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 boss sent a chat message not intended for her — but it popped up on a shared screen? Here’s the update.
Thank you so much for everyone’s advice. Since the letter was posted a few months after it actually happened, I did some mini-updates in the comments. I am going to summarize those here and then post a further update.
The original comment about long-windedness was definitely about my retired coworker only. He was very well known for it and the boss had shown very public annoyance about it in the past (eye-rolling, complaining behind his back, snapping, etc.). After the message, I did some serious soul searching and asked for feedback from past/present colleagues and personal friends because I just didn’t know what had happened to make him say that about me. I trust these people to tell me the truth. I was majorly beating myself up and feeling pretty terrible (anxiety/imposter syndrome anyone?). I do think I could occasionally over-explain something, but not often and certainly not to the level a boss should need to even say something. I think in the end the personality quirk that made my boss dislike me was probably the fact that he is not interested in hearing anybody’s opinion unless it agreed with his and, while I was never disrespectful, I occasionally asked questions or voiced concerns such as “that’s a good idea, but due to ‘niche work factor’ can we consider X, Y, or Z” using a collaborative, upbeat tone of voice. I think he disliked anyone not agreeing with him to a ‘T’ and this fact has since been corroborated with several other colleagues who work on his level.
Ever since that chat message, my boss kept giving Mark more projects despite me asking to be on projects too. Prior to this, I was the point person on most of the projects and I know I did a good job (from feedback from others in the department and several different grandbosses). Between the chat message and the inability to do anything but very basic rote work I was not hired to do, I decided to look at other opportunities. After much research, I decided to go back to school and got accepted into a short-term fellowship.
I was still waffling on attending as it would mean moving away. I decided to tell my boss I was probably leaving as I was about to be sent on expensive training and would have been turning in my notice the day after returning. I did not feel right about it and was worried about my reference if he thought I wasted company money.
In my conversation with him, he told me he would help me make the decision on whether to go to school or work training as he was planning on promoting Mark at the end of the month when we had returned from training. I was kind of stunned since he knew that I was working towards the small promotion and had been being groomed by upper management for a leadership position. I asked him why and he said that Mark was more “hands on.” It appears it was in part a setup all along so he could justify giving the promotion to Mark, who is a yes-man.
I really, really did not want to believe sexism was at play, but I think it was to an extent. I had tenure; public, verbal approval for my work from upper management; a leadership fellowship sponsored by my company (which Mark was not invited to); and more relevant education than Mark. These things don’t make me automatically deserve the small promotion, and I know this. I was shocked because Mark had never shown desire or drive to be the head of our tiny section (really just a point person) and I had and had asked what I needed to do to get there in performance reviews etc. In the reviews given by my boss, they were glowing and he never gave me anything to improve on despite me asking about areas I could learn and grow to help our company but rather just said it was all good and he didn’t know what the future held. It turns out no women under him in any department has ever been promoted despite usually having better work and credentials than their promoted colleagues. So, in the end, he wanted someone who would never ever question him or suggest improvements who also happened to be a man.
On my way out, one of the C suite execs came to ask me why I was leaving as they thought I did fabulous work and they were really sorry to see me go and were going to miss me. I did not tell them the real reason why (though I wish I had in hindsight) as I didn’t want to jeopardize my husband’s job who also worked under my boss. (We were in completely different departments and he always did good work too so we are 99 % sure none of this had anything to do with that). If it got back to my boss that I had gotten him in trouble he could have made life ugly for my husband in retaliation.
I hate to disappoint all of you (trust me, this is a big life regret for me too), but I never confronted him on it. I sent in this letter too late to use Alison’s script and I had already moved on. I ultimately decided not to say something because my boss is the type of person who would have flipped it around on me and gaslighted me. I honestly think he would have denied the message existed. He was not a healthy person.
I took the fellowship and have since completed it. I have a new job that I love with an extremely supportive boss. He wants us to work on professional development and he regularly appreciates our hard work and gives constructive feedback. Additionally, my new company is AWESOME. They truly care about employees as human beings and go above and beyond.
I kept in contact with several people at the company after I left. It turns out Boss got called in by the board for a review shortly after I left. He announced his retirement soon after and took a lower position to “transition out” a few months after that. To the rest of the company he is simply retiring, but I know from some colleagues who are part of the higher up board that he did not willingly retire. In a way I have to thank him because I got an amazing opportunity I never would have considered otherwise and now am working a job I actually love, that challenges and respects me.
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update: my boss sent a chat message I wasn’t supposed to see — but it popped up on a shared screen was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
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