an employee 2 levels down refused to meet with me, the face tattoo, and more — Ask a Manager

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are five updates from past letter-writers.

1. An employee 2 levels down refused to meet with me

Last year, I sent in a question about what to do about an employee who declined a skip-level meeting with me, the division director. Your response and the readers’ comments shook me out of the “is this a me problem or a him problem?” question. I was kind of embarrassed, frankly, that I was debating whether I was right or wrong after reading your response and the “no duh” comments from a lot of readers.

In the short term, I let the employee know that meeting with me wasn’t optional and used some of your language re: the purpose of these meetings is to make our workplace better and, especially as a manager, it’s vital that he participate in this process. He met with me, it was fine.

Longer term, I have since left that job and now realize how exhausted I was swimming against the current of company culture trying to create a more trusting, collaborative environment within my division. I worked there for more than a decade, the last two years as the head of the division. A few months ago, I accepted a similar role at a company I worked at for a few years right out of college. There is a lot of opportunity for improvement with my new team and sometimes I get exasperated by how empowered everyone feels to share their opinions about every little thing, but it’s because they don’t fear reprisal and genuinely care about their work and the company. I’m happier and healthier. (And wealthier! The company is smaller, but a better known one in our industry as a specialist in a niche area and I got a nice pay bump.)

2. I think my employee is being abused by her partner

At this point, Carrie is still with Bob.

I have implemented many of the suggestions: e.g., having staff point out when his behavior is uncomfortable or abnormal. We also point out situations where she is right to be concerned or frustrated (him requiring dozens of reminders, etc). I do feel more equipped to help the staff, and her as an individual. I have also improved the coverage of our security camera to cover more of the surrounding streets. Next month, staff will be completing a mandatory training on recognizing signs of domestic violence and resources in our area. We are (at this time) unable to bar him from the building in its entirety, for reasons I would prefer to keep private, lest I ruin all attempts at anonymity. I have been able to implement policies to prevent any non-staff from being in staff areas, especially during/after closing.

I can feel a shift, but know that this will take time. I really appreciate your advice, and that of the experts you consulted on my behalf. I hope one day soon I will have a happier update.

3. Colleague doesn’t want me to lift things but it’s my job (#2 at the link; first update)

I’m still in the same lone-archivist job, and until recently there was no news: I had continued to do the physical parts of my job without any commentary from Jennifer. However, just recently I have been planning for another large box-moving operation — they come up every so often — and Jennifer mentioned, as we were discussing the logistics, that she misses having maintenance staff we can call on for this kind of physical task, as she had gotten used to that in a previous job.

I replied that this had been possible at one of my previous jobs too, but (it seemed a natural opportunity to mention this) of course moving boxes about is normal in my role — and that most job descriptions for similar roles require applicants to be able to lift 40 pounds or thereabouts. She was surprised at this. I then mentioned that I enjoy that my job has some movement built-in and isn’t desk-bound all the time, so it’s a feature not a bug for me.

I don’t know if it was really necessary to bring that up, but I’m glad we had the conversation, and I felt much better prepared for it than I did the last time it came up, thanks to the advice from Alison and the commentariat!

4. My organization says they can’t pay me market rate because of it wouldn’t be fair to non-attorneys (#3 at the link)

Thanks for answering my question last year! My update: I left! Despite the issues with management/HR, I had been nervous about leaving, as I had quite a bit of flexibility in my role. But I started at another (nonprofit) organization that came with a 30% pay increase, less time in-office, more vacation time, and much less stress. Thanks to you and the comment section for reaffirming to me that this was definitely some hot nonsense and that it was time for me to move on!

5. Did our new hire take their ID photo with fake face tattoos? (#2 at the link)

I don’t have much of an update! My work environment is very unusually structured, which I did not make clear in my initial question; this individual *did not* have any sort of visual interview with anyone on the human resources team so no one had any “before” image to compare to. This hiring structure is standard practice for this type of non-employee who is still on site and required to attend orientation.

I never heard anything from security or this person’s supervisor, but I doubt very strongly they were real tattoos and like to think this person now lives with a very silly badge photo or paid the replacement fee to get a new photo.

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