updates: telling recruiters I wouldn’t move to a state that discriminates, new boss says everything is “fun,” 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 three updates from past letter-writers.

1. Telling recruiters I wouldn’t move to a state that discriminates

I was able to use language very similar to what you provided and so far everyone’s been understanding. I do think it’s important that companies know these policies will actively drive lots of talented workers away. I haven’t gotten any leads yet but I’m not actively searching.

I also appreciated some of the tips about different places to consider relocating to. I’ll have to put a lot of thought into it over the coming months and reach out to friends/family/colleagues around the country. Hopefully I’ll be able to settle somewhere safe and comfortable for me, that these politicians are throughly repudiated so that everyone feels so no matter what city or state they live in.

2. My new boss says everything is “fun” — even data entry and illness

I was the OP who had the boss who referred to everything as fun! and was really the avatar of toxic positivity.

I ended up taking a new position in 2021 that helped me to reset my work norms and expectations. My coworkers and supervisor there were much more realistic in their approach to our work, and it was a much more supportive environment all around. It occurs to me that I really didn’t contextualize the field that I’m in for the commentariat – we’re heavy on compliance and policy-building, and it’s a field where sarcasm and dry humor are very much the norm. Sunny positivity is fairly unusual, even in the best of times, and the workplace culture is usually built around the camaraderie of doing a beloved, but difficult job as best we can despite organizational and regulatory hurdles.

That new role allowed me to grow quite a bit, and I recently changed again to start another job with a much higher title. I’m now making twice as much as I was in the original role I wrote in about, and doing much more complex work! I’m considered a “senior” voice in my field (in my 30s, which should say something about burnout), have won a national industry award, and have taken on leadership positions in our affiliated professional orgs.

My “fun” boss has had 100% turnover in my old department during this time, and it turns out that a lot of the problems I thought were out of her hands, were in fact things that she was actively making worse. She couldn’t have done anything about staff bleed in other departments, of course, but not getting information back? She asked them not to update us, but to send info to her directly and then never shared it. Never heard back from someone I’d worked closely with in the past? They reached out after I’d left to tell me that my supervisor had expressly forbidden them from speaking to me without copying her or looping her in.

I recently got a call from my old employer asking me to talk through the policies I’d put in place during my time there, and about how fun! supervisor had managed us. I was candid and shared that I had a number of concerns regarding their compliance with federal regulations based on questions I was receiving as a professional liaison from her remaining staff. (It’s a small industry.) They’ve offered to bring me on as a consultant to get them above board again, and it sounds like they’re working to remove fun! supervisor. They’re concerned that she might have misrepresented her familiarity with those regulations, and clients are apparently complaining.

I don’t know if any of this will come to pass, as we’re still in the midst of discussions about what I can do to assist, but I’m really excited about the prospect of helping my old employer. I truly love the people and clients there!

As some commenters (and you) noted, the fun! thing was really just the tip of the dysfunctional iceberg. I think some of what my supervisor was doing was trying to disguise how little she knew about what needed to be done, and was trying to upsell me on the boring parts of my job while she took on the more “exciting” and visible things. So much of what we do is difficult to parse for colleagues outside of the department, so if I wasn’t responding to questions or sitting on committees, she could pretend to be the only one with the answers and no one would question if the information she was sharing was accurate.

Thank you again for your guidance, and for all of the great information/advice you share on your site! I credit all of you resources with helping me to get where I am now. I especially took to heart your point about toxic workplaces warping your idea of what’s normal or acceptable. I had to unlearn a lot of stuff after I left that job.

Update to the update:

My “fun” boss ended up being demoted, and the compliance work was removed from her portfolio and sent to another department. She’s no longer permitted to manage or supervise, and she’s been physically relocated to an office closer to her new supervising unit. I will most likely be consulting later this year to reinstate policies I designed while working there. I’m a little annoyed these changes weren’t made until long after I’d left, but I’m happy where I’ve landed anyway!

3. My coworkers expect me to be devastated I didn’t get a promotion (#2 at the link)

I appreciated the advice to meet with my supervisor about the promotion and fully intended to do so. However, he went on vacation and postponed the meeting. Then, he never emailed to reschedule, even after I emailed a follow-up when he returned. I have a couple of other outstanding work emails to him that have gone unanswered, as well. He’s relatively new in the position and doesn’t seem to be on top of responses. I decided not to continue hounding him about it. Other members from the hiring committee have since confided in me that they reviewed the feedback and did not see any clear preferences for either me or the junior candidate who was given the promotion and that there were no negative comments on either of us. Some of the commentariat conjectured about my work demeanor.

I’ve been very successful in my role, winning a number of prestigious awards and performing above the company expectations in my annual work evaluations. I’m frequently tasked with higher level projects because of my organizational and communication skills. Plus, my co-workers come to me regularly for help navigating work issues within the company because of my knowledge of processes and relationships with people across the company. If anything, I am an over-communicator, which could be what is making the new supervisor hesitant, given his very different and more laid back style of working. The person promoted over me is very firm in his work-life balance, in ways that I am not, and sets boundaries much better than I do about timelines and projects. I like to get things finished and have a generally higher paced demeanor at work. I have come to accept that I may never know why I was passed over for a junior colleague. The good news is that my co-workers took the hint and stopped being as emotionally distraught around me after I responded as you suggested with “Mark is great.” After hearing from those on the committee that my co-workers did not express the preference that the supervisor claimed, I can understand better why they were unhappy with the outcome. Most just assumed that listing both of our positive qualities would still result in my being hired because of the difference in experience and seniority. I really love my company and don’t plan on leaving, but I have started looking to move laterally to another department, if a position arises. I’m also setting up some better boundaries for myself, so I am not inadvertently being expected to do work associated with the position that Mark took because of my seniority. There is a tendency for women in my field to take on much more work than men in the same positions to prove competency, and I’m super guilty of doing it myself. Thanks for all your advice here and elsewhere – I am an avid reader of your column!

{ 41 comments… read them below }

    1. MsM*

      Boy, I hope the people in her new office/unit know she’s not allowed to supervise, because it doesn’t sound like not officially having authority does much to stop her.

  1. Jules the 3rd*

    LW3: Sounds like the supervisor has a misogyny problem and used the ‘coworker feedback’ to hide it, thinking they’d not get caught. Looks like a lateral move away from that supervisor is a wise, wise choice.

      1. Momma Bear*


        I think she is wise, too, to draw a hard line around what now belongs to the newly promoted guy and what is not hers. If they wanted her to do x, they should have hired her for it. Sounds like the company in general has a problem leaning on women and not rewarding them for it.

  2. CommanderBanana*

    “…she could pretend to be the only one with the answers and no one would question if the information she was sharing was accurate.”

    It has been my general experience that information hoarders are usually trying to position themselves as being indispensable OR trying to cover up that they actually do not know what they are doing.

    1. pally*

      Trying to be indispensable and controlling as well. Hoarding the info means one can control others.

    2. ferrina*

      This has been my experience too! Along with “I’m not going to explain because it’s so complicated” = “I’m not going to explain because I don’t really understand it”

      I love the karma of OP coming back to consult on the policies that they created years ago.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Or, if no one knows what I’m doing, no one will notice that I’m not doing anything at all.

    3. Inkognyto*

      I’ve had a co-worker that we hired as a junior. Like 1-2 years experience but the role was the same as ours because mgr didn’t have different levels.

      They worked with us for 1.5 years and when the old manager left they got promoted to “Senior”. They barely fit the experienced role in the rest of us eyes. A current member took the mgr role and said he fought it, but it was contigent on his taking the role also.

      We just let it go, and he forced them to actually be a Senior and design. This is the thing, they couldn’t. This was an IT Security Analyst job. Scripting, higher level frameworks, none of it was there.

      We found out later from someone who sat next to our manager’s cube, how it went when he left the org. He said “She came in all the time with all of these great ideas”. He was like, the same ideas I heard you guys discussing earlier. Turns out when your manager has a shitty short memory, the latest person to tell him something get’s credit.

      anyways, they got left behind when the 1/2 the product line in a company was bought out. Out of the 3 of us. The ‘senior’ stayed with the old firm with the manager. The VP that decided who came with picked the two of us with 12+ years each to go with him and support that product line. We then exceled and moved on in the new company.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Forbidding someone from speaking with their co-worker was the specialty of a manager I had who was way over her head. It did not go well.

  3. Hlao-roo*

    LW#1–thank you for telling recruiters why you aren’t interested in moving to certain states. I hope your (eventual) move goes well!

  4. Ally McBeal*

    LW3 – you wrote:

    >>If anything, I am an over-communicator, which could be what is making the new supervisor hesitant, given his very different and more laid back style of working. The person promoted over me is very firm in his work-life balance, in ways that I am not, and sets boundaries much better than I do about timelines and projects. I like to get things finished and have a generally higher paced demeanor at work. I have come to accept that I may never know why I was passed over for a junior colleague.<<

    I can't help but wonder if his boundaries are part of why he was chosen – having a faster pace as an individual contributor is a great thing (I'm quite fast-paced and efficient myself), but a manager needs to model good boundaries & work-life balance for their team, and a boss who is or appears busy & rushed can result in an anxious team and/or individual team members who start to rush in order to match pace and make errors.

      1. Ellie*

        Me too – working at a fast pace, being available, and finishing tasks are excellent qualities at every place I have ever worked. Throw in the fact that OP has more experience and the backing of the department, and it starts to really look like bias. I think OP should get away from that supervisor ASAP.

        1. allathian*

          That’s a possibility that I should be given a lot of thought, certainly. That said, I’d also rather see a manager with great work/life boundaries than one without. Finishing tasks is all very well, but that doesn’t mean I have a lot of respect for people who work 60 hour weeks even if their coworker who only works 45 hour weeks gets the promotion.

          1. Rainstorm*

            But the 60-hours a week person is female here and the 45-hours a work person is male, and we know there is a problem with women (and people of colour, and other marginalized people) needing to work extra hard in order to be taken seriously. The marginalized person becomes more ‘serious’ about work in order to compensate for the bias against them.

          2. Temperance*

            A woman with “great work/life boundaries” would be mommy-tracked instead of lauded and offered promotions.

          3. Zweisatz*

            At least in my company, working a lot gets you promoted. It’s not seen as a detriment to a management role.

            People with great boundaries can also become managers IF their work is well-regarded. But they would generally not be picked over the former just for having good
            work-life balance. (This is no value-judgment on my part, I watch my freetime like a hawk.)

  5. Margaret Cavendish*

    Whew, the fun! boss. The original letter was published on March 17 2020 – less than a week into the official pandemic, and not a fun time for anybody. Talk about not reading the room! Glad to hear you’re no longer working with her, OP.

  6. Observer*

    #3 – You didn’t get the promotion.

    I just went back and checked your letter – you didn’t mention that you are a woman. I think that this really is the key here.

    1. The rest of the panel says that people didn’t express any strong preference for Mark, but your supervisor claims that they did express this preference
    2. You have a tendency to take / accept work that’s essentially above your paygrade or outside the scope of your schedule, so your boss expects to get upper level work even without promoting you.
    3. Your boss has basically avoided meeting with you to discuss what happened.

    I think it’s pretty clear that the reason your boss made this decision is because Mark is a guy and you are a woman. But your boss can’t justify it, so he makes this claim. But of course he doesn’t want to meet with you because then he would have to give you some specifics. But he CANNOT do that, because there are no specifics! People did NOT have a strong preference for Mark!

    Please do look to transfer out of this department. And if you can’t look outside your company. Your boss is bad news!

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Yeah, I read all the same things from his actions. “The whole group wanted it” is a handy way of pretending it wasn’t just you. He didn’t expect OP to find out that was a lie.

    2. WellRed*

      Yeah, when I got to te part where OP calls themselves an over communicator and that might be making bids hesitant, I just started thinking “he’s just not that into you.” But applied to work. If he wanted to promote you he would have. Period. Rev up that move out if the department.

    3. Glitzy Gus*

      Yeah. There may be a small point in wanting a Manger to have stronger work/life boundaries so subordinates don’t feel the need to “keep up” with long hours of higher ups, but that would be easy enough to coach if it was the only concern.

      I do think the combined facts that OP is a woman and in many ways manager is already “getting the milk for free” with OP taking on extra work already gives away the real reasons behind his decision (even, if we want to be VERY generous) they are kind of unconscious reasons.

  7. New Senior Mgr*

    Well done OP3. You sound very level headed. I’m sure good things await you.

  8. ASGirl*

    #1 – I hope more people say this to recruiters and maybe the companies lobbyists will support different political candidates when they realize they are losing top talent because of the state’s policies.

  9. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    OP 3

    How do you HONESTLY feel about being passed over? You might not feel badly about it now, but I would have that conversation with my manager and politely but FIRMLY assert that you may not want to be subject to that in the future should another position arise.

    And you did state that you are lookng to move out of your current departmeny – with a “pass over” it might not be a bad thing.

  10. TG*

    Update #3 – I bet you are so good at your current role they wouldn’t move you – makes zero sense but I’ve had that happen to me where I was so valuable my then Manager wouldn’t let me leave (by not letting folks approach me). However I discussed this with a director in another department who went around to the VP so I interviewed for his department and got the promotion out! And I’ve been promoted since then (2 years). So looking laterally might open you up to a promotion before you know it. And you would be at the company you still love!

  11. CSRoadWarrior*

    #2 – This would trigger me, and I am glad you are out of there. So suppose someone is really sick, and you call it fun? That is wrong. Calling everything “fun”, even the negative things, is really toxic. Yes, there are things that are really fun, but it really crosses the line if you start to include the negative things.

    On top of that, it was the beginning of the pandemic when the letter was published. I cannot imagine what the boss had said about that (if she did), especially during a time that was really tough for all of us.

  12. Deborah*

    This is tangential to the actual issues with fun! manager, but at previous toxic job, my colleagues and I created a bingo card to make all-staff meetings bearable, and one of the squares was a certain director saying she was so excited! or that something was so exciting!, not infrequently in connection with something pandemic-related…

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