I’m jealous of my attractive employee, working for free when changing careers, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I’m jealous of my employee and it’s impacting how I treat her

Before I state my question, I will tell you I am ashamed of myself and what I am doing. It has taken me almost a week to write in to you because of how awful I feel about myself.

I am a manager with a team of a dozen people reporting to me. I have struggled with an eating disorder in the past, and I’m in therapy right now for anxiety and my body image issues. I was doing well until the newest hire started on my team. I feel guilty for saying this, but I am jealous of her and don’t like her. She is attractive, thin, fashionable … everything I am not. I didn’t hire her; my boss, the manager of the department was the one who interviewed her. I never would have hired her if I had been the one doing the interviews.

I know this affecting how I deal with her. Other members of my team have noticed, and I’m sure they believe she is less competent based on my treatment of her. She has mentioned something to my boss about me being jealous, and I am ashamed to admit I lied to my boss about it and used the fact that we have a decade-long relationship to make my boss believe me.

I have learned to act confident in front of people who aren’t my close family or friends, and no one at work knows I about my eating disorder or attending therapy. No one would believe how insecure I really am. I know I need to stop treating her this way and I tell myself I need to be better, but then I see her and my jealousy and dislike comes out. What can I do to stop this and start treating her fairly?

It’s the week of questions that are out of my depth! But I’m going to give it a shot.

First, good for you for admitting to yourself what you’re doing and that it’s wrong. A lot of people in your shoes wouldn’t do that, so you have a promising foundation here to build on. But yeah, now you need to take the next step, which is making your actions align with the person who you want to be.

Would you be horrified if you knew a manager was treating someone poorly because of their race or nationality? Assuming you would be, that’s the paradigm you can use here — this isn’t all that different from that, and framing it that way might help jolt you out of what you’ve been doing. (And this really is in a similar category; we can thank sexism for pitting women against each other and teaching them to compete on looks. )

Also, can you make a point of getting to know her better? That’s probably the last thing you want to do, but I suspect it would help if you can start seeing her more as a full-fledged person rather than just what she looks like.

Maybe, too, you can remind yourself that treating her this way is likely to make you look bad eventually. If people pick up on what’s going on, it’s going to make you look far less attractive as a human than standing next to a thin and fashionable coworker ever will.

And most importantly, bring this up with your therapist! This is prime therapy material.

Meanwhile, though, I think you’ve got to put structures in place to counteract this. For example, commit to giving her X number of pieces of positive feedback each week (X should be as much as you give others performing at her level), make a point of praising her good qualities in front of other people, commit to giving her decent projects and development opportunities, and so forth. Basically, lock yourself into whatever positive external actions you can, to start giving her a more equitable place on your team while you work on this internally.

2. Do I need to work for free when I’m changing careers?

My question and situation is very similar to the one described here. My situation, however, involves a more dramatic career change. I’m completing my Master’s in Accounting and Financial Management and taking the CPA exam this year, with the goal of transitioning out of the publishing industry and into accounting and finance. I’ve been in publishing for 15 years, book publishing for eight of those years, and have developed several key business skills I thought would be transferrable — public speaking, project management, relationship building, report writing, etc.

However, I just got off the phone with a career counselor who told me that none of that really matters and that I would have to volunteer my time to get experience (in addition to working full-time) in a small CPA firm to get in the door. I’m planning to do this, but I’m wondering if in this case you would in fact advise volunteering to make up for lack of work experience in a career change scenario.

What?! Don’t listen to that career counselor. What she’s telling you to do is illegal — you can’t “volunteer” for for-profit businesses — and no reputable CPA firm is going to agree to let you work for free since that would require them to break the law. (I’m assuming she’s not talking about an unpaid internship, which could be legal if it complies with very strict regulations.)

Lots of career counselors are, unfortunately, terrible. This one sucks, and anything else she told you will need to be suspect too.

You’re essentially in the same position as any other brand new CPA, but with the addition of a hell of a lot of useful skills. You should not need to illegally work for free to find work.

3. How to respond to unpolished cold emails from students

I’m the second in command at a small media company on the east coast. Especially in this region, our field can be pretty hard to break into; there are a lot more students who want to learn than there are companies that want to hire them. So I’m pretty used to getting cold emails from high school and college students asking about internships or job openings.

The ones who send polite professional emails with their resumes attached usually at least get an informational interview or phone call. But how do I respond to the less professional requests? A few times a month I receive an email that’s some version or another of “Are you guys hiring/accepting interns?” with no resume or further information included. So far I’ve just been ignoring the emails; should I just keep on keeping on? I’m sure I made equally unprofessional mistakes as a college student, and I would have appreciated a polite heads-up. Would that be overstepping, or come across as patronizing? What would you do in these instances?

Hmmm, I actually don’t think it’s that egregious that they’re asking whether you accept interns without attaching a resume. At this stage, they’re gathering information, and who knows, they may want to customize their resume if you say yes. I mean, yes, ideally they’d attach it anyway because it makes it easier for you to give them a more useful answer than just yes or not, but it’s pretty typical that college students (and definitely high school students) wouldn’t realize that was a good thing to do. I’d just answer the question, although you could instead say something like, “If you send over your resume and a cover letter, we’d be glad to take a look.”

(That said, if your website makes it obvious that you are indeed hiring interns, then they’re being lazy and I’d agree with your assessment.)

4. Telling my new manager about my son’s cancer

My son was diagnosed with a very rare cancer several months ago. This type of cancer varies significantly. It can go away without treatment or require aggressive chemotherapy. Right now, based on where it is located, the doctors are monitoring it, hoping it is the type that will go away. We just don’t know.

I have been open about the diagnosis with my current manager and coworkers. They have been very supportive. So far, the only impact is a doctor’s appointment once a month.

I had an opportunity to change jobs within my employer and will be starting in a couple weeks. My new manager works in a different state and we haven’t met yet. I don’t know when and how I should bring this up. Do I tell him now or wait until I am more established or only if there is an issue?

Whichever you’re most comfortable with! If you’d have more peace of mind mentioning it right when you start, that’s fine to do. (I would wait until you’ve actually started though; I wouldn’t contact him about it now. It’s more of a “now that we’re working together” thing.) But it’s also fine to wait and raise it when there’s a specific need to. If all the options feel basically equal to you, I’d say to mention it about a month in. At that point, you’ll have started establishing a rapport and a history there, which can make it easier.

5. Explaining why I’m job searching after only six months

Last July, I was laid off from my job, after working for 10 years. At the end of August, I found a new job as an IT manager. However, this company lacks professionalism (emails from my supervisor include F-bombs) and structure, nepotism and favoritism are the norm, and rules and regulations don’t matter. This place is a revolving door, as people quit pretty much every week, I have had three supervisors in six months.

Six months into this job, I have been pretty much forced to be nothing more than a well-paid help desk employee. I am doing 5% of what was listed in the job announcement. I really would like to leave this company as soon as possible. I am concerned as to how can I address the question of “why do you want to leave Company XYZ?” I have been there for six months, and I know that you can’t speak negatively about your current workplace. Can I say that the job that I was hired for didn’t turn out to be what was on the job announcement? If so, how can I say it without bashing the current company?

Yes, you absolutely can. Say it this way: “I was hired to manage IT for the company, but the job has turned out to be primarily a help desk employee. I really want to be focusing on X and Y, so this isn’t the right role, unfortunately. I’m excited about the role you’re hiring for because ___.”

That’s not considered badmouthing your employer; it’s just a calm, factual statement that the role ended up changing from what you were hired for. That’s completely fine to say.

{ 510 comments… read them below }

  1. Helen

    #4 – I don’t have any advice about when to tell your boss but I am so sorry that this is happening. Sending hugs your way. You, your son and your loved ones will be in my thoughts. Please take care of yourself and be gentle during this time.

  2. Sara M

    Hugs for OP 1. You’re brave to confront this. Take Alison’s advice, and definitely show this post to your therapist.

    And OP 4, I hope everything comes out okay. Good luck.

    1. Anon and a friend of Bills

      OP1
      Yes this is a an important moment in your professional and personal life. Cognitive therapy can help and also some reading. Just the thought- I would never have hired her (based solely on her appearance IS a red flag)
      Change your behavior immediately- notice the positive, put positive comments in writing to the employee.
      The twelve step program Overeaters Anonymous is for people with food and body issue disorders. Try six meetings to see if it is for you.
      Stop comparing your insides with other peoples outsides.
      That helped me with exactly what you are going through.
      Years ago I read the Beauty Myth. I don’t remember the whole book, but one point struck me. Stop having opinions about your own and other people’s looks.
      When someone walks into a room, catch that thought and banish it. Count to ten before speaking. That will get rid of any attitude that might be creeping into your language. Do not comment on other’s appearance in any manner (even though that is sometimes social currency, hey that is a beautiful scarf)
      Stop looking in mirrors. Stop weighing yourself unless there is therapeutic value. (I had a friend who got rid of her scale and came to my house once a month to weigh herself)
      Wear comfortable clothes and fabrics.
      Awareness, acceptance and action.
      You are aware of your behavior. You accept responsibility for it, now take action to change it.

      1. Jamie

        Stop comparing your insides with other peoples outsides.

        This is one of the most awesome things I’ve ever read.

        1. AnonEMoose

          I’ve also seen it phrased as “don’t compare your rough footage to everyone else’s highlights reel.”

          1. Aurion

            I’ve heard it similarly as “don’t compare your cutting room floor to someone else’s highlight reel”.

            Comparison is the thief of joy, OP #1.

          2. PlainJane

            I love this. It’s especially relevant in the age of social media. For most people, Facebook is a highlights reel. I feel so much healthier when I remember that.

      2. Hmm

        Ehh, I’m not sure “stop thinking and avoid mirrors” is really the best advice, regardless of what self-help book it came in.

        I’d advise this LW to focus on, or find, some accomplishment/hobby/etc. that makes her feel proud of herself. Be good at your job. Have a hobby? Be great at that hobby, whatever “great” means to you.

    2. Hellanon

      Alison’s advice is excellent, and it’s how I broke that mindset in myself. It’s a hard first step, and takes careful thought, but setting out to make friends (or the work equivalent thereof) is actually the best way to start seeing people as individuals rather than as dangerous archetypes. Then, if they do turn out to be bad people, you can avoid them knowing you have a good reason to do so; chances are, though, that they’ll turn out to be fairly ordinary, with senses of humor and personality quirks and talents, you’ll discover you like them, and you’ll have made an ally out of a colleague – never a bad thing. Plus, *you* are then seen as a valued colleague, and for bonus points, can sleep at night instead of beating yourself up. It’s not an easy switch, but it’s incredibly worthwhile both for you and your career.

      1. j-nonymous

        Yes, exactly. The old adage “practice makes perfect” is just as true about overcoming negative stereotypes/harmful thinking. It may sound glib, but I don’t mean it like that as I’ve struggled with similar challenges to the first letter-writer.

    3. Venus Supreme

      It took me a long time to get my confidence to where it is. I found the body positivity community online and it’s been a game changer. I recommend:

      – Jes the Militant Baker (I recommend her blog post about looking at old photos where she was thinner, it made me cry: http://www.themilitantbaker.com/2013/07/10-years-of-self-portraits-and-why-its.html )
      – @honorcurves on Instagram (she has a healthy attitude towards eating right and exercising)
      – @bodyposipanda on Instagram (she’s an ED warrior)
      – Ashley Graham. I love reading all her interviews.

      What’s helped me recover from my own ED was looking at all these DIFFERENT types of bodies on my social media feeds. It helped me realize that there is no “normal body,” and I can look in the mirror and see that I am as beautiful as what I see online. It’s a process but now my body is my best friend, and I need to be a good friend back.

      1. Worker anonymous

        Yes! This is what I wanted to say. Just like you hide your issues, who knows what is going on with her? She might even ALSO struggle with an eating disorder or some other issue. You just never know. As they say, stop comparing your insides with her outsides, and see her as a real person, not some idealized person, where she’s 100 and you are zero.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#3, college students are also often advised not to send their resume without confirming that an employer takes interns. There are also tons of “internship information” pages that request that they not send materials (this may not be the case for your company, but it seems to pop up with some regularity). I’m not saying either of these things is a good or bad practice, but it happens often enough that I don’t think it’s an outlier experience.

    So I think it could be worth drafting a stock email that you copy/paste in reply that reads, “Yes, we’re accepting intern applications. If you’re interested, please respond with your resume and a cover letter.” Of course, this assumes that your employer’s website doesn’t already provide this information, in which case, you’re not obligated to respond at all.

    1. Feathers McGraw

      Yeah, I don’t think it’s that egregious.

      I thought you were going to be talking about the students who email wanting help with an assignment that’s due tomorrow, want you to answer a bunch of questions by email and aren’t interested in phoning you instead.

      1. Lily in NYC

        If they actually used the word “guys” in their email I’d say it’s pretty bad. But I’m not sure if OP was quoting an actual email…

        1. Jessesgirl72

          Yes, if the emails themselves are unprofessional, with or without a resume attached, I’d delete them without responding.

          She really can’t lecture/correct everyone.

        2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

          I read it as more that they were getting one line emails with that quote, rather than an actually query email.

        3. Elizabeth H.

          Same here, I too had the impression that the issue was more like the emails really were the one liner “Are you guys hiring interns?” rather than that it was an otherwise polite-sounding email that failed to include a resume.

          1. Courageous cat

            Agreed, in which case I would be annoyed too and probably not respond. A flippant question like that wouldn’t feel worth my time, considering the prospective employee would presumably have no leverage otherwise either.

            1. Sas

              Ooh, that’s pretty harsh, don’t you think? These could be kids/ who knows what. You could be part of the learning process (for them) instead of not .

        4. Suze

          Hey, OP of #3 here. That was the actual email I received that inspired my question, in its totality. No salutation, no signature, just “Hey, are you guys accepting interns?”

          1. MillersSpring

            I would reply with a professional email (cut and paste each time), just to model professional correspondence to them.

            You could also draft and include some Job Search Tips for College Students that pointedly include something about keeping emails professional, not casual.

      2. zora

        ugh, I used to get SO many of these when I worked in [Issue] Policy at a nonprofit. I wrote a stock response that I would just cut and paste but it still irritated the cr*p out of me.

        “I’m supposed to research [Issue] for my class. Can you give me the answers to this list of questions[read: do my assignment for me]?”

    2. Troutwaxer

      Agreed. Write out a stock email or maybe a FAQ about internships in which you discuss what’s available, how many interns you hire every year, what qualifications you want them to have, what’s available for college students, what’s available for high-school students, whether internships are paid or unpaid, what kind of resume your require, who they should contact, etc. Then when you get an email about internships, copy and paste it into your reply and forget about it.

      1. Jeanne

        I was thinking OP needs a form email. I don’t know how much time this is taking but you want it to take less time. Reply to each with your form email and it will be only a few seconds each.

      2. Suze

        OP #3 here! That’s a good suggestion, and might work even better as a page on the website. Students are the only ones who send cold emails, we get a lot of professionals looking to see if we’re hiring or need freelance personnel. Having a web page that addresses that would be really helpful. Thanks!

        1. zora

          Yes, having a “Careers” page on your website is a life saver for this. Then you might get less requests, but if they still email all you have to write back is: See this page for details: [link].

    3. Sparrow

      I wonder if OP’s real complaint is the message itself and its overall lack of information, not strictly the lack of resume. I used to work with college-level media students, and I would not be surprised if OP’s description of the message as being simply “Are you hiring interns?” is literal – no introduction or contextual information, probably missing a salutation or other aspects of professional communication. It was the minority of students, but I saw it often enough that I considered teaching students those professional norms to be part of my job.

      If that’s the real issue, I don’t think they have the same kind of responsibility to teach/train these students. However, those students are ultimately looking for knowledge and experience that will help them in the field, and OP would be helping to provide that simply by giving some gentle feedback about professional communication. If it’s more or less the same problem every time, it’d be easy to have a short stock response on hand.

      1. NonProfit Nancy

        If that’s the real issue, I wonder if a website message would help. Does it say anywhere that they could find that you do or don’t hire interns? At least if it’s posted anywhere, you can redirect them to the “jobs” link, which is what I do. It cuts down on repeat questions at least.

      2. Suze

        You’re exactly right. I don’t mind the query of the lack of resume in an initial email, but the one-line super casual email of “Are you guys hiring interns” really threw me.

        And yeah, my idea was to provide some gentle guidance on professional communication so the next time they did a cold email they’d be more likely to get a positive response.

  4. Nichelle

    To OP #1, you were very brave to write in and own up without making excuses. Good for you for recognizing that the issue is yours and something you need to fix. No advice, but as someone who has anxiety and is in therapy for it, know that I am rooting for you.

    1. Engineer Girl

      OP #1 – the most important step in fixing a problem is admitting it is there. Your honesty will serve you well.
      It’s important to realize that reality isn’t the same as appearances. Your employee’s appearance is only part of who she is. Do try to get to know her and find out who the real person is. Let her become a human in your eyes.
      I remember serving on jury duty with someone I nicknamed “Barbie” because she looked like the doll. She had the little roadster, the cute dresses, the perky smile. During our interviews I found out her father was serving a life sentence for serious drug trafficking. Her childhood had been hell and she was trying to rebuild her life as an adult.
      In short, the appearance wasn’t reality.
      My biggest suggestion is to give both you and your employee the gift of kindness. Do get to know her, as I’m sure she is more than she appears – just like you.

      1. Lily in NYC

        Thanks for this. I’ve written here before about overhearing a coworker I thought was a friend talking about me in the bathroom – she said I only got promoted because of my boobs and face. I was very young and worked so hard for that promotion (and the person who promoted me was a straight woman, not some dude with a crush). I went home and cried. (But I did make sure to walk out of the bathroom stall so that fake friend would know I heard her – seeing the mortified look on her face was the only good part). But boy oh boy does this stuff stop when you hit 40! Now I’m invisible.

        1. Christine

          Lily,
          I agree with you. I was the pretty young thing for years and it is an adjustment dealing with the weight gain when you are in your 50’s. Your self image takes a major hit.

          I had a coworker years ago that hated me because I was attractive. We were the same age, but looked 10 year younger (do not sun bathe). Your looks play a huge role in how you’re treated working at the teller line in a bank. I hated coming into work because she treated me like dirt. Was lucky I worked in that particular office off and on, but she was my trainer for two months and was plain nasty to me, told me I wouldn’t make it in the field, etc. Was in banking at that time, I got the perfect balancing award 3 years in a row. Took college classes at night.

          I am so happy that the OP recognizes what the issue is and is willing to address it. Because the employee can take it only so much. The employer could just up and quit. Than you’re stuck training someone else and OP’s professional reputation could take a hit.

        2. MashaKasha

          Yup, this kind of stuff followed me around all through my 20s and 30s. Up to and including an incident when a former coworker called my boss (her former boss) asking to meet up after work, to warn him that I (according to her) had a pattern of sleeping with managers in exchange for raises and promotions! It did stop after 40. It was such a relief when it did.

      2. The Supreme Troll

        But even if this “Barbie” after getting to know her, told you that she had a perfect life and everything was fed to her on a silver spoon (more or less), it should not have diminished your respect for her. Life is like this sometimes. You can get good things in life through skill & determination – or simply dumb luck!

        While I know it can be hard, it is good to separate what you see with your own eyes about a person with how they themselves show how they really are. If Barbie was, through her talking and attitude, showing real shallowness, diminished respect for her would be completely justified.

        1. sunny-dee

          Great line from Twelfth Night — some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

      3. NonProfit Nancy

        I so agree with Alison’s advice on this. Ultimately, it’s less important that you have love in your heart, or whatever, then what you physically *do.* (I mean, ideally you would also have charitable love for everybody you encounter, but that’s more of a long term goal haha). Forgive yourself for not “liking” this employee and just focus on your actions and making them scrupulously fair and equitable. That’s what we all do with people we don’t like for whatever reason anyway.

        1. Mirax

          Honestly, I often focus on trying harder to be kind and helpful to people I don’t like, to the point that my best friend has sometimes told me, “I can tell you despise that person because of how much you try to boost them up.” I don’t ever, ever want someone to be able to say that the reason I didn’t help someone was because I disliked them.

        2. Lissa

          Yes, love this! honestly I was afraid to read the comments on this post because I was worried it would be a ton of people calling OP#1 horrible for having those feelings etc., so I love stuff like this. There’s often this idea that you have to truly feel/believe a certain thing or you’re Terrible, which can really lead to people throwing up their hands and saying “I guess I’m awful then, so why try?” (see: why I left a lot of social justice communities). But sometimes you just have to fake it, and that can be good enough for awhile.

      4. Lora

        +1. One of my colleagues who is brilliant and one of the hardest working people I know, as well as creative and curious, has had a rough time at certain sexist workplaces – she is strikingly beautiful, the type of person you imagine must be a supermodel or actress. But she had a horribly rough childhood and has had a very rough divorce as well, and for sure hasn’t had an easy life at all. She worked her butt off to get through college and grad school and pay off her student loans, and she’s fabulous to work with, but people make a LOT of assumptions about her because of her looks. You really never know.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

          But a beautiful person doesn’t need to suffer to be treated well or to realize valid successes.

          1. Lora

            Absolutely true! I was just thinking of how whenever something legitimately crummy happens to her, people will look vaguely confused and reply, “but you’re so pretty!” And they’ll say it about the weirdest things – a terrible grandboss, an HPLC gone haywire, a project she’s working on getting killed by senior management, stuff that cannot conceivably be affected by relative beauty standards which she has zero control over. There’s this weird expectation that if someone is pretty, the world is their oyster.

      5. Jamie

        This is so true. I learned this lesson early. I had a friend who was naturally gorgeous – and she was so nice and smart and just the sweetest person I couldn’t hate her but I was very jealous and if I could have swapped lives with her I absolutely would have.

        Once we were complaining about our mom’s because…teenagers…and mine was horrible because she always had to know where I was and with whom, I was always grounded for breaking curfew, etc.

        When my friend was 8 she had dropped a glass of milk in the kitchen and her mom (who had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years) grabbed a piece of the broken glass and said “look what you make me do!” and opened her wrists so deeply by the time my friend got back with the neighbor she had passed out. She said that’s why she didn’t drink milk anymore.

        My friend was also in remission from childhood cancer and had a large scar on her neck from having tumors removed which she would jokingly tell people was from a suicide attempt.

        More shocking than her reality was the matter of fact way she talked about it, same tone as my complaining about curfew.

        My mom used to say if everyone put their problems in a bag and you could grab whichever you want everyone would take their own back. I don’t believe that’s a universal truth, but my feelings sure changed from jealous to really lucky after learning what my friend’s life was really like behind her effortless beauty.

        1. LavaLamp

          I had an experience similar with my childhood best friend. She was always upset because I’m an only child, and was irrationally angry that my situation couldn’t change; my mom doesn’t have a uterus anymore, thusly I would not get stuck with a sibling and a huge age gap.

          In fact I used to get that from adults as a 1st and 2nd grader. I’d always get some well meaning teachers and or parent telling me my mom would definitely have another baby and I better not get used to having all her attention. They never knew how to answer my response that unless uteruses grew back it wasn’t going to happen.

      6. many bells down

        I had a biology class with a girl who also looked like Barbie. She wore full makeup, including false eyelashes, the day we went on a nature hike in 100-degree weather. After the hike, she asked me (a woman who strongly resembles a potato) if I’d be in her lab group. She was probably the smartest person in the class and a delight to work with.

    2. Jeanne

      We all have irrational likes and dislikes. Sometimes we know why and sometimes we don’t. I have an irrational dislike for a lady at church right now. I’ve been trying to figure out why and can’t. You know why. Keep discussing this with your therapist as long as needed. Then at work remember to think twice. It’s ok to think the bad thought but it’s not ok to act on it. You think “I must make sure she is punished for her error.” Then take a minute. Is this an error anyone new would make? If a fat woman made the error, would I train her or yell at her? Then err on the side of kindness.

      1. Cassandra

        Speaking as a fat woman… I don’t think taking my weight into consideration generally leads to kinder decisions from my higher-ups. I’m grateful they ignore it, to be quite honest.

        1. bridget

          I don’t think Jeanne was suggesting that she or the OP treat people better than normal if they are overweight; I think she meant that the OP should take into consideration how she would treat her employee if the employee did not bring out these insecurities in her. In this case, it’s more along the lines of “make sure you treat her like you treat everyone else.”

      2. Christine

        Jeanne,
        Sometimes an unreasonable dislike for someone is caused they remind you of someone that you had a bad experience with, or a poor working relationship, bad boyfriend.

        I’ve also found if someone you work with or know has the same weaknesses, bad behavior that you have, you’ll dislike them. The characteristics that you dislike in yourself, you’re not going like in another.

        1. Amy The Rev

          “I’ve also found if someone you work with or know has the same weaknesses, bad behavior that you have, you’ll dislike them. The characteristics that you dislike in yourself, you’re not going like in another.”

          that is so, so so so true

        2. Becky

          When I was in middle school there was one girl who always tried to bully me. I mostly just ignored and avoided her (it was pretty easy to do, the only time we were in each other’s proximity was lunch and the bus). Then a few years later I met a girl–a really nice girl who from every evidence/interaction could have been a good friend–but she looked a whole lot like middle-school-bully and I could never get comfortable enough with that to be close. It was absolutely something out of her control and something I always felt guilty about–that I couldn’t get over her looking like middle-school-bully.

        3. Becky

          There was a girl I went to middle school with who tried to bully me, though mostly I just ignored and avoided her (pretty easy since we were only in each other’s proximity for lunch and on the bus). But a few years later I met a different girl who to all appearances could have been a good friend–we had similar interests and she was really nice. The only problem was she looked a lot like middle-school-bully. I could never bring myself to get close to her because of it. It was something absolutely out of her control and I always felt guilty about it.

      3. Amy The Rev

        Jeanne, that made me think of this line: “Lord, I love YOU, it’s your *people* I can’t stand!!” – an excerpt from “When Church Folks get on my Already Reserved Nerves”, a prayer in the UCC Book of (Un)common prayer. Such a common feeling!!

    3. Joan Holloway

      Same here. It was very brave of you to write in, OP 1. I am also in recovery for an eating disorder, and I know how hard this can be. You are so strong for being able to recognize this issue and want to take the steps to overcome it.

    4. Zoe

      Seriously! Having been on the receiving end of a very similar situation (to the point I wondered if it was an old email from my former manager), a thousand bravos to you for recognizing a problem, deciding to fix it, and asking for help. Those are three HUGE things that most people can’t or don’t do.

      I second Alison’s advice to try and get to know your coworker better. Once you see her as a full human being, with her own problems and insecurities and needs, it will be harder to treat her badly. Maybe take her out for a coffee and let her know you realize your attitude toward her has been really negative, apologize and let her know you’re committed to working well together and making the office a comfortable place for her. You don’t need to get into the details of what’s driving your behavior, but just letting her know that it’s not all in her imagination will probably lift a huge weight off her shoulders.

      1. Case of the Mondays

        I’ve been on the receiving end of this too. Except the big bosses knew what was really up. No one initially told me and I just suffered wondering why I could do no right in this woman’s eyes, who unfortunately ended up supervising me in a way. It was a law firm and she was a mid-level assigning and reviewing my work.

        She had just had a baby, was very unhappy with herself and her life. I never would have guessed jealousy though. I finally sat down with a senior member of the firm that had become an informal mentor and asked what was up. He beat around the bush a bit and then he said he had noticed a pattern with people she had difficulty with. I still wasn’t getting it so, while embarrassed he said “you are young, happy, attractive, excited about life. She’s had trouble working with people like you before and it has been worse since she had her most recent baby. I’ll try to get you more work with other people.”

        I ultimately ended up leaving there for a better job. While I hated her while I was there, now that I’m gone I really feel sorry for her and her struggles. I don’t know if she knew what she was doing or it was all subconscious. Your letter actually made me feel better about what I went through. It really was her and not me.

  5. Anon for this

    #1: I’m going to second Alison’s advice to work on this in therapy. I’m a recovered anorexic and that is really a great outlet for working through the intersection of body image issues and relationship issues. I’m also glad you’re able to see that this is inappropriate and you want to improve. You can do it.

    I hope that your treatment of female employees and potential future hiring decisions can be based upon their work and not upon their bodies.

    1. LavaLamp

      I really wish you well OP#1, and you are so brave to admit this. I don’t really have any advice, I just want to offer support.

    2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

      Another ED recovery person for discussing this with your therapist.

      I have the opposite problem. I tend to be overly nice/forgiving of people who are thin because, in my head, they accomplished what I couldn’t.” I let one of my “friends” get away with downright nasty behaviour because she was thin and pretty, which made it all forgivable in my messed up head.

      Therapy helped me understand that insides do not equal outsides, and you have to evaluate people’s behaviours not looks.

  6. MapleHill

    LW1- that’s a tough one, but I think Allison gives you several good options and you can use several of them in conjunction.

    LW2- Yep, illegal. I think the degree and previous skills are helpful, but one thing a lot of people making a career change shockingly don’t do is write a cover letter when applying for a job. When you’re looking at a bunch of resumes with zero context other than what you’re given, it makes me have to guess about why you’re making a change, your expectations, motivations and goals. Don’t make me guess, because if I do, I’m probably going with the safer NON-career changer resumes. Write a strong cover letter that explains the reasons for your career change and why you’ve selected this specific career so I know you aren’t just going to change your mind again in 6 months.

    LW3- I get where you’re coming from. When you get several of these and it takes up your time to respond multiple times because they leave out information and you have to investigate, it can be frustrating, especially when they don’t even use polite language (and then often don’t respond when you’ve spent the time doing so). I try to respond in a subtle way that gets the message across for their future emails, such as “We have multiple offices throughout the country across a variety of fields. Could you indicate what type of role and what location you’re interested in…?” while also using more work-email appropriate language (esp to strangers), like “dear/thank you/regards” etc. I try to remind myself I probably made the same faux pas and they’re still learning.

    LW5- you can be honest about the situation without badmouthing the company. I think you could mention you’re concerned about the turnover you’ve seen and that you’ve reported to multiple people in a few months. I guess it depends on the kind of company you’re talking to, but as a company with strong tenure, I’d like that this is something you place importance on.

    1. Suze

      Hey thanks, that’s a good suggestion. Honestly with that particular email (which consisted exactly of what was quoted, no salutation or signature), I just didn’t respond I was that annoyed. Going forward I’ll try your advice, as well as some of the other commenters’ to include position details on the website.

    2. Trina

      OP of #2 here. Thanks for your feedback! I worked really hard on a cover letter that included an explanation of why I was shifting to accounting and finance from publishing, as well as emphasizing my soft skills, and I sent this to her along with the resume prior to our call. I’m fairly certain she didn’t look at it, because I didn’t get any feedback at all on it. In fact, my overall impression was that she didn’t really pay too much attention to my resume other than looking for specific finance/accounting experience. So I was pretty bummed out after that call, but the advice I’ve gotten here has helped me feel better and I’m back on the right track.

      1. MommaTRex

        Fellow CPA here (I work in government). A CPA with a publishing background sounds AWESOME. You would rise to the top of my pile of applicants if I were hiring. We can always use some help polishing up our published reports!

  7. Feathers McGraw

    #1 You can’t choose your feelings – but you do need to choose how you react to them. Well done for recognising the problem now, before it gets worse, and being brave enough to write in. I’m sure you realise it wasn’t ideal to lie about how you’re treating her – and that telling yourself you wouldn’t have hired her isn’t ideal either. Worst case scenario: you end up getting fired, and you don’t want that!

    I do think it’s worth remembering that everyone has their battles to fight, and when you feel jealous of someone it can often be because you’re comparing your insides to their outsides. What you see of the outside of their life can seem like it’s somehow better than the inside of yours, but you don’t really know what’s inside. And while the way you feel isn’t rational and can’t be defied with logic, this is worth thinking about.

    I used to experience jealousy. After working through a lot of my own stuff in therapy, it’s kind of dissipated. Keep working on your stuff, keep being aware of what’s going on, and don’t try to justify it with thoughts like ‘I never would have hired her so it’s not my fault I got stuck with her’.

    1. Koko

      Yes. One of the things I learned from polyamory is that the objective isn’t to stop feeling jealous. The objective is to be aware of your jealousy and react in a healthy way instead of an unhealthy way.

      It’s like, when you stub your toe, the objective isn’t to learn how to not feel pain. The objective is to learn how to not scream and cuss and throw things at the nearest person when you stub your toe.

      Your feelings are your feelings and they aren’t wrong. But you are empowered to act on them the way *you* want to.

      1. NonProfit Nancy

        Agree! You will only beat yourself up if you focus on trying NOT to FEEL jealous, in my opinion. That just leads you to focus on “what a lousy person I must be, why can’t I stop feeling this way, I’m so weak/emotional/.” Just try to focus on treating her fairly. She probably doesn’t care how you feel in your heart of hearts anyway.

        1. NonProfit Nancy

          Sorry there was a bracket after ’emotional’ that said “or whatever word you use to beat yourself up.” I thought the greater than / less than symbols showed up in the comments but I was wrong.

    2. NonProfit Nancy

      Agree, try to STOP repeating to yourself the refrain that you “wouldn’t have hired her” – I speak from experience. I was handed an employee a few years ago and I kept repeating this to myself about him, and it just magnified my negative feelings. He was fine (maybe not great), but I wasn’t in on the hiring decision so it’s not like I knew the options and timelines involved … until this year, when I did get to weigh in on his replacement. And I saw that it’s just not a perfect hiring situation at my company and you kind of get what you get. But I would have gotten to a place of peace with this employee a lot sooner if I’d changed my mental mantra from “I would never have hired this guy!” to “everybody has something to contribute, I just need to find the right places to use him.”

    3. Cleopatra Jones

      Powerful thoughts, Feathers.

      LW#1, Imagine how many times, she’s been automatically discounted as being a smart, competent individual because of her looks. I’m sure it’s happened a lot. She’s probably tired of people assuming that she has been getting by on her looks, and not hard work and intelligence.

      1. Elizabeth H.

        Yes but I don’t think this is that helpful of a sentiment to focus on in the context. Attractive people my experience hurtful behavior based on their looks or being assumed to be shallow in some small circumstances but I think it gets a little “not everyone can eat sandwiches” to highlight this, when in reality there are about a million more widespread disadvantages for less attractive people.

    4. BPT

      I’ve heard the idea that: “The first thought that comes to mind is what society has conditioned you to think. The second thought shows who you really are.”

      When we are raised and live in a society that is still sexist, racist, homophobic, and judges people on their looks, it’s very easy for your mind to become conditioned to thinking these things. That doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person, as long as the second thing you think is something like, “ok, that was an unkind/untrue/bigoted thought. let me push that aside and think of them as an individual person.” It’s kind of like “fake it til you make it” – the more you act like you like someone, the more genuine that feeling will become (a lot of the time).

  8. Sami

    OP#1: Admitting your problem is an excellent first step, as is writing to AAM. Alison is giving you excellent advice.
    Your feelings won’t change overnight so be patient with yourself. But actions (like Alison advised and perhaps what your therapist says too) will influence your feelings. People commonly think they behave a certain way according to their feelings but that’s not quite right. Gretchen Rubin explains it much better. Link to follow.

      1. Feathers McGraw

        Can we just be clear that she isn’t a qualified psychologist? I like her thinking on some things (eg that you can choose what you want to enjoy, but not what you actually do enjoy) but this is a bit of a simplistic take on things!

        It certainly can be helpful to look at the relationship between thoughts, feelings, bodily reactions and behaviours and to notice how they relate to each other (eg when I feel A, I think B and then I start doing C) and we can sometimes change our moods by changing how we act, but this is kind of simplistic – which is why therapists don’t just send people with eating disorders away with instructions to simply act differently.

        Sometimes actions are indeed the result of a process that begins with a feeling – eating disorders arguably being an example of this – and while changing how you act can result in surface changes, it doesn’t get at the root cause.

        1. Lynx

          Of course she’s not a psychologist.
          But the point of the point IS simplistic. There’s nothing wrong with that. Keeping things simple can be helpful.

        2. nonymous

          I’d argue that OP probably needs both kinds of advice – what to do to create a professional workplace immediately, and the root cause work that will benefit her in the long run. Repair of the second type may not take effect until after the new hire has moved on!

      2. Elizabeth H.

        I like her a lot (and link her a lot) but I always think of it first as the AA slogan, “You can’t think your way into acting but you can act your way into thinking.” I love that. Obviously it’s not a magic bullet or anything though.

    1. ArtsNerd

      I agree that focusing on actions is the way forward. You are putting in hard, important work on yourself but healing is a process, and not typically a linear one. Giving yourself external, objective tasks to ensure you are treating her equitably is the best course of action I can think of, and I’m wondering if something like this can combat bias in other situations too…

      Not the same thing, but: I have a mental list of external indicators that I’m in a depression cycle, and a separate list of actions to take when that first one starts getting too many checks. Not having to analyze or make those tough calls when I’m already in a rough place has been so helpful for me. (And yay therapy! I credit therapy with helping me become a version of myself that I actually quite like.)

      1. misspiggy

        Ooh – do you think you might be able to come back at the weekend open thread to share more about your indicators and what you do in response?

      2. Marillenbaum

        I am a firm believer in the power of checklists ever since I read Atul Gawande’s book on the subject (he’s a surgeon, and it was all about how creating these checklists improved safety and patient outcomes). I’ve taken to creating a checklist for my students (I’m a graduate TA) to make sure they’re getting what they need, and honestly I feel like it’s really helped me up my game.

  9. M_Lynn

    Alison, so if #2 *was* talking about an unpaid internship, would that change your answer? For someone with 10 years work experience, does a 3 month internship really signify that someone is a more trustworthy hire than someone without such an internship?

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      It’s not the length of time of your work experience that matters—it’s the amount of relevant work experience. For example, if I had spent the first 10 years of my career in book editing, and then I decide to go to school to become a doctor, my 10 years of editing experience doesn’t tell the employer very much about my patient skills or medical acumen.

      Of course, OP likely has skills that can be brought over and applied in their new field, but it’s not weighing apples to apples if you’re comparing all of a person’s non-relevant work experience to someone else’s relevant work experience. I’m also not sure what you mean by “a more trustworthy hire,” because this isn’t about trust. It’s about concrete job criteria, and ostensibly one of those criteria includes some experience. That said, for entry-level positions, theoretically most applicants are on similar grounding. Although I’m sure some (maybe even most) employers will prefer seeing relevant internship experience for entry-level candidates, I think there’s a growing recognition among some employers that requiring intern experience disproportionately burdens and excludes low-income students and students with financial/provider obligations.

    2. Antilles

      IMO, it wouldn’t in this case. When you’re hiring college students or fresh grads, it’s good to have internships (paid or unpaid, idc) because it shows you can handle yourself in business, means that you know at least a little about how the business world works, and also helps give me an actual professional reference to contact. But for someone like OP with 10 years of experience in the working world, I don’t think an extra three months of making copies, filing documents, and doing the very lowest-level of low-level tasks (which is what many internships consist of) is really changing my opinion.

      1. Whats In A Name

        Yes, I really think what an internship is for is exposing those who haven’t had professional experience to that world. I don’t think it’s *always* to give them a job-specific skill set. With 10 years of professional experience an internship seems kind of like a waste of time.

        I remember when I was thinking of changing careers after college and a counselor told me to do pro bono work – but I was 24 with only a couple years of work experience. Very different.

        1. NonProfit Nancy

          Agree. OP should be strategic about the kind of internship they even consider, as many are designed to teach professional norms to young people, and OP presumably already knows that stuff. Unfortunately if you have no relevant work experience in accounting, it may indeed be a benefit to have a short stint SOMEWHERE that you can point to, even if it has to be an internship. But I’d rather see OP find something that pays, even if it’s lower level than they’d like (are there temp positions in accounting?).

      2. JB

        In the CPA world, most major firms (Big 4, the 6 other national firms, and anyone else who mimics them) do the majority of their hiring via paid internships. They’ll bring on a class of interns approximately the size of their expected openings, give them 1st-year staff audit tasks to do, and extend a full time offer to anyone doesn’t screw up. The number of screw-ups and interns who decline their offer for whatever reason is the number of full-time direct hires they make.

        So (a) as an intern, you will be doing real work much like you’d expect to do in your first full-time year, and (b) it’s actually quite challenging to get a full-time job offer anytime except at the end of an internship.

        That only applies to large firms, however. Smaller ones are much more diverse in how they work.

        1. Whats In A Name

          This makes sense to me, always helpful to gain insight into how other industries work/handle interns.

          This also helps me understand insight/advice into OPs question – which I am now thinking might benefit her if paid. I still don’t think that unpaid volunteer was the right advice.

          I am also assuming that if she is applying to one of the bigger firms her age entering the field (older adult v. new college grad) wouldn’t play much of a factor in getting one of these paid internships. I mean, Chandler got an internship when he decided to switch careers on Friends.

        2. Sunshine on a cloudy day

          Just +1 this! Accounting/finance is pretty unique in my experience, if you are trying to go into the Big 4 or other larger firms. I was considering making a very similar switch and was horrified when I learned I’d need to start with an “internship” to get going in an Accounting career. I had visions of me going back to eating ramen noodles and paying my rent in rolls of coins.

          After more research I realized these “internships” are more like “classes of entry level roles”. You are doing relevent work (not just copying/filing) and are actually paid a living wage (at least it was in my very high cost of living area).

        3. Artemesia

          And in those companies it is very hard for someone a few years out of college to break into employment. They really do have a process and they don’t usually reach out to people out of school a few years or career changing. I know several people who tried to break into companies that recruit this way and although very well qualified, they didn’t get interviews. They might hire a very experienced senior level person but their process for entry level professional work was a well honed procedure for inducting new college grads.

        4. Antilles

          That’s interesting industry-specific information! That sounds way different from the ‘internship’ I was thinking. A well-paid position where you do actual work identical to other 1st-year hires that you’re describing sounds basically a typical entry level position – just that your industry likes to call that role ‘Intern’ instead of “Staff Designer” or “Junior Teapot Salesman” or whatever.
          I was thinking of OP taking an internship in the more traditional sense where the company gives some nominal salary (or none at all) while basically saying “here’s some filing or copying or spreadsheet entry, learn how an office works, and please try not to burn down the building while you’re here”.

    3. NJ Anon

      There are some fields where unpaid internships are not the norm. Accounting and finance are one of them.

      1. AccountingIsFun

        I must agree strongly here. As an accounting and finance faculty member, I see my interns getting extremely well paid internships regularly. I have employers coming to me regularly asking if I have students that would be interns or even to hire on as full time accountants. I guess it depends on where in the world you are, but where I am at, accountants are hard to come by so there are more jobs than qualified people to fill them. This career councilor is pretty bad.

        1. Artemesia

          And so out of date. People worked for free in 1969 — it is not done in the professional world today especially once out of college.

          1. Stranger than fiction

            And in 1989 apparently. A funny anecdote: my bf did just that in 1989. He worked for an electronics repair shop for free while putting himself through school. And to this day he’s constantly saying how everyone takes advantage of his hard work. I wonder if starting off like that had something to do with it.

      2. Allie

        I know my sister in law never worked any unpaid internships and she was hired full time into an accounting firm after she finished her degree. She had a side job helping to do the books at a business, but she was paid well for that. My experience is limited but just based on her experience, that advice seems way off.

      3. BananaPants

        Engineering too. I would be very suspicious of an unpaid engineering internship on someone’s resume.

    4. MissGirl

      OP2: You and I are in very similar situations. I’m finishing up my MBA after spending ten years in book publishing. I’m looking at positions in data and business analytics so a lot of my ten years doesn’t transfer when looking at technical skills. I’m not sure if you’re working during your schooling or not. Everyone in the business and accounting programs at my school is required to complete a project with a company in our field to boost resumes and get a foot in the door. I would recommend something similar.

      As for everyone on this thread saying a three-month internship isn’t that helpful beyond office experience, that changes completely when dealing with grad programs. I have completed two internships and both haven been highly relevant to gaining experience. When you’re a grad student, you’re not filing papers or making coffee. You are really delving into projects and gaining technical skills, not to mention the networking it does. Finance and accounting do have internships. I’ve done some amazing projects while in school.

      And as for networking, be doing that like crazy. If you’re looking at entry level accounting positions, you’re in the same position as all the recent grads. However, if you’re trying for something more mid-level, you’re competing with people who have more applicable experience. To get out of the circular bin, be meeting people and showing them what your years brings.

      There needs to be a support group for people leaving publishing to start over in new careers.

    5. krysb

      What Allison meant was that an unpaid internship at a for-profit firm has to follow Department of Labor rules, or it would be an illegal internship (and, at least for new graduates without prior work experience, unpaid internships aren’t always helpful).

    6. Another CPA

      #2 will need to start in an entry level position – there’s no substitute for experience in accounting – but absolutely should not be unpaid. And unless she’s in a bad job market, should have no trouble skipping the internship.

    7. Trina

      OP of #2 here, good point. The counselor may have in fact been talking about an unpaid internship, but she only referred to it as volunteering my time or getting a paid internship. Which would be really hard to do when I am also working full-time. I would think that given my years of work experience and that I’ve been successful in my career would maybe imply to a recruiter that I could handle the work despite the lack of specific experience.

      1. Jill

        OP#2, an internship is one thing – it’s a commitment to the company whether paid or unpaid. But if your counselor really was referring to volunteering – as in come and go with no real commitment by you or the employer – than your counselor is not to be trusted. I’m an accountant. I see highly confidential information all the time. There is no way a reputable firm would allow a random volunteer to work on confidential client work.

        That said, you should expect to start out entry level, or slightly higher if your other experience is relevant. But I never interned. I did other work that was similar, lower paid, but relevant to the profession – financial data processing & back-room accounting in a bank. Both jobs paid more than minimum wage and gave me a good foundation in the industry. Don’t settle if you don’t have to!

  10. Wehaf

    To LW1, you say that your new employee is “everything [you are] not” but you only list a few external qualities in support of that. Have you tried thinking of her in terms other than her appearance?

    When I met one of my friends, she was gorgeous, and slim, and vivacious, and enrolled in the PhD program I hadn’t gotten into (but had desperately wanted to). I was dealing with a chronic illness and definitely felt like she had everything I wanted. I found out later that her father had just died of cancer and she had recently been diagnosed with a different cancer. (Also she is compassionate, interesting, determined, and endlessly curious.) I was looking at the surface and missing everything underneath, both good and bad.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

      Yes, exactly this. It’s easy to look at someone’s outside and decide their life is great. But remember that you don’t know this woman’s life or what she’s dealing with. I come across as friendly and bubbly. People would have been horrified to learn that I was struggling with some very dark thoughts, sometimes while we were having a very pleasant chat. (Note: those thoughts were due to a mismanaged physical illness and they’re thankfully gone.) I’ve known people who looked like they had it all together but were dealing with a violent partner or ex. Like you, many people learn how to put on a good face. Your employee could easily be going through a similar problem. You never know.

      Wehaf, I hope your friend is doing well now!

      1. Julia

        This. Someone at work called me “unflappable” and I wanted to laugh and cry because I have terrible anxiety, just not about the things he sees, but mostly in my personal life.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

          *high five of sympathy* I sometimes wonder whether we ‘overcompensate’ for these kinds of issues? So, a person dealing with depression will be even more cheerful to make up for it, someone who is anxious tries really hard to be calm. IDK. Hope things go well for you!

          (Also I read ‘unflappable’ as ‘flapjacks’ and now I want pancakes.)

        2. Lissa

          Any time I talk to anyone deeply, or read threads on the Internet that deal with this type of thing, I start to think that *nobody* really is secure, confident and unflappable, or at least they don’t see themselves that way. I feel like it’s definitely the above-stated “comparing my insides to your outsides” thing.

          Everyone has *something*. I’m at the point now where I’d be shocked if I met someone who said they had a great childhood/family, no bad experiences with partners, never had a mental health issue, never had any type of serious issue etc. I am sure there are people like that but I really think they are the minority.

    2. Kitkat

      Yes! One thing I repeat to myself (which is somewhat cryptic without this context) is “don’t compare your inside to someone else’s outside.”

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      One of my favorite pieces of advice is to think about what someone is ‘paying’ to be the way they are — ie, someone who seems like they have all their stuff together, but as a tradeoff they don’t really have any downtime or leisure — and then think about whether you’d be willing to pay that. It can help to put things in perspective.

      1. 27-3000

        My problem with this line of thinking is that I’ll look at someone who has beautiful perfect hair, let’s say, and I’ll think, well, they’re probably spending an hour every day on their hair. Then I ask myself, “Do you want to spend an hour every day on your hair?” and the answer is “No, but I WANT to want that.” And then I feel bad all over again.

        1. Elizabeth H.

          Yes – I know exactly what you mean. It’s not about the hair (or whatever external characteristic), it’s about being a different kind of person.

          1. Emi.

            +1 I once spent $30 on a miniskirt because I wanted to be one of the cool people who thought clubbing was fun.

            1. SevenSixOne

              If you’re anything like me: You wore it once and felt self-conscious and uncomfortable the whole time… or maybe you never wore it in public at all. Every time you see it in your closet it makes you feel inexplicably angry and wistful. You still can’t bring yourself to return it or give it away, though, because that means abandoning the fantasy version of yourself that’s more [fill in the blank] than the real you.

    4. Sibley

      Yeah, you don’t know what’s going on in their life. Just because someone looks perfect from the outside, who knows what’s happening inside?

      I look good from the outside. Inside, I’m socially awkward, have disordered eating (which really got away from me this week so I feel sick and am trying to get enough food in to fix it), have a father who’s slowly declining due to dementia, and a mother who’s become racist, hidebound, and all the other nasty stuff you can think of from the extreme conservative stereotype due to stress from dad’s condition. Plus, I’m beyond done with my current roommate and can’t wait until I move out later this year. Add in your usual work stress, daily life, and other crap. Maybe I look good, but it certainly isn’t the whole picture.

    5. nonymous

      chiming in to add that women in America are often taught to focus on their outward physical appearance as a coping mechanism. This can be as innocuous as a little boost of self-confidence when wearing make-up or more extreme manifestations. The problem is, unless I know the person well, it’s impossible to tell if an extremely attractive physical appearance is good genes, habits ingrained from youth, or coping. That’s part of why it’s so important not to judge based on appearances.

        1. MashaKasha

          As someone who was an unattractive preteen/teenager and then went on to be attractive for the rest of my life so far, I like this comment so much. This is exactly what I saw my physical appearance as for most of my life; a suit of armor. When other students physically kick you and slap you around, and spit you in the face, and then tell you it’s because you are ugly, and then one day you wake up and you’re not ugly anymore, of course you want to hang on to that for as long as possible, so no one spits you in the face again. Of course it is an irrational fear, twelve-year-olds might give you a kick for being “ugly”, people in their forties won’t. Now my armor is finally wearing off, but at this point, I don’t care. There’s more to me now than the physical armor. But I admit I went through most of my life being terrified of looking any less attractive than the best I could look at the moment. It was a survival instinct.

    6. Temperance

      LW1: Just chiming in to say that this is something I struggle with, too. I constantly compare myself to women who seem to have it all – good looks, great skin, nice hair, and the kinds of expensive clothes that I want without working hard to get them . After I got sick and gained a bunch of weight while losing a bunch of hair … it’s gotten worse. It’s not my favorite thing about myself, quite frankly, but I’m still sort of feeling sorry for myself. I’ve tried to cut down on hate-reading mommy blogs/nerd girl blogs to make myself happier, but I don’t think that will work for you since you are confronted with your feelings every day.

      I think you’re really freaking brave to confront this part of yourself, because it’s so hard. It’s even harder to admit to a group of strangers that you have this struggle or flaw, or whatever you want to call it.

    7. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

      This is not constructive advice, because it continues to reinforce the fundamentally disordered belief that beautiful people must earn their beauty by getting knocked down a peg.

      One of my girlfriends was, no kidding, just unbearably gorgeous – light years out of my league. Tiny, petite, super-fit, looked kind of like Natalie Portman or Alicia Vikander. Vivacious, happy, well-adjusted, kind, raised happily by two decent and pleasant parents, affluent, no perceptible mental health issues, successful career in a well-paying field, cute little dog….she was leading a charmed, happy, and easy life. She was lucky, and she was playing the game on easy, and she knew it….and she didn’t need to get knocked down a peg to “deserve” it.

      1. Temperance

        It’s not about “earning beauty” so much as reinforcing for us normies that not everything is sunshine and roses and being beautiful doesn’t mean that you have a perfect life.

        Knowing that someone like your ex exists and has an easy time of it all just makes someone who has been through a lot feel like giving up. At least if we remind ourselves that pretty people who have everything handed to them probably struggle, too, we can push forward and keep on keeping on.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

          Well, a drunk blew a stop light, t-boned her car, and killed her more or less instantly at age 24, and very normal me got to watch from a few car-lengths back. So there’s that, if it helps you push forward.

          1. Temperance

            I’m incredibly sorry to hear that her life ended so horribly. The picture you painted with your comment was of a happy, successful, beautiful person who was leading a charmed life. I would argue that she did not, since a drunk loser took her life. I’m sorry for your loss.

            1. Lissa

              Yes, and waiting to share that information until someone disagrees feels rather like a “gotcha” in this context . . . I’m not really sure what the point here is, nobody’s saying anyone deserves bad things, just that *nobody* has a really truly perfect life.

              1. Kate

                I don’t believe Temperance meant this as a “gotcha” just that she didn’t want to bring it up until someone talked about how easy her friend had it as a counter to that.

                I think what Temperance means (please correct me if I am wrong, I don’t want to misinterpret you Temperance) and what other commenters down below have said is this: It is all to easy to go from reminding ourselves that just because someone seems to have a perfect life doesn’t mean that they do, and that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to them; to expecting that someone has suffered to “make up for” having such beauty, intelligence, etc.

                As another poster says below, and which I am not explaining very well, beautiful people don’t have to have “terrible lives” to justify being beautiful, there isn’t a karmic toll, and we shouldn’t comfort ourselves with the thought that they are suffering in some other way.

                1. Lissa

                  Oh, no! I didn’t mean Temperance meant it as a Gotcha, I meant the poster above did, by sharing only the positive things about his girlfriend until somebody said something critical of his post, then putting in “well, she died horribly, does that help you?” felt like one.

          2. BookishMiss

            I’m so sorry you had to witness that and lose her. That must have been awful.

            But this misses the point. I haven’t seen anyone here state that beautiful people deserve to suffer, only that appearances aren’t a person’s whole story. I highly doubt that schadenfreude -especially to this degree- is what commenters are talking about.

      2. Wehaf

        “This is not constructive advice, because it continues to reinforce the fundamentally disordered belief that beautiful people must earn their beauty by getting knocked down a peg.”

        That is not what I said and it is not what I meant. My point (which I explicitly made twice) was that if you are judging only on appearances, you are not seeing the whole picture. Everyone has tough things in their “whole picture” and everyone has depths unrelated to their appearances.

  11. Another Lauren

    OP#1, I have both been there and done that, bought the souvenir photo, and am currently wearing the commemorative t-shirt. Alison’s advice is spot-on from a workplace perspective — from the perspective of the evil homunculus that is inhabiting your brain, however, (no? was it just me that had goblin-brain?) I have some additional recommendations. For me, it’s helped to think of these feelings like a riptide; you can’t fight it, that just makes it worse. So you just go limp and own it, completely. That sounds weird, but if you surrender to the fact that you feel like she’s perfect, amazing, wonderful, whatever, you can figure out what specifically you want to work on in your life. She’s beyond fashionable and always looks put together, and you wish you could be like that? Great, focus on specifics. Is it that her clothes are always in mint condition/has she found a specific style that works for her/is she using a couple of key high-end pieces to build a wardrobe from? Once you really drill down, you can use those same tools for yourself. Next, attractiveness: what specifically makes her attractive? There are plenty of thin, miserable, cruel (and thereby unattractive) people in the world, so my guess is that it’s not just that she’s thin. I had to remind myself of that A LOT during my ED/Ana low point. I’d bet that her attitude is a lot of what makes her so attractive — if she has a positive attitude, whether it’s through old-fashioned politeness, confidence in her abilities, or actively listening to others, that looks so fabulous. I highly recommend spending time focusing on other people and really listening to them. I had a great therapist who reminded me that extreme self-consciousness can be a form of narcissism — whether you think you’re the center of attention in a good way or a bad way, it’s still highly unlikely that people are focusing that directly on you! (This really helped when I thought everyone was watching everything I ate and judging me for it.)

    Essentially, think about what actions this person takes to help improve her life, and figure out if you can take those actions to improve yours as well. It’s not what she *is*, it’s what she *does*. One action I’d recommend that you take, though, is to actively work on your relationship with her. It’s got to be really tough for her knowing that you have issues with her that she can’t fix — they’re nothing to do with the quality of her work (or really, with *her* at all, right?) I think the sooner you address that, the better your chances for a positive working relationship.

    I know this was beyond wordy, but it’s because I’m really pulling for you! You’re awesome, and you deserve to be your own biggest cheerleader! Sending work-appropriate hugs your way.

    1. Jeanne

      I like that you say you can’t fight the thoughts. When you learn to meditate, you learn it’s hard to keep your brain from running on about your worries and things to do. The advice is when that thought crops up, to think it and let it pass on. As you get better at this, the thoughts go by and don’t stay at all.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

      This is an excellent comment, all of it.

      I’d bet that her attitude is a lot of what makes her so attractive — if she has a positive attitude, whether it’s through old-fashioned politeness, confidence in her abilities, or actively listening to others, that looks so fabulous.

      This is so true. It sounds like a cliche, but the most gorgeous people I ever met were the ones with good hearts and who tried their best in life.

      1. Mookie

        Completely. Once you get past aesthetic dazzle, which is often blinding or at least blurs people’s idiosyncrasies, charming people are, above all, charming, and it is, in fact, great fun to befriend interesting, magnetic people, even if you’re jealous or envious of them. They’ll invariably become less exotic and more staid the more you get to know them — but they’ll also be less imposing and more vulnerable, too — but as an insecure person, some of my best professional relationships have developed out of one-sided animosities, misunderstandings, wrong feet, and particularly with folk who are Everything I’m Not. You learn things from them, and vice versa, and the next one that comes along doesn’t immediately raise your hackles quite so high or for quite so long. It’s healthy to work these things out for yourself, but not at the expense of people you manage. You’re going to need to sort this, LW, and your therapist will be a godsend here.

  12. Stellaaaaa

    OP1: I think you actually need to over correct on this one. There’s a certain type of social pressure that prevents women from speaking out when they sense that other women are jealous of their looks so she can’t do much about this or even talk completely honestly about this.

    1. blackcat

      +1 It is very hard to be on the other side of this–I have had a colleague treat me like crap because she was jealous of me (it was somewhat based on looks, but more on the fact that I was partnered and then married quite young. She was a bit older and seemed to think women’s entire worth was as wives).

      It took me a while to figure it out, and things did get better once I did (because I could identify it as totally her issue, not mine). While I talked about it with my husband, any time I talked about it with a woman, it was framed like I was picking a fight with her and imagining her jealously.

      Things got significantly better when I brought it up to our boss, focusing entirely on behaviors (the most egregious one was she was bad mouthing me to my students–we were both teachers) and not at all on her motivation. But it was still really hard, and it felt terribly isolating. And she was just a peer, not a boss.

      OP, if you can bring yourself to correct your behaviors, that will go a very long way. I think Alison’s advice is good. I bet she won’t care if you don’t like her, as long as you stop undermining her at work.

      Alison’s heads up is good, too: treating her unfairly could cause issues for you. My colleague was eventually let go (after I had left) after showing a pattern of unprofessional behavior. How she treated me apparently played a big part in that decision.

      I also want to second Alison’s advice to get to know her better. I had to plan a bachelorette party for my childhood best friend, along with one of her good college friends. All of my communication with this woman was over the internet while we planned. She is *actually a model*/a D-list celebrity/probably one of the prettiest humans on earth, and her internet presence makes her seem super shallow. I don’t think I was jealous per se, but I had this image of who she was that I let dictate my initial interactions with her. As I got to know her, I discovered that she’s actually a really lovely person.

      1. Purest Green

        I have been on the other side of this as well, coming from a supervisor, and she expressed it in ridiculous ways. It did get better after she got to know me more but I don’t think it ever fully went away. I’m still astounded that she would have been jealous. However thin and young and attractive she might have thought I was, she seemed so chic and knowledgeable and cool to me (that is, before I figured out the jealousy).

      2. Allison

        I was in those shoes as well . . . I think. Never confirmed it, and it was just a colleague and not a boss, although I think she sometimes fancied herself my boss because she would tell me how to allocate my time and micromanage how I did my part of the projects she and I worked on. When I told friends about this, a few of them said it sounded like a power play, and she was jealous of me. But while I did bring up her behavior with my boss, I never felt comfortable suggesting that she might be doing it out of jealousy. Whatever the reason, I never liked our dynamic. Having someone at work treat you like you’re incompetent and stupid is never fun.

        I also disliked my friend’s new girlfriend when they first started dating, thought she was stuck up and stuff. Called a friend and vented about it. But I’m glad I got to know her and realized she’s very down to Earth and super awesome.

        Seems like it’s pretty normal to envy someone, and then resent them, often because of made up reasons. Like, you assume they’re stuck up, or they think they’re better than you, or they must have done something unethical or unfair to get what they have. I used to think it was silly that envy was a sin, because it seems so natural to get envious every now and then, but now that I’ve realized the resentment it can cause, and the behavior that comes from it, I kinda get it.

    2. Vin Packer

      I was actually kind of surprised to see that the employee has already spoken to OP’s boss about it and named jealousy as the the issue. That seems unusual to me. Either OP has been pretty explicit about the reasons for her behavior or this person is weirdly aware that she has this effect on people. (Also, OP wasn’t involved in hiring her own employee?)

    3. Anon for this

      I agree, and I also think that this behavior (judging a female employee’s body, treating her poorly for it) would be unacceptable if it came from a man.

      It’s a kind of gender-based behavior that we just… can’t talk about, and so often feel we shouldn’t do anything about.

  13. AcademiaNut

    For #2 – is doing unpaid internships really a think for CPAs of any sort, even newly graduated ones with no work experience, given that this is a certification that typically requires a Master’s degree in a relevant field, plus passing a rigorous exam.

    I could see maybe doing an educational internship *during* the degree, in part to gain some real-world experience to go with the academic work, but not after being fully certified.

    1. Snowglobe

      There are internships for students majoring in accounting, but those are usually for students who have not yet received the CPA certification, and internships in business/finance are generally paid, not unpaid.

      I did wonder if the career counselor was referring to volunteering at a not-for-profit to get some experience. Many NFPs could use some assistance with accounting. There are also charitable organizations that provide free tax preparation services for low-income tax payers.

        1. AccountingIsFun

          For CPA, in the United States it is doing relevant CPA work – audit and/or tax return preparation, under the supervision of a CPA for 2,000 hours. If the site coordinator is a CPA, the volunteer work would count towards the 2,000 hours. Generally CPA internships are paid. If you do the volunteer tax preparation as a junior in college or in your first year of a career change masters degree, you have a significant leg up on any other intern for working at a small CPA firm for tax season since you are already familiar with the process.

          I site coordinate a volunteer prepared income tax site – I take anyone even philo/theo – but I train them just to do the type of returns we see. They are doing qualified work for tax, just that they wouldn’t have the tax knowledge to deal with less common things like passive income/loss rules, etc. The philo/theo would also not have the underlying accounting knowledge for businesses that has very little to do with tax.

          1. Meg Murry

            Yes, I think this might be the only example that would be appropriate (and is timely). Right now there are lots of tax preparation clinics for seniors or those with a lower income. If it isn’t too late, volunteering at one of these would be a good option for OP. My grandmother volunteers with AARP Tax-Aide, and it may be a way for OP to meet some people in the industry – some of the people my grandmother volunteers with are retired CPAs, etc.

            A paid internship, part-time job, or an entry level position that is willing to hire OP while she works toward her CPA certification would be better (and do exist, don’t listen to this career counselor!), but volunteering is something OP could do now if her schedule permits.

          2. Another CPA

            For the record, the requirements vary from state to state – generally 1-3 years, and I’ve never heard of hours as anything below staff accountant level counting, or of volunteer work being acceptable. The supervising CPA has to sign off on not just the number of hours completed, but that the level of work completed is at an appropriately complex level. Internship duties don’t generally have the level of complexity required, and a volunteer position inherently doesn’t have the same level of accountability as a paid position.

            That said, having these experiences does help on the job market.

    2. krysb

      I know in my state, in order to get a CPA, you have to have a year’s worth of work-related experience.

      (Personally, I wouldn’t do an unpaid internship at a for-profit firm for this, though, because that’s not what they are for – and probably against the rules.)

    3. AccountingIsFun

      doing unpaid internships in accounting – CPA’s or otherwise – is not really a thing in accounting. I have more employers than students for well paid internships in accounting.

    4. Trina

      OP of #2 here — I agree, and here is another reason why I was confused. At least 2 of the Big Four accounting firms offer an internship track for college graduates and one for career changers (or maybe it’s just 1, I can’t remember). I think I should just contact the recruiters directly instead of working with this counselor.

      1. Meg Murry

        Rather than asking this counselor, could you instead reach out to one of your professors and ask them about this advice, and how to go about job hunting in general. They should be in a much better position to tell you whether an internship or other accounting work experience is really going to be necessary in order to get an entry level position, or whether you are competitive for a new position right now as you are.
        My other thought would be to see if there are any internal positions you could apply for with your current company that would be more relevant. Working in payroll or accounts payable, for instance, might work as a stepping stone toward getting some accounting/finance experience.

  14. MommyMD

    I’m glad you see you are being very unfair in the treatment of your new employer but it is still a very cruel thing you are doing and she is onto it. She could sue you for sexual discrimination because you are indeed guilty of this. You are also sabotaging her career by making her appear less competent. I would stop this very quickly before your own insecurities and actions land you into legal trouble. I don’t think you can be a good manager when treating someone vindictively like this.

    1. MommyMD

      *employee*. Also if only one other employee sees through this, you are going to be in hot water because the new hire has already brought it up to your boss and you had to lie your way out of it. Where there’s smoke there’s fire.

    2. Buffay the Vampire Layer

      Ok no. This employee would get no traction with any sort of title VII (or equivalent state law) sex discrimination suit. Negative comments / unfriendly attitude does not qualify as an adverse employment action.

      Not to say that OP1 doesn’t have work to do on how she manages her employee, but don’t scare her with the unfounded conclusions of a layperson.

      1. caryatis

        “Negative comments / unfriendly attitude does not qualify as an adverse employment action.”

        If OP continues with her behavior, it could easily escalate to an actionable level. Bad performance appraisal? Denied leave that others can take? Not recommended for a promotion? I agree with MommyMD that a potential lawsuit is one of the many reasons OP needs to stop acting this way, or if she can’t, resign from the management role.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          But OP knows she needs to change. I don’t think it helps to berate her when she’s asking for help and tools to make those changes.

    3. Emi.

      Whoa, this seems pretty harsh. It’s not sex discrimination if OP doesn’t have this problem with women generally. And anyway, she obviously knows she should stop–that’s why she wrote in. Be a little nicer to LWs, yeesh, especially on tough topics like this.

      1. Jamie

        I agree. People can’t get over their biases (which we ALL have to varying degrees) if they don’t address them and I applaud the OP for examining this. So often people are afraid to admit their biases because of fear of being shamed and so don’t get the practical advice that can help.

        This is exactly the type of discussion that can help change how people see things and examine their own biases to make sure they aren’t impacting anyone adversely.

    4. Rat in the Sugar

      Alison has asked us repeatedly not to speak to letter writers that way since it discourages people from writing in to her site.

      OP already acknowledged that what she’s doing is bad and is trying to stop; repeating what she already said about herself but saying it in a nastier way is really not helpful.

      Additionally, I don’t generally believe in calling commenters out, but there have been several posts over the last couple of weeks where you’ve left these kinds of comments that are very harsh towards people that write in for advice. Please stop doing that, as Alison has asked to. It’s her site, and if she asks us to be kind we should all be kind even if you think OP deserves to be yelled at.

      1. The Supreme Troll

        I know; Alison has said this over the years, and I agree. However, MommyMD has some logical points, mainly, the way that her employee is being treated indeed is a form of harassment. Basically, the employee is being treated in a hostile manner throughout the day. I am not a lawyer, and this might or might not rise to the level of hostile workplace in the legal sense, but, nonetheless, there is some merit to this.

        I know that others have said that the OP should get to know her employee better, to see her more as a human being, and I agree with this. Who knows, there may be some personal problems or other crap going on in her employee’s life that will shatter the so-called perfect image. Or there can be a lot of happy-go-lucky things in the employee’s life that could further grate on the OP. But they shouldn’t, because in life, the good that comes your way comes through skill, determination…and sometimes, none of that but just dumb luck!

        I will say that I appreciate that the OP wrote in and that she realizes that the problem is on her end and is working on it. Alison has great advice here, and it will help if she can see the situation through the employee’s eyes. It sucks to have to be the person who can never do right in the boss’s eyes.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I don’t think the problem is the content of her comments, but rather the framing/tone. I agree with Rat in the Sugar that, with the exception of the mental health days letter, many of MommyMD’s comments have been unnecessarily harsh or judgmental in a manner that would certainly discourage me from writing in (especially something like OP#1’s letter, which is raw-nerve-level sensitive).

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              (I just realized that could sound like I’m scolding you for calling it out again. I wasn’t! I wanted to emphasize my frustration that it’s continued.)

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                It’s ok! I read it as you saying, “Yup, this keeps happening” with an implied “thanks” to the commenters who’ve been calling it out. :)

        2. Jessie the First (or second)

          “the way that her employee is being treated indeed is a form of harassment…treated in a hostile manner”

          In the legal sense, it is neither harassment nor hostile. There isn’t a lawsuit option for “my manager is not nice to me.”

          I get very, very frustrated by the rather common impulse to throw around “lookout! Lawsuit!” There is no need to scare the OP, as there is no basis for a lawsuit right now.

    5. Parenthetically

      She literally said all of this in her letter. She knows she is being insecure, that she needs to stop, that it’s unfair. It’s the reason she wrote in. You’re just piling on by repeating the offenses she’s already extremely aware of and agonizing about. How is that helpful?

      A sexual discrimination lawsuit, though? Gimme a very large break.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      We’re not in sexual discrimination territory, yet, so I’d like to set that aside because I’m not sure stoking OP#1’s fears would be helpful in assisting her in addressing this problem. Fear often does not motivate people to engage in the kind of rational, thoughtful evaluation that we need them to undertake to make major changes like the ones OP#1 will need to make.

      I agree that it’s cruel and unfair to treat an employee in this manner, and I give OP#1 credit for recognizing that this is vastly unkind, and morally and ethically wrong. And I give OP#1 credit for realizing that she needs to address this issue through her own treatment plan, including through therapy.

      The one question I had, after reading the letter, was whether it may make sense to change the employee’s reporting and supervision structure until OP#1 is in a place where she feels she can return to fairly managing her employee. I think Alison has offered great concrete suggestions for behavioral changes, but my fear was that OP#1 may not be in the right headspace to be able to incorporate those changes at this time. And given that the employee has identified the source of her mistreatment, it seems like the manager-supervisee relationship has likely degraded significantly. It can be built back with time, but my question is: would it be fairer to the employee to insulate her from OP for the time being?

      1. fposte

        I was thinking this myself, and pairing it in my head with the post from earlier this week about the manager with the unfortunate connection. It started me thinking about managerial recusal, as I think of it, and when it’s necessary or at least advisable.

        And if the OP’s staffer can be easily reassigned with no harm to her, I agree that’s the thing to do in this case. I do think the OP really should be upfront with the employee and say “I’ve had my own issues that have interfered with managing you fairly, and I think you deserve a better chance; Sam’s team is therefore a better place for you right now” (or “if you’d like to move to Sam’s team, please notify Sam, who’d be happy to have you, and he’ll tell me”).

        For me the main question is whether a manager can demonstrably give her employee fairness–and that includes no preferential treatment as well as no punitive treatment. Obviously that’s an ideal that a lot of managers struggle with, being human and all, but once you’ve identified the fact that you aren’t being fair to an employee for something that’s no fault of the employee’s and there’s little likelihood of an immediate corrective, it’s time to consider giving her a chance away from you.

    7. Bonky

      I love this site, and I love its commentariat. I do not love the amateur workplace lawyers, who generally get stuff egregiously and dangerously wrong. Not a lawyer? Don’t pontificate about law. (And the OP here is asking for help, which is very brave; she doesn’t need your pretend-lawyer scaremongering.)

  15. Amber808

    The unpolished student emails drive me up the wall. I’m talking ones with no greetings and no closings (all I want is a “Hi FirstName,”). These often are written without complete sentences, aren’t proofread, etc. I don’t know why people think this will be effective, but I figure they aren’t learning it elsewhere so I do provide feedback. Only once has someone responded poorly. Usually people are grateful. Most of my colleagues just delete these emails.

    1. AcidMeFlux

      Once my boss at the language school I teach in got a CV, by phone mail, with the attached message: “Hrs my CV thx bye.” For an English teacher position.

      1. babblemouth

        Appalling. Everyone know you need to *at least* sign “xoxo” to even make it to the review pile!

          1. Myrin

            My thoughts jumped to either a text message or an email but where it automatically says “Sent from my yPhone” or something similar at the end.

      2. Delta Delta

        The abbreviation “thx” makes me irrationally angry. Not that the rest of this email wouldn’t drive me bonkers, but “thx” (I’ve also seen “tks” “tnx” “tnks”) makes me have to stop and count to 10.

    2. Suze

      Honestly, I just ignored the one that inspired this letter, I was that put off. Going forward though I think I will provide gentle feedback, as well as put up some language on the website about available positions, internships, etc.

  16. Anon for this

    LW1. It is great that you’ve recognised you have a problem, and want to address it. I’m sorry for your struggles too. I agree with what Alison has advised.

    As an aside – speaking as someone who is used to being in the employee’s situation – the only thing I find a little tricky with some of the comments is the whole ‘they might have a rubbish life’ thing – I agree it’s an easy way in to re-humanising someone you’ve de-humanised, and as long as it’s thought of like that, great, no problem at all. But if it stops there, it’s not helpful… it’s feeding into the sexism again with the idea that female beauty is somehow a type of ‘compensation’, and it’s like saying “Yeah you’re pretty and I hate you, but I found out your whole family died in a fire so that balances it out and I will allow you your genetic fortune*” – no one needs permission or justification to wear their own face – which is why I like Alison’s comparison to racism.

    We need to think in terms of raising ourselves up, without pulling others down.

    *Because that’s literally all it is – sometimes I feel like asking “So how many generations of my family would you like me to apologise for for breeding me?”

    1. HannahS

      Yeah. I shouldn’t need a list of other people’s flaws to be at peace with the fact that someone else is prettier and more successful, because being “the most” is not where my self-worth should be coming from to begin with. Someone else’s potentially terrible life shouldn’t be comforting or consoling to me.

      I had a bad time with jealousy with one specific girl in university who was, as far as I could tell, just a better version of me. She got better grades in the program I had to drop out of due to chronic illness. She did the double major I couldn’t handle. She had a handsome, kind, boyfriend. She worked out regularly *and liked it.* She was taller, thinner, and prettier. To top it off, our names were almost identical! And when I got to know her, all of those things were still true. I was unhappy with myself because I was disabled by illness and lonely. As far as I can tell, she still has it together more than I do. That doesn’t make me unhappy anymore, but that’s because my knowledge of myself has changed, not my knowledge of her.

      1. Allison

        Yup, same here! There was this one girl everyone liked, and she was so cute, and nice, and funny, and got the internships I wanted, and her life seemed amazing. Comparing myself to her made me feel like garbage, I felt so much better once I stopped focusing on how I measured up to others and started focusing on myself. Was I getting what I wanted? Did I look the way I wanted? Was I the person I wanted to be? Am I successful in a job I like? If my life is good, that’s what matters, and if my life isn’t good, it’s not because someone is taking what I want and keeping me from being happy.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          These are exactly all the right questions to ask. It’s hard because society often encourages people to measure their self-worth in relation to others. But as you’ve noted, Allison, those comparisons don’t tell you anything about your personal goals and growth, and they make you feel like total crap. Refocusing can be really helpful for getting out of destructive and spiral-y headspace.

      2. Pommette

        So, so beautifully put.

        Some people are just blessed to have a lot of good qualities. I have worked with colleagues who were intelligent, eloquent, beautiful, funny, and graced with a happy disposition and an easy sociability that let them find friends everywhere they went. I am none of those things; of course, I was envious.

        Seeing that many of them were actually wonderful people who used their various qualities to make the world better didn’t lessen my envy, but it did make me like as well as envy them, and it was a good reminder that while you don’t get any control over what you are, you do get some control over what you do with it.

        I eventually became friends with a few of the women I envied. And while their lives are of course not perfect, the problems they face are the same as those that people who aren’t blessed with the same luck also face. The world isn’t fair – a good thing isn’t balanced out with a bad one, or vice versa. Some people are lucky. There are people I could envy, and there are people who could envy me.

        Eventually, I stopped feeling jealous. They are what they are, and I am what I am; we’re all trying to be as good and as happy as we can. It probably is harder for some of us than for others. I respect them for trying, and help them when I can. They do the same for me. I think that my life is richer for having their friendship, and I think that they feel the same way about my friendship.

      3. Pommette

        So, so beautifully put.

        I have had colleagues whose qualities I envied – they were blessed with intelligence, eloquence, beauty, a naturally happy disposition, and an ease and openness with others that made it easy for them to make friends. Being none of those things, I was envious. Getting to know them well enough to know that many were also kind people who worked hard to be good to others did not lessen the envy, but it did make it hard for me to dislike them.

        In the years since, I have become friends with a few of these people. They have problems, of course- some serious, some not. But those problems are no worse than the problems that others who aren’t blessed with the same qualities experience. Life isn’t fair in that way – good and bad things don’t have to balance out.

        Eventually, I realized that I was what I was, and they were what they were. We couldn’t control what we were; we could control what we did with those qualities. I know that their friendship has enriched my life; I think that they feel the same way about my friendship.

    2. Kitkat

      This is a really good point. Thank you for giving me some food for thought this morning! You’re right that it can be easy to slide over from “we’re just apples and oranges, it’s not productive to compare myself to this person” to “something in your life is probably terrible for you to be so beautiful”

    3. MissGirl

      I agree with this. What is someone to do if they meet a person who is beautiful, intelligent, and has no real major problems in life currently? Dig until you find something bad, wish them ill? You have to accept the jealousy is about you and not them. You can only change you and your attitude. Focus on who you are and don’t worry about them.

      I once sat next to a beautiful woman at a conference and felt immediately insecure. She had great hair and I wondered if I could have hair like that. Then a little voice said, “Are you going to get up each morning and blow dry your hair and then style it? Are you going to get frequent cuts and buy product?”

      Nope, I realized. I have no patience for doing my hair beyond ten minutes. Once I realized that how I looked was representative of who I was and my priorities, I let go of all my insecurities and could appreciate this woman’s beauty as something she earned. (Granted some people are born more beautiful, but I’m born more something else so it evens out). Live your own life.

      1. TL -

        Yes, this! I could be a lot prettier if I wanted, but being pretty is a lot of work. Mad props to those of you who can do it every day, but I haven’t the patience.
        I have a colleague who is very fashionable and beautiful, wears full makeup and lovely, intricate hairstyles every day and is also a sweet, intelligent person who has a very cool project at work and is willing to tell hilarious and slightly embarrassing stories about herself.
        I am never going to be fashionable with my makeup and hair done every day – I don’t want to be – but I can laugh at her stories and enjoy talking to her. She’s not being pretty and fashionable at me; she just enjoyed looking a particular way.

        1. Colorado

          I love this thread. Yes, I would love to have great hair, clothes, and a super fit body and envy people who do. And I probably could have these things if I really tried, any of us could. But ya know what? I despise doing my hair, don’t want to spend $150 at the salon every 6 weeks, only want to wear soft, fuzzy clothing, and would rather do anything except go to a gym. But I have other things going for me. I’m kind, fun, and am an excellent horsewoman. Anybody can be those things too. I admire people who nurture their priorities, whatever they may be.

        2. Lissa

          I am jealous of people who are very “put together”, more so than jealous of people with certain naturally good features, because I can never ever do that or look that way without help. And in some ways it’s more frustrating, because when I *have* had help (I know some people hate when their friends offer them makeovers but I love it) I look awesome and do see the difference in how I’m treated. But on an every day basis? No, even if I try it doesn’t happen.

      2. Parenthetically

        Oh man, this so much. Several of my friends are just really into hair or makeup and look like instagram models every. single. day, while here I sit with more split ends than not and nothing but moisturizer on my face 7 out of 10 days. And you know what? I’m fine with it. I would rather sleep until 6:50, throw my hair into a bun, slap some tinted moisturizer on, and get out the door. One of the things I hammer on with my girls at school is that people are allowed to have different priorities and we should spend our energy admiring each other’s hard work wherever we put that hard work in, rather than being petty or jealous about a hobby someone else enjoys!

        “how I looked was representative of who I was and my priorities”

        I love that so much.

        1. Delta Delta

          I would sleep in my clothes if it meant I could sleep til 6:55 and get out the door with just brushing my teeth.

          1. Parenthetically

            If I’m on top of my game, I pick my outfits for the week on Sunday night and put them on 5 hangers right in the middle of my closet. It’s the next best thing to sleeping in my clothes.

            1. Emi.

              I will admit that I downloaded a wardrobe organization app that lets me assign outfits to the calendar and get a notification every morning.

              1. anon for this one

                I need something like that just so I’m not standing in my closet on Thursday asking myself “did I wear this on Monday?”

                1. Frozen Up North

                  Um…yes. 100% this. “Will anyone know these are the same black leggings if I pair them under something different? Wait….are these the same black leggings….”

            2. Emilia Bedelia

              yes yes yes to this.

              I literally wear my pajamas to work because I go to the gym in the morning, and pack up my work clothes and gym clothes to change into when I get there. I’ve found that the closer I can get to literally rolling out of bed and walking out the door, the easier it is for me to… actually do it.

        2. MissGirl

          “We should spend our energy admiring each other’s hard work wherever we put that hard work in.”

          Yes, this. We spend so much time judging other people’s priorities. I think it’s a way to alleviate our own feelings of inadequacy. Good on you for teaching that young. Now if we could keep us adults from saying and thinking it.

    4. Rusty Shackelford

      Well-stated. You don’t need to convince yourself that she is also broken. You need to convince yourself that you are also whole.

      1. CoffeeLover

        Agreed, well said. I also really like your summary.
        [quote] You don’t need to convince yourself that she is also broken. You need to convince yourself that you are also whole. [/quote]

      2. hermit crab

        You don’t need to convince yourself that she is also broken. You need to convince yourself that you are also whole.

        Oh, that’s gorgeous! I love it.

      3. The Supreme Troll

        Rusty, this means a lot. The OP needs to look at all of the wonderful qualities that she has. I’m sure she has many, but she needs to focus on this first, not try to find imperfections in her employee before she can start treating her better.

    5. Purest Green

      I love this comment. Thank you for writing it. We don’t need other people to be flawed or damaged to feel good about ourselves.

    6. Important Moi

      OP1: I’ve seen several really good comments about your situation. I just want to say you are not alone in your feelings. I’m not proud of this either. It has happened to me.

      I worked with another woman who all the men in her presence seemed to fawn over, so much so that other women would come to me and say “Did you notice how he’s treating her?” First, it satisfied me to know that others noticed what I noticed. Subsequently, I started to wonder did the other women approach me because they thought based on my appearance I would be sympathetic to their perspective? I wondered if they thought I an unhappy, jealous, ugly duckling. Ultimately, I changed my behavior towards this woman. I tried to be friendly when engaging her. When we were in a situation where attention given to her made me uncomfortable, I would just engage another person or just excuse myself. We aren’t great buddies, but there is improvement in our interactions.

      As others have said, I didn’t want to want to be the person that says ” “Yeah you’re pretty and I hate you, but I found out your whole family died in a fire so that balances it out and I will allow you your genetic fortune.” I’m not that person.

      1. Marillenbaum

        That’s an excellent point. There was a girl like this that I went to college with: she was thin, blonde, tall, in a sorority, and dating the hottest senior in the department. And she was so genuinely nice and kind that it felt super petty to hate her for it (she gave voluntary back rubs!) It took me a while to realize that I wasn’t letting myself appreciate her because I was so caught up in how shoddy I felt by comparison (add in some toxic mess about being on a still fairly segregated college campus to boot). That did take time, but I remember that it helped to envision myself acting like the person I wanted to be, not the person I was. I wanted to be kind and friendly and appreciative, so I would try, and then deal with my bad feelings on my own time; eventually, I had to do that less and less.

    7. CM

      Rather than racism, I thought a more apt comparison would be someone struggling with infertility having to work closely with an enthusiastically pregnant coworker. You know it’s wrong and unfair, but you want what they have so badly that you can’t think straight.

      1. fposte

        Oh, that’s a really illuminating analogy, CM, and a kind of jealousy that a lot of people can understand.

      2. Tableau Wizard

        I think the comparison to racism works so well because treating someone differently based on their race is so clearly NOT OKAY and it’s (hopefully) an inherent reaction within the OP that she wouldn’t treat someone differently based on their race. The comparison takes an obvious, inherent response and tries to apply it to the OP’s current situation.

        Agreed, that the infertility/pregnancy example would work but there’s a bit of a different layer of “born with” vs. “result of actions” (intentional or not).

    8. really anon for this

      This. As someone in the employee’s situation, it makes me super uncomfortable to think that people might have been trying to find things about my life to justify why they were jealous. And in fact I know someone did this when they found out I was infertile. My infertility is not my punishment for someone thinking I’m pretty and smart.

      1. Turtle Candle

        Oh god, as someone struggling with infertility too that really hits home. I’m so sorry that happened.

    9. Princess Carolyn

      This is a great response. What OP really needs to work on is realizing that other people being great (in whatever way — appearance, skills, personality) doesn’t make her any less great. It’s not a zero-sum game. It’s natural to envy people who have what we want or are what we’d like to be. The problem is in seeing those people as a threat and mistreating them because of it.

      A saying you might have seen somewhere that still helps me: Comparison is the thief of joy.

      And yes, a therapist is a great person to talk to about this kind of thing. I suspect this kind of thinking is closely intwined with the other thought patterns that go along with eating disorders.

    10. anon-noir

      This is a great comment. “We need to think in terms of raising ourselves up, without pulling others down. ”

      Personally, I didn’t care for the racism comparison because the issues I’ve faced in life as a black woman and as an attractive black woman are very different experiences…even though race can’t really be compartmentalized like that and my being black will always influence how people treat me.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Just to be clear, I’m not saying it’s the same as racism; it’s very definitely not! Just that that’s a similar paradigm that the OP could use to see that she really doesn’t want to behave that way.

        1. Kate

          Your example made perfect sense to me Alison. Comparing two ways some people treat other people badly based on the appearance they were born with.

    11. Jamie

      Really great point. I love this…and as I have a beautiful daughter without a tragic backstory this really resonates:

      no one needs permission or justification to wear their own face – which is why I like Alison’s comparison to racism.

    12. Anon for this

      no one needs permission or justification to wear their own face

      Thank you!

      I’m not a very conventionally attractive woman, but I feel this so much.

      1. Frozen Up North

        I think it speaks just as loudly to those of us who aren’t conventionally attractive. As someone who hates doing their makeup and is regularly reminded how much more conventionally attractive I could appear if I would just *unsolicited advice or shaming* I feel this very deeply.

    13. NaoNao

      I agree to this.
      I also want to point out that saying “but this such and such gorgeous person that I know is so nice too!” is a bit of a derail or maybe not so helpful because for me personally, I’ve been in the situation where I’ve had gorgeous friends who were also really nice/cool/fun people and that makes it *worse*.

      I ask myself stuff like “who would pick me, an ordinary person with an okay personality, over this “perfect” person?” Someone being nice is a bonus, and it may allow you to befriend them, but it *doesn’t* make jealousy or envy go away!

      And let’s be real here: When we talk about someone nice being “more beautiful” that’s not the same as objectively good looking to strangers. Someone who is ordinary looking with a wonderful kind heart is more *attractive* to those with kind hearts. But they are not model-gorgeous from an objective viewpoint. There are plenty of drop dead gorgeous people who are completely human, or worse…mean!

      When your candid selfie on FB gets tons of likes, you get little “perks” for being good looking from the rest of society, you benefit from the “halo effect” (I have an extremely good looking friend who men say/write things to about how *good* she is, morally and personality wise, despite having talked to her like, once. They believe her outward beauty means she MUST be a true, pure, innocent, sweet, good soul.) that’s not the same as being a sweetheart who’s plain that people say things like “true beauty is on the inside!” about. I mean, bless for saying that :)

      But I find, that like some people who claim they are “sapiosexual” (require a strong mental connection or are strongly attracted/primarily attracted to intelligence), this is a bit more wishful thinking than reality.

      Exhibit A: “The Hot Felon” (Jeremy Meeks)

      SO:
      Use envy as your guide:
      What about this person would you like for yourself, and how can you get there? What is envy showing you you’re missing?
      Or
      Focus on *you*–your dreams, goals, gifts, and life.

  17. Channel Z

    OP#1 You may have gotten yourself into bigger trouble by lying to your boss. Boss confronted you about your jealously. If you simply denied it, it doesn’t look good for you because both the woman and her co-workers can see it, and your boss likely does too. It might be a good idea to confess the truth to your boss, and that you want and are seeking help to change. If you took the lie further, by making false claims about her poor work for example, then you have put your own job in jeopardy.

    1. babblemouth

      I can’t figure out how LW1 could have gotten out of this without lying and saying she’s not jealous. What would be a good way to tell your boss “yes, I have a major bias, and I have been treating her unfairly?” I can’t think of one…

      (though between this and my reaction to yesterday’s letter, I feel like I’m endorsing small lies quite a lot. Maybe there’s a problem with me?)

      1. Wanna-Alp

        How about “I’ve been thinking about what you said the other day, and on reflection, I think you may have a point. I’m going to work on this issue; thanks for bringing it to my attention.”

        1. babblemouth

          I agree, this is good.
          I’m wondering how on the spot she could have said anything else though? Maybe along similar lines “I don’t want to discount her feelings, and I will check myself for unconscious bias?” But that would still be technically a lie if she was certain of her feelings.

          1. Elizabeth H.

            I think “I don’t want to discount her feelings, and don’t want X to feel like I am treating her differently for any reason, thank you for bringing this to my attention, I will evaluate her performance fairly” is good and none of that is a lie. I honestly think it would be a much better outcome to improve the situation without any admission of jealousy than to admit. It will be messed up for all interactions between LW1, the employee, her boss and the other employees if she is like “I am jealous because of how she looks.” If I thought someone was jealous and treating me unfairly, I would legitimately rather that they just stopped treating me unfairly than if they admitted they were jealous AND stopped treating me unfairly. It’s the rare circumstance where I feel like everybody would win out more with less openness.

        2. always in email jail

          I think Wanna-Alp’s suggestion is great!! It shows you took some time to reflect and are going to work on the issue.

    2. MissGirl

      I was wondering this too. She’s painted herself into a corner. She’s now made the other woman look paranoid when the problem lies with the OP. I like Babblemouth’s comment of going to the boss and saying maybe she had an unconscious bias but she’ll be on the alert for it now.

    3. NonProfit Nancy

      So, so disagree. OP needs to manage their reactions so their jealousy is no factor, and they’re working hard to do that. I can’t see what good it would do to discuss this with your boss. At best, I think it’s fair to say, “you know, Bedelia kind of rubbed me the wrong way at first but I really grew to appreciate X and Y about her,” but I definitely wouldn’t touch on anything about body image or personal jealousy.

  18. K

    OP1 – I agree with all of the people saying that changing your actions is the most important thing at this point. Accept the fact that you’re feeling resentful of her for now (though your therapist can help you work through that in the long run), but focus on catching yourself before your resentment leads you to treat her poorly and making a conscious and active effort to behave more positively towards her.

    I don’t think there’s anything to be done about the part where you lied about your feelings towards her at this point, but as other people have said, just take it as a wake up call and try to change your actions at work from now on.

  19. Emlen

    I think LW 3 is concerned more about the casual tone of the emails, which, if they actually read “Are you guys (!!!) hiring/accepting interns?” is certainly inappropriate. They should read more like, “Dear Mrs. Teapot Media Director, I’m senior studying teapot media at State Teapot University, and looking for opportunities to get experience in x aspect of teapot media, for which your company is known. Will you be taking on interns during X time?” Obviously, not all college students (and even fewer high school ones) will know this, so I understand the LW asking if there’s a good way to share that knowledge.

    1. Rusty Shackelford

      I hope so. The example definitely was inappropriate, so if that was truly representative of the emails she’s getting, I might have been tempted to ignore them too.

    2. Squeeble

      At my last job we’d occasionally get emails that were just that one line–“Are you hiring?” with no greeting, signature, anything. Aside from seeming rather unprofessional, it’s also so easy to let an email like that get lost in the shuffle.

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      Well, one huge quibble there — they should not write “Mrs.!” Never in a professional context unless they somehow know that the OP uses Mrs.

      Sorry, I know that’s not the point of your comment, but let’s make sure people know that so they’re not sending emails that are going annoy a bunch of their recipients.

      1. Emlen

        Ack, yes! Thank you for catching & correcting that! As a married Ms. myself, I’m mortified at the oversight.

      2. Jamie

        I love that you remind people of this whenever it comes up!

        I’m old school (loooove Judith Martin) and when I was married I used Mrs. with my husband’s name (I.e. Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Keyboardmonkey) and was Mrs. Keyboardmonkey to the kids’ schools when little, but Ms. Jamie Keyboard Monkey otherwise, because as Miss Manners said Mrs. means “wife of.”

        I don’t judge others because I don’t care, but it’s one of those weird little rules from days gone by I hold to for me.

        Unfortunately given my first name and male dominated profession/field I usually get Mr. until people speak with or meet me. I’d probably do the same because the odds would be stacked in the favor of getting a much deeper voice when you cold called me. :)

    4. Suze

      LW #3 here. The text that I included in my letter was the entirety of the email, which is why I was so peeved/put off. I’m generally fine with cold emails, even if they don’t include a resume. As I said, the polite and professional letters generally at least get an informational phone call. And we’ve definitely hired interns and freelance personnel after receiving a cold email introduction. But this email in particular was that one quoted line with no salutation or signature, and that’s why I was so thrown off and wondered if I should provide feedback.

  20. Myrin

    I feel like I must be missing something with regards to #3 – OP seems to think that not attaching a resume is a grave mistake and Alison says it’s “not egregious” but still not ideal but to me, cold-sending a resume when you don’t know if the company is even interested in interns at all seems very presumptuous and I would never think of doing that. Is this another cultural thing where the US just operates differently or is this some sort of rule I’ve been unaware of until now?

    1. Grits McGee

      I know that when I was cold-emailing nonprofits as a grad student I wouldn’t have attached a resume. Having read this site and being more familiar with the hiring-side of employment, I can understand why OP3 and Alison would like that approach. As an internship -seeker I had a couple reason for not attaching a resume:

      1. I was afraid it would make me look presumptuous.
      2. Most of my job experience is in small nonprofits where I wore several, often unrelated, hats at the same time. I cull and customize when I apply for things b/c if I listed all my responsibilities & accomplishments my resume would be five pages long. I don’t want to get turned down for an internship b/c I used my customer service-focused resume and you’re looking for someone to manage the database.
      3. I don’t want to go through the work of trying to guess how to customize my resume, make all of the changes, and then have it turn out you don’t actually offer internships.
      4. (Not particularly relevant in OP3’s case.) The organizations I emailed were so excited to have a grad student willing to work for free that many didn’t even ask to see my resume.

      1. Tomato Frog

        Yes to your point 1. I came here to say this. I still feel that way sometimes, even though I know better.

      2. Allison

        Honestly, I would refrain from attaching my resume because an attachment could trigger someone’s spam filter, especially if they get a lot of cold e-mails similar to mine already. It’s also why I don’t like adding stuff like links and pictures in e-mails to passive job candidates. Again, spam filter. Also, some people are hesitant to open attachments from people they don’t know. It’s best to make a connection, then send materials.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yes, exactly. This was my experience, and as Allison notes, attachments will often land you in a spam filter. I don’t think there’s a cultural norm across all industries in the U.S. that inquiries re: internships should be accompanied with resumes—I think it varies by employer.

    2. always in email jail

      I’m in the US and I hate when they send resumes I haven’t asked for…the attachments often land me in email jail! (see username).
      I do agree that the emails should be written more professionally, though. I, too, often receive “Are you taking interns???” with no context, no intro, nothing. I usually don’t even reply, or give a one sentence reply that my division doesn’t have the capacity for an intern at this time.
      I used to have a boss who would say “If they’re not going to do it for themselves, they’re not going to do it for you”. Meaning, if someone won’t even make the effort to put together a decent email in a situation that benefits THEM, theyr’e not going to make much effort of your behalf.

    3. gwal

      yes, I think “no resume or further information included” really means that the emails aren’t professional–no introduction, no indication of what particularly interests the student, no indication of availability. and that’s a perfectly reasonable rationale to not respond, as far as I can tell.

    4. NonProfit Nancy

      I think a prospective intern would do better to do a little research first – check the web, check open positions, etc – and then send an email that reflects specifics about their interest the company. The impersonal mass-email feeling is the problem, plus the assumption that this random person is probably eager to help you, a stranger. The attachment/ no attachment element seems like the least of it to me.

    5. Suze

      OP #3 here. It wasn’t so much the lack of resume that bothered me as the unprofessional content of the email. I do think if you’re interested in a niche industry you should include at least a little info about your qualifications, but I don’t insist on a resume for an introductory email. This email was just so over the top unprofessional that it really put me off. As I said in other comments, the line quoted in my letter was the entirety of the email. No salutation, no signature, nothing. That’s why I wondered if I should give feedback or just ignore. That particular email was sent back in November (I think?) and I ended up just ignoring it.

  21. Katie the Fed

    #1 – Definitely agree with Alison that you should work with your therapist on this, and also just commit to going through the motions with her, even if you’re not totally feeling it.

    I think there are plenty of times you have to stifle your feelings about someone in the office and go through the motions anyway. Right now I have a crush on a coworker, despite me being happily married. Whatever, it happens. I’m obviously not going to act on it or treat him any differently – so I just go through the motions of being a normal coworker and not some giggly schoolgirl who draws his name in hearts on my Skilcraft notebook.

    I suspect as you get to know her this will get better too. It takes me a while to warm up to new employees sometimes – usually about 2-3 months until I have a comfortable rapport with them. Try to focus on her work and not her – if she’s doing good work, then make sure to highlight it.

    Good luck!

  22. no name for this

    #1: I admit to probably having a bias because of my past history and I might get flamed for this but if I was your boss and I found out you lied I would fire you. Full stop, and decade long relationship aside. Whatever issues you have aside there is no excuse (eating disorder, past mental illness or otherwise) for treating someone so poorly. She can see it, which is why she went to your boss and you admitted that her co-workers think she is less competent and good at her job because of how you treat her. I can’t imagine how she must feel and I feel for her. You need to own up to what you did and stop treating her so poorly.

    1. Emlen

      No, I’m with you here. LW 1, I appreciate that you’re trying, but maybe it’ll help to reframe this: you are *bullying* an *employee*, and that has to stop immediately. I also think that if you’re as ashamed as you say, you’ll admit your lie to your boss. I actually think that’s non-negotiable if you really are trying to get better, because the unfounded damage you’ve done to your employee’s reputation is your responsibility to fix.

      1. M from NY

        +1!!

        I’ve been the employee in this situation and it was totally unfair because it fed into a gaslighting situation. By the time she was found out I was already on my way to another job but that led to jumping around for years. I couldn’t articulate then what was going on because I didn’t realize what she was doing which led to years of second guessing myself. Her insecurity affected my career.

        I get why others are giving you props for admitting you need help but that’s what you were supposed to do.

        I don’t agree with suggestions making this employee now spend more time with you giving up personal details so you can bond (or be used in attempt to chip away at image that you chosen to be jealous of). It’s not her job to make you feel better. Looks are what they are. All these years later I refuse to dull myself down for others. It’s come up over the years but my response is much different.

      2. Caro in the UK

        I agree with this to a point. It reminds me of the argument that’s sometimes used when explaining how something done unintentionally can still be tremendously affecting for the victim… If you intentionally stamp on another person’s foot and break it, then you’re a horrible person. If you accidentally trip and stamp on someone’s foot and break it, well you’re not a horrible person, accidents happen, but their foot is still broken, they’re still in pain and will still suffer the consequences of your actions until it’s healed.

        What I’m trying to say is that while you have understandable reasons for feeling the way that you feel, your actions are what count to her (and the rest of your team). You’re bullying her to the point that she and others have noticed, and bullying is completely unacceptable in any workplace (or anywhere!) You may need to own up to this, to her and your boss, to salvage the relationship and your own reputation.

      3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

        I agree entirely. OP1 is still in “I’m feeling jealous of my employee because reasons, how do I stop feeling jealous” mode, not “I’m bullying my employee and I’m going to hurt her and harm my own career if I don’t stop this right now” mode. Beating yourself up is not the objective, but reframing this in terms of what she is doing to her employee, rather than how she feels and how to feel differently, is likely to get OP in a more empathetic headspace. It’s not really about her. She needs to stop approaching it from a self-centered perspective.

    2. blackcat

      The OP wrote in *because* she’s trying to own up to what she’s done and change the way she’s acting. She knows its wrong.

      It may be helpful to point out that her job could be in jeopardy, but there’s no need to berate her about this. She knows what she has been doing is wrong.

      1. Susie

        She says she knows it is wrong but she keeps doing it. This wasn’t a one time thing. I agree with no name that whatever OP is dealing with is not an excuse for bullying and gaslighting an employee and using a good working relationship with her boss to lie about it.

        1. blackcat

          I’m not saying OP is in the right–far from it. What I’m saying is that there’s no need to berate her by telling her how bad she’s been, when she came here to get help. She KNOWS she needs to stop. She’s having trouble stopping. So she’s looking for advice.

          The only helpful part of “Hey, this is really bad” is “be mindful that your job could be in jeopardy,” since she doesn’t seem to have thought of that (or at least it’s not addressed in her letter).

          It just doesn’t seem productive to keep telling her how bad her actions are. Making her feeling worse about the situation isn’t likely to help her change. Offering concrete ideas for changing her behavior (like what Alison suggested) seems useful.

          Saying over and over again “You need to change” is about as helpful as telling an addict “You need to stop using” when they ask you for information on rehab. See also: telling a depressed person “You need to be happier” when then ask how to get help.

          OP has completed level 1 of changing behavior: admitting there is a problem. She’s asking for help moving forward. Let’s focus on that.

          1. fposte

            And as Anne Lamott says, “You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it too.”

            (There’s also an irony about being unhelpfully harsh to somebody who’s trying not to be unhelpfully harsh.)

              1. fposte

                I’m not sure where you’re going with this–the point is that truth doesn’t have to be assaultive to enlighten. If you don’t think you have the truth, that makes aggression even less justified.

          2. Jamie

            And from a pragmatic point of view isn’t a manager that knows they have an issue and proactively addressed it correcting the problem someone likely to become a better manager than some who don’t acknowledge the impact their personal feelings have on those they manage?

            Firing for addressing this problem seems like a great way to make sure people pretend it doesn’t exist.

        2. Alton

          I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that her mental health is making it genuinely difficult to control her behavior. She needs to do whatever she can to stop this, but I can believe that she hasn’t gotten it under control yet because she’s had a hard time stopping, not because she’s indifferent.

        3. NW Mossy

          We’re all guilty of falling into unhealthy habitual behaviors – there’s a reason why we have the term “bad habit,” and also why bad habits have a reputation for being hard to break. Repetition is not, in itself, a sign that the person engaged in the behavior doesn’t see it as unhealthy and isn’t trying to curtail it.

    3. always in email jail

      A commenter above provided a great script for owning up to her supervisor. I would respect someone who came to me and said “After our talk I took some time to reflect, and I realized there may be some truth to what we talked about. I’m going to continue to examine that and work on correcting it”

    4. Katie the Fed

      Do you honestly think berating someone who took the difficult step of seeking advice is helpful? She knows it’s an issue – that’s why she’s trying to fix it. Reminding her that she’s being a jerk – when she already knows it – is just gratuitous.

      1. Lissa

        Seriously. How is the above a helpful comment here? *She knows* she shouldn’t be doing it, is one more person saying “you are awful and I sympathize with your employee, not you!” going to magically change something she’s already trying to change? Even if it’s “true” I feel like all it’s doing is making the person doing the berating feel better, not actually adding to a useful discussion.

    5. Not Karen

      You need to own up to what you did and stop treating her so poorly.

      That is exactly what she IS doing.

      1. Emlen

        Until she tells her boss she lied and takes steps to fix the damage she’s done to her employee’s reputation, she hasn’t owned up to anything. If the OP is having such a hard time changing her behavior, reminding her that’s she’s being cruel to another human (over whom she has power, no less) might help more than framing this as correcting poor management techniques.

        1. fposte

          Being mean to her about it won’t, and it’s also something the host of the site has asked us not to do.

              1. Emlen

                So where was the meanness you’re referring to, if that’s part of the flaw in my argument? I’m not being snide here. I’d like to know.

                1. fposte

                  I’m saying that forcefully reminding people of their bad behavior when it’s already been pointed out is mean, it’s no more likely to be helpful than fat-shaming, and it’s against the rules of this site.

    6. NonProfit Nancy

      What? To focus on the lie element is ridiculous to me. I would not even consider firing an otherwise good employee for not being able to be completely honest in the moment about something as tricky as this. I can’t imagine the boss even framing the conversation this way – “Are you jealous of your attractive new employee?” without it coming across as totally weird. I wouldn’t be surprised at ANYONE who demurred or denied it when faced with such a question. It’s weird and awkward, so of course people are going to behave awkwardly.

      1. Susie

        The employee OP has treated badly came to OP’s boss with a legitimate issue. OP by her own admission lied about her treatment of the employee and exploited a decade long working relationship to get the boss to believe her over the employee, and then continues to treat the employee terribly and do the exact thing the employee said was happening that she (OP) lied about. If I was OP’s boss I would be very upset that one of my reports did this and exploited a working relationship of a decade to do it.

        1. NonProfit Nancy

          Ah, I see what you’re saying. I guess I hadn’t understood that the “lie” was that OP was not mistreating the employee when they knew they were. Alright, that is more of an issue, I understand what people are saying (I thought the lie in question was “no it’s not that I’m jealous of Belinda’s good looks”). OK, I agree that OP should go back to the boss using the scrips above and acknowledge they probably were treating this employee differently and is committing to fixing it.

    7. Ask a Manager Post author

      She said that she’s ashamed of herself and it took her a week to write the letter because she feels awful about herself.

      The commenting rules here ask you to be kind to people. If you can’t do that on a particular topic, it’s better not to submit the comment.

    8. Mb13

      I’m also biased and while I appreciate the healthiness and the kindness and empathy of the AAM community Op1 is ultimately a bad boss. A bad boss who’s self aware, but still seems to be a truly awful boss

        1. Mb13

          Something I often fall into a mental trap of when I make mistakes and being aware of them i try to justify it as it’s not that bad with out thinking what type of person it makes me. I can end up thinking “sure it was wrong in X way but I’m not an X person”. By putting a label on myself and being told “actually you are X type of person as a result of X actions” while harsh strips away any excuse and then I can focuse on what actions I can take to not be like X person. As such OP1 is a bad boss based on her bad actions, OP1 can try and fix the damage she’s done by apologizing to grand boss and employee, take active steps to show she’s supportive, and take the necessary mental solutions.

    9. Sas

      Agree to this. Here’s why it is not harsh, what if you replaced this young, blonde, long-haired, .. with someone in a wheelchair. “So and so is inadequate because they are in a wheelchair.” We have all been there. All judged. It’s when it gets far that there’s a problem. Losing her job might be something that kicks OP into different behavior. As someone who had, and I am sure many, many people have been on the receiving end of this kind of behavior, a friend who violently despised her ( I wasn’t blonde, long-haired,) , you can lose so much when someone is plotting against you. Someone that you wouldn’t expect. I lost so much, including friends. My ex friend probably had a doll that she poked with pins at the end of the day that was supposed to represent me. (Whew, that was off topic.) Anywho, I didn’t see this response as being inappropriate. You know, sometimes someone might need a swift kick in the a–. Admitting anonymously to us, is not any of the steps to improving this situation. All to often, and probably in this case, that is all that people (adults) do to correct this horrible behavior. It is WRONG. If you go to your manager and this person and apologize for your actions (and as people have mentioned, you probably should do that), and they ask you to leave, that is something you are deserved. I would go so far as to say that you cannot address your issues continuing in this company. Now, if you know me, I fully advocate for people being giving many chances, this company is not the one to do so though. And, you see, it is better to learn lessons that are valuable such as these at a younger age (5). But, that being said, welcome, you are human. OP if you are a good human, you’ll see how seriously wrong you are and LEAVE! People, including you, deserve much MUCH better than any of this.

      1. NaoNao

        Woah this seems really harsh and personal and out of line with the general tone of the comment here.

        People in this comment section and letter writers are given the benefit of the doubt. This community really values brisk, and even heated, discussions *that don’t veer into morality, character assassination, or judgement of people you’ve never met and don’t know*.

        The tone of this seems both mean and patronizing. Maybe you’re a little too close to this to give true perspective.

      2. Katie the Fed

        This letter clearly hit a nerve with you, but the owner/host of this site has REPEATEDLY asked people to not beat up on OPs, so I’m not sure why you think it’s in any way appropriate to deliver a “swift kick in the a–” in such a way.

        She’s not your childhood friend and this is a different situation. Most of us have dealt with bullying at some point in our lives – this isn’t about us. It’s about the OP wanting to make a change and fix things.

        Suggesting that the only possible solution is for the OP to leave her job isn’t helpful. There are things she can do to fix the situation, and that’s what we’re focused on here.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yep. I’m turning moderation on for all comments on this post now, which is very irritating and time-consuming.

          Follow the damn commenting rules, people.

      3. NonProfit Nancy

        What? No. OP should not feel like she has to quit if she’s a good human. Disagree. This is not significantly different than managing any other employee you irrationally dislike, which happens to all humans: OP just needs to own the emotion and get over it, make the amends she can, and not let it affect they way she treats the employee or values their good qualities. Quitting is a ridiculous overreaction.

  23. Lady Julian

    I read OP3s letter a bit differently. The OP mentions that students are not attaching resumes but also made it sound like the emails are very abrupt, no greeting or wrap-up or context to provide an bit of an introduction, just the question, “You hiring?”

    I teach college, and my students will send emails like this sometimes. I teach email writing in one of my developmental classes to counteract this. Cold emails, especially abrupt ones, are unprofessional. It would be kind of the OP to respond with a little coaching, but I think it would also be very awkward for the student, to inquire about jobs and get a lesson in email etiquette. So I’d continue the policy of ignoring. Focus on the professional emails.

    1. blackcat

      Every time I have taught (high school and college), I have put it in my syllabus that I reserve the right to not respond to emails that don’t use appropriate etiquette.

      Each student gets one warning. And then I don’t respond anymore. Students learn.

      My vote is for ignoring the abrupt or rude emails. It’s not your job to coach them.

    2. Suze

      Hey, OP #3 here, and you are absolutely correct – it wasn’t particularly the lack of resume, it was the abruptness and unprofessional nature of the email that threw me off.

      I did end up ignoring that email. Going forward I’m going to suggest we add a Jobs page to the site which will hopefully forestall some of these emails from being sent in the first place!

  24. JB

    #2,
    I am a CPA. Accounting is one of the few fields in which paid, and well-paid, internships are the norm. Your career counselor is a fool.

    1. Rusty Shackelford

      Or has a lucrative side-business procuring unpaid CPA work. “You need to volunteer some hours, and I happen to know someone who needs a volunteer…”

  25. Rusty Shackelford

    When I started reading #2, I was SO sure the advice to work for free was going to have come from Mom.

    1. Spoonie

      I had the same thought — some well intentioned relative was giving this advice. A career counselor? Gah. That hurts.

  26. Tuckerman

    #1: Good for you for writing in and being so self-aware. I think Alison’s advice is very good. I think it might also help (in terms of damage control) to reach out to your own manager and say something like, “You know, I’ve been observing x, y, z (positive things about the employee) and this makes me think maybe I haven’t given her a fair chance. I’m going to work on keeping an open mind about her.”
    As for jealousy. I used to be an incredibly jealous person, to where it consumed me. In my case, it was because I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of my life and I wasn’t the person who I wanted to be. As I improved myself, I was happier with myself and my life.
    I did hear really good advice on how to manage jealousy. You can be jealous of someone, but you have to be jealous of the whole person, not just one part of her. If you’re going to be jealous of someone’s success, you also have to be jealous of her sacrifices. If you’re going to be jealous of someone’s beauty, you also have to be jealous of her pain. For some reason, this really helped me.

    1. nunqzk

      I like this script! It would do a lot to honestly mitigate the damage, even if the LW is (understandably!) not ready to be open with her boss about her own insecurities.

    2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

      Not nearly emphatic enough.
      “You know, I’ve been observing x, y, z (positive things about the employee) and this makes me realize I haven’t given her a fair chance. I’m going keep an open mind about her and work to repair the damage I’ve already done.”

  27. Vin Packer

    #1, you do a thorough job of invalidating your feelings about this person, but I just want to say: liking her for her good personality traits (which she may or may not have) doesn’t need to be the goal here. The goal is you knowing you acted scrupulously ethically. Who knows, maybe this person *does* kind of suck, and your knee jerk reaction is in response to something else but your history is prompting you to focus on the wrong things. But you’ll never be able to figure it out or deal with it effectively until you can feel confident that your jealousy is not clouding your judgment. You want to be able to honestly say to yourself and your boss, “I know I gave her every opportunity to succeed.”

    I only say this because, while getting to know her as a person is a good idea to try, it’s also possible that looking further into her won’t help: ultimately, it’s going to come down to you.

    This type of internal work is so hard. Good on you, and good luck.

    1. Elizabeth H.

      FWIW . . . I’m not trying to trip over myself to invent a better light to see the situation in, but I think that in cases like these, there is something to the suggestion it might be something else about her that is bothersome or annoying. I have people in my life I’m really jealous of for whatever reason but I don’t simultaneously dislike them (one of my roommates is in a super athletic phase of life and training for a big event and has been talking about how many hours a week she has been working out – not in an obnoxious way at all – meanwhile, that used to be me, I was in unbelievable shape and super active, but I developed a physical therapy requiring nerve condition over the summer and it’s painful to do yoga, I haven’t done it in months and am incredibly depressed about the whole thing. BUT I like her and don’t find her annoying, despite being jealous.)
      Again, I don’t disagree with the LW’s take on the situation and don’t want to minimize this, but sometimes there are nuances, and I 100% agree that the important thing to do is be confident that you treat her fairly, with unclouded judgment and give her every opportunity to succeed.

  28. LSP

    OP#1 – Good for you for reaching out for help dealing with this, and I do think Alison’s advice is good.

    My only hesitation is about this employee going to your manager and flat out saying that you must be jealous. That gives me pause about her as an employee, since I don’t think most people would make that leap based purely on what could more easily be construed as a personality conflict. I can’t imagine telling my manager that my supervisor was jealous of me, even if that thought had popped into my head. It just seems strange for her to do, and I’d keep an eye on that as you get to now her. There may be REAL reasons for you to have problems with her, that are being shrouded by your insecurities, and if you can’t get this under control, you will lose any leverage to do anything about those problems that may exist.

    Good luck!

    1. Helen

      Except that OP admits that she is jealous of this person, that this person’s co-workers think she is less competent than she is based on how OP treats her, and that she outright lied to her boss about it. If other people are noticing the bad treatment than the employee herself had definitely noticed it.

      The employee did nothing wrong here and there is no reason for anyone to have pause or to be concerned about this employee. OP is the one causing an issue. Not this employee.

      1. Vin Packer

        On the one hand, I completely agree with this, and think more women should feel comfortable speaking up about this stuff.

        On the other, I did wonder about this as well–like, wait, how did she pinpoint the issue like that? It’s totally possible that OP is being explicit about the reasons for her behavior, it was just unexpected. I wonder what the story is there (it doesn’t really change anything; I’m just curious).

        1. caryatis

          If the employee is very attractive and thin, especially in an area/field where thinness is rare, it’s probably not the first time she’s encountered this kind of jealousy.

        2. blackcat

          Having been on the receiving end of this, it was a series of snide comments along with reports from others about what she said about me behind my back. What gave me the confidence to go to my boss was a student coming to me and saying: “Ms. X seems to want your life, Ms. Blackcat. It’s [expletive] creepy.” Teens can be wonderfully blunt sometimes, and then seem very skilled at identifying passive aggressive stuff.

          I’m 90% sure my coworker didn’t know she was expressing enough info to me/coworkers/students to put this together. I am 100% sure she did not know her actions were putting her job at risk.

          1. Vin Packer

            This all makes sense. (Sorry you had to go through that. And bless that blunt teen–kids really do have a way of seeing through BS sometimes.)

            1. blackcat

              It actually wasn’t so bad for me. Teaching is a pretty autonomous job so I only interacted with her a few times a week. She had no authority over me and taught a completely different subject. In general, the students liked/respected me more than her. Her badmouthing of me just made her look bad. I actually think this contributed to a spiral–she was jealous of my life, so she badmouthed me to students, which made them like her less, which made her jealous of the fact the students looked up to me, which made her more inclined to badmouth me… and so on. The kids saw right through it. Most of why I went to my boss was that the situation was uncomfortable *for them.* I could shrug it off, but it wasn’t good for students to see one teacher being mean and petty towards another.

              1. Vin Packer

                IME, high schoolers hate it when adults act immature. It must have been kind of awkward to have to say something about it, though–good on you.

                This does make me think, too, though: the OP is concerned that she’s undermining the employee with her coworkers, but it seems possible that the coworkers could very well be the ones who let the employee know about the OP’s jealousy (or corroborated it, as in your case). So it’s possible the OP isn’t even harming the employee as much as she thinks she is–really, she’s mainly harming herself.

                Regardless, it’s good that she wrote in, and I hope she’s able to get the help she needs and things work out for her and this employee.

        3. TL -

          Honestly, it feels incredibly sexist to blame the employee for knowing and pointing out the boss is acting jealous of her when that is indeed the problem – there’s this nasty cultural set-up where any woman that knows she is pretty is immediately a mean girl and heaven forbid you believe you’re pretty enough that someone else could be jealous of you.

          It’s the problem; it’s very detrimental to the employee, there is no good way to bring it up, and she was right to bring it up.

          1. Kate

            This! I am not beautiful by any means, but with a good haircut and makeup I am pretty. A long time ago I had a female coworker who would make comments about my hair, makeup, and looks in general to the point that she gave me the creeps. They weren’t mean comments, just admiring, but it really weirded me out to have someone telling me all the time how amazing I looked wearing a 5 dollar lipstick. I was much younger then and felt like I couldn’t go to the boss and complain about being complimented.

        4. Helen

          OP states that other people have noticed her ill treatment of the employee. If other people noticed than its fair to say OP has been obvious about her feelings toward this employee.

        5. anon for this one

          I’ve (presumably) been in that woman’s shoes, not for my physical attractiveness (nothing to be jealous of there), but because I work with someone who, as far as I can determine, is unhappy with people who have X, Y, and Z. This person was my buddy when I only had X and Y, but as soon as I achieved Z, I was cut off. She then became good buddies with someone who she assumed only had Y and Z. One day she learned that person also had X, and the next day they were her enemy. Now her only work friends are those who have no more than 2 out of the 3 things. Sure, it could be a coincidence. But it can also be a lot more obvious than you’d think.

        6. ZVA

          Maybe OP is being so blatant that it was easy to pinpoint the issue (this seems likely to me, as her other reports have noticed that something is up)… or maybe she didn’t pinpoint it. Maybe she told OP’s boss what OP has been doing/saying and OP’s boss guessed the reason, then brought that up with OP.

    2. Vin Packer

      I wondered about this too. I mean, she was right, so it isn’t fair to jump on her for it or see it as evidence that she’s not a good employee or something. But I was also surprised by it.

    3. Susie

      Nope nope nope. The person OP is jealous of isn’t the problem here. There is zero reason for anyone to have pause for thoughts about her for going to her grandboss about something that the OP doesn’t deny is happening.

    4. TL -

      But it is the problem, so the employee was justified (and she may just have said Boss seems to have a problem with me and I don’t know why.)
      Recognizing other people are jealous of you doesn’t make you a bad person (nor does knowing you’re prettier or smarter than average). You are not obligated to be so humble that you can’t see what’s in front of your face just because you are a woman.

    5. the other Emily

      I can’t believe that anyone is discussing the behavior of the employee when OP is so clearly in the wrong here (sorry OP, I think you are brave for writing in and it’s good you recognize it’s an issue but as you admit you are wrong). Woman are socialized to be nice and not rock the boat but lots of times they get punished for it. It’s a no win because OP’s employee is dawned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. She shouldn’t be blamed for complaining about something that is happening to her.

    6. NonProfit Nancy

      Wasn’t that weird?? I totally thought the same thing – my eyebrows went up. What kind of person goes to their boss’ boss and says, “I think OP is jealous of how attractive I am.” What is this woman, an actual supermodel? Who has that thought first, especially about a supervisor that you know didn’t get to pick you? Who SAYS it out loud even if you do suspect that’s an element? SO bizarre to me.

      1. NonProfit Nancy

        Alright reading everybody else’s comments on this I’m clearly going to get flamed here. I agree women should “rock the boat” when they’re being treated unfairly, and certainly the coworker was correct about the problem – maybe I just don’t understand the lives of truly beautiful women, or something. I did actually also wonder if OP had been MUCH more snide or obvious than they’re aware of, such as actually commenting on this woman’s appearance within her earshot, or something. So perhaps that’s a more charitable interpretation of what this means. It still struck me as odd though.

        1. Purest Green

          When it happened to me (and trust me that I’m no supermodel), it was obvious after a long series of behaviors and comments. I felt horrible about myself, and I finally brought it up with another coworker who immediately confirmed, yeah, it’s jealousy. I never told anybody or did anything about it because I genuinely thought it would be beyond egotistical. But I doubt the employee said “boss is jealous that I’m so attractive and thin.” Rather, I it would be easy to describe comments and behaviors that the grand-boss would draw his/her own conclusions from.

        2. Nervous Accountant

          I feel the same, I”m still going through the comments (haven’t seen yet if OP responded) but that raised my eyebrows too.

          I don’t know, maybe I’m projecting my own insecurities on this because I am NOT thin, young or hot, and I have CWs who are, and are very well liked by everyone here too. I’m just trying to think, if I was managing or working closely with them and I had an issue with their work, would people see me the same way too? as being jealous that I’m not as attractive? That just feels SO icky to me (I’m on good terms with one of them and neutral with the other and I don’t work closely with either one so this isn’t even a real situation just a hypothetical).

          I mean, great for OP for being self aware and getting therapy, so I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m piling on or anything. And I think calling it sexist is a huge stretch but idk.

      2. fposte

        All the OP reports is that the complaint was one of jealousy–there’s no statement that the employee brought looks into it. And I’m not the quickest human reader, but even I can sometimes spot egregious jealousy. I’m sure any of us with siblings and experience of middle school can make a reasonable guess at that.

        1. NonProfit Nancy

          Since the employee was apparently 100% right here I certainly can’t fault them in any way. Just for me, even if I suspected a boss was jealous of me, I don’t think I would go to their boss and *say* that … I might say OP was treating me differently in this way and that way, but I would probably try not to speculate as to the reason … unless OP was EXTREMELY OBVIOUS about the source of the problem. Perhaps that’s just me though.

          1. fposte

            I’m also presuming that the OP wasn’t at that conversation, so it could be her paraphrase, her boss’s paraphrase, whatever.

            And it doesn’t mean the employee marched into the grandboss’s office and said “LW is jealous of me and that’s why she’s mean!” It could be the employee met with the grandboss about problems with the OP, and that when the GB asked if the employee knew why those problems might be happening, she said “She’s said ‘Nice to be you!’ sarcastically at some strange moments–it’s weird to say, but could it be possible that she’s jealous?”

      3. Helen

        OP mentioned that other employees have noticed how she is treating this employee. If it’s that obvious to other people, it would be obvious to the employee OP is jealous of. Also, we don’t know the exact wording of the complaint but OP admitted it’s true and that she lied to her boss about it.

      4. Emlen

        The kind of person who has dealt with it before. And knowing that the kind of dismissal you just gave will surely follow makes it so excruciating to have to tell someone you suspect this kind of jealousy, that you can bet the victim of this behavior waited until the alternative was unbearable before complaining.

        1. NonProfit Nancy

          I have no problem with the coworker saying “Boss always speaks to me coldly, boss gave the best assignments to other employees even though they were within my abilities, boss was snide about the lunch I brought” or whatever. I think it’s probably unnecessary to speculate as to the reason for the dislike. I’m just puzzled about this quote from OP: “She has mentioned something to my boss about me being jealous.” This seems odd to me, sorry – how this comes up, what this conversation looked like – and I apologize if that came across as trying to blame the victim.

          1. fposte

            Does it seem odd because we’re never supposed to admit that we could be the object of envy? I agree that some people, especially in the teen years, use claims of other people’s jealousy rather than admit their own bad behavior, but that’s clearly not the case here. The OP’s emotions are affecting her enough that other staff have seen the problem–why should the employee not identify it as a possibility if she sees it too?

            1. fposte

              Sorry, that first question sounds snarky, and I meant it as a genuine muse–I feel like that might be a taboo.

              1. NonProfit Nancy

                There actually could be something to this, I’m a midwesterner and there was a lot of emphasis on modesty and humility growing up – is there something boastful about saying “she must be jealous of how attractive I am,” and is that all that’s rubbing me a little oddly – and if yes, then I probably just need to get over it.

                1. fposte

                  Me too, and maybe that’s what made me think about this. And if the employee had written in, I doubt I’d have recommended framing it as a jealousy issue (not saying she did–we don’t know how the conversation went) for that very reason.

                  But I think that’s tied in to why this is such a hot-button question and even why the OP has her issue in the first place–how good we’re allowed to feel about ourselves and appear to feel about ourselves is a complicated topic. And maybe if jealousy were a little more discussable we could have better private peace with it rather than feeling we’re compounding the sin of whatever comparative insufficiency we’re focusing on.

      5. ZVA

        We don’t know exactly what she said! I highly doubt it was “I think OP is jealous of how attractive I am.”

        It sounds like OP is being very obvious about her feelings—to the point that her other reports have noticed. It doesn’t strike me as bizarre that this woman might have put two and two together.

        1. NonProfit Nancy

          It’s true, as I think about my comments overall I guess I’ve been assuming OP wasn’t that egregious in their treatment of this employee – mostly just didn’t like her, and has been treating her in a chilly manner. OP didn’t list anything specific that she did (like verbally abused her in a meeting, or something), and I thought anything like that would have been mentioned. But reading the letter I guess it’s an equally fair interpretation that she HAS actually been quite overt, so much so that the employee, other employees, and her boss are all aware of it … if there’s been snide comments, insults, or yelling – that does make the case quite different, and my opinion would then shift towards OP owing the employee and probably the boss an apology and a level-setting discussion.

    7. siobhan

      Since the employee was actually bang-on, I don’t think it’s fair to hold that against her. OP doesn’t give specifics about her behavior when she says “when I see her my dislike and jealousy come out,” but when you’re being treated with hostility, it’s not always that hard to figure out why. Having been on the other end of things (a coworker loathed me for a reason that had nothing to do with my appearance), I have zero problem believing that if OP is having problems controlling her behavior towards the employee, she’s also having problems concealing why. Maybe it’s thinly-veiled snark, or backhanded compliments, or passive-aggression. We don’t know exactly, but we do know OP’s jealousy is driving behavior that’s having real impact. The employee’s perceptiveness isn’t a reason to be suspicious of her. In my situation, I didn’t complain to anyone, but if the hostility was affecting my ability to establish myself in a new role I might well have done something similar. I’m having a hard time seeing this as a demerit.

    8. Jessie the First (or second)

      This whole comment thread is fascinating to me, though not in a good way, sadly. The employee was RIGHT and yet people are giving her the side eye for recognizing it! There is just no need to start inventing a narrative about the employee being in some way arrogant or shallow or who knows what else. There was a problem, she recognized it, she talked to her grandboss about it. (And as we do not know how it was said, the criticisms about her choosing to act on her mistreatment seem like projection, really. We can’t judge the wording and specifics of a conversation when we do not know the wording and specifics of the conversation!)

  29. For British Eyes Only

    #1 – Presently living on the receiving end of this, and your letter does offer some piece of mind knowing that they may be cognizant of their actions and want to be better (maybe). I give the employee some credit for bringing this up to your boss – I’d never have the guts! I just wallow in my misery and am desperately trying to find new work after only being here a couple of months. You could lose a decent employee over this, which ultimately hurts everyone.

    Best of luck to you!

  30. nunqzk

    #1: I’m uncomfortable with the advice to get to know the employee better. I think that might have been helpful earlier, but at this point the employee has noticed the problem, she tried to escalate it to a higher authority, and (as far as she knows) that didn’t work.
    If I were in the employee’s shoes, I’d be very wary of personal overtures. Given what she knows so far, it would be reasonable of her to think the LW was looking for ammunition to use against her. On the other hand, she may not feel comfortable rebuffing the LW, because she must be worried about the damage this is all doing to her career.
    I want to emphasize that I really don’t doubt the LW’s sincerity or ability to make change. But it’s important to remember that the employee has good reason to doubt both for now, and she shouldn’t be punished for that. I think the LW needs to lay a groundwork of good professional treatment (like, months of uninterrupted good professional treatment) before trying to reach out on a personal level.

    1. really anon for this

      This is exactly what I was trying to say in my comment below. In that situation, the employee might feel like she HAS to become friendly with the OP because if she doesn’t, OP is going to use it as one more thing against her.

      OP has done enough that as someone who has been in the employee’s shoes, I just want that person to leave me alone. The employee doesn’t owe the OP her friendship – or even her forgiveness – if her reputation and career has been at stake.

    2. Important Moi

      I think “getting to know the employee better” is as simple as

      * saying Good morning and Good bye in the evening
      * commenting on the weather or some other small talk

      It doesn’t have to mean close personal friendship, just engaging someone in a friendly manner.

  31. really anon for this

    #1 – I’ve been on the receiving end of this and it’s exhausting and depressing and can ruin a job. Even with thick skin, sometimes it’s hard not to let it affect you because jealousy is a strong, ugly thing when it’s directed at you. No one wants to be considered less competent or shallow or whatnot because of the way they look (not directed at you, but a general statement of how I wish people would stop automatically assuming super feminine women are airheads or barbies. It’s sexist.)

    Think about how you would feel if you were in your coworkers shoes. How you would feel if someone was so jealous of you they would refuse to hire you based on your looks alone or disliked you so much that your coworkers suddenly stopped thinking you were competent.

    I give the employee a lot of credit for bringing this up, especially when she’s new. People often aren’t believed about this sort of thing or laughed off as being full of themselves for thinking someone is jealous of them, but it sounds like your jealousy is pretty obvious to the point that she feels uncomfortable at work. I don’t necessarily agree with the advice of trying to get to know the employee better because she owes you nothing for this treatment and it’s problematic to go looking for someone’s flaws or life issues to make them seem more humane or to justify your own issues. If she already knows or thinks you dislike her, the best thing you can do is approach her with an apology and explanation and then make a sincere effort to be more friendly and nice when around her.

    1. EddieSherbert

      I don’t think OP should explain her jealousy to the employee (that’s likely to cause more issues between them, or turn into uncomfortable oversharing).

      I also don’t think Alison meant get to know her to “to go looking for someone’s flaws or life issues”… I thin she literally just meant get to know her personality a little so you don’t look at her as that person “who’s prettier than me” but the person “who knows everything about Star Wars” or “volunteers at the animal shelter” or “loves pineapples”…. just… general get-to-know-you-stuff.

      But I agree she shouldn’t start with getting to know the employee – if only because she might be uncomfortable or suspicious if you’re suddenly buddy-buddy. I’d start with the “positive goals” like Alison mentioned (praise, good projects, etc) for awhile before working on “getting to know her”.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I also don’t think Alison meant get to know her to “to go looking for someone’s flaws or life issues”… I thin she literally just meant get to know her personality a little so you don’t look at her as that person “who’s prettier than me” but the person “who knows everything about Star Wars” or “volunteers at the animal shelter” or “loves pineapples”…. just… general get-to-know-you-stuff.

        That’s exactly what I meant. Get to know her well enough so that you see her as something other than her looks (and I was envisioning positive stuff, not negative stuff).

        It’s much easier to manage someone you have more of a personal rapport with anyway.

    2. NW Mossy

      I’m not sure that I agree that the OP’s employee “owes her nothing,” simply because this is a work context. They’re both parties to a very important relationship, and regardless of a boss’s behavior, an employee is still expected to do the job competently and professionally. The OP’s behavior wouldn’t make her employee justified in lashing out in response, sandbagging on job responsibilities, or otherwise engaging in destructive behavior of her own.

      In my own experience, knowing the employees you manage better is absolutely a valuable thing to do if you go into with the intent to use what you hear as a foundation for a constructive working relationship with that person. It’s how you learn about their skills, where they need to develop, what their ambitions are, and how they contribute to the overall picture of the business. Managers get some of the best return on their time by investing it in knowing their people, because that information can lead you to uncover win-wins where both employee and business benefit. If either party in the manager-employee relationship is withholding (for good reasons or bad), it ends up harming everyone.

  32. La Revancha Del Tango

    #1 – getting to know her will help you a lot. I’ve been in similar situations where I had a bad interaction with a coworker I didn’t know and immediately labeled her as someone I didn’t like. This happened a couple of times and after getting to know them I always felt differently.

    1. NonProfit Nancy

      Yeah sometimes at work I’ve formed a hasty dislike of someone – maybe they remind me of someone else who was mean to me, or said something awkward in an awkward moment, who knows. The universal cure is getting to know them better. Not necessarily becoming best friends, just … learning to see them as a person, and overcoming a stray first impression. Sometimes they really *are* annoying or whatever, but you can’t say that until you’ve observed them over a long period of time.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)

        ” learning to see them as a person”

        I do not know much at all about EDs, but could this perhaps be extra helpful, maybe, in that context? Right now, OP, you are stuck on her body type and attractiveness. If that is all you know of her, that is all you can see – and that is especially problematic for you with your own personal history. Just being able to start associating her with at least SOMETHING other than “the pretty one” might help. She can be “the one who loves Vin Diesel movies” or “the one who loves road trips” or “the one who is allergic to garlic” or “the one who has 5 cats at home.”

        Like, knowing some totally neutral facts about her and trying to change your internal script whenever you start to think “the pretty one” interrupt yourself with “the Vin Diesel movie one.”

        (Not a psychologist here, clearly. I should not quit my day job.)

  33. Tobias Funke

    Just wanted to say I’m really impressed with how this didn’t turn into a wankfest on how hard it is to be beautiful.

    1. LCL

      OK, I’ll jump in. I’ve never been the beautiful coworker, but I’ve supervised a few. And universally, they say it is harder to develop a good professional reputation, and get others to train and coach them appropriately. People keep wanting to step in and take over their job and do things for them and call it help, instead of training them so they are able to do it themselves. Managers have to be aware that there are people with plus 10 charisma/attractiveness, and realize that other workers sometimes lose their minds around them.

      1. Turtle Candle

        I have one very beautiful, young coworker who is also an extremely talented software engineer. Convincing people that she is the latter is like pulling teeth; one customer actually said “come on, pretty girls like you don’t go into programming!” (He wasn’t hitting on her, not that it would have been better if he was.) It’s not just that people deferred to junior male employees instead of her–that’s just garden variety sexism–but they deferred to plainer women as well even when those women did not have her knowledge base, seniority, or skill set (myself included). I know it drove her bonkers, and she stopped wearing makeup and fashionable clothes to mitigate the effect.

        It’s not that it’s so very hard to be beautiful, it’s that physical attractiveness still comes with its own share of inaccurate stereotypes, and they can be maddening to deal with.

  34. Nervous Accountant

    Re #1–I don’t know, something about the way the employee jumped to “she must be jealous of me bc i’m young thin and pretty” rubs me the wrong way. Maybe she does have actual work issues and is using the jealousy thing as a cover?

    1. Helen

      Because that’s what is actually happening, but OP’s own admission, and it’s to the point that other coworkers have noticed the OP’s I’ll treatment of this person. It shouldn’t rub you the wrong way that she complained about something that is actually happening. OP didn’t mention anything poor work habits, it’s all about her looks.

    2. fposte

      Well, there are two problems here: one, the OP didn’t say that “young, thin, and pretty” was in her employee’s complaint; and two, the staffer is *right* that the OP was jealous of her. I don’t think we can condemn an employee for making a complaint that we know to be justified. That would be kind of like condemning a female employee who complains her male boss seems to be interested in her sexually and letting that interfere with his management when we know her male boss *is* interested in her sexually and letting that interfere with his management.

    3. the other Emily

      If other people who aren’t the OP or the employee are noticing OP’s behavior towards her, it’s fair to say that she didn’t jump to any conclusions. It’s plain as day as to what is happening.

    4. Malibu Stacey

      I have had drop-dead gorgeous girl women friends since I was a teenager – the way society is socialized to appreciate female beauty and they way girls/women are socialized to compete with each other to be the prettiest (Snow White, Maxim Hot 100, beauty pageants, The Bachelor) in a way men just aren’t means that most women who are very conventionally attractive start noticing the effect they have on men and women alike way before they enter the workforce.

      They also simultaneously get socialized to not be allowed to verbalize otherwise they are conceited.

    5. Sunshine on a cloudy day

      I kind of agree that the way the situation was described sort of set my “spidey senses” tingling… The OP specifically said that new employee “has mentioned something to my boss about me being jealous”. We have no way of knowing if those are the real words the new employee used, but taking the OP’s word for it – I do sort of have an issue with the new employee assigning motivations to the OP. The OP is treating her differently, and she has every right and was correct in complaining about it to the OP’s boss. However new employee has no way of knowing that the unfair/different treatment is definitely due to jealously.

      I just really don’t like when people assume motivations. Sure, the new employee happens to be correct that the OP is jealous of her, but I am very suspicious of people who jump to the conclusion that any mistreatment is due to jealously.

      1. Sunshine on a cloudy day

        That said, the whole point of this to help the OP deal with the situation and I totally agree with Allison’s advice and really do commend the OP for having the self awareness to realize what is going on and for the bravery to seek help with the situation.

      2. Malibu Stacey

        The LW admits the other team members have noticed it as well, though. Ideally the employee would have gone to the LW’s boss and just said, “Here’s what is happening” without guessing the motivation, but the fact is the guess is correct. I am not willing to ding the employee here for mentioning something 12 people have noticed.

        1. Caro in the UK

          It may be however that she didn’t specifically say OP was jealous of her. She may have simply said “Here’s what’s happening” and grandboss has inferred the jealousy when talking to OP. It’d be great if OP could clarify if she knows exactly what her employee said?

        2. Sunshine on a cloudy day

          Other team members have noticed the difference in treatment, but according to the OP she believes it due to new employee’s competency (“and I’m sure they believe she is less competent based on my treatment of her”), not due to jealousy.

          Maybe I’m reading way too much into the semantics here, and I will admit this might be a personal pet peeve (I’m a very reserved/introverted person – I’ve had so many people assume snobbish or judgemental motivations from my behavior when really I’m a highly insecure/socially anxious introvert, so it is something I’m rather sensitive to).

          All I’m saying is that, if the new employee complained to OP’s boss about the OP’s “jealousy”, rather than general mistreatment or unfairness, well that’s not really cool on the new employee’s part. Even if this is the case, it doesn’t change what the OP needs to do going forward.

        3. Temperance

          They’ve noticed that LW finds the employee to be less competent, NOT that she is jealous of the employee. There’s a difference.

          1. Helen

            Other members of my team have noticed, AND I’m sure they believe she is less competent based on my treatment of her

            They have noticed the jealously and they think the employee is less competent because of how the boss (OP) treats her.

            1. Sunshine on a cloudy day

              They have noticed the behavior. No one read the OP’s mind and know for sure that the behavior stems from jealousy.

      3. Helen

        OP admits that other employees have noticed. If it’s that obvious to others in the office it’s reasonable to assume that the employee herself knows what is going on and why. Also, OP didn’t give the exact wording of the complaint, but even saying that OP is jealous is true because that’s what is actually happening.

      4. Elizabeth H.

        Same, I find it kind of surprising/weird. We know it’s accurate but I find that people are usually not so open about speculating on motivations in general, especially when they are kind of dramatic motivations.

      5. Lablizard

        Maybe the boss has noticed the OPs behavior and editorialized when talking to the OP. Or, as the OP wrote, other co-workers noticed how she was treating the employee and word got around to the boss. We can’t know, but since the employee was correct about why the OP is treating her poorly, digging into how the employee brought it up to the über boss is pointless. An employee brought up a real concern about the OP’s behavior and the OP acknowledges that it is a problem. The OP’s behavior should be the focus

    6. Temperance

      My SIL does this. And yes, many people are jealous because she is admittedly quite beautiful (myself included) and tall and thin, but like, she’s also a colossal jerk because she’s spent her whole life being catered to because of her appearance.

      1. Nervous Accountant

        Gah, I didn’t think I’d have so many comments on my post. I hope it doesnt’ sound like I’m piling on the OP or being sexist by blaming the victim, but ehhhh I guess I’m seeing it more from my own POV in a hypothetical situation–I’m far from young hot or thin, and I have a few coworkers who are. If I were told that I’m not 100% friendly with them bc im jealous of their looks, I’d probably burst into tears or something.

        In my own experience, whenever anyone has pointed out that someone is jealous of me, I just cannot fathom that. Idk. Jealousy is a weird thing.

        1. Temperance

          I was actually agreeing with your point! That would seriously gut me. My POV is this: I’m jealous of my SIL because she’s beautiful, but I dislike her because she’s not a very good person, and has skated through life on her looks, and she treats women like the enemy. She would make this complaint, regularly, that women didn’t like her because they were “jealous”, but the actual reason is that she holds herself as superior for being pretty and she’s actually really mean.

    7. TL -

      I think it rubs you the wrong way because women aren’t supposed to admit to knowing they’re attractive (I don’t think we’ve had anyone comment on this thread saying, specifically, that they’re stunningly gorgeous and face these problems, even though some of the readers must be.)

      I’m pretty enough, nothing special, but I’m also vivacious and can be charming and am very memorable and I definitely know when I’m getting treated differently because of that (which 90% of the time is a good thing, not gonna lie). But the servers who always remember my orders; the bus drivers who will pull up right in front of me/wait for me; the cashiers who don’t charge for small things – it’s pretty obvious why. And when there is a negative reaction (and there are people who don’t like me because I’m super outgoing!) it is also obvious.

  35. EddieSherbert

    OP #4 – I’m sorry your family is going through this, and I wish you and your son the best!

    Even though you don’t need it at this point (and I very much hope you never need it!), I suggest double-checking your FMLA status. In some workplaces FMLA isn’t available until you’ve been there for a certain amount of time (mine was available after a year)…. Since you’re moving within the company, I wouldn’t expect that clock to “restart” for when yours is available, but it wouldn’t hurt to be sure.

    My brother had leukemia, and my various family members’ workplaces (or schools for the younger kids) were incredible accommodating – with FMLA, allowing work from home where they normally wouldn’t, general human decency – for all of us. Not one person in my family had a negative reaction from their workplace or school when we needed time off (and between parents’ divorce/remarriages, we’re talking about close to 10 people).

    1. fposte

      The actual law of FMLA (the “Act” that’s the A) kicks in after a year of employment, but employers are free to offer leave earlier (and some state leave policies may apply earlier). I too noticed the change of jobs, but as long as it’s the same employer (and the feds tend to take a dim view of end runs around that with dba-type stuff) she should still be eligible.

      It’s nice to hear an account of a time when a need for leave was handled well–I think it’s more common than people realize.

  36. anonypants

    OP1:
    Yes to Alison’s advice, but I would build on it further. Therapy and getting to know her will take time. You need techniques to change your interactions with her ASAP.

    My suggestion: Find one thing about her behavior/personality that is good: supports coworkers, punctual- whatever. It doesn’t have to be significant. Every time you have a negative thought about her, immediately counteract it with this positive one. It’s ok if negative thoughts continue to come into your head, just keep counteracting them with the positive one. Add more positive thoughts as you notice more positive features about her. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you don’t have the positive attribute that she does. It’s not a zero-sum game.

    I use this technique for people that annoy me for no good reason (I’m cranky), and it really works.

  37. I am not a Llama

    OP #1 – You are a very brave person to make this first step. I know this is very trite, but exceedingly true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You are who you are, because of what you are.

  38. Delta Delta

    #1 – It can be very hard to re-train your thinking. When I was a kid (like around ages 6-7) all the pretty girls were also the mean girls. I wanted to be friends with the pretty girls, but they were mean to me and to other kids, and it was hurtful. I subsequently met many physically lovely girls and women as I aged and immediately was defensive, believing that because they were pretty they would be mean like the elementary-aged meanies I dealt with as a kid. I eventually got past that thinking, but it was hard not to have that initial knee-jerk reaction. I also found myself in a pattern of avoiding making friendships with physically attractive women, believing they would not have any reason to want to befriend me. I recognize that this was ridiculous – we could have been good friends for a thousand different reasons, but it was hard to get past my old thinking. Now that I’m an adult, I recognize that this was counterproductive and also a big mental roadblock for me. For everyone suggesting OP work on this issue in therapy, I completely agree with that. I’m also going to suggest stopping with the outward signs of jealousy and whatever else is going on. Employee just wants to show up and do her job and OP making work hard for both Employee and him/herself.

  39. Margaret

    OP3 – I’m a CPA, and much more than average in general, every CPA firm I’ve ever heard of pays interns (usually pretty well, plus overtime if it’s during busy season). You do not need to work for free to get into public accounting.

    Does your university have a career center (I hope that’s not who was giving you the volunteering advice!)? Because any college with a decent accounting program should have people who already coordinate with CPA firms for both internships and jobs. It’s pretty common to even have interviews on campus, but at a minimum they should have info about job fairs and other contacts. This industry is pretty standardized in terms of hiring, you just need to find someone who can loop you in on what’s happening and when.

  40. Salted French Fry

    #2 I work in big accounting. As others have mentioned, you need an internship, which you can apply for via your school. It should be paid and should be the summer or winter before your last year. I’m not sure why you’re looking at small firms but if your GPA is good (3.2+), don’t think you don’t have a shot at a big firm. The term we use for your background is ‘industry experience’ and it’s a good thing. Before public accounting, I worked doing the SALT for a manufacturer and before that I worked at an elementary school.

  41. VroomVroom

    Op #1 – I am so glad you’re aware of this and are actively trying to confront the problem.

    I am young, fairly fashionable, and thin. In my first job out of college, my manager was a much older woman. She would frequently tell me she was a “stunner 20 years ago” and make comments to me about how “I don’t have to dress so cute every day.” She was very hot and cold – some days she’d want to be my best friend and gossip about life, others she’d be very cruel and mean towards me, making passive aggressive comments about my looks/weight – and sometimes passive aggressive about work (once I beat her into the office, she was normally a get there at like 7:15 kind of person and my hours began at 8:30. One day I got in at 8:15 and she got in at 8:20 and she was like OMG STOP THE PRESSES VroomVroom IS HERE EARLY).
    It really wore on me over time, and after 6 months I left the company because it was just very hard to work with someone who I had no idea if she’d be Jekyll or Hyde that day. Growing up, I did ballet pretty seriously and actually have struggled with an eating disorder and bad body image myself – despite being quite thin, I was never waif-like and always had curves and my ballet instructors constantly got on me for my weight.

    Everyone is fighting their own battle and I urge you to not judge her book by her cover, and get to know her. It will help you to humanize her and realize that she isn’t as perfect as she looks – because no one is.

    1. emma2

      One of my best friends is very conventionally attractive, thin, and blonde (aka, the type of woman society is trained to objectify.) However, she has an eating disorder and is very emotionally insecure regarding her romantic relationships. She also has clinical depression. It’s sad because of the way society is, a lot of people (especially men) don’t treat her as more than a one-dimensional human being. They just see her as a “skinny blonde” and not much else, even though she is a normal human with her range of interests and hobbies and whatnot. The way we treat women simply because of how they look is likely a societal problem.

  42. emma2

    #1: Ugh.. It is my own flaw for being unforgiving, but this letter just confirms that this type of discrimination does exist at work. I’ve been on the receiving end of catty behavior from a group of women in my Master’s program (an anomaly in my lifetime of social interaction), and it wasn’t pretty. Heaven help the women they did end up working with. The working world for women is hard enough; the last thing we need to deal with is pettiness.

    #3: At my last job, and would get so many cold e-mails that were just the one-liner: “Are you hiring?” They were also misspelled and poorly written a lot of the time. I responded to all the requests, since I wasn’t actually in charge of hiring, but I was surprised that they didn’t put more effort into their job hunting e-mails.

    1. VroomVroom

      I kind of want to agree. Women have enough problems at work, without having to deal with being pitted against each other.
      However, given that OP #1 is aware of her own problem, and feels terrible about it, I’m more lenient on my forgiveness. You honestly cannot help how you feel internally, but you can help how you let it affects your actions. And, OP is reaching out for advice on how to keep it from affecting her actions.

      1. emma2

        I do appreciate that she is aware of the problem, otherwise she would not have written a letter asking for help. The saltiness from being a victim of that behavior is my own knee-jerk reaction. (From the other comments, I see that I am not alone!)

        1. VroomVroom

          Yea I get it. I mean, I hate my former boss because of what she did to me. She had total Queen Bee syndrome – when she was working her way up there weren’t many women, so women were her competition. She seemed to only really feel better when she was tearing me down.

    2. Temperance

      Eh, FWIW, studies show that pretty people do better in job interviews and get paid more. I wouldn’t call it “discrimination”.

      1. VroomVroom

        I don’t think it’s discrimination, but it’s just an example of women working against women in the workplace.

      2. emma2

        It is technically discrimination – just not against a protected class (so it’s not illegal.) Discrimination can be done by an individual, not a whole group of people.

    3. Suze

      OP #3 here – you have more patience than I do! I am not in charge of hiring either, the owner of the company is, but I get everything addressed to “info@” and thus receive a lot of these cold emails.

      Oh, and that’s the other annoying thing, that the cold emails are sent to the info@ address. All our individual emails and titles are shown on the website! These kids could reach out to the owner directly!

      1. emma2

        I also managed the info email, which is why I got them. I would just refer them to the hiring manager and let her deal with it, ha.

  43. Carol

    LW#2 – I went to school with someone who was changing their career to Accounting late in life (iirc they were previously an auto mechanic). College-age me would have put them in their 60’s, but thirty-something me would now estimate they were in their 50s and just had gray hair. :-)

    Anyway, long story short, that person graduated with me and we both got jobs with the same Big 4 firm. Neither of us did internships, but they were available and they were paid. I can attest there were no differences in how the firm treated someone older going through a career transition and a recent college-grad with little work experience (me). We had the same job, same training, same benefits and pay, etc. Particularly with the Big 4, I think they strive to have a varied workforce because they are national firms and they love to get on “best places to work” lists, etc. You don’t have to settle for anything less.

    And now for some unsolicited advice: unless times have changed, there’s no such as “work-life balance” when you are an entry-level associate at a Big 4 firm. It gets slightly better as you move up, but the firms still have high expectations and if you are a really high performer, you kind of get “punished” because the firm will assign you the hardest jobs and the most travel, etc. This is easier to deal with in your 20s than it is as you get older. Some people love it and stick with it. Most stick it out for 2-5 years of invaluable experience and then high-tail it out of there – there ain’t no shame in leaving! I made life-long friends in the trenches at a Big 4 firm, but every one of us left public accounting when we couldn’t take it anymore. The Big 4’s try to intimidate about your “career being stunted” or how “boring” it is outside of public accounting. Don’t believe them. I am challenged every day at my current job, which I’ve been working at for almost 8 years. The Big 4 experience definitely made me a better accountant, but it also gave me intense anxiety and a lot of needless stress. My recommendation is: get into the biggest/best firm you can and stick it out for as long as you can, but LEAVE as soon as it gets to be too much – your sanity is worth it! You are probably wiser than I was in my 20s, but accounting tends to attract Type A people and over-achievers and sometimes it is hard for those personality types to not see when a bar is set too high and instead fault themselves for not being able to get over it.

    GOOD LUCK!

  44. Trout 'Waver

    OP#4, As a manager, I would want to know about recurring issues before they happen for planning reasons, but I understand why you would want to wait to get to know the person first. Not every manager is reasonable in accommodating employees’ needs. I would give you the benefit of the doubt if you chose to wait to get to know the manager better.

    To put it another way, I don’t think there is anyone that would be willing to accommodate you that also wouldn’t understand your reasons for waiting to ask.

  45. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

    I feel like there’s a lot of comments that are leaning on the “personal change takes time, don’t fight it, you’ll have to slowly work on your personal issues” angle, and while that’s all true…..action needs to be taken NOW. This is denigrating, insulting, and frustrating the employee now. This is harming your workplace culture now. This is mean and nasty now. This is damaging OP1’s career now – and don’t imagine it’s not, because if the new employee is comfortable characterizing you as jealous, everybody realizes what’s going on and it reflects very poorly on you. This is not her fault. You need to redress that.

    So whatever journey of therapy and self-care and resolving your issues you might go on, OP1, you need to follow Alison’s techniques to start treating her as a valued, equal, respected member of the team immediately. Today. Right this second. If that takes the form of forcing yourself to give her X pieces of positive feedback a week, and setting goals, and forcing yourself to interact with her in a friendly way, even if it’s patently an act, do it. Take her out for coffee and tell her you value her work and are glad she’s joined your group. It might not be genuine, it might feel and look forced, but you simply cannot continue to treat this person this way, and if performative friendliness is all you can manage, it looks better than what you’re doing now. Fake it till you make it.

    Hell, even maybe apologize – “I realize I’ve been less than collegial and welcoming, and I’m very sorry – this is entirely my own internal issues, not yours, and I want you to know that I have no rational reason to be anything but delighted to be working with you. You do great work and you’re a valued member of the team.”

    1. ZVA

      Agreed. Yes, the internal work will take time. Yes, OP can’t force herself to like this woman. But she can force herself to start treating her fairly. It’s OK (though not ideal) to be jealous of her. It’s OK (though not ideal) to dislike her. It’s not OK to act on those feelings. Thoughts can be hard to control, but actions shouldn’t be; at least not in this situation.

      The good thing is, OP knows that what she’s doing is wrong; if she can identify the behavior, she can put a stop to it.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

        Exactly. And the mental health issues can’t be treated as an excuse or a reason. They’re the terrain OP is fighting on, but they excuse nothing. I find it appallingly common that people take their past and struggles as license to behave in a beastly and negative fashion. She simply cannot continue to treat the employee like this, full stop, and if it means putting on the game face and making nice, that’s what she needs to do.

        1. no name for this

          Thank you! Mental illness is no excuse to treat other people badly or bully them. If OP didn’t have mental health issues or an eating disorder in the past and just disliked her employee “because” I’m willing to bet that more people would be calling her on her behavior.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            No one is suggesting the OP’s actions are okay. She doesn’t need to be called out on the behavior in the way some people apparently want to do because she already gets that it’s not okay, and she’s asking for help in stopping it. There’s no reason to rub her face in it; she knows.

            1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

              I don’t think I’m rubbing her face in it. My intent was to emphasize that there’s steps she can and needs to take immediately, even in the context of a long-term work on issues.

    2. Temperance

      I disagree with your last paragraph. LW shouldn’t apologize to the employee. It will make her look weak, especially considering it looks like employee complained to LW’s boss that LW was “jealous”.

      1. Helen

        But OP is jealous. She lied to her boss about her mistreatment of this employee and other people in the office have noticed what OP is doing. I don’t know why you put jealous in quotes. OP admits it right in her letter.

      2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

        I fail to see how apologizing for unfairness and mistreatment is weak. I regard an apology for a lapse in judgment to be signs of strength and personal responsibility, not weakness. But even if she did look weak, she couldn’t possibly look weaker than she does when she’s bullying a direct report for the most literally superficial reasons.

        I realize you feel personal sympathy for OP1 that I do not, but I take it a matter of self-evident principle that when you hurt someone, you apologize.

        1. fposte

          Ugh, sorry, I don’t think it was clear I meant the general “you,” so this came out as being much more aggressive than I meant it. Sorry, Temperance. (Fitting that I’m apologizing about a comment about apologies!)

        1. Lablizard

          It also might help reset the relationship, and it desperately needs to be reset for change to happen.

    3. Katie the Fed

      “I feel like there’s a lot of comments that are leaning on the ‘personal change takes time, don’t fight it, you’ll have to slowly work on your personal issues’ angle”

      Not a single person has said anything even remotely close to that.

    4. Jbern

      OP, this is good advice. I’ve had female colleagues and acquaintances apologize to me seemingly out of the blue, using language similar to Irritable Scientist’s suggest language and it went a long way. I describe it as “out of the blue,” but these women were usually snide, dismissive, and mocking. For a long time, though, that was my expectation of women and how they act toward me. I would suggest that you don’t try to befriend her, or get her to “open” up to you, though. This will come across as contrived and phony and anyone with a shred of intuition will pick up on it. Since you’re her boss, you’ll be putting her in an even stranger position because she’ll have to accommodate your prying and insincere interest. Just regulate your attitude toward her and as time passes, this will be just a blip that could be described as “having a bad couple of months.”

  46. Trout 'Waver

    Op#2, Is this recruiter getting a kickback from the employer to find people who will work for free or cheap? That’s the only reason I can think of for the ‘advice’.

  47. Trout 'Waver

    OP#5, Given the nature of IT work and the divide between help desk and everyone else, I think you’re going to get understanding nods from people looking to hire non-help desk IT professionals. As opposed to being labeled a job hopper. I think the whole scenario of being hired for an IT job that turns out to be help desk is a relatively common occurrence in the field.

  48. Alex "Barney" Barnaby

    LW#1:

    “I never would have hired her if I had been the one doing the interviews.

    I know this affecting how I deal with her. Other members of my team have noticed, and I’m sure they believe she is less competent based on my treatment of her. She has mentioned something to my boss about me being jealous, and I am ashamed to admit I lied to my boss about it and used the fact that we have a decade-long relationship to make my boss believe me.”

    You NEED to set up a meeting with your boss – just a quick 15 minute thing in the boss’ office – and say the following:

    “I’ve thought about what you were saying about my treatment of Nancy. Having thought about it, I have not been fair in how I’ve been treating her. She is a great employee, produces solid work product, and is easy to work with and supervise. For some reason, she just brings out that in me, and it’s not a her issue. I’m working on it and I didn’t want you to hold anything against her.”

    And if you’re basing hiring decisions on how someone looks… just, ugh. Pretty people also need to make a living.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

        Thought experiment: OP1 says she’d have based her hiring decision on her employee’s obesity. Or gender. Or sexual orientation? Still take exception to that last sentence?

        OP1 is clearly (from her wording and description) still approaching this from the reference of how she feels, not how she’s making her employee feel or how it looks. That sentence may have been harsh, but it’s not unwarranted. She seems to be only partially conscious of the optics of what she’s doing.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          The harshness is unwarranted, and against the commenting guidelines. The OP has already said she’s ashamed of herself; she doesn’t need to be berated, and I’ve asked for it to stop.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

            I agree – I would not have phrased it that way, or with that harshness. But I think OP is so in her own head on this that I think the posts reminding her of how this looks from the outside are valuable.

        2. fposte

          And my answer is yes, I still take exception to that last sentence when said directly to somebody who is listening and who already knows they made a mistake.

        3. Amber Rose

          Got all that from like, 300 words did you? LW feels sick and awful about her actions. That’s the important thing. This is another of those scenarios where I find myself frustrated to once again explain to seemingly rational people that one can acknowledge a problem without acknowledging every other problem. LW can say that she desperately wants to stop her behavior and that she’s sick with guilt over it and ask for help without having to have a sentence dedicated to every single possible additional related problem.

          And yes. I still take exception. That last sentence was not constructive or useful in any way. It only served as a means to beat someone who’s already down, which is universally unacceptable.

      2. Alex "Barney" Barnaby

        What was remotely harsh and judgemental about it, Amber?

        Last I checked, the OP flat-out admitted that she wouldn’t hire someone who is thin, pretty, and fashionable. Is she trying to punish that person, to make the pretty woman’s life as miserable as hers? Is she forgetting that being pretty doesn’t mean that unicorns carry her around on their backs?

        Whatever the issue is, refusing to hire someone because of their looks – whether it be their race or their beauty or lack of beauty – is disgusting. Sorry you disagree.

        1. Amber Rose

          Yeah, because the LW is aware that it impacts her ability to do her work at this stage in her treatment. She’s not punishing anyone, she’s trying to cope with mental illness. That’s not fair, but life isn’t fair and nothing is black and white. Beating someone who’s down and pleading for help is crap, beating someone who’s struggling with illness is worse, and nothing that you just said here can be taken out of that letter unless you only read every other word and made up the rest.

          You are not doing anyone favors or helping anyone by behaving this poorly.

    1. Temperance

      I completely disagree with your advice here. I think this is really unfair to LW #1, and kind of judgmental and mean.

      I also am assuming that you are a dude, judging by your name. As a man, you can’t understand the pressures put on women relating to appearance. You just can’t. Attractive people often get a leg up in life on the rest of us, so yeah, I highly doubt that LW#1 not wanting to hire this one pretty woman will mess up her entire life.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

        The pressures put on women are kind of irrelevant here. I know they’re real, but they’re just not a mitigating factor in my mind. The fact that she can probably find another job, maybe but not certainly a little easier than other people, does not excuse or mitigate the fact that she probably goes home feeling like crap every night because her boss is treating her poorly. Nobody deserves that, not even pretty people who seem like they could take getting knocked down a peg.

        1. Alex "Barney" Barnaby

          CAN she easily find another job? A lot of the very attractive women I know say that they have problems with this, precisely because of female jealousy.

          In fact, there are even studies showing that in certain professions, being an attractive woman is detrimental. As in, enough people are like OP 1 that it’s statistically measurable.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

            And who knows what the field is. There’s plenty of industries and fields where “playing the game on easy” still equates to “yeah, have a year of income banked, because if you get laid off, you’re going to be looking at least that long.”

        2. Temperance

          I think that they’re absolutely relevant when it comes to understanding LW’s frame of mind. I don’t think that it’s about “knocking someone down a peg”, but I have tremendous empathy for what LW1 is going through.

          Of course I don’t support treating people poorly, but LW is trying to reframe and do better.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

            And that’s great, for OP’s long term project of working on her personal issues. It’s probably actively detrimental for her to consider them in the context of “what do I do, today, to make this employee feel included and valued, and to repair my relationship with her.” If she’s going to reframe and do better, she needs to do that. Dwelling on the pressures put on unattractive women is the frame she’s in, not the frame she needs.

            1. Temperance

              I think both are possible simultaneously. She can practice “fake it until you make it” with the employee and actively work on treating the employee better while separately working on her issues.

      2. the other Emily

        My cousin is drop dead gorgeous. She looks like a magazine model. She is also the kindest and most modest person I have ever known.

        The job market is so bad where we are that it took her a year to find a job. For that year she was struggling, and relied on family and food banks to get her through. She graduated from college with honors, and I hate imagining she was overlooked because she of her looks.

        Change pretty with black, or gay. Would it still be okay with you? As a queer woman the idea that someone is being treated badly over something they can’t help makes me uncomfortable.

        1. Temperance

          I don’t think that treating people badly is okay, but I don’t think comparing attractiveness to a minority group is really honest. I have tremendous empathy for the LW in this scenario.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

            It’s not a direct comparison, but it frames “I’m mistreating my employee because she’s cute and fashionable” as the superficial judgment it is, rather than justifying it or giving reasons why.

            1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

              And by the way, your tremendous empathy for OP is leading you to justify and excuse how she’s acting. Is that intentional?

        2. Amber Rose

          I don’t think anyone is saying any of this is ok! We’re all just saying that it’s good that she wants to change.
          Don’t mistake compassion for acceptance of poor behavior. It’s just that compassion is the easiest way to accomplish positive change. Nobody every changed someone’s mind or actions by berating and insulting them.

      3. Susie

        Change ‘I highly doubt that LW#1 not wanting to hire this one PRETTY woman will mess up her entire life’

        To

        ‘I highly doubt that LW#1 not wanting to hire this one BLACK woman will mess up her entire life’

        And you should see what an awful attitude you have. As a WOC myself and my friends and family have been mistreated or discriminated against in hiring for something we can’t help and I find it gross that people still have an attitude like yours.

        I hope you are never overlooked for a job because of things you can’t help.

        1. Temperance

          I have been overlooked for jobs because I have a low-class first name. Yes, it sucks, but I don’t think coming down this hard on the LW is productive, nor do I think that attractiveness is comparable to being a minority.

          1. Susie

            I’m a minority and I do think it’s valid. She can’t help what she looks like any more than I can help my skin color.

            1. Morning Glory

              I think the difference is, studies have shown that being a person of color is, on average, a disadvantage in the workplace, in terms of professional advancement.

              Studies also show that physical attractiveness is, on average, an advantage in the workplace in terms of professional advancement – I don’t want to post a link and get stuck in moderation, but there have been dozens of articles on this in the past few years.

              It’s still bad, and the OP knows it’s bad, but it’s not contributing to systemic oppression the same way that it would if the employee was an ethnic minority.

              1. Jaguar

                So, there are observable disadvantages – especially social – to most-or-all privileged statuses: white, male, rich, attractive, intelligent, social, maybe healthy?, maybe mentally fit?. I think it’s a good question of how much sympathy we’re willing to afford those problems, because the way American society approaches those problems is very complicated compared to the rather straightforward way they approach the inverse (people shouldn’t discriminate against the inverse of those). Like, I automatically think someone rich is an asshole and there has to be a lot of evidence to undo that perception – I shouldn’t do this, but here we are.

                I don’t have any answers here, but I think it’s an important point you bring up. Many people that think they’re for equality are actually for the underprivileged. Both are admirable traits, but they’re not the same thing.

                1. Temperance

                  Arguably, though, they are the same thing – you want the underprivileged to be equal to the privileged class, so you need to focus on the underprivileged to accomplish that goal.

                2. Morning Glory

                  I think it confuses the issue to bring up potential social disadvantages when speaking about a professional setting.

                  All of the privileged statuses you mentioned are proven, measurable advantages – for reasons that have nothing to do with performance – in a professional workplace, when compared to their inverses: people of color, women, poor, unattractive, and shy. (Intelligence is related to job performance so I am not including that one and I have never seen a disadvantage to being healthy).

                  I agree with Temperance’s assessment on being for equality.

                3. Jaguar

                  I don’t really agree that they’re the same thing. In the example in LW1, we’re talking about how attractive women aren’t taken seriously or are acted towards spitefully. But clearly being attractive is not an underprivileged position. I think people can be entirely sympathetic towards women that aren’t flawlessly beautiful and the problems and baggage that carries while having zero-or-close-to-it sympathy towards the problems of beautiful women. That’s a pretty obvious distinction, which deserves recognition if there’s any serious attempt to approach those issues. The same plays out in many of the other privileged ways (women vs men, poor vs rich, non-white vs white, etc.).

                  That’s one point. I would make the further point that many people who think they’re all about equality are actually all about the problems of the underprivileged. It’s much harder to be about equality than it is to be about the underprivileged.

                  That’s not to say that people that are truly for equality are should stop or slow down whatever they do, internally or externally, to work against privilege – as you say, there’s more work and arguably more important work to do on that side of things – but I don’t think many people make the distinction.

                4. Morning Glory

                  No, we are talking about how a singular beautiful woman is being mistreated in the workplace because her boss is jealous.

                  On average, being physically attractive helps you in the workplace, it doesn’t hurt you, in terms of professional advancement. This is true for both men and women. If studies showed that being beautiful was a measurable disadvantage for women in the workplace, I would take the trend very seriously, even if physical beauty was an advantage for women in their personal life.

                  I have equal amounts of sympathy for any individual being treated unfairly in the workplace: I feel very badly for the woman being mistreated and I am glad she brought up the OP’s behavior. But it’s not the norm, it’s the opposite of the norm – so the focus should be on the individual problem, and the individual victim.

                  When an individual problem is representative of a systemic problem, like a minority being mistreated in the workplace, then the focus can extend beyond the individual to the systemic. When commenters compare this to if the employee was black, gay, etc., they are comparing an individual problem to a systemic problem, and all of the baggage that goes with the systemic problem.

                5. Jaguar

                  I agree with everything you’ve said, but I don’t think it’s a response to what I’m saying. I think we might be talking past each other here.

              2. TL -

                Except when physical attractiveness is not an advantage; for instance, if you’re a woman in math. Being a woman in math is hard, being a conventionally attractive woman in math is likely to work against you more and being a conventionally attractive woman who looks like she cares about her looks in math is a big mark against you. (or being a firewoman or trying to get your geek on in certain nerd fandom/circles)

                In general it may help but there are definitely certain circumstance where it does work against you and they can be huge for the individuals they affect.

      4. emma2

        “Attractive people often get a leg up in life on the rest of us”

        Not if your boss targets you for that very reason! Just being attractive by itself doesn’t mean you always coast through life. Some currently attractive people may have been fat when they were younger, been bullied, grew up in poverty, have a mental illness, or had abusive parents that scarred them for life. Then imagine, on top of that, getting bullied by your boss or a clique of girls because they want to punish you for how your face/body looks. It’s superficial to assume you know everything about someone’s experience just because of how they look to you. Yes, it’s one dimension of privilege, just like being white is a privilege. But there is a huge difference between being a rich trust fund white kid and being a working class white kid on welfare.

  49. Amber Rose

    Y’know LW#1, the self hatred/guilt thing you’ve got going on is not going to ease your jealousy or anxiety.

    I agree that you should make an effort to get to know her and stop putting her on a pedestal of enviable perfection, but I think step one may be to look at yourself in the mirror, repeat all these things you said to Alison/us, accept them as true and forgive yourself.

    It’s ok to be jealous.
    It’s ok to make mistakes.
    You can’t change what’s been done.
    You’re not a bad person, you’re a good person who struggles.
    You WILL change going forward. I know you will.

    Anxiety and poor body image are terrible burdens LW, please don’t beat yourself up for having a hard time with them. It took great courage and strength to write in with this problem, and you can use that to face the problem itself.

  50. For OP#1

    OP#1 – I have a similar problem, except I tend to get really intimidated by these people and tend to get flustered or make mistakes. One piece of advice that seems to work really well is to imagine the person doing really mundane things in order to humanize them and sort of break them down. I know this seems like counter-intuitive advice, but I think if you break down this image you have of your employee in your mind, you might be less jealous and then actually be kinder to them in person.

    Anyway, here’s a link for some imagery suggestions. Hope this helps: https://www.autostraddle.com/17-more-realistic-ways-to-break-anyone-down-368801/

  51. Jaguar

    Regarding how bad career counselors are, have you ever considered putting together a guide of some sort (maybe another book?) for career counselors to dispel their frequently bad information and that you could direct letter writers towards encouraging them to read? Maybe there’s something already on the market that fills that gap as is, but it seems like if the field is that bad across the board, it’s potentially a market gap.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

      It’s my experience that people whose job it is to give advice and who give bad advice usually don’t want to hear that they’re doing that. Most people don’t read books to have their professional ego shredded, even if their professional ego badly needs shredding.

      1. Jaguar

        Yeah, I was just throwing it out as an idea. There definitely are people who read books to help them with their job, though.

  52. Emlen

    These are my own perceptions, but I feel like the reaction to the first letter is revealing interesting biases.

    If she had written in confessing that she’d been bullying and knowingly damaging the reputation of a subordinate for being overweight, I imagine LW 1 would have had a different reception in the comments.

    Likewise, what if we instead had a letter about the same situation, but from the point of view of the victim, who is still being mistreated? I’m not sure what this bias would be; maybe that we always perceive the LW, unless they’re a jerk with zero self-awareness, as the one who’s “on our side”?

    Declaration of my own bias: I’ve been in the employee’s place. It’s miserable: the origin of the aggressor’s behavior makes it nearly impossible to complain about, because nobody has sympathy for a girl who might think she’s pretty. Then imagine if you don’t think you’re pretty at all, and actually deeply hate how you look.

      1. Emlen

        But we don’t know the “bad bosses” who are the subjects of other letters we see don’t also feel ashamed and awful.

        I’ll let it go after this, Alison, and I’m sorry, but part of why I’m having such a bothered response is that I think your advice here omitted two important things: (1) Stating bluntly that the OP’s actions are bullying/cruel, and (2) Telling her upfront that she needs to stop those actions immediately, regardless of how long it takes to work on her thought processes. How would you react if in HR and an employee came to you with proof their boss was doing this to them? Would the boss telling you they were deeply ashamed and wanted to change make you any less firm on the notion that the behavior needed to immediately stop?

        You can condemn unacceptable behavior and still support the desire to change. Likewise, someone can feel ashamed of what they’re doing, and still need to hear someone else condemn their behavior and tell them to stop.

        I do appreciate your comment that you felt out of your depth on this, and I also admire your compassion, but the mildness of the response (including the comments) felt like a slap to victims of abuse stemming from the mental demons of others. Please understand that I’m referring to a middle ground; a person trying to change shouldn’t be excoriated, but needs to have their abuse of others identified as such and firmly told to stop.

        Thank you for what you do.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’m on record consistently here as saying that if someone understands they’re in the wrong and feels awful about it, they don’t need to have it repeated to them; they’ve already taken care of that part of it themselves, and there’s reason to berate them. I think that of letter-writers here and with employees who mess up too.

    1. Amber Rose

      If it were worded the same, my reaction and sympathy would be the same. The desire to change is important.

    2. Temperance

      Here’s my bias: I can relate strongly to LW 1’s POV, and frankly, I will admit that I’m not yet in a place where I will admit this to anyone. She’s clearly struggling, she’s ashamed of herself, and she wants to break the cycle. That shows tremendous strength of character, IMO, and I think it would be horrible to pile-on and make her feel worse.

    3. Anon for this

      I’m very happy that the OP wants to change, and I think a lot of the responses are rightly tempered by that.

      But I also agree with you a bit.

      I also wonder how we would react if a male manager treated female employees based on how much he liked or disliked their bodies, fashion sense, etc.

      1. Amber Rose

        If it’s coming from the same place (jealousy and poor self esteem), then I would imagine the same way. But it doesn’t translate well. Imagine a male manager who is insanely jealous of beautiful women. Unless the manager is closeted trans, or a cross dresser, or maybe gay and jealous of male attention, this is a rather strange scenario. And if the cause were any of the maybes I listed, people WOULD be sympathetic, because those are tough positions to be in.

        If it’s just, male manager treats pretty women better/worse because they’re pretty, the responses would be different because the problem is different.

        1. Anon for this

          The problem is different, but they both result in sexist behavior: Damaging women’s reputations and performance at work based on their appearance.

          1. Amber Rose

            Yeah, but it’s not helpful to focus on the consequences. Lots of different problems can have similar results, but the solutions have to be tailored to the cause, not the end result. It might make some angry/upset people feel better in the short term to yell and shout, but that only makes everything worse, and then in the long run, those people have now contributed and grown the issue, rather than helping to eliminate it when it was smaller.

            Would you rather be right, or would you rather accomplish something useful?

            1. Anon for this

              I mean, both? But I think the consequences to the OP’s employee’s career are important enough to be considered.

    4. NonProfit Nancy

      To be honest, I think I always try to sympathize with the letter writer. I think there’s only been one who was so un-self-aware that I struggled to be on their side. If the attractive employee had written a letter, I would have directed my remarks to her and been on her side. Objectively, sure the employee is less at fault, but … she didn’t write in.

  53. Susan

    1) As someone who dealt with this situation from the employee’s standpoint, it is absolutely horrible and demoralizing. I was 19 at the time and just not experienced enough to know how to navigate the situation. Eventually I started to believe that my manager’s opinion of me was real and that I was in-fact a piece of crap human being. I would go home crying and eventually needed to see a therapist and take medication to get through my work day. This was about 20 years ago, but I will never forget how she made me feel. She made me a target because she was struggling with internal issues related to her weight loss efforts and fertility efforts (not the same situation as the OP) and she just couldn’t handle having a young, thin, likable, employee. When people would compliment me on my work, she would interject with a put down. Everyone noticed and it did affect her professionally. People started to feel sorry for me and eventually HR got involved because of the name-calling and I was assigned to another manager. I wish that my manager would have just gotten to know me and tried to look past the fact that I was young and attractive (wish I still looked like that!). I was also smart, resourceful, tech savvy, and kind. I was a really great employee and I wish she would have given me the chance to show her what I was capable of. In my field, female managers are still a rarity, even more so 20 years go, and It would have been great to work under someone with her skills and experience if she would have given me a fair shake. I think that it is awesome that the OP recognizes that this is an issue and that it is being worked on. Not many people are able to do that. I hope that this story has a happy ending and I look forward to seeing how everything turns out.

  54. Kelly

    #1 – Everything Alison said is right on. You definitely need to get over this and so whatever it takes to do so will only make you stronger. I, too, have major insecurities and I totally relate to how you’re feeling. I think I’m just a better actress because I’ve never let anyone know that I didn’t like them – for that reason anyway. I do, however, go out of my way to make friends with people I feel jealous/intimidated by. Almost ALWAYS I end up adoring the person and my jealousy goes away.

    Having said that … I noticed you said this person actually spoke to your boss about it and stated she thought you were jealous of her … that struck me as odd. How conceited do you have to be to say something like that out loud, to another person? If she is that impressed with her own looks your jealousy might stem more from her inflated self-esteem than it does from thinking she is prettier than you, etc. Furthermore, in my experience, when someone is that impressed with themselves it’s usually masking their own insecurities, so you may be on more common ground than you know.

    Finally, looks aren’t everything. At the end of all of our lives – if we are lucky enough to live a long, full life – we all end up looking the same. Old. Wrinkled. Gray-haired…and draped in comfy polyester. Please remind yourself every day that underneath all this skin we are all the same and once we are gone what we looked like won’t matter at all – but what will matter is the impression we left behind on the people who loved us just the way we were. <3 hugs to you <3

    1. the other Emily

      There is nothing anywhere about OP’s employee having inflated self-esteem (or anything else about her personality) in the letter. It’s unfair to say that about her.

      1. Kelly

        Because this was me saying “I noticed you said… the person mentioned it to your boss” and then went on to make my own possible “speculation” about a particular part of it. I didn’t say she was for sure. It’s a way of looking at a situation from more than just one angle and having a greater understanding … oh, never mind … this whole thread has turned into a “lets bash everyone for their ideas an opinions and input” … when I thought we were here to help the LW get her situation under control.

        Everyone have a great day. Time for me to take a break from this site.

    2. Anon for this

      I don’t think it’s conceited to notice what is actually happening.

      Is she supposed to see jealous behavior and then convince herself that no, it’s all in her head, really, she’s ugly, why would anyone do that?

    3. Nancy Drew

      Answer: You do not have to be conceited at all to notice that someone is treating you badly and acting jealous toward you, or to voice that as a concern with a boss since it has already impacted your job and reputation at work.

  55. Helen

    OP said other people in the office have noticed how she is treating this employee. If it’s obvious to them, it’s not a stretch to assume that it obvious to the person she is mistreating. It’s not fair or right to call her conceited for talking about something everyone else has noticed, that OP freely admits is happening.

    +1 to your first and third paragraph though.

  56. Suze

    Hi Allison, OP #3 here! Thanks for taking the time to answer my letter, I appreciate it. I should have been clearer in what my issue was, which is not the lack of resume (I agree with you that an information-seeking email doesn’t need it) but with the unprofessional content. That quote I included was almost verbatim the entire content of the email that inspired my letter. No salutation, no signature, just “Hey are you guys hiring?”. I did end up ignoring it, but going forward I’m going to take some of the commenters’ advice and get a page up on the website that details any positions open, our rates, and how to apply. That should hopefully cut down on at least some of those one-liner emails.

    Thanks again to you and all the commentariat, this has been helpful!

  57. Brett

    #5 Hired as an IT manager and given help desk duties? No one would blame you for leaving that situation. (I would almost think it was a red flag if the position you are interviewing for did not immediately recognize that as a strong reason for leaving.)

  58. Someone

    When working to get a CPA license (after the exam has been passed) many states require a certain amount of hours worked under a licensed CPA.I think that might be what the career counselor was eluding too.

    1. MommaTRex

      However, those hours worked should be as a paid regular employee, not a volunteer with a separate full-time job.

  59. Jessie the First (or second)

    OP1:

    Maybe first, give yourself permission not to like her. It’s okay if you don’t like her, even if your dislike is irrational or based on your own insecurities. You feel how you feel.

    So, let go of that guilt and maybe focus instead on concrete actions and statements you can make to repair the situation. I’m not sure specifically what to suggest because you are vague in your letter about how you treat her. If there is a way you can develop some scripts ahead of time that you can practice saying civilly and with a smile (or with a neutral face – I have RBF, so I have to make an effort to smile so as not to scare folks, but maybe you do not have that problem!), then you can use them in your interactions with her. Or as a basis for your interactions with her anyway. Basically, I think you may need to plan ahead.

    And lay off beating yourself up for not liking her. She may be lovely, she may not be, who knows, but you are allowed to want to keep your distance if she triggers issues you’ve been struggling with. So focus on keeping your behavior – not your feelings! Those are your business! – professional.

    And then in the evening after work, practice some self-care to charge up your emotional strength, in whatever ways you have found helpful for you (for me, that’d be a bubble bath and a glass of wine and a book, but whatever your version of that is!). Good luck, OP.

  60. Episkey

    I have read through all the comments about OP #1 and know I’m late to the game here, but one thing that I haven’t seen mentioned too much is the statement the OP made, “I never would have hired her if I had been the one doing the interviews.”

    Whoa. This is actually the most concerning of everything to me. The employee in question now has the job, and though the OP isn’t treating her well, she recognizes it and can take steps to mitigate her behavior.

    But to know about yourself that this person never would have even have had a shot at employment at your company if you had been in charge of interviews is a grave issue.

    Personally, I think you should actually recuse yourself from the hiring process in the future until you have a handle on this and can be honest with yourself that you would be able to hire the best candidate for the position regardless of their level of attractiveness. At this point, you can’t trust yourself to make those kinds of decisions and I think the only ethical thing to do is bow out of that decision making process.

  61. Ivy

    To the author of the second letter–I transitioned into accounting after ten years in publishing by getting a masters degree, just like you. I got a job straight out of school, like all of my peers. Public accounting firms are used to hiring large numbers of people right out of school with zero experience, and they seem to lump us career changers in with everybody else. Even our interns get paid (so much overtime this time of year). If an accounting firm is asking you to work for free, that’s shady as hell. I can say from experience that this career needs so many warm bodies to get the work done they do not care if you have no experience in it, if you’ve got that degree and that CPA.

  62. Ask a Manager Post author

    Hey, all, I’d earlier set all comments on this post to go to moderation after too many were outside the commenting rules, but I’m finding I don’t have time today to field them all so I’m turning off commenting on this post altogether.

Comments are closed.