updates: coworker signed me up for a racist organization as a joke, and more

It’s the final day of “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, where I’ve been printing updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

1. My coworker signed me up for a racist organization as a joke

I did take your advice—I was polite but very firm with the young man (“Moe”) about the inappropriateness of his behaviour. He was offended in response – “I thought you were cool and had a sense of humour!” was the gist of his response. I ended up mentioning it to my boss in what I had thought was an offhanded way, just saying, “Moe did this thing, it was odd, I thought you might want to know he does this kind of thing.” A few weeks later, my contract with that organization came to an end, and was unexpectedly not renewed even though I’d been told to expect a renewal – on my way out the door, my boss gave me the feedback that I’m “over-sensitive”. (Which I certainly can be, so it might not have just been about this.)

Update on me: it was a long struggle to find another job, but four years later, I’m E.D. of a small nonprofit that does lots of good and important work in its niche. I’m much happier here than I was there, and my board treats me much better (which isn’t something you hear from every E.D.!)

Update on Moe: he’s skyrocketed through the ranks at that organization (a medium-profile government institution) and is now at director-level and is the public face of many of their initiatives. I follow him on Linkedin, and in my view, his judgment about what jokes are appropriate in a professional setting remains atrocious, but his bosses seem to love him.

Update on the racist organization: I wrote to them and demanded that my name be taken off the membership rolls. They were very quick to do so, said that they would never want anyone to be publicly linked to their movement who didn’t genuinely share their views, and I haven’t heard from them or appeared on any public membership lists since.

I don’t know how I ended up getting more courteous treatment from the racist organization than from my old employer, but here we are!

Thank you for your advice and thanks to the commenters for engaging.

2. How can I tell my managers they’re disrespectful to people?

A quick, rather unsurprising update: I quit. Not too long after this email, in fact. This was sent in the lead-up to a truly disastrous event that nearly broke everyone on the team, had two separate consultants pull me aside and tell me to leave, and after one unhinged Slack exchange while I was at a doctor’s appointment, I brought my biggest bag into the office in case I needed to pack my desk and walk out. I suspect I wrote this after a phone call where they berated someone for a tiny miscommunication, listened to them cry and apologize, and then said – let’s just move on. I think about that call a lot.

We all knew it was bad – talked about it being emotionally abusive in the group texts. Almost everyone I worked with has left, each of us with pretty deep wounds that needed healing – and I was only there a year!

I’ve since launched my own organization where I’m trying to not emulate these or any of the other many bad bosses I have had. Thank you for sharing so many tools to make me understand how to do that.

3. How much am I obligated to help a coworker who guilt-trips me when I don’t?

Alison’s and the commentariat’s advice did indeed help. I kept some prepared answers handy and began distancing myself not just from his unreasonable demands but a lot of work drama in general.

J continued a steep personal and professional decline until performance and behavioral issues started popping up and he was told he’d be put on a PIP if things didn’t improve.

Some rehab and apparently a lot of yoga later and J does seem to be doing better (good for him!) and working with him has slid into a place of neutrality.

I’m on the job hunt, because J’s behavior, and my manager’s lack of managing it, was really just one component of a broader job that isn’t working for me anymore.

So I wish him the best with his yoga, and hopefully I won’t be around to see if keeps it up or not.

4. Is my mentor ignoring my emails? (#4 at the link)

Rereading your post of my letter re: the mentor, I was embarrassed but realize I have come pretty far since then.

In retrospect, I had low self esteem back then and this contributed to clueless about boundaries when staying in touch with colleagues. I was also young, under 18, and have a type of autism that means I need to learn every social aspect. I kept in touch after moving to a new company and didn’t understand why his emails dried up eventually.

I was in a local government apprenticeship with the mentor, moved to a charity and am now working at charity number two doing adjacent work to the first charity. Think like moving from chocolate teapots to chocolate biscuits.

I had a new mentor at charity number one, and quickly realised that I was following the same socially clueless path after leaving my last job there (I was there for 5 years in all). Since that point in 2017, I have gone on a journey of professional maturity, better self esteem and better mental health coping strategies.

Admittedly it would be a nice surprise to hear from either mentor but I’m not holding my breath. I’m now focussing on loving myself and holding myself accountable, while enjoying my current colleagues in a more professional and healthy way.

I have also moved offices at charity number two, due to the nature of my job it means I have the same job but I have more of the tasks I like and less of the ones I don’t.

Your letter was a wake-up call back then and I appreciate it.