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 office wasn’t acknowledging her adopted baby? Here’s the update.
I didn’t mention this in my original letter, but my wife and I (yes, folks correctly guessed that I am a woman married to another woman) had staggered our parental leave. We took the first two months together, and then she finished out her remaining several months of fully-paid leave (so nice!) while I went back to work, then we switched back. The goal was to extend the leave time period as long as possible since the little one had some potential developmental concerns we wanted to be fully on watch for.
Luckily (and perhaps expectedly) while I was out for those initial two months, the texts and emails from work became much less frequent. A lot of commenters—as well as you, Alison—were rightfully much more incensed by the lack of respect for my leave than the interpersonal stuff, which in retrospect was a sign that some of my norms were a bit warped.
I initiated a call a couple days before my return to check in about transitioning back in and was gently and professionally informed that a lot had been going poorly in my absence. The person who took over most of my duties was a peer whose specialty is a lot different from mine, even though we worked closely together—the best analogy I’ve come up with is an anesthesiologist taking over for the surgeon they usually work with; theoretically similar training, to a point, but WILDLY different day-to-day duties—and the “patients” were unhappy to the point of being downright rude. Everyone was extremely happy to see me when I came back for that reason.
I also heard through the grapevine that someone else (who had stepped in to help with the transition and was a half-step above me on the organizational ladder) had been badmouthing me in an all-staff meeting, saying things along the lines of, “I don’t even know what Lucinda has been DOING these last months” (I’d celebrated my five-year anniversary just before leaving with no serious concerns raised about my work since year one). I almost immediately confronted her about it politely, using AAM-inspired language: “I heard you may have expressed some concerns and I was surprised because our previous conversations had indicated everything was going well! Is there anything I should be aware of?” She denied having any concerns and basically said she would have just been venting due to the stress of being down a staff member. But since I didn’t say where I’d heard it from, she let slip that she thought that I would have heard from clients that she was badmouthing me! I was floored.
Anyway, I felt like I was in putting-out-fires mode from my first day back. Communication continued to be a huge issue and I felt consistently unsupported in doing my job, sometimes even significantly undermined. My mental health took a giant nosedive after having been as happy as I’ve ever been while on leave. I think the reality of why I wrote my letter was that I had been dissatisfied for a while with the feeling that I was giving so much for a job that, despite the warm and fuzzy exterior, made me feel like a cog in a machine. My wife and I talked about it extensively and I decided to leave my job with the intention of my spending 1-2 years at home with my son and working on some personal projects.
So, a couple of weeks before the second part of my leave was supposed to begin, I put in my notice that I wouldn’t be returning from leave the second time around. I don’t know if this would have happened had I not been leaving, but the whole-staff meeting on my last week was converted into a combination baby shower/goodbye party for me. A few people brought gifts—interestingly, all of those people were my peers or below me in the hierarchy, although I had already gotten a small gift each from my boss and grand-boss on my return to work.
I also had two people on my team reach out specifically to apologize for interrupting my leave, but never got any sort of acknowledgement of that from those above me on the hierarchy.
Since then, I’ve reached out to a company where I’d had a previous “side hustle” to see about a part-time remote position. The answer was an enthusiastic yes without so much as a phone screen! It’s been a nice reminder of what it feels like to have my work appreciated.
Tl;dr, a lot of the specific stuff that I was complaining about in my original letter was resolved, but those things were symptoms of bigger issues, so … I got out!
Finally, some commenters, especially those with connections to adoption, expressed some very kind wishes and hopes about how things would go at home. I hope you’ll all be glad to hear that baby boy, birth mom, and both adoptive moms all seem happy with how things have turned out so far. Adoption is complicated and messy but we are putting in our best effort to show up for our son and his birth mom and I’m so grateful to be able to do it. Being his mama is the best thing I’ve ever done.