coworker refuses to talk to us, demoted and can’t move back up, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I was demoted and now can’t move back up

I’ve been at my company for over a decade, and have a track record of being an asset to the company. A year ago, I mutually agreed to step down from a management position. The proposal was I was better suited to a different, soon to be open position. I’d temporarily go back to entry level, but the door was open to quickly move on to something more challenging.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. The position didn’t materialize as there was a hiring freeze and now they are not replacing head count. That means I’m trapped in a role I outgrew 10 years ago, and it is devastating. As someone who actively seeks a challenge and always wants to do more for the good of the team and the business, I feel extremely limited by my current role. I still go above and beyond, and management still feels I’m adding value, but I feel like I’m using one-fifth of my potential. To be honest, I’m literally bored to tears.

I’m doing my best to find ways to do more, but I’m limited by the parameters of my position. I’ve asked my management team for more of a challenge, but they have nothing. Their opinion is that I am adding value in my role and I am an asset, and if I don’t see it that way, they can’t help the way I feel. There’s nothing open and not even a project or additional responsibilities they are willing to consider.

I want to stay with this company, but I don’t know how much longer I can continue in this role. My company recognizes my capabilities, but how can I get active interest in letting me actually using them?

You need to change companies, I’m sorry. You’d been at the company for 10 years and were in a management position and they moved you to an entry-level position you’d outgrown a decade ago? That is not the sign of a company that has faith in you or plans to move you anywhere near the level you’d been at. It doesn’t sound like there were even specific plans to move you back up (“you’ll move to X job in three months once it’s open”), just that the “door was open” to something more challenging. And now you’re “adding value” in this entry-level role so you have to stay put? Something doesn’t smell right here.

This is their long-term, possibly permanent, plan for you. I don’t know why — maybe it’s something that happened in your last role, or maybe someone in management really doesn’t like you. But this is their plan, and they’re telling you that pretty clearly. It’s time to look outside the company.

2. My coworker refuses to talk to us and management won’t do anything

I work in a bookstore, and our location is fairly laid-back. Several employees have friendships outside of work, but even among those who don’t, the relationships are friendly. Think casual greetings as people arrive, offering to help cover an area if someone is having a rough day, etc.

A few months back, one of my coworkers (Ann) became rather standoffish. This came out of nowhere. She talks to one other coworker and to our managers, but if any of the rest of us says anything — up to and including “hi!” — it’s like we don’t exist. She ignores us entirely. The coworker she does interact with will talk with us if Ann isn’t around, but if Ann is in then neither of them will speak to or acknowledge anyone other than the managers. This has been brought to the attention of our managerial team a few times and by multiple coworkers, and while they’ve spoken to Ann, nothing has really changed.

We just lost an employee, Sam, who is moving in a couple months. He told the team that he could have stayed another month but left earlier than necessary due to feeling pushed out by Ann and her friend. When one of my coworkers brought this to a manager, she was told that as far as management is concerned, they believe Ann is being unfairly bullied. It seems unlikely that they’ll be taking any further steps to sort this out. What do I do? Go to upper management? Accept that Ann is going to pretend the rest of us don’t exist? I don’t need to be best friends with everyone I work with, but acknowledging that I’ve said something doesn’t seem too much to ask?

Expecting a colleague will acknowledge when you’ve spoken is not too much to ask; that’s basic civility, and your management shouldn’t be okay with employees being ignored. But multiple people have talked to them about it, and they’re not intervening. At this point, the easiest path is to accept that this is how Ann is, internally roll your eyes, and stop caring. Unless it’s actively interfering with your ability to do your job, it’s not worth escalating to higher level management.

I am curious about what led them to conclude Ann is being bullied. Did something happen that led to Ann ignoring everyone? It’s possible you might not know about it if something did. I’m also curious how people have been treating Ann since she shut down; there are certainly ways people could be reacting to her standoffishness that could read as bullying, like trying to force a greeting or shouting “hello” loudly to make a point, etc. Regardless, though, everyone is better off just accepting that Ann, for whatever reason, isn’t going to talk to most coworkers and letting that go. That doesn’t mean it’s okay or that someone higher-up shouldn’t intervene! But they’re not going to, so this is the path with the least strife and drama.

3. Surprise baby shower

One of my coworkers sent out a meeting request for an on-site meeting during work hours to our full team that was billed as a meeting to brainstorm group goals and group activities. I thought it was odd that it was coming from this coworker rather than our department head, and that it was on-site without a lot of notice since much of our team is hybrid/remote, but it was a day I was already scheduled to be on-site so I accepted without really thinking. After I’d already accepted the meeting, my coworker sent a follow-up email to everyone except for a member of our team who is pregnant that the actual purpose of this meeting is to have a surprise baby shower for the coworker who is expecting.

I had already contributed to a group gift organized by another coworker and am happy to celebrate my coworker’s impending arrival — but from a distance. I have had my own fertility struggles which culminated last year in emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy. Other than my immediate manager, my team is unaware of the reason for my surgery and I am not interested in sharing details beyond “unexpected abdominal surgery” with them. While I am genuinely happy for my coworker and was happy to contribute to the group gift, going to a baby shower would hit hard on my sadness over my fertility struggles and the way they ended. When I even think about playing baby shower games, I start to cry.

My immediate manager is on vacation this week so I cannot discuss this with them. Since I would rather not share why I don’t want to attend to anyone else, is there a way you’d recommend handling this?

You’ve unfortunately developed a scheduling conflict with the meeting and won’t be able to attend, but hope they have a great time! That’s it. If that requires altering your schedule for that day, go ahead and do that. Really! You’re not obligated to attend this bait-and-switch shower, and the politest way to decline is to develop a conflict.

Also, this is a weird way for your coworker to manage the shower! I can see why she might have disguised it as a meeting for the coworker being celebrated, but she shouldn’t have lured the rest of you to accept under false pretenses, especially since most people would think the sort of meeting she billed it as was a lot more mandatory than a shower. (And I hope she knows for sure that the pregnant coworker will appreciate a shower! Not everyone wants them, either at work or in general, and sometimes for reasons related to religious customs or medical situations. Surprise showers are risky if you don’t know for sure.)

4. As a new manager, can I take over hiring from my team?

Last year I took over managing a 10-person technical team that I had previously worked on for five years. A few months ago, I had my first chance to hire a new employee. The previous long-time team lead had always involved everyone in the hiring process — some people screen resumes, others conduct interviews, and the team brings one or two candidates to the lead for a final interview. I liked this idea so I kept the tradition. But my team brought me duds. So I went back through the applications myself, found strong candidates that my team had missed, interviewed them and hired one. The new hire has been a huge success, and people on my team have come to me privately to thank me for not hiring any of the initial candidates.

But now I have a problem. We’re about to hire again, and after my last experience I’ve convinced myself that I’m a better judge of candidates than my team is collectively. I’m tempted to just do the hiring process myself as it will be faster and I’ll be more confident in the result. I’m worried though that this will show a lack of confidence in my team. I’m not generally a micromanager; I give my team lots of latitude to manage their own tasks. Will they be offended if I keep the hiring process to myself?

Why not reverse it — do the initial screening and first-round interviews yourself, and then bring the finalists to meet with your team? You should be clear that this isn’t a vote; you’re the one making the hire, but you want their input before the final decision. If anyone asks about the change, you can say, “I didn’t think the old system worked as well as I wanted when we used it last time, but I want people to have an opportunity for input once we have solid candidates.”

This is a reasonable and  very common way to do it.

Also! Involving everyone in hiring might sound good in theory, but will often collapse completely unless you invest real time in getting everyone on the same page about exactly what you’re looking for and how to rigorously assess it, as well as training them in things like how to interview effectively and combating biases as they evaluate. Otherwise you’re likely to end of with a hodgepodge of candidates who people just liked personally, thought would be a good coworker, or filled some side agenda they might have that doesn’t align with the must-have’s for the role. In fact, even with people playing a more limited role this time, you should still invest in doing some of that work.

5. Giving notice when your boss is on vacation

I have a good problem, I think, in that I have been through three rounds of interviews with my dream job, and they seem (???) excited about me. No guarantees, of course, but based on what they’ve said I am hoping to see an offer early this week!

The problem? My boss leaves for a two-week vacation on Wednesday. I am crazy excited about this new opportunity, but I have also loved where I am now. It’s a small company and they’ve taught me so much. I don’t want to put my current boss in a bad situation, either by telling her right before she leaves and ruining her vacation or by giving a short notice if I wait until she’s back. What’s the most professional way to handle this — assuming, of course, that everything goes right with the new job?

Is there anyone else you could reasonably give your notice to while your boss is gone — like your boss’s boss or your boss’s deputy? If so, give it to that person. They’ll be best equipped to decide if it’s something your boss needs to/would want to be alerted to while she’s on vacation. And you can just let that decision be above your pay grade; you’ll have given your notice and the clock will be counting down on your notice period.

But if the company is so small that there’s really no one else to resign to — like if it’s your boss, you, and a handful of peers — you probably do need to call her while she’s away. Yes, it sucks to have to deal with something like that from vacation, but that’s part of the deal when you’re running a really small company. Apologize for the timing and explain you’re bothering her only because you didn’t want to blindside her with just a few days notice when she’s back. If she decides she doesn’t want to deal with it until she’s back anyway, so be it — but let it be her call.

{ 339 comments… read them below }

  1. Punk*

    Alison, re: the baby shower, in outlook a meeting invite is sent as an email and you can see everyone else it was sent to. If the pregnant coworker got an invite that only had her email address on it, and real meeting invites are always sent with everyone visible, it wouldn’t be convincing as a team meeting.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        Yeah, that’s how my work handled a surprise shower recently – an initial heads up email to everyone but the guest of honor, and then the fake meeting outlook invite.

      2. Bilateralrope*

        The LW’s manager being absent makes me wonder if the coworker is trying to sneak the baby shower past management. Or maybe just trying to have anyone attending paid without management approval.

        But that just gives the LW another reason to stay away from it.

      3. coffee*

        I assume it’s just “people can be bad at organising things” rather than any deliberate misleading, if it’s like my company.

        1. Shoot another shot, try to stop the feeling*

          Yep. I’m an admin, 99.9999999999999999999999% of the time it’s poor planning on the part of someone who doesn’t plan things for a living.

          1. ferrina*

            Many people just aren’t good at realizing the impact of small things like Sending Fake Invite First vs Sending Explanation Email First. The mindset is “oh, it’s coming in at the same time, it’s fine.” Or they don’t think about it at all.

      4. Ellie*

        Or just schedule a one-on-one meeting with the baby shower recipient? No need to make it a team meeting. Or say that as it’s nearing her final day at work, you’d like to take her out to lunch. Cue the shower instead. Or just tell her that it’s a baby shower and not do a surprise one at all. They are risky. I didn’t want one, didn’t even want a private one. I would have died if my coworkers had organised one for me.

      5. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, sending those two e-mails in the opposite order seems like the obvious solution.

      6. Kevin Sours*

        There are some people in this world constitutionally incapable of understanding that a person might not anything less than gushingly enthusiastic about attending a baby shower.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      You can handle this with two invites. One for everyone else, “Secret baby shower for Jane”, and one for only Jane. Make up whatever excuse for that one. Same time, same place. That’s what we did for a couple farewell parties recently. The honoree showed up expecting a knowledge transfer meeting for a particular project.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          They were delighted. Please assume we know colleagues who we’ve been working with for years better than people who have never met them do, and that we’re capable of assessing “Would this person like this type of celebration in their honor”.

          1. linger*

            Glad it was true in your case, but it’s not a given. We’ve had several LWs in the past few months whose workplaces seriously misjudged that and went ahead with surprise baby showers to the horror of the recipient. At least one left the job as a direct result.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              Yes, that’s why Hastily Blessed Fritos specifically pointed out that they *did* know the honoree would be delighted.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              Hastily Blessed Fritos was discussing farewell parties, not baby showers. My organization has thrown many retirement celebrations, and so far as I know no one has quit over any of them.


          2. ferrina*

            This is key. You need to know the person really, really well, and you need to know that they would appreciate this. I can’t imagine knowing someone at work well enough to know their thoughts- I would err on the side of asking.

            I’ve had a couple surprise parties thrown for me. The first one I literally turned around and walked right out the door. The second one I gritted my teeth and stayed, but hated it. I like a good party, but I need to mentally know I’m walking into a high-peopling scenario.

    2. Purpleshark*

      You can schedule meetings in Outlook without seeing the other participants. My job does it all the time. I am in a school where special education parent meetings are scheduled and I am not able to see everyone else who is a participant. Sometimes I find this annoying because I have to look up the case manager to let them know information if I cannot make it.

      1. Purpleshark*

        I want to also add I absolutely hate surprise anything. When we have a shower I always ask the pregnant person. Sometimes they don’t want one and if they are OK with it I want to make sure they are in the office. No surprise birthdays either.

        1. Smithy*

          One job I had, was a huge fan of the surprise life-time event parties. Until they threw one for a woman’s upcoming wedding and the reality of the surprise had her just shaking and clinging to her fiancé the entire time. It was just so awful watching her try to calm herself down and be appreciative.

          That largely ended that practice.

    3. Little Miss Sunshine*

      I would never throw a surprise shower at work. I want the the expectant parent to be all in with the socializing and well wishes, and in today’s flexible hybrid workplace, I wouldn’t want to deal with the fallout of the guest of honor deciding to take a last minute work from home day. I have also witnessed the challenges of parents expecting a child with severe disabilities, parents who have lost their child, people who struggle with fertility, and a host of other issues. I have planned 2 baby showers at work in the last 3 years and no one had less fun because they knew about it in advance.

  2. Fed Up*

    This is “funny”.

    I have worked with one of my managers for 23 years.

    She has not acknowledged my direct salutation to her for fifteen of those years.

    She will not move eyeballs to the right to acknowledge the acknowledgment.

    It’s as if you don’t exist.

    1. Rain*

      Do you have any idea why? Is It with everyone, or just certain people, or just you?

      I’m really fascinated by this having gone on for so long.

      1. coffee*

        I suppose by now it’s habit but I’m surprised she’s managed to maintain it for so long. That is absolutely wild (and dysfunctional as all get out).

    2. Thiscreaturehasanexoskeleton*

      I was assigned to a teacher as a teaching assistant who would not respond to “Good Morning”. She later told me she thought giving a response or acknowledging someone’s presence at all “was earned”, and she would be the one to decide when or if that occurred. As you can imagine, that behavior was just the tip of the dysfunction iceberg.
      So happy to not have to deal with that anymore!

      1. Beany*

        I just got a flashback to a part of The Grey King (Susan Cooper, from The Dark Is Rising sequence). Through magic/timey-wimeyness, two of our heroes have arrived in this ancient sunken kingdom on a mini-quest. At first the kingdom seems to be unpopulated, but after achieving one task, our heroes start to see people around them, but the people ignore them as if they (the heroes) are invisible. After another task is completed, the people appear to see them, but don’t/can’t communicate, and so on …

        1. Agnes Grey*

          Ohh, I may be due for a summer re-read of that sequence, it’s a long-time favorite.

    3. Strawberry Snarkcake*

      This was my old director, who did not start acknowledging me until I was promoted. When he retired I think he was surprised, and a little hurt, that more people did not turn up to his retirement party. Dude, you spent half your career ignoring the majority of the people you worked with, how did you think that was going to turn out?

    4. djx*

      Did she live in Adams House at Harvard in the 1980s? We called what she’s giving you a “warm Adams House hello.”

  3. Observer*

    #3- Surprise baby shower.

    Yes, develop a schedule conflict. If necessary get a bug the morning of, and don’t come in.

    If this were not so sensitive to you I would actually suggest pushing back on the idea. Because that fact that it’s a “surprise” tells me that, at best, the organizer has not gotten buy in from your colleague, so that her reaction may not be what the organizer wants and expects. Or worse, your colleague has expressed that she does not want a shower and the organizer has decided that they know better and she “needs” to have this shower.

    And for anyone who thinks that the latter is not likely, read the archives here. There are a lot of people who don’t want baby showers and apparently at least as many people who won’t respect that.

    1. Steve for Work Purposes*

      I had never heard of a surprise baby shower until I started reading AAM and I am very glad no one has pulled anything like that in anywhere I’ve worked. Too many ways for it to go wrong, and in general surprise celebrations like that should only be done with explicit agreement from the person that they’d be open to such a thing….which I certainly wouldn’t be. But especially re something as fraught and emotionally charged as pregnancy, yikes.

      Whatever happened to letting the pregnant person set their own boundaries? I was raised to not comment on someone’s pregnancy til they brought it up and to never assume pregnancy was happy news until I got an indicator from the person that it was, but reading AAM it seems like my family was in the minority re that….(to be fair my mum experienced pregnancy loss and so I think is pretty sensitive to the topic in general). I hope someone is able to give the pregnant person a head’s up just in case!

      1. Hlao-roo*

        but reading AAM it seems like my family was in the minority re that

        To be fair, people rarely write in to advice columns when there are no problems. I sure hope there are many people out there whose coworkers:
        – don’t bring up someone’s pregnancy until the pregnant person brings it up first
        – don’t plan baby showers for a pregnant coworker unless/until they know the person wants a baby shower
        – generally behave like reasonable people

        And for all those people, there are no issues so there’s no reason to write in to AAM and thus we never hear about them.

        1. Aww, coffee, no*

          Yup, I had a co-worker ‘Natasha’ who was something like seven months along before she told us she was pregnant.
          Some time before that myself and a different co-worker had had a quiet chat with each other that Natasha looked pregnant, but we both agreed that it was nothing we were going to discuss further until (or unless) Natasha announced it. We sure as heck weren’t going to ask her about it.
          Turned out Natasha had told our mutual boss, round about the four-month mark, expecting that he would share the info but since she hadn’t specifically asked him to, he also said nothing to anyone.

          1. Random Dice*

            That’s delightful! Awkward as heck but with the best of manners.

            I had a coworker who developed a very large stomach for medical reasons, that definitely looked like a pregnancy. None of us asked and she still had it a year later, so I’m glad we didn’t ask.

            1. TeratomasAreWeird*

              On the one hand, dealing with a large ovarian tumor while I was social distancing means I didn’t have to deal with a lot of people’s assumptions about my body shape. On the other hand, I had a few zingers that I never got to deploy:

              “Is it a boy or a girl?” “We’re hoping for non-malignant.”
              “When are you due?” “It’s being biopsied in March.”

              And one that I did:

              “How far along are you?” “Two years!”

              1. Orv*

                As a non-binary person I enjoy responding to “are you a man or a woman?” with a snappy “nope!”

            1. bamcheeks*

              Yes, although half a point deducted for not asking and finding out what Natasha’s wishes were either way!

          2. Lab Boss*

            I had something similar! My most trusted employee let me know she was pregnant pretty early so we could start planning work logistics, and told the rest of her team a bit later. Nearly a month after that, when she mentioned it in a full-department meeting, my own boss was surprised (happy, but surprised). Turns out my employee “assumed I would have told the big boss right away, so she didn’t think to.” I had to point out to her that running to tell management about employee pregnancies is not exactly a good boss move- she at least realized once I pointed this out to her.

            1. SpaceySteph*

              It would be an even better boss move in the future to make clear that you weren’t going to tell, or even offer that you can tell big boss now or wait based on their preference so employee is aware of who will/won’t know.

              1. Lab Boss*

                The funny thing is, when she told me she was specific about asking me to keep it to myself, and that she was telling me early so we could plan. When I reminded her she said “oh, yeah- well, I figured telling [big boss] didn’t count.” So I did tell her I wouldn’t tell anyone- she just assumed there was a built-in exception.

          3. Silver Robin*

            I had something similar happen recently where I was Natasha: I was out on medical leave, my boss asked whether he could share with the team/if I wanted get well cards. I told him to let folks know the short version and that I was fine, happy to get cards.

            He did not tell anyone (he forgot? Did not have time at the team meeting? who knows). I never heard from anyone and when I got back, folks all assumed I was out for three weeks on vacation and had very well meaning greetings of “hope your time away was restful!” etc. Had to break the news to several coworkers, poor things. XD

            (The medical leave was pretty chill, all things considered; I am fine and it was not emotionally straining, otherwise I would have a harder time laughing about the miscommunication)

          4. FlyingAce*

            My former boss could have learned a thing or two from your boss. I told him quite early in the pregnancy because a project had been pushed by the client to a later date and it was now conflicting with my due date. He was a bit taken aback, and while he was processing the news, he asked if we had selected a hospital yet (we hadn’t – I was no more than 10 weeks along at the time). So he had the brilliant idea to call another manager, who had recently become a father, and say “I’m here talking with FlyingAce and, um… uhh… what was the name of the hospital where your wife had her baby?” I’m sure the other manager, who was sitting a couple of cubicle rows away, could see me facepalming.

        2. WellRed*

          Yep! Let’s not pretend that people who write in represent everyone, especially here. If OP can’t bear the thought, don’t go but let’s not derail into people who don’t want showers.

          1. Observer*

            If OP can’t bear the thought, don’t go but let’s not derail into people who don’t want showers.

            Sure, the letters here are about problematic people who are (hopefully) outliers. But not wanting a baby shower and / or not wanting a *surprise* celebration are *extremely* common. The outliers (I hope) are the people who don’t respect that.

          2. Over Analyst*

            Agreed, and there’s not even an indication that the person having the shower thrown wouldn’t want it! I agree OP shouldn’t go if they don’t want to, and I feel so much sympathy for them. I also don’t think surprise showers should be a thing at work (primarily I know I’d HATE it if I had a bunch of things to do, prioritized a planning meeting with the boss, and learned it was actually a party for me, so I’d rather know about it so I can figure out my workload and make it work for me). But there’s nothing saying that the pregnant person wouldn’t want a surprise shower, or that she hasn’t told people she’s pregnant.

      2. Not like a regular teacher*

        My in-laws threw me a surprise bridal shower (my spouse and I had purposely not planned any showers because we don’t like them). This was years ago and I’m over it now, but at the time I found it deeply embarrassing and it really soured my relationship with them for awhile.

      3. londonedit*

        ‘Showers’ of any kind (bridal/baby) have never really been a thing where I live, culturally. Baby showers keep threatening to become a thing (thanks to the constant flow of info from the US on social media) but they’re still not mainstream, and a baby shower at work would be very odd, let alone a surprise one. Of course when someone’s going on maternity leave their immediate colleagues will usually do a whip-round and sign a card, maybe with a gift voucher or something, but there won’t be a party as such, just a cup of tea and maybe some cake as a send-off.

        Culturally here things have historically very much been on the side of ‘you don’t celebrate until the baby has arrived safely’ – people don’t tend to reveal names before a baby is born, and traditionally you don’t give gifts until after the baby is born because it’s seen as bad luck.

    2. Yellow rainbow*

      I’d just call in sick send well wishes after. Provided you get sick leave anyway.

      Given hybrid is common, wfh and don’t officially call sick.

    3. Nodramalama*

      I don’t think anything in the letter really tells us about the pregnant person’s expectations. Some people love surprise parties of all varieties. For all we know it’s something the coworker and pregnant person have discussed before.

      1. Lab Boss*

        Agreed, absolutely. I have friends and coworkers that I know would love a surprise! I do think sometimes the general mood of the comments here drifts towards “everything should be strictly professional, nobody likes work fun, nobody likes parties, nobody likes surprises” and so forth.

    4. Another person*

      Yep, it’s time to pull out the creative call-out excuse list. There’s always calling out sick but there are other excuses. Have a pet? It started expelling bodily fluids in a spray pattern and needs to see a vet. Or, you bit down on something you couldn’t chew and need to see the dentist pronto. Another good standby is a vital appliance broke in your home and you need to wait for a repairman that gave you a four hour window that unfortunately includes the event.

      Point is, it’s perfectly okay to lie when you were roped into committing to something on false pretenses.

    5. Lady Lessa*

      What we were planning on doing for an expectant father was a company lunch and then giving him a gift card (I think VISA or another all purpose one). Junior arrived early (all are okay), so the organizer is planning on dropping the card off at their house.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          Or better, check ahead and ask. We have the ability to communicate plans.

          When I was a newborn’s parent, I liked visits *if* I knew they were happening and they knew not to stay long. I’d be much happier with five minutes of chit chat at the door or 15 in the living room, than with a random mailed card.

    6. CowWhisperer*

      I have a son who was born at 26 weeks when I developed HELLP syndrome. We both survived – but it was rough.

      Not having any more biological kids – but a surprise shower before the theoretical baby was born and we were both alive would cause me to panic.

      I threw up when asked to join “guess when the baby will be born” game at work. Once I stopped heaving, I explained to a nice older colleague why I was stress barfing. We didn’t play that game again.

      Pregnancy: not fun and games for everyone.

    7. Deborah*

      My only nitpick with this is that OP shouldn’t have to use sick time to avoid this- a work schedule conflict ahead of time seems fine unless OP knows that wouldn’t work at their workplace.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        Yeah I am wondering about the dynamics of the workplace that LW felt the need to write this letter. At my office, I just wouldn’t show up and nobody would bat an eye, they’d assume I was busy or uninterested if they even noticed I wasn’t there. If LW has the kind of office where people are petty and weird about this kind of thing, though, then yes maybe a sick day is in order.

    8. NYC Boss*

      I just want to throw it out there that my workplace threw me a surprise baby shower when I was pregnant with my first. It was unexpected and very kind of them – I found it lovely. Just adding to counterbalance some of the horror people are expressing at the mere thought!

    9. 2 Cents*

      You have an off-site vendor meeting. You have an appointment that cannot be rescheduled. You feel ill that morning. You in-office day is shifting that week from shower day to not-shower day.

      I’m sorry for your loss <3

    10. Pizza Rat*

      “A pipe burst and I have to be here for the plumber. I’ll be working from home today.”

  4. Archi-detect*

    With retail jobs it is super hard for me to not look at them as a dime a dozen and temporary, having gotten out of them; but with the Ann situation it is really hard for me to not just boil it down to figuring that since management won’t get involved, your options really are accept that weirdness or leave. I think I could deal with it, and I imagine there may not be a mountain of similar jobs to switch to especially if it is something you like, but that may be the long and the short of it.

    1. Not Jane, I hope*

      Bookstore jobs are typically more sought after than other retail. People like the opportunity to talk about books for a job! Bookstores can be much pickier about staff as a result.

      1. allathian*

        Indeed. My favorite retail job was definitely the one at the bookstore. My favorite perk was being able to look in the system when we’d get new books by my favorite authors, and to buy them at a considerable discount, 25 percent IIRC. We were also able to buy books that were due to be taken off the shelves and reported as destroyed to the publisher at cost (no loss to the bookstore, nobody had to rip the covers off and report the loss, and it increased the sales of the book by 1 copy).

      2. Emmy Noether*

        In my experience, bookstore employees tend to be more knowledgeable, and thus more specialized, than employees in most other kinds of retail.

        1. Ex-prof*

          Very true, though I’ve met some corkers.

          me: Why are Harold Kushner’s books in Christian Self Help?
          he: Because that’s where we put them.
          me: But he’s a rabbi. He’s not Christian.
          he: I’m not saying he is.
          me: But then why are his books in Christian Self Help?
          he: Because that’s where we put them.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              It is kind of beautiful in its way. “It is here, because that is where it was placed. If it were placed elsewhere, it would be elsewhere.”

          1. Cinnamon Stick*

            We once had someone stock The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the Travel section.

              1. Cinnamon Stick*

                Nice one! At this point, we should probably move all the dystopia to Current Events.

            1. Philosophia*

              Then was the Restaurant at the End of the Universe placed among the food essays?

              1. Cinnamon Stick*

                I don’t remember. I wish I did because it does sound like something one of us would have done in response.

          2. Margaret Cavendish*

            I’m going to guess the employee already knew the books were in the wrong place, but someone above them had insisted. And you were a customer, so they were trying to be tactful, instead of saying something like “my manager is a useless know-it-all.”

            1. House On The Rock*

              Yeah, this is almost certainly an employee trying to skirt around something, not them being ignorant. Generally speaking, if you pester any retail employee about something outside of their direct control (which isn’t much sometimes), they are going to default to “because that’s the way it is”. It doesn’t mean they don’t realize it’s wrong.

            2. Ex-prof*

              It would be a good guess, but as we were arguing another employee, a woman, intervened and said she’d tell her manager.

              1. AngryOctopus*

                It could be more a case of “ugh, I don’t know why they’re there. Maybe because we don’t have an “other religious self help” section? I’m not in charge of that. They are where they are, and I’m not going to go move them and try to find some other place they belong better just because of this conversation”.

              2. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

                My guess is that they both know that nothing is going to be done about it, but the guy had not (yet) learned that you can say “thanks, I’ll let my manager know” even when you know he does not care and will not do anything.

                Or maybe I spent too much time in retail.

            3. Aeryn Sun*

              Depending on the store it could come down from corporate, too, and not even be a specific manager or employee in the store that made that call.

      3. Cinnamon Stick*

        Indeed. Considering what retail pays, if you’re working in a bookstore, you love books, you love recommending books, you get a hefty discount, and some places let you borrow books. It’s also quite hard to move up within the corporate chain if you’re at a place like Barnes & Noble (I’ve worked in 5 bookstores as a 2nd job to supplement my income). Anyone I ever worked with did it for the love of reading, not for a love of retail.

    2. LW2*

      Part of the thing is, I really do enjoy and am fairly good at retail. I’m a good salesperson, and I like helping people find what they’re looking for. Putting stock away is tedious, but that’s also how I’ve found things I want, so I can live with it.

      With Ann, I could live with it more easily if she had always been like this, or if I knew what had happened. I think I was just hoping there was…something I could say or do to explain to management that there’s a real problem? In lieu of that, I appreciate Alison’s confirmation that this isn’t normal. I’ve started to feel like I’m losing my mind.

      1. All het up about it*

        I feel like your management is very strange. Like if Ann IS being bullied – why aren’t they addressing that? But the stance that she’s being bullied and therefore just gets to ignore all co-workers and that’s the best solution they can come up with…. Wut?

        Depending on your relationship with this friend of Ann’s who will speak when Ann isn’t there, I might ask them something like, “I’ve really noticed a change in Ann’s behavior and I’m worried I might have done something to offend her. Any thoughts?” Or heck – has anyone asked Ann directly what is up? Yeah – she might still play the freeze out game, but I think I’d have a hard time not knowing what happened – and how I got lumped into the group of “bullies.”

        1. BikeWalkBarb*

          This was my first thought. Speaking directly to Ann or the coworker who will talk with you feels like the way to knock on the door to find out if it can be reopened. If there was some big misunderstanding that can be cleared up maybe everyone can move on. If this is costing the management good employees (Sam may not be the last) it’s a shame they don’t want to get to the bottom of it themselves.

        2. LW2*

          Not knowing why this is happening really is my biggest problem here. Heck, if she decided that the way I wore my hair one day upset her and so she just won’t talk to me…at least then I can brush it off as “well, *that’s* weird, moving on now”

          Checking in with her friend was going to be my next step, because this isn’t a workable situation, but of course she’s on vacation this week. Ann is here today and I’m considering trying to talk to her. I’ve avoided that so far out of the sense that it feels worse to try to have an actual conversation and be ignored for that.

        3. Lana Kane*

          Re: the bullyhing – I’m getting the feeling that management considers the complaints to them a form of bullying, and they said that in order to stop people complaining to them about it. So many managers just don’t want to get involved in what they consider to be interpersonal matters (and are apt to consider issues they need to deal with as “interpersonal” so they can have a reason to avoid dealing with them).

      2. AmuseBouchee*

        It’s not really any of your business what’s happened with Anne and why she no longer wishes to talk to anyone. Perhaps she has some mental illness or serious problem with someone else that you’re not privy too and she is just ignoring all of “you” as a result. I understand everyone needs to get along, but I would just assume she is going through something and for some reason is being a brat. Management seems to be okay with it and is it really affecting you other than making you wonder and things a little awkward? I’ve dealt with more eccentric types at bookstores. Ignore it and her and live your life.

        1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

          I don’t know that “refusing to talk to or acknowledge colleagues” is an acceptable accommodation for…anything? I can’t possibly imagine a situation in my office environment where that would fly, let alone in the retail jobs I used to do.

      3. Elbe*

        This is very odd.

        Based on the info here, it almost seems like Ann is the bully. She’s the one freezing people out, not interacting with courtesy, etc. If she can still talk to that one coworker, presumably she doesn’t have to freeze EVERYONE out.

        The only thing that I can think of to explain this is that she was being harassed anonymously (maybe over text or social) by someone at work and is choosing not to interact with anyone except the one she “knows” it couldn’t be. If this is the case, I feel bad for her, but everyone in the company is not handling this well.

  5. Oh dear*

    Oh man, I can’t believe people are still doing surprise showers! Not a great idea!

    Signed, religious Jew who does not even announce pregnancy even when baby is practically crowning

    1. Ms. Murchison*

      I’m really hoping that LW3 gives the pregnant coworker a heads up about the surprise party. Surprise parties at work are a terrible idea; the risk for error (and catastrophe and offense and long-term office drama) is much too high.

      1. Nodramalama*

        I really think people on this sub are reading way too much into what the pregnant person wants based on their own preferences. The letter basically has nothing to do with the actual pregnant person to suggest LW should involve themselves in the surprise. For all we know they love surprise parties, and organises them for other coworkers, and talks about it all the time.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I agree. I don’t particularly enjoy surprises myself, but I know some people really do. Those people would not want a heads up.

          Since we know absolutely nothing about the pregnant coworker, we really can’t make pronouncements about that aspect of it.

        2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Yeah. Or maybe LW’s coworkers know the pregnant person wants a baby shower, and it’s just the exact timing that will be a surprise.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          I had a surprise shower at work. It was fine.

          I think the “but what if they don’t want a shower” is a fine knowledge-widening query to put to the person planning the shower, based on your knowledge of all players. That’s not this letter. LW’s problem is that the coworker has done a version of, “Are you free for dinner next Saturday?” “Why yes.” “Great! It will be a presentation about the great income you can make selling yoga pants. So glad you told me you have nothing else planned and can make it.”

          LW can just have her own lookout for her part of this, which is how to avoid something she would have said no to had she been given the actual agenda up front, rather than only after the RSVP.

          1. Some Gels*

            Thank you. People get all “Sandwiches!” here so fast that we can lose sight of the actual problem in the letter.

        4. Observer*

          For all we know they love surprise parties, and organises them for other coworkers, and talks about it all the time.

          That’s even more of an outlier that people who don’t want baby showers and / or do not do especially well with surprise parties in their honor.

          And given how fraught a baby shower can be it’s not unreasonable to be concerned. Unless you specifically know that the person is open to it, there is little down side to NOT making a surprise shower and a really large potential downside.

        5. AgainstReligiousPractices*

          But the reason this commenter signed their post religious Jew is because a baby shower before the baby is born violates the tenets of the religion. You would be putting a Jewish employee in an untenable position if you threw a surprise shower for them.

          1. Silver Robin*

            There are ways to do surprise showers that align with what a person wants. As others said, timing can be a surprise but not that a shower might happen (like with marriage proposals).

            This letter is asking about getting out of it from the perspective of an attendee, not the organizer. And it is a lot to turn around and tell the attendee that they need to go to the organizer and fix the problem when we have *no data* on what the guest of honor would or would not like.

            Side note: your comment feels (amusingly) deeply ironic given your username.

            1. AgainstReligiousPractices*

              Um, okay. I chose the user name to align with the comment, but glad it amuses you

              1. Silver Robin*

                I guess I am confused then, because why choose a username that says you are against religious practices while in the same breath defending them? What was the goal there except irony?

                signed, a practicing Jew.

                1. fhqwhgads*

                  The person you’re responding to is saying the username is itself an answer: ie it’s not a good idea to assume surprise showers are good because sometimes said showers – surprise or no – are Against Religious Practices. They’re not indicating they are personally “against religious practices”. And the other point is it’s not uncommon for coworkers to have absolutely no idea what someone’s religious practices are. The whole “assume they know their coworker better than we anonymous internet humans” do is wrong as often as it is right. People often don’t know each other as well as they think they do.
                  How is this in any way connected to the letter? The organizer was silly to surprise the invitees as well as the person expecting the baby. It’s a sort of natural segue from “the organizer does not seem to have thought this through” in one way, to think they may not have thought it through in another.

                2. Hubba Bubba*

                  I think the username means a baby shower is against their religious practices, not that the commenter is against (all) religious practices.

            2. AmuseBouchee*

              You can’t give a deeply religious Jew a shower before the birth of the child- that’s what the point is. There are people that this kind of a secular party is a NO! For.

              1. Silver Robin*

                and in that case, there would not be a baby shower because it is not what the person wants!!!!!

                But if the person *wants* one, it can still be a surprise baby shower.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        It’s very possible the person organising it is a good friend of the pregnant coworker and knows she wants to celebrate her pregnancy and/or that she loves parties. It’s even possible the pregnant coworker has hinted that she would like it celebrated and the whole thing is a kind of game where the organiser is pretending not to pick up on the hints while secretly planning it.

      3. Nancy*

        Plenty of people enjoy surprise parties, parties at work, etc. The letter is not about the recipients’ feelings.

        LW3: decline the meeting request. If someone asks, you have a conflict. I’ve done this before, not a problem.

    2. Yellow rainbow*

      I mean I think we’re shouldn’t assume that this is unwelcome. We have no information about the person the party is for. I know quite a few people that would love this – and the more party games the better.

      Hopefully nobody would be planning a surprise party for you since you wouldn’t announce a pregnancy. I’d be fine with it for me, although it wouldn’t be my preference.

      1. Observer*

        I mean I think we’re shouldn’t assume that this is unwelcome.

        Sure. Don’t assume. But also, don’t assume that it *is* welcome. At this stage in my career, if I got such an invitation, I would absolutely be asking the organizer if they know that the colleague wants it.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Let’s go all the way. Always a cover for bears sneaking through ventilation shafts, and the sounds of the party cover the bears’ break-in.

        1. K*

          But then the bears are attracted by the scent of the cake at the shower and the heist is foiled (but the shower is very exciting and memorable)

      2. A Book about Metals*

        I think it’s more that the organizer is going to use the shower as a distraction while she lets her high priced team of Euro terrorists into the building to steal bearer bonds

    3. Washi*

      Yeah I am someone who would be fine with surprise parties in general, but I was not happy my coworkers threw me a surprise shower. It was really sweet and they did a great job, but I was 100% planning on leaving that job once my short term disability paid out so I felt sooooo bad accepting gifts from a group I was about to leave short staffed (this was a healthcare job). I wrote extremely effusive thank you notes to try to assuage my guilt but I wish there had not been a shower at all.

      The point is AT WORK it is not a great idea to guess what the recipient will want- there’s just too much potential to get it wrong.

    4. Lily*

      I was thrown a surprise bridal shower when I was in nursing school. While I felt flattered that others were thinking of me and wishing me well, I DO NOT like surprises (C-PTSD).

      And… only about half the class was in on the apparently last-minute decision to throw me a shower and it was… awkward.

      1. Lily*

        Side note: One of the ‘gifts’ I received was a cookbook and a mini lecture about keeping “my man” faithful by keeping him fed.

  6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (relegated to entry level) – set a deadline mentally – max of a couple of months, but whatever makes sense in your situation. If there is no movement by the deadline then you look to move on. Are you still being paid the previous salary for this entry level role? If so, this means you are now “overpaid” (on paper) and the risk here, if the company isn’t doing very well (hiring freeze etc) is you will be laid off due to being too expensive for that role, and then it won’t be on your own timeline.

    Remember it isn’t just about being bored / underutilised but now your relevant experience and opportunities to do new (appropriate to your level) stuff are fading which will make it harder for you in the future.

    Personally I would be quite upfront with management and say “honestly I’m wondering what my future is at this company” etc but this is a high risk move if there’s a chance of being pushed out.

    1. Sharpie*

      And the longer you stay in the new, lower, role, the harder it will be to find a job at the old higher position which means taking time to work back up to that position in another company.

      I’d start looking now.

      1. Artemesia*

        Alison is right about this and the LW should have been looking for a new job long before this. They are sending a strong message and the only way to improve their life is to get out of this company.

        1. Typity*

          It’s a strong message from an outside perspective, but when you’re in the middle of this kind of thing it’s much harder to see. I was “managed out” in a similar way early in my career, and it can really mess with your reality.

          Managers may act fine and friendly day-to-day, no complaints, no conversations, but they are also jerking the target around and masking a desire for them to please Just. Go. Away. (I never did catch on and was finally fired.)

          Not that LW1 necessarily did or is doing anything wrong! But something is very much amiss, and it’s not going to get get better.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Unfortunately, this is where I land as well. LW1, don’t wait a couple of months to start looking. You’ve already had the conversations with your company, and they’ve told you what their plan for your future is: you, continuing to work at this entry-level position indefinitely.

          I don’t know why that is. But it is coming through pretty strongly in your letter that you’ve told them what you want, and they’ve said “no.”

          Don’t waste any more time with this company. There are better jobs out there that will let you grow. It’s past time to find one.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Yeah I would probably start looking now as well. But OP seems to think the situation could change (although I’m doubtful), so I think putting a (short) deadline on it makes it more concrete, now there’s a defined end point or criteria for when it’s time to move on.

        1. Miette*

          I dunno if I’d put a deadline on it at all at this point. It’s been 6 months with no new job and no meaningful answers–the writing is on the wall. Get out while you can still reasonably claim Old Job as relatively current, because new companies are going to wonder why you were demoted, or worse, see it on your resume and draw their own conclusions without even meeting you.

          1. Annony*

            Especially since they have made it clear that they have no plans to promote OP. They initially said it was temporary but have now made it clear that they are happy with OP in the entry level position. A deadline is pointless since they have said that things are not moving in that direction.

        2. Artemesia*

          It takes months to find a new job usually — and if they magically promote her in the meantime she would not need to take the new job — but they are really treating her badly and the sooner she gets the miserable job search process going the likelier she is to be feeling good in a year.

          No one demotes a good employee and leaves them twisting in the wind when they have good plans for them or wish them well. This is abusive.

      3. Nebula*

        Yes, absolutely. A management stint followed by a demotion to entry-level(!) is not going to make the LW look like a strong candidate for other positions at their previous level. I think, LW, that when you’re looking for a new job, you should think carefully about how you present what’s happened to you here. It’s not an insurmountable issue, but you don’t want to make things harder for yourself.

        And please don’t let this knock your confidence: it sounds like they don’t appreciate you, and in my own experience in a similar situation (in my case, being kept at an entry-level/low-level position because I was just “so useful”), I ended up getting trapped for a long time because it made me think I wasn’t good enough for anything better and therefore wasn’t really putting my best foot forward in interviews. You have the track record, you’ve given your time to this company, now it’s time to move on. I hope we get an update in a while where you’ve found a great new job and realise just how dysfunctional this whole situation is in comparison. Good luck.

        1. Tau*

          Yes. This is going to look *so* bad on their resume, and the longer they stay the worse it will look and the more they will have to handle questions about this for the rest of their professional life.

          TBH, this is actually a situation where in OP’s shoes I would seriously consider quitting without anything else lined up if I think I can swing it financially, because an employment gap would look less bad than a demotion to entry level. Hell, even taking an entry-level job at a new company would look better – you could explain that away via job market/personal issues that left you briefly needing to take a job below your experience. But working at a company for ten years including management level and then being shunted back to entry level will make many interviewers wonder whether there was something major wrong with your higher-level work to justify it. If quitting now allows OP to leave that off their resume I’d give it some serious thought.

          1. Plate of Wings*

            I work in tech which is pretty informal compared to lots of other fields, but still hierarchical. I think I could spin this on my resume and not make it look so bad. For one thing, in tech lots of folks go from manager or “team lead” back to individual contributor, and it’s usually a sign of someone with lots of experience. That’s not necessarily entry-level everywhere, but it could be at a place with few levels (for whatever reason).

            I’m a senior IC and not a manager, so I don’t know much about stepping into and away from managing. But if the entry level is on a different team or doing a different function, and if it was a small or informal company, I would try to spin this as switching my focus, pitching in, or proactively joining as the company spins up a new department (then a hiring freeze or reorg stopped those plans).

            Also Allison and commenters have suggested before having a “relevant experience” and “other experience” section on their resumes.

            It definitely depends on the field here. At the senior level, you couldn’t pay me enough to take any technical role title with “junior” in front of it, but if anyone is in this situation, think about how you could spin this as career shifting rather than a punishment!

            1. Tau*

              Yeah, after I’d commented OP responded with more information, including that the entry-level role is only one step down from the management role. I think I and several others had envisaged it as several steps down which would be *very* hard to spin – like you say, imagine taking a junior dev role after you were a team lead, or trying to *explain* that in an interview! If it’s like team lead -> developer (seniority level not specified), it’s definitely easier to spin as an “it made sense for the company at the time and I needed to fill a gap with my expertise yada yada”.

      4. I edit everything*

        There’s no reason *not* to start looking now. Job searches can take a long time, so why delay? If the current company somehow comes through before LW finds something, great! But if not, then they’re already on the right path.

      5. M*

        Yup. Demotion and job hunting a year in, with a narrative that the demotion was supposed to be temporary during a restructure and the promised position didn’t materialise? *Maybe*. Six months in would look a lot better. Two years in? Three? My assumption looking at that resume is going to be that management didn’t work out, no matter what the cover letter says.

        From LW’s replies in the comments, it looks like it’s not quite as stark a demotion as the letter makes it sound (one level below management, keeping the same pay), so there’s a story there to tell, but LW should probably practice telling it with some trusted peers who do a decent amount of hiring, if possible.

        1. Stuck*

          Thank you and everyone else for pointing out how this will look on a resume, and that explaining the position change (and extended time in the lower role) will take some finesse. TBH, looking in hindsight and seeing the flood of responses saying I absolutely need to leave the company makes me realize I’m only hurting myself the longer I stay here.

          1. Nebula*

            We are all rooting for you to move on to bigger and better things! Sometimes you really do need that outside perspective to realise what path you should take. Good luck!

      6. OMG, Bees!*

        Yep, exactly this. Update the resume/CV, start looking now, maybe also stress to upper management that LW needs something else. Especially is the demotation came with decreased pay.

        I would be curious how management would be fine paying higher than entry level salary for entry level work, but given my own experience of being desktop support and demoted back to helpdesk, management probably does value their experience anyway.

    2. D*

      Isn’t moving someone to a role they hate a classic passive-agressive push out the door? Especially since we’re talking manager down to entry level…. if that happened anywhere I’ve worked it would 100% be management trying to get rid of someone without paying severance. If you were just not great at managing others they might move you sideways or one step down if they value your technical skills… but not to entry level. But OP1 if you don’t have an entitlement that they’re trying to avoid idk… still, it is very much not a great sign and sounds like they keep giving you the brush off and are not at all interested in putting you back to the level you were. Sorry :(

      1. dogmom*

        Yeah, my immediate thought was that this sounds like the company is “quiet firing” LW1.

        1. Rapunzel Rider*

          My thought on seeing they worked there for over a decade was that they were may be getting ready for retirement as well. If the company pays retirement benefits based on last earned salary and position level (like mine), demoting then pushing out would save them big bucks in the long run. Or if you are close but not quite there, maybe you will leave before you are eligible for retirement and save them the whole lot.

          1. ItsAllFunAndGamesUntil*

            One of the things I do like about where I work is my retirement is based on the average of my top earning 3 years, ever. So not just the most recent years. So they can’t pull that trick on us.

          2. I Have RBF*

            Even if they worked there two decades, 20 years, it’s a stretch to assume they are close to retirement. Why? Because the average person’s working life is nearly 50 years, not 20. Yes, I know that people in their 30s see people at 60 as having one foot in the grave, but in the US you have to wait until 70 to get your full retirement money.

        2. Stuck*

          Hi all. You’ve given me so much to think about. I understand everyone who is saying my company may be trying to get me to quit of my own volition, but this is in stark contrast to their messaging when I speak to them. For instance, they say I’m still a strong asset and am valued here, and they don’t want me to leave. That being said, they also can’t find anything else for me do, even if it is just a simple project! I’m really conflicted because it sounds like you are all right, they are just stringing me along.

          1. ecnaseener*

            They may not *want* you to quit, but they know that what they’re doing will likely drive you to quit, and they’re declining to change what they’re doing. I believe that they would rather you stayed, but they don’t care enough to actually try to make that likely.

          2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            Look at what they do, not what they say. Companies are really good at sounding supportive while being anything but. It is hard to believe that they value your skills but somehow have nothing for you to do to use those skills in a meaningful way.

            They are counting your attitude of but they’ve been so good to me and I don’t want to leave to keep you dangling.

          3. NotYourMom*

            They don’t want you to quit. They want you to stay at that entry level role, with entry level pay and continue to do that work. Training a replacement is a real cost for them.

            But it is absolutely not in your best interest to stay.

      2. WellRed*

        Yes I wondered how long after this demotion the hiring freeze went into effect. Also, OP, it’s not exactly standard to demote someone and dangle a different opportunity. They could have left you in that position unless you were flailing, which it doesn’t sound like.

    3. Stuck*

      Yes, it is the same salary, but I didn’t realize your points that it makes me an overpaid risk in the role, and the longer I’m here the more I lose my skills (and hireability). Thank you for opening my eyes!

      1. bamcheeks*

        Given this context and what you said below about the 1C level being just below the manager level (rather than several steps down), I think it’s quite likely that your company is acting in good faith and does believe they’ll create a new role for you, rather than any of the “trying to get rid of you” that people are suggested. BUT — they’re obviously not in any hurry about it, they do not seem to be particularly invested in keeping you, and all the risk is on your side. Definitely time to start looking!

        1. Awkwardness*

          the 1C level being just below the manager level (rather than several steps down)

          I think most assumed that it was a demotion several steps down, so this is important to put the comments in context.

      2. Smithy*

        I used to work somewhere that 1000% overpaid their directors and it had a major impact on their leaving. On paper job titles might look comparable, but when you looked at the actual duties and expectations, it was vastly different.

        For example – someone has the title of Llama Grooming Director and is making the top of the range for the sector. While their peers in that role and making that amount of money would be managing teams with 10+ staff, grooming 50 llamas a month and generating $X – this person was managing 2 people, grooming 5 llamas a month and generating 20% of $X.

        The impact of this on people’s resume – but also their lack of confidence that they could make a lateral move, and in some cases even a step down, only grew over time. Even if they could sell their experiences as being able to meet those larger expectations, the reality was that it seemed more daunting and like doing far more work to make the same money.

        Right now you’re bored, want to do more and have that energy. But over time, you just get out of practice with exactly what it takes for similar jobs that pay the same – not to mention steps up.

      3. Observer*

        and the longer I’m here the more I lose my skills (and hireability).

        This is the key. Even if your company is acting in good faith, this is an issue for you. And no one is going to worry about your career the way you will (or should).

        1. MigraineMonth*

          This was such a hard lesson for me to learn. Surely the company I devoted years to would help me develop my skills and move into a new role in the company when mine became obsolete, right? Right?

          1. Lunar Caustic*

            They absolutely should (for long-term strategy and basic human decency), but companies are trained too well to think only in the short term and defenestrate human decency in the name of profit.

    4. r.*

      Honestly the times for deadlines have already long passed. LW1 needs to stop putzing around, find a new job, and leave. The longer they stay on entry-level the harder it will be to get a position anywhere near their former level.

      Even if for now they still draw the same compensation, their position right now is poison for their career, because it’ll look like they’d have been demoted for cause and busted back to a role more suited for their talents. We don’t have enough information to determine whether this is a fair assessment or not, but that doesn’t change the fact.

      Also, the bahvior of the company here is so much like a poster-child of “constructive dismissial via boredom room” that, in a country where constructive dismissals are actually a thing, they’d have a reasonable case for it. Doesn’t change though that they need to do themselves a favor and leave.

      LW1 should also treat this as a learning experience to never accept transitions witht that unclear a timeframe and context again. If this wasn’t a demotion for cause the company needs to offer a more concrete transition plan than “there likely is a open door rather quickly for you”, and if they can’t, you shouldn’t accept.

      1. Statler von Waldorf*

        No, this wouldn’t qualify for constructive dismissal here in Canada. At least not now. It might have if he would have quit as soon as the demotion occurred, depending on the specific facts of the case. The fact that LW’s wages didn’t change works against him, and there’s not enough information here about the specific changes to his job duties to make any definitive statements.

        However, at this point, way too much time has passed. LW could no longer claim that the changes to their employment are intolerable, as they have clearly tolerated those changes for some time now. One of the key things with constructive dismissal is you really do need to quit immediately in response to the change. Failure to do so almost always invalidates the claim.

        1. Stuck*

          “LW1 should also treat this as a learning experience to never accept transitions witht that unclear a timeframe and context again.”
          “One of the key things with constructive dismissal is you really do need to quit immediately in response to the change. Failure to do so almost always invalidates the claim.”
          Good to know and lessons learned

    5. Sloanicota*

      For the record, the time to go was when they gave you this dramatic a demotion. If at all financially feasible you really should have walked out without accepting that because it’s a huge insult – if they actually valued you, they could have *created* a better role for you that was perhaps non-management but also not entry level – many things are possible when they want to do something. I assume they are now paying you an entry level salary? I’m pretty sure you would have been eligible for unemployment at that point.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Or they could’ve kept you in your old role for a few more months, if they were so sure the new role for you would be opening up soon! Or failing that, bumped you one step down instead of all of them! I’m sorry LW, this just doesn’t seem like they were acting in good faith.

        The quicker you job hunt, the easier it’ll be to just leave the demotion off your resume and let it look like you left this company a few months ago. Hopefully you won’t need a reference from this company, or if so then hopefully there is someone willing to convincingly say that the demotion was no reflection on your performance.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This is such a normal thing to do when you actually do want to move someone out of llama hoof management and into guinea pig ear conceptualizing.

        2. Antilles*

          100% this. “Moving someone all the way back to entry level so we can move them back up in a year” is not a thing. It’s just not.
          What typically happens instead is that you stay in your current role, possibly minus some specific items that don’t make sense when you’re going to be swapping departments (e.g., team-specific training or long-term budget planning).

    6. Random Dice*

      I read this whole letter as a spineless management team that wanted to make LW quit.

      I’m sorry OP1.

      1. Astronaut Barbie*

        I read it the same way. Management ae cowards. Giving a demotion, but also then telling her she is an asset. What’s that saying? Something about believing actions and not words.

      2. RVA Cat*

        This. It’s the real life version of all that shit they did to Milton (red stapler guy) in Office Space.

      3. Just checking in*

        Sorry, OP1. Start looking now. See what current skillsets are required in your field and get your resume out there. It seems like if they wanted to promote you they would’ve buy now.

    7. Stuck*

      Thank you to everyone in this chain, you are right that I didn’t realize how dysfunctional this is. It is about more than being undervalued and bored in my role…. I see now that my company has no plans for my future and I’m actively losing my skills and hireability. I really don’t want to leave, but unfortunately it sounds like I need to get out now. Thanks all for opening my eyes.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Are you by any chance the person who understands a legacy system?

        To people reading your letter, it’s clear that they are saying all that stuff about how valuable you are either because they don’t want to feel mean while they wait for you to quit, or because they think that’s just enough to keep you in place doing the one part of the job they value and would find difficult to replace.

        There was an old letter from someone whose management didn’t offer those sops: They had him train all the new people, but he had butted heads with his boss too often to be considered for promotion. AAM told him this, and that going to a different company with different bosses was the one path to promotion. In the update he had done that, and the new company loved him and had promoted him.

  7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (taking back hiring control from team) – “I’m worried though that this will show a lack of confidence in my team”

    The lack of confidence is well-founded and it isn’t micromanaging to feel (and say) so. You have given their method a try but they’ve proved they are not good at hiring and almost caused the company to lose out on good candidates last time, so you are right to lose confidence in their judgement…

    I would just own it and say “I gave the existing method a try last time but it wasn’t effective [reasons] so this time I’ve decided to change the process”. I think it’s important as a manager to own your decisions and go through with them.

    The possibly tricky part and where you need to use those interpersonal skills is that you aren’t confident in their abilities in hiring, but are confident (presumably) in their abilities in what the job actually is.

    1. Snow Globe*

      I think the advice to set clear expectations about what the team should look for in a candidate is important, and if the LW didn’t do that last time, then it’s not really fair to say that the team has proved they are not good at hiring.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I think it’s a huge mentorship opportunity to include people in hiring when you reasonably can. It sounds like you need to do more to train your team members in how you’re thinking about these candidates when you can. What are you looking for? How did you know their choices were duds and the left-behinds were gems? Use this new hiring opportunity as a teaching moment and bring them along with you if you can. I learned sooo much about being a candidate from being behind-the-scenes in hiring. Don’t flounce off and do it yourself because they were bad at it last time.

    3. Anon for This*

      My company requires a diverse, three-person panel for every hiring action for DEIA purposes. It can be helpful, as others often see aspects of a candidate that I didn’t – things that would be very helpful for the position. However, I have done a lot of hiring under this system and can tell you that I have yet to sit on a panel where everyone agreed on the top choice.* We often have two of the top three the same, but not in the same order. So while input from your team will likely be helpful, the choice will still be yours.

      (One notable exception where there were only two candidates and one just didn’t have what we needed. Everyone on the panel wondered how that candidate passed the initial screening – we concluded it was probably because HR didn’t want to send us only one person to interview. )

    4. Antilles*

      I don’t know if they “aren’t good at hiring” so much as the process isn’t set up for them to succeed. The idea that the team lead is uninvolved with the process until the very final interviews is wild. How could they know what you’re looking for if you’re not involved? Especially when this is the first hiring process that’s happened under OP’s leadership.
      I’ve never heard of a process that works that way. The far more common (and better) way to do it is effectively the opposite, where the Team Lead does the initial vetting so you make sure all the candidates meet your standards first. Team members still get the opportunity to meet the candidate and provide input of course, but the final interview and decision still is for the Team Lead.

      1. Cascadia*

        Yes this, or you select a small number of people (3?) to be on a hiring committee with you and you all do all steps together, with you having the final say. This is how we hire at my job. The committee reviews every candidate/resume and rates them on a scale of 1-5. Then we have a meeting and from those average ratings, we choose 6 semi finalists, and then 3 finalists. It works really well, though it does take a lot longer because of the scheduling and stuff. However this is the norm for my industry so it’s fine for us. We as a committee also have a pre-meeting to discuss the job, what our ideal candidate would be, what our biases are going into it, etc. it helps to clarify all of that before you’ve even posted the job to reduce bias.

      2. Mints*

        Agreed – my last manager would bring in the rest of the team at the final interview stage. She had phone screens with maybe 5-10 people, and decided on the 2-3 she wanted to bring to final stage. She then scheduled the rest of the team with those 2-3 and had pretty clear instructions/rubrics for us. It was mostly behavioral (“tell me about a time”) and focused on teamwork, grit, work ethic, etc. We submitted our numerical scores and comments, and then she did a final interview round and decided. It worked really well. We had buy in but weren’t responsible for final say, nor time intensive screening.

    5. Artemesia*

      New managers can institute new policies easily — what is hard is to change things when you have done it the old way for a year. The new way worked. Figure out other ways to involve the team in the process but use your own instincts here.

  8. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 When there is a new shiny job in your future, the natural thing is to wait in your current position for it to materialise. Stepping down – even without pay cut? – to a lower position is an additional unnecessary change.
    Your manager may have led you on, or at least was irresponsible to let you think this was a safe bet.

    After 10 years there …. did you annoy a higher manager, keep raising issues someone didn’t want to hear, change your work habits – or did you just get 10 years older, or fatter?

    Stepping down to a lower role may occasionally make sense when it is 100% initiated by the employee , e.g. burnout, or switching to a different employer in another field.
    However, if the employer suggests it for anything but burnout, then it almost certainly means they value you less than before and you have little chance of career progression.
    Even when the employee 100% chooses to step down, they must always keep in mind that it is often difficult to advance again and also if it is more than a few months, then it is lost time during their career.

    1. Awkwardness*

      And an employer might be hesitant to suggest stepping down if it is a highly valued employee they are rather to keep. They might fear that the employee is annoyed if the job is not materialising within a certain timeframe and go looking for a new job.

      OP, I know it is hard to look at the reality of it, but it seems as if the primary goal was for you to step down, not to transfer you to a new, interesting position. I would strongly suggest to start job searching to leave this company.

    2. Sloanicota*

      It sounds like OP knows they weren’t cut out for management, and there are probably reasons for that. Which, hey, I’ve always suspected I would not be a great boss, and would not enjoy it, and I try to focus on individual contributor roles for that exact reason. It’s *also* true that their company doesn’t seem to appreciate their abilities anymore. I’m sorry, OP, that sucks.

  9. MistOrMister*

    I have seen people take a demotion where they are stepping down one level. I have never seen/heard of someone with 10 years of experience, who was in management being bumped all down to entry level!!! This reads to me like they are trying to force OP to quit so they won’t have to fire them/lay them off and to possibly get out of having to pay severance or unemployment. I do not think this company is acting on good faith. OP, please take Alison’s advice and start interviewing so you can leave. You really need to take into account that suddenly having this entry level position on your resume is possibly going to stymie you in your job search and it will just get worse the longer you’re in that position. You need to get out of that place yesterday.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah if they next assign you to a window and tell you it’s Oidashibeya, you should probably also be looking to leave unless you like looking out the window collecting your salary.

    2. Beany*

      LW1 didn’t say how deep or shallow the company hierarchy is: perhaps “one level down” *is* entry-level?

    3. Space Needlepoint*

      The LW didn’t mention where they started, but I got the feeling it was well above entry level. Jumping down one level, say from Management to an individual contributor on the same team is workable. Down to entry level? LW is not valued and is being pushed out for reasons unclear.

      1. Myrin*

        OP mentioned in a comment that she started more than 10 years ago in the exact same position she got demoted to now.

  10. Lionheart26*

    OP1 I’d be talking to your company about how to add this job to your CV and for future reference checks. It sounds like you were told the (temporary) demotion was because of a restructure, not performance, so I’d be telling them that you plan to keep your old title on your cv when you “eventually” move on to new roles, and asking them to confirm that to potential future employers.
    I realise this could backfire in that they may assume you’re leaving and push you out. Or they may refuse because there is, as Allison suggested, another reason behind the demotion. But having a demotion on your CV could be a real hindrance, so I think its worth asking.

    1. MistOrMister*

      The letter read to me like the demotion was because of performance and that the company is stringing OP along with the talks of another position. OP said they decided mutually that another position would be a better fit for a nonexistent position. To me that sounds as if they did not like the job OP was doing in the management position. The fact that they also will not give OP anything at all to work on that is beyond the scope of their now entry level position is fishy.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Honestly, this letter read to me like the company somehow wimped out of putting the OP on a PIP or letting them go, so just decided to take the constructive dismissal route instead.
        Sorry OP 1, I hope you get out of there soon!

      2. Sloanicota*

        I agree but I still like the proposal by Lionheart26 to talk to them about how to message this. They may be willing to work with you since it sounds like they may actually want you to leave (maybe not if the more entry level job is something very valuable in the field like it’s in IT or something, where it’s really important but just not as glamorous as management). I think I’m biased because my entry-level jobs were all like, low level admin in big offices.

        1. Awkwardness*

          They may be willing to work with you since it sounds like they may actually want you to leave

          This is such a good point. If they are hoping to avoid firing LW and have them quitting instead (for whatever reason that may be), there might be room for discussion.
          LW needs to get clear in their head first for a bit of emotional distance. I think there are also one or two letters on this site how to handle such a situation.

          1. Stuck*

            Hi all. You’ve given me so much to think about. I understand everyone who is saying my company may be trying to get me to quit of my own volition, but this is in stark contrast to their messaging when I speak to them. For instance, they say I’m still a strong asset and am valued here, and they don’t want me to leave. That being said, they also can’t find anything else for me do, even if it is just a simple project! I’m really conflicted because it sounds like you are all right, they are just stringing me along.

            1. bamcheeks*

              I always think there’s a bit of a danger when the commentariat consensus starts to get to, “they’re trying to get rid of you”, because it’s guessing at a motive and what they are thinking, and if this is at odds with what you’re hearing and seeing, it’s easy to dismiss the message. I don’t think you should worry about that too much– the key thing is that even if they *do* value you and they would like to find you a more challenging position, it’s not materialising and you are bored. That’s the uncontroversial facts. Maybe they really are lovely people and they think you are fab and they are very glad you are doing the work you are doing right now — but you’re bored, and there isn’t another job for you to do. These are both excellent reasons to move on: you don’t have to believe that something nefarious or underhand is going on.

              1. Stuck*

                Excellent points! The facts are the facts and I should focus on them. Thanks for helping me emotionally distance myself.

            2. Sparkles McFadden*

              The bottom line is that you’re unhappy at work. It’s also true that you like the company and the benefits, and you’d like to stay. So, now is the time to start looking for something new. The challenge of the job search will keep you engaged outside of work, and one of two things will happen:

              – You’ll find a new position
              – You’ll find you’re happier in the current situation than you realized

              I do need to say that the longer you stay in the demoted position, the harder it may be to explain it later, so it’s also sensible to start looking right away.

            3. Artemesia*

              don’t look at their words; look at their actions. Words are cheap and many people are very non confrontational.

            4. NotYourMom*

              Companies will be all hype at 4pm on Thursday, only to let you go at 9am Friday. Up until the second they are ready to let an employee know and process the paperwork there is no benefit to telling someone they are on the outs.

              I hear what you are saying, and maybe there is key context we are missing. But you need to stop putting so much weight on what they say and start truly evaluating how they act.

            5. Awkwardness*

              I’m really conflicted because it sounds like you are all right, they are just stringing me along.

              The readers can only operate with what they know and conclude from the letter. They did not participate in all the discussions, hear all the details, and do not know all people involved. So your gut feeling if your company is operating in good or bad faith might be completely correct, even if everybody else is telling you otherwise.
              But that does not change the fact that the new position is not materialising and you cannot see your employer taking steps in that direction. Even if they love you truly and forever from the bottom of their hearts – the position is not materialising and you cannot see them talking steps in that direction. So both things can be true at the same time.

  11. Nodramalama*

    I am so confused by the dynamics described in 2. Sam feels unwelcome and pushed out by Anne and her friend, which kind of suggests bullying. Meanwhile management says Anne is BEING bullied?!

    There has got to be some serious miscommunication somewhere at some point

    1. Brain the Brian*

      It’s possible that both are true: Ann felt bullied, so to avoid issues, management okayed a scorched-earth no-contact approach, which is now turning off formerly friendly coworkers. Management needs to be more active in being clear that everyone needs to be cordial — no bullying, no freezing people out, no tomfoolery, period — at work.

      1. Pizza Rat*

        I’ve seen people run into situations where people don’t get along and management basically backs away and says, “Resolve this between yourselves.”

        I’m not sure where Ann feeling bullied came from based on what the LW said. “Hello,” is not bullying. If Ann felt something was done to her, said to her, or said about her, it would help everyone if she addressed specifics.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          “Hello” is not bullying, of course, but something else that someone else said may truly have been. That’s what I’m imagining here: that someone (not the LW!) truly was bullying Ann, Ann proposed and received management endorsement for this zero-contact approach, and that’s having the (perhaps unintended) consequence of really bothering coworkers (like the LW) who weren’t involved in the original bullying.

      2. LW2*

        The cold shoulder from Ann began before management had spoken to her. Going back through my notes to myself, it looks like it started to be noticeable in late February or early March. We all chalked it up to personal stuff or a bad day for a bit.

        But the “management believes that Ann is being bullied” only became a thing about maybe two weeks ago, when enough of the staff had separately gone to management about it that they did have a conversation with Ann. The best I can come up with for why management didn’t tell her that she does need to keep a professional and reasonable relationship with her coworkers is that, since she speaks to management just fine, they’re under the impression that every other person on staff is exaggerating or making it up.

        (I really do like this job. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised about managers looking the other way to avoid having A Difficult Conversation)

    2. WellRed*

      I wanna know what’s up with the other coworker who’s friendly when Ann isn’t around. I also think the advice is hard to follow no matter that it’s good advice. It’s exhausting to be around someone like that for any length of time and then feeling unheard by management? Ugh.

        1. LW2*

          Yup, pretty much! There was one day I was working with the friend (Kay) when Ann wasn’t around, and she was delighted to find an old Harry Potter board game. I asked if she’d encountered -specific HP game- and when she confirmed that she hadn’t, I offered her the one I had at home. She excitedly agreed.

          Next time I came in, having found and brought said game, Ann and Kay were sitting before their shift. I came up, holding the game, and said basically “hey Kay, I did in fact find that game! I think I played it once, and it still has all the pieces and such”

          And then I stood there for a long ten seconds or so, holding out a board game, before Ann finally gestured towards me and asked Kay “do you want that” at which point Kay went “oh. yeah, sure”

    3. lunchtime caller*

      I had a colleague (also in a bookstore!) who bitterly complained all the time to management that we bullied him because I spoke to him in the same friendly way as everyone else and he always read malicious intent into what I said, and he hated my senior coworker but would get really upset that she didn’t like him much in return. We were constantly told we were “acting like a clique” because this guy just could not get his hurt feelings out of the way for a minute and talk to us like normal coworkers.

    4. MK*

      I don’t know, Sam citing Anne’s behaviour as part of the reason he left sounds off to me. From what OP says Anne is unfriendly to the point of boorishness, but not actually attacking anyone? And she is the odd-man-out in an otherwise friendly team? That sounds mire like Sam airing grievances than actual pushing out.

      1. HonorBox*

        The only thing I’d slightly disagree with you about is that Anne was friendly up until recently. Something clearly happened, and she’s apparently become the odd man out… whether that was a defense move or something else. Management needs to figure out how to get people to work together, and if that’s dealing with bullying that Anne is feeling, or if that’s dealing with Anne’s refusal to even speak to anyone but one, or both, it needs to happen before things get worse. In a small workplace where inevitably people are going to have to coexist, some type of communication is necessary. No one has to be friends, but if a coworker refuses to (or was given direction not to) speak to coworkers, something is going to have to be changed.

      2. sparkle emoji*

        If Sam worked the same shifts as Anne frequently I can see getting tired of her enough to quit, especially in retail.

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      It seems like *something* happened with/to Ann, OP said she became standoff-ish ‘out of nowhere.’ It’s possible Ann feels bullied because she actually was, or she’s reacting to ongoing customer issues or a teammate’s comments or behavior toward her…hard to tell.

    6. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

      Both parties in a personality conflict perceiving the other party as a bully seems absolutely par for the course for me. No one in a situation like this acknowledges that their behavior is bad while they’re doing it (with luck they might afterward when there’s space for reflection.) Management’s stance could be because they value Anne more, because of nepotism, or simply because she got to their ears first.

    7. Irish Teacher.*

      I can imagine a couple of situations:
      1. A number of people have complained about Anne ignoring them, but Anne does good work/is hard to replace/gets on well with management, so they don’t want to deal with the situation, so they have reframed it in their heads as “everybody is complaining about Anne; complaining=gossiping, everybody gossiping about somebody = bullying, therefore Anne is being bullied and we should ignore the complaints.”

      A variant of this is management is just lazy and doesn’t want to deal with the situation so they are trying to put people off complaining by treating it as “tattling” and “being mean.”

      2. Anne really is being bullied but the LW doesn’t know about it. As a result of the bullying, Anne has stopped trusting all but one of her colleagues because she isn’t sure who is involved. (Say it was cyber-bullying or gossip.) She may have told management the full story but there is not reason she should tell the LW.

      3. Anne is the bully and is misrepresenting the situation to higher management.

      4. A bit of a conspiracy theory one and fairly improbable, but the one person Anne has remained friends with has lied to her about other people doing x or y behind her back for reasons of her own.

      In any of these situations, it seems to me that management has dropped the ball. If they believe Anne is being bullied, they should be investigating and dealing with the bullying if it is taking place and dealing with the not talking to coworkers if it’s not. “She’s being bullied and we’re going to ignore the situation” is…problematic whatever the explanation.

      (I realise management may be investigating behind the scenes, but given the length of time it’s been going on for and the way nothing seems to be changing, I have my doubts.)

  12. Yellow rainbow*

    LW1 you need to leave as soon as possible. You were demoted to every level – that’s bad news on a resume! Doesn’t matter if there really isn’t anything behind it, that is what people will see.

    You need to line up referees that will speak highly of you.

    If you can afford it, might be worth thinking of leaving without anything lined up to help your story line with new applications. Shifting out of management is fine, but reduced to entry level is going to scare off a lot of potential employers.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Maybe OP can leave to do some contractor work for a while. As your own boss, you could demonstrate higher-level skills and smooth over the demotion, hopefully leveraging the experience into a new job that’s different from what you were doing before the demotion. Basically you may have to create this more-interesting niche position you’re waiting for yourself.

  13. Standard Human*

    LW 1 — I’ve seen your circumstance happen for highly technical roles — the company has critically undervalued their need for these technical skills, is unwilling to hire for them or train people to do them at market rates, and gives the skills that the managers have a disproportionate value. The only way to advance is to demonstrate management skills (often fairly dysfunctional management skills), but the business is entirely dependent on the technical skill and certifications of 1-3 staff who are usually paid under market rate.

    If this is the case in your situation, demoting you solved a fairly significant staffing issue, and promoting you requires 1.) admitting your skills have proportionate value and 2.) finding additional qualified people to do a lot of your work — which also requires funding those positions appropriately, when the people they hire won’t do the job at the same level that you are currently achieving — they don’t have a decade plus of experience in the field, or long familiarity with the company… It’s a very easy problem for people to be deeply deeply wrong about, often in businesses which provide compliance and consulting services.

    Alison is right that leaving is the only option. I’m sorry.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I was considering something like this as an alternate explanation! To me it sounds like OP may have struggled as a manager and got bumped down to entry level because the company couldn’t be bothered to put them on a PIP/fire them for some reason, but I don’t work in a highly technical field, and I suspected it might be different with valuable technical skills.

    2. sofar*

      Agreed. A lot of employees come at these situations with, “I’d like to stay. How can I change my company?” When they should be thinking, “How can I get out of here expeditiously?” The latter is hard (especially with the job market the way it is). But, as they say, the only way to begin is by beginning.

      And LW has a paycheck in the meantime (while a demotion isn’t ideal, those recommending LW leave without anything lined up to avoid the scary demotion on the resume may not realize that’s not possible for everyone). I’ve seen “demotions” happen during re-orgs before, as companies try to “find a place” for employees instead of laying them off. And it honestly creates a really good answer to “Why are you leaving your company?” “Well, I was in X role, and due to a restructuring, I ended up in Y role, and it’s not satisfying to me. And that’s why I’m applying for this awesome job.”

      1. Stuck*

        ““Why are you leaving your company?” “Well, I was in X role, and due to a restructuring, I ended up in Y role, and it’s not satisfying to me. And that’s why I’m applying for this awesome job.”
        What about awesome way to phrase this, I’ll definitely be using it!

  14. Ms. Murchison*

    LW2, have you considered that Ann’s changes may not have come “out of nowhere”? Perhaps something happened to her that you haven’t heard about yet. It feels like a piece is missing from the picture, and if someone is leaving the store and blaming it on Ann, but management is backing her up, then it sounds like you don’t have the full story yet.

    1. Empress Ki*

      Even if there is a bully, this doesn’t excuse Ann not talking to her other colleagues and not even responding to “Hi”.
      And if there is a bully, this bully should have been let go by management. Problem solved for Ann and everyone.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        It is possible there is something going on like Anne being cyberbullied by coworkers or deliberately frozen out and Anne either doesn’t know who is involved (if for example she is getting anonymous messages that are clearly related to work but don’t identify who they are coming from) or that she believes all but one coworker are involved, but it is really just one or two people who are either telling her everybody else hates her too or who, because they are friends with most of the others, she assumes are supported by everybody.

        Being bullied can makes somebody a bit paranoid: “are they all in it?”

        Still not a professional response on her part and definitely something management should be investigating. If they think there is that level of bullying going on, they should be treating that as something serious.

        And of course, that is assuming she is being bullied.

    2. Hyaline*

      To be fair, I don’t think Ann freezing out everyone but one coworker is an appropriate or professional response (given that LW is frozen out and I think we can safely assume wasn’t involved in anything awful toward Ann), but it definitely seems like *something* happened and Ann feels uncomfortable around everyone but one trusted friend. I think the advice is still good–just ignore her unresponsiveness as best you can unless it actively interferes with the job (and then management should IMO be involved to redirect Ann even if she was bullied or there was some issue, because ignoring “Can you please take over the register” or “Please give me a hand with these boxes” isn’t functional for the job the way ignoring “hi” is).

    3. Pizza Rat*

      It’s certainly possible, but once the manager got involved, the specifics should have been brought to light so the situation could be resolved. “Ann feels bullied,” is insufficient. “Ann feels bullied because X happened moves towards hashing it out.

      1. Orv*

        Management may not be allowed to reveal the details if, for example, they relate to mental health issues or a disability accommodation.

    4. Sneaky Squirrel*

      Management is copping out here. If they believe Ann feels bullied and that’s why she’s freezing everyone out – okay fine, that’s a temporary solution to a problem – but it’s clearly causing a morale issue. What is management doing to ensure Ann is safe at work in the long run? Are they just going to leave Ann to solve her own bullying problem and allow her to ignore any and all colleagues for the rest of time?

  15. TLC Squeak*

    LW 4, you can still involve the team, but I can’t imagine a scenario where you wouldn’t be heavily involved in managing every step of the way. In my experience we’ve had managers bring in team members as interview panelists/reviewers for each step, to provide feedback, but the mgr has final decision on who makes it to the next round each time.

  16. Michigander*

    I am very curious about LW1’s pay. Did they reduce it in line with her “temporary” position or is she still at her management pay level? If she did take a pay cut then I could see another reason why they aren’t eager to move her back up again.

    1. Michigander*

      And if she didn’t take a pay cut, maybe they’re leaving her at this entry level position in the hopes that she’ll quit and they can hire someone much cheaper.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        The LW doesn’t say it right out, but I would be shocked if they hadn’t taken a pay cut when they were moved back to entry-level. It may not have been all the way to typical starting pay, but I would bet it’s not manager pay, either.

        1. engie*

          You really can’t make that bet. There are industries where managers do not by definition earn more than individual contributors. Large tech companies for example, which have a manager career path and an IC career path.

    2. Stuck*

      I get the exact same pay level, no change. I know a lot of people dream of being paid too much to do too little, but it is my nightmare!

      1. RVA Cat*

        They put a target on your back for layoffs, unfortunately. The hiring freeze is another ominous sign.

        If you aren’t overpaid for this role, you must have been underpaid as a manager.

      2. Brain the Brian*

        Very interesting. Thanks for the reply! I have to say I agree with RVA Cat, as much as I hate having to do so.

      3. Michigander*

        In that case I do think maybe they’re hoping you quit so that they can hire someone else at an entry level wage.

        1. Myrin*

          Couldn’t they have hired someone into that position – which was clearly open, seeing how OP moved to it – from the get-go, though?
          In that case, they wouldn’t have had a position to shuffle the OP to, of course, but the whole thing would still seem kind of backwards and overly complicated to me.

  17. porridge fan*

    LW1’s situation makes me think “constructive dismissal”. An employment lawyer would be able to help them turn that to their advantage….

    1. Not Australian*

      Yep, a consultation should be a high priority before making any further decisions – although I agree with others that OP should be looking around for new opportunities.

        1. Statler von Waldorf*

          Hi Letter Writer! I’m pushing back on this, as a lot of people in this comment section don’t seem to understand what constructive dismissal actually is.

          This does not qualify as constructive dismissal, at least not in Canada. I don’t know what country you are in, but if you are in Canada, don’t waste your time or money on a lawyer. Laws are different in other countries, so what I say is not universally applicable.

          It might have qualified if you would have quit as soon as the demotion occurred, depending on the specific facts of the case. The fact that your wages didn’t change would have counted against you, and there’s not enough information here about the specific changes to your job duties to make any definitive statements. It’s not a slam dunk case, but there may have been merits to it.

          However, at this point, way too much time has passed. You could no longer claim that the changes to their employment are intolerable, as you have clearly tolerated those changes for some time now. One of the key things with constructive dismissal is you really do need to quit immediately in response to the change. Failure to do so almost always invalidates the claim.

  18. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

    1. Years ago a (horrible) firm I was at did the same thing to a manager – told them they were ‘perfectly suited’ to a high level technical role (that never got funded) but needed to take a temporary low level technical role to ‘update their skills in preparation’. The laws in the UK are different but since they agreed to it it went through.

    I’ve never seen a more demoralised person in my life when 6 months later they were still doing a junior role. They had a meeting with our union rep and they handed in their notice a few months later. They were never going to get that promised role and I think realised it.

    Today they are part of the same ‘we hate (company name)’ group as I am.

    Companies are sometimes like people: don’t pay attention to what they SAY, pay attention to what they DO.

  19. bamcheeks*

    LW1, I am genuinely confused about this. Being moved from manager level down to the IC level you were before because managing people hasn’t worked out– that’s a normal thing, can be a bit hard to cope with but lots of people do it with no real issue. But you say you moved down to a job you outgrew ten years ago, which sounds like you bypassed one or more jobs you’d been doing in for the best part of a decade? I think if you accepted that, and let it continue for a year, you have a level of loyalty which is extremely convenient to your company but probably unhelpful to you. You can do better!

    1. Stuck*

      The 1C level I’m at now is the level below the management position I had (where I started over 10 years ago). Throughout my time here I’ve had other roles in different departments, which would be a better fit but are now not open. You are quite right that my loyalty is both my strength and my weakness! Thanks for your advice.

      1. Awkwardness*

        But do you agree that those IC roles would be a better fit for you or is this merely the assessment of your employer?
        And how long have you been in this management position? I am a little bit confused now if you started your management position 10 years ago, or if you started at this company 10 years ago?

        1. Stuck*

          I started at the company 10+ years ago, management position was roughly a year and half. Hope that helps clarify!

  20. TeapotNinja*

    OP1 – You don’t have to follow “the parameters” of your current role. Find challenges nobody else is tackling for whatever reason, and use those to develop your skills, keep your motivation up and prove your value to the organization. You’re not being utilized well in your current, supposed to be temporary, role. That’s not good for anyone, not the company or you. Make a new role for yourself.

    Who knows, maybe they’d even officially promote you to whatever role you carve out for yourself.

    If there aren’t any challenges you can tackle, that’s a different situation.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Highly unlikely.

      The sad reality is, once you’ve been demoted, you have reached the end of the line with the company. WThey are not going to consider you for promotion again. The only way up is out. Leave and go somewhere else where you can start over and hopefully develop.

  21. Meg*

    #5: This is very much “know your audience” if you’re working at a very small company like under 20 employees. My colleague and I both got new job offers when our boss (the owner) was on a two week vacation. She decided to email him on vacation so he would have more notice and got ripped a new one for ruining his vacation. I waited until he returned and gave even less notice, but he was a lot less angry. Unfortunately in our case our boss was a bit of a tyrant who employed coercive control as his management style and we knew he had a tantrum when people quit.

    It sounds like your boss is actually really supportive so hopefully you won’t have any issues, but there isn’t really a right or wrong answer to this problem depending on the management setup of your company and where you and your boss are in it.

    1. Sassy SAAS*

      I worked for a very small company and had to give my 2 weeks while my boss was in line for a ride as Disneyland. That’s right, I called and gave notice while she was at Disney. She didn’t love it, but I knew she wouldn’t read emails and needed to get the heck out of that toxic job asap!

      Like others have said, it’s more about knowing your boss and how they will react. Do what you can, but at the end of the day, you have to do hat’s best for you!

    2. djx*

      “She decided to email him on vacation so he would have more notice and got ripped a new one for ruining his vacation. ”

      What a clown. If he only wants good news while on vacation, he shouldn’t be checking email.

      Oh, and “ripping someone a new one” says more about him than the mailer.

  22. You Can't Pronounce It*

    As someone who has been involved in hiring from a team member perspective and as a manager, I agree whole heartly with Alison’s response. You narrow down the candidates to 1 or 2 people and then have the team meet them for a final interview to confirm they will mesh well.

    I have found this to work well as a manager and as the person being interviewed. It saved me from taking a job I knew I would not get along with the co-workers well.

  23. Heffalump*

    #2: I had a coworker at my current job with whom I had at least a cordial relationship, even if we weren’t buddies. And then one day she flat didn’t acknowledge me when I said good morning to her. I said good morning to her a couple more times over the next few days, just to see what would happen, with the same results. I found that annoying. I thought of telling her straight up that she was being rude, but I figured that in the unlikely event that I could browbeat her into acknowledging me going forward, it would be inauthentic. Fortunately I didn’t have to have a lot of contact with her.

    One day there was an announcement: “Ocarina Snarkleworth is no longer with the company.” What was interesting was that when people leave, their last day is usually Friday, and hers was Thursday. I wondered if there was some kind of dustup and she quit abruptly.

    Some months later I was comparing notes with a peer about her failure to acknowledge me, and he said she was like that with a lot of people, so I took it less personally.

  24. mordreder*

    If LW1 were a regular employee in an entry level role and kept getting those answers after a couple of years at the company, I’m pretty sure the answer would still be “they have no intention of promoting you – you should leave if you want to advance.”

    That response to a former member of the management team? Yikes.

    1. Czhorat*

      There are SO MANY things.

      1) If management wanted to give OP more responsibility, they’d do so, especially with OP literally begging for it. That they aren’t asking for more means they don’t want it.

      2) Back down to entry level before going back up to the new position that they really promise will be there soon is a tremendous red flag; if they thought you’d be better suited to the new job they’d just have moved you there, or someplace else laterally to where you were. The step down means that that’s how they see you – as better suited for the lower-level role with less responsibility.

      That doesn’t mean they’re right, but sometimes the only way up is, sadly, out the door.

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. That “new job” will exist the day Lucy lets Charlie Brown kick the football.

    2. el l*

      The only thing to add to both these excellent points? Personal experience here, plenty of companies will give lip service to an employee’s capabilities but then do little to actually help them rise. Like here. And that’d be true even if they’d been stuck in place, and hadn’t been compounded with a demotion.

      Talk is cheap. Move out.

    3. Heffalump*

      In a way this parallels the “I’m running my department but can’t get promoted into the director role” post.

  25. Come On Eileen*

    #5 – I wouldn’t even know HOW to call my boss when she’s on vacation. We are all remote and I don’t have her phone number (all communication takes place over email and Teams chat and Teams video calls, and she wouldn’t be accessible via those methods when she’s away).

    1. Pummeled by PowerPoint*

      I have my boss’ cell, mostly so I can tell him the commuter rail is stuck 10 miles from the station and I’ll be late. I wouldn’t dream of pinging him when he’s on vacation. He’ll use my number to say the office is closed due to weather or somesuch, but not when I’m on PTO.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      Wow! Does your boss have back up for when she’s not available that could be contacted instead?

      1. Small companies*

        I work at a small company where everyone reports directly to the exec director (think CEO). If you’re at a small company there often isn’t someone else for something like this.

  26. BW*

    #1: This reminds me of a lunch conversation I overheard decades ago.

    The man at the next table was bitching to his lunch mate that he was the best salesman his company had. He always got the sale. (He sounded like he bullied his clients into buying, and they complained to his manager.) He didn’t understand why they took his office away and put his desk in the main section with the secretaries. He was told the new female hire insisted on having a private office and that was the only office available. (Way to throw the new lady under the bus.) Then they took his phone away on his desk, so he had to borrow a secretary’s phone on her desk to make client calls. How was he supposed to do his job as top salesman? All this in a voice so loud, the entire restaurant could hear him.

    It was so obvious to me that management hated his way of making sales. He didn’t get the hint that management wanted him to quit, so they don’t have to fire him. They were probably scared he’d go ballistic. He sounded like a pompous bully.

    Dear OP#1. For whatever reason, your management wants you out, but doesn’t want to fire you. They want you to quit. If they wanted you out of management but really wanted to keep you, why didn’t they give you a sideways position? Why didn’t they move you into a position where you’re not managing, but doing interesting work? No, they demoted you all the way down to entry level, and then never give you anything interesting to do. I’m sorry, but take the hint and get a job at a different company.

    You might also benefit from talking to a therapist, because you may be doing something that management really doesn’t like and you don’t see it. You say you’re an asset to the company, but everything the company has done says that management doesn’t see it that way.

    1. Stuck*

      Thank you for your honest feedback. Perhaps I am doing something that annoys them and perhaps they do just want me to quit. It’s certainly possible considering the points you made about not giving me anything else challenging to do. Where I struggle is the feedback I’m receiving from management is not in line with this narrative, as they have directly said they value me and the work I do. The feedback on what I can improve on, is “keep doing what you’re doing, it adds value for the team, the cusomers, and the business.” Maybe you’re right and I have done/am doing something to cause them to be uninterested in me. Either way, the “hint” seems pretty obvious now.

      1. AmuseBouchee*

        Not uninterested, interested in moving you out. You need to stop listening so much to what they are telling you and observe what they have done, their actions. You aren’t asking questions, it seems and they little obligation to tell you the machinations in the managerial team, now that you aren’t on it. I’m sorry but this was no hint, it was an huge warning sign.

      2. BW*

        I forgot to mention that restaurant guy also mentioned that upper management kept telling him that he was their best salesman ever, and that any company would be thrilled to have him HINT HINT HINT. He still didn’t get the hint, and his lunch companion didn’t say a word.

        So I would ignore your company’s feedback. They don’t want to get sued for saying something negative to you.

      3. NotYourMom*

        You’ve mentioned a few times that you get positive feedback … but is there ever detail or just vague “you add value”? Even a bad boss should be able to tell a valuable employee that they are good with difficult customers, or the most organized person on the team, or they are smart and have a unique perspective or so on

      4. Elbe*

        Even if you are doing something off-putting (which I don’t necessarily think is the case), they are handling this horribly. Giving honest, up-front feedback is part of being a manager, even when it’s not comfortable for them to do. Either they are very cowardly or the company is an absolute mess.

        Treating someone progressively worse until they leave on their own is an awful thing to do.

  27. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

    LW5: it’s not on you to worry about “ruining your boss’s vacation” by telling them you’re resigning right beforehand or while they’re away. Sure, some managers might react that way, but that’s on them – if they can’t compartmentalize work problems during their time off, that’s not your fault. It wouldn’t hurt to be somewhat sensitive to the timing, like “I realize this is inconvenient given that you’re going to be out for the next two weeks,” but for your boss, it should be a business situation – not a personal crisis.

    1. CV*

      *The demoted part, just to be clear. Only have the “real” job there, with dates including the lower-rung job.

    2. Hyaline*

      The only issue I can see with that is if in a reference call the employer was asked “So Tina is a Senior Llama Groomer for you?” and the response is “Oh, no; she’s a Junior Llama Assistant” it could look poorly. I’d hope the current employer would give the most gracious answer possible (“Yes, Tina was a Senior Llama Groomer” or “Tina was promoted to Senior Groomer and through no fault of her own she’s been filling in in an Assistant role this year”) but they’re not exactly showing they have Tina’s best interests in mind so far! I’m not sure how to navigate that best.

    3. Pummeled by PowerPoint*

      It depends on how long LW1 was in the entry-level position, I think. Since there’s another position with the same company, if someone calls to verify employment, HR is, more likely than not, mention the last position. If it’s a short time, than yes, they could leave it off and be clear in an interview that they are leaving because of a change that didn’t work out.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      Depends on how long the OP was in the role. It would be safer to say “I was the manager, but during a period of high demand for my specific skills, I was asked to take on a line level role that was full time. I took the role with the understanding that I would resume my regular job / move into another role at a certain time, but that isn’t happening now due to hiring freezes/layoffs/whatever. I’m concerned that management feels that I am needed in this role indefinitely, but I’m not challenged in the role.”

  28. RagingADHD*

    LW2, when someone is being weird, you be normal. Give Ann the same sort of low key, routine daily greeting that you’d give any other coworker when you are busy with something and expect to chat with them later.

    Not expecting to chat right now. Not ignoring. Just a passing Hey, Hi, or good morning, or whatever, over your shoulder. If there’s cake in the breakroom, offer her cake. Don’t keep score over who is speaking to whom (or not).

    If she’s ever going to feel comfortable reciprocating, the thing that will make space for her is a consistent, neutral presence with no pressure. Just leave the metaphorical door open and go about your business.

    1. Cardboard Marmalade*

      This is top-tier advice right here. Especially working in retail, the ability to act normal and unruffled in the face of someone else’s rudeness is such a valuable skill.

  29. HonorBox*

    OP2 – I’m wondering about a follow-up conversation with management. It is really unsettling to have a coworker completely ignore you. It puts everyone in a difficult spot, and based on the fact that someone is leaving because of Ann’s actions, it would be worth flagging for them. Perhaps there is some generalized insight they can share about why Ann feels bullied, too. It might not be a spill the beans kind of conversation, but if Ann is feeling a particular way about how someone or several someones were acting toward her, or around her, it might help everyone else better understand. I can’t imagine wanting to be at a job where I felt bullied, nor can I imagine wanting to be at a job where someone completely freezes me out. So the situation overall seems untenable and probably isn’t going to get better. It seems like they’d want to allow people to sort things out a little bit, especially if they’re going to be bringing a new hire in sometime soon.

  30. Crencestre*

    LW3: I’m so, so sorry for your loss – and Alison’s recommendation is spot-on. Perhaps contribute a gift to the shower if you can afford it; you work daily with these people and you don’t want to come across as curmudgeonly, after all. If you choose to do that, you can order something online and specify that it arrive already gift-wrapped – that way you won’t have to spend time browsing through the children’s section of a store if you don’t feel up to it.

    That being said…there will always be people who have what you crave the most and can’t have (at least not yet and maybe never.) If what you crave is a 50 carat diamond, it isn’t too difficult to avoid looking at one of THOSE! But pregnant women, babies and children are EVERYWHERE and always will be; that’s just life. Somehow – perhaps with professional counseling – you’ll need to come to terms with this. There’s really no feasible alternative; colleagues, friends, family members and strangers you pass on the street will become pregnant and have children. You won’t be able to avoid this forever, and the sooner you no longer feel that you MUST avoid it the better.

    1. Coverage Associate*

      I have similar feelings to OP about baby showers, but I can send baby gifts and after several years even smile and coo at babies. OP was able to contribute to a gift.

      I think it’s 100% possible to go through adulthood without having to attend a baby focused social event, except for very close family. A whole bunch of men do it.

      If OP could tell their immediate manager, I assume OP could tell any family close enough where the same excuses won’t work for skipping the party. A sister or sister in law’s shower is the only one I could see it being very awkward to skip.

      1. Crencestre*

        It’s absolutely possible to go through adulthood without having to attend a baby-focused event (and sometimes you can even avoid family-sponsored ones!) It’s NOT possible to go through life 100% avoiding seeing pregnant people, babies and children or avoiding hearing all mention of the above, and trying to do so can be exhausting, frustrating and debilitating.

  31. Parenthesis Guy*

    LW #1: Sometimes it happens that you can do a job really quickly, but someone else might take much longer and worse fail at it. For example, I worked at one place where the three people before me just completely failed at doing something despite that being their full time job. I came in, made the necessary fixes and was able to do the task in a few hours a month. When I left and things went downhill again.

    I would argue that asking me to do that job was a waste of my time because I could do it in my sleep. I would also argue that management would disagree with my assessment. They needed this to be right and felt that having me do the task correctly was adding sufficient value for my level even if I could do more.

    I wonder whether you’re in a similar spot where you’re doing something that’s easy for you, but others have failed at. If so, management may legitimately and correctly think you’re adding significant value even though you don’t. In that case, you wouldn’t need to worry about a paycut because you’re doing something valuable.

    It’s just that it doesn’t change the fact that you’re bored to tears. If they’re not going to give you more to do, even if they’re happy with your performance, you still may want to leave. The role has to fit your needs also and it seems like it doesn’t.

    1. Stuck*

      That’s a really great point. Even if I find it really easy, I am excelling at this role compared to others. So I can see how my company wants to keep me here. Unfortunately, you are right and I need more to do, and if my company can’t give me that, then perhaps I should look elsewhere as much as I don’t want to.

  32. Nancy*

    LW1: I’m sorry, but you need to find a new job at another company. I had to leave a job because there was no where for me to go, and I was quickly reaching the maximum salary for my level. It’s hard to leave a place you have been at for so many years, but it was a great decision. Good luck.

    1. Lana Kane*

      Same. I moved on from a job I’d had for about 10 years when a promotion opportunity came up that I’d been waiting and preparing for (supervising the team I was in), and it went to someone with no experience in what my team does. I knew at that point that for as much as I was told I was a top performer, I wasn’t going anywhere.

      I took a lateral move but was then able to grow at a steady pace – I became a supervisor in a couple of years, and after I realized I was burnt out on leadership and moved on to an individual-contributor role that built on the work I did before and came with a nice raise. However when I was contemplating my next steps after getting passed over, the path forward seemed so daunting (and taking a lateral move was not my favorite, but I was pretty sure it would pay off in time).

  33. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    LW4: Alison is spot-on in reversing the scenario.
    You generate the short-list.
    Some of your team members do deep-dives.

    And I think it’s important to keep some peer-level interviews, because that’s when candidates get to ask all the questions about “What is it like to work here?”

  34. Hyaline*

    LW4–I don’t think your team will feel you lack confidence in them if you’re not giving them indications of that outside this hiring issue and you seek to include them and listen to their input in the hiring search. I don’t think this needs to be “either they handle hiring or I do”–you can and should manage the process but you can look for ways to include them throughout. A lot might depend on the kind of applicant pool you get (maybe you could use help eliminating anyone from a 100 person pool who doesn’t, say, have the requisite education), but you could find spots to incorporate your team throughout the process. Before hiring–listen to their views on what this hire needs to bring to the team and what holes or shortcomings the team currently has. Maybe get feedback if appropriate on the posting or on requirements. In early stages–maybe narrow the pool to ten resumes and ask for email feedback on them to narrow further (which you can take into consideration if the points are good or ignore if they’re not relevant or unhelpful). In interviews, as mentioned, do an initial interview and bring back finalists to interview with everyone. If you feel it’s helpful, debrief after to hear their views before making the final choice.

    I wouldn’t do any of this if you’re not actually interested in what they have to say, but if you’re not…that kinda is a “yikes” in itself! If you actually do feel that they would have nothing to offer at any stage in the process, I kinda think that’s a bigger issue of either they’re less competent than they should be or you’re underestimating or micromanaging them–but I don’t think you suggest any of that in the letter, so they probably do have input that would be helpful! They just need to be guided.

  35. Just checking in*

    OP #2, I’ve been there. If it’s impacting your work (such as Ann not sharing important details or ignoring your requests) then definitely speak out. Otherwise just focus on those who talk to you and less on her.

    1. Lana Kane*

      At this point the managers are calling the reports they are getting “bullying”, so I agree to only raise it to them when it’s impacting the work. And even then, presenting the issue itself (and not include “this is happening because Anne won’t talk to us”) and letting management come to the conclusion themselves that Anne is causing an issue.

      1. Elbe*

        I wasn’t sure if the LW meant that they thought the complaints were bullying or that her behavior was the result of bullying.

        If they are saying that the complaints themselves are inappropriate… then I think that this is hopeless. One coworker is treating everyone without even basic respect or courtesy (she won’t even hold the door open!?!?), and she’s gotten her friend to do the same, and this has been going on for weeks. That is deeply unprofessional behavior. But when people speak up about it, they are the problem? That is so backwards. This place sounds so dysfunctional.

  36. umami*

    ‘My company recognizes my capabilities’ – sorry, LW, but they are not recognizing your capabilities, at least not to a point of wanting to utilize them! They moved you to a lower-level position but continue to pay your higher salary. Which, from a business standpoint, makes little sense. Why didn’t they go ahead and create the position they felt would suit you in order to retain you, vs. demoting you and then sayin their hands are tied because of a hiring freeze. They could absolutely give you another position and eliminate the entry level one you currently are in, but they are choosing to not do so and allowing you and your skills to languish instead. You deserve better!

  37. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – not only can you take over hiring, but you SHOULD. Your team missed good candidates last time and gave you poor candidates! You could involve one or two of the more senior members of the team in the initial review of resumes – teach them what you know. Perhaps have a senior person sit in on your interviews so they learn that skill as well.

    Beyond the quality of candidates you see, there are also some other issues to look at. Are your team trained to be unbiased? Are they favouring certain candidates over others – eg. are they referring their friends but not considering applicants, etc.

  38. James*

    @LW5, you’re borrowing trouble! “Hoping to get an offer next week” could become “offer in hand in three weeks” without anything at all being amiss. Suggest you put it out of your mind until the offer is actually in hand.

  39. Interview styles*

    LW4, unless it was a very short contract, as a candidate I would see a hiring process where I never got to meet any of my peers as a major red flag. I’d think you were trying to hide something significant about the company, the team, the work, the environment – something. Even for most short term contracts I’ve had I spoke to at least one peer as well as the manager.

    As for the order, I’ve seen it handled a few ways:

    1. (most common) 1-2 rounds with peers, usually a mix of people I’d work with and people doing the same or similar job on a different project (if the latter exist) followed by a last round with the boss. This is similar to what you say isn’t working for you

    2. phone screen with boss, then the process above (as a candidate I like this one). The key is giving the candidate the second interview with the boss after they’ve learned enough about the position to have real questions

    3. group interview with everyone at once (as a candidate I find 2 interviewers totally fine, 3 manageable, but more than that difficult to manage/somewhat likely to be chaotic)

    I would also note that vetting the resumes/applicants initially is entirely outside of the interviewing process and this is most often done by the hiring manager, perhaps with a sanity check by one senior staff member. So if your issue is solely who is getting funneled into the interview process, you can and should take that over regardless of whether you make any other changes to the process.

    Good luck!

  40. Sneaky Squirrel*

    LW2 – It sounds like your management sucks if they 1) think it’s acceptable for an employee to ignore all of their colleagues for work related asks indefinitely or 2) acknowledge that they believe Ann is being unfairly bullied, but take no real action against it? If they believe there is a bullying situation, they owe it to their employees to sort it out. Unfortunately, without management intervention, the best course of action is to continue to be polite and say hello as you would to any of your peers, but leave it be if she doesn’t respond back.

  41. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    #3 – It’s ok to duck out of a baby shower at work. If you get pushback to attend because you’re in the office and no one can process the fact that you’re not going down the hall with them, you can also step into the room, grab a cupcake, get an emergency call and then go take a walk while everyone else is distracted.

    I had to opt out of a work shower just weeks after losing a pregnancy in the 2nd trimester. I just quietly mentioned that I wasn’t coming to someone who knew the story and who could run interference, and found a way to be busy.

  42. djx*

    Not as high stakes as a baby shower, but I walked out of a surprise birthday party for me and one or two other people with birthdays in the same month. Looked around, waved bye, and walked out.

    Don’t pull this sort of thing at work – it’s not fair to the “target” of the party.

  43. ArtK*

    LW4: Alison’s advice to do the initial screening is very good. So is the advice to make sure that everyone is on the same page about what sort of person you’re trying to hire. Finally, I don’t know what kind of feedback on candidates you were getting, but if it was “I like this one,” then that’s not enough. The last job where I participated in hiring used a feedback form that required the interviewers to be more detailed in their assessment of the candidate. Bringing things full circle, the form was organized around the job requirements.

    Addendum: Having a diverse set of interviewers is also important. Unconscious bias affects all of us and diversity helps mitigate that.

  44. Busy Middle Manager*

    #1 not sure if it’s even company specific, I feel like the white collar world (and housing markets) are on hold. Everyone is stuck in place. Only people moving jobs being very low paid, mostly service, workers. You may “just” be a victim of bad timing in the economy at large.

  45. LW2*

    For further details re: Ann’s freezing (almost) everyone

    If Ann and her friend are in the break room together, they’ll stop speaking entirely when someone else enters the room. They have extended conversations about how unfair it is that they are always doing X closing task*, always at or near the area where other coworkers are but not actually speaking to anyone specific. And Ann doesn’t explicitly impede anyone’s work, but refuses to assist (such as by opening a door for someone with their hands full). Those are the primary reasons Sam mentioned for his leaving – he had put up with it for months, but on having an easy excuse he booked it.
    *management did ask that the team pay more attention to who is assigned to which closing tasks. It came out at that point that neither Ann nor her friend have been getting assigned to these specific tasks more than anyone else, they’ve just been voluntarily taking them on before anyone has had a chance to be asked to do them.

    My honest best guess as to a reason for Ann’s behavior is that it’s a reaction to a different coworker (Joy) who isn’t great at her job and tends to be abrasive. Most of the team mentioned to management little things she could use retraining on, which was handled. Joy then went to everyone on staff asking if we had complained to management about her, and Ann was the only one who said “yeah, you’re bad at the job, of course I did”. Regardless of personal feelings about Joy, most of us are friendly and polite with her, so I do wonder if it’s a reaction to either nobody else admitting to having gone to management or to everybody continuing to interact with Joy.

    1. Hyaline*

      I was wondering if there was some middle-school-level “if you’re friends with so and so I’m not going to be friends with you” kind of stuff going on–that there was some third party who, if you didn’t cut ties or show obvious distaste for them, Ann was going to lump you in with them and write you all off. I’m guessing Ann is reading the room like a seventh grader and has decided that anyone nice to Joy (even if “nice” is just…normal human interaction) must hate her and she’s responding in a weird “Team Ann or Team Joy” paradigm. Sorry you’re caught in the middle of that but yeah–ignore the rudeness unless it tangibly impacts your job is the best call.

      1. LW2*

        I think you hit the nail on the head.

        Ann being weirdly petty about Joy had occurred to most of us and we all sort of wrote it off as making no sense. The thing is, everyone in our location is in their 30s or older except for Ann and her friend – Ann is 22, her friend is 19, and this is the second job either of them has had.

        I’ve worked with enough grown adults who behave like children to know that young people don’t have an exclusive claim to that. However, it’s much easier to understand clique behavior and middle school drama from someone who was experiencing it more recently than any of the rest of the store.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Oof. This is some serious drama-llama stuff. Interpersonal conflict, seeking out closing-duty martyrdom, etc. This place has a dysfunctional culture and ineffective management both.

    3. AmuseBouchee*

      I can tell you spend a lot of time thinking about this. I would try to ignore it and worry about things in your own life, not a job that sounds pretty annoying.

    4. Elbe*

      I once happened to be in an elevator with my company’s socially awkward IT manager. I said hello and he completely ignored me… even though I was the only other person in the elevator and there was no one else I could have been talking to. We then had to ride up to the office in silence. It was one of the most awkward things that has ever happened to me.

      I cannot imagine acting like that every day, to mostly everyone. Either we’re all missing some very important info, or she is majorly trying to stir up drama.

  46. Margaret Cavendish*

    OP4, is this this same group of people you were on the team with before you became a manager? How long ago was the last hiring process before your promotion? Because if it’s the same group of people and you hire pretty regularly, then something weird is going on – it’s very strange that they were so great at it in 2023, and then suddenly so terrible in 2024.

    It could be any one of a number of things. Maybe you’re doing something different from what the previous manager did – for example leaving out a key step, or doing things in a different order. Maybe the previous manager did more pre-screening before the rest of the team saw the candidates. Maybe the team wasn’t actually all that good at it before, and it just looked that way from your side of the desk. Maybe this is as good as it gets, and your expectations are too high. Maybe it’s something to do with the job itself, the job ad, the candidate pool, who knows.

    The point is, something has changed, whether it’s their behaviour or your expectations or something external. So instead of just taking over the process yourself, you might want to put some thought into what caused the change in the first place. It’s pretty unusual for an entire team to make such a drastic turnaround like this, and it’s probably worth finding out what’s going on.

  47. Elizabeth West*

    The demotion:

    It seems like they haven’t mentioned anything to do with performance. This whole thing seems fishy to me. I bet they want to move a crony or nepo into that position and are pushing OP out. Or they’re getting rid of the position entirely and are too chicken to say so, or don’t want to pay severance for a layoff. The dating analogy would be pulling back to make a partner get tired and bail so you don’t have to break up with them.

    Either way, it stinks, OP, and I’m sorry this happened to you. If they haven’t given you a definite plan for moving into another position, I don’t think they have one, and it’s time to make them eat your dust.

  48. Box of Kittens*

    I hope we get an update to LW1; this sounds like a terrible situation and like more is going on beneath the surface.

  49. effazin*

    Lw#5: Maybe I’m oblivious, but why would giving your notice before you boss leaves for vacation ruin her vacation? Will knowing you will be leaving soon after her vacation ends mean she feels she has to cancel her time off? People quit jobs all the time. Sure she (hopefully) will be sad/upset that you are leaving, but it’s not tragedy -level. Why would this news ruin her trip (or whatever plans she has for her time off)? Even if you have to, in a sense, interrupt her vacation by contacting her with the news while she is off, surely the relatively commonplace news that you are quitting is not going to cause more than a short disruption to her time away.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Because they now know that they’ve got a lot of work ahead of them.
      Organizing tasks to be covered after the LW leaves.
      Prepping all the tasks involved with offboarding an employee.
      Beginning the hiring process.

      It doesn’t mean she needs to cancel her vacation, but it means she’s now got an additional batch of things to worry about. It doesn’t have to be tragedy level to be an inconvenience.
      For some people (but not all), this would put a damper on their vacation.

      That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell them, but it can definitely have a real affect on them.

    2. Rosacolleti*

      In a small business, news like this can be devastating to a business so it’s extremely stressful for the owner. If you only have one person in each role, recruiting a replacement who can be trained before someone leaves can be critical hence the possibility they’ll have to cancel their break.

  50. blood orange*

    OP #1 – I had a similar experience in 2020. With the company 10 years, always looking for a new challenge, etc. The company had to downsize during the pandemic, and in order to keep me moved me to a position I had left 6 years prior. I agreed because it was that or lose my job, and then I left a month later. Just like you described I was bored to tears, and honestly it made me feel melancholy all the time. I decided to leave because I knew there was no where to go anytime soon at that company, and I was unhappy.

    Fast forward a year later, and an affiliated company needed to fill my original position and hired me. I’m still here, and happier than ever at work. I can’t say it always works out just like that, but I do think there’s a lot to be said for realizing when your relationship may have run it’s course with a company you once (or still) loved.

    Best of luck!

  51. PinkCandyFloss*

    LW #1 is who we are describing when we talk about “quiet firing”. I’m sorry LW. Time to job search.

  52. Skooge*

    I’m LW5, thanks so much for the helpful comments!
    I had not considered that the way I know my boss will react is not the norm. I’m very fond of her, don’t misunderstand me, and she has been a great boss who has taught me a lot. She is also a very insecure person with terrible work boundaries (she would absolutely cancel her vacation if I told her before she left) and the kind of boss who takes things very personally. I’ll definitely have to handle some tears over my betrayal. I have come to think of that as just normal, and it was really good for me to hear from the people in the comments who pushed back on that! Moving jobs IS very normal and just a thing that happens, and her inability to handle that well is her issue, not mine to manage.
    This has helped me completely reframe this mentally! I feel good about it now, not nearly as worried. What a great group you all are.
    All that said, tomorrow is Wednesday, and I haven’t heard anything from the job I have been interviewing for yet. So maybe just a moot point after all. I very much hope I get this new job, but even if I don’t, I’ll continue looking with a much healthier mindset about whose feelings I am responsible for and whose I am not!

  53. Goody*

    As a follow-up on behalf of OP1, how do they address this apparent demotion on their resume and in interviews, and especially without bad-mouthing the current employer?

  54. Rosacolleti*

    #5 I agree with the advice but I’d also request a longer break before starting the new job to allow for the handover you would have been able to provide if the boss wasn’t away. Any decent new employer will appreciate you not wanting to leave your current employer in the lurch and hopefully the old employer will appreciate it and no bridges will be burnt.

  55. anonymoose*

    When I was a kid, someone called my dad while we were on a (rare) vacation to give notice. He accepted the news graciously. Employee then called back to tell him gee whiz, my new boss really wants me to start earlier, can you accept 1 week of notice instead? All of this ruined the whole trip for him, as he now spent half of our time ruminating on the loss to his department, how to coordinate that transition, blah blah, plus the oblivious selfishness of the employee. If there is any way at all to avoid doing this to someone on their time off, please do.

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