updates: paying for your own travel, improvement plan for a pastor, 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. Making a remote employee pay for their own travel to visit the office

Plot twist — I quit! The boss was making noise about wanting everyone (except the one pre-pandemic remote worker) back in the office, and when asked why, she let us know that she liked seeing us face to face. When pressed, there wasn’t any other reason than vague things like, “It’s better to be in-person.” I liked not commuting for two hours a day, so I bailed, and I’m much happier now (for a lot of reasons).

Regarding the out of state employee, however, the update is that there’s no update. Everything remains the same: the out of state employee remains mildly annoyed, but unwilling to rock the boat and risk the arrangement, so she dutifully continues to pay for her own flights, transport, meals, and hotel 4x/year, so the boss can have the pleasure of having her do the same job, just in person for the week (minus the lost productivity of Monday mornings and Friday afternoons when she flies in and out). Indeed, two more employees negotiated remote work agreements with the boss, with the same terms: let me work remotely, and I agree to show up in-person, on my own dime, four times/year. For this reason, and many more, I am glad to be gone, and I wish them all the best! It just wasn’t a cultural fit for me, and I’m in a better place now. I do appreciate your advice, and all the constructive advice in the comments section — all good food for thought!

2. My boss asks for my input, won’t take it, and then turns out to be wrong (first update here)

I wrote to you in the Beforetimes about how my boss would ask me for recommendations on how to do a thing (the specific example I used was printing advanced reviewer copies of a book he wanted to publish) and then wouldn’t listen to my recommendation (which was STRONGLY that he avoid using the cheapest version because the website was a dumpster fire), and then things went wrong (because, again, dumpster fire).

I am happy to report that I am still on very good terms with said boss — he’s become a friend of the family after my mother also worked for him, and we meet him and his wife once a year for dinner at a local restaurant. He’s also provided me with excellent references for the job I got fairly soon after I wrote the letter (he was retiring and happy to give a reference for said job search) and the one I’m in now, which is the best job I’ve ever had (though I don’t tell him that, of course, but I do tell him I love the job). Both of my bosses at the last and this job said multiple times that his strong reference really stood out for me as a candidate.

As for my current job, the best I’ve ever had: I work at a nonprofit that is a truly wonderful group of people and I love what I do now, which is focused on our contacts database and processing donations and all the fun stuff that comes with being in charge of a database (really, I love it!). I am also awaiting placement of an adopted child in my home, something which could happen in the next couple of months or could take years, and I am very happy to be working for an organization that really does care about life/work balance and doesn’t just say that family comes first but actively supports their employees in this respect. For all the naysayers who believe that nonprofits are terrible places to work, I’ve been at two since the job I wrote in about and I love that the focus for both of them has been on human beings and not on profits, and in my experience are far more willing to spend money where it’s needed in order to facilitate getting the work done the right way. The for-profits who only care about the bottom line are the places I’ve worked where we had cheap computers, ugly offices, and not very good vacation time.

Thanks again for your excellent advice, then, now and always. I believe I have matured so much just because of you and all the terrific commenters on AAM.

3. How do we write an improvement plan for a pastor?

Your advice helped so much! And that of the commenters. I rolled off the committee but they did move forward with the 360 review process led by someone with actual experience doing that type of activity. Often churches don’t take that route.

It has taken a year but the person was officially out on a PIP. Because I was a part of the committee at that time I was able to see it. It well written. Clear expectation delineated in both behavioral things and task related things. A timeline with regular review of improvements and specific consequences if not achieved. He did take it well when presented with it. Some of that conversation included that past leadership had failed him by not being specific in how he was failing. In this case, leadership being the senior pastor not the personnel committee. They wanted it be clear that none of this should be a surprise but it likely was because of how senior pastors had delay with him in the past.

4. Can I ethically hire when the company is a mess?

I’ll say up front I didn’t take your advice exactly, but your advice turned out to be spot-on, of course! Hiring is such a desperate and desolate exercise these days and I needed this job filled, so I did go ahead and hire this person; I tried hard not to actively mislead them – if anything, I chose to be a bit silent on certain topics and focus more on the philosophy I try to bring to the table in daily work as a manager. I flagged that we were having a leadership change and were experiencing a lot of sudden transition, and tried to do it in a professional way. I still struggled a bit with it – but ultimately the part of your advice about how a lot of people don’t care about some of the cultural stuff was right-on. Now that they’re in, many of the warts are visible and they are rather unphased. I wish I had a better update for you – but basically, I hired them anyway and it seems to have mostly worked out. I just completed their probationary review the other day and they are doing great. I hope they will be happy here for years to come, even after I depart.