update: is our “Diversity Day” as insensitive as I think it is?

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

Remember the letter-writer whose HR team gave them a list of holidays that aren’t traditionally days off and asked them to vote on which would be their “Diversity Day” that year? Last year they got Diwali off and this year they got Yom Kippur. Here’s the update.

Armed with your assurances that Voting on a “Diversity Day” was indeed distasteful and disrespectful, I sent some anonymous feedback to HR outlining my concerns. Apparently I was one of several people who complained because they did away with voting!

Unfortunately, now HR will just unilaterally choose a “Diversity Day” while “taking current world events into account if possible”. When someone pushed back and said that didn’t seem much different than voting and why were they not just giving everyone a floating holiday, HR doubled down and said they wanted to “honor the customs and beliefs of different cultures by pausing work for everyone in the company and a floating holiday would not have the same impact.”

Anyway, next year’s Diversity Day is Women’s Equality Day, at the end of August. To my knowledge this was not announced in any way, it was just quietly added to next year’s calendar.

I foresee this going at least slightly wrong at some point, but I guess we’ll see. I’m slightly baffled at how attached they apparently are to this idea given that our HR leadership and company level leadership have changed since this was originally implemented.

“I will confront you by Wednesday of this week”

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

Several years ago, a reader shared with us this epic email that was sent by their company’s boss after a holiday party gone terribly awry, and as we enter the holiday season we remember its glory.

“This happened about ten years ago, but the email I received from our boss was so epic I preserved it.

Context: The second year I worked at this company, our holiday party was held on a dinner cruise boat. Our boss footed the bill for dinner and an open bar, and a few other companies also hosted their own parties on the boat at the same time. Since I was underage at the time, I did not drink, and actually left early with my date. Everything was fine when I left. The Monday after, I rolled into the office– the first person there– and was greeted with this email from our boss [identifying details removed]:

‘Good morning to all. I hope all of you had time to recuperate and reflect about the unusual chain of events and circumstances at this year’s Christmas party. Some of you went home early and did not take in the full range of events.

Unfortunately, some of our staff got out of hand, including the spouses. Things were said, and things were done, that quite frankly were very inappropriate. Also, we had people from the adjoining group that decided to take advantage of our open bar and co-mingle with our group.

In regards to the inappropriate behavior, I am not going to go into all of the details, but let it be said that the root cause was probably due to the open bar. Some of our staff decided that the open bar meant that the drinking could be unlimited, not only in how much, but how they drank. As a result, some our staff and spouses decided that shots were OK. Shots were ordered for some who do not even drink. Shots are not OK at a company Christmas party. Other staff and spouses got multiple drinks at once for themselves and for people not even in our group. Others decided it was OK to get openly drunk and beligerent, to the point of making racial slurs. I, myself, am guilty of attacking someone from the other group after he decided to retaliate by groping my wife.

Having thought about the circumstances and the fact that we have to work together as a firm and team, some of you need to apologize for your behavior and/or for the behavior of your spouse. We specifically implemented a no fraternization policy and some of you could get fired on that alone, while other staff exercised no restraint over their spouse for their drunken condition. It is not OK for a spouse to misbehave, just because he or she is not an employee. Many careers have been destroyed, and people get fired, due to the conduct of their spouse. You are expected to exercise constraint over your spouse, or take them home. And if that cannot be done, then you should not bring your spouse.

In regards to the Firm’s policy on drinking, there will be no more open bars. Unfortunately, some of you and your spouses exercise extremely poor judgment. Because of this poor judgment, it puts the Firm at risk. Given the poor road conditions that night, some of you could have ended up dead. It is also unfortunate that a few have to ruin it for the whole group.

I would like to start the apologies by stating I am sorry for not handling the situation that I was confronted with in a different manner. I feel embarrassed, and it was not conduct befitting of the firm’s president. I also felt betrayed by some of you for patronizing the one individual from the adjoining group, who’s behavior was lewd and offensive, not to mention the outright theft by running up our bar tab.

I invite others to make some form of apology, either by email or in person for what they did or said, or what their spouse did or said. You can do this voluntarily, and you know who you are, or I will confront you by Wednesday of this week. I do not intend to ignore what happened. If I have to confront you, you could lose your job. I will be available Monday and Tuesday late afternoon, or you can email me and/or others. Let’s not let this one incidence stop us from being [#1 company in field]. We have a lot going for ourselves and let’s keep it going.’”

Read an update as well. 

update: my coworker talks non-stop and we can’t take it anymore

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

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

Remember the letter-writer whose coworker talked non-stop and they couldn’t take it anymore? Here’s the update.

I eventually had to have a different, but direct conversation with Serena about her frequent comments regarding my clothing choices (i.e., her telling me “you wearing pants is throwing me off” when I often wear skirts/dresses). These comments, made in front of others, were uncomfortable and embarrassing. I told her, “You’ve made several comments over the past weeks about me wearing pants, and I want you to know that I don’t appreciate those comments. I’m asking you privately to stop.” She agreed and she has since stopped. Although she now avoids me, I continue to be professional when interacting, but it was a valuable lesson in how being direct actually worked.

Other colleagues have also started addressing her behavior more directly, by not letting her derail a conversation or telling her they have something handled if she tries to insert herself. Most of the behavior is continuing sporadically, but we aren’t expecting miracles overnight. We are gradually getting used to being more direct with her, using the approaches you suggested. Time will tell, but we’re all much less at our wits’ ends now as we’re noticing fewer interruptions and are getting used to be more direct with her and with each other.

One detail I regret leaving out of my letter is that Serena’s actions have had a significant and ongoing impact on our productivity. She frequently engages in extended chats and interruptions with all staff members, including managers. Her arguments with experts have disrupted collaborative efforts on crucial projects. Moreover, her resistance to taking advice has led to several serious mistakes. In hindsight, I realize this is the real issue, but I initially refrained from mentioning it, thinking that I had no control over it. However, after reading the comments, I recognize that the lack of effective management by Serena’s manager and the grandboss, despite repeated reports about the issues, is the core problem.

Your advice prompted me to reflect on why we weren’t being direct. While it’s not an excuse (and I now know better), being a young woman starting my career, and with many of my colleagues in a similar situation, there is a strong desire to be liked for being polite and helpful. We were never taught to establish boundaries, and have watched as other female coworkers are punished by the older, male C-suite executives for being “abrasive and opinionated, or hard to get along with.” In fact, last year, one such coworker was demoted with those exact words, which served as a stark warning. Our industry is reputation-driven (government field), so the younger, female workers are acutely aware that these men control our career trajectories and therefore we feel compelled to conform to their expectations of being “sweet” to advance. I believe this compounded our hesitance to confront Serena in fear of being unfairly branded as “difficult.”

It’s eye-opening to realize I can set boundaries and still be kind. My own anxiety made me fear that if I were direct with Serena, she would think I didn’t like her, and I didn’t want her to feel bad. However, I now understand that avoiding directness was doing more harm in the long run. I also wanted to clarify the mention of neurodivergence. While it’s not the core issue, we did not want to stigmatize or make Serena feel inferior if she had neurodivergent traits (and it often comes up in AAM threads). However, in our attempts to be kind, we were avoiding addressing the more significant issue at hand.

To sum it up, the workplace is indeed toxic, with a lack of professional management and low morale. Serena’s chattiness is just one among many issues and I’m actively exploring options to leave before it distorts my perception of normal. Thank you to you and the commenters for helping me realize that my colleagues and I were being passive-aggressive to spare Serena’s feelings, which was ultimately unkind, and we weren’t focussing on the actual big-picture issues. I’ve learned a valuable lesson I’ll carry throughout my career, and with practice, I’m confident that I can implement effectively. Thank you so much!

when your new hire is in jail on his first day

A reader writes:

My company hired a new person on my team. He was scheduled to start on a Monday but he pushed back a week at the last minute, and he didn’t notify us until minutes before he was expected in.

The next Monday he didn’t come in, and no one could get in touch with him. We eventually discovered he was in jail. He claimed he was pulled over on the way to work for a traffic violation, then found out he had an outstanding warrant from a traffic ticket mix-up over ten years ago. When he did make it in later that week, he was immediately fired.

I’m wondering how reasonable it was to fire him. A responsible, organized friend of mine also got in trouble from a traffic ticket she was never notified of, so I know his story isn’t impossible. On the other hand, missing your start day because you’re in jail is never a good look — doubly so after he pushed back his start date the first time. My company has a very open culture so I would have some room to encourage us not to put inappropriate weight on what is often a very flawed legal system.

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Giving a reference when I can’t think of any weaknesses
  • Can I be unavailable for lunchtime meetings?
  • What should we do with employees’ email accounts after they leave?

update: my coworker lied about sexual harassment because he doesn’t like our new boss

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

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

Remember the letter-writer whose coworker lied about sexual harassment because he didn’t like their new boss? Here’s the update.

I just wanted to express my gratitude for your advice and that of the commenters — it really helped me a lot. As some readers guessed, I’m a young woman, the first in my family to land a “good” office job. So, some of the things people consider normal are new to me.

Horace used to be my old boss, and he said that in any situations involving coworkers, it should be dealt with directly with the manager. HR was for more significant issues. He emphasized that if we kept bothering HR with gossip about what colleagues did or didn’t do, our name would be the one HR remembered if someone had to be let go. It’s not a valid excuse, I know, but I was afraid of going to HR and ending up getting fired for it.

But thanks to you and your readers, I went to HR right after my question was posted and followed the advice of only stating the facts. I said things like, “Tom said X and Y in the meeting room around X o’clock on Y day.” I left out things like, “I think Tom is trying to get the new manager fired to take his position.” This helped with the feeling that I was talking behind a colleague’s back.

The next day, Tom accused the friend of “snitching” on the conversation to HR. Our office is an open space, and the only separate room is the manager’s. So, the argument was heard by everyone (and I think that’s why Tom didn’t see me on the day of the conversation). Tom said he had praised the efficiency of HR and victim protection, the friend responded, and the conversation escalated to the point where a manager from another department appeared and took both of them to HR. Information about the complaint was supposed to be confidential during the investigation, but after the argument, everyone knew.

Arthur returned the following week, but he was completely changed. No more laughter and jokes. He only spoke with the team when absolutely necessary and always in a serious tone. His office door was never closed again, and he made an effort to avoid physical contact with anyone. It was painful to see the change. I tried talking to him, but he avoided any kind of personal conversation. A few weeks later, he announced that he was being transferred to another branch of the company. I managed to speak with him before he left, and he said he no longer felt comfortable working here, even though people showed support. He preferred to distance himself from the situation.

After Arthur left, our team was dissolved, and we were reassigned to another team. The new manager of Tom’s team has been with the company for many years and is very well-liked; it will be challenging to accuse her of anything. My new manager seems okay, and Arthur seems to be doing better in the other branch than he was here.

I know it’s not the update everyone was expecting.

Update to the update:

I honestly thought that would be the last update, but something unexpected happened!

I live in a country where paid sick days shorter than a week should be covered by the employer if the employee provides a medical certificate. Tom was selling fake medical certificates within the company and got caught. Since it’s considered a crime here, Tom was fired on the spot (along with some friends who bought the certificates) and could face criminal charges.

I’m not sure if they discovered the forgery while investigating the complaint against Arthur, but at least Tom was fired without a chance of getting a good reference.

our new desks don’t work if you’re wearing a skirt, coworker hogs the coffee supplies, and more

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. Our new desks don’t work if you’re wearing a skirt

We have just moved offices and got a set of new and unsuitable desks. The new desks do not have modesty boards underneath. We are a largely female office and many of the staff wear skirts. If you are using a floor plug, you can see straight under many desks and into the groin area of the staff, and you can also see under certain desks when walking normally through the office. Our dress code is smart/casual.

The manager is not taking this seriously as a genuine concern of his staff (we also receive a lot of visitors to the office). Apparently the only solution is to buy completely new desks (the cable tidies stop boards from being attached) to the existing desks. Do we have any grounds for complaint or is this just something we have to get used to?

Yes, you have grounds to complain! It’s absolutely reasonable for you all to say, “These desks aren’t suitable for us and we’re not comfortable using them. We need to switch them out for desks that don’t uncomfortably expose us.” Say it as a group — which will be harder to ignore — and take the approach of “of course it’s obvious that we can’t use these desks so what do we need to do to get new ones?”


2. How can I get a coworker to take computer classes?

My company recently hired a new employee, “Jane.” She’s not my subordinate, but I’ve helped train her, which makes this whole situation awkward. Jane is basically computer illiterate. At first I just thought she wasn’t used to Microsoft Office products, but the more I work with her the more I’m certain Jane’s only used a computer for typing and maybe tallying a spreadsheet. I’ve had to teach her very basic functions like how to create a new tab in a spreadsheet, how to accept a meeting invitation in Outlook, or even CTRL+C. She doesn’t seem familiar with any computer program. For instance she doesn’t seem familiar with basic icons, like the Save button or even Close — she uses File->Close to exit most programs. This makes tutoring a bit of a challenge as I’m never sure what terminology I can use.

I will say she is trying really hard and learning. But the way Jane’s going about it is a problem: she’s just asking for help doing the task in front of her, instead of trying to learn how to work a whole system. There’s no way she can learn everything she needs to learn to keep up with her workload like that.

Virtually every time I walk by her desk she looks completely overwhelmed, and if I don’t stop to talk, she sighs and announces she’s totally lost or stuck or something. She dropping by my office multiple times a day to ask for help. I’m happy to help, but this is taking up way more time than it needs to. It seems whenever she has a questions she wants someone to walk her through it instead of first trying to find an answer herself.

Multiple times I’ve suggested she look up online tutorials and she says she doesn’t know how to dig through that stuff or doesn’t have the time. Or I’ve pointed her towards free computer courses, and again she cites not having time. I really think her taking a day or two to take the courses would solve a lot of problems.

How can I get Jane to take them without overstepping my bounds? She’s trying so hard and I want her to succeed and I’m worried going over her head will get her in trouble. And like I said, my suggestions are not being taken. I also know she’s really embarrassed about her struggle to get a grasp on things, and I’m worried if I tell her I can’t help her anymore she just won’t ask and things will pile up.

The good news here is that there’s someone whose job it is to deal with this and who can do it without having to worry about overstepping any bounds: her manager! I know you said that you don’t want to get her in trouble, but (a) she is far more likely to get in trouble if this continues because it’s going to impact her work, and (b) this isn’t really about being in trouble or not; it’s about flagging a serious skills deficit and letting her manager know that she needs training. As someone helping to train her, you very much have standing to say to her boss, “Hey, I’ve realized that Jane is lacking basic computer skills and that’s standing in the way of her being able to do her job efficiently. Can you work with her to get her some fundamental computer skills training?” In fact, you’d actually be being negligent if you didn’t share what you’ve observed with her boss — this is the kind of highly relevant info that needs to be shared when you’re training someone.

I think, too, you’re falling into a bit of mission drift on your work here. Your job isn’t to find a way to help Jane succeed at all costs, even when it takes you well beyond the scope of what you were asked to train her on. It’s to do the training you were asked to do, and to loop in her manager if there are obstacles to that.

All that said … you could certainly try a direct conversation with Jane too. You could say, “I think we’re at the point where you need to shore up your basic computing skills before we can go any further. Can you plan to take the courses I pointed you toward, and then we can reconvene after that? I’m going to talk to (manager) about working with you to find time to do that, since I think think it’s really essential.”


3. Coworker hogs the coffee supplies that we all bring in

We have a small laboratory that runs 24/7. We are all pretty close and have set up our break room with a nice coffee maker, but we rely on all staff to supply the coffee and creamer to keep things going. Some bring the coffee grounds and others the cream.

The problem we are having is that one coworker comes in and uses about 3 ounces of cream in her 6-ounce cup of coffee and then drinks many cups throughout her 8-hour shift. I thought about putting up a clever reminder that those who drink coffee should also supply something to keep our happy lab happy. She knows that it’s all by employee contribution. I don’t want to single her out, but some are talking about hiding their supplies away so she can’t use them. If that’s the next step, we won’t have our cute, homey ambiance that we love about our break room. She’s not exactly the friendliest person to approach. I hope you can help us come up with a way to sort of lay down the law without making her feel singled out or leave her defensive.

I think you’re better off just being straightforward with her, rather than trying to come up with clever wording or dancing around it. I’d say something like this: “Hey Jane, can we get you into our rotation for replenishing the cream? We’ve been taking turns stocking everything. Could you take Mondays?” Or if the issue is that she’s already part of the rotation but just bringing in far less than she’s using up, then say this: “Hey Jane, it looks like you’re going through the cream really quickly. Can you grab some extras to bring in?”

If she bristles, then you ignore the bristling and just say, “Yeah, we go through a lot and want to make sure it’s evenly distributed among the people using it. Thanks.”


4. I panicked and said I was interning somewhere that hadn’t hired me

I’m a recent college graduate and a couple months ago I reached out to a woman, “Claire,” who is one year older and who works at a company I’m very interested in. Claire agreed to get coffee and tell me about her career path. I felt like we had a fairly good back and forth, but when she asked me about my job experience, I kind of had a an insecure / panicky reaction where I felt like I haven’t done enough stuff with my life. I ended up blurting that I’m currently interning at an organization that I had an interview scheduled at the next day.

It’s a small organization but well-known in our field, and to my horror Claire excitedly asked if I know her friend who works there. I back-pedaled and said something like, “Oh, I just, just started there so I’m still learning names,” etc. Honestly, the blip barely seemed to register to Claire, but it was hanging over me for the rest of the conversation. I tried to stay cool but at the end of our talk she told me that she’d be happy to recommend me to her company and to just shoot her my resume when I want to apply and she’ll forward it to the hiring manager. So long story short, I’m not sure what to do.

The interview the next day ended up going great (even though I was terrified the whole time that my interviewers would slam their fists on the table and demand to know why I told so-and-so’s friend that I already was an intern there) and a few weeks later they offered me the internship. So now I will be interning at the same place as Claire’s friend, but not till this summer. Do I still send Claire my resume and hope she forgets about the internship I mentioned? Do I include a note on the resume that I’ll be starting the internship this summer? Do I just apply to her company without emailing her? It’s a large corporation so it’s not like she’d know, but if she does recommend me to HR I’d have a way better chance of getting an interview. What’s your take? I know I’m an idiot.

Normally I’d say your resume shouldn’t include an internship you haven’t yet started, but in this case it makes sense to list it so that Claire doesn’t wonder where it is. You could just put “summer 2019” for the dates, or even “summer 2019 (hired).”

Hopefully Claire won’t recall your conversation so word-for-word that she realizes you said you were currently working there (and if she does, will probably just assume she misunderstood). And while “I’m still learning names” is a little weird about a place you haven’t begun working at, it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility — I could see an intern saying something like that, figuring they had learned some names already (like the people they interviewed with). So, a little awkward but definitely not as awkward as if you hadn’t been hired! Since some time has passed and this wasn’t a major focus of your conversation, there’s a pretty good chance that it won’t seem terribly weird.

The bigger thing is to make sure you reflect on why this happened and how you want to handle moments like that in the future. Also, know that it’s totally okay that you haven’t done a lot yet! That’s very normal for intern stage and you shouldn’t feel insecure about it … and actually, being up-front and humble about that is a lot more appealing than entry-level people who try to cover that up.


Read an update to this letter here.

updates: can I use an improvement plan for an employee who lies, and more

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

1. Can I use an improvement plan for an employee who lies?

First off, it is HARD to come up with an example that is useful but disguised, since I have reason to believe the person I wrote about reads your site. The long and short of it was there was originally a particular problematic behavior that they were told not to do (and why), and this year they both continued to do it, and they tried to hide it from me.

I wrote in after a discrepancy arose regarding some reports. I never really got to the bottom of that; the third party I was attempting to verify the figures with tracked items in a different way in their software. To give the employee the benefit of the doubt, I think they just hadn’t kept on top of their tracking, which led to the discrepancy. However, my sense was that they hadn’t kept on top of their tracking because they were working on certain non-priority items after we had already talked about not doing that.

Long story short, that employee has since taken a role in a different department to pivot their career in a new direction, while remaining with the company.

Given our dozen-years long relationship, and the niche workload of that role, not to mention the pending difficulty of replacing them, I expected to be more upset at that announcement. And I just… wasn’t. Funnily enough, my neighbor in the downstairs flat moved out the same week. She used to drive me nuts at times (neighbors!), but I found myself oddly verklempt the night she left, in a way I just wasn’t with my former employee. I think that is due to a combination of things:

  • I really like this person and I wish them all the best. I truly hope their new career path fulfils them and I do think that they have been (for at least ten years) a good employee. I hope that with this change, the company will continue to benefit from the good work they are capable of producing, even if they weren’t at their best in the last year or so. And I think it’s smart of them to pivot into a direction that holds fewer stressors for them.
  • I don’t think I had anything left to teach them after that long tenure and I’m excited to see them develop under a new supervisor. And since they weren’t listening to me anymore (regarding the non-priority items and the ‘problematic behavior’), I hope they grow under someone new.
  • And finally, one of the reasons they had been asked not to engage in the original ‘problematic behavior’ was the worry that it could lead to burnout and… I suspect I was right and that it did. Since this person has transitioned to the new department, I have discovered a number of errors from their work this year that were uncharacteristic of their work in the past. It certainly seems like some combination of burnout, senioritis, or ignoring me and working on non-priority items to the detriment of their work product.

I think I just feel relieved that I don’t have to keep having the same feedback conversations with them. As you said in your advice, the situation was untenable, although it can be hard to see that clearly after such a long working relationship.

Their replacement started just last week, so while it’s too soon to say for certain, hopefully all’s well that ends well.

Thanks as always for your advice.

2. How can I break the habit of giving reasons for my time-off requests? (#2 at the link)

My update is that I have actually somewhat backslid: while I do try not to give reasons for my absences or asking for PTO, I have gotten on much friendlier with my grandboss as we now work together nearly daily. This has resulted in far more explanations in the casual sense. As in them asking me how I was feeling after taking sick days and me feeling the need to white lie about physical symptoms even though I used those sick days for mental health reasons.

I still try my best to be reserved about how much of my personal life I share, but I definitely have broken boundaries I tried to set for myself when starting this job – talking about parts of my life, giving out my cell number, working overtime and volunteering for more projects, etc. While this has lead me to being much more highly valued and has moved my career path forward with this department significantly, it has messed significantly with my work life balance (which was one of my new job resolutions to hold onto). During my PTO I have still successfully maintained a no-contact boundary for myself.

All this to say that my grandboss is still kind and understanding, and no one is asking for reasons for PTO or actively undermining these goals. It is more of a slow creep of a heavy workload office that finds me blurring my own lines. I will continue to be mindful of the boundaries, and hopefully improve incrementally, or at least resist further slippage. Best luck to everyone in the same boat!

3. Can I pass on a volunteer who’s only interested if they eventually get paid? (#3 at the link)

I did take your advice. I mentioned in my letter that I had an interview with another potential volunteer the following week. They ended up being a fantastic fit for the project. They worked for a video production company full-time, but enjoyed volunteering for causes that interested them. They were a delight to work with and the videos they edited turned out beautifully. The way they worked also gave me some guidance on doing my own (much simpler) video editing projects if I needed to. I let the first volunteer know that we were selecting someone else for the project. I didn’t address their request to be hired as a reason for choosing the other volunteer, since it turned out to be just one factor (the other volunteer had more experience as well).

I appreciated everyone’s comments and hearing from people doing creative work who enjoyed being able to volunteer their skills. I think some of the comments were less about my particular organization and more about the general challenges of under-resourced nonprofits, the difficulty of sustaining long-term systemic change, and the inequity that results from insisting people contribute unpaid hours first in order to be considered for paid positions. Those are all real concerns and we try to address them in the way we work, but I think we can also still create rich, meaningful opportunities for people to donate their skills and knowledge to improve the world as long as we aren’t blind to the challenges.

P.S. I also commented on the letter with a little more detail on our model.

updates: my boyfriend’s manager told me I could date someone better, and more

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

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

1. My boyfriend’s manager told me I could date someone better

It ended up being a life changer. My work environment rapidly degraded within weeks of the incident. What was once a fun workplace became stagnant. My manager, who was generally a happy person, became distant and sullen.Two people quit within a week of each other and my workload increased. After weeks of juggling my clients and theirs I asked my manager when we would hire replacements so she finally confided the company was facing major downsizing. (Surprise! I was on a sinking ship.) Supposedly my position wasn’t in danger but I got the feeling the workload was going to increase. I wonder if perhaps this is a reason the other manager was so angry all the time. It doesn’t excuse her rude behavior but I can say I certainly didn’t feel like smiling after learning this news. The worst feeling was knowing that I would pour all my hard work into this position but it probably wouldn’t change the outcome for the company. I felt like I had no control over anything.

After talking it over with my boyfriend, we decided to change our lives. I gave my notice, said my farewells, and in less than a month we moved to a state that has a better cost of living and is closer to family. We went back to school. I graduate from cosmetology school in December and I already have a position lined up in a salon once I’m licensed. My five-year goal is to open my own salon. Someday all the hard effort I put into my work will benefit MY OWN business. My boyfriend realized that he doesn’t enjoy sitting in an office all day so he’s an HVAC tech for a great company while also going to technical school. He finishes his HVAC certification next summer. He loves being physically active everyday and having more autonomy over his schedule. His goal is to work his way up and become a part owner of the company just like his boss did. If you think about it, one very unhappy manager actually did us a huge favor. It could’ve taken years to find out we were in the wrong place and on the wrong path for us.

2. Coworker seems annoyed that I might hire her employee (#2 at the link)

As I mentioned in my original letter, I had decided to not move forward with internal candidate Susie and at the same time she withdrew from the process.

Our company does not have a formal policy about internal transfers, other than the hiring manager (me) has to talk to the internal candidate’s supervisor before an offer is made. I appreciate the flexibility of this policy, as I like to interview all internal candidates to give them an opportunity to learn more about the different areas of work in our not-very-small company.

I sent a response to Jane (Susie’s supervisor) a few days after the interview: “Hi Jane – I did interview Susie last week, I try to interview all internal candidates. She has since withdrawn her candidacy.”

Her response to me was pretty generic as well: “OK, thank you for getting back to me. She shared this with me as well. :)”

All in all, it has been interesting to hear how different folks, both within my company (I asked a few people, my boss included about their process and how they would handle the situation) – some people prefer the supervisor is looped in right away; others don’t mind hearing later in the process.

As a fun side note, I’m actually in the interview process for an internal role that popped up, and that hiring manager has asked me to loop in my boss early in the process.

3. I was promised a three-month salary review but no one’s brought it up (#4 at the link)

I took your advice and asked for my raise, albeit a few months after you responded to my question (I was nervous!). I was told yes, I would be getting my raise, it would just have to wait for the fall. Honestly, I assumed that really meant I would get it at the end of the year.

A few minutes ago I was called onto a Zoom meeting where I was told I was officially getting my raise… plus an extra $5,200 on top of that. Things could not be going better! And I wanted to briefly mention I read the comments and know some people were concerned that the raise may have been offered to me by someone without such authority, but I work for an incredibly small company where the two people I talk to on a daily basis are the owner and the CFO, who were the people who originally offered the raise. It’s nice to work for a company where I know I’m valued and people are more important than profit. Thank you all!

4. Working with my sister … and sharing a hotel room? (#3 at the link)

Luckily the update is short and sweet. Once we got to the conference, it became a running joke with all of my coworkers and the event manager who booked my sister and me in the same room, and my sister and I ended up having a fun little slumber party. I didn’t end up saying anything to the organizers because it just didn’t feel like a big enough deal to warrant it, and sure enough the problem solved itself. We both went to the company retreat a few months later and were booked in separate rooms without saying anything, so I think everything resolved itself.

update: our boss tells lies to make us feel bad for taking time off

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

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

Remember the letter-writer whose boss told lies to make their team feel bad for taking time off? Here’s the update.

A few days after my original email, Corrine sent me feedback through email about a task I had worked on; as usual, her tone was needlessly cruel and unhelpful and the “mistake” was not real — essentially, she was mad that I had asked a client for clarification about something rather than just guessing, saying I should have understood what they wanted. She said the client was mad that I had reached out; I told her I would be contacting the client to apologize and let them know Corinne had told me they were upset. She told me this wasn’t necessary but I did it anyway. The client replied and was confused and welcomed me to contact them in the future if they were ever any questions. So once again, Corrine was lying.

This time, I reached out to Corrine via email and let her know about my interaction with the client. She didn’t respond.

Luckily, the senior manager decided she wanted to have one-on-one meetings with each of us shortly after this. This is pretty unlike me to go over someone’s head but I was so exhausted with the drama that I let her know everything that had been going on and provided her with screenshots; my coworkers did the same. I told her I wasn’t equipped to deal with this and, frankly, I didn’t feel like I should have to. Thankfully, she is a big supporter of work/life balance so these stories were unnerving to her; at one point she even said that she allows Corrine to leave early and take days off all the time so she has no idea where this behavior is coming from.

In our next meeting, Corrine told us if we ever have an issue with her we need to go to her directly and not the senior manager, which I felt was pretty bold.

Since then, Corrine has softened a bit and hasn’t lied about people needing to work overtime; however, she still lies. Most recently she told us that other teams were complaining about us saying good morning to each other when we are in the office — this just isn’t true. I’ve noticed her behavior is unpredictable and sporadic so I’m not sure if there are things going on in her personal life that she is having trouble separating from her work life but to be blunt, I don’t care as she’s proven to not have any sympathy for her employees when the tables are turned.

Also, our team has changed from exempt to non-exempt within the last few months. I was upset at first but I have to say having the ability to tell Corrine I’m not working past my out time has been amazing.

I am looking for another position within the company right now. I’ve given myself a deadline of the end of December — at that point I will begin looking outside the company.

I hope this update was interesting! It’s been a wild ride. On the bright side, Corrine has provided me with endless bad boss stories to tell at parties.

I’m about to fire an employee … but we just hired her husband

A reader writes:

One of my staff is about to be fired for grossly inadequate performance. I’m confident that we’re on safe legal ground with the firing, and her performance issues have been documented and addressed with no improvement.

However, the complication is that we have just hired her husband to work within the same team. (I’m aware that hiring couples isn’t ideal even when nobody is getting fired. However, we’re in a small town and had a very limited pool of candidates to choose from.)

How can we best handle this to minimize fall-out within the team, and avoid causing more pain than is necessary for both members of the couple?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.