updates: avoiding political talk, the feelings boss, 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 four updates from past letter-writers.

1. How to avoid political talk from family when working in politics

Thank you so much for answering my letter about how to avoid political confrontation with family when working in politics! And thank you to the many commenters for their advice as well, I read and appreciated all of it (minus the person who assumed I was trying to force my beliefs on my family and that I lived in some progressive utopia). About a month after I wrote to you, I landed a paid full-time internship with a progressive political communications firm and loved every minute of it! I learned so much in the past four months.

My conservative grandparents who I was living with at the time were extremely supportive of my job search and so excited for me when I got the position. I used some of the advice from commenters and just kept the work I do vague, simply referring to it as “communications consulting work” and let my family fill in the blanks however they wanted. And though I did have to hear about 100 hours of Rush Limbaugh and OAN, my grandparents and I coexisted very peacefully and I was honestly so grateful to have spent so much time with them after having lived 7 hours away from them my entire life. Covid restrictions kept me from seeing some of my more argumentative family members but I’ll be moving in with my parents soon (the life of 2021 college grad) and now that all of my family is vaccinated I do think I’ll be making use of some more of your advice soon!

I’m also pleased to report that I received amazing feedback from my bosses and coworkers – so much so that they asked me to stay on as a fellow through the fall! I started my fellowship this week and I’m so happy to continue working with a team I love, doing work that I find extremely interesting and important, and gaining so much valuable experience w/ increasing responsibility! (They also mentioned we will “discuss joining the team permanently” at the end of my fellowship so *fingers crossed*). I’ve been reading your blog since my first manager recommended it to me almost 3 years ago and I honestly don’t know where I’d be without your advice!

2. My boss wants to talk about her feelings all the time (first update here)

Ultimately, a year later this terrible boss left the company. And earlier this year, I also left the company. The space has solidified for me how toxic the former boss was and how our workplace allowed it. I was recruited for a new job that was a promotion of responsibility, running a team and a big pay bump. (Not to mention, they made me the offer when I was 7 months pregnant and gave me 16 weeks of leave after I started, a workplace that really values families.) But the update today is that I got a call from another professional contact who wanted to recruit me for another job — being the terrible boss’ boss! I’m not interested in making a move, even though it too would be a great job. And the presence of the former boss definitely would have been a factor if I had been looking. But it was a little reminder, for me at least, that the tables can turn in a few short years.

3. We might have found a coworker’s suicide to-do list

Veronica saw the post and messaged me asking me if I knew about your blog, the post, etc. I feined ignorance, but she said that she knew I had written the letter and she wanted me to send the post to the owner. She wanted me to let the owner know that she was being bullied (I don’t think she was). Sometime after this, Veronica was let go (or quit?, I am unsure) and I was given her position. I think she is doing fine at another job.

4. Changing my name because of a complicated family situation (#5 at the link)

I thought I would send in a quick update and thank you to Alison and the commenters who were so helpful. I am relieved to say I was totally over-thinking it, like some of the commenters said! I told my boss and direct team members in our daily zoom check in, and everyone rolled with it pretty quickly. All I mentioned is that it is what I use socially and it came from my initials and no further questions were asked. Other colleagues immediately switched to my preferred name in emails without me having to even ask (after I changed my email signature and preferred name in our systems), and while there are a few slips of my old name people have either caught themselves or been reminded by other coworkers. I have barely had to remind anyone myself, which has been awesome.

I really appreciate the reality check that I was making it a bigger issue than it was due to my history with my given name. I’m not sure I can adequately say just how gratifying and life changing it is to hear a name that doesn’t cause me pain every time it is used. I’m proud of myself and so much happier.