just time, so I think it can be a useful word).

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, bandwidth is useful and not synonymous with time. Sometimes at work I’ve needed help with prioritizing my work when a new project’s come in. Not because I wouldn’t have time to do it all, but because I didn’t have the mental resources a stretch project would require.

  14. Koganaria*

    #3 makes me SO happy! I’m always ecstatic when I hear or see employers actually get rid of toxic and other types of bad managers, especially bullies, rather than just protecting them no matter what, while allowing their victims to either be unfairly fired, or be forced to leave.

    This story should show it is in their best interests to just get rid of toxic leaders.

  15. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    Oh my gosh, the Hedra boss! What a saga!
    Though I am happy for the OP, I must say that this isn’t typical of how these situations work out. That company must have been fortunate to have a good HR team.

    I also had a Hedra type manager who was new to the company I’d been at for some years. Unfortunately, my company believed Hedra and not me, and I was laid off. I hear my Hedra is struggling and no one likes her, so probably her days there are numbered, but unfortunately I was the sacrificial lamb.

Comments are closed.