updates: executive cries with delight every day, sounding more approachable during high stress, and more

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. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. Executive is crying with delight at seeing people back at work — every day

I left that job.

Your advice, and the reassurance that the COO’s behavior was deeply abnormal, was a great push in the right direction. The daily situation did not improve, and the more I thought about your questions (does he otherwise seem his normal self? No. Are others noticing and feeling concerned? YEP.), the more frustrated I became that the rest of the exec team, especially the CEO, was letting it slide. Multiple people voiced their concerns, and were ignored.

All of this prompted me to think critically about whether this was a one-off thing, or part of a larger problem. Being back in the office really offered a lot of clarity, and it wasn’t a difficult decision to seek alternative employment once I realized that, in general, the organization was led by people disinterested in thinking about the staff as actual people with whole lives and needs versus butts in seats.

A few months after I left, I heard the COO simply stopped showing up after making a series of bizarre statements during a full-staff meeting. I don’t want to speculate on what was going on with him, but I do hope he gets the support he needs.

2. How can I sound more approachable in high-stress work periods? (#2 at the link)

Writing in was a good wake-up call for my stress levels. I did use more of the openers and friendly expressions suggested, but the biggest helper was just slowing everything down. My boss’s tendency to rush all the time (because we have too much to do and not enough time to do it) was rubbing off on me. That is definitely not the manager I wanted to be, because being managed by someone with limited warmth and no care about your personal life (even just a “how is your family doing?”) is not quite the best fit for me.

In the last few months, I have greatly reduced my work hours and am no longer a manager (of my own choosing). Once some things in my personal life move around, I’ll probably start job-hunting to see if I can find a better fit.

Thank you, and I wish all other letter writers happy updates this season!

3. Should I rehire an employee who left after five months? (#5 at the link)

Our ex-employee has so far stayed at his role with the other company (despite his issues with it), so I haven’t had to deal with the live question of whether to rehire him beyond the hypothetical. But you were right that, upon further reflection, I had been minimizing his serious performance issues because I like him as a person and enjoyed having him in the office. Our other employees have also shared how, despite their positive personal rapport with him, his inability to meet deadlines had been driving them up the wall—and for that reason, they are somewhat relieved he left. So for performance reasons alone, the passage of time has made it clearer that it would not be wise to rehire him even if the opportunity presented itself at some point.

That said, it was an important role for the company and we still haven’t been able to refill it yet! I’m not exactly sure why, but I imagine it’s a combination of the typical labor market issues many companies are experiencing and the niche nature of this specific role. (Our hiring process for other roles is moving along faster.) So knowing how difficult this role would be to fill was also probably part of why I was downplaying this employee’s shortcomings and entertaining the possibility of bringing him back. It hasn’t been easy to make do without anyone in this role for most of this year, but ultimately, it’s better to have a longer-than-ideal transition period between employees than to have a subpar employee in the role who is making others’ jobs more stressful.

4. I asked for help building my skills and got put on a PIP (#2 at the link)

I followed what you shared, and asked my manager for clarification on the PIP and how she planned to follow through with measuring my progress. Early on in the process, my manager described the PIP as a tool to help me and told me that she put a lot of effort into writing it. I implemented steps to fulfill the PIP and set up a dedicated time during our weekly check-in’s to discuss anything PIP related. I networked within the company on areas I wanted to improve on as well.

Throughout the four months I was on the PIP, my manager had relatively little feedback to share with me on my progress, did not complete my next quarterly performance review, and offered no resources on how I could improve. She did, however, send me a self-help book on finding my purpose in life.

Knowing what I know now about PIPs, I realize that the plan was not designed to help me succeed or get the structure I sought when I first asked for help. Her feedback on my work became increasingly berating, and she questioned why I needed clarification on projects when I had a master’s degree in my field. I mentioned some of her comments to HR, but they chalked it up to me not being a culture fit.

Needless to say, it was a challenging time, and I’m thankful a coworker clued me in that a PIP may not end well and to start looking for jobs immediately (in addition to AMA reader comments!). I was terminated at the end of the PIP, and left knowing that even if I had made it through, I couldn’t have thrived under that kind of management style. I received a job offer two weeks after my last day, which I accepted. I’m in a much better place and appreciate the advice you shared six months ago!