updates: the scream-yawns, the condescending coworker, 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. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My coworker scream-yawns (#2 at the link)

I am pleased to say that I have found the funny side of this situation. Not much has changed, but I was able to reframe it in my mind and find it ridiculous (and it is so, so, so ridiculous). I did find some courage and comment on the noise. One day, I audibly startled every time she scream-yawned and asked,”Are you okay?” I said it every time, and even went over to her to explain, “I’m sorry I keep asking, it just sounds like you’re in pain!” Her colleague started laughing, and when I did it again a few days later the colleague laughed and said, “You’re scaring LetterWriter again!” I try to do this consistently to remind her that I’m here and I have ears.

She is sometimes quieter now, at least with the scream-yawns. Sometimes. Right now, she’s loudly singing along with whatever is playing in her headphones. She microwaves fish. She has very loud phone conversations about ridiculous and inappropriate things. She leaves sticky, unexplained residues on the microwave buttons. I have found Office Satan. Headphones are my saving grace – though they don’t block her out, it dulls the noise so I don’t startle as much. I got approved to telework an additional day. I have many, many, many stories once dinner parties are a thing again.

Thank you for helping me come up with a script, and for your readership helping find the funny side of it. I’m sorry to everyone who yawns involuntarily at this update.

2. I was used as a public example of what not to do at a team meeting

I ended up sending an email to Chad a few days after the meeting to express how uncomfortable I was by the way he used me as an example. I wrote out the email not fully intending to send it, but more as a way to find some catharsis for myself, but after sitting on it for a few days (and having some trusted colleagues review it), I decided to go ahead and send it. I felt confident that I wouldn’t be punished or use up any capital with him, and I figured that even if he didn’t take it to heart, it couldn’t hurt for him to at least have the feedback. The basic gist of what I said was that I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but that that it had made me uncomfortable, and I thought that it could be more effective and comfortable for everybody in the future if he gave us his advice/instruction without specifically bringing any individual into it. His response was about what I expected: he thanked me for telling him, said that he was aware it wasn’t the best way to approach it, and would refrain in the future. Then he kind of backtracked and said that while he got what I was saying, sometimes it’s more effective to be specific and real rather than “dance around using somebody’s name,” which can make it worse. Ultimately I don’t have a lot of confidence that me saying something will have much effect on future meetings, but I do feel better knowing that I at least tried to bring the issue to his attention.

I wasn’t able to respond to the comments when the post went up, but I did read them all and was very grateful for the excellent insight from both you and the AAM community. A few things were mentioned both in your response and comments that I wanted to elaborate or comment on.

First off, the line about whether Chad has a history of not understanding how humans work and your theory he lacks emotional intelligence (seconded by many in the comments!) is so spot on that I laughed reading it, in an if you don’t laugh you might cry kind of way. That’s the most succinct way of describing him that I can possibly think of.

Regarding chain of command, it’s a little confusing. Chad is the head honcho, and I do have a direct manager (Susan), but two there are two other senior team members (Lydia and Polly) that we refer to as managers who have just as much a hand in reviewing my work and giving me feedback as Chad and Susan do (and sometimes more), though they’re not officially anybody’s manager and don’t have hiring/firing power (they manage specific projects, not specific people).

One other thing I wanted to explain better is that he didn’t actually show the team the document he was referring to when discussing the issues he noticed. It wasn’t the kind of thing where specific examples were necessary, and he was just talking about tone in a more general manner, which, again, was one of the reasons I took issue with him mentioning me and my document specifically. It’s true that mine was one of the most recent documents he’d reviewed, so it was fresh on the brain, I suppose, but it wouldn’t have changed the feedback or instruction at all if he’d just said that these were things he’d noticed in general and wanted to give everybody a refresher course on.

Thanks for all the advice and feedback!

3. My condescending coworker tries to take over my work and is a disruptive know-it-all

I know it hasn’t been very long, but I have an update! Several of the commenters asked where my manager was in all this. They’ve been really supportive (they’ve had a lot of experience with dudes like this one) and in our last 1:1 they let me know more details from their meeting with Aloysius’s manager. It turns out (surprise!) that Aloysius had been giving the impression that his org either had official backing, or that such backing was imminent, and that its work was “strategic”. The manager was a bit surprised to learn that neither of those things were the case … and Aloysius has been very, very quiet recently. Whew!

Thanks to all the commenters for their support and helpful and/or entertaining suggestions. This is gone from being something to complain about to something to be amused by–always a great upgrade. 🙂

4. How open can I be about living with a coworker? (#2 at the link)

I wrote in previously about sharing an apartment with a coworker because I was worried that would seem unprofessional or otherwise reflect badly on me. This is my first job out of college so I’m still figuring out some of the norms, but your response as well as the comments from readers helped me realize that I was worrying over nothing. Some commenters were spot on that I come from a very religious background and went to a conservative, religious college. We didn’t even have co-ed dorms, so living with someone of the opposite gender was considered to be a bit scandalous, the kind of thing you do quietly and don’t advertise. It’s good to know that isn’t the attitude in most of the country (I’m American, just from a deeply Catholic part of the Midwest).

My fun update is that because I relaxed and didn’t guard the fact that John and I are planning on living together, we are now planning on moving in with 2 other coworkers! They were planning on moving in together sometime in the fall and when I mentioned to one of them that John and I would be getting a place together, she floated the idea of the 4 of us getting a house together and now that plan is in motion.

I’m very happy with how this turned out. We’re all young professionals in our first jobs moving to a city we’ve never lived in before where we don’t have much of a support system, so it’ll be nice to have a couple different people around to rely on in case of emergency.