updates: the misbehaving dog, the boss sending job postings, 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 four updates from past letter-writers.

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

1. Misbehaving dog rampages around the office

I didn’t quite follow the advice. Honestly, having a conversation with any of the owners about the dog seemed the most uncomfortable thing to do, even more so because one of the owners is the dog owner’s ex-husband and the other is like her best friend, so if she didn’t care about all the things Pepito did to them, I thought she wouldn’t care about my feelings on the matter. Fast forward to March, one day Pepito (as he always did) grabbed something his owner left on her desk and my coworker decided to go after him to take the thing back and the worst happened — of course the dog got super defensive (making beast-like noises) and bit him on the hand! I couldn’t believe it. My coworker was super chill about the whole situation (I don’t know how, honestly, especially because from what I could see there was breaking of the skin) and from that day on my boss miraculously could afford paying for day care for the animal and I never saw him again, thank god. Two weeks ago I left that job for a new one :)

P.S. I know I didn’t follow the advice, but the comment section and reading people’s reactions to the whole situation made me feel so validated! It was very comforting to know I wasn’t out of my mind for feeling the way I did. Also, the dog owner NEVER continued with training.

2. Why I am irrationally anxious at work when I’m doing so well?

For the past year, I have had a new boss. I work as a program manager in a non-academic role in higher education, which is its own weird culture. It can be (very!) challenging to report to university academics who are researchers with a totally different skill set than the people they are ostensibly “managing.” (Imagine, if you will, being the IT network person, getting your performance review from someone with zero leadership experience who is making five times your salary with tons of institutional power, whose career has been spent researching 17th century German literature or whatever, and has no understanding of your role, what is involved, or how to assess your performance.)

My boss has proven to be incredibly, embarrassingly incompetent, arrogant, and bullies some staff members – but not me, because I think he likes me, and also gains some benefit from some prestige my program brings to the institution. He is a small and bullying person, and I have oceans of expertise in my work and a very good reputation in the faculty. So while this is in some ways anxiety provoking for me – my stomach turns when I see a call or email or meeting request – the anxiety is partially (rationally!) linked to his specific behavior, and the fear that I could end up being a target in the future. So this is a shift from the irrational to the rational, I guess.

BUT plot twist: I have so little respect for him that I don’t really care what he thinks. I know that I’m good at my job, that I am a high performer, and I have worked to build a good relationship with him (even though I truly can’t stand him) so that we can all function. I think I know how to handle him and protect myself, and my objective is to simply get on with doing good work for the institution and students. And because I have so little respect for him, I find that I have a bit less anxiety in some ways, because I truly do not care about his opinion. I am protected by a union and my job is not at risk even if he didn’t like me, which is not an issue, as far as I can tell. Higher ed is something else!

3. My boss is sending me job postings (#4 at the link)

I have a great update! On the day my original letter was published, I got yet another job rejection, so I rage applied to a new company. And I got the job! I doubled my salary, lowered my blood pressure, and am overall happier!

I didn’t realize how worn down I had become at my old job and even though I was passionate about the work, there were very few pros left to the job. I now have better hours, more flexibility, and an amazing new manager who consistently tells me that they hired me because I’m an expert in my field and they trust my judgement. It’s so refreshing!

4. What’s the definition of “professional hours”? (first update)

I originally wrote to you about whether or not “professional hours” is A Thing, then an update about how I was fired on my first day of vacation, but had lined up a much better job the week before being canned.

I am still at the much better job, and while it’s been slow and I don’t feel like I’m learning fast enough due to a very light workload, the job in general is delightful! I’m a scientist by education and now work as a project manager whose teams are 100% scientists. I studied biology, and they’re doing formulation. It’s different enough that I learn something new with every project I take on, but not so different that I can’t understand the science. My coworkers are all incredibly smart and talented and helpful, and everyone seems to prioritize doing their job exceptionally well with zero drama. Seriously, they make my job easy!

I ran into a former coworker lately, and he’s told me things at my former company are getting worse by the day. Judging by what he’s told me, I am thanking my lucky stars that I’m not there anymore. We work in an FDA-regulated industry (pharma, if you haven’t guessed), and you don’t want to mess with the Feds. Sounds like that’s exactly what I’d be dealing with if I were still there. Bullet dodged!

{ 40 comments… read them below }

  1. Hlao-roo*

    Thank you to all the letter writers for these updates! Glad you are all in (mostly*) good places now!

    *OP2: sorry to hear your boss is a bully. I think you’re right not to have much respect for him.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I really empathized with the situation where you’re “the good one” – at least for now! – but you see coworkers treated unfairly. It is not the win that bosses seem to think it is, and you definitely lose respect for leadership/the organization when you see it happen, even if you’re not the target (this time).

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I was “the good one” in a student worker job in college (so thankfully low-stakes), and I kind of envied my colleagues who weren’t “good ones.” I had to really toe the line to keep that reputation, whereas the people the supervisor already didn’t like could just ignore her more egregious policies. (That said, even seeing the dynamic, I had enough value for the benefits of being liked that I didn’t willfully throw it away.)

  2. Gigi*

    OP2: The “you have no power over me” moment is sooooo liberating! I’m very happy for you that you found it. And you are likely inspiring other people as you do it, even if you don’t see it.

  3. Goldenrod*

    “BUT plot twist: I have so little respect for him that I don’t really care what he thinks.”

    This is beautiful. Well done, OP! I’ve had that experience too, and it is liberating.

    1. tamarack etc.*

      I’m glad for OP#2, but it’s a very odd situation. I frequently say that universities are usually bad at managing IT because they don’t know how to hire IT leadership or what to expect from a good IT leader. That’s something I see a lot in my org. But our IT folks would not ever get their performance assessed by a humanities professor (or any member of the faculty), and also, the network guy would earn more than the most senior researchers (which, it has to be said, sometimes generates some resentment *even though* the IT person’s salary is at the low end of IT salary schedules).

      1. bamcheeks*

        Yeah, I am kind of fascinated to know more about this structure! UK universities have separate hierarchies for professional services and academics. If you are an academic and you manage professional services staff, you’ll usually always be at the pro-vice-chancellor level (C-suite managing directors, and be expected to have relevant leadership experience and qualifications), OR you’ll have formally moved over to professional services and similarly be expected to have relevant management skills demonstrated by experience or qualifications. You do get obviously get people in those roles who *don’t* have those skills, but no more so than any other industry IME. Having professional services people managed by academics without any leadership or management experience or training would be weird.

      2. Ama*

        It sounds like the OP’s university allows individual schools/departments to hire their own IT staff, which is a bit unusual (usually there’s a central IT that supports the entire university). That said, I did work at a grad school for awhile where we had our own IT staff (after much begging from our Dean) because our building was well off main campus and the central IT staff would drag their feet on responding to our support tickets because they didn’t want to come out to our location., They were managed by a professor (who at least worked extensively with computers as part of his work and had “Technology Director” as part of his title) — but that professor worked remotely and that caused its own problems.

        But yes, universities are terrible at managing IT — at that university they paid well below market rate for IT support jobs in our area so anytime you found a reliable employee you could bet they’d leave as soon as they no longer needed the tuition benefit the university offered.

  4. Exhausted*

    I would soooo not be cool about it if I were bitten by a dog at work. Especially a dog who is a menace that no one controls. The owner of the company and the owner of the dog would both be on the receiving end of a lawsuit.

    1. Generic Name*

      I know! Part of me wonders if the guy was so cool about it because he marched over to the owners of the company and said, “either make this right or I’m calling animal control” which he would be well within his rights to do. It drives me nuts when people don’t train their small dogs. They need just as much training as large dogs.

    2. Cabbagepants*

      Every nuisance dog is a sweet pupper who would never bite anyone, until they bite someone. (every dog will bit under the right circumstances, but I digress)

      1. Bryce*

        I was the third strike for one of those, and that was three times getting caught (a lot of “oh it couldn’t possibly be OUR dog, he’s so small and the fence is so big” ignoring that dogs can climb. Which he did while I was identifying the place to the cop). The rest of the street sent me a thank-you card. I still feel bad, few dogs are inherently problem dogs and are made that way through abuse or neglect or blindly reinforcing the wrong habits, but it had been terrorizing the neighborhood and if it bit me just for biking down the street then you can’t really use “just give it space” as an excuse let things be.

      2. I'm just here for the cats!*

        YES This right here! I wish more dog owners realized this. Even if your dog is super sweet with you it’s not always going to be sweet with others. And some dog’s just don’t do well in a business setting.

        I have to walk by a shop on my way home from work every day. many times there is this dog outside that barks and scares the heck out of me. He is in an enclosure but the fence is only about hip high. He doesn’t just bark, he jumps and growls. The first time it happened he followed me the entire length of the fence and was trying to get through the fence where there was a little gap.

        I talked with the owners of the store through their Facebook and they just told me that he is a sweet dog, but has a loud bark. And that if I came into the store sometime and met him I would see how sweet he is. I know enough about dogs to tell when a dog is not friendly. It’s happened a few times since. I’m afraid one day he might scare me bad enough that I slip and fall. Which if I do, will be on them.

    3. Blue*

      You’re not wrong, to be clear. And this dog very clearly did not belong at the office.

      And also…it sounds like the dog had taken something off the dog’s owner’s desk, and a random coworker decided to go try to get it back for some unclear reason. That seems like a terrible idea no matter what other context exists. Many dogs will become possessive/defensive if someone they don’t know well gets in their face.

      1. soontoberetired*

        things like this is why when someone suggests having dogs in the office, I shake my head. Too many things can make a good dog turn into a bad dog. and even the service animals we do have at work will slip up if provoked. (leave the service dogs alone people!!!).

        Plus our office is too big.

      2. Sneaky Squirrel*

        Yes, even the most well trained dog can be a risk if it’s interacting with people who don’t know how to behave around them. People aren’t taught well enough how to behave around animals.

      3. Freya*

        This is why my boss’ dog (who is not at all possessive, and will bark and then hide behind his human awaiting further instructions when we have visitors) is allowed in our office, and I will NOT bring in my mastiff, who is similarly not possessive of things but is protective of his humans and their space.

        Boss’ dog is easily dealt with if he gets annoying – all the office humans know what to do when the boss is on the phone and the dog is borking, and we know where to confine him when needed (he has access to both inside and outside space and toys and food in a spot that’s technically not part of the office, and there is a lockable door in between there and our desks). He’s good about it, and we all know 100% that if he wasn’t a good boy about it, the boss would never let him anywhere near us during work hours (and I would never get the noseboop-on-my-leg reminder to have lunch).

        Having said that, no tennis ball is safe in the office. Everything else is safe, but All Tennis Balls Are Belong To Dog.

        1. JustaTech*

          Yes about protective dogs! My MIL’s dog was super protective of her, to the point that he could be a real jerk.
          Once I took him out without my MIL (he needed a vigorous walk and she wasn’t feeling well) and he was actually a lot better behaved because he did not care about me at all, so he wasn’t constantly lunging at everything that moved.
          (The only time he ever went to the office was when they had to live there for a week because their house had to be evacuated due to wildfires.)

      4. OP1*

        I don’t understand why he went after the dog, what he took was the most irrelevant thing in the world: a pen’s cap!! After a few interactions gone wrong with the dog I decided to NEVER ever have contact with him again, I just ignored everything dog-related. And you know what was the most absurd thing? The dog’s owner tried to minimize the aggression by saying to my coworker “oh it is really good that you have experience with dogs”. The audacity.

    4. Chickadee*

      I hope the dog was up to date on its vaccines! I’d be furious if I was bitten at work, and demand to see paperwork for the rabies vaccine at minimum.

    5. OMG, Bees!*

      I have narrowly avoided being attacked by a neighbors dog (had to hide behind a screen door when it chased me), so I would not even come into that office as long as that dog was there. That would absolutely be my “Fire me for creating an unsafe work place” hill to die on and for the reason in the update. I hope coworker was at least compensated, but likely any news on that wouldn’t be passed on to the LW1.

  5. AngelicGamer*

    I’m not surprised and glad that OP 1 protected themselves in a way by saying nothing considering how much the dog’s connected in that office. I’m really happy they got a new job though!

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yeah – sounds like OP1 was in a situation where complaints would have led to them being in trouble. Glad both the dog and OP are in a better setting now.

      And I say the dog as well because some animals will definitely act up or act out when they are unhappy or bored. Sounds like that may have been this dog to a tee.

      1. OP1*

        It is really unfortunate that it took for the dog’s owner something like that to happen to actually take the dog to spend the day in an appropiate environment. I’m glad she did it, the animal was miserable and so was everyone in the office but she just didn’t want to accept it. I’m even more glad that I found a new job, besides the dog situation the mood in the office didn’t feel right anymore.

  6. BellyButton*

    LW2- I think many of us would love to hear how you managed to build a good relationship with incompetent boss you don’t like. I think this is info everyone could benefit from!

  7. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – Honestly, this right here is a shining example of why I think animals (excluding service animals) in an office are a terrible idea. I like dogs. Most people like/tolerate dogs. But most of us don’t love your dog as much as you love your dog. Even the most well-trained dog can act unpredictably in new situations. And so many people think their dogs are better trained than they are. And so many people have no idea how to safely and appropriately interact with a dog that there’s a risk to both. And so many of us are allergic to animals beyond just a few sneezes (I have a rescue inhaler for animals and an epi-pen for worst case scenarios). And the list goes on and on. Keep your pets at home, folks.

    1. Jiminy Cricket*

      My previous job advertised bringing your dog to work as a popular perk, and many people did. It brought a lot of people joy and relieved their stress over leaving their dogs at home. I really get that. But, given the choice in the future, that would cause me not to accept a job offer. I do not want to interact with dogs in any way. I don’t care if they’re just being friendly. I don’t want to hear them barking. I do not want them to interrupt meetings.

      This may be a divide similar to the office/remote divide. What is awesome for the dog lover is really bad for me, so we’re both going to make choices based on that.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        Me too. Dog-friendly offices have been big in my field for a long time — and after having a job with very difficult dogs, I stopped applying to those

    2. OP1*

      100% agree on everything you say. I’ve noticed that people that have dogs, with time tend to justify all the annoying things their dogs do believing they are the best dog owners when there is so much room for improvement.

  8. ENFP in Texas*

    I feel bad for Pepito, because one day he’s going to bite someone and end up being put down, and it isn’t his fault that he wasn’t taught any better. =(

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Hopefully, with him staying at home (rather than unsupervised in an area with lots of people), that day will be far away or never.

  9. Sedna*

    Op #4 – congratulations on escaping your awful workplace! I also work in an FDA-adjacent industry and I cackled with glee at seeing they had showed up at your old office. Welcome to the “find out” portion of “f— around and find out”.

    1. QueenRuby*

      Right??It is so satisfying. I’ve heard some other rumors, confirmed by people who still work there, that it is so good I am no longer there!

  10. Lynn*

    Congratulations, OP #4! But I have to know because you alluded to this in your last letter but not this one — did they pay you out for your PTO without a fight?

    1. QueenRuby*

      They did! It was a bit shady, but the total amount that I would have been paid including PTO worked out. No complaints. I think I made it clear I wouldn’t rest and the Finance Mgr didn’t want the hassle. So I won lol

      sorry, this seems to have been posted as an original post but I meant it as a reply to you!

  11. QueenRuby*

    They did! It was a bit shady, but the total amount that I would have been paid including PTO worked out. No complaints. I think I made it clear I wouldn’t rest and the Finance Mgr didn’t want the hassle. So I won lol

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