telling recruiters I wouldn’t move to a state that discriminates, new boss says everything is “fun,” and more — Ask a Manager

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

1. Telling recruiters I wouldn’t move to a state that discriminates

I was able to use language very similar to what you provided and so far everyone’s been understanding. I do think it’s important that companies know these policies will actively drive lots of talented workers away. I haven’t gotten any leads yet but I’m not actively searching.

I also appreciated some of the tips about different places to consider relocating to. I’ll have to put a lot of thought into it over the coming months and reach out to friends/family/colleagues around the country. Hopefully I’ll be able to settle somewhere safe and comfortable for me, that these politicians are throughly repudiated so that everyone feels so no matter what city or state they live in.

2. My new boss says everything is “fun” — even data entry and illness

I was the OP who had the boss who referred to everything as fun! and was really the avatar of toxic positivity.

I ended up taking a new position in 2021 that helped me to reset my work norms and expectations. My coworkers and supervisor there were much more realistic in their approach to our work, and it was a much more supportive environment all around. It occurs to me that I really didn’t contextualize the field that I’m in for the commentariat – we’re heavy on compliance and policy-building, and it’s a field where sarcasm and dry humor are very much the norm. Sunny positivity is fairly unusual, even in the best of times, and the workplace culture is usually built around the camaraderie of doing a beloved, but difficult job as best we can despite organizational and regulatory hurdles.

That new role allowed me to grow quite a bit, and I recently changed again to start another job with a much higher title. I’m now making twice as much as I was in the original role I wrote in about, and doing much more complex work! I’m considered a “senior” voice in my field (in my 30s, which should say something about burnout), have won a national industry award, and have taken on leadership positions in our affiliated professional orgs.

My “fun” boss has had 100% turnover in my old department during this time, and it turns out that a lot of the problems I thought were out of her hands, were in fact things that she was actively making worse. She couldn’t have done anything about staff bleed in other departments, of course, but not getting information back? She asked them not to update us, but to send info to her directly and then never shared it. Never heard back from someone I’d worked closely with in the past? They reached out after I’d left to tell me that my supervisor had expressly forbidden them from speaking to me without copying her or looping her in.

I recently got a call from my old employer asking me to talk through the policies I’d put in place during my time there, and about how fun! supervisor had managed us. I was candid and shared that I had a number of concerns regarding their compliance with federal regulations based on questions I was receiving as a professional liaison from her remaining staff. (It’s a small industry.) They’ve offered to bring me on as a consultant to get them above board again, and it sounds like they’re working to remove fun! supervisor. They’re concerned that she might have misrepresented her familiarity with those regulations, and clients are apparently complaining.

I don’t know if any of this will come to pass, as we’re still in the midst of discussions about what I can do to assist, but I’m really excited about the prospect of helping my old employer. I truly love the people and clients there!

As some commenters (and you) noted, the fun! thing was really just the tip of the dysfunctional iceberg. I think some of what my supervisor was doing was trying to disguise how little she knew about what needed to be done, and was trying to upsell me on the boring parts of my job while she took on the more “exciting” and visible things. So much of what we do is difficult to parse for colleagues outside of the department, so if I wasn’t responding to questions or sitting on committees, she could pretend to be the only one with the answers and no one would question if the information she was sharing was accurate.

Thank you again for your guidance, and for all of the great information/advice you share on your site! I credit all of you resources with helping me to get where I am now. I especially took to heart your point about toxic workplaces warping your idea of what’s normal or acceptable. I had to unlearn a lot of stuff after I left that job.

Update to the update:

My “fun” boss ended up being demoted, and the compliance work was removed from her portfolio and sent to another department. She’s no longer permitted to manage or supervise, and she’s been physically relocated to an office closer to her new supervising unit. I will most likely be consulting later this year to reinstate policies I designed while working there. I’m a little annoyed these changes weren’t made until long after I’d left, but I’m happy where I’ve landed anyway!

3. My coworkers expect me to be devastated I didn’t get a promotion (#2 at the link)

I appreciated the advice to meet with my supervisor about the promotion and fully intended to do so. However, he went on vacation and postponed the meeting. Then, he never emailed to reschedule, even after I emailed a follow-up when he returned. I have a couple of other outstanding work emails to him that have gone unanswered, as well. He’s relatively new in the position and doesn’t seem to be on top of responses. I decided not to continue hounding him about it. Other members from the hiring committee have since confided in me that they reviewed the feedback and did not see any clear preferences for either me or the junior candidate who was given the promotion and that there were no negative comments on either of us. Some of the commentariat conjectured about my work demeanor.

I’ve been very successful in my role, winning a number of prestigious awards and performing above the company expectations in my annual work evaluations. I’m frequently tasked with higher level projects because of my organizational and communication skills. Plus, my co-workers come to me regularly for help navigating work issues within the company because of my knowledge of processes and relationships with people across the company. If anything, I am an over-communicator, which could be what is making the new supervisor hesitant, given his very different and more laid back style of working. The person promoted over me is very firm in his work-life balance, in ways that I am not, and sets boundaries much better than I do about timelines and projects. I like to get things finished and have a generally higher paced demeanor at work. I have come to accept that I may never know why I was passed over for a junior colleague. The good news is that my co-workers took the hint and stopped being as emotionally distraught around me after I responded as you suggested with “Mark is great.” After hearing from those on the committee that my co-workers did not express the preference that the supervisor claimed, I can understand better why they were unhappy with the outcome. Most just assumed that listing both of our positive qualities would still result in my being hired because of the difference in experience and seniority. I really love my company and don’t plan on leaving, but I have started looking to move laterally to another department, if a position arises. I’m also setting up some better boundaries for myself, so I am not inadvertently being expected to do work associated with the position that Mark took because of my seniority. There is a tendency for women in my field to take on much more work than men in the same positions to prove competency, and I’m super guilty of doing it myself. Thanks for all your advice here and elsewhere – I am an avid reader of your column!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *