updates: reading at work, lying about leaving, and more

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

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

1. Is reading books at work ever OK?

I wrote in about my partner who was penalized for reading a textbook at work. I love update season, so I hope others find this satisfying as well.

As with many of jobs on here, the reading snafu was just the tip of the iceberg of dysfunction. When he reached out to his supervisor to try and get some clarification, she insisted that she had never allowed him to read. This employer does have a rigid “2 write ups in 6 months and you are fired” policy, and with the reading on his record, he was no longer eligible for pay raises or promotions.

My partner ended up transferring to a different branch with a more “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He could read his textbooks as long as he didn’t mention it, it didn’t interfere with customers, and his new manager could deny that he ever allowed it. He stayed at the bank while studying for two years. Throughout that time, even with positive reviews from his manager, customers, and colleagues, he conveniently would receive a write-up (once for his computer malfunctioning) a couple weeks after the previous write-up would fall off.

But, as a happily ever after, he has graduated and was able to leave the bank to accept a job in his new field. While traditionally an underfunded field, he is already making more and genuinely enjoys his work every day. He also keeps being surprised when his colleagues say thank you or mention he’s doing a good job.

In your advice, you mentioned that he should watch his supervisor for insight on what he should be doing during downtime. To answer that, she would read. On the teller line. Usually bodice-ripping and trending spicy romance novels. In front of customers. So, it really was just a crappy workplace.

Thank you to you and the commentariat for your advice and encouragement!

2. My employer wants me to lie about why I’m leaving (#2 at the link)

My situation has turned out as well as possible, given the circumstances.

I took your advice and continued to be matter-of-fact with families when asked why I was leaving. Over the summer I accepted a new job where I feel much more appreciated and respected. Many former students/families have stayed in touch, and I still get to see them regularly. After many months, I am finally done grieving the loss of my old classroom. The process of leaving was awful, and many tears were shed, but the supportive advice from AAM and readers that I had done nothing wrong by being honest was very helpful in keeping things in perspective.

So in summary, all’s well that ends well!

No-Longer-Sad Teacher

3. My new job is scolding me for my hours (#3 at the link)

When I was hired, I was cross trained (with my permission) for both the position I had been hired for (let’s say teapot production) as well as a position that had been a single-person department for quite awhile (parts ordering) because they felt ordering was soon going to be a two-person job.

Shortly after I was hired, the owner of the company announced the executive director was let go after 15 years on a Friday and a new executive director was brought in the following Monday. It was a few weeks into her new reign that I was warned about my time off requests for doctor’s appointments. A few weeks after that, the executive director approached me about moving to the ordering department. I was able to discuss my time off issues directly with her, and she said most of the concern had come from her, as she wondered if it made sense to have part-time positions or if all positions needed to be full time. She said I was getting good feedback from coworkers and that she actually thought it would be a better fit to have a part-time employee in ordering anyway.

Happily, the move has been great. My manager, the original ordering person and first-time manager, sets clear expectations and as long as I can get them done in the time I am there she is happy. She gives good positive and constructive feedback, is a good communicator, and has demonstrated that she has my back. If I do need to take time off for appointments, we have worked out a system where I work extra hours from home during the week. That’s another benefit of being in ordering now, I can easily work from home and am able to do so two days a week while I am in office the other two.

{ 31 comments… read them below }

  1. thatoneoverthere*

    #3- I am glad things are better for you hour wise at your job. I hate when jobs do this. I do have 2 kids with chronic conditions that have regular appointments. Doctors keep (in general) regular business hours and human beings need to see the doctor. Some of us need to see them on a more regular basis! Companies need to learn to deal with this!

    1. Llama Llama*

      I too have kids with chronic conditions. I honestly don’t have much say in what day they have appointments. One doctor only has appointments about wheelchairs on Tuesdays. Therefore that’s when I am going. I at least had a small say about the time. Another doctor is 3 hours away, so I need full days off on those days (luckily that one is now annual).

      1. Dahlia*

        Yeah, people saying “You negoiated for Fridays off, so you should be able to do everything on Fridays” just don’t understand how these things work.

        Like some specialists are booking MONTHS out in advance. You don’t get a choice in days.

        People who aren’t chronically ill/disabled just don’t understand the reality of it.

    2. LCH*

      also happy things worked out. the comments on the original post were wild. so many mis-readings and assumptions about what was going on there.

    3. Minimal Pear*

      Yeah I’m reading this in the waiting room of a doctor’s office right now. This kind of thing is exactly why I work part time at a company where I can flex my hours. Being chronically ill takes up so much time!

    4. Lava Lamp (she/her)*

      Yeah, I am extremely lucky with my workplace. My accommodation is that I just don’t take lunch on appointment day and try to leave once we’re done with the bulk of our work. It works out well as my workplace is fairly close to the main hospitals I’m seen at as well.

  2. Hlao-roo*

    I appreciate that the update to the “reading on the job” letter was posted just after the 2023 book recommendations :)

    OP1: The management at the bank sounds ridiculous. I’m glad your partner is out of there and working in his chosen field now!

    1. MusicWithRocksIn*

      The fact that he always got a write up as soon as his old one fell off was telling. I don’t think she ever had a problem with the textbook – it was her job to make sure no one ever got a raise by making sure all employees always had a write up on their record so she needed to come up with something. Since she let everyone do lots of things that corporate wouldn’t approve of it was always easy to write them up for things they didn’t know were wrong. She just pulled “books are ok but not textbooks” out of her hat because that way she could keep reading her romance novels. She probably got cranky because he told HR he was always allowed to read and someone called her out on it.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        Yes, the “must always have a current write-up” was a HUGE red flag. That was definitely an excuse to withhold raises and promotions. I’m glad that OP’s partner graduated and moved on from what seems like a really bad situation.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        That was my first thought as well. If it wasn’t reading it definitely would have been something else.

    2. lilsheba*

      It’s a bank, enough said. They are HORRIBLE workplaces whether in the branch or on the phone. They police everything you do.

  3. Alan*

    For OP #2, this reminds me so much of the private religious school my daughters attended for several years. Everything the principal did was cited as being God’s leading, including terminating the incredibly popular vice-principal that everyone loved. Who were we to argue with God? You will never convince me that the principal wasn’t just jealous. This was one of many questionable judgments that he made, all apparently self-serving and all blamed on the Almighty, until he suddenly retired.

    1. LCH*

      i love how people like this never take into account if there is a god, they probably do not appreciate this behavior at all. soo… hmm.

      1. Alan*

        I don’t think, unfortunately, that such people have that level of introspection. I once attended a church where the pastor was having an affair and he insisted that he only did the will of God, and that people questioning him were in rebellion against God.

        1. Donn*

          That reminds me of the scene in MASH (the feature film), when Frank and Margaret realize their mutual attraction.

          Frank: I think God meant us to be together at this time.
          Margaret: (rips open blouse) His will be done!

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I always wonder if people like that actually believe in a god or gods at all or if they just think it’s a convenient excuse to use. If they do believe in a god, it seems like using him or her to get their own way and excuse bad behaviour is pretty blasphemous.

    2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      This is infuriating but also works the opposite way. When an unreasonable religious person is pressuring you, you can always say you’ve prayed about it and are being led to do x…regardless of whether you’re even religious yourself.

        1. Lanlan*

          I promise you, as a Christian, I will never get mad at anyone who employs this maneuver. Jesus was subversive and so am I. :D

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      One of my favorite quotes ever is “You can be reasonably sure that you’ve made God in your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do.”

  4. Momma Bear*

    LW2 – I’m glad things worked out for you. No need to lie to save them face. I’m also glad you were able to stay in touch with some of the families.

  5. Hrodvitnir*

    I’m so glad for you LW3! I remember quite a lot of harsh comments in the original, and it’s great to hear you’ve worked out something that worked for both you and your employer (though it would have been nice if they just communciated with you properly in the first place).

    1. Chriama*

      Agreed. I’m a bit curious about the order of events. My best guess it that the new ED questioned OP’s boss as to whether they needed part-time employees or they should all be full time and the boss was pressuring OP because they felt like if they couldn’t promise full time they could promise as close to full time as possible within the bounds of what they’d already promised OP. Maybe a combination of feeling worried that they’d be forced to make OP full time / fire them or feeling guilty or something for allowing a part time employee when the new ED seemed to think they should only have full time employees. Or was all the frustration directly from the new ED to OP? Just wondering who I should be mad at for the original situation lol.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah it sounds like the new ED came in, questioned whether OP being part-time made sense at all and caused her a lot of trouble, and then got on board with part-time being helpful after all. Annoying, but all’s well that ends well I guess!

  6. Kayem*

    LW#1 reminds me of my sibling’s OldJob, who would conveniently produce a customer complaint every time they became eligible for benefits. The last straw was the employer tsked at this history of write ups every three months and decided to fire them….but then said if they reapplied for the job, they would be hired! It’s so laughably transparent, it’s like they’re cartoon villains.

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