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 still at the same workplace. The grousing specifically about children died down fairly quickly, and I didn’t end up having to address it directly. I did drop the info that I love kids and babies to V eventually, and she was sensitive to that and didn’t gripe about them in front of me afterward. The general grousing continued, though, with M being by far the worst offender. V likes to vent when she’s going through something (like the string of baby shower invites), but M will hold forth on any topic, for any amount of time, with 0 self awareness or regard for the people around him– and then utterly contradict himself in the next conversation, which is very annoying to be a fly on the wall to for years on end.
In fall of 2018, the seating arrangements changed, and M ended up sitting right next to me while V moved to another area. M continued to be visited by a parade of the cattiest people in the office and have irritating and insensitive conversations on a variety of topics. I really tried to tune him out and not feed into my dislike of him; but unfortunately as part of the seat move he also was asked to take on a few of my responsibilities, which he was not happy about. He started not only dropping frequent comments in my hearing about how demeaning my job is and how embarrassing it was for him to be next to me on the org chart, but behaving increasingly snippy and rude to me directly as well. Eventually I had to go to HR after he dramatically snapped at me in front of a client, and then again when I later tried to bring up the interaction and talk about it with him directly. I tried to bring up with HR that it seemed like being seated in the front, where he’s constantly interrupted, was really stressing M out and his behavioral issues might resolve themselves if he was moved to a quieter– but she basically shut me down and told me it wasn’t my job to tell my superiors how to organize their department. But M (or rather his supervisor, who never disciplines him) did get a talking to about professionalism, and M stopped being actively rude to me though the snarky comments about my/our job continued.
Our supervisors are both pretty tired of M too– as well as being a generally snarky and unpleasant person, he’s a little prone to inventing answers to questions he isn’t sure about, which can sometimes cause problems in the workplace. He also has a habit of taking on other people’s tasks, complaining/acting huffy because he has too much work, and then refusing help when it’s offered and continuing to take on anything anybody hands him. But his direct supervisor is very conflict-averse, and M is a grad student, so the assumption is that we can just wait this out because he will eventually quit to go work in his actual field. As his seat-mate, however, I am much more impacted by his behavior than the people making the decision to neither discipline him nor address the things that stress him out enough to behave the way he does… so I was planning to go into my performance review later this year and say, “Look, I know we don’t expect M to stay with us forever but can we discuss a more concrete timeline for moving him away from the reception area if he’s still here? After a year and a half in the current arrangement, I can definitely say it isn’t working well for either of us, and if this a given of my position here for the forseeable future, sadly that will impact whether I can plan to remain here myself longterm.” But then, of course, lockdown happened, and we all work remotely now. So I haven’t seen M for over a month, which is fine by me, and I’m hoping he is happier too, with fewer interruptions and people wandering by to see if he’d like to do their jobs for them so they don’t have to. Maybe by the time we return to the office, M will have grown up a bit, or maybe he’ll even quit in the intervening time and we’ll never have to see each other again. Only time will tell, but aside from the whole pandemic thing, working from home has been a very nice break from that environment, and I’m savoring it.
My update is super boring! No one quit over the PTO thing, and it’s completely died out as conversation. I applied to two other clinics, but truly enjoy working for my boas and with my clients so decided to stick it out for now. My boss and supervisors have recently told me how appreciated I am and it feels good to see my clients doing amazing despite the current challenges and to get good feedback personally. I felt weird defending my workplace in the comments since seriously they were in the wrong over this, but I really am professionally fulfilled and enjoy the job immensely.
Thank you so much for answering my question! And for the commenters weighing in as well. I’m so glad I wasn’t crazy after writing that in. Like, I knew I wasn’t, but my workplace had convinced me at times that this just was how it is. I wasn’t able to respond to comments because (go figure) I had to travel a bunch after I wrote that question in.
However, after I wrote in, I didn’t hear much from my boss about the location tracking until about a month later. One of our coworkers had to travel and got into a car crash (but was fine, she did call my boss right after) and that spurred so much concern from my boss that she was asking me multiple times before my next trip. “Have you turned it on? I don’t see you on my phone. I’m just wanting to make sure you’re safe. Can you turn it on now?” I again said I was uncomfortable, and then the privacy reasons and lastly something about my battery life. It would not end! I was not the only one, she was asking our team of 5 to do it too. What worked was me going to my senior coworker who knows my boss very well, and asking her what she was going to do. She said it was ridiculous and got the team together to basically push back together. That ended up working!
I did end up having to talk to HR (but not for this reason, other reasons. Whoever in the comments said bees were all up in here was right.) Gratefully, I ended up leaving that job after making it to a year and started a new position two months ago, where my coworkers and boss have much better boundaries. I feel like I still have some kind of work PTSD from my previous position. My boss cried when I left, but thankfully she didn’t ask to track my location on my last day out.
updates: the coworkers complaining about kids, the boss demanding location sharing, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.