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.

1. Our group member has a fragrance sensitivity – and we’re supposed to be hugged to check for any scents

As I’m sure you and your readers can imagine, there was an awful lot of pushback amongst the group on the “hug tests” and the telling people how to conduct their body care. After an initial round of unpleasant emails to the leader and a lot of chitchat, the issue kind of died down; we were breaking for the summer, but I also expect the leader retreated on the issue a bit due to the strong reaction she got from the way it was handled.

Since reconvening in the fall, there have been no more major communications or intrusive solutions, just he standard reminders.

I have since learned the secret identify of the scent sensitive person, and of particular interest is that she was not a part of the solution of hugs and shopping for new products, and was mortified by it all. An important learning to communicate and engage people in problem solving! Thanks to you and all your readers for your input and overwhelming support on this weird circumstance!

2. Should I admit my nose job to coworkers? (#2 at the link)

I’m happy to report… that there’s nothing to report! My usually nosy (no pun intended) coworkers, if they notice a difference at all, have chalked up my appearance change to me wearing contacts rather than glasses, which my surgeon has mandated for now to not disfigure my new nose. I had only one coworker push when I said I was out for a surgical procedure but backed off quickly when I said a version of the “I had a medical procedure but I’m fine now!” script. I’m relieved to have flown under the radar and am so happy with the function and aesthetics of my nose.

3. My coworker has terrible imposter syndrome

I wanted to send in a quick update, although I’m afraid it’s not the most interesting one in the world! I’m the letter writer whose colleague, Sonja, constantly apologised and talked herself down when we worked together.

Our joint project ended up being pushed back a few months, so we have only spoken a few times since I wrote to you. I have tried to address the over-apologising in the moment by saying “you have nothing to apologise for” but this just leads to “I know, but…” followed by explanations of her feeling like a burden/feeling stupid/asking too many questions/being generally useless, and we’re back at square one! It honestly makes me feel equal parts exhausted and sympathetic. I wish I knew the right words to say to help her.

One interesting interaction happened when we ran into a software issue that neither of us have the skills to fix, which means we’re unavoidably going to be slightly behind at our next progress meeting. It’s not ideal, but it’s also nothing that we could have foreseen, and nor was it in any way our fault. Sonja’s emails became quite agitated and anxious when this issue arose, and after it was clear that we could go no further I signed off for the day (it was already after hours) with a promise that I would contact our software developers and update her the following day. The next morning I find that Sonja sent half a dozen more emails during the night, some just to me and some that included my boss and the project leader, all expressing her anxiety about the delay and her frustration that we couldn’t fix the problem ourselves. This led to my (slightly confused) boss wanting to know why I “didn’t help” Sonja, and expressing concern about the status of the project. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill!

4. I’m on a PIP — can I get off it and ask about a promotion? (#3 at the link)

On the same day that my question was published, I came into the office to find our director and HR present. I was ready to graciously be let go but *plot twist* they actually let my manager go. While I have never been given a reason why, I have seen a huge shift in team dynamics like increased trust and support since her departure. Also since that time, I’ve worked hard to close out the PIP with my new manager. During our last check-in (about 8 months after the issuing of the PIP), we started a discussion about promotions where she identified how hard it is to turn around a PIP but that I have successfully re-branded myself. She recommended a 5% increase to acknowledge my efforts which can into effect this week.

Your advice was some helpful truth under my old manager but I think, while my situation is uncommon, it’s a good reminder that not all managers have your best interests in mind.

5. Talking about my future goals when I lack ambition (#3 at the link)

I just wanted to thank you and the commenters for your advice and give you a quick update. Firstly, thank you for replying to my question and for putting my mind at ease about feeling like I am not ambitious enough. You and the commenters really made me see that interviewers aren’t trying to filter people out based on not being ambitious enough but are genuinely trying to get a sense of your overall career goals and where this job fits in with them.

Secondly, my situation has changed a bit and I am no longer going to be leaving my school in the near future. In fact, I now plan on staying for another 2 – 3 years! A lot of the commenters who have had experience in international education pointed out that schools often look for people who are going to stick around and that it might look better on my resume to stay at this job longer at such an early stage in my career. That is not the only thing that made me decide to stay at this school but it was a factor that I hadn’t considered before. Additionally, my responsibilities have grown over the course of the year and I am much more excited about staying where I am long term. I didn’t mention it in my initial letter, but the school is a boarding school and so has a lot of pastoral support in place for students. As well as my teaching duties, I am doing a pastoral role with additional responsibilities and salary. The school is also planning to change the structure of our pastoral leadership which could provide some more opportunities for career advancement and increasing my responsibilities even further. So even though I don’t have the desire to rise through the ranks and enter management any time soon, I have actually found out that I’m more ambitious than I thought and am very excited to develop in the roles I have and take on additional duties.

Thanks again for answering my question and for all the great advice you publish!

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