updates: the meditation and yoga office, the detective, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, where all month I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

1. My company wants us to meditate and do yoga and alternative healing

As of a few weeks ago I no longer work for said company, and a few other colleagues have been fired or left, with morale plummeting but the bosses very much going deeper into their world of wellness. One thing that increased steeply was using vague wellness concepts to critique employees, basically giving them no way to argue with the higher-ups (like, doing a yoga class then telling an employee afterwards that they sense they have negative energy, based on nothing but how they looked on video).

In my own case, there was a major breach of trust regarding the private life/work life divide, and concerns about other employees’ mental health were dismissed in a way that felt over-the-line. I feel relieved to be out of there but also know I probably have a lot to process that I haven’t even thought about yet! I did consult a lawyer but also had to consider my income/salvage some $$ above all else, especially mid pandemic.

So, a happy ending, in a way. Not sure how the company will succeed without retention and with so many potential legal problems, but I guess stranger things have happened in the startup world.

2. A detective showed up at my job on a day I had called in sick (#3 at the link)

I took your advice and let it go, and it was the right call. Six months after I wrote to you I was promoted and I no longer work for the supervisor I’d described it my letter, but we are on good terms. I wonder if she even remembers the detective. It seems so insignificant now.

3. My office is reopening and I don’t feel safe going back

I wrote in asking for advice about a year ago during the first few months of the pandemic being worried about going back into the office too soon.

Some things that I wanted to clear up — people were confused as to the timing that my coworkers and I were expected to go back into the office. We were sent an email very late in the day on a Friday being told that we had to prepare to come into the office the Monday after next (so a little over a week for the people that got the email in time to ruin their weekend, or a week for people that had already departed for the day).

Also, commenters asked what sort of safety measures would be in place. The office is completely open, with no separation from one workstation to another, and no way to actually be 6+ feet apart. The only precautions that they agreed to put in place was that everyone would get hand sanitizer on their workstation, and they would hire a cleaning crew to come in once a week. The only mask requirement would be that you would have to wear a mask when you got up from your desk, but you could sit at your station maskless. Also, with this reintroduction back into the office, the sales people would start traveling, including out of state, to see clients. They would not be required to quarantine or take tests unless they started to feel ill.

There was also discussion of this sentence, “They’ve been communicating to us that there isn’t a ‘hard date’ that we’re expected back in the office, but recently they completely flipped that stance and now expect us all back at the top of next month.” For clarification, their attitude about this whole thing was really night and day. They went from initially being flexible and stating there would be a slow return or a staggering of schedules so that everyone was comfortable, to a sudden email with a week’s notice that everyone was expected back, no exceptions.

There was a small group of us that were very uncomfortable with how everything was being handled, and we went as a group to discuss our concerns. We were essentially told that this was how it was going to be, and they needed a decision from us on Friday on how we wanted to move forward.

I got multiple doctors’ notes strongly recommending that I don’t return to the office. Even with that, I was let go.

I was incredibly lucky in that I wasn’t down for long. I found a remote position with a significant pay bump within a few months of being let go. I’m incredibly grateful as I know this wasn’t something that seemed possible at the time.

Looking back on my time at this company, I was surprised at how much unprofessional behavior I tolerated. While I loved what I did, the signs that I was working in a toxic environment were written on the wall, but the pandemic really brought out the worst in my bosses and the company at large.

I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my letter. I also appreciated everyone taking the time to comment – I really felt like I was alone in this and the AAM community really helped me realize that I wasn’t. So, thank you.

4. How can I discourage my coworkers’ daily intense socializing? (#3 at the link)

Some of the commenters picked up on the situation for what it was – an office romance. All the more scandalous because one of the two is engaged (to someone else). Most of the office would have a bit of a chuckle about what was going on because Jane and Fergus were so incredibly indiscreet, so that validation made the discomfort somewhat bearable until the whole thing mostly fizzled out.

Ultimately, I really appreciated the perspectives and advice from all of the commenters. Everyone was so incredibly helpful and I was really grateful to view the situation differently. At times the “secret” rendezvous could be quite uncomfortable — I recall being told on several occasions of others having “stumbled upon them” when retrieving items from a secluded storage area. They tended to (and somewhat still do) have an unusual work “friendship” where neither of them seemed able to play it off smoothly if their duo somehow turned into a trio, so mostly if they had paired themselves up they’d be avoided by everyone so they could have their space (and so no one else would subject themselves to what would inevitably be an intensely awkward encounter).

Finally, I did invest in a good pair of noise cancelling headphones and I couldn’t recommend them more highly. They block out many distractions but don’t leave me looking so unapproachable that no one comes near me if I’m wearing them (a blessing and a curse!).