updates: the out-of-control health committee chair, the political conversations, 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.

1. How do I draw the line on political conversations at work?

I wrote in with a question about drawing the line on political/social issue conversations during meetings three years ago, about a month before the 2020 election. Part of the issue with my colleague is that I was a team lead, but not officially the team manager, so I had very little actual authority to exercise. Coupled with a boss who really didn’t want to deal with it, I wasn’t sure how to approach asking her to knock off talking about very difficult topics when we needed to focus on work.

Ultimately I did end up having a private conversation with her. I took the approach of asking her to not bring up difficult news topics in meetings because I was dealing with a lot of anxiety and it made it hard to focus on getting work done for the rest of the day (which was true!). I also suggested seeking support among one of our peer affinity groups at work if she needed to talk through her feelings about hard social situations. At first she became very defensive and was not receptive to that request, and I have to admit that some of my reluctance to bring it up in the first place was knowing she would probably react negatively. However, later that day she came back and apologized for her reaction and agreed to keep political and societal topics out of work meetings. I also talked to the whole team during our next weekly meeting about taking mental health time if anyone needed it since everyone was very anxious and stressed about the election–thankfully our workplace is very supportive of offering space and encouraging time off when folks need it.

Ultimately that situation was a really good opportunity to grow my management skills, and almost three years later our department has undergone a major reorg, we have new leadership, and I was promoted to an official management position! I’m a lot more confident in having difficult conversations and recognizing when it’s my job to intervene for the good of the team. Additionally, that colleague has transitioned to a different role that suits her better overall, and these days I have a lot more support from a new boss to effectively manage my team. She has told me repeatedly that she thinks I’m a great manager, which I largely attribute to the great advice and tips I’ve picked up from AAM over the years. Thanks to Alison and commentariat for the great advice, both for my own question and the many others that have been relevant to my work over the years!

2. Our health committee chair is anti-vax, anti-science, and out of control

I had already resigned when you answered (you were quick, my impulsiveness was just quicker). My resignation did catch the attention of the person who oversees the employee groups and we had a candid chat. I don’t know specifics, but there was definitely action somewhere behind the scenes because the Chair toned everything I mentioned in my letter way down and ultimately stepped down herself. It was never my intention to oust her…I guess I was hopeful she’d find a better understanding of the limitations of workplace groups and some of her more controversial opinions. But if that can’t happen, this outcome is for the best.

3. Resigning while my boss is on parental leave (#2 at the link)

After my boss came back from leave, things settled down somewhat, and I took the time to catch my breath and begin skillbuilding and updating my resume. Before I could secure a new job, however, she beat me to the punch and resigned for another opportunity. Because our organization is in the middle of a hiring freeze, they wanted to go back to the previous summer’s plan of me doing both jobs with half the resources. And by “hiring freeze,” they don’t plan to backfill her position until fall 2024 (so not THIS fall, NEXT fall!). The idea of repeating last summer’s workload for approximately 18 months sent me into a mental tailspin, and I lost track of the amount of anxiety attacks I had during those first few weeks — although thankfully never in front of my coworkers. To her credit, my boss tried to get me a raise and a new title before she left to accurately reflect the additional work, but several months later it’s still in central budgeting purgatory, not approved but also not denied.

Suffice to say, beyond my individual situation, a number of ominous organizational red flags cropped up that pushed me to supercharge my job search. I bought your How to Get a Job e-book and overhauled my resume and cover letter. Without a doubt, I can say your advice helped me achieve my most fruitful job search to-date, and I even had to navigate juggling multiple job offers. I received one offer letter from Company B while waiting to hear back from Company A, which was my dream company. Based on guidance from previous posts, I immediately emailed Company A to ask if I was still in consideration and if they could let me know by (that Friday). Company A is in an industry known for a slow and bureaucratic HR process, but to my surprise, they pulled out all the stops and within two days offered me the job — including a higher title, a salary more than 10% over what I’m currently making, and a signing bonus! I start in a few weeks, and I couldn’t be happier. Not only am I leaving a situation that was so harmful to my mental health, but I also feel valued and like my hard work is being recognized. Most of all, I’m genuinely excited about the new role itself and the team I’ll be working with. I want to thank you and this community for being such a great resource during a challenging junction in my career.

4. Rewriting my job description when I’ve taken on lots of new work (#3 at the link)

I wrote to you in late 2020 about updating my job description with new responsibilities with no talk of changing my title, pay, etc. I took your advice and was straightforward with my boss that these were new responsibilities and that I felt they reflected a shift in my role. Well, I honestly think this all just hadn’t crossed her mind before—she agreed with me and early the following year, I got a promotion and a raise! It felt great to have success with this because I struggle with confidence at work.

The thing is, as much as I liked my job and colleagues, the responsibility additions didn’t really stop coming and there wasn’t another raise or promotion in sight. So, I looked around and was successful in finding a new position that offered some opportunities I didn’t have before and a nice salary boost. It hasn’t been a seamless transition—there have been bumps in the road as I adjust to a new role at a smaller organization. Overall, I feel proud that I had this success and am so appreciative of the advice I received from you and the AAM community!

{ 19 comments… read them below }

  1. stefanielaine*

    #3 is such a good reminder that one of many reasons to not put off looking for a new job because it’s an inconvenient time at work is that the people you are considering bending over backwards to not inconvenience would (appropriately) not bend over backwards for you when an opportunity comes for them.

    1. Chriama*

      Yes, people need to remember this! Life will continue on with or without you. It always does.

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I came here to say this!
      In addition to thanking all who write in with updates, it is so important to point out that you should prioritize yourself, not your company!

    3. Jaybeetee*

      As you say, the boss behaved appropriately here. But as I also like to say, “If the worst happens, your job posting will be up before your obituary.” Loyalty is great, but too much can be a detriment.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Can confirm that the best you’d get at OldJob was a “moment of silence” at the annual management retreat.

        That gave a lot of people pause, believe it or not. “hmmm. He worked here for 20+ years, started an entire division, probably deep sixed his first marriage over this place….and a moment of silence at the opening meeting is the reward? Uhhhhh…..”

    4. Peanut Hamper*

      Yep! The number of companies that have gone out of business because one person left is….not a number, I’m guessing?

      The company will always do what is right for the company, so you should always do what is right for you. Life goes on.

    5. ferrina*

      Yep. At least the places I’ve been, part of the reason it’s “not a good time” at the organization is because of the organization’s choices (staffing in certain ways to not fill needs, not prioritizing correctly so they expect 140% productivity, etc). A company doesn’t schedule its mishaps and/or dysfunction with consideration to your life, and you don’t have to schedule your life events around the company’s convenience- including job transitions

  2. EPLawyer*

    #2 — her eventually stepping down was the best outcome. With someone this strident literally all you can do is remove them from the position. They are not suddenly going to see the light and change their opinions. She is a True Believer. You can’t reason with her, you can’t use logic, you can’t nudge her, you can only shut it down completely.

    1. DrSalty*

      Yeah honestly this is the best outcome. She can believe whatever bs she wants, but she needs to not be in a position of authority about it

  3. Artemesia*

    I’d love to hear how the company that wanted to overwork #3 reacted when she left; I’m petty that way. Guessing they hired some guy for twice the pay.

    1. OP#3*

      My immediate team were really supportive and understanding, actually — they recognized I was being overworked and underpaid. Unfortunately, no one who recognized how much I was stepping up seemed to have enough authority to force a promotion or pay increase through (I truly believe it wasn’t out a lack of care). Our organization’s central budgeting office seems content to cut off our department’s financial and staff support until it fails. I suspect a messy re-org is in their near future.

      As of my leaving, the hiring freeze is still in effect. I do still think highly of the organization’s work overall, and I do want to see the people succeed, so I hope that they do hire a couple new staff and invest in them properly. I will be curious to see those hiring salary ranges when they hit the job boards, though.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        FWIW when my org did a layoff/reorg, several people left in addition to the ones who got laid off. Thankfully we’re backfilling for the voluntary departures, at least … and will be paying nontrivially more for the backfills than for either the people who left or were laid off.

        And that’s not even counting all the money we’re going to have to spend in order to throw money at problems because we’re too short-staffed to spend time on them instead.

  4. Hyjinks*

    “Based on guidance from previous posts, I immediately emailed Company A to ask if I was still in consideration and if they could let me know by (that Friday).”

    Yep, that is a reasonable thing to do! Sharing that you have an offer and a deadline to accept it is not “pressuring” the company to make you an offer. It’s a normal part of the hiring process.

    1. ferrina*

      Love how well this worked for the LW! And Company A must have been delighted to get that information- they clearly really wanted the LW!

      1. Contrast*

        Oh yea, super happy it resulted in an offer! Bc that is *not* a guarantee. I’m glad for the LW that things worked out for her.

  5. Ink*

    I can’t imagine that hiring freeze goes well for #3’s old company if rivals and overlapping industries are not only hiring but actively recruiting! The remaining people are just going to more overworked and overwhelmed… and there’s a rival company, offering pay that would be competitive for the work they’d actually be doing, not the work they were doing 2 resignations ago

  6. M*

    ChatGPT in personal correspondence is rude. You are asking someone to write thoughtful replies to you and you are not even bothering to write “thank you that’s really interesting” yourself. I’d rather get an emoji response.

Comments are closed.