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.
I’m the letter writer who wasn’t sure how I should have dealt with my boss’s wife messing up his travel.
When I wrote the letter, the event had already happened so no action needed to be taken to address it specifically. However, your advice and the reactions of some of the commenters made me realize “Ok, hmmmm. This wasn’t a normal reaction to have.” I mentioned in some of the comments that I had had a really really tough year, basically classic burnout due to hellmouth-esque events at work and in my personal life. What I didn’t mention was that I also struggle with the effects of some childhood emotional abuse/abandonment stuff. Coupled with the burnout, the husband/wife dynamic of my specific work situation was clearly a bit of a trigger for some childhood stuff and so my response to it wasn’t ideal. Up until writing Ask a Manager, I had thought my reactions/overreactions to stuff was only in personal relationships with family/friends, but obviously it would affect Work-Me as well!
A few months before the travel mess-up event, I had gone back to therapy because I had started to feel off due to the burnout etc. In the few years since this happened, I’ve continued going to therapy for my childhood stuff, started taking meds for anxiety, and have made huge progress in being able to recognize triggers or reactions in myself that I don’t think are “normal” or “proportionate” to what is actually happening. Now, if something happens at work and I feel myself getting anxious I can step away, not react in the moment, and put it aside until I can talk to my therapist or a trusted person and basically get a reality check. “Is this something that I should be feeling this strongly about? Or do I need to figure out where this emotion is coming from and then go back to square one?” I’m working towards being able to do this on my own, but for now this is where I’m at and it works.
I’m really proud of myself for making this much progress and being so much more comfortable with dealing with work situations that aren’t ideal. I can’t tell you how unnerving it was to be competent/high performing one minute and then feeling like a scared child the next. Being able to get a handle on this and tackle it in a way that is constructive and healthy is huge, and that’s a skill that will serve me well in the 30ish years until retirement.
As I mentioned in my original question, I’d been in the post-uni-job-search for a while, and it had not been a very fun time. About a week before I sent the question I’d actually applied to a job (not from that website) that I was pretty stoked about – good pay, good work, good organisation, exciting progression opportunities, and based in my favourite city in the country (England) – but which had a really long application process. I passed the online/in person tests and had an interview, which I also passed! Given the long application process, the November application ended with a job starting in mid April.
Which, while it seemed great at first, obviously became more of an issue as time went by. I have a health condition that puts me at risk for the Coronavirus, and the job isn’t one you can do at home. I ended up having to tell them that I wasn’t able to start when I was supposed to. I was pretty devastated as I’d been looking forwards to starting the job for almost six months at this point, and was really worried that they’d simply retract the offer. At best I hoped they’d let me start later. Instead, they’re paying me in full, keeping in touch to make sure I’m okay, and giving me some online work (the ‘homework’ from the actual job training) to do in the meantime. I didn’t think I could be more thrilled about starting the job, but knowing this is how they treat their staff has done it.
I’m sure you hear this all the time, but your website definitely helped me a ton with all this. I literally read through the entire ‘interviewing’ tag in the days coming up to my interview, and took the advice to heart. I also did read through all the comments on the original question, and truly appreciated the additional advice and anecdotes. Thank you!
First, I regret using the word “force” in my letter. I clarified it in the comments, but I never actually would force people into conversations. It was much more saying hello as people walked by in the morning or asking how their day was going as we waited for the microwave. Thank you for your advice, it did help put things in perspective. Thank you to all the commenters too. I always appreciate how diverse the commenter field is.
I ultimately ended up leaving the position. I took your advice and checked in with the other employees. I approached it as an apology for talking more than necessary and causing distraction and everyone assured me that wasn’t the case. Upon talking to others, she did pull one other person in the office to tell them the same thing. We knew that giving her feedback about the issue would likely cause more problems, so we decided that we would take the talk/warning at face value though and made an effort to stop the office chit-chat. We decided to take our lunches together, but that was stopped almost immediately by the boss coming in and asking if we were in a private meeting, were we taking unpaid time, when did we come in that morning, etc. We were very clearly eating lunch together, never take paid lunches, and she was in before us so knew what time we came in. It was all bizarre and uncomfortable.
Things just got more uncomfortable from there with a handful of interactions similar to above. I enjoyed the position and the benefits were great, but ultimately it wasn’t enough for me to be unhappy every week and to feel like I was walking on eggshells around my boss. I interviewed and accepted a new position and started right before COVID hit. They are a talkative cohort and I have so much fun working with them. Luckily they’ve continued to pay me as we work remotely and things have been great. I can’t imagine being in the old job in the current climate and having success, so I am happy I ended up where I am.
updates: the wife messing up business travel, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.