updates: the interrupting coworker, the surprise reference, and more

Welcome to “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! Between now and the end of the year, I’ll be 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 interrupts to answer questions directed to me

I did end up talking to “Christy” one on one, but she didn’t really get what I was trying to say so the next time she did it, I told her right then and there, “Christy, while I appreciate you trying to be so helpful, you need to give me a chance to answer questions that are directed to me. You just gave Tyler incorrect information and told him to seek out a manager for his issue, but I went to his desk instead and we solved it right away.”

She mentioned again that if I wanted to “chime in,” I’m welcome to do that. I told her she may not mean to, but if she cuts me off in my own conversations, then she is dismissing me and acting as if I don’t exist in the room.

Also, I gave her a taste of her own medicine when one of her own attorneys came to her to ask a question and I stepped in and answered it, then gave her a look (see??) when she seemed annoyed. She was upset with me for a few days, but got over it. I mean, what made her upset if she is the one who thinks this behavior is appropriate?

Interestingly enough, she just put in her notice and I have to confess that I am not going to be sorry to see her go. She probably has the highest self esteem of anyone I have ever met and thinks very highly of herself, which can be a good thing and maybe get her places, but make some enemies along the way when it’s tied with rude behaviors.

2. My husband’s friend listed me as a reference without my okay (#4 at the link)

I know it’s been a ridiculous number of years since I wrote in, but I saw your recent call for updates (even if they aren’t big) and figured I’d send in mine:

On the original post, I posted a somewhat lengthy update in the comments that same day. It turns out there had been some major miscommunications between me and my husband that made everything seem worse than it was. Gwen had merely used me as a referral, not a reference, and HR never contacted me about her application. She did not get hired at my place of work, but she did get a job! Several years of steady work down the line, she is much more stable and happy (as I suspected she would be). It’s amazing what having money and a place to live will do for your mental health.

As for me, most of my worries at the time came down to the fact that I was on my second career and still very new to corporate life/norms. My first career was in a particularly toxic non-profit org, and when I left the bridge was well and truly burnt. Adjusting to corporate life was a multi-year process (AAM was instrumental in that process, thank you so much), one that I was particularly invested in succeeding at, as I had no ability to fall back on my contacts from my first career.

I am happy to say I am MUCH LESS on edge now than I was then. I’m no longer worried I’m going to violate some norm I wasn’t aware of and be fired. I’m also not desperately clinging to my position like a lifeline. Shortly after the letter was published, I was offered a full-time role in one of the departments I had trained as backup for. I’ve since been promoted twice within that department and learned some pretty cool skills that are highly transferable. If I ever lose this job, I’ll be fine. I’ve settled comfortably into my (not so) new industry as well as my company.

Happy endings all around! Thanks to the AAM community for being compassionate about a relatively trivial matter that meant a great deal to me at the time.

3. Update that isn’t an official “update”

I can’t thank you enough for answering another letter writer’s question about being asked to travel to Texas during early pregnancy. I happen to be in the exact same situation as that letter writer and with all day morning sickness, there is NO way I can travel anywhere, let alone a state where I can’t guarantee the healthcare I would need if anything went wrong with my baby, and I was really struggling with whether or not to reveal my pregnancy to my company earlier than I really wanted to. I’ve been negotiating a big, deserved raise that should be announced in the next month or so and did not want to risk even one cent by telling my company about my baby before it was finalized! I ended up using your suggested language of “having a medical issue and not able to travel” and was able to get out of my travel requirement with literally no pushback. Thank you SO much for making it feel a lot easier than I thought it would be!! I hope it was just as easy for the original letter writer.

4. Can I choose an alternate work schedule when my employees can’t use it in the same way? (#5 at the link)

I started my alternate work schedule a month ago! As you predicted, people easily understood that differing levels of staff have different benefits, and there was no problem. One of my junior staff – who I was worried might feel unfairly slighted – even approached me to say that they appreciated that I was taking an alternate work schedule and normalizing that it was okay for others on the team to do so as well.

{ 17 comments… read them below }

  1. JaneDough(not)*

    LW1, I don’t know what ails Christy, but I can tell you that she doesn’t have high self-esteem. Self-esteem is a healthy attribute; a person with self-esteem quietly appreciates their strengths, is aware of their weaknesses (and works to improve in those areas), and treats others respectfully / cordially. People with self-esteem are pleasant to be around because they’re not trying to prove anything or best others.

    Christy sounds arrogant (which is often the flip side of desperately insecure and self-hating), self-important, un-self-aware, and lacking in insight. None of those are components of self-esteem.

    I’m glad that you don’t have to deal with her — and I hope she grows as she ages and has more experiences.

    1. Kai*

      Totally agree. Christy has very low self esteem, which is why she constantly seeks outside validation.
      I bet anything she will bounce from job to job.

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      Plus a billion. I had Christy tendencies for too much of my life and it came from my self-esteem being in the toilet. I was trying to flaunt my knowledge in order to feel like I had something to be proud of, and was trying to suck up to people with authority because I hoped their approval would give me worth.

      I realize now how annoying behavior like that comes across and I’m legit glad she’s no longer going to be your problem. But I have some sympathy for her and I hope she’s able to overcome this behavior as she matures.

  2. Just Another Cog*

    #3 – So glad it worked out in your favor, but the fact that a pregnant person has to worry about employer knowledge of a pregnancy throwing a wrench in promotion/raise negotiations makes my blood boil. This is 2023, for heaven’s sakes.

    1. Bast*

      It speaks volumes as to where we (still) are that we had a LW a month or so ago who wrote in that they didn’t want to hire someone they knew was pregnant/was upset they weren’t informed new employee was pregnant and wanted to subsequently fire them. I’m very upset that we are nearly into 2024 and this frame of mind if still hanging around. My only consolation is that it isn’t acceptable, legal and expected to fire a pregnant woman like it was in 1970s, but that isn’t saying much considering how far away from the 70s we are.

      1. It’s Up to All of Us*

        I got the side eye from my boss for hiring a pregnant person last year. Boss knew nothing could be said directly but made it clear. I pushed back and made a general reminder about discrimination and that making assumptions during interviews was not legally or ethically correct.
        Employee has worked out beautifully but even if they didn’t, many non pregnant people don’t either.
        Bias stays alive.

  3. GrooveBat*

    #3 I am all for medical privacy and do not believe that anyone should have to disclose a pregnancy before they are ready to. But I do hope that those who are able/willing to disclose will also be very clear about their reasons for refusing to travel to anti-choice states. A lot of employers just don’t get it yet, and they won’t until it has a material impact on their ability to retain employees. Heck, I am well past childbearing age and I refuse to even vacation in Texas anymore, just as a matter of principle.

    1. Bast*

      I think a lot of people refuse to see that. It’s sort of along the lines of the thought process of, “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, the police won’t bother you.” “If you aren’t getting an abortion, then you won’t have any problems.” People truly do not get it until it happens to you or someone you care about, and if they do hear about it, they push it to the back of their minds as the “one in a million” scenario instead of one more common than they’d like to imagine.

    2. It’s Up to All of Us*

      I second your suggestion of making the reason known. Normalizing it as why it’s off the table for some who are pregnant. I can understand it being uncomfortable to be direct but to make an impact our voices and concerns need to be expressed.
      This applies to quite a few situations in the workplace where people stay quiet to avoid making waves or impacting themselves. I’ve done it myself but I know I can’t expect change if I’m not willing to be part of it.

  4. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    “She probably has the highest self esteem of anyone I have ever met and thinks very highly of herself”. Umm….there’s a term for thinking very highly of yourself when you lack the skills and/or behavior to back up that self-assessment. It’s called being conceited!

    1. KateM*

      Yeah, wow at “if you want to chime in when you are asked a question, you are welcome to do so”.

  5. ferrina*

    LW 1, great job handling this! It sounds like you stood your ground and didn’t let Christy push you around. I’m sure that stung for Christy (she probably thrived on pushing people around). I wouldn’t be surprised if you were part of the reason she left- she wanted more pliable people she could lord over.

    A happy ending!

  6. JelloStapler*

    LW Christy is allowing you to chime in on answering questions directed at you? How nice of her. /s

    I had a colleague like this once who did this and would also talk over me echoing what I was actively saying to sound smart.

Comments are closed.