updates: the monthly hikes, the coworker with the criminal record, 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– there’s more to come today!

1. I’m missing out on face time with the CEO because I don’t go on our monthly hikes

I am sad to report nothing changed – or maybe it has gotten worse in that he’s now making more open endorsements for these types of events in a way that borders on body-shaming. He has made comments about how frustrating it is that more people aren’t attending and that “from the looks of things” they would benefit from the exercise. Every July, we surprise our employees of the year with gift baskets that include gift cards and snacks. I asked him last week what he had in mind for the baskets this year, and he said he didn’t know yet but that it certainly won’t be fast food gift cards or sugary snacks. I can understand his conviction to promote a healthy lifestyle, but I don’t think it’s his place to police anyone’s body, how frequently they move it or what they put in it. And frankly, it’s just coming across as odd that he’s got such a hang up about people who don’t fit his idea of “healthy” to the point of outright excluding or discriminating against them.

He recently nominated his (female) assistant for an award that is more commonly given to men, and she won. His response to that was, “I knew she’d get it. They don’t want to put old men in those photos. They want the young attractive girl with big blue eyes.” It makes me cringe every time I think about it. I don’t think he said it in a perverted way, but it still says a lot about how he perceives women in the workplace – as if we are all there to be visually appealing to the men and not because we are just as qualified. One thing that has changed is that I recently earned my master’s degree in organizational leadership. It has really opened my eyes to just how toxic his leadership style is, and I plan to start looking for another job as soon as I wrap up some big projects here in the next month or two!

2. Should I tell my coworker about our colleague’s criminal record?

Thank you again to you and to the commentariat for the responses. Unfortunately, in my country we don’t have a public sex offenders registry, I wish we did. It turns out though that Veronica was made aware about Cassidy not long after she started working here and I need not have worried. But I’m glad to now know that rather than have risked finding out that she didn’t know after having done nothing. I can continue to enjoy my job with one less stress.

3. How do I weigh the risks of staying where I am vs. changing fields?

I so appreciated hearing from other folks in the comments who were in similar positions as I am, as well as those who reassured me there is no recession-proof job, and encouraged me not to stay based on fear. The commenters’ advice that it can’t hurt to start exploring helped a lot to get me moving without feeling like I was taking a risky jump just yet.

I started looking at job postings to get a feel for what’s out there, interviewed at a couple of places, looked at additional training that might take my career in a different direction, and engaged a career coach (gave me some things to think about, although overall we weren’t a good fit). I also, frankly, started sucking up more to my coworkers and boss who were hostile about all the schedule shifting I was doing to care for my young children and myself. I communicated more about my schedule and my struggles when my children and I are sick. I overly expressed gratitude and brought in treats for those who covered my shifts. Looking back, I wish I had done this earlier, but I didn’t have the spoons for this before when my household was sick all the time.

On the career search front, I started feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. One very, very important factor that I can’t believe I forgot to include in my post was that the organization I work for is a non-profit, so I am 5-approved-years-in to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for my student loans. If I left for another job, my best moves would be at another eligible organization or for a salary high enough to justify leaving PSLF behind. In my location, or even looking at remote positions in my timezone, the most relevant options are very limited. I’m still exploring what stretch opportunities might fit best.

Then a few things happened all at once. My boss surprised us with an across-the-board salary market increase. While still low compared to other industries, within my geographical area and field this brought my salary at or above other similar positions. My organization also announced that due to their increased focus on flexibility and wellness, they were encouraging managers to allow more flexibility with employee schedules, which my boss has been doing. Not only did we receive our entire PTO bank at the beginning of the year, but my children were less frequently sick and daycare eased their Covid-19 policies, which relieved much of the weight off my shoulders. I felt much more support from my boss and coworkers overall.

Then my boss announced her retirement (which likely helped in her being more flexible). Her job is not a position I’m interested in at this time, but a friend is likely to take her place, so I’m hesitantly more comfortable staying here at least until I hopefully complete my PSLF and better figure things out. Some things remain the same – no growth potential, relatively low pay with no merit raises, still relatively inflexible environment, long commute, being the default parent for young children. My oldest will start in the US public school system in the fall, so I’m sure our scheduling woes are only going to get worse. I’m actively reflecting on what works and what doesn’t about my work, and trying to stay open about what that might mean for the future.

Thank you all for taking the time to commiserate and encourage me! What a wonderful community this is.

4. How can I support my partner after his job loss?

I am the letter-writer who wrote in asking how to support my partner through job loss. I am very happy to report that he received an offer and started a new job in December 2022, about a month after the question was published. The new role is both a title and salary bump from his previous job, and during negotiations, he was able to get a 90 day review with the possibility of an additional salary increase. Even better, he got a glowing review at the 90 day mark and his boss was actually able to get him a slightly bigger salary increase than had been discussed at the offer stage. He’s thriving in the new role and I’m very grateful to the AAM community for such thoughtful responses to this difficult situation.

{ 74 comments… read them below }

  1. Emily*

    LW # 1- Your CEO is a complete jerk and I am glad you are going to start job searching.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Lord, yes. The body-shaming is bad enough, but treating his assistant as ornamental really frosts me. She’s a professional career woman, not a “pretty young girl” meant to provide him with a nice view.

        1. Llama Llama Workplace Drama*

          And I wouldn’t wait until you wrap up big projects. I’d start looking now!

          1. Emily*

            Llama Llama Workplace Drama: This is a good point, and I almost said something about this in my comment.

            1. Life Day*

              Depending on the project and her role in it, leaving without wrapping them up might cost her achievements that she can put on her resume. Sometimes you take a tactical loss, like staying at a company with a jerk for a CEO, so you can get a strategic win, like a completed project for your portfolio.

          2. MsM*

            Yeah, I appreciate not wanting to leave other coworkers in the lurch and/or wanting to be able to say you saw something to completion on your resume, but if a good thing comes up now, don’t wait.

          3. Artemesia*

            And getting ready to search always takes a lot of time. Get that resume in shape NOW and begin monitoring the sites or organizations you might want to work for to see what is out there. You night not launch these aggressively for a couple of months, but be ready to hit the ground when you do — or earlier if something comes up.

            1. MEH Squared*

              Agreed. She can at least low-key see what’s out there right now and get that resume in shape. Brushing up on references as well would not hurt. Then, OP#1 can just bear down when the projects are done. Or, as you said, if something falls in her lap earlier.

          4. Not Totally Subclinical*

            Agreed! The only reason I can see for waiting is if you genuinely won’t have the mental bandwidth for job searching until a couple of the projects are out of the way, but otherwise, start the job hunt!

      1. RVA Cat*

        All of this, plus comment about her blue eyes is a rotten racist cherry on top.
        I’m sure he’s also clueless about how POC have historically had less access to outdoor recreation and may feel unsafe in rural areas.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, wowwwww, I was expecting to hear the list of the insults he has for everyone’s weight at the rate that was going. Openly sexist too, awesome, wow.

      How long does this guy have till retirement, because he sounds straight out of the 1950’s.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Ten bucks says he’s 35 and decades of coworkers can look forward to his lovely presence.

        1. Thank God (or something) I no longer work there*

          I’m 62. Went through my 50s feeling surprised at the number of 25-30 year old misogynists out there. I shouldn’t have been, especially since so much of my work experience is in public safety, but I think there may have been more that last 10 years or so than there were in the first 10. And that was before Trump seemed to make it seem ok to be that way!

          1. RVA Cat*

            My hope is that the “incels” are a *literal* extinction burst – at least they won’t have biological offspring to brainwash.

            1. BubbleTea*

              Unfortunately they’re brainwashing other people’s offspring over the Internet and via AI and algorithms.

    3. 2 Cents*

      LW #1 — I’m glad you’re working on getting out of there. What a creep — and a perfect thing to leave in a Glassdoor review once you’re gone! He’s discriminating on so many fronts, I don’t have that many fingers.

    4. Quill*

      Honestly LW I am impressed by your fortitude because if *I* was being pressured to do six mile hikes to fit in at work and then body shamed I would have snapped at the CEO already.

      (I already did it to an otherwise lovely Sierra Club organizer who said “you’re so young, this should be no problem!” when my arches collapsed during a hike. I’m not proud of it. But you make assumptions about people’s bodies and you’re likely to get a rude response, especially if they’re in pain.)

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I love long hikes, but I do it so I don’t have to think about work. I sure as heck don’t need my coworkers along.

        In addition to the fact that only one person knows your full abilities & limits (you), I would bet this guy doesn’t stop to admire the view, which is part of the point of a hike.

        1. Juicebox Hero*

          The sexist pig might be admiring certain views, but I’ll bet they’re not the mountains, wildlife, and glorious cloudscapes.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            I’m sure he’s eager to start conversations about which sports bras wick moisture best, and why don’t you show him yours? Just for comparison, you understand.

      2. Rainy*

        I had a–since retired, I’m happy to say–coworker say to me once, when I was put in a position to either take the stairs or make an awkwardly big deal about detouring to the elevators, that I obviously needed to take the stairs more often so I’d “get better at it”.

        I let her overhear me, later that day, say breezily to another coworker “Oh, yes, my knees and hips are pretty messed up–arthritis and some other stuff after an accident when I was eleven.” She never said a word to me again about taking the stairs.

    5. Generic Name*

      Start job searching now. I presume the big projects are work projects. Eff trying to time your departure to suit the company.

      1. Johannes Bols*

        After giving notice at a job where I could almost feel my head was going to explode due to favouritism, promoting people solely based on their race, jock bros preening at monthly meetings, I promised myself that any time my job began affecting my mental health, I would get up and leave.
        I’m on the fence at LW wishing to stay to complete projects. And I understand that it would look better on a resume. It’s up to LW to decide wh. is more important: dignity and healthy mental health, or toeing the line in favour of a ‘clean’ resume. Remember, your boss can get rid of you if he has a mood swing; you owe him and his company nothing. You must decide what you owe yourself.

    6. goddessoftransitory*


      “He has made comments about how frustrating it is that more people aren’t attending and that “from the looks of things” they would benefit from the exercise.”

      Well, I can’t IMAGINE why more of his employees wouldn’t want to spend hours climbing mountain trails in the hot sun in his delightful not at all sexist or disgusting company! And that’s not even including the gross “pretty girl with big blue eyes” horror show. What an Dollar Tree tool kit of a human.

      1. Liz W.*

        “What an Dollar Tree tool kit of a human.”
        Thanks, wiping coffee off the monitor.

    7. Michelle Smith*

      Same. Ordinarily I would have proposed going back to HR or to him directly to suggest something like what my org does – our CEO keeps “office hours” where people can set up a time to meet and discuss whatever is on their mind. But this is not a guy you really want to spend any time with and I’m relieved you’re close to getting far, far away from him and his gross beliefs.

  2. Juicebox Hero*

    For #2, I’m glad you found out Veronica knew about the situation and you were able to put your mind at ease. I remember that letter, and it must have been a heck of a burden to carry around.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      I was shocked at the number of commentors that thought Veronica shouldn’t be told, but maybe just find out on her own somehow. (The thought of some ways in which she might find out was completely abhorrent.) I’m so glad she knew already.

  3. Underemployed Erin*

    LW #3, when your child starts in the public school system, they will probably be exposed to new germs in a new school. That first year is going to be rough with the entire family getting sick. Hopefully, some of the financial burden of having all the kids in private child care will be lifted.

    1. Momma Bear*

      That said a lot of schools don’t send kids home for every sniffle (for good or bad) and LW3 may not have to take as much time off. Also, if the school has onsite before/after care, it may be 1. more convenient and 2. less costly. I actually hope that it helps LW’s schedule woes in the long run.

      1. Beka Cooper*

        Yes, my kids are both now in elementary school and I feel like we’re finally getting into a good groove. We pay for after school care but it’s way less than full-time childcare. Summer camp is a different story though…argh. But yeah, they don’t get sick as much anymore. My daughter went to the nurse complaining of ear pain, and they offered to let her stay at school if I came with tylenol! She didn’t want to, though, and ended up having a double ear infection, but still. Night and day from daycare policies.

        Being in northern Minnesota, continuous snow days and then a final spring hurrah of a wind storm that blew out the power and closed schools and afterschool care were far more of a disruption than the kids getting sick. Because at least with weather stuff, everybody is experiencing it, not just me!

  4. Dovasary Balitang*

    #3 – Not sure if the pseudonyms were intentionally, but ouch. Also, what a return to 2006.

    1. Data Nerd*

      Yeah, I reread the letter and the pseudonyms were . . . a little scary for an OG fan, honestly, I wondered if my visceral reaction of “get them out get them out get them out” was about the volunteer or about Beaver. I’m glad this Veronica knew about this Cassidy and could make an informed decision.

      1. Elsewise*

        I totally forgot that Beaver’s name was Cassidy (it’s been a minute) and completely missed it!

        (For the uninitiated: Cassidy, aka Beaver, was a not-so-sympathetic character in Veronica Mars.)

  5. Observer*

    #1 – CEO pushing hikes

    His response to that was, “I knew she’d get it. They don’t want to put old men in those photos. They want the young attractive girl with big blue eyes.”

    I literally gasped as I read that.

    The CEO is a bigot who HR can’t rein in. You probably should start looking for a position elsewhere. This sexist creep *is* going to hold you back.

    1. Observer*

      In fact I was so stunned that he actually SAID this, that I totally missed that you plan to start looking for a new job. I am very glad that you are planning to do so!

    2. Zombeyonce*

      Not just sexist, but the “blue eyes” part makes me think there’s some racism in there, too. Not surprising coming from such a jerk.

    3. Quill*

      Also, OP mentioned in the first letter that “out of shape since having kids” was a factor. I think the sexism may already be holding her back, since apparently the CEO advocates for his employees based on how attractive he thinks they are.

  6. soshedances1126*

    Ahhhhh I’m so happy for LW4 and their partner! Congratulations! I was in the same boat and I think I may have commented on the original post- my partner lost his job right in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it was an incredibly difficult time for us. He also just got a job about six weeks ago that’s a much better fit than his previous role, slightly better salary, and a day shift. The relief has been absolutely overwhelming, and I’m so glad that LW4 can also take a deep breath again, because I know exactly how good that feels :-)

  7. Update Seaso yay!*

    OP1, I beliwve this is the kind of toxic workplace Alison warns us against. The CEO doesn’t seem to see people as people, he sees and “men (able-bodied etc)” and “diverse.” Bosses shouldn’t have those views these days, and according to Alison many of them dont.

    OP3, I am glad that Veronica knows, but also I think it is worth saying that public sex offender registies are not always a good thing. Certainly in the USA things that can get one put on the SOR include things like public urination and being too visibly queer.

  8. Milksnake*

    #1 reminds me of that cult in NY where the leader would ask the attractive women to take walks with him and they typically ended up in higher positions.

  9. alex (they/them)*

    LW #1- literally made me gag!! I’m sorry you have to deal with this guy he sucks

  10. SB*

    LW1 – we used to provide sugary & fatty snacks to the staff & gifted alcohol at Christmas but we were advised to stop by our workers comp insurers due to the obesity epidemic. They stated that we cannot be seen to be promoting an unhealthy lifestyle & if we continue to do so we can expect our premiums to increase. They recommended a subsidized gym membership in place of providing snacks & a supermarket gift voucher in place of the alcohol at Christmas, which we have done & it has not only been incredibly well received by staff, but our WC insurance premiums decreased in the quarter following the implementation & have remained lower.

    1. Wait what*

      Absolutely none of that has a thing to do with LW #1’s body-shaming creep of a boss.

      1. SB*

        Slightly true, but as always, a different perspective can be useful if you’re open to hearing other people’s experiences.

    2. Victoria Everglot*

      I would be so disappointed if that were my workplace. I will not ever be setting foot in a gym, ever, but I’m an adult who should be allowed to portion out her sugar and fat intake as she sees fit. I could make a basket of snacks last months because I like to stretch my treats.

      “Merry Christmas, you’re fat”. Gee, thanks.

      1. allathian*

        I wouldn’t mind a gym, but I’m not going to allow my coworkers to see me in any state of undress.

        With a previous manager we went on an offsite to a spa. I’m glad I had my fairly severe chlorine allergy as an excuse not to jump in the pool (I get asthma symptoms if I walk downwind of an outdoor pool), but I wasn’t going to wear a swimsuit in front of my coworkers, or horrors, change in front of the women (AFAIK we didn’t have any genderqueer people on my team at the time). My body shame is mine to deal with.

      2. Zweisatz*

        All I’m hearing is that this company’s health insurance has too much leverage about proceedings within the company that they should have no hand in…

        1. Alice Ulf*

          I’ve recently shifted my admin career into employee benefits with an insurance broker and…yeah. 100%, this is the increasingly the case. It’s a disturbing slippery slope.

          1. Beka Cooper*

            There’s a good episode of the Maintenance Phase podcast about workplace wellness programs and how they got started. I think they might have even done a bonus episode with listener comments about their own experiences with workplace wellness programs on their Patreon.

    3. Other Alice*

      Supermarket vouchers in place of alcohol are always nice to have, everyone eats. But I would be pissed at a gym membership, many people don’t go to a gym because they exercise in other ways or they have disabilities that make it impossible to work out at a gym. How about giving people snacks and letting them regulate their sugar intake, you know, like adults?

      1. amoeba*

        I mean, I think it’s a great perk if a company offers a reduced gym membership *amongst other offers* – it’s not for everyone but not everyone needs to use it! You can have that plus subsidized childcare plus some cultural offers (we often get offers for concerts in the area) plus loads of other things and probably everybody will find something that they like.

        That’s not what happened here, though…

    4. Lenora Rose*

      I like the supermarket gift voucher idea. I rarely drink alcohol and my tastes when I do are very picky and not entirely typical, and everyone can use groceries.

      What I do not like is that you seem to see this as a reasonable response to a sexist body-shaming boss who clearly plays favourites based on who can hike with him.

      The general health level of people in his workplace was NOT the issue here, and treating it as one is almost a derail from the real issue.

    5. Michelle Smith*

      For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t want ANY of these things but I wouldn’t complain about them if I was on your staff. I don’t eat sugary snacks because I’m newly diagnosed diabetic and still figuring out medication and diet. I don’t drink because of my medication. I don’t work out at a gym, ever, both because there isn’t one close to me and because I am physically disabled and it could be dangerous without the proper support. I also don’t know what I’d do with a supermarket gift voucher, as I don’t shop at a supermarket (I get my groceries online and delivered to me, as I don’t own a car and my physical disabilities make walking to the grocery store, shopping, and then wheeling my groceries back home impossible).

      Money is always the best gift from an employer. Cash.

    1. LJ*

      Gee, that seems like an disproportionally strong response to what would be seen as a kind gesture for 90% of people. We can think of ways to make it more inclusive, for example, perhaps by including alternative activity classes in addition to traditional gyms.

      I’m sorry you’ve had a hard time.

  11. Skytext*

    LW1, the Petty Betty in me would love to see you gather a big group of unfit coworkers, plus the wheelchair users and others with mobility issues (bonus if they use a cane). Then all show up where they gather to begin the hike. Look right at the CEO and say “what, is this trail not wheelchair accessible?” Then of course the wheelchair users would probably have to go home at that point, but the others could sloooowly start the hike, moseying along at a snail’s pace, calling to the others to “wait up”. When the CEO gets frustrated, just tell him “but we just soooo much wanted to be a part of your club (cue sad puppy dog eyes).” Maybe this would make him “get it” how he is excluding people, who CAN’T do it rather than don’t WANT to do it. But he is a jerk so there’s probably no hope for him to see the light.

  12. Not That Kind of Lawyer*

    LW#3 – If you were paying your loans off prior to your current employer, those payments may qualify for PSLF even though they were not public service eligible at the time. I know this because my loans were recently forgiven when the executive order came out allowing for previous payments of any kind to count for PSLF. I also helped two of my friends get their loans forgiven under the same executive order. I was lucky in that it gave me the 5 years I needed to meet the ten year requirement.
    Look into whether any of your past payments count and you may potentially get a nice surprise.

    Caveat 1: This executive order was temporary, I do not know when it ends, but it was still in effect in May.
    Caveat 2: You may have to apply for the forgiveness twice- if you qualify – because paperwok gets mixed up.
    Caveat 3: If yu get the forgiveness print out and save all documentation about the forgiveness.

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