updates: the cruel email, the disappointed junior employee, and more

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

1. My boss asked me to log into a coworker’s email to delete a cruel message

Back in 2016, you answered by question about deleting a thoughtless email my boss intended to send to a handful of us, but instead sent to the whole office – including the subject of the email. Here’s my update.

Jane never found out about the email – she has absolutely no poker face, so I’m sure we’d know if she’d seen the email or been told about it. I think all my coworkers were taken aback by Fergus’s lack of professionalism, and though we never explicitly discussed it, once everyone knew the email was deleted we all basically acted as though it had never happened. I’m reasonably certain that at least a few of my colleagues figured out that the email was deleted directly, instead of recalled – but again, it’s not something we discussed. My impression is that everyone was so shocked and concerned for Jane that they didn’t care about what means were used to prevent her from reading that note.

Regarding Fergus, I know that my question showed him at his very worst, and with that as the only information available, a lot of readers felt strongly about his bad management and that Jane and everyone else at our company should be on the lookout for new jobs. I completely understand that, but want to stress that this whole incident was very unlike Fergus, and we had not seen any prior bad behavior on anything like this level. Several months after you answered my question we all found out that Fergus had been dealing with some very serious personal/health issues for some time. He sold the company and stepped back entirely from its operations about six months after I wrote in. It doesn’t excuse his behavior during the Email Incident, but I think it goes some way towards explaining it.

New Boss is very different from Fergus, but we’ve worked together well. Among other things, he’s hired Jane on full time (she had been part time, and her performance improved significantly after she’d been with us a bit longer), and changed our reporting structure so I’m a bit higher up the food chain and Jane reports to me. As a first time manager, it’s been great to have Ask A Manager to back me up as I try to figure out what I’m doing. And now that I have a little more say in how things are run, I’m working finally get rid of our terrible IT company, who STILL haven’t changed anyone’s passwords.

2. My new junior employee said he’s “disappointed” in his job

Jake is no longer my employee. He actually gave his two weeks notice a few days after I first emailed in. He didn’t have another job lined up; he just wasn’t the right fit. I thought that’d be the end of it, but without consulting me, my boss offered to let him stay on as a part time employee, and he accepted. To me, this was the worst of all worlds. I still had an employee that didn’t want to be there, and my boss had made it clear that I had no authority over people I manage. Everything got worse. I was able to let him go at the end of the year finally.

There were other elements of how my boss handled the situation that frustrated me. When Jake gave his notice, she told me that I wasn’t allowed to replace Jake once he did leave because “no one smart would want this job”. I was pretty offended by that because my first role with the company was similar to what he was doing. She then proceeded to forget she’d told me that I couldn’t replace him. Earlier this year we were discussing my workload, and I was saying that part of the problem with my workload is that I have nobody to delegate a lot of my routine tasks to. When she asked why I wasn’t searching for someone to replace Jake, I told her that she had made it clear that wasn’t an option (seriously, I have documentation). Anyway, she tried to tell me that I had told her that I didn’t need to replace him. I started to look for a new person for the role, but that search was soon after put on hold with the outbreak of the pandemic. There were additional annoying details of the whole situation, but this is the meat of it.

Altogether, my boss’s actions during that situation and others led me to start a job search of my own, which is unfortunately also on hold because of COVID-19.

3. Pulling out of an interview process when my current job really needs me (#3 at the link)

I grappled very deeply with your comment regarding company loyalty when the job wasn’t serving my growth (or, frankly, mental health) needs. I knew that if I stayed “another 6 months” before looking again, I’d probably just continue to find myself in the same rut. I kept myself in the interview process and I ended up getting the job! I’ve now been at the organization for 6 years and it is exactly where I want to be; leaving was the right decision even if was difficult for my old team. When I was offered the job, I asked for 4 weeks to start in order to write a proper, full handover plan for the next hire. The new manager was not super happy to wait a month, but my old manager really appreciated and respected that I was willing to stay on longer to get things in order. It ended up as a win-win: I didn’t burn a bridge by leaving my old manager in the lurch (we remain friendly to this day and I visited her recently!), and I embarked in a new career path that is much healthier for me and has given me tremendous growth opportunity.

updates: the cruel email, the disappointed junior employee, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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