Here are five updates from past letter-writers.
Last March, I wrote to you about my concerns about how I was introduced in professional settings. A lot has changed since the time I wrote, and a lot has gotten better.
Firstly, while I still work at the same firm as my father, it is a different firm. Two of four the attorneys left the other firm I was working at — one on bad terms, one on terms that were slightly better — and the remaining two attorneys decided to start new with a new name and a new firm. I work under the other attorney, and we work really well together.
Working with one of the now-departed attorneys was miserable. I think that working remotely can be a good thing, but it doesn’t work in all situations. This was one of those. Almost every court was conducting hearing in-person, and this attorney would insist that either the office manager or I draft motions to allow him to appear remotely or would insist that one of the other attorneys go to court for him. He would call the office and dictate what he wanted written because it “took less time”, and he would complain about everyone else behind their back constantly. Among other things, he thought I was incompetent. I didn’t learn that he felt this way until after this attorney left the firm, but in hindsight, it really affected the way I saw myself professionally. I put a lot of pride into the work I do, and I like to do my job well. I want to make it clear that I don’t blame anyone but him for his conduct, and I hold no ill-will towards any of the people I work with for not stopping him earlier. There were circumstances that I won’t go into that affected how comfortable different people felt speaking up when it came to the egregious things, and a lot of what he did was small enough that we all sucked it up. In any case, this attorney is gone and a problem of the past.
As for your advice, it worked really well. I was definitely overthinking everything, and the solution was easy. I’m fairly early in my professional career — being a paralegal was my first full-time job — and given everything going on with the now-departed attorney, I was really hesitant to rock the boat. Because I’m a paralegal, I don’t get out the office a whole lot, so there’s only been one or two opportunities where the attorney I work under has actually introduced me. At one of those, a professional convention my boss was presenting at, a few people actually thought that I was related to my boss, and not my father, who was also there.
In short, I was a frog in boiling water asking if hard water or soft water was better. Now, I’m a very happy frog in nice, cold soft water.
A couple months after the whole Bill incident, Bill said he had some news during one of our leadership meetings. It was quite a shock to everyone when he announced he’d accepted a position at a prestigious firm in Asia and would be leaving within the month! His new work is similar to what he did with my company, but his new firm is in a totally different field, so even if he wasn’t moving to another continent, it would be unlikely that he and I will cross paths again. Ironically I happened to be going on vacation to the city where he was relocating shortly after his move and all of my colleagues who heard about it asked if I was going to arrange a time to catch up with Bill…needless to say I didn’t manage to find time for that.
Once Bill left, our CEO Belinda assigned part of his portfolio to me because she knew this was an area I was passionate about. It’s been really fulfilling to get to do this work and has gotten me connected to some great people with similar interests to mine.
Another big surprise came when Belinda announced shortly after Bill’s departure that she would be retiring at the end of the summer. I realized in hindsight that she had really been investing a lot of time to help me grow into my senior leadership role, which she had personally picked me for. I’m really grateful to her, and her believing in me was a big confidence boost. As uncomfortable as the Bill situation was, the way that Belinda handled it provided a great example for me of how to handle these situations and overall she was a great role model who has really helped shape who I am as a leader.
3. I didn’t receive the company Christmas gift (#4 at the link)
I sent an email to HR (since that was the only team I could think to get in touch with), and explained that over the holidays, I didn’t receive the company Christmas gift, and I wanted to take the opportunity to see if my address was correct for them, especially in case something important (like updated insurance cards or tax information) needs to be sent by mail. I got a response a couple hours later where they apologized for the gift not coming, and said they would talk to the person in charge of the gifts and see what happened. I thanked them and then the next day got a response saying that when they were putting the addresses in the order from, apartment numbers on line 2 of the addresses didn’t come over and it affected me and a handful of other employees who didn’t have apartment numbers all on line 1. They apologized again and gave me a $10 virtual Starbucks gift card. Which I do like Starbucks, but I was just relieved to find out it was an accident.
Our colleague returned from surgery after three weeks as scheduled. We kind of forgot that this even happened until recently when HR ruffled more feathers over something else. At this point, even when HR is doing something reasonable, they have built up such ill will that everyone treats any announcement from them with suspicion. Thank you to Alison and the commenters — we appreciated the validation that HR were the weird ones here!
5. I only have one job on my resume (#3 at the link)
I had written in March 2021 about having only one job on my resume, and my various frustrations with it. Nearly two years later, I have a new job! And have gone through a lot of change.
I started a new position in the spring of 2022, that was somewhat of a lateral move, but more money, slightly more responsibility, and overall a good change at the right time. I was starting to regain some of the joy in my field that I had been missing for a number of years, and I also started to unlearn a lot of bad habits I had gotten into out of a need to protect myself from supervisors and other leadership that were hostile, or at times just not the right fit for me.
And then after about 6 months, after I had moved states, my boss announced she’s leaving! So I became interim director for the department, her supervisor got eliminated as well so it was a whole new reporting line for the department, and it was a very chaotic few months. I had originally not been interested in the director role permanently, but after being in the interim role for a few months, ended up getting asked to stay as permanent, and accepted. I’ve been the permanent director for about 8 months now, and overall it’s been really good. It’s a good use of all my skills, I enjoy working with and building my team up, and we’ve been able to make some necessary changes. I like my boss and other leadership, I feel appreciated and valued for my skills and knowledge, and overall I feel like a different person.
Looking back at my letter and the comments, I can recall how frustrated I was with my former employer, and the lack of advancement, or just some recognition of my work. There was definitely a split in the comments that seemed to be along generations, with some people surprised it wasn’t more valued to be in a job for a long time (for the record, I am solidly a millennial). It’s also been interesting being on the other side now, and having to make those hard decisions, and recognizing bad habits that I had, show up in my team at times. I’ve tried to incorporate much of what I’ve learned and be a better leader than some of the ones I worked for, but also have a better understanding of what they were going through!