updates: no job descriptions, struggling with working from home, 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 five updates from past letter-writers.

1. HR won’t let me see job descriptions for the people I manage

The situation got worse not better but hopefully it will be entertaining for your readers!

So, here’s what happened:
– The person who was to become my direct report was abruptly fired, along with another senior manager. No official reason was ever given but many of us dug into it privately because we were very concerned by the perception of random firings. There was a reason, and it was real and serious, but frankly I believe that the folks who were fired had good intentions and the chaotic culture of the organization made room for them to make a genuine mistake.
– The position was publicly posted after all, without any of my recommendations.
– Instead of formalizing my new management position, I was asked to formally sign off on a job description for myself that was a demotion from my pre-promotion work and title. I countered by describing how the work that I had been doing mapped onto a more senior title, not a more junior one, and asking for a 1:1 with the decision maker, which never happened, so I never signed the new job description.
– Instead of hiring someone into the subordinate role, they hired someone into the management role that I thought I had originally been given and laid me off the day the new person started. I hadn’t exactly seen it coming, but I was more than happy to leave.
– The organization’s struggles hit the media soon after, including a long list of names of departed staff being described as “rats leaving a sinking ship.” I was surprised to not be named because I fit the criteria the journalist was using.
– I had a pretty reasonable 3 month job search and found a position I was happy with, though to get it I actually gave them not my normal references, but references who were third parties to the whole debacle and were willing to say “LW was doing their best to engage ethically despite their organization’s toxic behavior.”
– Right as I was starting the new position, my partner got an amazing offer contingent on an out-of-state move. I absolutely did not want to move, especially with such a shaky recent work history, but I ultimately decided that the relationship with my partner was worth the career hit. I’ve now been looking for several months, and not working and not knowing anyone here has made me deeply depressed. Our move benefits package came with a “relocation coach” but they aren’t well networked in my field and I feel that my fears of switching job markets with a weak recent job history are well founded. Perhaps that’s another question for “Ask A Manager” – how do you make good use of professional spousal relocation support?
– In more positive news, most of my colleagues from the chaos factory have found new jobs that they are excited about, despite the pandemic, so it looks like other employers understand that low-level employees shouldn’t be held responsible for the entire bad situation.

The comments at the time were really helpful in affirming that it was a “them” problem not a “me” problem, so thank you so much for publishing my original letter!

2. I’m struggling with working at home during COVID-19

I think a big part of why I was having trouble was that I wasn’t really working on a lot. I got moved to larger account this past fall, and it’s been easier to focus since I have more to do. For my company, we had a merger with another company this winter, so our office location closed and I’m still working from home. My boss is pleased with my work and with the merger, I’m getting more responsibility and the stakeholders view me as an expert with what I do.

3. What’s my obligation to help the person who replaced me? (#3 at the link)

After reading your response, I still thought about responding but was busy with other priorities. Exactly 2 weeks later (2nd week of February 2021), I got another email from this person saying: “Just wanted to resend this email in hopes of being able to connect in the near future. Talk soon!”

I can’t explain why exactly but it made me angry and frustrated so I just never responded at all. I am usually not like that but this would have been at least an hour if not more of my time and likely very draining.

Not much of an update. I just decided to have some pretty strict boundaries and take care of my own mental health.

4. Friday good news (#4 at the link)

I was OP #4 on your Friday Good News post for November 13, 2020. (Laid off after 18 years, had just accepted an offer.)

As it turns out, OldJob did me a huge favor when they booted me out the door. I hadn’t realized how sour, stale, embittered, and generally checked-out I’d become, not just in the position, but with the company as a whole and the industry to a large degree.

I’ve now been in my new position for just over 8 months, once again as part of a small and busy team supporting a large portion of the total organization. I’ve found niches in our tasking that particularly suit some of my skills; I’m building cross-functional relationships that will help improve our efficiency as a team; and I feel welcomed, valued, and needed in my role. (And recognized, too, with a merit increase at my 6-month point!)

I definitely don’t miss OldJob. There are a few people with whom I stay in casual touch, and some good memories among the detritus. But beyond that (and a few ingrained responses to that somewhat dysfunctional workplace, that I’m still working on overcoming), I’m just as happy to have put it behind me.

In short: I’m enjoying the new adventure.