the loud neighbor, the pyramid scheme, and more — Ask a Manager



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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. My neighbor plays loud porn while I’m on work calls

I didn’t have a good way of communicating with the other building (i.e. no building management). After a few more occasions of hearing porn, I snapped and wrote a note that I posted through the front door of that building, which basically said I lived next door and could hear adult entertainment playing very audibly, and I realised they might not be aware but could whoever it was please turn it down or use headphones in future? I didn’t get a response, but a couple of days later it was back very loudly, so either they didn’t see the note or didn’t care. That was frustrating, but fortunately it has not happened very much since then, and never when I’ve been on a work call. If it had happened, I would definitely have tried to stay muted or if impossible apologised for generic background noise.

Also, having lived here for 7 years, my partner and I have just bought a house together in a different part of the city, so soon we’ll have moved and this neighbour won’t be a problem anymore! Here’s hoping our new neighbours are a bit more considerate…

2. I’m working for a pyramid scheme

I wanted to write in and give you a one-year update on this letter.

I decided to give my notice almost as soon as I sent you my initial question – I realized if I had to ask, I probably already knew the answer. But before I could give my notice, I tested positive for COVID (due entirely to the “sales” job’s lax safety policies). I spent my last two weeks of the job stuck in my apartment, the sickest I’ve ever been, but it was better than spending any more time scamming people.

I was picked up by a local temp agency after a few weeks of job hunting, and spent most of 2021 in various short-term office contracts. I knew I wanted to find something more permanent, so when I was between contracts in August I started really pouring myself into the job search, and I just started in an admin/support role with a major financial services company! I have a salary! I have benefits! I have so much support in this role, and the training and processes are systematic enough that I actually enjoy the “mandated fun” morale-building events – I feel like they have a point and are coming from somewhere genuine, rather than being part of a carrot/stick setup. There are a lot of options for potential growth in this role, and none of it relies on me finding five people who can find five people, etc. etc.

Thanks to you and the comments section for confirming that I wasn’t exaggerating how bad my situation was last year. I feel a million times better about my new role than I ever thought I’d feel.

3. How can I navigate office politics when I hate hierarchy and authority?

I’m the OP who had the question a few years back about hating hierarchy and authority and worrying about how that would play out in a more white collar profession. I was worried about my feelings being an impediment in such an environment. Well, it looks like my worries were unfounded, because I just found out yesterday that I got a HUGE promotion!

I excelled at that former position for two and a half years, setting records and growing the sales territory larger than it had ever been before. In fact, in the 2.5 years I was working the route, I never missed quota. I quickly became known as the top performer on the team and developed AWESOME relationships with not just my buyers but also all of my colleagues – I really like the culture where we work and everyone is supportive and kind. I developed a great reputation with suppliers, colleagues and managers which ended up really working in my favor.

A few weeks back, my former VP announced she was leaving to work elsewhere in the industry, and that led to a total restructuring of our department. Essentially, we merged with the California team, becoming one large west coast division, and a new position was created a level up from my previous role. The new leadership is FANTASTIC and for the first time I felt like everything was right: the right timing, the right role, and the right people to work under. I also felt confident that I would be successful given my track record and the management style of the new VPs. So I threw my hat in the ring.

As soon as they heard I was interested, they tapped me immediately and fast tracked me through the interview process. It only took about a week, and finally yesterday afternoon my new boss called to offer me the job, with a 33% increase in salary, a large bonus, and incentives/commissions available as well!

I am so happy! It really is just about finding the right fit. I giggle now remembering the “rawr hierarchy,” as I myself move up in it. But with the right people who view management as merely a tool to get things done (as you say), it’s really not a problem. I’m very glad to be growing with them.

4. I just started a new job — and then got a PhD offer from my dream school

I wrote in February 2020 and as you can imagine, my whole situation changed radically about three weeks after I sent in my email!

We lived in a state with a very strict and long shelter-in-place, so:

No meeting contractors; no campus visit; no vacation.

Given how uncertain everything looked in March, April, and May of 2020, I wasn’t even sure if my PhD was going to exist come fall. In June, I took the advice of some commenters and talked to my boss about two months ahead of the start of my PhD program. For reasons still unclear to me, the PhD program required that I live near campus, even if I was attending class remotely. My workplace stayed 100% remote, so I was able to keep my job with somewhat reduced hours. I *barely* maintained the workload for both, and was only able to do so because work responsibilities were very light due to the pandemic.

As things have started to normalize, the demands and workload for both work and school increased to unsustainable levels. Additionally, work is returning in a hybrid mode in the spring and I won’t be back in the area for at least 3 1/2 years, so I’ve had to (with deep regret) give up the job. In spite of the world briefly falling apart, I feel like I got the best situation I could have and was so grateful to be able to do both as long as I did.



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