updates: pointless perks, the throat-clearer, 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 five updates from past letter-writers.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

1. My office want to to offer “fun” but pointless perks (#2 at the link)

Your advice was very helpful – it was good to get a POV outside of the situation.

I’ll share the great news first: I’ve just left the organization and will be starting a new job (100% remote) making $15K more!

Rewind to after I sent in my question: We never got the gaming system, but the other ‘perks’ remained. Moreover, I negotiated for a new title and salary. The title was nonsense and the salary increase was not nearly enough. But it got worse, and that’s when I realized me saying anything to leadership just then would go nowhere. They were trying to convince us that things were great to the point where they were the only ones believing their own hype. Thousands of dollars were wasted on projects with very little ROI, which made me wonder how they didn’t have the $4K I asked for earlier in the year. I also took over for a vendor we fired, bringing in better results with less money, receiving only a thumbs up for my success. That was the real beginning of the end. I’m the third person in 2 months to leave. And I won’t be the last.

Fast forward now to when I gave my two weeks: my boss took it horribly. The next few days were hell. But everyone else was so kind and understanding. Unfortunately, my absence will impact a lot of people. A sign of a poorly organized company is that one person leaving is causing such a ripple effect. It shouldn’t be that way. Your advice was so helpful when I shared some of my concerns to the CEO during my exit interview. I didn’t think I could say anything until I was out – my leaving proved the point that something must be wrong. So I hope this will bring some much needed change.

2. I work across from a throat-clearer (#2 at the link)

Thank you so much for publishing my letter, and to the commentariat for your thoughtful advice. Alas, things have taken an unfortunate turn since I wrote this letter. A white noise machine has helped somewhat with the noise, but it continues to be distracting. It’s also now the least of my work problems. I actually started to write another letter to you, but decided not to send it once I realized it was about eight pages long! I’ll give the abbreviated version here.

In your initial response, you were concerned about the idea of me always working behind closed doors. Turns out that’s very much the culture for everyone. It’s hard to get feedback or even get to know colleagues. The agency is also extremely rigid about hours and has been unwilling to accommodate even minor flexibility in my schedule (I have a disability that requires a lot of doctors’ appointments.) The workload is slightly more than double what was discussed in the interview and the promised hybrid schedule is not allowed. The workload stress is definitely affecting my health, and it’s been hard to get medical care or stick with my treatment regimen given the “butts in seats in the office for every single second of standard business hours” culture.

I truly love the patients I work with, and I would hate to be another person who burns out and leaves them in a matter of months. I’ve been trying to advocate for myself (not a strong suit of mine!) and seeing some small improvements, so I’m hopeful I may be able to work it out for at least a little while longer. In the meantime, my side business has been thriving, and I’m contemplating the leap to trying to do that full-time. I’d lose my benefits, but I’d bring in more money, be able to flex my schedule as much as I want, and get to work from home in the peace and quiet of my own apartment, with no one clearing their throat but me.

If anyone in the comments has suggestions about making the choice between traditional and self-employment, I would love to hear it! I’m especially interested in how other professionals with disabilities navigate this decision.

3. Can I train people not to bother me when I have headphones on?

I was pretty frustrated when I wrote to you about being interrupted all day at work. However, I did think a lot about how I could change my workflow. I am lucky because I have the ability to do more tasks that require concentration whenever I want, so that’s what I have started doing. I try to work on cataloging and statistics at times when I know fewer people are there, or, if worse comes to worst, I can stay late when no one is in the office.

Your advice was great, but I just reframed my thinking. Most of the comments were helpful and interesting, a couple were a bit mean and presumptuous. I have since learned I am neurodivergent, so I am trying to use all my tools available to make things work.

4. Can I ask for a raise if I wouldn’t leave over salary?

I asked for a raise and a promotion and was denied. I was given a company line about how we can’t give raises right now but to ask again in 6 months.

So, I went ahead and hired a resume writer and she re-did my resume and LinkedIn. I have applied for several roles but unfortunately haven’t had any interviews.

A few days ago I applied for a senior manager position in another department (this would be a promotion for me). If it ends up getting offered to me I’m not sure how to navigate the salary since even a 20% bump would still make me underpaid in the position I’m currently in. So, I’ll just have to see what happens.

5. How do I pass on institutional knowledge before I retire? (#5 at the link)

I’m the person who asked about downloading my brain to the people who work for me with my (then a year away) retirement.

A couple of months ago, I gave my managers notice that my planned retirement date was end of March 2023 (pushed out so spouse could get some expensive dental work done next insurance year). Since no one in management knows how to do my job, the Superintendent went to Council and got an approval to hire my replacement while I’m still here so they could shadow me and see how our program runs – the city never fills a position until it’s empty, but he pushed it through. After a difficult search, we have a person scheduled to start beginning of December who has over 20 years’ experience in this field. I’m working with Administration and IT now so their office is ready when they get here.

Several commenters suggested consulting after retirement. While I may do some work for a non-profit based near me that specializes in this and adjacent fields, I’m planning to cut the cord almost completely. Current plan is to join a sailing club, get enough time on the water to get my Coast Guard 50-Ton Master’s License back, then start teaching sailing again. I expect I won’t be reading your excellent advice as much.

Retirement is starting to feel real, and who knew there was so much stuff that had to be done in advance? Plus it’s time to sort through my office and decide what gets passed on, what gets shredded and what goes home with me; anyone want a coffee mug? I’ve already passed my unused Chocolate Teapots, Ltd. Travel mug on to another regular commenter here.