One reader writes:

I recently quit my old one year remote job for a position on a new team at the same company. I thought I was close to my manager (regular business and casual friendly text chat messages, Christmas present, birthday present – even drove an hour to deliver me candy from my favorite bakery) but she gave me the cold shoulder and gave a talk on mine last day. Instead of the usual warm fuzzies you’d expect on a final day, she only asked for “business critical” updates. Mind you, this was literally the last 15 minutes we spoke as manager-staff, and my transition plan had been discussed weeks earlier. In the lecture, she didn’t seem too enthusiastic about my two-week notice period (she had asked beforehand if it could be postponed). It felt like a bad breakup. I didn’t hear from her until a month later when she sent me a message to check in. I do not know what to do. My feelings were hurt. Should i let her know? Should I try to purify the air?

It’s worth noting that part of the reason I left was because she has an inexplicable loyalty to one of her other direct subordinates who I think does a sub-par job, and I often had to fill the gap. When I started during the pandemic, I was told that this person cannot be expected to prioritize work because they have young children at home. The larger team culture is also very inclusive where it doesn’t really point out people’s mistakes and everyone receives a participation trophy for different levels of work / contribution. I also had the feeling that I was working around the clock and not getting any compensation other than a really big THANK YOU. So I asked for more money. I put it this way: “What would you have to see to get me on the X-salary?” In truth, I was only hoping for recognition of my contributions (apart from the all-too-frequent team thank-you) or at least a counter-blow or one Renaming my role (which I mentioned casually earlier). None of that happened. After three months at our quarterly check-in, I was told that my request for my role was out of range (also stating that she didn’t know the maximum range for my role) and should look elsewhere. I didn’t really think she was looking at this the way she said it was, and I felt undervalued and expendable. So I took her advice and looked elsewhere. Therefore, I am confused by their reaction to my departure.

Is it worth rebuilding friendship with this person? Can I just ignore all other check-in messages and only respond to business-critical questions (which are unlikely)?

In all honesty, sometimes I feel needed for the last year and it causes a lot of trouble. Is that normal?

Is there anything I could have done differently to change the outcome? I think my ideal outcome was either having fewer things on my plate (unlikely) or more money. I didn’t mean to go, but they seem to be fine without me. That hurts too. What am I doing? How can I leave that behind and move on?

There is a lot going on in this letter!

Most importantly, in my opinion, your expectations mismatch with what the relationship really was. You react as if this was a friendship … but that wasn’t a friendship! Your boss was kind, but she was your boss. It makes sense that you haven’t had a lot of contact since you left because that’s usually how it is when you leave a job! If someone quits their job, they usually could never interact with their manager again – or if they do, it is likely to be very sporadic, more like once or twice a year. Since there was a warm relationship, it sounds pretty normal for her to email you about a month after you left to check you in … but then I wouldn’t expect there to be much (or no) contact after that gives.

There are of course exceptions to this! Some people stay in close contact with former managers – but this is the exception rather than the rule, and you shouldn’t read anything into it that doesn’t happen here.

In general, the relationships between supervisors and employees – even if they are very warm and friendly while working together – are much more fleeting than I think you would imagine. This also applies when birthday and Christmas gifts are exchanged and cookies are sent. These things are just … things a manager could do because he has a warm relationship with his co-workers. It does not indicate a personal relationship that extends beyond the professional relationship.

It also worries that you asked about your salary while hoping for a whole host of other things (more recognition for your work, a rebranding of your role, etc.) and then frustrated that you didn’t get any of it. It’s legitimate to be frustrated that you didn’t get a raise that you thought you deserved. But the other stuff – if you want these things, you should ask for them! Otherwise, expect your boss to read your mind instead of saying what you want directly.

About the feelings you used … the employment relationship is kind of about to be used. You use the work to get a paycheck and your employer uses money to get the manpower you need. That is the arrangement in a nutshell. I suspect that you are in part feeling taken advantage of because, in anticipation of getting things beyond a paycheck, you went above and beyond – things like loyalty, more vocal appreciation, better and fairer treatment, etc. These are sensible things that one should wish for! But if you don’t get them, it’s not personal. It’s just … one employer who sucks at that sort of thing, and then you have to decide whether to stay under those conditions or move your work elsewhere. But I also suspect that you feel taken advantage of because you saw your boss as a friend and she didn’t treat you like a friend. But here, too, she is not a friend; She was your employer.

Well, it sounds like she mishandled your departure. Some managers react to resignations as if they were personal betrayal. This is unreasonable and generally a sign of real dysfunction in the person’s approach to management, but it does happen. If it happened here, it’s her and not you. (That would be the case regardless, but it’s especially the case after she told you to look for a job because they couldn’t meet your desired salary!)

Under no circumstances should you tell your former manager that your behavior has hurt your feelings. This sets expectations of them that are inappropriate for the relationship. Likewise, there is no “restoration” of friendship for the same reason. If you want to have a warm, collegial relationship in the future, you probably can! But it doesn’t happen if you ignore other check-in messages and only respond to business-critical questions. If you want a warm, collegial relationship, you need to be warm and friendly.

Ultimately, it sounds like an employer who overworked you, stopped paying you when asked, and then was shocked when you left. That happens a lot. I don’t think you could have done something differently to change the result. You wanted less work (which you knew was unlikely to be) or more money, so you asked for more money and when you didn’t get it you found another job that seemed to suit your needs better. It all makes sense.

The thing that can be done differently is … well, see work as work. It’s a job! Your boss is not your friend (and should not be – if it really is, that’s a problem). If you want something different for your work, just ask for it. If you don’t get it, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want the job on these terms. If you leave, assume they can do without you.

Right now, you’re seeing all of this as part of a friendship, but it’s not.

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