updates: introduced as my dad’s kid, mentor falsely accused someone on my behalf, and more

Here are five updates from past letter-writers.

1. Can I ask coworkers to stop introducing me as my dad’s kid?

Last March, I wrote to you about my concerns about how I was introduced in professional settings. A lot has changed since the time I wrote, and a lot has gotten better.

Firstly, while I still work at the same firm as my father, it is a different firm. Two of four the attorneys left the other firm I was working at — one on bad terms, one on terms that were slightly better — and the remaining two attorneys decided to start new with a new name and a new firm. I work under the other attorney, and we work really well together.

Working with one of the now-departed attorneys was miserable. I think that working remotely can be a good thing, but it doesn’t work in all situations. This was one of those. Almost every court was conducting hearing in-person, and this attorney would insist that either the office manager or I draft motions to allow him to appear remotely or would insist that one of the other attorneys go to court for him. He would call the office and dictate what he wanted written because it “took less time”, and he would complain about everyone else behind their back constantly. Among other things, he thought I was incompetent. I didn’t learn that he felt this way until after this attorney left the firm, but in hindsight, it really affected the way I saw myself professionally. I put a lot of pride into the work I do, and I like to do my job well. I want to make it clear that I don’t blame anyone but him for his conduct, and I hold no ill-will towards any of the people I work with for not stopping him earlier. There were circumstances that I won’t go into that affected how comfortable different people felt speaking up when it came to the egregious things, and a lot of what he did was small enough that we all sucked it up. In any case, this attorney is gone and a problem of the past.

As for your advice, it worked really well. I was definitely overthinking everything, and the solution was easy. I’m fairly early in my professional career — being a paralegal was my first full-time job — and given everything going on with the now-departed attorney, I was really hesitant to rock the boat. Because I’m a paralegal, I don’t get out the office a whole lot, so there’s only been one or two opportunities where the attorney I work under has actually introduced me. At one of those, a professional convention my boss was presenting at, a few people actually thought that I was related to my boss, and not my father, who was also there.

In short, I was a frog in boiling water asking if hard water or soft water was better. Now, I’m a very happy frog in nice, cold soft water.

2. My mentor falsely accused someone of sexism on my behalf without my knowledge (first update here)

A couple months after the whole Bill incident, Bill said he had some news during one of our leadership meetings. It was quite a shock to everyone when he announced he’d accepted a position at a prestigious firm in Asia and would be leaving within the month! His new work is similar to what he did with my company, but his new firm is in a totally different field, so even if he wasn’t moving to another continent, it would be unlikely that he and I will cross paths again. Ironically I happened to be going on vacation to the city where he was relocating shortly after his move and all of my colleagues who heard about it asked if I was going to arrange a time to catch up with Bill…needless to say I didn’t manage to find time for that.

Once Bill left, our CEO Belinda assigned part of his portfolio to me because she knew this was an area I was passionate about. It’s been really fulfilling to get to do this work and has gotten me connected to some great people with similar interests to mine.

Another big surprise came when Belinda announced shortly after Bill’s departure that she would be retiring at the end of the summer. I realized in hindsight that she had really been investing a lot of time to help me grow into my senior leadership role, which she had personally picked me for. I’m really grateful to her, and her believing in me was a big confidence boost. As uncomfortable as the Bill situation was, the way that Belinda handled it provided a great example for me of how to handle these situations and overall she was a great role model who has really helped shape who I am as a leader.

3. I didn’t receive the company Christmas gift (#4 at the link)

I sent an email to HR (since that was the only team I could think to get in touch with), and explained that over the holidays, I didn’t receive the company Christmas gift, and I wanted to take the opportunity to see if my address was correct for them, especially in case something important (like updated insurance cards or tax information) needs to be sent by mail. I got a response a couple hours later where they apologized for the gift not coming, and said they would talk to the person in charge of the gifts and see what happened. I thanked them and then the next day got a response saying that when they were putting the addresses in the order from, apartment numbers on line 2 of the addresses didn’t come over and it affected me and a handful of other employees who didn’t have apartment numbers all on line 1. They apologized again and gave me a $10 virtual Starbucks gift card. Which I do like Starbucks, but I was just relieved to find out it was an accident.

4. HR says we can’t contact a coworker on leave even to find out when she’ll be back (#4 at the link)

Our colleague returned from surgery after three weeks as scheduled. We kind of forgot that this even happened until recently when HR ruffled more feathers over something else. At this point, even when HR is doing something reasonable, they have built up such ill will that everyone treats any announcement from them with suspicion. Thank you to Alison and the commenters — we appreciated the validation that HR were the weird ones here!

5. I only have one job on my resume (#3 at the link)

I had written in March 2021 about having only one job on my resume, and my various frustrations with it. Nearly two years later, I have a new job! And have gone through a lot of change.

I started a new position in the spring of 2022, that was somewhat of a lateral move, but more money, slightly more responsibility, and overall a good change at the right time. I was starting to regain some of the joy in my field that I had been missing for a number of years, and I also started to unlearn a lot of bad habits I had gotten into out of a need to protect myself from supervisors and other leadership that were hostile, or at times just not the right fit for me.

And then after about 6 months, after I had moved states, my boss announced she’s leaving! So I became interim director for the department, her supervisor got eliminated as well so it was a whole new reporting line for the department, and it was a very chaotic few months. I had originally not been interested in the director role permanently, but after being in the interim role for a few months, ended up getting asked to stay as permanent, and accepted. I’ve been the permanent director for about 8 months now, and overall it’s been really good. It’s a good use of all my skills, I enjoy working with and building my team up, and we’ve been able to make some necessary changes. I like my boss and other leadership, I feel appreciated and valued for my skills and knowledge, and overall I feel like a different person.

Looking back at my letter and the comments, I can recall how frustrated I was with my former employer, and the lack of advancement, or just some recognition of my work. There was definitely a split in the comments that seemed to be along generations, with some people surprised it wasn’t more valued to be in a job for a long time (for the record, I am solidly a millennial). It’s also been interesting being on the other side now, and having to make those hard decisions, and recognizing bad habits that I had, show up in my team at times. I’ve tried to incorporate much of what I’ve learned and be a better leader than some of the ones I worked for, but also have a better understanding of what they were going through!

{ 52 comments… read them below }

  1. Frustrating Mess*

    For some reason Melinda changed into Belinda but sounds like it worked out well for all concerned

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Ha, I was confused after re-reading the first letter and was wondering who Belinda was. I was trying to find a Belinda in the original letter and then saw Melinda was CEO in the old and Belinda was CEO in the update and figured LW just had a slight memory lapse with the fake name they used. Something I could definitely see me doing!

      1. OP 2*

        OP 2 here – haha, yup. you are correct. Alison actually bestowed the Melinda name in the original letter (I had just been referring to her as “the CEO” in my letter). I probably would have remembered it better had it been one I picked. :)

        1. 1-800-BrownCow*

          Haha, no problem! It happens to the best of us. I think it stood out to me as I know a Melinda (a wonderful person) and so the name stuck with me. Regardless of the mix-up I’m glad things have worked out well for you. I appreciate your update.

  2. FamilyMatters*

    I feel a lot of sympathy for the LW in 1…I also worked with a close family member and it could be a very challenging dynamic to navigate. There’s so much baggage that comes with being a “nepo-hire”, I really tried to work against that stereotype and in trying to work against it allowed a lot of weird behaviors/comments addressed to me go unchallenged in a way that severely impacted the way I saw myself professionally (comments not just related to my work product, but also regarding my clothes and appearance).

    1. Anon this time*

      I have had the same problem, so I have a ton of sympathy for the first LW as well. I wish I had found Alison’s site before I had taken the job, as it may have made me think twice.

    2. CG*

      I’m always so curious about this, since I’ve had the opposite experience. Please feel free to ignore this (not that you need my permission to ignore a rando on the internet!), but I wonder what you feel like that “baggage” was, and whether or not you felt that any portion of it was justified.

      My own experience, as someone who has had to work for what I’ve gotten professionally based on merit alone, is that I’ve seen a lot of “nepo-hires” receive SO MANY benefits that were never an option for me, but then they almost exclusively speak about how difficult their position is and how much baggage it comes with. I very, very rarely hear any acknowledgment at all of the immense privilege that’s inherent in having family pave a career path for you, and that makes the complaints tough to swallow. I remember being so frustrating reading LW1 in the first place because the solution seemed simple to me: if you don’t want to be known/introduced as your dad’s daughter, don’t use your dad’s connections to get your job! If your dad did get you your job, it just feels so unreasonable to expect all your coworkers (who presumably got there on merit and without family connections) to pretend otherwise.

      I’d love to learn more about the opposite perspective/what I’m missing that made LW1 sound so sympathetic, if you – or anyone – wants to chime in!

      1. Silver Robin*

        I was a nepo-hire for a bit (this was a temp job). Yes, there are absolutely immense privileges associated with the job I got.

        The problem with being one that I found (though this could be compounded by being young and female around mostly older men) is that everyone I worked with, who knew my parent, treated me like a kid. Yes, they were very warm towards me and the fact that I got the job at all was entirely a favor to my parent, but the condescension would have been ruinous if I actually cared about making a career in that field.

        Parental reputation also follows you: the fact that my parent was very well respected helped a *lot*. If my parent had been disliked, I can only imagine how poorly my experience would have gone. There is an assumption that kid = mini parent, for better or worse, and it can be really hard to make an independent name for oneself. There might be really high standards to live up to, or a presumption of poor character, or any number of things. So yes, it is incredibly helpful to get the job in the first place (especially if it is a field of interest) but it also means constantly working under that parent’s shadow until you get far enough away from them (through time and space) to actually be treated as an individual adult with your own unique strengths and experiences.

        One more aspect: assume you actually want to go into the field and parent gets you in. Great! You got in! But now lots of people might assume that the *only* reason you got in was as a favor to the parent and has nothing to do with your actual ability. So you have to prove extra that you are actually competent, whereas other hires presumably got there because the hiring committee believed they had something of value to contribute.

        Like many privileges, there are upsides and downsides, and it really depends on the particulars to see which ones win out.

        1. FamilyMatters*

          I think this is part of it; there is a tremendous amount of privilege in using connections to get a job, that’s true, and in the industry I worked in (which I am no longer a part of) it wasn’t particularly uncommon or unheard of so I wasn’t exactly a total anomaly. I ended up there because at the time I entered into the workforce there were very few opportunities in my chosen field so took an entry-level role in a completely different field.

          When I say ‘baggage’ I meant mainly I assumed everyone thought I was going to be a spoiled, inept jerk and I really didn’t want to come across that way–which is how I ended up taking on a lot of additional work. I can’t speak to anyone else’s situation, but one of the things I struggled with was not wanting to ‘rat’ out my supervisor for unloading their assigned tasks onto me–so I ended up doing at least half their work plus mine, with the obvious end result of me really struggling to juggle the workload, and not knowing who to turn to to try and ameliorate the situation. They also used me as a buffer in client conflicts, I guess because they assumed that clients couldn’t get mad at me? they can and did! there were also a number of comments on my appearance that I didn’t notice other colleagues receive to the same extent.

          I certainly felt privileged in that I had a regular paycheck and health insurance, and I never stopped being grateful for that.

  3. Heidi*

    I find myself rather oddly satisfied by the update to #3. OP low-key raises an issue, it gets taken seriously and investigated, an error is identified and corrected, people get caffeine. I think it might be because I’ve been reading all of these stories about people wildly overreacting to stuff.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I agree that the situation in #3 was resolved pretty well. I’m glad the letter-writer raised the issue, and hopefully the person/people in charge of gifts remember to check for apartment numbers in the future!

    2. LJ*

      Yes but also OP had to couch it in softening language (adding in explanations like oh if the address is wrong for something important like insurance, etc). Maybe it’s just a communication style difference, but it sounded very much like they were afraid of a poor reaction from asking in more straightforward terms.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        It’s a “face saving” device. OP knows what was really intended and I’m sure the person receiving the question did as well, without it having to be explicitly spelled out. These kind of ‘fictions’ are socially very useful, I say so as a fairly direct person myself!

        1. AskJeeves*

          Also, OP might have felt weird about emailing HR over “just” a missing gift, whereas including those examples gives the issue more gravity.

        2. londonedit*

          Yep. Generally you’ll get much further with a ‘Just wanted to let you know that I didn’t receive a gift over the Christmas holiday, and I wanted to check in case there was an issue with my address that might affect other correspondence’ than ‘I didn’t receive a Christmas gift, what’s going on???’ or something even more direct than that. Yes, it’s a polite fiction, but starting off with ‘I’m sure this was a genuine mistake; just wanted to check’ allows everyone to save face and makes the whole discussion go smoothly and politely. Coming in all guns blazing will just make the other person angry and make you look needlessly aggressive.

        3. DyneinWalking*

          That sounds weirdly accusatory – OP was worried it might be intentional, but there is nothing in the original letter nor in the update to support this.
          Overall, it’s always best to raise an issue in soft, I-guess-this-was-a-mistake language – because a lot of the time, it is a genuine mistake! And in those cases (of which there are a lot), that framing is not a “face-saving fiction” but the actual and honest explanation.
          If you start with polite language, you give the problem a chance to be solved in a mundane and friendly manner with no hard feelings, whereas if you start rudely (or even with direct accusations), you put the people on the other end in a defensive position and thereby make them much less inclined to help you.
          You always have the option to escalate if the first attempt failed and people are dragging their feet.

          And besides… as it turned out, the problem was with the address. For all we know, OPs framing of the issue is what gave them the idea to check the address in the first place.

      2. DyneinWalking*

        What do you mean, “had” to couch it in softening language? It’s always best to raise an issue in soft, I-guess-this-was-a-mistake language – because a lot of the time, it is a genuine mistake! And if you start with polite language, you give the problem a chance to be solved in a mundane and friendly manner with no hard feelings.
        But if you start rudely, or even direct accusations, you put the people on the other end in a defensive position and thereby make them much less inclined to help you. You always have the option to escalate if the first attempt failed and people are dragging their feet.

        And besides… as it turned out, the problem was with the address. For all we know, OPs framing of the issue is what gave them the idea to check the address in the first place.

    3. Hurricane Wakeen*

      A $10 gift card seems kind of cheap compared to the gift box everyone else got, but at least they got something, I guess.

      1. Silver Robin*

        Yeah, I did not love that part. Ideally, LW would have gotten the actual gift or at least something of equivalent value. But hey, they did respond reasonably and hopefully next year they will have an eye out if a similar issue happens again.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        I read it to mean that they were sending the gift box to the correct address plus a Starbucks card to say sorry.

      3. kiki*

        I thought it was both! They got the gift box properly sent out and a $10 “sorry for the confusion!” gift card.

    4. Zelda*

      And LW speaking up fixed an issue for multiple people, each of whom may have been privately worrying about what happened. It’s on a small scale, but it’s a nice example of community and communication being better than isolation. Yay for the first penguin into the water– the person who raises their hand in class to say, actually, no, I didn’t understand that, could you please explain more; the person who writes to their representative to say you might assume I don’t care about people with a different skin color than mine, but I do; the person who’s willing to say out loud, “dude, that joke’s not funny,” or “please, can we do a team-building activity that isn’t athletic.”

    5. lilsheba*

      I don’t know how recent this was but my work gave us starbucks gift cards which is extremely tone deaf of them right now. I plan to buy the cheapest thing possible and donate the rest of the money as a tip to the people working there.

      On another note nice way to exclude apartment dwellers! Not everyone lives in a house!

      1. amoeba*

        The last sentence is reading this in a very hostile manner? Seems like most apartment dwellers got the gift just fine, it only went wrong for a handful that formatted the address differently.

        “it affected me and a handful of other employees who didn’t have apartment numbers all on line 1”

        (You know… never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. Hanlon’s razor…)

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah…I live in a flat and sometimes my address doesn’t populate the auto-fill fields properly, so I have to manually correct it when I’m ordering something. I know to do that, though; someone ordering from work most likely wouldn’t. Most of the time things still get to me because the postcode is for my building only, but sometimes they get misdelivered or returned because the postie can’t find the correct address. It’s not a huge deal and it’s not some sort of targeted attack against people who live in flats. Could easily have happened with other slightly non-standard addresses, like ones with house names instead of numbers or with no road name (both common in more rural areas here).

      2. AngryOctopus*

        It wasn’t excluding people in apartments, it was a literal formatting issue. People who formatted their address Way 1 were fine, but formatting for Way 2 didn’t get imported. It’s not that deep.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Thank you! I thought I remembered more, but I wasn’t sure if LW was just active in the comments.

  4. Richard Hershberger*

    #1: While I don’t doubt that working for the guy was a horror, drafting a routine procedural motion is bread and butter of the paralegal job. If you didn’t make a template for it after the first couple times, that is on you. And while refusing to appear in court in person is a problem, it isn’t the paralegal’s problem.

    1. Emily*

      Richard Hershberger: You seem to be almost completely ignoring what LW # 1 said. It is most definitely the paralegal’s problem when the attorney is refusing to appear in court when the attorney should, and it is creating extra work for the paralegal.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        I think Richard is saying that, ultimately, it’s on the attorney’s head if he fails appropriately practice law. I agree with you that it creates more work for OP, but they shouldn’t take on the stress of his crappy practices because that’s not their responsibility. (I’m an attorney, and ultimately, it’s my name on court docs so the buck stops with me. Even if a paralegal screws something up, it’s my responsibility to fix it and deal with it.)

        1. Emily*

          Happy meal with extra happy: I work in the legal field, and I am well aware that the responsibility is ultimately the attorney’s, but I find it quite odd to say that the paralegal “shouldn’t take on the stress.” If the attorney is calling and demanding ridiculous things, that is stressful!

          1. Happy meal with extra happy*

            I’m in no way saying that it’s easy to do, but I don’t think it’s odd at all to work towards not taking on stress that isn’t yours. I’ve had stressful bosses and worked in stressful situations, but my goal has always been to try to work towards the mindset of “I am doing what I can to the best of my abilities, and if someone else wants to be unreasonable, that’s their problem.”

            I think so many people take on additional stress and responsibility that they shouldn’t, and that’s the issue.

            1. Emily*

              Happy meal with extra happy: I agree people shouldn’t take on stress and responsibility that isn’t theirs, but you are ignoring that in the scenario LW gave, the stress and responsibility was theirs, and to act like it is not comes off as dismissive. I will say as someone in a legal support staff role, I do think sometimes attorneys do not realize the stress they are putting their support staff under.

    2. another lawyer*

      If he’s calling to dictate (“right now, no matter what you were working on at this moment!”) the language of each motion to appear remotely, that is super obnoxious. Yes, drafting those motions is whatever but it Should Have Been An Email.

      1. badger*

        yeah, it’s one thing if there IS a template and that can be used every time. It sounds like this was the lawyer deciding Templates Are Bad And So Are Emails.

        (I am a lawyer. I would never do this.)

  5. higheredadmin*

    The lesson here for LW3 – and for all of us – is please just check if there is an administrative type thing that is incorrect. As noted in this example, it was an error that affected other people, who it seems said nothing and I guess were just sitting around stewing that they had been slighted, which is NOT what the company would want. You are doing staff a favor when you reach back out about these errors. The number of people who never review their paychecks and don’t realize that they are being underpaid just constantly amazes me. If you are expecting a pay raise and don’t see it, reach out and ask as opposed to – I don’t know what. The most likely explanation is that there is an error that needs to be corrected.

    1. kiki*

      This applies to work and life more broadly– so many slights boil down to administrative-type errors or simple oversights. I had a friend get married a couple years ago. One of the bride’s best friends from college was upset because she “wasn’t invited to the wedding.” She received a save the date but no invite, so the friend thought she had been culled from the list. I told the bride and she was horrified– of course her best friend from college was invited! The invite was truly lost in the mail. The bride clarified with her friend and she happily attended the wedding. All is well that ends well, but I was horrified that rather than just check in if something had gone wrong, the friend had assumed that the bride had uninvited her from the wedding!

  6. Echo*

    LW2’s company was 100% in the wrong and they replaced a probably-$100+ gift with a $10 gift card? WTF.

    1. Gemstones*

      I read that as they were going to resend the gift but also gave LW a gift card as an “I’m sorry,” but I could be wrong.

        1. BubbleTea*

          With the way comments nest, you don’t usually need to label who you’re replying to, unless the comments are already fully nested (way over to the right).

    2. Heidi*

      I don’t think it said in the letter than the original gift cost more than $100. Was it in the comments?

      1. Hlao-roo*

        The cost of the gift wasn’t stated in the original letter (or comments, though the letter writer did comment a few times as “OP Four-Lorn”). The letter does say others received “a surprise gift box from work that had holiday candles, lotions, and the like.” Depending on the quality of the candles, lotions, etc. the cost of the box could plausibly be $100+ (but could also be much lower, again depending on specifics we don’t know).

        1. amoeba*

          Hm, I’d honestly imagine something much cheaper from that description – although certainly possible to have a really expensive version of that, I’d also be quite annoyed if the company spent $100+ on candles and lotions!

  7. New Mom (1 5/9)*

    I can’t believe this lawyer who wouldn’t show up in person. As the meme says, “look at my lawyer, dawg, I’m going to jail.”

  8. badger*

    LW #1 rings some bells for me – my first job out of law school, the boss spent several years treating me like I was totally incompetent. I kept thinking, well, I’m still here, so I can’t be *that* bad. But even still, I didn’t realize just how much of a toll it took on my confidence until I got out of that job and into the next one, where I am treated like a competent adult and no longer wonder if I can really do this. I can. I could at that first job, too, the boss just can’t stand it when people no longer look at him like he is God’s Gift To Law, but I think the scars from being a brand new lawyer and being treated like I was a waste of a law degree are going to stick around for a long time.

  9. Ho Ho Ho*

    The Christmas gift reminds me of the time I didn’t get a Christmas bonus from my company, and I later found out that they only gave it to people who worked all year for them. I was on their full time payroll for … 51 weeks. And was freelancing before that.

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