is the work environment I’ve created on my team too exclusive?

A reader writes:

I’m writing this question based on feedback received from an exit interview.

A woman in her mid-30’s left my department after a little over a year. When giving her notice, she commented that she was taking a job closer to home (she had an hour commute each way some days) and had wanted to go back to a position closer to her original line of work. Her senior team members and I were sad to see her go.

HR sent me the results of her exit interview and wanted to discuss “the cultural problems in my department.” On the exit interview, the former employee mentioned that my staff leaves at lunch one day per week to go to a brewery for a beer run (which is true, I allow this) and she was often the only team member in the office; her fellow associates were unwilling to assist her and spent time on social media such as Snapchat, creating an exclusive environment (she was more quiet, older than the 20somethings in the position, and not as much into social media); and that interdepartmental relationships created power dynamics that ruined morale (one of my newly promoted seniors was sleeping with an associate and it wasn’t noticed by me or any other executives).

I don’t feel like this is a cultural issue; I think this was her not being a good fit for our team. I do allow my staff to go to breweries as long as they have coverage. I encourage my staff to be friends in and outside of work and I cannot monitor relationships. At no point did the employee bring this to my attention during our informal one-on-ones. She was extremely quiet and kept to herself, and she didn’t mingle with the team because of her commute and commitments she had (she’s married with a kid and had recently bought a house).

Am I in the wrong or is the former employee just out of touch with how a team of professional millenials works?

Yeah, you’re kind of in the wrong.

If you’re determining that someone isn’t a good fit for you team because they’re 10 years older than everyone else and have outside-of-work commitments, that’s a problem. That mindset means that you’ll be screening out anything resembling a diverse staff. You want people who come from different walks of life and have different/more experiences and perspectives. That will make your team stronger. (What you’re doing now can also end up being discriminatory in a legal sense, depending on the specifics of how it plays out.)

This is the kind of thing that has given the term “culture fit” a bad name — because you’re using it to mean “people who fit in here are all in the same age group and stage of life” (as opposed to legitimate uses of the term, which are things like “people who fit in here care passionately about making customers happy” or “people who fit in here have a sense of urgency and drive work forward at a fast pace”).

The brewery thing isn’t necessarily a problem. But if it’s indicative of an environment where people who don’t fit a narrowly defined idea of “culture” won’t feel comfortable, that’s a problem. And for what it’s worth, a weekly beer run is … well, a very specific type of culture, so if you’re doing that, you want to make sure that it’s a deliberate choice to build that particular culture, and that you can defend it to higher-ups.

People spending time on social media isn’t a big deal in many jobs, but if your former employee is right that people weren’t willing to help her and were spending lots of time on social media, that’s something you should look at.

The senior person sleeping with an associate is a huge problem if the senior person had any kind of authority over the associate or if it created office dynamics that impacted other people, which sounds like might have been the case. If they went out of their way to hide it from you, it’s not necessarily your fault that you didn’t know about it, but if other people knew, the fact that you didn’t might — not definitely, but might — indicate that you’re not paying enough attention.

And this jumps out at me: “I encourage my staff to be friends in and outside of work.” That’s an odd overstepping of boundaries. Of course you should encourage people to have warm, collaborative relationships with colleagues. But specifically encouraging friendships? If people develop friendships on their own, that’s lovely. But that’s a different thing than you actively encouraging it, especially outside of work. Combined with the other details in your letter, this sounds to me like you might be emphasizing the social connections on your team at the expense of professionalism and inclusivity.

So yes, I think your HR department is right to be concerned. You need to be able to hire a diverse staff — people with kids, people with long commutes, people who are much older, people from different cultures or economic backgrounds, people with different drinking habits, people with varying degrees of introversion or extroversion — and have them able to work comfortably on your team.

Right now, you sound too comfortable with writing off people who don’t fit in socially with other staff, and you’re prizing social connections too strongly.

To be clear, social connections can have real value. They can keep people happy at work, and they can make it easier for people to work together harmoniously. But they don’t trump the other stuff I’m talking about here.

Right now, I think you probably have the balance wrong, and that’s what HR is concerned about.

{ 1,250 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. paul

    Why would you encourage (or discourage) friendships outside of work? I honestly don’t get this. A manager encouraging or discouraging friendships, 99% of the time, is going to come across really inappropriately and overbearing to me.

    On the lunch thing: is there not a defined lunch period when people leave the office? Was she getting stuck solo coverage once a week so people could be beer buddies? That would *definitely* chap my ass in her situation too.

    Reply
    1. Kiki

      >On the lunch thing: is there not a defined lunch period when people leave the office?

      Some places require at least one person in the office at all times to cover phones and assist anyone who comes in. My job is this way. I am usually the person who ends up staying and eating at my desk because I can’t afford to go out for lunch, but my coworkers go out almost daily (to like Panera, not a sit down place). Maybe OP’s ex-employee was in the same situation.

      Reply
      1. paul

        we do too, which to me makes this *worse*. If you were letting everyone else readjust their schedule but she was always the odd one out…that’s going to upset most people, particularly if if they’re busy as heck during that period, and/or if it’s longer than the typical lunch hour.

        Reply
      2. kittymommy

        The office next to me always needs coverage as well so they have a set rotation schedule and everyone takes a turn. Even if your just eat at your desk or in the break room, you will not be the “coverage” that day.

        Reply
        1. JessaB

          This, there needs to be a rota for “the person stuck in the office.” Unless there’s a person whose job is literally “you have to be here from 12-1 reception clerks can take lunch at 11 or at 1, but your job description is to cover stuff.”

          It also needs to make sure that it’s not always Sam on Mondays unless Sam specifically asks for Mondays. Everyone should get a day they have to stay and unless arranged in advance it shouldn’t be the same day week in week out.

          It’s best to ask for volunteers first, but if you don’t get enough you need to make it plain that everyone has to pitch in to be the coverage.

          And yes it matters what people’s jobs are. You don’t want the managers and above to be covering, unless the coverage person is out ill, or you’re completely slammed. Sometimes line managers should step in but it shouldn’t be the norm.

          Reply
          1. Jenny

            Maybe they do have a rotation, and the other employees who are friends choose to go out together on the day all of them are free?

            Reply
    2. Annabelle

      I wondered about the lunch thing too, particularly because OP mentions needing coverage for the people going on beer runs. It doesn’t seem fair if the one older, more introverted person is always providing de facto coverage while everyone else gets drinks.

      Reply
      1. Kyrielle

        This. It’s one thing if they offer (I’ve done that before, and I felt like I was being part of the team even if I wasn’t going to the bonding thing) and another thing entirely if it just gets dumped on them.

        Reply
        1. Annabelle

          Yeah, exactly. If she volunteers to stay behind then that’s cool. But it sounds like, and maybe this is just me, that everyone assumed that because she’s quite and older than she didn’t want to go.

          Reply
          1. Blurgle

            Or they didn’t want her to join them due to unfortunate stereotypes about women over a certain age.

            Reply
        2. Dust Bunny

          It’s still not cool if she volunteers to stay behind because this is the primary form of office bonding and she’s not into it. If they want to do something for lunch as a department, what they do should rotate so everyone is included. Doing the same very specific thing each time is exclusive if it’s uncomfortable for a few staff members, and something like a brewery could be problematic for a number of reasons. My department goes out for lunch occasionally but never for anything alcohol-focused (25% of us have either personal or religious objections to alcohol) and to different kinds of restaurants.

          I’m also a little o_O about the “professional millennials” bit. Holding a professional position doesn’t mean that everything you do is behaving in a professional manner.

          Reply
          1. Temperance

            I’m a beer nerd, and I assume that the “beer runs” are actually hitting up a brewery to grab new releases in cans or bottles to drink later, not actually drinking at lunch. It’s a specific hobby, and not really comparable to going out to lunch with your coworkers.

            Reply
              1. Jodi

                Not that it excuses everything BUT many breweries will place limits on how much one person can purchase with new releases. So, for example, if a place sets a one four-pack limit on a new IPA then having one person go for everyone wouldn’t work.

                Reply
                1. JessaB

                  If they’re going to that brewery every week, and buying a lot, there’s no reason they can’t make advanced special arrangements. If I ran a local brewery and knew that Technicolor Teapots always all came on Friday to get the new goodies, I would make arrangements if they called and said “Look, we love your stuff but it’s causing staffing problems for us all to go, can we send Sian and get out “fix” for the week?” Unless there’s actual law (and in some places there can be) that limits the amount of purchase, a good company will do nice thing for good customers.

            1. Snaps

              Possibly, but if the act of getting something together – even if it were socks – results in someone being excluded from bonding and actual help doing their job, it’s still a problem. The focus on alcohol, even if they aren’t consuming it adds another layer of exclusion because it automatically puts certain religions on the ‘outside’.

              Reply
              1. Blurgle

                So does going out for food. The latter also excludes a lot of people for medical or economic reasons.

                Reply
                1. Julia

                  Not if you go somewhere everyone can find something to eat, or have a bring-your-own-eat-in lunch.

                  But going to buy or drink beer will definitely exclude anyone who does not buy or drink beer.

                1. blargh

                  Not only issues for the individual, but they’d probably feel pressured to explain why they don’t want to do the beer run and no one should feel they have to give out private medical information.

            2. Elizabeth H.

              Same, I was assuming they were going out to get new releases esp. considering it was a weekly thing. I actually don’t think that it’s unlike going out to lunch w/your coworkers though because it is a hobby that you all participate in together. I don’t think it’s a good look for a workplace environment if the whole office goes out together to do this thing when the one person who isn’t into it stays behind for coverage. It doesn’t necessarily HAVE to mean that it’s a bad office culture – I can imagine genuinely not minding being the one person staying behind to provide coverage if it were some hobby I had no interest in, as long as I felt included in other ways, and not like this was just another example of a culture where other people were friendly/team-bonded in a way that excluded me. It sounds like that wasn’t actually the case in this specific situation though, and like it was in fact reflective of the overall exclusive vibe.

              Reply
              1. JessaB

                I’m not a drinker, so if they asked me to stay I’d be okay with it, as long as they acknowledged that I was helping out. The kind of thing where it’s “we got great beer, we know you don’t drink, here’s a hot chocolate and donut (or whatever the person likes) for doing this nice thing for us.

                It’s like when I was staff for a bunch of managers, if they called out for food, or if they sent me to pick up an order, there was an automatic, “they who order pay for the one who drives to get it.” It’s not a quid pro quo, but it’s an understanding that someone is putting themselves to extra work (even if it’s in the job description, some things are above and beyond.)

                There’s a bigger problem than leaving x person to cover, there seems to be zero acknowledgement of the fact that they’re helping people AND zero acknowledgement in other ways that they’re valued parts of the team.

                I wouldn’t care about beer, but if being the one always left out also came with being not included as a team member in other ways and no acknowledgement that they realise they’re doing something that I don’t/can’t/hate, that’s a BIG issue.

                Reply
          2. Bredward

            At my old job, me and my former coworker were the youngest in the office (and still an 8 year age difference between us). Everyone in the office arranged various types of outings. And when the youngest of us made outings, we found things to do that we thought people would want to do (opt in only).

            As did the older office workers. It was one of my best jobs as I felt close to people ranging from 25-70 years old over the years, with different lives, and who are very diverse. I’m not much of friends outside of work person and I did become and remain friends with most all of these coworkers. Being inclusive toward a diverse group of people who share similar work goals is very powerful and the best way to be open to friendship at work, IMO

            Reply
            1. KaraLynn

              That sounds like a great work situation. Healthy for both sides to mix with people in a different age group.

              Reply
      2. Falling Diphthong

        Yes, it sounds like she wound up alone in the office covering everything because “we need coverage, let’s grab the n00b we don’t want to bring” seemed like the easy solution. Which is bad.

        The tricky thing is that there could be introverted, non-drinking staff members who viewed this as their way to participate in the bouncy team bonding, like “you all run the obstacle course, I’ll bring the cupcakes.” But that really works best if the team bonding isn’t exclusively stuff that rules out anyone married, with a kid, having a life outside work, etc.

        Reply
        1. Hey Karma, Over here.

          I like this. Because it illustrates that the employee was an important member of the team. Because once management got involved by blessing the beer run, it became a Work Thing. Employee made the beer runs possible by staying in. And instead of realizing this and thanking her, from management down she became a joke at best and an outcast at worst.

          Reply
        2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter

          This isn’t specifically you, Falling Diphthong, as others here seem to make the same assumption too, but I had to pick a place where I write this and now it’s here: Why do you combine non-drinking with introvert and why do you assume that OP’s ex employee is an introvert?

          I’m quite a chatty and open person in the right company and on the introvert-extrovert-scale I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m not a quiet introvert. And I don’t drink. Actually one of the reasons why I don’t drink is that even if I’m sober I still blurt out stuff I later regret, so I don’t want to catalyze that with alcohol! Some extroverts don’t drink, some introverts do.

          However I do have experience about being in places/groups with culture similar to OP’s workplace. Quite often this kind of groups talk A LOT about alcohol. In those discussion I’m usually quiet and withdrawn as I have nothing to say on the topic or the endless stories about drinking adventures can be to me even revolting and I don’t want to hear about it. So in that type of culture I prefer the company of a good book (or even a mediocre book) during my break times. As a result of this, there are people who probably remember me as a very quiet person. OP’s ex employee may be a genuine introvert but it could also be a situation similar to mine.

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            FWIW, I don’t think people are attributing “not into drinking culture” with introversion. I think the comment re: introverts comes from OP’s description of the ex-employee as “extremely quiet and kept to herself, and she didn’t mingle with the team.”

            Of course, that description might not mean she’s an introvert, either. I’m an ambivert, and if I was stuck providing coverage because people were into a very specific hobby that I was not into and made no effort to integrate me into their team, I would be pretty quiet and would keep to myself.

            Reply
            1. Chinook

              That sounds like me – an ambivert with people pleasing tendencies when I start a job (until I figure out how people interact there) that would probably volunteer to cover the first time (especially if I didn’t realize that this was a regular thing) who would eventually resent being relied upon to stay back and cover for everyone while they had fun. I also lack enough self-confidence that I would probably think that there was something about me that they don’t like, which is why I never get invited to join them, so I wouldn’t press the issue while working there (because who wants to hang out with people who don’t like you) but I would mention feeling isolated from the team in an exit interview.

              Reply
            2. Just Another Techie

              I’m a millenial extrovert, but I’m also “quiet” and “keep to myself” at work because my coworkers exclude me and it’s easier to keep my head down and then get my social needs fulfilled by actual friends than to grit my teeth through yet another excruciating team lunch where no one takes up my conversational gambits for topics of general interest and stubbornly insist on only talking about their niche hobbies that I don’t share.

              Reply
              1. Anonymoose

                :( I’d totally pick up your conversational gambits and we could make fun of their weird hobbies together. Over ice cream. :)

                Reply
          2. paul

            I think it’s two different things. Hell, I’m a drinker and an introvert myself-but not with work functions, drunk me lacks tact. But he described a party culture with booze *and* socialization. I don’t *think* that in this particular case people are conflating the two.

            Reply
            1. aebhel

              Same. I enjoy drinking, but I’m self-aware enough to know that it’s a terrible idea for me to do it around coworkers.

              Reply
      3. Alton

        I agree. It’s one thing to voluntarily staying behind (still could be awkward for her, of course), but if she had to provide coverage as well, I can imagine that breeding resentment. And I think even if it’s normal for people to provide coverage while others are at lunch, it looks unbalanced if one person in particular is always providing coverage while the rest of the team does stuff together.

        And if the co-workers weren’t helpful when she needed it, I can definitely see why she’d be annoyed.

        Reply
        1. Queen of the File

          For sure! And if they’re gone for an hour or more, it may mean she can’t even leave to go to the washroom or anything during that time, or that she has to take her own lunch at an inconvenient time. Even if you volunteered the first time I could see that getting pretty irritating if it happened every week.

          Reply
          1. Decima Dewey

            And if the team members aren’t just getting bottles or cans for later, and are drinking during the beer run, the employee covering may also have to cover for others who had a little too much on the beer run.

            Reply
      4. sap

        Especially since the older, responsible person might actually want to get drinks but can’t DRIVE AN HOUR HOME after beginning to day drink at lunch?

        Reply
        1. Alienor

          Seriously! I’m 45 and I don’t even think of myself as an “older person” – yes, I’m older than someone just out of college, but to me an “older person” in the workplace is someone with grandchildren. (And some of those genuinely older people have been great friends and coworkers to me over the years, even when I was in my 20s.)

          Reply
        2. BananaPants

          A bunch of us Oregon Trail Generation folks at work (so, mid-30s) talk about “the young people” and “kids these days” in a joking manner re: our colleagues in their early 20s. They’re all talented, hard workers and genuinely nice people – just very clearly in a different stage of life than we are.

          Reply
    3. TootsNYC

      especially since that was coupled with the concept that the other people were unwilling to assist her.

      And it’s a bit like grade school birthdays. If only one person is left out (esp. consistently), that’s really damaging to the culture of the office. I’m not sure how you handle it, because people’s lunch is their own, but maybe you insist that there are two people in the office, or you request that they do this b9g-group socializing after work instead in the middle of the day.

      And you speak to people about keeping the Snapchat stuff out of the office. No talking about it.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I was just thinking about the grade-school rule of “More than half and you have to invite everybody.”

        I can see situations where being the person staying behind is fine: give me a quiet hour in the office, worship me for being the goddess who allows you to go off on the brewery run when you get back, and make sure I don’t get left out of lunch, and I’d be delighted. But as you say, it can’t be a pattern of somebody getting left out, and it especially can’t be a pattern of shunning the one of these things that is not like the others.

        Reply
    4. Brendioux

      Agreed. I’m 25 and don’t drink and if my team expected me to stay alone in the office once a week so they could go out for their weekly beer run i would nip that in the bud. I’m not necessarily saying that this employee did anything wrong, I can understand that it’s difficult to speak up when you’re new and already feeling excluded from the clique.

      Reply
  2. Loopy

    I agree with Alison so much on this one. I am a bit like the person who left, sans having a family. I have no issues with missing the occasional after work gathering or turning down things that don’t mesh with my lifestyle (I don’t drink so a beer run wouldn’t interest me), but when I’m the ONLY PERSON on the team to not fit in and these events/ habits are an integral part of the team, Id be unhappy.

    I’d hate to be the only person sitting out 90% of the entire team culture and it would get to me for sure.

    I think having a little diversity goes a lot way to naturally avoid that dynamic.

    Reply
    1. KTB

      Ugh, I’m dealing with this situation at my work right now and it SUCKS. The rest of my team is in their late 20s, very active on social media, and very clique-y, and my boss is willfully oblivious to the whole situation. I’m aiming for a promotion by the end of this year, and then the job search begins. I have other friends in the company, but it’s draining to feel like I’m not fitting in on my own team.

      Reply
      1. nofelix

        Do you want to be friends with these people? In a work environment it’s not typical to be friends with everyone. Surely it would be worse if they tried to force you to be involved in their snapchatting, selfie-taking ways. Be thankful they’re just letting you be you, no? Maybe your boss isn’t oblivious so much as doesn’t think it’s a problem.

        Reply
      2. Squirrelnolio

        I was in this position last year too. Never fit in, felt very dismissed and marginalized. I am 43, they were mostly in their late 20s, early 30s, and they treated me like a suburban soccer mom (I have no kids and I have several non-work friends in their early 20s.) I tried to make it work–went to every after-work happy hour, chit chatted about things I wasn’t especially interested in (no one ever asked what I did over the weekend or anything) and tried to be really great at my job. Ended up a giant ball of anxiety and got let go at 5 months. In a terrific job now with a wide range of coworkers from 22 to 70 and I’m so glad I was let go from that other job! Bad fit! Bad culture!

        Reply
        1. WittyOne

          Good for you. I actually worry about that type of situation, being in my 40’s and feeling like there are some areas that interest me that would put me in environments with much younger co-workers and wondering if I’ll fit in…

          Reply
    2. M-C

      Totally agree too. The OP sounds like they’re actively encouraging a cliquey high-school culture, which is toxic when you’re young and really UN-professional when you’re trying to function as a work team. I’d seem like a real introvert too if I had to put up with a bunch of rampaging drunk 20 year olds :-(. Is social media addiction really the one work skill that’s needed there? The basic problem here is that the OP has a really distorted view of what friendship is about, and substitutes enforced work relationships for it. Sad..

      Reply
      1. Anna

        Yeah, it was amusing to me that the OP claimed it was the way of “professional millenials.” Neither one of those things is in effect here. It’s not the way “millenials” behave and it’s certainly not professional. That’s making excuses for poor behavior and the OP’s lack of effort in creating a more inclusive environment.

        Reply
    3. Koko

      I really like how things developed on my team. There is definitely a heavy drinking culture. 90% of it–the and the heaviest part of it–takes place outside of work hours, with frequent happy hours and celebrations being planned for different reasons. My boss goes to a lot of the happy hours and will pay for a couple rounds of drinks for the team.

      On top of that we have a social hour every Friday afternoon where we all gather in a big conference room to hang out for the last hour of the day. Our team is the “host” of the hour since we started it, but years ago it grew into something that the entire company is invited to attend, so there’s a different mix of people from week to week. A lot of people bring their laptops and work through the hour. The heavier-drinking crowd usually moves to a bar sometime after 5 to continue the festivities, others socialize til 5 and then go home, and there are some people who skip the social hour and just go home an hour early on Fridays.

      It’s nice that 1) the heaviest drinking takes place outside the office/outside of work hours, so it’s not forcing too much party culture onto people who aren’t interested in it, 2) people who have after-hours obligations are still included in the social hour, 3) because the social hour is inside the office it’s much less awkward for people who don’t want to drink than going to a bar and not drinking, and 4) introverts aren’t missing out on a fun perk for extroverts because they can choose to leave early if they don’t attend.

      Reply
      1. aebhel

        I really like this, and I think it’s a good way to balance the culture so it works for most people.

        Reply
      2. nonymous

        The only thing I would say is that a good option would be to add some non-alcoholic options that fit with the vibe. For example with a craft beer crowd, maybe a local non-alcoholic cider, root beer and/or fruit infusion. Not everyone can drink due to personal reasons (religion, recovering alcoholic, don’t want to be tipsy for the commute) and it’d be great if they had an opportunity to participate. Leaving early is not participating.

        Reply
        1. Koko

          Oh, plenty of people participate who don’t drink. It’s a BYOB social hour but I don’t think the non-drinkers bring drinks very often…they just come to chat and socialize.

          Reply
    4. Chaordic One

      Not only do I agree with Alison on this one, I really admire how she explained why the employee culture thing wasn’t really working very well, and she did so very diplomatically.

      Reply
    5. GMN

      While I get that it’s sad to not be able to be a part of social events due to outside commitments, is it really better that nobody gets to have social events so that nobody feels left out?

      Reply
  3. Dee

    It sounds like everything the employee mentioned in her exit interview was accurate, and you’re not denying any of it. That’s…not good, Bob. As is your description of your team as “professional millenials.” Obviously they’re professionals — so is the employee who just left. So you’ve basically reduced the issue to the employee’s age.

    Reply
    1. Friday

      Also, professional millennials can have houses and kids! Don’t make it a “millennial” thing, OP. It seems like really you just want young people with no daily family commitments.

      Reply
      1. esra (also a Canadian)

        Right? This millennial wouldn’t enjoy beer runs, although I do join coworkers occasionally when they go out to a pub after work.

        I also would not be likely to bring up a lot of why this person left to management if they’d been encouraging the friends-outside-of-work thing, I’d just find something else, too.

        Reply
      2. KTMGee

        Yup, this. I’m an old Millennial (’85), the oldest on my current team and the only one with kids and a lengthy commute. We have a variety of personalities, ages and situation on my team, and none of these weird “culture” things really come up. I’d be wary of this framing also.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          I too am an ’85 millennial – and I’m the youngest on my team, no kids, but I did buy a house this year and am an introvert who would absolutely not ever go on the “brewery run” because beer is gross. You can’t just say “this is how professional millennials work” like we’re all the same frat-house 20-somethings.

          (Also, does the phrase “professional millennials” make anyone else think about people who make a living by being millennials?)

          Reply
          1. Clever Alias

            ’84 millennial. Kids, house, long commute. Would absolutely love an office culture where I can go to a brewery at lunch (’cause it sure isn’t happening after work anymore!) and I’m still annoyed by this phrase and wary of the OP’s framing.

            Reply
            1. Relly

              Late gen Xer here, but my husband wore his Never Ford It t-shirt to work today. (Link in next comment.)

              Reply
          1. BananaPants

            ’81 cusper/Oregon Trail Generation here. Our manager is in his 60s, there’s me (36), and there are 8 entry level folks between 23-26 who I effectively supervise because Boss has mentally checked out. I *am* the OG on the team!

            Reply
      3. Amber T

        Yes please. As a fellow professional millennial (who isn’t married and doesn’t have kids), I really don’t have an interest in beer runs or hanging out with my coworkers outside of the work place.

        Reply
      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Seriously—this drives me nuts. Millennials are not some reductionist stereotype of “bros” going on beer runs once a week and being unprofessional in the office. OP, if they’re on social media and not supporting other team members while at work, that’s not usually professional behavior. And P.S., mid-30s falls within the “millennial” generational band. Also, aren’t some 20-somethings Gen Z, by now?

        This doesn’t sound like an age issue; it sounds like OP has fostered (or allowed to flourish) a culture of exclusion based on really narrow ideas of “young people” vs. “mature workers.” (Aside: I cannot believe mid-30s is now “mature” or “not a good fit.”) That’s a problem, the employee was right to raise it, and so was HR.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          I don’t think we’ve got any 20-something Gen Z’s yet – isn’t the line drawn at 2000 or later? So Millennials would be 1980-1999, Gen Z 2000+. The oldest Gen Z’s would be in their senior year of high school, I think.

          That said, this is absolutely not a “millennials thing”. This is the OP allowing the worst kind of casual startup tech bro culture to flourish in their department, and when someone called them on it and left because of it, OP is dismissing it as a “poor culture fit”.

          Also, OP should be aware that age is a protected class in the U.S. – it doesn’t sound like that applies to this specific case since the employee who left was in her 30s and age discrimination protections don’t kick in til 40 or older – but I could very easily see this becoming a discrimination issue in the legal sense, if OP hires, for example, a less-qualified 20-something over a highly qualified 40-something. And I don’t believe “culture fit”, when that “culture” is “we’re all young here”, is a legitimate defense against accusations of age discrimination.

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Ugh, I just double-checked and it says demographers can’t agree on when Gen Z begins, with some saying it starts in the mid-90s (that was what I was thinking) while others say it starts post 9/11.

            Reply
            1. Blurgle

              Demographers can’t agree on anything. My opinion is that if you were born after WWII and have cultural memories of the late 60s (e.g. RFK’s assassination, Prague spring, Trudeaumania) you’re a Boomer, if you’re not old enough for that but remember the mid-80s you’re Gen X, and if you’re not old enough for that but remember 9/11 you’re a millennial.

              Reply
              1. Jadelyn

                I like the idea of pegging it to cultural memory – since that’s really what the whole division of generations thing is really meant to convey, “here’s a group of people who all experienced this particular social context at roughly similar times of their lives and that shaped how they do stuff.”

                Reply
              2. Chaordic One

                I do question the arbitrary labels that they put on different generations. For example, someone born at the beginning of the baby boom generation is old enough to be the parent of someone born at the end of it. I really don’t think they would have that many cultural experiences in common, but they get lumped in together.

                Reply
                1. Kriss

                  Heck, my birth year was considered gen X until last year when some advertisers started calling it the last year of the baby boomers & others saying it was the first year of a few gap years between baby boomers & gen X.

                  I’ve yet to meet any actual baby boomers who consider me one (parents included)

                  It’s all seemed pretty arbitrary to me.

                2. NorthernSoutherner

                  Agree. Technically I’m a Boomer (’64) but I didn’t protest Vietnam, participate in the Summer of Love, distrust anyone over 30, say “peace” or any of the cultural touchstones Boomers are known for. In fact, my parents — who were older than the Boom gen — did a lot of that stuff and it was humiliating.
                  Don’t care what the demographers say; I consider myself early GenX

              3. JessaB

                This is why I love the Mindset Lists. Each year they’re put out to explain things that the graduating class of year whatever would not know. They’re designed for teachers to understand the changing cultural memories of large groups of people and are so much fun.

                https://www.beloit.edu/mindset/

                It’s fascinating to realise things that we take for granted as we get older are things that younger people have either never heard of or mean something else. When I was young people said “gaga” and were imitating baby talk. Now they don’t do that and it refers to a singer.

                Reply
      5. Mischa

        I’m an extroverted millennial who loves beer and beer runs to a brewery sound fun…with my friends. People who are not my coworkers. On the weekend. I don’t have kids, or a partner, but I don’t want to hang out with my coworkers all the time. Work is for work and keeping those boundaries clear is so, so important for a productive and cohesive environment. Your team sounds pretty unprofessional, IMO.

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          This reminds me of a post Alison did about what a poll said millennials want in the workplace: Doors. And boundaries between work and off-work. And all the other things that would not be surprising in a 40-year-old.

          Reply
        2. Annie

          Yes, I agree with you 100%!!! I already spend ~40 hours a week with my coworkers, I’d rather do the drinking and happy hours with my friends!

          Reply
        1. Red

          I completely agree with this, and as an actual millennial (like a lot of the people on this site, which makes me really happy) this absolutely INFURIATES me.
          People say I can’t complain about complaining about millennials because I’m not one. Surprise, buddy. I was born in ’87. Do some research

          Reply
    2. sunny-dee

      And a really inaccurate description of millennials, too. The millennial generation started in 1982 — meaning the upper edge is already 35. Mid-thirties is not old. It’s not like they’re talking about someone nearing retirement; this is someone who would be an older sibling, not a parent.

      I can’t put my finger on why, exactly, but this letter is getting my hackles up. It feels like it would be a really unpleasant environment to work in.

      Reply
      1. JulieBulie

        It gets my hackles up that OP is talking about “millenials” as if they’re a unique and superior species that older people can’t possibly understand. And doesn’t seem open to looking at anything from the ex-employee’s point of view.

        Reply
        1. DArcy

          Given the way we millennials are treated by older people in the workplace as a whole, I’m honestly not surprised that there *is* something of an “us and them” attitude and that millennial-generation managers are quick to turn the same tools that older generations have long used to exclude us around on them.

          Reply
          1. Xarcady

            And can I say as a Baby Boomer that I’m sorry? The millennials I know and work with do not fit the millennial stereotype that is out there and I have no idea how that stereotype got started.

            The millennials I know are smart, hard-working, dedicated people. They take their work seriously and frequently put in extra hours to get things done. They are great to work with. And despite the age difference, we have bonded over shared interests as varied as Jane Austen, Star Wars, the history of covered bridges, and producing the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

            Just a Baby Boomer who is really tired of hearing Millennials bashed for no good reason.

            Reply
            1. Amber T

              Thank you, Xarcady! On the flip side, I’ve never actually encountered a person in real life who has the “you dang millennials!” mentality – I’m one of the youngest and one of the few millennials in my office, and I’ve always been treated with respect. Other than the occasional “you’re so young!” jokes (when I haven’t heard of a band/haven’t seen a movie, etc), age is never mentioned really. I don’t doubt that there are millennial/baby boomer battles actually occurring in the work place, but this huge war between the groups definitely seems more of an internet craze.

              Reply
              1. Jadelyn

                Oh man, the other 4 people on my team are two Gen Xers and two Boomers, and yeah, I definitely get the young’un jokes around movies and music and TV that was popular when I was a baby.

                But other than that and the occasional good-natured joke, which is more about the people who rag on millennials than about millennials themselves, we all get along great despite our different life stages.

                Reply
              2. Airedale

                I appreciate that, Xarcady!

                I’m 26 and I’ve overheard conversations at multiple workplaces about millennials. These were people who I knew respected my work, and I think just forgot to check if a millennial was listening.

                One issue that’s grating to me is that it’s a sin to check our phones. Maybe I take social media breaks, but I don’t take half hour chat breaks like my older coworkers. (Or judge them when they do)

                I’ve also heard, “Millennials expect to come in and sit around and be made vice president a week later!” Sadly hilarious when lots of us are just trying to find one entry-level job.

                Those were just a few people, though. Most older coworkers have been great.

                Reply
              3. dappertea

                Unfortunately, I have encountered it in real life. Mostly I get a few jokes about participation trophies or a lot of questions about what millennials want from employers and communities, but I was at a networking event just the other week where multiple people went off and ranted about how millennials are “special snowflakes” and want to be catered to at all times, despite others disagreeing and bringing evidence otherwise. Other millennials even joined in to talk about how they aren’t like other millennials because of their work ethic and that other millennials are, indeed, just lazy. Nothing I nor anyone else said could dissuade them or get them to stop insulting a quarter of the people in the room.

                Reply
                1. Oranges

                  We are in a new revolution. Just like the Industrial Revolution changed how humans lived and worked, so the current revolution is causing the same social/economic upheavals.

                  This makes their “success” at life contingent upon being born in a stable period (which it IS). Human brains HATE that knowledge. So rather than looking at the current social/economic landscape and say “Younglings today had it harder than I did” they say “Younglings today are lazy”.

                  This is just my own personal theory (mainly based upon how brains/humans react to reward stimuli and logical faults brains/humans tend to demonstrate).

                2. sunny-dee

                  Um, younglings today don’t have it harder than previous generations. I mean, the most obvious — our great/grandparents were raised in the Depression, our parents were raised with gas lines, the draft, and anti-war and race riots. We have a LOT of advantages, including much broader access to college and post-grad education, more internships and opportunities to grow before entering the workforce, and a relatively stable economy. (The downturn of 2008 was almost a decade ago and no worse than the tech bubble a few years before that or the recession in 1990, or stagflation in the 1970s.)

                3. MentalEngineer

                  @sunny-dee:

                  “Much broader access to… education” – for some people.
                  “More internships” – for some people.
                  “A relatively stable economy” – for some people.
                  Young people are economically and demographically less and less likely to be those people.

                4. Oranges

                  We have it harder in some ways, easier in others. Just like every generation before.

                  We are just-under pre-depression wealth distribution (last I saw).
                  We have a growing labor force due to technology.
                  We have a huge working poor class.
                  We have a changing social make-up.
                  We have a changing urban/rural landscape.
                  We have technology for echo-chambers and for amplifying the formerly voiceless.

                  This means that the markers for “success” are harder to obtain in today’s world. Not that we have it “easy” or “hard”. Also I think that the only reason we don’t have it as bad as the depression or the horrific Industrial Revolution working conditions is because we have as a society started to dismantle the “poor = lazy” myth.

                5. NorthernSoutherner

                  IDK, I think some generations did have it harder. I’d say GenX was hit the hardest (of the modern world). It’s been referred to as ‘the generation that raised itself’ and ‘latchkey kids.’ Seriously. GenX navel-gazing aging hippy parents were off doing their own thing, and kids (like me and my friends) had to heat up Spaghettios.
                  So GenX turned around and overcompensated for being neglected by becoming helicopter parents. Most Millennials in the U.S. anyway can’t say their parents weren’t around.

              4. aebhel

                Someone I know pointed out that a lot of the Millennial/Boomer discourse is really just children and parents of the upper class sniping at each other; the stereotypes on both sides don’t really apply to the vast majority of people who aren’t rich.

                Reply
            2. JulieBulie

              As an X-er – I haven’t had any bad experiences with Millennials at all – except when reading about people with OP’s attitude, who reinforce the bad things that people think about Mills. That doesn’t help anyone.

              Reply
              1. Tax Nerd

                Another X-er. I’ve only had one bad experience with a Millennial. She’d never been criticized – always gotten a trophy, etc. Giving her feedback that was anything but glowing made her cry. So my boss told me not to give her any bad feedback. Which was awful, as she needed to work on her people skills. Something everyone but her acknowledged. But that was one person.

                The other Millenials I’ve worked with/managed have all been fine. The biggest difference I note between Millenials and Baby Boomers is that ‘kids these days’ won’t work endless hours to chase a dollar. They value family/me/non-work time a lot more than the value money. Which is fine with me, but baby boomers in upper management who were workaholics in the 80’s don’t seem to understand why the Millenials are uninterested in working themselves to death in the 20s and 30s.

                Reply
                1. Zahra

                  Yeah, maybe because we’ve seen our parents do it, be absent and compensate by giving more stuff instead of being just there?

            3. swingbattabatta

              I actually witnessed one of those rants in real life not too long ago. One of the partners in my office was running his mouth to a coworker in the next office about how my generation is “flighty”, how we don’t know what we want, and we are refusing to buy into the housing market because we are so flaky, etc etc. Keep in mind that this is a guy who purchased a $2 million walk-up to convert into rental apartments on a whim. I went blazing in there so quickly a race car could have drafted behind me.

              Reply
              1. Jadelyn

                I genuinely do not get why so many people think we’re “refusing” to do very expensive things, rather than we just can’t afford to do very expensive things. Cars cost a lot of money! Homes cost even more money! Many of us came of age during the recession, which has been shown empirically to depress someone’s lifetime earning power! As a result many of us don’t have a lot of money, which is required to buy things like cars and houses!

                My partner and I were fortunate that he received a small inheritance from his grandmother and between that and a loan out of my 401k, we were able to afford the upfront cost of buying a home – luckily we were able to afford the home prices in our area. But if we’d had to try to save up our down payment in traditional fashion, it would’ve taken us another 10 years probably.

                Reply
                1. fposte

                  Well, and also the burst of the housing bubble made it clear that houses aren’t the ironclad investment they were culturally held out as and that renting isn’t simply “throwing good money away”–I hear a lot less prejudice against renting than I did before 2008.

        2. Anonyna

          Same here. I’m a millennial with a family, outside work commitments and a very extroverted personality, and I firmly “work to live” as they say, not the other way around. Just based on this letter, I would absolutely hate this work environment and probably would not be thrilled at working for this manager. What the LW is describing reminds me of the bar I worked in while in university. Same things happened there, which I suppose isn’t always a huge deal when you’re slinging drinks, but not so much when giving presentations to stakeholders or developing procedures and such.

          Reply
        3. Junior Dev

          I’m 26–so definitely a millennial–and this environment sounds exactly like the two miserable startup jobs I had prior to my current one. I was the only woman on my team and my mental health was affected by how alienated I felt from their culture. Apparently “professional millennial” here means “professional frat boy” because I can’t think of anything else that could mean.

          Reply
          1. oldbiddy

            Gen X here – I experienced the same thing at a startup back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. I think it’s a bad startup culture thing rather than a Millenial thing.

            Reply
      2. chomps

        @sunny-dee “And a really inaccurate description of millennials, too. The millennial generation started in 1982 — meaning the upper edge is already 35. Mid-thirties is not old. It’s not like they’re talking about someone nearing retirement; this is someone who would be an older sibling, not a parent.”

        THIS. So. Much. This. At some point people forgot that generations age and they just assume that all millennials are in their 20s. That’s not how generations work.

        Reply
        1. Anonygoose

          People in their early twenties now are actually generation Z! Millennials aren’t even that young anymore.

          Reply
          1. Oceans

            Everything I’ve read on Gen Z states it starts after 2000.

            That doesn’t include anyone in their 20s.

            Reply
        2. Edith

          Thank you thank you thank you! I am so tired of the cycle where Boomers forget that most 30-somethings are Millennials and base their obnoxious stereotypes of our generation on the college-age set, which in turn makes it easier for them to forget that a solid chunk of us are 30-somethings with houses and kids and spouses and jobs we’ve been at for ten years.

          Reply
          1. Emrin

            Yes, but all us Boomers don’t think that, and it isn’t fair to lump the members of any age group into a stereotype.

            Reply
          2. TootsNYC

            don’t forget that they judge the college-age (or post-college-age) against what they expect of people with more experience under their belt.

            Peopel use “millennials” to mean “people just a few years out of college.”

            Reply
            1. amy l

              Ok… I don’t get ANY of the generational categories. Why do we have to use labels on people? I’m a 47 year old female an could not care less about your “generation”. Be a good boss/co-worker/friend/whatever and were are good. Everyone has a different journey. Why do we continue to spend so much time and effort to make unfair assumptions about each other? GAH!

              End rant. Thank you.

              Reply
              1. Anna

                Because it’s a fairly easy way to talk about people who grew up during certain economic and political shifts/trends, or cultural happenings (for example, Gen X and the Challenger disaster, Baby Boomers and JFK’s assassination) etc., which tends to shape how those people think. Like it or not, being a Gen X-er or a Millenial or a Baby Boomer does have some impact on your worldview. Aside from those generalizations, though, it’s a trend that started with naming that group the Baby Boomers and now people treat it as a requirement for each following generation.

                Reply
            2. chomps

              “don’t forget that they judge the college-age (or post-college-age) against what they expect of people with more experience under their belt. People use “millennials” to mean “people just a few years out of college.””

              Yep, I’ve seen this too. I remember in reading something about millennials in, maybe, 05 or 06 that said they were 18-24. I would have been 21 or 22 at the time. Then five years later I read something that said millennials were 18-24. I was like, “how does that work?”

              But, yes, everyone judges young adults as if they have the same experience as a much older adult. And they also forget that every generation is judged this way. It’s not unique.

              Reply
              1. Edith

                To answer “how does that work?”– It’s really difficult to define these boundaries when the people in question are so young. We can try, but there’s a lot of sponginess. Hell, when you read that article in 05-06 the oldest Millennials were in their early-mid twenties and the youngest were in kindergarten.

                These articles you’re reading are not great sources if they think a generation encompasses six years. And one from 05-06 was already using the term Millennial? That’s kind of impressive. The term existed, sure, but even then Generation Y was a much more accepted and recognized name.

                Reply
                1. Lauren

                  It was definitely being used then. I remember reading similar articles around 2002-2004 (I was 18-20 then), because that was my age group. The media does keep talking about Millenials like we are all in our 20s. I’m 33, graduated college 10 years ago, have kids and will hopefully be looking into buying a house soon. I frankly blame lazy reporters trying to write a quick story.

        3. Hey Anonny Nonny

          Exactly. The way people talk about Millennials made me think of people exclusively in their 20’s, so imagine my shock when I realized I’M A MILLENNIAL TOO! I’m 33 with 3 kids and I’ve been married close to 10 years.

          Reply
        4. Lynn Whitehat

          Oh, I was seeing articles about “as the Boomer children start school” and stuff into the 21st century. Uh, way too late.

          Reply
          1. Anonymous Boomer

            Not necessarily. I am a boomer, I have one kid that’s a Millenial, and two that are Gen Z and still in school.
            All you have to do is marry and have kids for the second time in your late 30’s (for my age), and Boom! Three different generations. And I am 5 years away from retirement at the soonest :)

            Reply
      3. Tina

        So true, and I think people really tend to forget this when they’re stereotyping generations. One of my friends (age 33) is a professor, and one of her co-workers was complaining about their millennial students, and my friend was like, “… you realize that *I* am a millennial too, right?”

        Reply
        1. K.

          I had that thought too, as an older millenial. I’d classify the employee in the OP’s letter as an older millenial as well.

          Reply
          1. sunny-dee

            Exactly. My brother is an older millennial (35) who works in tech in a small company (established enough to not be a startup anymore, but he’s been there since the beginning). And he’s married, two kids, and a house and dog.

            Reply
        2. Snazzy Hat

          So far that “y’know, I’m a millennial too” has only come up for me once, but it was in my last job, I already didn’t like the person who said it, and given the timing I was most likely never going to see her again, so I just ignored it.

          I’m in this weird crux where I look young for my age but I’m terrible at guessing age (because my mother and everyone on my father’s side of the family looks exactly like they did thirty years ago but with different hair color), so I honestly don’t know which of my colleagues are older than I am except for a few. That is, I know I’m younger than the woman who is a grandma — although I might be older than her kids — but I’m not sure if I’m older than my two supervisors. So I worry that any age-related comment could lead to extra awkwardness when I reveal my inclusion with or exclusion from the directed group.

          “Well you know how millennials are!” “Sure do, seeing that I’m a millennial…”
          “Blah blah us twenty-somethings etc” “Yeah I haven’t been one of those in four years”
          “A recent graduate like yourself” “2010 is recent? Compared to what? When *you* graduated?”
          “crap about baby boomers” “Eh, maybe some, but I sure wouldn’t describe my mother that way.”

          Reply
        3. Cactus

          That, and, depending on where one puts the barriers between generations (it differs depending on whom you ask) some or all of these students are likely not millennials–they’re generation Z, who are similar to millennials in some ways, but not in others, and tend to get lumped in with us whenever someone wants to make a “kids these days!” complaint. Nothing against generation Z–they’re just as human as we are, of course–it’s just frustrating.

          Reply
      4. Tuesday

        Same. The LW says this employee didn’t bring up these issues during one-on-ones. I’m really curious what they would have done if she had, since the tone of this letter is pretty dismissive of her concerns. If you know your boss is encouraging employees to have their social clique and spend the day on Snapchat, then maybe you already know raising these concerns is going to be a frustrating, fruitless experience, y’know?

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          bingo!

          Also, one reason you mention these things in an exit interview is that you want the HR department to sift through and see what’s a legit complaint. Maybe you’re hesitant to bring it up because it doesn’t seem substantive, or you’re afraid you’ll come across like a whiner, and you don’t want that to affect your boss’s opinion of you.

          But when you’re on your way out, it doesn’t matter much.

          However—OP: Please be sure you don’t let this feedback and conversation w/ HR change what sort of reference you are willing to give her.

          Reply
          1. msnovtue

            It might not have even been that much… Simply put, by the time most people hit 30, they’re pretty good at recognizing a lost cause when they see one. Given how the OP was seemngly promoting the clique-ish work environment, if I were the former employee, I wouldn’t even bother–not only would it probably be a waste of effort that changed nothing, but often it can backfire on the person making the complaint.

            Reply
        2. myswtghst

          I had exactly the same thought. You can’t be salty an employee didn’t voice their concerns if you foster a culture where they feel like their concerns would be dismissed outright, and the culture in OP’s office sounds like one where the employee’s concerns would have been ignored or even mocked, rather than used constructively to improve the culture.

          Reply
      5. Kms1025

        Got me annoyed because it sounds like a frat party atmosphere instead of a place of work. Surprised the mature adult lasted as long as she did and good for her for being upfront about the reasons in her exit interview. No wonder she never brought anything up to this manager. Seems like it would have fallen on deaf ears at best and at worst be met with a bunch of excuses for the decidedly unprofessional behavior.

        Reply
      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I mean, this team sounds pretty dysfunctional. Senior people sleeping with associates and hiding it? Being cliquey on social media and isolating another team member? Complaining that that team member doesn’t hang out with you after work because they have a long commute and kids? Encouraging people to be friends (why?!) outside of work? Going on weekly beer runs where only one person is consistently excluded? And then trying to blame the employee for never telling you about it, but hey, even if she told you who cares because she was a “bad fit”?

        None of that behavior has to do with being a millennial. It has to do with being exclusive, and frankly, being jerks. Given OP’s response, I’m not surprised the employee said nothing during her employment. I wouldn’t have said anything either—clearly it would have been futile. I really hope OP reads Alison’s reply, and others, and engages in some deep introspection about how their stereotypes, generational assumptions, and biases are creating a discriminatory (not in the legal sense… yet) and exclusionary workplace. That’s really not ok, and it’s also not ok to try to write it off as “fit.”

        Reply
        1. anonymous doe

          I work at a really large public law firm and this whole scenario matches almost *exactly* to the fact pattern our agency uses for our annual mock jury trial training program for new attorneys (a workplace discrimination case). Like, it’s so00000 similar. IANAL (just work with them all day), but I will say that pretty consistently the plaintiff’s side wins the mock trial.

          Reply
      7. RebeccaNoraBunch

        From a 34-year-old Millennial who is just exactly like an older sibling to her 20- and early 30-something coworkers – and dating a 30-year-old! – I totally agree. She is not old or even really older! By some definitions, Millennials started in 1980! She’s well within the range. It sounds like it was a personality/lifestyle thing, and does sound very clique-ish.

        Maybe it makes me stodgy, but I would be super uncomfortable about the two employees sleeping with each other, particularly if one is the other’s superior. NOPE.

        Reply
        1. Erin

          To me it sounds like a lifestyle clash, than an age thing. I’m 31 and the oldest person where I work, the only married person with a place of my own to. My boss is 23. We don’t drink at work, we’ll talk about drinking like what’s a good beer to try. But we don’t go out together. I would hate working somewhere where they treated me as an outsider because I had family commitments outside of work or didn’t like their scene. My boss and I both enjoy having a beer, but we wouldn’t enjoy the other persons type of bar, and I wouldn’t go if she insisted. I prefer dive bars with hank Williams on the juke box and she likes night clubs with a waiting list and dress code.

          Reply
      8. Mine Own Telemachus

        I’m a fan of reminding people that the oldest millennials can run for president now, so the generation they’re about to critique is not the one they’re actually talking about.

        Most often, people say “millennials” to mean people just out of college, 22-25. That’s Gen Z now.

        Reply
      9. hooptie

        Yeah, there is an arrogance and self-righteous tone that I don’t like at all. It reminds me of someone I currently work with.

        Reply
      10. bunniferous

        Yeah, by the OP description the woman in her midthirties may also be millenial. My millenial son has a house, a wife, two kids and one on the way, and would NOT be interested in a beer run.

        Reply
    3. Anon today...and tomorrow

      That was the part that stood out to me too. From my time here on AAM I’ve seen millennials get justifiably outraged at being painted as entitled but honestly that’s how this letter read to me – that the younger staff are entitled to special lunches, relationships, work habits simply because they’re millennials and screw anyone who is different than them. I sincerely hope that was not the case, but based on the fact that the woman who left complained about it in her exit interview and that HR is getting involved it seems like it might be.

      LW, I think Alison’s advice is spot on here. I’m older but I can say that the best companies I’ve worked for are the ones that have had the widest spread of people.

      Reply
      1. KTB

        I would argue that they feel entitled because of their manager, not because of their ages. I’m dealing with a similar dynamic at work right now, and while it feels like a millenial problem, it’s actually a management problem. They feel entitled because no one is telling them no.

        And I completely agree with your second point–the best workplaces I’ve ever been in are the most diverse.

        Reply
        1. Anon today...and tomorrow

          I am in agreement. I should have been more clear. The manager is allowing them to behave like entitled millennials because she’s not seeing the problem with what she’s created.

          Reply
      2. Snaps

        I don’t get the sense that they feel entitled to these things so much as the lack of diversity on the team has allowed them to organize lunches and activities without having to consider other people/personalities. It made it easier to see the one outlier as ‘weird’ rather than a sign that they should diversify their social activities to include her.

        Reply
        1. Red

          I’m very much inclined to agree with this. People tend to ostracise the “odd one out” without considering why. That’s why diversity on teams makes a huge difference

          Reply
      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I don’t think they’re entitled because of their age (which, btw, includes non-millennials if they’re in their 20s). I think they’re behaving immaturely, and their boss (OP) is totally ok with that and tacitly supports it. But frankly, this bad behavior could come from any generation, and I’ve seen people of all ages do what OP has described. But at least people understand that that behavior is problematic and undesirable, which is not the case, here, for OP.

        Reply
      4. Jadelyn

        I disagree that there’s “entitlement” at work – there’s a group of people who are thoughtless, cliqueish jerks, but that’s not entitlement exactly. The manager is the only one feeling entitled, in the sense of “I’m entitled to cultivate whatever culture I want on my team and to hell with professional boundaries and diversity”, which is not the usual sense that “entitled” gets used re Millennials.

        Reply
    4. Anonygoose

      What’s interesting is that millennials are people born between 1980ish-1995ish, meaning she could pretty easily also be a millennial in her mid-30s…

      You can’t just hire for people who look and act and are the same age as all your current employees. Your employees don’t need to be besties, they need to be good at their jobs.

      Reply
    5. kittymommy

      Yeah, if they aren’t doing their job in favor of social media (and dumping it on the other employee) then they’re not very professional. And them being millennial had nothing to do with it.
      I’m still wondering why the crap and employer cares about their employees outside friendships….

      Reply
    6. WriterLady

      And, as another “professional millennial” (side note, can I get pro sports star wages for that?), I’m an introvert who doesn’t drink – and, actually, can’t. No kids (fur baby apparently doesn’t count), no house. Just me.

      It reminds me of a place I used to work at – I was in an overwhelmingly young team, and one of the girls basically had a clique going on that was so high school. I was actually mildly terrified of her to begin with. One of the girls who was insanely cool (like a “I don’t care for cliques, I’m here to work”) took me under her wing, and it saved work from feeling horrible each day. Even though I wanted to just work, it was nice having someone in the office to chat to over lunch.
      Eventually, all the others moved on, and clique girl tried to get the newbies and I in it. Snapchat was basically just her, on her stories, taking photos of our manager (who was in her 70s, absolute sweetheart) and putting crude emojis around them. Two days of that and I blocked her snapchat. Couldn’t handle it, didn’t want to be part of that crowd, and left a bit later. It quickly makes your new recruits bitter, though. If your culture is exclusive (and, in this case, derisive of management), you’re not in for a good time with new hires.

      Reply
    7. Liane

      Op, I am going to be blunt here: I wouldn’t call your team “professional” anything. The descriptions that come to mind **regardless of of what decade they were born** are “inattentive [to work needs],” “cliquish,” “overly focused on alcohol [regardless of when they drink it],” “not team players,” “clueless about ethics of dating reports,” “expect others to do their jobs.”

      tl;dr: I wouldn’t want to work on–or with–your team either.

      Reply
  4. Kasia

    One thing that I think is kind of glossed over in the answer is the fact that the OP allows the group to leave on beer runs as long as there is coverage. This can easily slide into the group assumes the newer, older coworker who isn’t a part of their group will automatically cover for them. That can quickly cause resentment. I’d be pretty annoyed if I was the only one in the office for an hour or two while the rest of the group leaves to have fun, regardless of whether or not I would actually want to join in their activity.

    Reply
    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      Agreed with this so hard. I’m not a big drinker and I wouldn’t have any interest in going on beer runs, but I’d be really irritated if that meant I got stuck covering for everyone else to go have fun on a regular basis.

      Reply
      1. Bow Ties Are Cool

        I love craft beer, and I’d be extremely happy to use work time to go get some, but if I were in that office I’d be the person starting the rotation sheet of “Who’s Covering Beer Hour”, even if there were folks in the office who never attend and “could” cover all the time.
        Unless both they and the boss were cool with them trading that cover time for something they wanted– say, an early exit every Friday.

        Reply
    2. Annabelle

      This is what stood out to me the most. I would be really annoyed if people just assumed that I was always willing to cover for them.

      Reply
      1. Sydney Bristow

        Even if they weren’t assuming but instead asked each time, I’d be annoyed. I’d also feel like I shouldn’t refuse if they were going to do something I didn’t want to do myself. So if each week someone in the group came to ask if I’d cover so they could do the beer run and I either didn’t want to go/didn’t have other plans/couldn’t afford to run out for lunch or something at that time I’d feel like I’d have to agree, which would get old really fast.

        Reply
      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        And I also wouldn’t ask to be included because I’d be so annoyed. This kind of exclusion has a way of becoming really self-enforcing.

        I’ve been the excluded worker, before, and it just led me to opt out of everything social because I had no desire, at all to spend any time with my cliquey coworkers. At that point, I did not think particularly highly of them, and I wasn’t going to spend my finite energy and free time with them. Why try to fit in with people who don’t even exercise basic courtesy or respect when interacting with you?

        Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            It definitely had a significant negative effect on my willingness/ability to work with them on work-stuff! Granted, they were like the coworkers in this story—I often supported them but they flat out did not help on tasks that are part of their job description. If they had actually been willing to provide assistance, I probably would have sucked it up and asked, even if I didn’t like it. But in general, I think people are often less inclined to seek help from people who are marginalizing them.

            Reply
    3. Thinking Outside the Boss

      And I doubt that the brewery beer run lunch lasts just an hour. Probably a good 90 minutes to 2 hours. Every week. I’d leave too!

      Reply
    4. Tabby Baltimore

      And, I, LW, were I in your shoes at this point, would be looking (retroactively) very, very carefully at the afternoon productivity levels of those coming back from these beer runs, just to be sure I could defend those employees from some out-of-left-field charge that my team’s productivity drops after one of these visits.

      Reply
      1. Liz2

        Meh, but who is to say that those afternoon breaks don’t create a better cohesion and greater inspiration the rest of the week which not only balances but improves on what would be there otherwise?

        The issue isn’t weekly beer runs- it’s weekly times where one person has to feel like they are working harder and covering just for being different.

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          except that there is now LESS cohesion between this group and the person covering for them in the office.

          They clearly haven’t done anything to make her feel like they’re grateful for her providing this coverage for them.

          Reply
          1. Liz2

            Yes, but again that’s not specifically because it is a beer run or an easy afternoon. The issues are that the activity isn’t varied/inclusive and that extra work is being dumped on someone. A

            Reply
            1. Anna

              I think if you’re going to look at it holistically, it would be wise to look at productivity, too. It’s about team health and that can include how much work they get done on an afternoon they go on the beer run. The OP can decide if it’s enough of a difference (if there is any) to be concerned or not.

              Reply
              1. nonegiven

                I’d have suddenly gotten a standing appointment for Friday at lunch, even if it was sitting in the park eating a pbj.

                Let them take turns covering the beer run.

                Reply
    5. JulieBulie

      A smarter approach would have been to semi-formalize this with the coworker, or at least acknowledge it, and do something nice for her to compensate.

      And not be snapchatting pictures of her with mean captions (see below)…

      Reply
    6. PepperVL

      No kidding.

      Back in 2004, there was a political rally in my area. I worked in a small office and was the only person who wasn’t aligned with the candidate’s political affiliation. Everyone else got to go to the rally, and I had to stay and cover the office. I had ZERO desire to hear the guy (or deal with the crowd), but I was still annoyed verging on pissed because I had to stay alone.

      Reply
    7. MashaKasha

      Yes, that jumped out at me hard. “I let them go on beer runs as long as there is coverage” well guess what? The person that just left WAS THE COVERAGE! That’s one of the reasons why she left, per her exit interview – she was sick of getting stuck being the coverage!

      Reply
  5. Sup Sup Sup

    Not kind of in the wrong. Just wrong. I feel like this manager is washing her hands of this situation by stating its a cultural misfit. It’s not. There’s a certain level of either ignorance or simply not caring that has perpetuated an environment that has left an employee feeling excluded from a department, not to mention that no one recognized that a newly promoted senior was sleeping with an associate (which speaks to not only the management, but the fact that the newly promoted didn’t feel it necessary to disclose pretty essential information.)

    Reply
    1. Mazzy

      I know. I’m late 30s and feel like a forgotten step child because all of a sudden my company is catering to the misbehavior and lax attitude of the younger workers. Instead of managing we’re giving them training opportunities. Great! I’ll pick up the work while people who never sacrificed for you get transferable job skills for free! Never forget your middle level employees.

      Reply
          1. Stephanie the Great

            “… my company is catering to the misbehavior and lax attitude of the younger workers.” doesn’t exactly sound like it’s talking about the few?

            Reply
              1. fposte

                Yup. She didn’t say “millennials” or “younger workers everywhere”; the “the” makes it a specific group.

                Reply
                1. Mazzy

                  Yes. I don’t understand the other commenter. So if someone does something wrong but we are not exactly the same I can’t call it out?

      1. Kiki

        What’s wrong with giving younger employees training opportunities? How are they supposed to learn otherwise?

        Reply
        1. fposte

          There’s nothing wrong with giving younger employees training opportunities. There’s a lot wrong with giving *only* younger employees training opportunities.

          Reply
          1. Brandy

            And that ill do all the work while they get the training. I don’t mind you having a training session and I do the work and then you do the work while im trained. But don’t pass me by to train someone that’s not pulling the weight to begin with.

            Reply
          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Or with offering “training opportunities” when other workers would not have had that resource, but instead, would have been subjected to discipline.

            Not saying management styles can’t change to a more skills acquisition model, but some performance problems are not solvable through “training.”

            Reply
            1. fposte

              Oh, good point; I lost that in the threading and I think you’re right that Mazzy was thinking about that.

              Reply
            2. Mazzy

              Nothing I didn’t comment on that I commented on companies giving precedent to younger people simply because they are new and shiny.

              Reply
        2. Nervous Accountant

          I kind of get what Mazzy is saying. Instead of being managed, they’re being given what looks like better opportunities to outsiders. I have a coworker who has a pretty disrespectful attitude to the majority of people here, except for his few favorite people and from what I’ve heard his work product isn’t that great either. After a few incidents, he got promoted to another position and moved to a different team. I’ve no idea if this is to do with age at all, but this guy is in his early 20s. Many grumbled that they couldn’t get away with that person’s behavior but… *shrugs*

          Reply
      2. Sup Sup Sup

        I’m in my late 30s as well, working with lots of millenials. (My boss is even 5 years younger than me) But, this isn’t an indictment against misbehaving millenials. I honestly think this manager is setting a really poor example for professional behavior by not instituting some structure that would eliminate people feeling mistreated or inapporpriate behavior. There’s nothing wrong being new to the workforce, making mistakes, using snapchat, etc. That’s the beauty of being 20-something, it’s a great opportunity to learn. But, I feel this manager is more concerned about creating a laid back social environment, then creating a productive, professional one.

        Reply
      3. AnotherAlison

        I think we also get overlooked in companies because we’re also a very small generation. The executives look at the huge number of retiring boomers and the huge number of 30ish and younger “millenials”, and do workforce planning centered around them. Those of us who are 40ish haven’t made it to the upper levels will get passed over for an up-and-coming employee who is 10 years younger. They can demonstrate capability to learn, while the execs wonder why we don’t already know how to negotiate a $500M contract. When we were 30, the boomers were in their early 50s and not ready to hand over the reins yet.

        Of course I am making broad generalizations, but my personal experience has been that there is really just nowhere for me to go to make a name for myself. My position is good, but my job description also allows for people with <8 yrs total career experience to be in my position. That feels kind of shitty when you have 17 years experience. Plus, the two levels in my job family above me still require less experience than I have, but because my dept. hasn't provided the OTJ assignment opportunities or training, I am "not qualified" for that level. (Exp. you have to "own" the client relationship, and on my projects I have been assigned as project manager, people senior to me "own" that relationship and don't want to hand it off to me.)

        Reply
        1. Chinook

          ” The executives look at the huge number of retiring boomers and the huge number of 30ish and younger “millenials”, and do workforce planning centered around them. Those of us who are 40ish haven’t made it to the upper levels will get passed over for an up-and-coming employee who is 10 years younger”

          AnotherAlison, you are not alone. As a fellow Gen Xer, I saw this happening as early as grade 9 (when they were instituting all the new programs for those who were graduating in 1999) when my group was allowed to function under all the old systems and arrangements that were acknowledged as being inadequate for the new generation but there wasn’t enough money to do a wholesale change all at once. The only positive is that, to me, this isn’t a new dynamic and I have learned to live with the imbalance, even if does make me resentful and bitter at times. That and always living in the shadows of these two demographic bumps means I have learned how to thrive with the lack of light (to the point that I get overwhelmed when there are services/opportunities available to me. The lack of options has its own freedom).

          Reply
        2. Zeldalaw

          So much this!!! I almost had to check to see if I wrote this and forgot about it!! A coworker and I (same age) were just having this exact conversation.

          Reply
        3. Rana

          Yes. I can point to a good number moments over my lifetime when I was part of the cohort that acted as guinea pigs for a new system. Sometimes this can be rewarding, as when you get input into the future direction of your project or program, but sometimes it’s just frustrating, because none of the bugs are worked out yet. Then you have the unpleasant experience of having prepared for the old rules and no support for navigating the new because no one knows how to do it yet.

          It does make a person resilient and adaptable, if you get through it, at least.

          Reply
        4. Poison Ivy

          You have just nailed it for me. I’m in the same position – 17 years experience but in middle management (albeit with a meaningless “senior” put in front of my title). It’s frustrating to watch all the 30-year-olds get the promotions when I can do the job better. I’ve stopped making any references to anything that can age me (e.g. remembering certain cultural events) because there is a tendency in my field to view anyone over the age of 33 as a museum piece. It’s maddening when I’ve got at least 25 years of working life left.

          Reply
    2. motherofdragons

      “I feel like this manager is washing her hands of this situation by stating its a cultural misfit. It’s not.”

      Totally agree with you. I thought the manager’s conclusion about the ex-staff member not being a culture fit was less about age/life stage and more about “She wasn’t willing to put up with the negative impact our exclusive culture had on her, so no loss there.” Yuck.

      Reply
  6. Trout 'Waver

    I think all of Alison’s advice is very accurate, but also that the employee in question also wasn’t a good fit.

    It does sound like the OP would have addressed any issues that this particular employee raised if she had raised them. Stewing silently in resentment instead of bringing up issues and working with others to solve them is not what a team player does. Assuming others must know how you feel is one-way ticket to resentment.

    Reply
    1. paul

      I agree, in general….but it sounds pretty pervasive. It’s one thing if it’s one or two issues, but when there’s this huge wall of cultural expectations, I think it’s unfair to expect one employee to act like a wrecking ball. That’s a ton of of time and energy that you’re asking them to expend to fix what is frankly a managerial screw-up.

      Reply
      1. Trout 'Waver

        Well, assuming the OP is a reasonable person, the employee could have delivered the same feedback at any point to the OP that they delivered to HR. You’re absolutely right that it isn’t the employee’s job to fix anything.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          Sure she could have. But, given what the OP is saying here, I highly doubt the OP would have changed anything. Think about it. The OP *is* hearing about it now -and from HR, who is indicating that this is problematic. And the OP is STILL saying that it’s OK, and the problem is the ex-employee. It’s one thing to think (rightly or wrongly) that a particular person is a whiner or “special snowflake.” It’s another thing entirely when your HR department weighs in.

          Reply
        2. Brandy

          But would OP have listened. We’ve heard what HR said to OP from the employee and OP is brushing it off from HR, much less if employee had brought it up.

          Reply
        3. Trout 'Waver

          I just want to point out that from the follow-up below, OP is not a reasonable person and the employee in question was absolutely right to not bring up anything.

          Reply
        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I disagree. It’s possible OP is kind of frustrated not to have had this information flagged, and thus bringing up the issue as a fit situation in their letter. But based on what they’ve written, if I were their employee, I would have no confidence that they would take my concerns seriously or make changes.

          And when you have a pervasive cultural problem and notice that one employee is being left out, it’s on the manager and the employee to raise the issue to determine if it’s affecting job satisfaction or work productivity. But I suspect there may be a lax management culture that ignores the soft skills and “team” elements of working together so long as productivity and deliverables are rolling out.

          Reply
    2. JB (not in Houston)

      From the tone of the OP’s letter, and the way she describes the culture their and her feelings about it, I don’t have confidence that the OP would have done anything about it if the complaints had been raised. I’m not saying the employee was right not to say anything. But there’s a good chance that she read the situation and decided the OP would do nothing, and there’s a good chance she was right about that. It doesn’t sound like the OP thinks anything about the way she runs her department needs to change.

      Reply
      1. K.

        I agree, particularly since the OP comes across in this letter like “Yeah, our team is like this. And?” It sounds like the culture is one the OP cultivated, so she wouldn’t be receptive to negative feedback about it.

        Reply
        1. Anon today...and tomorrow

          My thoughts exactly!!! If I knew my boss was encouraging the behavior that was making me upset I would assume that she wouldn’t care to fix it if I was the only person who complained.

          Reply
      2. Annabelle

        I got the same vibe. The OP seems to have a “this is the way we do things” attitude about her team’s culture. The former employee might have felt like speaking up would have been pointless.

        Reply
    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      Eh, I think it’s pretty normal for people not to bother speaking up if they get the sense that it won’t make a difference or won’t be well received.

      Reply
      1. Trout 'Waver

        Well, yeah. But the OP did write into an advice columnist asking for advice. That at least demonstrates they’re open and receptive to feedback, right?

        Reply
        1. Detective Amy Santiago

          I think the OP wrote to Alison looking for validation that she was correct, not advice on how to fix a problem.

          Hopefully she will take Alison’s advice though, because it’s very good.

          Reply
          1. Dust Bunny

            “Am I in the wrong or is the former employee just out of touch with how a team of professional millenials works?”

            Sometimes questions like this are open-ended, but sometimes they’re sort-of trying to supply the answer the OP hopes s/he’ll get.

            Reply
          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            A whole big bag of “yup.” I don’t think OP actually wants to be told they were in the wrong. I think they want validation that this was their employee’s problem, not their problem as a manager.

            Reply
        2. Anonymous Educator

          I don’t take it that way. The OP wrote in because of what HR brought up, not what the employee did directly.

          Reply
          1. Hey Karma, Over here.

            Yes. This. OP wrote for clarification about HR’s statements, not that an employee (who didn’t fit it) left and gave all the standard reasons for leaving to manager.

            Reply
        3. Jessie the First (or second)

          OP responded to HR’s communication by reviewing the office culture and deciding that everything is probably fine and this is just a misfit employee, and then sought Alison’s confirmation of that – a letter to say “HR is being weird here, right?” If that was the OP’s reaction when HR reached out, I can absolutely see that the employee would not think her reaching our to OP would make any difference at all.

          Plus, this is not just one or two issues. One or two issues can be addressed. It sounds like a pervasively exclusionary environment and it’s really too much to expect that one employee would speak up about it.

          Reply
        4. Trout 'Waver

          Ok, seeing the follow-up below, I was wrong. Letterwriter left out some key details in their original letter.

          Reply
          1. Detective Amy Santiago

            Yeah, LW’s comment below basically just double downed on excusing incredibly poor behavior from basically everyone except the recently departed employee.

            Reply
      2. TootsNYC

        not to mention that the risk is pretty high.

        you could end up looking whiny to the very person who determines your raise, your work assignments, your level of autonomy…

        On your way out the door, that risk is mostly gone. And I think a lot of people might trust HR to so some sifting to say, “hmm, that’s not really a reasonable gripe, but this one is!”

        Reply
      3. OldJules

        +1 When a co-worker brought up a problem with regards to a recent promotion that happened, they wrote her off as sour grapes and instead of addressing the issue, they think it’s a generational problem. I didn’t speak up because after years of working, I know when to speak up and when to start looking for a new job.

        Reply
    4. Kate 2

      Considering OP’s response to the criticisms, I think the employee was very smart not to have raised them. She probably sensed the OP’s dismissive attitude to all of the team’s problems.

      Reply
    5. SarahTheEntwife

      In her place, I can easily see myself saying “I don’t want to have to do all the work of fixing this dysfunctional culture, and it’s not so horrible that I can’t hold my tongue until I leave since it’s not really my dream job anyway”.

      Reply
      1. A Person

        This.

        My workplace is a mountain of structural dysfunction buried under a trash pile of part-of-the-furniture-staff and their spruce-the-place-up accessories. My manager can see some of the problems but is doing the work of three people and I neither have the time nor the care to dismantle the structures that the furniture staff have built up over their time here, retrain people to do important tasks and make sure the whole thing sticks all while fighting a reguard action with the furniture staff and their clique. I do the best I can where I can and hope some stuff gets through. The rest of the time, I focus on preparing for the qualification that’ll get me out of this job.

        (Though, holding my tongue is damn hard sometimes, just this evening one clique co-worker was implying to a new staff member the whole place would fall apart without her and a couple other clique/furniture staff when they go away (separately) in the near future. So not a helpful thing to suggest.)

        Reply
      2. Amber T

        This. This isn’t “my boss is making me donate a kidney” bad, it’s more of “here’s this frustrating crap I have to deal with, so I’m just going to bide my time until I get a new job offer and cut my losses.” Alison’s advice to the majority of LWs who write in with not-extreme-but-crappy-situations is usually something along the lines of “figure out how long you can deal with it and start applying for jobs.” It sounds like OP’s former colleague took that advice.

        It’s also interesting to get the viewpoint from the manager of a semi dysfunctional work place.

        Reply
    6. aebhel

      I mean… I feel like the manager should have some dim idea that maybe the entire staff going out for beer runs while the same person covers the office on a regular basis is kinda not good without someone having to explicitly tell them that it was an issue. OP doesn’t sound all that interested in managing, frankly, and doesn’t seem worried about the fact that her workplace sounds extremely cliquey and dysfunctional.

      Reply
      1. myswtghst

        This really stuck out to me as well. If you’re a good manager, you notice that every. single. week. it is the same employee who is staying to provide coverage for the beer runs, and, at a minimum, you reach out to that person to make sure they’re actually really okay with it, to suggest creating a rotation so they aren’t always the odd one out, and to ask if maybe there is some other type of teaming activity they’d be more interested in, so you can add some variety to both the venue and the attendees of these weekly events.

        When I was involved in planning recognition outings for top performers at my last job, I tried to mix things up each quarter, so we didn’t always do the same (golf & booze) outings the most vocal managers enjoyed. You obviously can’t always please everyone, but when you vary the venue / activity, you can increase the chances that most people will enjoy at least one of the events.

        Reply
    7. Saturnalia

      I actually wouldn’t be surprised if she had brought up the issues, or tried to, and either the manager’s responses made it clear she should drop it and/or he couldn’t hear her feedback for what it was. I know it’s conjecture, and I’m probably inserting myself into this situation, but it’s easy to imagine her saying in 1:1 “I tend to be more reserved and I’m not into social media like most of the team, and I’m having a hard time collaborating effectively – what would you suggest we try here?” And he would urge her “get out of your comfort zone, try to be more like the rest of them” and he’d mentally note that she is having issues adapting to the culture, and -not- mentally note that she had given him a reality check about how that culture actually operates.

      Reply
      1. Anony

        The OP directly writes, “At no point did the employee bring this to my attention during our informal one-on-ones.”

        Reply
        1. Observer

          Yeah, but I wonder if that’s really true. Make no mistake – I am sure that the OP actually does believe this. But, I tend to doubt their judgement here. On the one hand, apparently the OP missed an affair that the rest of the staff knew about and o the other hand, the employee should not have needed to bring the constant coverage for the beer runs to the OP’s attention – they should have know about that. So I have to ask what else the OP is missing.

          Reply
        2. TootsNYC

          also: informal one-on-ones.

          This is not the sort of thing I’d bring up in an informal one-on-one. I wouldn’t be prepared, and I’d expect those to be more focused on the tasks we’re accomplishing, not big office-dynamics questions.

          Reply
    8. Observer

      Normally, I would agree with you. Except that I get the sense that the ex-employee accurately read the OP as not being interested in making any changes.

      The OP is being approached about the situation by HR, and is STILL doubling down. That’s the real issue, not that this particular employee left. What’s even worse is their defense. “She OLD and HAS KIDS, so she’s out of touch with the way that millennials work, so she’s a bad culture fit. No loss.”

      I don’t know what the OP’s company and department do. But, aside from the moral and potentially legal aspects of this, it’s just stupid and bad management.

      Reply
    9. Gadfly

      It also may be that the employee didn’t really see it until talking it out in the exit interview. These sorts of situations can easily be frog in the pot style, where it was a little more, and a little more, but each thing just small enough on its own to not seem worth bringing up…

      Reply
    10. neverjaunty

      This manager wasn’t even willing to listen when HR brought up serious concerns, and apparently was oblivious to serious problems before that. It’s really unfair to suggest that things would have been different if the employee had said something.

      Reply
  7. MuseumChick

    There are a number of troubling things in this letter and Alison is spot on with her advice. Something that really jumped out at me is the ex-employee said that her coworkers were unwilling to help her and the letter writer completely brushed pasted that. If your staff is refusing to help any non-20-something-who-loves-social-media, and consistently leaving one specific person in the office alone, and doing weekly beer runs without inviting said person/offering alternatives (not everyone drinks!), you have a highly cliquey office.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer M.

      This. Most places I’ve worked would have seen the lack of willingness to assist a coworker as an absolute red flag. I spend my fair share of time on social media/non-work stuff (e.g. I’m on AAM right now!), but if someone came up to me and asked if I could help her figure out some weird thing in the analysis she is trying to do or asking me to be the secondary reviewer on his project, I’m rolling up my sleeves and jumping in to help.

      Reply
      1. Annabelle

        So much this. I think a certain amount of social media usage is common in lots of office jobs, but if you’re staying on Snapchat when your coworker asks for help, that’s messed up.

        Reply
      2. MuseumChick

        My biggest issues is that among all the LW doesn’t address this at all in the letter. It sort of highlights the underlying issue I see here: The LW seems really focused on socializing and making sure her reports are “friends” rather than in a healthy work environment (which does not necessitate your employees being friends).

        Reply
  8. Emi.

    …is the former employee just out of touch with how a team of professional millenials works?
    And for what it’s worth, a weekly beer run is … well, a very specific type of culture

    I agree, and I want to emphasize that it’s not just a millennial-specific type of culture–it includes a lot of non-millennials, and it also excludes a lot of millennials. Same with everything else you describe in your letter, to be honest. And it strikes me a condescending to just say “ehh, millennials snapchat when they’re supposed to be working.”

    Reply
    1. Antilles

      I’m 31 (so an ‘older’ millennial). I have never, in my entire career, even heard of a professional place where brewery tours were part of the job *weekly*. Some hip startups might keep a cooler of beer (with a subtext of “this is because you’re going to be working at 8:00 on a Friday when a normal person might be grabbing a beer with buddies”). And sure, there are some times where there’ll be a party at work or a special occasion where they might bring in alcohol or people might go out for drinks in the afternoon.
      But not an every-week brewery visit where the staff dumps one person with the job of ‘coverage’ and goes out for drinks.

      Reply
      1. Annabelle

        Right? I’m 25 and a weekly beer run seems excessive to me. That’s something I would expect to be limited to special occasions or maybe like, once a month.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth H.

          Mentioned briefly above but it sounded to me like they were going to pick up new releases or limited editions that come out weekly, not like going out to drink beer/happy hour type thing.

          Reply
          1. Annabelle

            Ah okay, that makes more sense. But I still think the overall dynamic OP describes seems overly exclusive and kinda crappy.

            Reply
      2. Lora

        I work in a field that loooooves the Friday night happy hours, but it’s just that – Friday evening, perhaps a little earlier, we all kind of congregate for drinks somewhere. Everyone is invited and the location is discussed in the open office. It’s after hours, nobody has to cover for us.

        It’s understood that you can ask someone to cover for you if you are sick, or if your spouse is having a baby or if somehow there are two meetings that overlap on your calendar and there needs to be a department representative at both. You absolutely don’t ask someone to cover for you for beer runs, haircuts, things that you could schedule at another time with no ill effects.

        Reply
      3. Queen of the File

        Enh, I worked at a small financial services firm that did beer Fridays every week through the summer and left one person (the receptionist) at the desk for coverage. It was generally later in the afternoon and people had 1-2 drinks (not lots). I still think it’s exclusionary and generally not good, but I don’t think it’s THAT out of the ordinary.

        Reply
        1. Chinook

          ” worked at a small financial services firm that did beer Fridays every week through the summer and left one person (the receptionist) at the desk for coverage”

          Speaking as the receptionist who has been left behind in these situations, I hope you all did something nice for her regularly because there is nothing worse than answering calls from clients who want to talk to someone and there is no one available because they are all out having fun. It is actually quite frustrating to come up with 20 different ways to politely not say “they can’t take your call because they are out partying” and still sound professional.

          Reply
      4. MicroManagered

        “Some hip startups might keep a cooler of beer (with a subtext of “this is because you’re going to be working at 8:00 on a Friday when a normal person might be grabbing a beer with buddies”).”

        THIS. I have a friend whose employer does this, caters meals, etc… It’s because they’re THERE until 10 o’clock at night and back at 7 am sometimes! I don’t *WANT* a job that lets me drink at work–I’d rather have a normal workload!

        Reply
    2. Princess Carolyn

      Heck, I’ve worked in offices where a beer run at lunch would be pretty normal, but even I can’t deny that it’s clearly excluding at least one member of the team, and that’s a problem. It doesn’t sound like OP (or OP’s company) made any attempt to choose bonding/cultural opportunities outside of beer. A team lunch might have gone a long way.

      Reply
    3. CaliCali

      I worked at a start-up type place that had a pretty robust drinking culture (and as an extrovert who likes friendship with coworkers AND a good happy hour, it fit me) BUT for those who didn’t drink or just didn’t care for social stuff outside of work, it really did not matter. We were still all adults who respected each other’s personal choices, the non-drinkers were still included in lunches and such. And we were all also at different life stages; some were young and single, some married, some with kids, some divorced, some were grandparents, but all were included in everything and they weren’t chided for sitting anything out (or forced to hold down the fort).

      Reply
      1. Don't Take My Beer Run Away

        Thank you so much for this comment, @CaliCali and Princess Carolyn. This is really the essence of what the problem is here. The problem isn’t the beer run, it’s that someone is being excluded, bullied, and marginalized. That’s wrong, and that’s what needs to be addressed — not all this sanctimoniousness that coworkers should never be friends, or that an office (God forbid) can’t have a happy hour. For what it’s worth, one of my closest friends is from a former job.

        Reply
  9. EA

    I also think you should remember, this type of culture will push people away.

    I am a millennial, and have zero interest in working in a place like this. Many start-ups and tech companies operate in this way. If I interviewed and people talked about their beer runs and how everyone was friends, I would self select out.
    You are discouraging older works, but also many younger ones that like boundaries.

    Reply
    1. Don't Take My Brewery Run Away

      But it will also attract some people, too. That’s why a lot of us like tech and startup companies, and others don’t. And that’s 100% fine. Companies have personalities, just like people. Some have extroverted cultures, and others introverted cultures. I started my career at an introverted company, left it, and found one with a culture a lot more to my liking. It would have been wrong for the first company to try to change its culture to accommodate me. That would have hurt the introverts and ended up satisfying no one. And you know what? Both companies make great products without having to force anyone into having a well-rounded staff.

      Reply
      1. Trout 'Waver

        I agree in general. But in this specific instance, there are some real issues independent of culture. If an employee feels that their associates are unhelpful then the manager needs to step in and figure out what’s going on regardless of culture.

        Reply
      2. Tuckerman

        I don’t think the solution is to take your brewery run away, rather it’s to offer a variety of activities that draw in employees with different lifestyles/preferences. Keep the brewery run, but why not add an ice cream run? Or offer opportunities to volunteer as a group?

        Reply
      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        This is also why those companies have rampant diversity problems, both demographically and culturally.

        Reply
        1. Junior Dev

          Right. I have a hard time feeling sorry for someone who fears his brewery run being taken away when I’ve had to send my boss at one of these places an email telling him to stop sexually harassing me because there was no HR department. Or when I’ve been the first to go in layoffs because I *only* went on the brewery run once a week rather than once a day.

          Reply
      4. Optimistic Prime

        I agree that companies have cultures, but I don’t know if having a dichotomy between an introverted/extroverted cultures is necessarily a good thing. A good team should be able to thrive with both and still run. (Also, introverted people can enjoy beer runs and Snapchat.)

        Reply
    2. Allison

      Absolutely.. I’m not married and I don’t have kids, but that doesn’t mean work has to be my whole life. I have friends, and a boyfriend, and a hobby that regularly has stuff going on after work, and I want to participate in that stuff, and that often means making a commitment to a single night ahead of time, or committing to weekly classes for a month. Let me treat work like work; let me come in, do what you need me to do, then leave at the end of the day and live my life. If I feel like my office owns my life, or wants my whole life to revolve around the company, wants to provide my friends and hobbies and have me plugged in 24/7, I’m gonna nope outta there.

      Reply
    3. k.k

      In addition to pushing away prospective employees, it can push out your best employees in the long run. People’s lives change over time, and if employees start to feel unwelcome as soon as they start having outside commitments you’re going to have a turnover issue. If you only want young unattached people, you’ll find yourself constantly training new hires as your most experienced people move on.

      Reply
    4. Sylvia

      Yes.

      I once worked in an “everyone’s friends!” place. It was extraordinarily cliquey. It was also like people’s normal-behavior meters got broken, the longer they stayed there.

      One time, I overheard a group of 40-somethings whispering and making fun of an old man together. I didn’t speak up for him because I was afraid of being bullied. Pathetic. I don’t want to work in such a tight-knit place again.

      Reply
      1. Sylvia

        Oops, their ages aren’t really relevant. I deleted a paragraph describing the company’s makeup: Mostly Gen X and younger Boomers, but pretty diverse. I made some comment about the exclusivity being a bad behavior problem, not an age problem.

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          I think the ages in your example of the ridicule are VERY relevant.

          They are certainly old enough to have learned better!

          Reply
    5. GMN

      Push people out and pull people in. I am a millennial (older though) and would be delighted to work at OP’s company. Any culture that isn’t completely generic pulls someone and pushes others.

      Reply
        1. GMN

          No, but you do not have to have bullying and retaliation just because you have friendships and beer runs. As long as you are civil to everyone I think it is completely fine and natural to enjoy someones company and personality more than someone elses.

          Reply
  10. Don't Take My Brewery Run Away

    Why is a “diverse staff,” in its broadest sense, such a sacred cow of India? I fully appreciate the need for racial and cultural diversity in light of our nation’s checkered history on that score. But *why* must companies go out of their way to hire introverts, or parents, or non-drinkers, or long commuters? None of those categories are protected classes in and of themselves.

    One answer might be that these groups allow a company to be more attuned to its customers; but if the customer has decided its target market isn’t parents, so what?

    Reply
    1. JB (not in Houston)

      There are plenty of studies about the benefits to a business of having people of different personalities and backgrounds, and I’m not sure this comment section has the space to discuss all of them. But if you are truly interested in understanding the benefits of it (besides it just being the morally right thing to do), there is a lot out there that you can find pretty easily. But suffice to say–studies show that businesses do better when they are more diverse.

      Reply
      1. Don't Take My Brewery Run Away

        And some studies say the opposite. I’m a real believer in “different strokes for different folks” and that it’s a mistake to force all companies to be all things to all people.

        Reply
        1. Stephanie the Great

          You’re really conflating the concept here, and it seems to be coming from a place of defensiveness, given your handle. Decades-long studies and meta-analyses have nearly unequivocally demonstrated that groups that 1. welcome diversity and 2. actively use it in its activities by and large outperform groups that are homogeneous and/or don’t take advantage of the diversity in their group.

          Reply
        2. fposte

          We’re nuts for reading this kind of stuff–can you point to some of the studies about the value of monocultures? I can see that being true, but I’d love to see how it was measured.

          Reply
          1. Economist again

            Alberto Alesina and Eliana La Ferrara, “Ethnic Diversity and Economic Performance,” Journal of Economic Literature, September 2005

            Quamrul Ashraf and Oded Galor at Brown have also looked at correlations between genetic diversity and economic performance. Broadly speaking, they find that at some level diversity boosts economic performance but that it reaches diminishing returns, and even becomes a negative correlation, at some point.

            Their conclusion seems fairly intuitive to me, for what it’s worth. It seems to me that diversity is healthy in some ways, but that without some degree of common culture, societal glue starts to fall apart. I don’t think that a group of co-workers going to a brewery together portends the end of the world. And I also think that you Americans need to get over some of your hangups about alcohol. It’s pretty routine to have alcohol with lunch in continental Europe, as I discovered on my first sabbatical a few years ago. Diversity should account for non-American cultures, too.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              I don’t think either of those are business-focused, though; it’s not in Ashraf and Brown at all, and it’s a quick mention only of developing countries in the Alesina. Not that it’s completely irrelevant and that it’s not interesting to discuss ways that homogeneousness can be an advantage (hey, it helped Madoff, right?) but I feel like it’s a bit of a stretch to use work on genetic/ethnic diversity in large populations to support arguments for U.S. workplace personality monoculture.

              Reply
            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              That’s not the right unit of measure or body of lit. You’re basically conflating studies about cultural integration in Europe and macroeconomic performance with the literature others are referring to, which is about dynamics within businesses and offices. And if you’re talking about an American workplace, then yes, the data should focus on performance for American companies.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                Also maybe something a bit more recent than a 2003 survey of prior lit–I think that the benefits of diversity and how those benefits geographically and culturally map are going to differ wildly from era to era, and I think a 2017 workplace is significantly different than a 1990 one.

                I’m definitely willing to believe that there are benefits to a monoculture; I doubt it’s a simple binary of better/worse. But I’d really love to see some more detailed research on how and where in workplaces, and I bet there’s money in this so somebody’s doing it.

                Reply
                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  Very true. The literature has gotten more robust and rigorous over the past 10+ years.

                  I’m sure there is information about monocultures, but it would be helpful if folks suggesting that those studies debunk the benefits of diversity could cite their sources.

                2. oranges & lemons

                  This makes me wonder if there are parallels between cultural/background diversity in the workplace and crop diversity in agriculture–as in, monocultures can be very efficient in the short term and under ideal conditions, but are not as sustainable because diversity provides more resilience when things change. Time to do some reading.

              2. Economist again

                I typed up a mildly lengthy response to this, and then accidently closed my browser and lost it. Grrr. Suffice it to say that I cited these studies because I’m an economist, not a business academic or organizational behavior specialist. I fully agree that studies of correlations between diversity and macroeconomic performance aren’t *inherently* transferable to microeconomic/firm-level situations. But that doesn’t mean they’re irrelevant, and certainly they suggest further research is needed. (When is it not, for an economist!) Also, I recall that Robert Putnam at Harvard has published similar conclusions in the political science or sociology realm.

                I disagree with PCBH’s desire to limit studies to American workplaces, though. If you’re advocating some kind of general organizational behavior principle that “more diverse companies always perform better,” there’s not reason that should be culture-specific, and limiting your studies to the US skews the sample. (It also tends to undermine your point about diversity being a good thing.)

                Reply
                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  As an economist, you know the significance of comparing apples to apples. If the conversation here—which presumes an American workplace/firm—is about performance of firms within the U.S. economy, then it would not be helpful to examine macroeconomic data from other countries in order to make arguments about firms or segments. It’s the equivalent of the logical fallacy of assuming that the characteristics of the whole apply equally to its parts.

                  In the context of academic literature, looking to countries with significantly different labor markets, firm cultures, and economic organization in order to make prescriptive or descriptive statements about a country with a completely different model of market organization is not a diversity problem; it’s a unit of measurement problem.

                  I’m not saying multi-country data or economic literature is always irrelevant. My “prior to law” life gig was as an econometrician who focused on comparative poverty studies and development econ. But the issue of intra-firm diversity relates to organizational behavior and individual firm performance, where the largest appropriate unit of measure is how a firm performs vis-a-vis its peers in its market sector, which is a microecon issue. There’s quite a bit of literature from behavioral econ, organizational behavior, management, and governance that suggests that in the American workplace, when diversity (in the broad sense) is meaningfully integrated into teams, it has a statistically significant positive impact on business outcomes and program delivery.

                  But if there is contrary, contemporary, evidence-based literature about business outcomes and program delivery in monocultural American workplaces, then it would be helpful if folks could share those citations.

                2. AD

                  A few additions to PCBH’s response, as you seem to be conflating a whole bunch of stuff in one comment:

                  1. Firstly, as I think we can all agree on from the Letter Writer’s updates below, this is far beyond a lack of “culture” fit and into the area of legally actionable bad management, so harping on definitions of what culture fit means and whether it’s relevant here are probably moot.

                  2. “Culture” and discussions of diversity in the workplace don’t always break down to issues of ethnic diversity which is what you’re citing. It often means diversity of gender, age, education, and other socio-economic factors. Studies done that examine effects of multiculturalism on civic society aren’t really germane to this area, are they? I saw no reference to ethnicity in Letter Writer’s post – rather, it feels like the OP defines a (preferred) homogeneous culture at work by marital status, age, and drinking habits. These have zilch to do with multiculturalism.

                  3. Robert Putnam argued himself that the results of his study were misunderstood and misconstrued. See here.

                  4. Your snarky comment that Americans need to “get over” hangups about drinking undermine your own point. Firstly, have you ever been to Boston? New York? Chicago? I fail to see the difference in adult drinking behavior in those cities versus European equivalents. Secondly, at this blog we’ve sought to be mindful of religious (and other) reasons certain segments of our society may abstain from drinking (by design, I may add). I don’t think we should “get over” the sensitivity to the different habits of certain members of our population, do you? Those folks certainly work in our offices and companies and organizations, and deserve the respect and all the consideration we can provide.

        3. Antilles

          I think you’re overstating what JB (and others) are mentioning. Nobody is saying that the company should be “all things to all people”. Rather, the point is that the company culture is so narrowly tailored to a very specific type that it’s missing a ton of opportunities by being too exclusionary – no kids, no introverts, no non-drinkers, no people with long commutes, no people who just don’t want to be BFFs with co-workers, no people who are super-serious about their jobs and don’t want to blow off work for one afternoon a week, etc.

          Reply
        4. cheeky

          Obviously, this LW’s company has different workplace expectations than the LW, which is why the LW was scolded.

          Reply
    2. MuseumChick

      It’s not about going out of their way to hire specifically introverts/parents/non-drinkers/etc. But ensuring that ANYONE who is hired can feel safe/comfortable. Having a diverse staff can have unexpected and sometimes unseen benefits. Thoughts and ideas that a homogenous group may not think of.

      Reply
      1. Julia

        This. After you hire someone, you have to treat them fairly and in compliance with the law.

        Not hiring them in the first place, even though they were the best candidate, might get you in trouble with the law as well.

        Reply
    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      Because diversity of perspectives and experiences generally leads to better questions, better decisions, more thorough thinking…

      And when it comes to age in particular, there are real weaknesses to having a team made up only of people who have limited work experience.

      Reply
      1. Don't Take My Brewery Run Away

        I’m not sure I buy this. Those of us who work in start ups love the start-up culture. Tech has problems with discrimination against women, but that’s not an introvert/extrovert thing.

        Startups are inherently risky too, and people who join them need to be very comfortable with risk. If you start demanding they hire the risk adverse on the grounds of “diversity,” you’re going to be killing startup culture (and by extension, our nation’s greatest engine of job growth) really quickly.

        I think there are times when a homogeneous culture (and again, I’m speaking personality-wise, not racially or in terms of gender) can make people focus.

        Reply
        1. Here we go again

          Yes, startups may need to have people who are comfortable with risk, but there are people of all ages, personalities and backgrounds that fit into that category.

          The OP mainly made this about the employee’s commute, kids and age, none of which should prevent someone from being a good “culture fit” in a startup or any other professional company.

          Reply
        2. fposte

          Then you make it part of the hiring, like Southwest.

          But I also think you’re overextrapolating from a single axis to all of personality (and overlooking a really problematic age element), and you’re overlooking companies like Zappo’s, that do prioritize certain offbeat approaches and yet manage to incorporate different personalities into that very specific culture.

          Reply
        3. Chuck

          I’m curious–what’s your definition of ‘startup culture’ and how does it not benefit from hiring diverse personality types?

          Reply
        4. Leatherwings

          You absolutely cannot separate diversity of personality types and race and gender. Those things intersect. People with different background and different experiences end up having different ways of interacting in the workplace. Saying it’s totally fine to actively encourage people to have friendships outside the office and drink together will inevitably exclude people like single mothers who don’t have the space for that sort of thing.

          Maybe it’s fine to say “we need people to be extroverted and not afraid to speak their mind on this team” but that’s not the same as fostering the kind of culture described in the letter. And I find your insistence on separating these into different categories of exclusion and inclusion sort of disturbing.

          Reply
          1. LizB

            Agreed, and I’d say that even “we need people to be extroverted and not afraid to speak their mind on this team” could easily run into disparate impact problems along race and culture lines. Different cultures have different patterns of interaction, and a candidate may not be so much “afraid to speak their mind” as used to a different conversational style from your average white 20-something dude. You could be missing out on some great ideas and talent by ruling that person out. There’s also evidence that individuals who do speak up frequently can be perceived VERY differently based on race and gender — if you’re looking for people who will make their opinions known, make sure you’re not mentally classifying Candidate Sean as “bold and innovative” but Candidate Shaniqua as “bossy and loud.”

            Reply
            1. Leatherwings

              This is so true, thanks for your comment. I’m realizing that the “extroverted speak your mind” person will inevitably skew male too.

              So no, having different personality types is actually super important and excluding people who don’t fit that mold will result in a less diverse team in not only personality type, but in race, gender, sexual orientation, life experience etc.

              Reply
              1. mrs__peel

                “the “extroverted speak your mind” person will inevitably skew male too.”

                I was just reading something about self-confidence and gender, where a speaker asked a group of men and women if there were any experts on breastfeeding there.

                The *only* person who raised their hand and self-identified as an expert was a man (whose wife had breastfed for three months). Even though several of the women there had kids.

                Reply
        5. Snark

          “I’m not sure I buy this. Those of us who work in start ups love the start-up culture. Tech has problems with discrimination against women, but that’s not an introvert/extrovert thing. Startups are inherently risky too, and people who join them need to be very comfortable with risk. If you start demanding they hire the risk adverse on the grounds of “diversity,” you’re going to be killing startup culture (and by extension, our nation’s greatest engine of job growth) really quickly.”

          So you apparently assume that “diverse” people are inherently risk averse, that startup culture is a reflection of that risk-taking culture, that startup culture will die if it’s not permitted to go on beer runs and wear hoodies, and that discrimination against women has nothing at all to do with the rest of what you’re saying.

          Given the demographics of startups, you ARE spekaing racially and in terms of gender whether you admit it or not.

          Reply
          1. Willow

            I think they’re saying that if you’re hiring risktakers, and you want to have a diverse mix of personalities, you have to hire risk-averse people too. Not that anyone who doesn’t match the demographics is risk-averse.

            Reply
            1. Falling Diphthong

              Also, “hiring risk-takers” can translate pretty smoothly to “hiring people from similar upper-middle class families and expensive schools, whose experience has been that their parents will be there to catch them and wipe out the debt if they screw up.”

              Reply
              1. Snark

                Exactly. There’s a lot of startups where “risk-taking” is shorthand for “gambling with exorbitant sums of other people’s money, fairly certain in the knowledge that there will be more where that came from and that your bros over at the VC firm won’t hold it against you if you churn through a few tens of millions before your books are even close to the black.”

                Which is an educated, highly affluent, highly connected, priveleged worldview that is not shared by other types of risk-taker, like the immigrant who arrived with a suitcase and now owns a successful chain of bodegas. That guy would probably think the former category is a bunch of juvenile tech bros who think they’re gonna save the world with an app.

                Reply
              2. mrs__peel

                Absolutely! “Risk” doesn’t exist in a vacuum, wholly apart from socioeconomic/race/gender factors. It’s highly subjective.

                Making a decision that could cause you to (e.g.) lose your job might be a minor thing to someone who has a wealthy family. That same decision could be potentially catastrophic and life-changing to someone who doesn’t (who might face eviction or who-knows-what, if they don’t have a paycheck coming in regularly).

                Reply
        6. Kristine

          I’m trying to think of a better way to phrase this, but all I’m coming up with is…I think someone’s growler has been filled with the kool-aid. I’m not going to debate that some tech start-ups have fueled job growth in the US, because they absolutely have. But they’re not the “nation’s greatest engine” and when the tech bubble bursts there’s going to be a lot of people left unemployed and without the knowledge of how to function in a real professional environment.

          Reply
          1. Thinking Outside the Boss

            Totally agree.

            And conversely, when that tech start up becomes a Fortune 100 company, the board of directors and shareholders want stability and lack of drama! They don’t want beer runs and a staff that knows nothing about true diversity and learning from others. When start ups become established, all the beer run folks will be on the short list to the unemployment line.

            Reply
            1. Polymer Phil

              They want a bland cubicle farm full of good little corporate citizens. That isn’t diversity; it’s the place where Dilbert works!

              Reply
              1. sunny-dee

                If by that you mean people who are pleasant to their colleagues and focus on getting their work done over beer and Snapchat, then yes. Bland.

                Reply
        7. Falling Diphthong

          Start-ups are also notorious for failing. (Even if the stories of “everyone made a million dollars!” get more play, the far larger experience is failing.) Having a culture built on group-think is a good way to get walloped.

          Reply
          1. Chinook

            “Start-ups are also notorious for failing.”

            My guess is that there is less failure in those that hire not only risk-tolerant but also those who are risk-leery (willing to take risks but only after every other option has been thrown out) and maybe even the odd risk-adverse person who is willing to be the lone voice in the wilderness shouting “look out for that cliff” while hanging on to the wagon and saying a prayer that the drop is a short one.

            That is why diversity is a good thing – whether of personality, culture or genetics – different people see different things and have different experiences about what the results from a given risk could mean.

            Reply
          2. Snark

            It’s also a good way to miss opportunities. If you ask me for ideas about a new app, my first ten are probably going to be about beer, tacos, road trips, and outdoor activities. All very well, but a young black woman, or an older Asian man, or a middle-aged Indian mother of two, or a kid who grew up poor in foster homes, would all give ten different, probably more creative, probably more genuinely novel ideas that would serve markets not already saturated by affluent, Caucasian males designing apps around their own interests.

            Reply
        8. Emi.

          Startups are inherently risky too, and people who join them need to be very comfortable with risk.

          Right, but it sounds like that doesn’t really apply to the LW. In all likelihood, being an avid snapchatter and a beer connoisseur isn’t relevant to this workplace the way being risk-tolerant is relevant to working in a startup. (Unless they do, I dunno, digital marketing and social media for microbreweries, but then the LW probably would have mentioned it.)

          No one’s saying startups should hire risk-adverse people for diversity, but it’s a mistake to have a homogeneous culture based on something *else* that isn’t relevant–in part because it’ll keep out a lot of clever, risk-tolerant people who would do really well.

          Reply
        9. Undine

          I’ve worked in and around many startups, and not all of them have a brewery/buddy culture. Or homogeneity. Or… It’s not the buddy culture that causes focus, there are other ways to be intense and work hard. Most startups fail, and many that succeed go through a difficult phase where they have to outgrow the single focus mindset. A lot of what’s fueling current startups isn’t greater productivity on the part of the workers, it’s specific opportunities in the current landscape.

          Reply
          1. Falling Diphthong

            Pixar started out doing medical imaging. Sometimes the key to growth is being able to see something beyond That Only Thing We Do.

            Reply
            1. Gadfly

              The newspaper printing company I worked for also became a real estate brokerage and developed a way to process convention tickets and manage events.

              It fits, once you have the perspective to see it. Like that image of a cylinder with a round shadow and a square or rectangular one.

              Reply
        10. Lora

          What does risk-averseness have to do with beer runs? Most of the serious drinkers in biotech who I know are in their 50s and 60s and came to tech after a long career in Corporate America. Heck, most of the venture capital groups who are really really successful are directed by older quasi-retired folks who enjoy bowling, mowing the lawn and returning library books on time. If there’s nobody on your staff who can talk to those guys (and they mostly are guys unfortunately), you’re in big trouble. I’ve been hired – as have many many of my staid, older colleagues – to demonstrate to investors that the company is dead serious about success and not just a flash in the pan, because they hire people with loads of experience who have done all this stuff before with great success.

          It seems like you’re conflating things which are really orthogonal. Risk taking has nothing whatsoever to do with “acting like a douchebag and not helping your colleagues like a self-absorbed jerk” or “spending the whole day on Snapchat instead of coding like a lazy a-hole”. Even if the company exists to make an app for locating the strip clubs with the most overpriced liquor, you’ll need to have people who are good at geolocation and customer support and financial structuring and hardware maintenance and so forth – and the very best people who do that are not necessarily the left-handed pink-haired craft beer drinking Cheezburger Network patrons of the world. They are often found in the boring, staid, old ranks of Oracle and SAP and IBM.

          Wacky, I know.

          Reply
          1. Chinook

            “Even if the company exists to make an app for locating the strip clubs with the most overpriced liquor, you’ll need to have people who are good at geolocation and customer support and financial structuring and hardware maintenance and so forth”

            Yup – who in their right mind wants a risk taking accountant or payroll person? There are somethings that just require the minds of someone who needs order and predictability.

            Reply
        11. Nea

          Startups are inherently risky too

          Yes, but they would very likely be able to weather some of the risks if they had risk-adverse personnel who could advise them on potential negatives. One of the best things I could do for a former boss was remind him “If you do x, then y will likely happen” so he wasn’t caught unawares.

          That’s not killing startup culture, that’s strengthening it.

          As for homogeneous cultures focusing better – a homogeneous culture is far, far more likely to assume that all customers are also members of that culture, and make blatant mistakes when attempting to create a product. Apple for example, assumed that everyone wants to check their stock prices all the time… but no one needed to track a menstrual cycle. Chevy not realizing that they can’t sell a car branded “no va” in Spanish-speaking countries. California movie/tv producers putting palm trees in DC (or assuming that there aren’t 100s of airports within an hour’s flight of each other).

          I could write for hours of the companies that have made blatant, risible, often income-killing mistakes because they focused far, far too hard on what THEY wanted and not what their CUSTOMERS wanted.

          Reply
          1. kb

            Yes! So often companies with strong monocultures conflate ignorance of other perspectives with risk-taking.

            Reply
          2. mrs__peel

            “but no one needed to track a menstrual cycle”

            There was a great article– maybe in the New Yorker?– about period-tracking apps. Apparently, it didn’t occur to their (mostly young, male) creators that people who actually WANTED to get pregnant would use them in large numbers to track their fertility. They missed all kinds of business opp0rtunities early on until they actually started talking to (and hiring) women.

            Reply
        12. OlympiasEpiriot

          From my experience of meeting a variety of “startup culture” people, I say the risk is increased by this same “startup culture”. New businesses have a very high likelihood of failure even without weekly “beer runs”.

          Personally, I’d like to know what these companies are that encourage workday drinking as I want to do business with people who are responsible. I already know to avoid the majority of brokerage firms.

          Even when I was a bartender, there was little on-the-job drinking. The assumption was you needed your wits to keep up with the throngs, make the right change, not steal from the register, handle the customers who got obnoxious and keep an eye on what was going on in the establishment. In other words, be professional — and that has nothing to do with age or whether ppl have children or a life outside of the office.

          This whole thing and defensive comments like this seem the exact opposite.

          Reply
        13. plynn

          Not everyone that works in startups loves the vaunted “culture”. I was actually ecstatic to read the response to this letter *because* it explained so well why stereotypical “startup culture” is an absolute disaster. I’ve spent a whole lot of time in startups and the absolute worst ones are those that value the culture above all else. Because that culture is so often a yes-man echo chamber where nine out of ten people agree on something because they all think the same way, ignore and freeze out the dissenter, and then go out for beer. If “Don’t challenge the status quo” is the tent pole of your culture, that’s a problem.

          A homogeneous culture helps people focus by streamlining out pesky distractions like other points of views and experiences. Also, it amplifies prejudices – the person saying something is too risky might not be risk-adverse at all, they might have experience and insight that the rest of the team does

          Reply
          1. Rosa

            such as working at a startup that blew too much of its money on “culture” and didn’t/nearly didn’t make it to ‘getting bought up by a real company’ before they blew through all the VC. Or one that had a series of terrible CEOs that ripped everyone off while the founders “concentrated on the mission”. Or even one that did really well but had some bad mistakes that another company might want to avoid.

            It’s not like the tech world isn’t full of people who survived the first tech bubble bursting and learned some things. Though they tend to want to get paid in actual money and go home, not out for a beer run.

            Reply
        14. aebhel

          The thing is, ‘cultural fit’ should mean things like ‘this is a very fast-paced environment and you’re going to be expected to be highly self-motivated’, or ‘this is a startup, so you need to be very comfortable with flexible work projects and changing course without much notice’, or ‘we’re extremely formal here, so please don’t show up with pink hair and visible tattoos’, or ‘this job requires a lot of enthusiasm and engagement with the public’, or ‘we’re very casual, so if you’re uncomfortable with informal interactions and the occasional profanity, this probably isn’t the place for you.’

          It doesn’t–and shouldn’t–mean ‘we’re all buddies here, and if you don’t fit in with the clique we’re going to exclude you, actively disrupt your work, and make fun of you on social media.’ That’s not a cultural fit thing. That’s just dysfunction.

          Reply
        15. neverjaunty

          I’m deeply amused at this idea that people who are terrified of diversity and need to work in a bro-house monoculture “love risk”.

          Reply
          1. Blurgle

            I know! They’re so afraid that their stereotypes will be challenged that they won’t take the risk of hiring and supporting people who aren’t Just Like Them.

            Reply
        16. Jiggs

          Honestly, maybe if there were a few people who were less risk-happy, more startups would succeed (and the successful ones, like Uber, wouldn’t run into the problems it has – sexism being just the start of those.)

          Also, when you say “startup culture”, be aware that what you mean is “20 something white guy with beard” culture. Because that’s what it is right now. If you want to hire “startup culture” that’s who you’re talking about. So let’s be really clear that the idea of startup culture is already exclusionary to all but a privileged few.

          Reply
        17. tired anon

          Okay but… why do you think startup/tech culture has a problem with discriminating against women in the first place?

          It’s fundamentally the same issue. By insisting that something is just “culture” when it makes people feel uncomfortable at work, or makes it harder for them to collaborate with their teammates, people get the message that they are not wanted or valued. And if managers react to that with “whatever, this all normal” as an attitude, that makes it harder to report issues that go beyond “ugh, beer’s not my thing” to actual active harassment. The OP’s team may be at the low end of the scale – but it’s part of the same culture.

          Or to put it another way – the idea that ~everyone~ goes out and bonds over a brewery run is not that far removed from ~everyone~ goes out to Hooters for business lunches. Or even, ~everyone~ plays golf on the weekends. Those are things that require comfort in an exclusionary environment (well, kind of on golf – I’m thinking country clubs), and people who either aren’t comfortable or who simply can’t afford it (due to needing that time with families, or not having the money to access it, etc) miss out on the bonding, and thus the conversations, opportunities, mentorship, etc, that comes out of that.

          It’s not that companies can’t or shouldn’t ever have brewery runs; it’s that they need to look at who those beer runs privileges and make sure there are *also* opportunities and bonding for *everyone else*.

          Reply
          1. mrs__peel

            Extremely well said!

            It’s not a very large step from what’s described here to “EVERYONE makes sexual comments and jokes at our office, so if you’re getting offended it must be your problem”.

            Reply
        18. AW

          Tech has problems with discrimination against women…

          Not just women.

          I find this bit interesting because I was just reading a Twitter thread from a woman who was frustrated that every time she mentioned diversity to other men in tech, they always translated it to mean gender.

          Reply
        19. Julia

          If start-ups are inherently risky, wouldn’t that mean they’d be better suited to someone who, let’s say, had a partner with a stable job in case they themselves lost their own job? So someone who was maybe mature enough for a stable partnership, who might enjoy going home to their partner from time to time?

          Or, of course, as someone mentioned below, rich kids. But do you really only want to hire only spoiled rich brats? How great do you think the work ethic of some of them (not all) would be?

          Reply
      2. Djuna

        So much this. I am older than everyone on my team (including my boss and grandboss), I’ve been working since before some of my co-workers were born (yikes!). My team is all kinds of wonderful, and we complement one another really well.

        They could all see me as the crotchety one who throws spanners in everyone’s works, because I like to think things through and consider more angles – but they don’t. They value it, because when we figure out those answers, we do better than we would have otherwise. And *we* figure out the answers together.

        Work that’s done in an echo chamber often suffers for it, because no-one asks any tough questions. The OP seems to really want everyone on the same page in work, in their approaches to work, and in life. That’s groupthink endorsed at a management level. Really not a good idea.

        Reply
    4. KatTheRussian (France)

      I think it’s not so much targeting non-protected-class categories for hire, so much as forcing out *all* hires except for a very specific also-not-protected-class .

      Reply
    5. Falling Diphthong

      The reason is that diverse teams are better in the work-appropriate sense of thinking of more aspects and approaches to problems, and having a fuller approach to solving them. Actual research. Monotype teams are worse at this, but score very high on everyone feeling comfortable because they are surrounded by people who think exactly like them.

      Reply
    6. Havarti

      Nobody is required to hire introverts, parents, non-drinkers, or long commuters. Where did you come up with that?

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Because then we can pretend that failure to hire diverse staff is about personality traits that are not protected instead of age, gender, race, etc.

        Reply
    7. Detective Amy Santiago

      But *why* must companies go out of their way to hire introverts, or parents, or non-drinkers, or long commuters?

      No one says they have to go out of their way, but also a lot of those things may have zero impact on the person’s ability to do the job they were hired to do and those outside factors should not limit their employability.

      Reply
    8. Chuck

      Because people with different life experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds–in whatever sense ‘different’ might be–bring a breadth of strengths, skills, and mindsets to a team and increases the group’s collective knowledge. It’s not a matter of going out of your way to hire introverts, but choosing not to hire someone just because they’re not going to stay out late drinking with the team every single Thursday, for whatever reason, is definitely an issue. It’s a dumb and easy way to miss out on strong performers and create a team that suffers from groupthink.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        One of the most innovative researchers I’ve ever known, in a field full of beardy, tree-hugging, beer-drinking white people, was a black guy from Georgia who got his PhD at age 47 after a career teaching middle school math.

        Reply
        1. JanetInSC

          Love this example!! Life/work experience really does produce pragmatic people who can also think outside of the box.

          Reply
    9. PieInTheBlueSky

      One day, some of the beer-run millenials from the letter will be married and have kids, or change interests. Their priorities may change for other reasons, too.

      At that point, are they still a good “fit” in the company? Does the OP want them to leave at that point, and walk away with all that the company has invested in them and their institutional history? Does a manager want that kind of turnover?

      Reply
    10. Allison

      No one’s forcing companies to hire those types of people, but when you only want to hire a certain type of person, not only do you miss out on hiring very smart and skilled people and risk being unable to fill certain critical roles, you also insulate your staff culturally, especially if you hire one type and then monopolize their nights and weekends so they can’t have much of a life separate from work. It’s good for people to know folks from other walks of life, and see how different people live.

      And no one’s trying to “take your beer runs away,” come on.

      Reply
    11. Mike C.

      Because it’s incredibly illegal to base hiring decisions on protected classes such as race, gender or being over a certain age. That means more than just cackling like a mad scientist and purposefully excluding folks like that, it also means not fostering environments where such folks aren’t excluded incidentally.

      As to why that’s valuable? Well, society runs a whole lot better when we don’t foster permanent underclasses of otherwise qualified people by excluding them from the workplace.

      Reply
      1. DArcy

        Society is well on its way towards making millennials into a permanent underclass (especially with the uniquely one-way definition of age as a protected class), so why is it so surprising that when millennials manage to get into management positions, they’re quick to return the treatment they’ve gotten all the way up?

        Reply
        1. DArcy

          Just to clarify — I’m not saying this is a *good* thing, but that it’s a much larger issue than one manager who wants a “professional millennial” team, and that there’s legitimate reasons millennials often have a strong “us against the world” attitude .

          Reply
          1. Kj

            I agree- I don’t like it, but as a millennial with a boss who didn’t like “young people” (her actual words to me, the youngest person on her team, then in my mid-20s), I have felt the urge to be around people my age and advocate for our hiring them in no small part because I saw them being excluded from consideration. When we interviewed for a position, everyone liked one, younger, candidate, except the boss, who excluded him by saying “too young.” And that was it. I got in because I present older and had some major qualifications, but I’ve been the youngest on my team for YEARS now and I see how condescending some staff is to younger interns. It makes me want to hire them, as I know they aren’t getting a fair chance, even when they are good. I’m not in a position to do so, but if I was, I’d give a few extra points to younger workers, as I see how we have treated them and it is not fair.

            Some fields do discriminate against older workers; mine discriminates against the young (and no, it is not about experience- 2nd career types are common in my field and are much more likely to be hired than someone who went straight through school, even if their previous career had nothing to do with their new field).

            Reply
        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Dude, that’s not in any way true. Anti-millennial culture runs deep, but it is not even remotely comparable to the decades of systemic discrimination (which is ongoing) against people of color and women.

          Reply
          1. Anonymoose

            I agree fully with PCBH. I have a transgendered partner. If you told her that millennials are a permanent underclass she’d punch you in the face, and I would cheer her on while she did it. She’s lost too many friends to violence and suicide as a member of a real underclass to have any patience with your sad attempt at claiming victimhood.

            Reply
            1. DArcy

              Riddle me this: why does no one object to the previous statement that it’s important for older people to be a protected class due to largely mythical fears of them becoming a “permanent underclass”, but somehow it’s totally out of line for me to point out that younger people *actually are* becoming an economic underclass due to the uniquely one-sided legal protection that has been created for age?

              I never said it was comparable to decades of systemic discrimination, but if that’s your standard for “deserves to be a protected class”, then why aren’t you attacking the idea of older people being a protected class?

              Oh, and for the record? Transgender girl here, so Anonymoose might want to think twice about what they just said.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                Well, for one thing, because not every comment is going to get commented on from every direction.

                But for another, your definition of “underclass” is still pretty fast and loose. Not all adverse experiences make an “underclass.” Not all disparities between promise and reality make an “underclass,” for which Google’s first dictionary definition is “the lowest social stratum in a country or community, consisting of the poor and unemployed.” (And by “young people” you actually mean “older young people,” right? Because the people graduating post-recession aren’t encountering the same obstacles.)

                Yes, it was a cohort that didn’t fare as well as hoped, and I know it’s disheartening to realize the longterm effects from that. But that really, really doesn’t make them an underclass.

                Reply
                1. DArcy

                  Yes, but keep in mind that the comment I was responding to claimed that protected class designation was important to keep older people from *becoming* a permanent underclass, and I responded that younger people are even more at risk of this given the way we’ve been heavily locked out of the economy by older people.

                  That’s not a claim that younger people *already are* a permanent underclass, it’s that we’re *on our way* to becoming one due to the current flow of the economy.

              2. Anonymoose

                DArcy, the difference is that young people will age and eventually those laws will protect you as well. It doesn’t work the other way.

                Also I don’t need to think twice about what I said. If you had mentioned being transgendered as part of being an underclass, I would agree with you. Your assertion (I’m not even calling it an argument) that millennials are becoming a permanent underclass is dumb, and I am under no obligation to agree with that dumb idea simply because the person making it is transgendered.

                I have personally witnessed age discrimination. It’s not mythical, it is a thing that happens and is common in many industries, particularly blue-collar ones such as construction. I have never in my 20 years working seen someone not get hired because they were too young, unless the job required them to serve alcohol and they were under the age of majority. I have seen multiple people not get hired because they “were too old.”

                On the plus side, in 20 years you’ll be protected by age discrimination laws too, and we can all come together and agree …. on how much the new Gen 2K sucks even worse than the millennials did. It’s as inevitable as the tides.

                Reply
                1. DArcy

                  That’s not what you said. You said that your partner is transgender, *therefore* she would be entitled to assault me for having an opinion she dislikes and you’d cheer her on for doing so. That’s a fucked up thing to say to anyone, but becomes hypocritically ironic when you actually say it to someone who is actually part of the same minority you just asserted grants “hitting rights”.

          2. Mike C.

            Look, I think we can acknowledge that there are serious economic issues that people entering the workforce at a specific time face – significant enough to seriously affect the rates and marriage, birth and home ownership without taking away from the effects systemic racism and misogyny that also exist within society.

            Reply
            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              Of course, but it’s really irresponsible, imo, to describe millennials as a “permanent underclass.” That’s just not an accurate statement, and it reduces the intersectional experiences of people who have been subordinated by our legal and cultural institutions. It also trivializes issues like endemic poverty and inter-generational trauma. From what I understand, millennials are not being denied the right to vote, to work, to travel, to be free of institutional/state violence, to exist outside of bondage/slavery, to be considered humans (and not property), or to marry/cohabitat on the basis of their age or generational status.

              I often comment on the unique and significant economic challenges facing millennials. And I think it’s fair to point out that conventional wisdom about the market and about that demographic often rests on faulty/false assumptions that are not supported by evidence. There is certainly discrimination against millennials that flows from those false assumptions. But that is categorically distinct from laws that seek to eliminate discriminatory behavior that is connected to centuries-long legacies of legal and social segregation, violence and subordination.

              Reply
              1. Mike C. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

                Yeah, it is a bit of hyperbole, but I can appreciate the frustration DArcy is feeling.

                Reply
              2. DArcy

                I didn’t assert that millennials *are* a permanent underclass, I said society was *on its way* to making us one. Certainly far more so than older people, who are already granted a legally unique and relatively unprecedented “one way only” protected class designation.

                (By which I mean: every other protected class designation works in all directions. Discrimination on the basis of race is illegal regardless of *which* race is being discriminated against; discrimination on the basis of sex is illegal regardless of *what* sex is being discriminated against. The restrictions on age are uniquely limited: it’s illegal to discriminate against those over 40, but legal to discriminate against all younger age groups.)

                Reply
                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  I think we’re going to disagree on this.

                  I’m sorry if I was overly harsh—I was just really taken aback by the idea that a generational group was “on its way” to becoming a “permanent underclass.” I think what we’re seeing is more akin to the experiences of people of all ages during the Great Depression (i.e., a product of large-scale market changes and macroecon) than it is a function of “olds” discriminating against young people solely on the basis of youth.

                2. Really?

                  I don’t think PBCH was nearly harsh enough. But I don’t have the energy to debate with the “poor me my generation has it worst and y’all are hurting our fee fees” garbage.

                  Grow up. Or, equally good, shut up.

                3. NextStop

                  In a decade or so, there will be millenials over 40. So even if the age discrimination laws made younger people an underclass, millenials would not be a *permanent* underclass.

        3. aebhel

          Oh, give me a break. I’m as annoyed by the anti-Millennial crap as anyone else, but we are not an underclass. We came of age in a lousy economy and our elders like to complain about us sometime, which makes us no different than plenty of other generations. It’s certainly not an excuse for this kind of egregious cliqueyness and misbehavior.

          Reply
        4. neverjaunty

          Oh, for crying out loud. This isn’t about millenials righteously seeking vengeance. This is about the very human trait, at every age, of wanting to be around people “like us” and particularly so for people who are part of majority culture.

          Reply
    12. Frances

      I agree with other comments here, but I’d also add that some of these categories do overlap with protected classes. If you have such an emphasis on drinking that an observant Muslim employee would be a “bad” cultural fit because they don’t drink, you’ve got a real problem.

      Reply
      1. Alton

        This is what I was going to say. Also, they can overlap in ways that may not be immediately obvious. For example, some areas are very racially/ethnically homogeneous, and jobs that aren’t commute-friendly may not attract a wide pool of applicants.

        Reply
      2. Observer

        It’s not just Muslims – a culture that excludes people ho are not up for weekly beer runs IS going to run up against religious discrimination issues at some point. Many Christian denominations are going to have a problem with this (even those that allow alcohol). So will a large percentage of Orthodox Jews.

        Religion is not the only area where this will almost certainly cause problems.

        Reply
        1. Gadfly

          Not to mention that there are reasons beer runs have traditionally been more of a guy thing: some activities carry different risks for different people.

          Reply
      3. char

        Exactly. And in addition to religious groups, a tacit rule against hiring non-drinkers might also disproportionately affect people with certain medical issues/disabilities that prevent them from drinking alcohol. (The psychiatric medication I used to take did not mix well with alcohol, for instance.)

        Same goes for the other qualities they mention. “Long commuters” could feasibly interact with protected classes like race, depending on where the company is located. “Parents” certainly seems likely to disproportionately affect people in a certain age bracket, and depending on implementation could also have a gendered component (e.g. if in practice mothers are more likely to be considered a “bad fit” than fathers).

        Reply
    13. MsMaryMary

      People only hiring other people who are just like them is bad for business regardless of whether or not a protected class is excluded. I used to work with a team of programmers who worked on a proprietary piece of software. We used to joke that being an arrogant @sshole was in the role description. Every single person on that team was extremely confident in their abilities and took criticism poorly. It didn’t matter if that person was a 20 something fresh out of school or had been at the company for 20 years. I was on the client team and did a lot of QA, and it was like pulling teeth to convince any of them that their code was not actually doing what it was supposed to do. In retrospect, while being an arrogant @sshole was not actually part of the hiring criteria, I’m sure hiring managers preferred highly self assured candidates with strong opinions. The team dynamics reinforced staunchly defending your approach and not being open to other ways of doing things. We wasted SO MUCH TIME arguing with that team. Programmers on other teams with other software were much more collaborative and had more successful projects.

      TL; DR – diversity of personality, perspective, communication style and thought process are just as important racial and cultural diversity (I am also of the opinion that encouraging racial and cultural diversity improves other forms of diversity along the way).

      Reply
      1. Nea

        People only hiring other people who are just like them is bad for business

        I am suddenly reminded of the initial Apple Health app that included the ability to track absolutely everything – except the menstrual cycle. This is what happens when people who are “just like” each other work together. They think they come up with a game changer — but it becomes a laughingstock the second they try to sell it to someone NOT just like them.

        Reply
        1. Xay

          Exactly. Or the face recognition software that couldn’t identify darker skinned faces.

          Ultimately the goal is to provide a good or service to someone else, not just have a company for the fun of working with people just like you.

          Reply
        2. Chinook

          “initial Apple Health app that included the ability to track absolutely everything – except the menstrual cycle. This is what happens when people who are “just like” each other work together”

          Fitbit still refuses to add this feature because it isn’t something everyone would use. Their female programmers (who are in the minority) keep pointing out that not everybody uses every feature but TPTB that decide on their priorities figure that tracking the cups of water you drink is much more vital health data that needs tracking.

          Reply
            1. Chinook

              If you are going to avoid fitbit for that reason, then you have to avoid all wearables with hear rate monitors. There is only one out there that allows you to enter menstrual data (Leaf) and it doesn’t record heart rate.

              On the plus side, Fitbit is showing openness to the idea as they have partnered with Clue so that Clue can take your Fitbit data and use it to figure out your fertility and chances you are pregnant. Neither one of them, though, is willing to give the data in a form that allows you to compare weight to points in your cycle without putting together your own spreadsheet. Clue even went as far as saying that they aren’t interested in that type of data because it has nothing to do with fertility and Fitbit washed its hands saying that this is something Clue could probably do better.

              Reply
    14. Shiara

      Because having a non-diverse group leads to situations where no one has enough experience to realise that someone senior sleeping with an associate is a problem that higher levels should be made aware of and the buddy-buddy culture makes people assume that everyone else knows/that they would know if there was a problem like this because of course they’d be told. Or where everyone wants to go on the beer run instead of staying behind to provide coverage which hurts the occasional outlier who is willing to skip out, and where, if too much social connectivity is emphasized, work starts to suffer because people are on social media when they should be doing other things.

      Sure, “diversity” in and of itself isn’t a panacea to all these ills. But the kind of companies where diversity thrives are also the kinds of places where upper management might make fewer erroneous assumptions about their own level of knowledge about what’s going on on their team.

      Not fitting into a work culture doesn’t necessarily mean that the work culture needs to change. And work culture can be not quite the right fit for some people while still being long-term sustainable for a company. But it sounds like there’s a number of underlying problems here, and the LW seems to be trying to embrace them as “that’s just our culture” rather than recognising that some of these are legitimate problems to those outside of the group think she appears to have cultivated.

      The beer runs don’t necessarily need to stop. But having them unduly burden particular individuals does.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        yeah, the beer runs apparently led DIRECTLY to this woman’s colleagues being unwilling to assist her.

        That’s a huge downside that directly affects work.

        Reply
    15. Dan

      In my line of work, diversity isn’t necessarily a skin color, national origin, age, or gender based thing.

      The types of diversity that are most beneficial to my team are more about academic and work background. I work on transportation initiatives for the federal government, and we need people who are licensed experts within that mode, we need people who have strong theoretical backgrounds (think PhDs in math), and we need people with strong management skills.

      If my team is comprised solely of subject matter experts, our work will lack academic rigor. How can you *prove* you have the best solution, or even determine what results you will actually get? Most of our subject matter experts can barely use Excel, let alone more powerful tools. But if my team is comprised of PhDs from top tier schools, we’ll have plenty of academic rigor, but lack the essential “real world” knowledge that is critical for turning out a useful solution. And if we are welcoming to those with strong management experience (which really only does come with time), nothing will ever get done.

      We need a little bit of everybody to do effective work.

      Reply
      1. I heart Jared Dunn

        The example about start ups needing people who have a high risk tolerance stood out for me, because when you only have people who have a high risk tolerance there’s a very good chance you take too much risk. Obviously some risk is necessary in that environment but you need someone who questions the level of risk to ensure viability. A former boss once framed it to me as on every team you need two kinds of people: the dreamers/idea creators and the operationalizers. The dreamers are then free to Come up witty any type of plan and then operationalizers look at it and say, ok here’s how we can do that, these are the trade offs or considersations with each approach. So in that sense, I think diversity of personality is incredibly important to a successful team.

        Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            In fact, the original meaning of “devil’s advocate” was someone on your team who looks for the weak spots in your point of view so you can suss them out. (As opposed to its current meaning, which is “somebody who wants to be contrary for no good reason”.)

            Reply
        1. GMN

          Yes, but these are examples where different types of people are needed or beneficial to do the work. I completely agree with that being a pro for the business, for example having dreamers and operationalizers! But how is hiring people who don’t want to/can’t socialize with their colleagues a pro? I can see it being a neutral, as good relationships isn’t vital for all positions, but I really can’t see it being a pro.

          Reply
      2. Sunshine on a cloudy day

        I wanted to say something along these lines…

        I worked for an extremely homogenous dept *in terms of work style* once. In terms of what traditionally comes to mind it was a fairly diverse group – men and women of various ages/family situations/commutes/backgrounds/ethnicity. However in terms of work style – every person was a reactive extrovert who mistrusted technology, had trouble making decisions and was very stong in theory but severely lacking in operational skills.

        Obviously I understand/support diversity initiatives based on race and culture (due to the same reasons mentioned above). However I strongly believe that for most teams (unless you have a team of multiple employees performing the exact same role) diversity in terms of skillset/workstyle/strengths and weaknesses are what really matter in building a strong and optimal team.

        I guess to sum it up – I don’t think people should look to hire an introvert just because the rest of the team are extroverts and they want some vague notion of “diversity”. I do think a manager should look at their team holistically and decide “hey we could use someome to really excel at some of the more heads down/focused responsibilities within the team. This person will really compliment Jane who is great at the back forth with the other departments and negotiating contracts, but doesn’t excel at the heads down stuff.” I know I’m using a super stereotypical example here, I just think overall focus should be on creating a well rounded team by diversifying experience/skillsets/work styles (as well as being sure that people are not being actively screened out due to “otherness”)

        Reply
    16. Observer

      The sort answer:

      A culture this circumscribed IS going to eventually run up against legal issues. It is also going to run up against issue in responding to it’s market, unless they can make good money in a very niche niche. In this case, it would not just be “non-parents” but “people under 30 who have few commits outside of work, and who have very few interests outside of beer and social media.” It’s also going to run into problems with staffing and internal function.

      In other words, even if you don’t care about the ethics of the matter, it’s a really stupid thing to do in terms of building a successful company.

      Reply
    17. Girasol

      Two reasons for a diverse culture other than “diverse viewpoints”: A) It limits hiring to people who fit this culture, screening out other age and lifestyle groups as well as other millennials who, as EA says, like boundaries and prefer a diverse workplace. That could make for a very limited hiring pool. B) As we’ve seen in the news lately, the “startup culture” in a non-diverse group of male millennials can develop some inbred bad habits that sink careers and companies with bad PR and/or legal issues. The OP could act now to assure this situation doesn’t start to wander down that road.

      Reply
    18. Sylvia

      When everyone’s very similar, their ideas might be very similar. You run the risk of making an echo chamber.

      Nobody’s taking your brewery runs away.

      Reply
    19. KellyK

      As k.k said above, it’s not just about attracting people, but about retaining people. A lot of 20-somethings who want to drink with their coworkers will eventually get married and have kids. Even those who never have kids or get married will probably have more outside commitments at some point in their life. Their parents will age and need more help, or they’ll have pets they need to care for or volunteer commitments they need to keep up with.

      It’s also a matter of not unduly limiting your candidate pool. If the best teapot designer you can find is an introverted, non-drinking parent, do you want the best teapot designer, or do you want to keep going down the list to, say, the fifth best because they don’t have kids. And do you want to lose that fifth best teapot designer in a couple years after they have a kid?

      I think it’s fine to have a workplace culture where people hang out together and take extended lunch breaks to go to the brewery every so often. What’s not fine is allowing a group to be so cliquey that not only do they stick their older coworker with covering for them on their brewery run, but they can’t be bothered to get off Snapchat long enough to help her with her actual work, then argue that she’s the problem when she leaves.

      Reply
    20. chomps

      Because having different life experiences means people will bring different perspectives to the table. This is true for racial and gender diversity as well as non-protected types of diversity.

      Reply
    21. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Just a suggestion: Maybe don’t frame arguments as being about a “sacred cow of India.”

      Reply
      1. OldJules

        My jaw dropped a little. Is this person being deliberately ‘edgy’ by starting the comment with a somewhat offensive phrase?

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I suspect that someone who does not see value in diversity and thinks it’s an overrated idea (but cannot provide any evidence other than their biases in support of that position) may also fail to consider the ways in which their language is offensive/pejorative towards U.S. minority groups.

          Reply
          1. Julia

            I was surprised they didn’t throw in a comment on ‘this PC nonsense that’s been going on recently’.

            Reply
    22. Maya Elena

      Whether studies show diverse groups to perform better is not relevant. The diversity mantra follows from an ethic of always trying to offset the playing field for any person perceived as marginalized by society in some way even a little bit. And I completely agree with you that that concern is overblown and that the world doesn’t owe you complete insulation from inconvenience because you commute farther, changed careers, have a child, etc.

      In this case, I think the boss could atand to pay more attention or be more empathetic if his employees are cliquish (always sucks), but I don’t think it warranted a reprimand from HR. Nothing bad happened; someone came to the team, felt like they didn’t fit in, moved to a new job. Nobody was seriously harmed or marginalized, and since millennials are in their mid thirties now, you can probably find a thirty someting parent to fit culturally into that team.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Did you read the follow up? Because a lot of bad things happened, including conduct that opened the company up to legal liability. Casting this as a cultural problem is not an accurate reflection of what OP has described.

        Reply
        1. Gadfly

          Echo chambers aren’t just a problem because they lack other input. They concentrate the shared input in a way that often isn’t healthy.

          It’s thought inbreeding. The first few generations might be fine, and then you start to get a lot of ‘hold my beer’ hemophiliacs.

          Reply
    23. TootsNYC

      have you never been in a situation in which someone who has done a lot of, oh, say, work on their car is able to bring in some aspect of that to solve a problem?

      And someone who has experience with kids has valuable insights in how to motivate people?
      And the single person who is very driven and plays competitive tennis is very focused and able to see when someone is imposing on your team?
      And someone who has elderly parents can set and example for not letting other people’s drama disrupt your own equilibrium?

      It’s not just about your target market.
      It’s about having viewpoints and contributions that are flavored by lots and lots of things.

      Reply
    24. Knitting Cat Lady

      Because different people look at problems from different angles.

      If you only have a certain type of person on your staff you severely limit your teams potential.

      Reply
  11. AnonEMoose

    As long as your employees are getting along in the office, and getting their work done effectively, their personal relationships (or lack thereof) aren’t really your concern. I get along with my coworkers, and am friends with a few – a very few – who don’t work in my department.

    That doesn’t mean I won’t have the casual “how was your weekend/vacation” chats. But, on the whole, I like to have some specific boundaries between my work life and my personal life. I don’t have any issues with those who don’t have those preferences (as long as they respect my boundaries), but I’ve found that this works better for me. I also don’t friend coworkers on social media. Just too much potential for drama.

    I agree with Alison that you should think about the culture you’re encouraging, and consider how it might help your team to incorporate some different points of view.

    Reply
  12. Havarti

    I’m not married, don’t have kids, or own a house and I’d still be bailing out of this situation. Social media dominating work to the point an employee can’t get help? Getting stuck doing coverage every week so everyone else can go drink? Aw hell no.

    Reply
    1. B

      This is exactly what I came here to say. This employee was always stuck having to cover for everyone else, when she asked her co-workers for help she was given the brush off and because she does not want to be friends outside of work with them she is deemed not a fit.

      You are the manager of a team. You are not there to encourage friendships and bonding – your responsibility is to manage the team equally and make sure all employees have the support and guidance they need. I do hope you are able to see why HR is concerned and why Alison wrote the response she did.

      Reply
    2. Why me?

      At one job I had I was consistently asked to stay late and finish “team” projects. When I asked about this during a review, I was told “well, you’re single, they all have families to go home to.”. When I protested, I was criticized for not being a team player.

      Reply
      1. Allison

        Guhhhh I am so sick of the idea that people without kids should have no problem staying late, because they couldn’t possibly have anything important to do after work.

        Reply
        1. Gadfly

          If nothing else, it raises the question if how you are expected to transition into the state of marriage and parenting if you are working late all the time. If that is so important to them, shouldn’t they be supporting your need to mate hunt?

          Reply
  13. cheeky

    Unless you work in hospitality, I can’t imagine a scenario where weekly beer runs fits with a typical office culture. Why are you allowing that?

    Reply
  14. Here we go again

    Alison’s advice is correct.

    OP, this is not about her being older or a millennial. People in their 30s are millennials now. I’m in my late 20s and hate social media. I consider myself an outgoing introvert – I can have good conversations with other people and am often the first person to strike up an acquaintanceship that **might** turn into a friendship, but a weekly brewery run at lunch sounds awful to me. I would also hate being encouraged to be friends with colleagues outside of work. I may grab drinks or lunch with someone and if it turns into a friendship, great, but I hate this idea that I **must** do this or else I am a bad “culture fit.”

    Reply
      1. Anony

        I’m in that age group and decidedly not a millennial. I think anyone who got out of high school before social media came around had a very different experience growing up. I personally like the term ‘Oregon Trail Generation’.

        Reply
        1. paul

          But didn’t we all die fording the river, or of dysentery?

          I keep hearing people born from about 80-2000 for millenials. Which is still a gigantic gap as far as what life was like growing up. Someone that’s 37 vs someoone that’s 17 in todays age…wew. Came up in different worlds.

          Reply
          1. Snark

            No, it was BUTTHEAD and A**CLOWN who died of dysentery. *pours out a 40 for his homies*

            My wife and I drove past Ft. Laramie on the way to South Dakota a few weeks ago. The “should we stop and hunt?” and “I think the dog got dysentery” and “an oxen just died!” comments were incredibly confusing to my Brazilian mother in law, who was with us.

            Reply
        2. You're Not My Supervisor

          Yeah, I was born in ’87 and even I didn’t experience social media until college. I’m not sure what made them decide that the upper end of the age bracket should be “millennials”… is it that we had access to a computer as a child? Because my MSDOS game might have been fun, but I wouldn’t have called it life changing lol

          Reply
          1. Mike C.

            1982 is the general line because it means that we graduated high school at the turn of the century. It’s arbitrary as it any other line, but that’s the reasoning.

            Reply
            1. Dan

              1982 is a bit younger than most “general lines” that I’ve seen. 1980 seems to be the line I see most often, although I do think that 1980 is a little too old to fit most of the cultural millennial stereotypes. For example, I had one friend in college with a cell phone, and I didn’t get my first one until I graduated. Google? Not a thing I grew up with.

              My brother is born in 1982, and is two years younger than me — let me tell you, it feels like we grew up in the same generation.

              Reply
              1. MegaMoose, Esq.

                I think the generation divide started with the reasoning Mike C. mentioned and got pushed back to 1980 probably just because base 10 is appealing. I don’t think it’s worth taking generational stereotypes seriously, especially when you get people born as late as as the late 80s complaining about being included as a millennial. At this point, I just substitute “millennial” for “young person who annoys me” and forget about it.

                Reply
            2. You're Not My Supervisor

              Well that makes sense, now I feel stupid :) I guess I always assumed the deciding factor was access to technology, but the name should have given it away…

              Reply
            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              There is some debate on where the line begins, though. Some have put it at 1982, others at 1984, and still others at 1986. It just means there’s a big gray patch for the cut-off for “older” millennials.

              But yes, generational cut-offs are almost always fairly arbitrary.

              Reply
            4. krysb

              If you go by the 15-year generation rule, the last Boomer year was 1965, making the last Gen-X year 1980, making the last Millennial year 1995. Don’t get me wrong, as a 1985 Millennial, I have very, very little in common with 1994ers in life experience, especially because of the differences in technology in our childhoods, but we are technically the same generational group.

              Reply
        3. Here we go again

          I just looked this up because I had never heard of it before. I was born in the late 80s, but very clearly remember everything the first article I browsed discusses – playing the Oregon Trail in elementary school, AOL, MySpace, waiting for photos to develop…. I definitely think “millennials” need to be divided up, but I think those that don’t fit the stereotype expands much further than people realize.

          Reply
        4. KHB

          The dividing line I’ve heard is whether you finished high school before the internet became widespread. Which makes sense to me: I’m 39, my family got their first AOL account my senior year of high school, and I was in maybe the second or third class at my university where every student automatically got an email address.

          Reply
          1. KHB

            …which is to say, I feel like I’m close to the cusp between Gen X and Millennials, in that if I’d been a few years older or a few years younger, I can really see how it would have made a huge difference in how I communicate and process information. For example, I find it pretty much inconceivable that anyone could have done the job I have now without the internet, even though I work with plenty of people who are old enough to have done it.

            If anyone asks, though, I call myself late Gen X instead of early Millennial, just so I can imagine that all the Millennial bashers aren’t talking about me.

            Reply
            1. Relly

              I am on the same cusp you are (born in 78) and I also define myself as a late Gen Xer, but that’s not because of anti-millenial bashing but rather because I was way into grunge and flannel and other mid-90s slacker-isms, lol.

              Reply
              1. Rosa

                and we graduated into a minor recession, not The Recession. I think that’s really hard to undervalue. I was born in ’74 (so, graduated high school in a recession and college in a boom) and my work experience is really distinct from the main group of Millennials who spent their early adulthood in a terrible job market getting blamed for not being as rich or independent as they “should” be at that age. It’s like if we blamed the Silent Generation for not buying enough cars and staving off the Great Depression.

                Reply
          2. phedre

            That dividing line makes sense for me too. I was born in 1983 and had a very different experience growing up than my sister who was born in 1989. I didn’t have a cell phone until I was 20, smart phones weren’t available, the internet was only starting to be widely used in early college or late high school, and social media wasn’t like it is now. Facebook didn’t start until my junior or senior year of college and you needed a .edu email to access it. My sister had a cell phone at 12, had Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr/whatever accounts during high school, and can barely remember a world without the internet. Even though we’re just 6 years apart, our formative years looked very different.

            Reply
            1. Kate 2

              Your sister’s experiences are so fascinating to me because I was born in 1990 and had none of them! Maybe it was growing up in a rural low-income area? My experiences are basically the same as yours actually.

              Reply
              1. Chinook

                “Maybe it was growing up in a rural low-income area? My experiences are basically the same as yours actually.”

                I have theory that “generational experiences” shift slightly later the more rural (and/or maybe the less economically advantaged?) you are. DH is 10 years younger than me (A Gen Xer) and a Millenial from the greater Toronto area. His Mom is 15 years older than me and from rural (as in still only has dial-up) Newfoundland. I am from rural Alberta and have way more in common culturally with my mother-in-law than my husband, especially when it comes to our childhoods. It is almost like we were stuck in a time warp and DH is from the future sometimes.

                Reply
            2. Here we go again

              Are you sure about this? I would ask your sister if she feels the same way. I am a year older than your sister (born in 1988) and my experience is much more similar to yours than what you are describing for your sister. Did your parents financial situation change drastically in that time?

              We had a shared family cell phone at when I was 15. I think it was my senior year of high school that we each got our own. Smartphones came out when I was in college. I had a Facebook account senior year of hs, but you had to be invited if you didn’t have the .edu email address and originally HS and college Facebook were separate. I had never heard of Twitter/Tumber/Instagram until recently.

              Reply
              1. phedre

                Oh, she does feel the same. And no, my parents’ financial situation didn’t change during that time. We were/are middle class.

                And I was definitely confusing which social media sites she used – she had Myspace (which didn’t start until 2003 but was pretty popular within a year or two, so wasn’t a factor when I was in HS), Live Journal, and probably something else I can’t remember. Tumblr started towards the end of high school for her, but she was pretty active on it. Facebook did expand access to high schools starting in 2005 that was invite only (I just looked it up just to be sure of the dates). She was a sophomore then. She didn’t have Twitter because it wasn’t a thing back then.

                But even though I was mistaken about which social media sites she used specifically, I think the crux of my argument still stands. She was pretty active on Myspace along with all of her friends, was a pretty heavy internet user, and had to be pried away from her cell phone in high school. My parents used to confiscate her phone at 9pm because otherwise she’d be up all night texting. It was a very different experience than I had in high school.

                Reply
                1. Here we go again

                  Fascinating. Perhaps it’s an individualized/regional thing then since so many others around her age had such different experiences!

            3. FDCA In Canada

              I have to say that I think even that is cutting it very close–if your sister was born in 1989 she’s one year younger than I am, and I wasn’t able to get Facebook until I had a university email address. I think it launched to the general public in 2007, which would have been close to her finishing? Twitter launched in 2006 but didn’t gain mass popularity until 2007, and Instagram didn’t launch until 2010. Tumblr was a 2007 launch as well. So even if your sister was a very early adopter, she would have been getting those things just as she finished school–I think that makes it a much different experience from having all of those things being standard-issue during high school like they appear to be now.

              Reply
              1. phedre

                I just responded above, but figured I’d copy my response here:

                “I was definitely confusing which social media sites she used – she had Myspace (which didn’t start until 2003 but was pretty popular within a year or two, so wasn’t a factor when I was in HS), Live Journal, and probably something else I can’t remember. Tumblr started towards the end of high school for her, but she was pretty active on it. Facebook did expand access to high schools starting in 2005 that was invite only (I just looked it up just to be sure of the dates). She was a sophomore then. She didn’t have Twitter because it wasn’t a thing back then.

                But even though I was mistaken about which social media sites she used specifically, I think the crux of my argument still stands. She was pretty active on Myspace along with all of her friends, was a pretty heavy internet user, and had to be pried away from her cell phone in high school. My parents used to confiscate her phone at 9pm because otherwise she’d be up all night texting. It was a very different experience than I had in high school.”

                Reply
        5. Saysame

          I too prefer that term. I was one of the first kids in my school to get the Internet, which we got it about 1997. By the time I graduated college, everyone had it. We are a weird group of folks who graduated high school still using Encyclopedias for reference papers. I remember my senior year, when the teacher said one of sources for a paper HAD to come from the Internet, and everyone just groaned because that meant 3/4 of the class would have to figure out how to use one of the four Internet-enabled computers our town library had.

          Reply
          1. TiffIf

            I was born in ’84 and high school is really where I started using internet, though not heavily because it was dial-up.

            Reply
        6. AKJ

          I’m about to turn 39. I always thought of myself as a young Gen-X’er, but I like “Oregon Trail Generation” better!
          My high school had just gotten internet access my senior year, I had dial up at home about two years before that. I remember when it was billed hourly and I ran up a $100.00 bill on my Mom’s credit card.
          I did read an article recently that suggested those of us late Gen-X/early Millennials are almost a generation of our own – “Xennials,” I think they called it, because we have more in common than older Millennials do with younger ones, but were more tech influenced than other Gen-Xers.

          Reply
          1. chomps

            yes! I was discussing this with a few people the other day. I’m 33 and they were all around 35 and we were talking about how we’re Xennials. I find that fits me better than Millennial.

            Some of the issue is that generational grouping usually last for 15-20 years. For example, baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. Some boring in 46 had way different life experiences than someone born in 64. Which is why our obsession with generations is kind of pointless. But I digress.

            Reply
        7. minisnowder

          You don’t get to decide whether or not you fit into this age bracket just because you don’t like the writings on the group. Facebook came out my freshman year of college, and I’m still VERY much a millennial.

          Reply
          1. Perse's Mom

            Facebook launched nearly a decade after I graduated high school, and by some definitions, I’m still included in the Millennial generation. I don’t agree with those definitions, and I don’t have to, because the dividing line is not set in stone. I’m young Gen X/Oregon Trail.

            Reply
          2. Anony

            It’s less an age bracket than having to navigate coming into adulthood while dealing with social media and ubiquitous cell phones. That’s a distinction has had a huge impact on the millennial generation, imho.

            Reply
          3. You're Not My Supervisor

            I mean, none of us “get to decide” whether we fit in an age bracket, we are the age that we are…? I am not saying I don’t belong to the millennial group, I just wasn’t sure who determined which years fall into that group.

            Reply
          4. Kate 2

            Um, calling people in that age group (born from 1980 onward) “Millenials” is a pretty recent thing. We used to be called “Generation Y”. Then “The Lost Generation” as the “Millenial Generation” became a huge cultural influence, and we started to get forgotten. Now both 40 year olds and teenagers get called “Millenials” even though we have had wildly disparate formative experiences.

            Reply
          5. KellyK

            Part of this is a strict age bracket thing and part of it is an identity thing. If you’re on the cusp, you certainly get to think of yourself as whichever generation makes the most sense to you, or use one of the cusp generation names if that fits. There’s no rule that I (born in 81) *must* refer to myself as a Gen X-er and my husband (82) must refer to himself as a millennial. We can both use “Oregon Trail Generation” if we want.

            Likewise, you can acknowledge that it’s a label applied to people your age but that carries assumptions that don’t really fit you, and ask people (especially at work!) to not stereotype you on generational terms.

            There’s no “authorized” definition of a generation that’s handed down from on high, so people are free to argue about what the labels mean, both in general and to them personally. I mean, it would be silly to call yourself a Gen X-er if you’re 23, but there’s an awful lot of gray area at the border between any two generations.

            Reply
        8. Kate 2

          Me too! When I was 18 or a bit younger, millennials were supposed to be the generation just being born, from what I remember seeing in the media. Now suddenly 40 year olds and 18 year olds are both millenials.

          I prefer gen Y, the lost generation, generation Catalano, generation Oregon Trail.

          Reply
        9. Typhon Worker Bee

          I read an interesting article recently about the “Xennial microgeneration” – people conventionally defined as younger Gen Xers or older Millennials, who have a shared and distinct experience of an analogue childhood but a digital adulthood. I’m one of the youngest Gen Xers (born 1977), but the label never really felt like it fit me, so I am firmly in favour of the Xennial label!

          Reply
      2. Edith

        I’m glad you realize this, Alison, but I wish you’d pointed it out to the LW. His idea that the employee wasn’t a good fit in part because she didn’t fit in with her Millennial coworkers is downright silly when you acknowledge the fact that she’s a Millennial too. The issue is the behavior and the environment, not the age of the players.

        Reply
        1. Edith

          Some say 1982. I’ve heard 1980 cited far more often, but YMMV. The oldest Millennials are 37, so not exactly “about to turn 40,” but definitely a lot older than most people who complain about our generation realize.

          Reply
        2. chomps

          Yeah. the people who created the term (Strauss & Howe) say it starts in 1982, which is why people use that year so often. A lot of people disagree though, so it varies. If you click on my name, there’s an article about them. Although Howe thinks the generation ends around 2004, which seems off to me.

          Reply
  15. AdAgencyChick

    Something I would like to know for future reference, and would have liked to know at my last job: If you see cliques forming on your team, when and how should you break them up or encourage people to be more inclusive?

    At my last job, many of the staff did like to go to lunch together a lot and sometimes hang out after work, but a couple of people, one of whom was one of my direct reports, were excluded from the social swirl. This did bleed over into work, because the clique-y employees would still stick together a lot. There wasn’t anything like romantic relationships going on (that I know of), but it was still people spending more time together than I’ve seen at other places I’ve worked.

    I know I could have done better managing this, but I’m not sure what I should have done that wouldn’t have crossed a line into telling my employees what to do outside of work. It doesn’t feel right to tell your direct reports, “If you invite two people to drinks, you have to invite the entire team!” just like a kid bringing cupcakes to class in kindergarten. I also felt funny saying something like “you can’t go off and work in a conference room with just Wakeen and Lucinda — I need you to be at your desk, or to have Jane at your meeting too” if Jane isn’t directly involved in Wakeen and Lucinda’s project but feels left out because the employees are spending more time apart than the project warrants.

    Would love to hear thoughts on how I could have handled this better, because I’m sure it will come up again at some point in the future.

    Reply
    1. You're Not My Supervisor

      See, this is what I was wondering too. I can see objecting to the beer runs if they mean there is not enough coverage, or making sure staff is not using social media when they should be working. But how much can you do about the fact that some team members are just going to get along better with others, and some may feel left out?

      Reply
      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        I was on a team of 4 where 3 of us got along really well and the fourth was… well, problematic.

        But we did our damnedest not to let our personal feelings about her impact our workflow. We had to rely on each other to get things done and we didn’t exclude her from anything that was work related or would cause her not to be able to get her work done effectively.

        People aren’t always going to get along and that’s fine, but everyone needs to be treated with the same respect in the workplace.

        Reply
      2. paul

        honestly I don’t know how much of that you can really fix (people with more experience may have ideas). That’s why the stuff that really jumped out at me here was work/manager related: Actively encouraging out of work friendships, having them dump coverage duties on her, refusing to help, etc. All that extends well beyond meshing better with some than others. Quit telling your people to hang out after hours, mabybe explain in simple, stark terms that work before play at work, and that one person doesn’t always get the short end of the stick with group activities.

        Reply
    2. Falling Diphthong

      On numbers, I think it’s a reflection of the weddings rule–you invite less than half, or all. So if you have 12 people in position X and 3 or 4 of them have formed a deeper friendship group, that isn’t a problem the way it is if 8 or 9 of them have formed a deeper friendship group.

      How you then go about telling 30 year olds to play nice and invite the other associates…

      Reply
      1. KellyK

        I think that’s a good rule! I also think that it’s reasonable to ask people to be a little bit subtle and discreet about social plans that are exclusive. Go to lunch with whoever you want, but don’t make a big production of talking about where to go and getting people together and migrating out as a big group—while some people are being excluded.

        With the brewery thing specifically, I’d say you can either invite the coworker along or you can take turns staying behind to cover, but asking someone to constantly cover for you while you go do fun things that they aren’t invited to is pretty rude. It’s totally within a manager’s purview to say “socialize with whoever you want, but don’t be blatantly rude to the coworkers you don’t want to socialize with.”

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          “I also think that it’s reasonable to ask people to be a little bit subtle and discreet about social plans that are exclusive.”

          This is actually an etiquette rule. One of the most important and least negotiable.

          You do not discuss a social occasion in front of people who were not invited. Especially if there is any possibility that they could have expected to be. And especially not at length.

          Talk about it later.

          Reply
          1. KellyK

            Yep. I think working in a shared space makes it harder to avoid, and I’m okay with it being less of a hard, fast rule at work than in social situations. For example, if you work in a cube farm, you shouldn’t need to stage a covert op to go to lunch with a couple people without having to invite the whole team. But keep it to a reasonable minimum, don’t flaunt the fact that you’re excluding people.

            Reply
    3. Ypsiguy

      As somebody who has been reading this column daily for a year of so, I am still amazed at the percentage of letters here that are about problems caused by cliquishness on a work team, or (more broadly) letting personal feelings about others interfere with work.

      Reply
    4. MsMaryMary

      I think it depends in the kind of work your team is doing, but you could use project work to break up cliques. Wakeen and Lucinda may naturally collaborate together if they’re friends, but as a manager you could assign the next project to Wakeen and Jane, and ask Lucinda to work independently on her new assignment. Then for the next round of projects, maybe Jane and Lucinda collaborate and Wakeen works with Percival in IT.

      I’ve worked on teams that, in retropsect, were kind of clique-y and incestuous. But at that company it was a reletively short term problem. We had a new set of project work every 2-3 months, and every 12-24 months there was a big client alignment change and everyone would be shuffled around. That’s probably more disruption than is ideal, but it did break up the intrateam cliques while helping people build networks throughout the company.

      Reply
    5. Salamander

      I think there are a couple of key things a boss can do.

      First, if there are backhanded comments flying about the excluded employee, shut those down when you hear them. If these are allowed to go on within the boss’s earshot, that’s tacit approval.

      Another thing that helps is to make sure the excluded employee is included in relevant e-mails. Being in the loop on projects helps immensely.

      And if folks have interchangeable skills, mix up who you assign with whom. Do cross-training, so that Gregarious Greg and Popular Patty aren’t always assigned together. Mix things up. Occasionally bring folks in from other departments, if you can. The thing with cliques is that they ultimately need to realize that they will need to work with people who are not their BFFs.

      Make sure that everyone has equal access to resources. If there’s a piece of essential equipment that the Cool Kids are hogging, you need to shut that down. This happens a lot. This resource can be conference rooms, laptop computers, or even the office three-hole-punch.

      Pay attention to who gets assigned the scut work. Like in the OP’s example, the person who left always got stuck manning the desk while everyone else went on a beer run (I can’t believe that this is a thing in a professional office, but clearly, I’ve been involved in different industries). Make sure that this gets distributed around evenly.

      Don’t play favorites with professional development opportunities. If Gragarious Greg got to go on training last month, offer it to Laid-Back Lou this month.

      You don’t have to police peoples’ personal relationships and force people to hold hands. Just make sure the assignments are fair, the flow of information is free, people get access to the tools they need, and introduce opportunities to interface with others.

      Reply
    6. TootsNYC

      “This did bleed over into work, because the clique-y employees would still stick together a lot.”

      This is what you address.

      “You guys are friends, and that’s fine, but I see this bleeding over into work. I need you to not have personal conversations about your personal out-of-office plans where other employees can hear them. I need you to reach out to work with your other colleagues, and to make sure that the casual conversations in the office include them. i need you to be more than civil to everyone in the office.
      “And no, I’m not interested in hearing you “rules lawyer” this–this is basic common sense, and I expect you to understand it and to implement it.”

      Reply
  16. Electric Hedgehog

    As a millennial who doesn’t drink, is married with a kid, and hates hanging out with coworkers after work: OP, I think your definition of a professional millennial team is far too narrow.

    Reply
    1. Don't Take My Brewery Run Away

      OP definitely should not have phrased it in terms of millennials. That’s waaaaay to close to age discrimination for comfort.

      But if OP wants to hire an outgoing, extroverted team of any age that likes hanging out and going for brewery tuns, that’s OK. That’s how startups thrive, because the startup lifestyle is kind of 24/7, and people who want to go home by 5 at all costs won’t do well.

      Reply
      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        There’s nothing in the letter to indicate this is a start up. I think you’re projecting a little here in the comments.

        Reply
      2. fposte

        I would slash “outgoing and extroverted” but otherwise agree with your last paragraph. If people like hanging out together, it doesn’t matter how they identify on the -vert spectrum, which has taken a peculiar dominance in discourse generally and here. And if you focus on how people *are* rather than how they get along, it suggests what you’re looking for is cookie-cutter employees rather than people who can appreciate a specific workplace culture.

        Reply
      3. sunny-dee

        There is nothing in the letter that implies this is a startup or a 24/7 type of job. In fact, the OP was sad to see her go and pleased with her work, right up to the point where the exit interview pointed out the issues in the department, and suddenly the employee is a bad culture fit.

        I work in tech and have worked in startups in very demanding hours, and I would still despise the culture that the OP is describing. “Jerkwad” isn’t a culture.

        Reply
      4. Observer

        That’s actually provably untrue.

        But, I and others have said this multiple times, so I’m not going to bore everyone with another response.

        It would, however, be a good idea for you to think about WHY you are so married to the idea that it’s a good idea.

        Reply
      5. Kate 2

        But that’s going to discriminate against people with kids, which leads to age discrimination, since people with kids tend to be older, and also discriminating against women, who tend to do more childcare, and against religious people who don’t drink, and against recovering alcholics and people who due to health issues can’t drink!

        Reply
      6. veteran

        …the startup lifestyle is kind of 24/7, and people who want to go home by 5 at all costs won’t do well.

        No. This is the ingenue’s perception of startup culture. If a startup, or any company, is habitually running in crisis mode with 24/7 work demands, they’re doing something very wrong. Management has committed to impossible deadlines, management is failing to organize the projects in reasonable ways, or the staff are not well able to do the work. Or workers are blowing off too much time and not actually working in the office, which is also a management problem.

        Programmers (and I extrapolate to other work generally) who pull those famously iconic coding all-day-all-nighters usually produce buggy, crappy code. One percent of the programmers who do this are walk-on-water geniuses who will produce usable, organized, sound code. The problem is that the 99% who cannot do this think they’re also the 1% who can. The most successful—in terms of product and money—companies don’t need to burn their staff out with manufactured panics; the workforce goes home at 5 because management has the work properly organized and under control.

        Reply
        1. neverjaunty

          THIS. Imagine how much more work this team would be getting done if they weren’t screwing around on Snapchat all day.

          Reply
  17. Caro in the UK

    I agree with everything Alison and the other commenters have said.

    But I just want to add that your use of “professional millennials” is a bit problematic for me. Firstly, it’s generalising an entire age group, which is rarely something which adds anything useful to a discussion. And secondly, it propagates exactly the type of stereotyping that many millennials have been trying to fight for years… that we’re obsessed with social media, dismissive of our older coworkers’ opinions and generally lazy in the workplace. Not all millennials act in this way, hardly any in fact, and I certainly wouldn’t call them professional.

    Reply
    1. aebhel

      Yeah, ‘professional millennials’ here seems to mean ‘lazy, juvenile, and cliquey’ (I can’t get over the fact that people are on social media instead of doing their jobs, to the point that this person had to cover for them, and the manager doesn’t see this as a problem). I’m a millennial, and I resent the implications of that.

      Reply
      1. Sylvia

        I’m a millennial, too, and not a particularly tight-laced or conservative one. Still, the “professional millennial” behavior here sounds unprofessional.

        Reply
      2. MashaKasha

        Agree. What is being described is not a “team of professional millennials”. It’s a clique. Doesn’t matter if they bond around being in their 20s, snapchatting and beer runs, or being in their late 30s, baby showers, and housewarming parties. A clique is a clique is a clique. Their age does not matter, what matters is that they are a closed group that bonds around non-work-related activities and keeps the outsiders out; even when those outsiders are actually their teammates that they need to work together with. Which is ridiculously unproductive in a workplace. We come to work to get things done and ensure that the company makes money and we get paid; and to ensure that everyone we work with can do the same. The Regina George reenactments can be done on your free time.

        Reply
  18. Snark

    So, I say this as both an older Millennial (34) who’s a beardy, beer-drinkin’ Colorado boy who likes beer runs and chilling with his dudes and as someone with a kid, a house, a touch of introversion, and priorities besides being besties with my coworkers:

    Yer doin’ it rong, OP. Sorry. You’re creating a very young, very male, very chummy, very insular and homogenous group that is going to feel very exclusionary to people who, say, don’t especially want to socialize with their coworkers and resent being pushed to, who aren’t active on social media, who aren’t 25, and who have outside work commitments. There’s a culture fit problem, but the problem is you are a bad fit with the rest of workplace culture, not that your older female employee didn’t fit with your culture.

    And, frankly, what you’re describing doesn’t paint a great picture of you as a manager of professionals. I can give you a pass on not knowing that two of your employees were boning, because people can be stealthy with that. But the work time beer runs, actively pushing people to be *friends,* not just friendly, both in and out of work, and what sounds like endemic social media use at work? That doesn’t fly most places I’ve worked, and I work with scientists in Colorado, so it’s not like I hang with folks who aren’t down with a crispy IPA. If all that sounds about right to you, you need some help interrogating exactly what it is you think the point of work and workplaces is.

    Reply
    1. Tobias Funke

      You the real MVP.

      But in all seriousness, OP. This culture is going to harm way more than it’s going to help.

      Reply
        1. Salamander

          After reading the later comment…I can’t even wrap my head around where this “management style” hatched from.

          Reply
          1. Snark

            The downstairs bathroom at a frat house. Then incubated in the same cigar-smoke filled conference room where they came up with subprime mortgages.

            Reply
    2. SharedDriveUser

      Yes – exactly this. OP, please please allow this thoughtful response change the way you are approaching your team, your work, and your management style.

      Thank you, Snark!

      Reply
  19. Hey Karma, Over here.

    Not going to pile on, Alison said it all. But I want to comment on this statement:
    I don’t feel like this is a cultural issue; I think this was her not being a good fit for our team.
    Culture means team. You are writing that she does not fit in with your team. I get that. But really think about what a work team means. It means not punishing someone, even tacitly for opting out of non-work things.
    Question: if she had joined in the beer run, could the office have been left empty? Why did she feel like she had to stay? It sounded like the other staff essentially told her since she wasn’t going she had to cover for them because the manager said it was fine for them to go. So she stayed. Every.Time.
    I think this is something you could have seen and dealt with.

    Reply
    1. Bejeweled Librarian

      Agreed. I am wondering if the OP noticed this was going on, why wasn’t a schedule created so that each day a different person covered the office during lunch?

      Reply
  20. Nonnonnon

    Thank you Alison. I was the slightly-older team member that was frustrated with the cliquey-ness of the rest of the team. If the manager would have the courage to dig a little bit, she may find a lot more than just a disparate camaraderie. She may find toxicity, harassment, etc….she already found an affair. In my case, after complaining about the team environment (including reporting sexual harassment from one of my coworkers), my manager threw up her hands and said she didn’t want to get involved. I was fired a few weeks later.

    At least your HR department cares about your employees’ experience.

    Reply
    1. Old Admin

      I have had the exact same experience with a younger cliquey team, down to the sexual harassment, and not being taken serious when I reported it (the old “he’s just joking” saw when I was called a slut in front of the entire team, and nobody cared).
      I avoided being fired or leaving by changing to a slightly less bad team I can bear.

      Reply
      1. Nonnonnon

        Oh, that’s awful. Sorry you went through that. It seems that this letter struck a chord with others that have experienced similar treatment.

        Hope you can find a better team!

        Reply
  21. Kelli

    The expectation that everyone is friends in the office leads to more problems. I left a job a year ago where most managers treated their groups like friends…which led to no accountability (when I asked why Manager X couldn’t talk to Fergus about getting his work done I was told they were friends and it would be awkward).

    Don’t try and imitate a sitcom work place…if people are hanging out and drinking beer the odds that the works is getting done is very low.

    Reply
    1. Dan

      I had (she just recently stepped down) a millennial manager who just wanted everybody to get a long. Decisions should be made “collaboratively” and by “consensus.” Aka, she was happy as long as nobody was unhappy. She’d freeze when I’d say “X and I disagree on a solution. You pick.”

      IMHO, the group was not well run.

      Reply
    2. Relly

      (when I asked why Manager X couldn’t talk to Fergus about getting his work done I was told they were friends and it would be awkward).

      I just want to head desk until my face bleeds on that one.

      Reply
  22. Falling Diphthong

    I don’t understand the beer run. (I don’t drink beer, but do eat at brew pubs because I like the food.)

    Is the idea that they are driving to a place that sells beer, and buying a bunch of cases for the week ahead? So it could be replaced with a Costco or Staples run that everyone does together? Or a bakery run? I realize that traditions grow up and it’s the appeal of the social bonding and ritual, rather than whatever the actual activity is just on its own. But driving to a warehouse store on lunch en masse every week after you stick the newbie with covering phones seems poorly thought out, whatever the warehouse.

    Reply
    1. Dust Bunny

      I think they probably mean a beer-centric lunch at a brewpub. Which . . . I guess? I’m not wild about alcohol-focused activities as a regular office thing.

      Reply
    2. Jerry Vandesic

      It’s probably a microbrewery that makes and sells a small number of cases every week. People line up at the right time and are able to buy a case until the limited supply runs out. A brewery like this doesn’t sell through Costco, or even through a party store. The batches are small.

      Reply
  23. hbc

    “…her fellow associates were unwilling to assist her….” This is huge. This is too big to ignore just because it never came up in your one-on-ones with her. “This information didn’t get to me in the preferred way” is not a reason to ignore important information. The question is, do you think she would make something like that up? If not, then a whole lot of other questions follow, such as why she wouldn’t feel comfortable telling you that the beer crew was icing her out. Or why your whole team knew about the senior/junior dating but either thought it was cool or didn’t trust you to handle it properly.

    And even if she lied about everything, you have some work to do regardless. If you need your team to be besties in exchange for getting work support (ugh), then you need to make sure your screening process isn’t bringing in the quiet homebodies. (That doesn’t mean screening out the oldsters or parents–I’ve got a couple of 50 somethings here who out socialize every millenial we’ve got.) Your one-on-ones should have been making clear that she wasn’t doing Group Camaraderie the way you need. You should have been speaking up that one person doesn’t get left to man the office every time there’s a lunch.

    If this is the office culture you want, then you need to cultivate it just like any other.

    Reply
    1. Gingerblue

      ” “This information didn’t get to me in the preferred way” is not a reason to ignore important information.”

      That’s really nicely put.

      Reply
  24. L.

    I feel for the departing employee, and I’m aghast at the OP’s reaction. I am about the same age as the employee and despite my attempts to be friendly to all, I’ve fallen into a similar dynamic in my office – there’s a clique who does fun things that I’m not invited to, but they still convince our shared managers to pass work on to me. I can’t object because then I just further establish myself as someone who complains and does Not Belong, and I guess I could have a manager who thinks like the OP. The worst incident I’ve experienced on cliques is all the “in crowd” planned and went on a vacation together to the Carribean last year – about half of the staff at my level in the organization– and took pains to leave me out. I am not sure I would have gone if invited, but to find out I’d have to take on a bunch of work while half the staff was gone, and that I was purposefully excluded from that trip, just crushed me. I still tear up a little thinking of it now. The most recent incident was both a manager (!) and a peer-level member of the clique passed work outside of my description on to me, then went to play softball while I worked late. I try to ignore it and just do good work, but again that just reinforces that I’m not in The Group. It definitely hurts my morale and one reason I don’t plan to stick around.

    Reply
    1. Salamander

      I’m sorry that this happened to you. It really, really sucks.

      I wish more managers would realize that in order for “fun” clique-y workplaces to occur, the grunt work has to be shoved off onto someone else. How else do these midday beer runs and softball games supposed to get accomplished? I don’t see anyone closing down the business and putting a greeting on the voice mail something like:

      “Hey! You’ve reached XYZ Corporation. We’re not in the office right now. We’re out on a beer run, so we can’t provide any support for our product at this time. We’ll be back when we feel like it. Maybe after the softball game? Peace out.”

      There’s always someone holding down the fort.

      Reply
      1. KellyK

        Yep. In a healthy workplace culture, that gets rotated around so it’s not the same person all the time. (Even if there’s one admin who *always* covers during team lunches and parties because that’s explicitly part of their job, you at least bring them a cupcake, thank them for all their help, and do some get-togethers after work hours so they aren’t completely left out.)

        Reply
    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

      Wow, this is just vile. I seriously don’t understand this mindset at all. It makes no sense. People like this are ugly and cruel, and most of all, there’s very little of value in them. They don’t have anything to offer and instead of trying to improve, they make themselves even more worthless. This kind of behaviour always catches up with a person.

      You deserve far better than this. Good luck with your job search. I hope you find a fantastic job soon! In the meantime, treat yourself and take care of yourself. Sending you all the good thoughts!

      Reply
  25. Letter Writer

    There was more to this that came out after she left:
    Her co-workers in her pod had taken pictures of her and captioned them inappropriately on SnapChat-making fun of her weight, her clothes/style, how much water she drank etc. Someone who had seen them had saved them and also complained to HR. When I find out who complained, I want to move them to another team.

    We are in insurance/brokerage firm as part of a larger Fortune 500 company. The brewery was owned by a company whose business we were trying to attract. No one ever asked her but just assumed that she would cover for them because she had made statements that she wasn’t a drinker anyway.

    The associates sleeping with one another was knowledge across the team by that point but not to me. They did work on the same accounts so they were reporting to one another.

    I’m 28 and this was my first management job; I wanted to build a team that would work well with me and share my ideas of a good time so work is fun. If I knew she would have been like this, I would have pushed back on my director not to hire her in favor for someone younger but she had a fantastic background that wowed my higher ups.

    Reply
    1. Malibu Stacey

      Wait, are you saying the problem is that someone *complained* about those snapchats? Because that would not be my problem.

      Reply
      1. Anonygoose

        Yes, that’s bullying in the workplace. Your team has some serious problems, that *might* be down to them being young and inexperienced (although it sounds like they are just jerks), but that’s why it’s YOUR JOB to manage them. It is literally your job to not allow that kind of behaviour. You shouldn’t move the one person who was sane enough to know that behaviour was not okay.

        You can’t hire screening for people you want to be drinking buddies with. You might find some great people for pub nights, but it will lead to a dysfunctional workplace like you have now.

        Reply
      2. Janey

        “When I find out who complained, I want to move them to another team.”

        I literally GASPED OUT LOUD when I read that.

        No. Nonono. Noooooooooooooooo. Absolutely NOT acceptable. NO. You should be FIRING the employees who were bullying this poor woman, not trying to get rid of a “tattle-tale” on your team who had every right to complain to HR. This isn’t high school anymore. This is WORK.

        Reply
        1. Anne (with an "e")

          +1000 That was my reaction as well. The person who complained realizes that the bullying is wrong. This bullying on the part of the snap chat users is absolutely egregious behavior. The stat chat bullies are the people who need to be dealt with, those are the toxic people, those are the people who should not be on the team. Wow, just wow.

          Reply
    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      WOAH hold up

      Someone complained about incredibly inappropriate and bullying behavior and you want to move the complainer?????

      You need to step back and take a serious look at how you’re managing because that is so very wrong.

      Reply
      1. JulieBulie

        I was hoping that I had read that wrong… I hope the request to move the complainer opens a HUGE can of worms with HR.

        Reply
      2. SSL

        Also, if you are in California, that is illegal to penalize the person who reports harassment by transferring them if that transfer has any negative/reductive impact on their job duties including movement to an office that was less favorable in their opinion.

        Reply
    3. Roz

      I am so concerned by your response here that if I were HR I would seriously consider demoting you from management. You are not ready. I’m sorry to be harsh but you are still learning and the field you are in demands a level of development that you do not seem to be displaying.

      Reply
      1. aebhel

        Same. And this isn’t an age thing; I’m only a couple of years older than the OP, and I’ve had managers their age. This is a complete and total failure to grasp professional norms, and if I was in HR I’d have serious concerns that OP was about to run the company face-first into a lawsuit.

        Reply
        1. The OG Anonsie

          Yeah, I’ve had two managers just like this– one was in their late 60’s and one I think was early 40’s. This sounds less like an experience and age issue than a fundamental problem with judgement and priorities.

          Reply
        2. Queen of the File

          It isn’t even just professional norms–it’s HUMAN norms. Who finds out that someone has been made fun of on social media because of their appearance and feels bad *not for the target* but for the people who are about to have their “fun time” hating on her ruined by a complaint to HR??

          Reply
        3. Julia

          I’m 28 and had a manager my own age. Sometimes, I felt much older than her because she needed me to hold her hand in everything and on several occasions cried to me when I brought workplace problems to her -I had a co-“worker” who sabotaged both me and her. Said co-worker was our combined ages (so 28 times two) and behaved like a freaking toddler.

          I guess what I’m trying to say is that age does not matter much when it comes to professional demeanor and character, but that reading that the OP is my age, I had a moment of shock, hoping I wasn’t like him and just didn’t realise it.

          Reply
      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Um, yes. Honestly, OP, this is the kind of mindset that gets people fired from management, and rightly so. I hope you’ll read all the input you’re getting here with a more open mind because your comment here is, frankly, horrifying.

        Reply
            1. Cobol

              I thought the same thing. The comment and the letter were written differently. I know Allison edits the submissions, so only she would know if the comment stylistically matched the original submission. Given she responded, I’m guessing it did.

              Reply
          1. MsM

            Ditto. If you think the key to being a good manager is assembling a group that can throw the world’s most awesome rager on a moment’s notice, you need to rethink your managerial priorities (unless you’re in the party planning business, that is). If you think that making sure people are having fun means letting them act like middle school bullies, you need to rethink your values as a human being.

            Reply
            1. Humble Schoolmarm

              Even if they were a manager in the Most Awesome Rager EVAH!!!! planning company, the goal of the job would be to professionally plan and organize awesome ragers and therefore make money for their company. It wouldn’t be having fun with their peeps. (and I know you know that MsM, I’m just underlining the ridiculousness of the LW’s priorities).

              Reply
        1. Old Admin

          Thank you, Alison, for being very very clear here.
          This hits close to home because (as I described in a comment below) I am struggling with a similar bromance mindset in my company.
          I am beyond horrified the OP intends to retaliate against a justified complainer, and wishes he could have hired somebody younger, maler, hipper. *cries tears of rage*

          Reply
          1. AD

            Agreed, but where does “maler” come from? I think you’re projecting here as in the litany of OP’s bad manager behaviors there’s no indication that he/she seeks to have a single-gender team.

            Reply
        2. Salamander

          The OP’s responses are really disturbing. As if Eric Cartman grew up and got a management position. I wonder if this is a joke, because it’s sooooo Cartman.

          Reply
        3. Anonymous Boomer

          If I were HR there, I’d not only fire this manager (for knowingly allowing the bullying to continue (snapchat..really?), possible encouraging drinking during the work day, etc, etc, but also the actual co-workers that posted this crap).
          In California…employment is at will..any time, any reason. Only all of the terminations would be with cause.
          And no, you won’t be collecting unemployment, either.

          That letter just shocked the **** out of me. Wrong on so many levels. I. just. can’t.

          Reply
        4. MashaKasha

          Horrifying is the right term! I just found this update and it is so much worse than I imagined! What does this even mean “when I find out who complained, I want to move them to another team”??? Find out how? Move them why? What do you want to do to the people who actually took the snaps and shared them openly enough for everyone to see? This is so many shades of wrong… I can’t.

          “If I knew she would have been like this, I would have pushed back on my director not to hire her in favor for someone younger but she had a fantastic background that wowed my higher ups.”

          What does this mean? what does any of these mean??? This is a business. Not a beauty pageant. Not a middle-school popularity contest. She had a fantastic background and your team bullied her into leaving and your takeaway from this is “I should not have hired her”? What even? “If I knew she would have been like” what? Professional? Qualified? Gawd, from the sound of it, this whole team needs to be let go. What a cluster.

          Reply
        1. Cobol

          Given OP was called out by HR it seems like that other people at their company are already thinking the same way.

          Reply
          1. Julia

            I mean, I assume OP’s boss cares more about the work being done than OP being able to hire only potential BFFs?

            Reply
      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Thank you for saying this. My jaw dropped as I read OP’s response. “You are not ready” is such a kind explanation.

        OP, you are not doing this right, and it’s going to implode. Right now it’s affecting your team, but it’s going to affect your professional trajectory as well. If you cannot understand why your response is so very “WTAF,” then I really think you need to sit down with a mentor or spend greater time training before handling management. What your team is doing is absolutely unprofessional, and frankly, grounds for dismissal. I’m glad someone complained, because this should never have happened in the first place. You are angry at the wrong people, and you’re being overly dismissive of severe, lawsuit-worthy problems.

        Reply
        1. steve

          I think someone should get fired also. I think bullying should not be tolerated at all. It is corrosive.

          Reply
      4. godwina

        This. What a toxic, incompetent boss. Unreal. I know managers who were fired for much much less when it came to immaturity, favouritism, and bullying on the part of the boss. And this manager is a bully with some serious issues. It’s likely her team is so toxic in part because she’s encouraging it, even indirectly. That poor isolated woman–so glad she’s out of that snakepit.

        Not. Cool.

        Reply
    4. KatTheRussian (France)

      I’m sorry, am I getting this straight that you find out your workers shamed the employee when someone saved the images and complained to HR, and your first thought is to move the complainer to another team?!?!?

      I’ll assume that maybe hopefully you’ll also have an extremely worded talk with the harrassing employees as well.

      I’m 28 too, but I don’t think you can use your age as an excuse for this kind of ‘management’. I’m sorry, I really don’t mean to sound so rude to you, I’m just a little floored by the fact that you don’t seem to think that the Snapchat situation you’re descibing is harrasment (even if the mocked employee never saw it!!!)

      Reply
      1. Yzma, Put Your Hands In The Air!

        I don’t think you sound rude at all. Quite frankly, I’m impressed with your ability to come across as merely aghast!

        Reply
        1. KatTheRussian (France)

          Believe you me, the comment I posted was most emphatically NOT the comment I first typed in. I think it was more along the “head explodes” type, but I thought it wouldn’t be productive, as I foresaw the amount of (rightful) shaming of the letter writer that was about to go down. I just hope she is able to someday read and process what she did and know it wasn’t okay.

          Reply
        1. Julia

          So am I. And I’ve been on the receiving end of bullying several times. So if I ever had to manage people, no matter how badly I might do in every other regard, I would NEVER allow bullying.

          I also can’t believe that someone who must have read enough Ask A Manager to write a letter to Alison does not understand this.

          Reply
        2. Desdemona

          Absolutely. 28 is young in the sense that you can absorb and recover from unhealthy indulgences, you still have time to start saving for retirement, you’re young enough not to face age discrimination, and you can still easily change careers. But 28 is solidly into adulthood. You’ve been in the workforce for 5-10 years, and you’ve had the chance either to see things done right, or to see the effects of people doing it wrong.

          Reply
    5. L.

      “Her co-workers in her pod had taken pictures of her and captioned them inappropriately on SnapChat-making fun of her weight, her clothes/style, how much water she drank etc. Someone who had seen them had saved them and also complained to HR. When I find out who complained, I want to move them to another team.” Uh, why would you punish the people who complained about this HORRIBLE behavior from your employees?

      Reply
        1. Observer

          It might be a relief to that person, but the OP is clearly trying to “get rid” of a “problem”. That’s just messed up.

          Reply
    6. GigglyPuff

      Um, I don’t think you get it. There was nothing wrong with her. Just because she wasn’t a drinker? I’m not but that doesn’t mean I don’t hang out with people who are, or don’t enjoy that social time.

      This sounds like a hiring discrimination waiting happen. If I were you, I’d ask HR about management training opportunities.

      Reply
      1. GigglyPuff

        “I wanted to build a team that would work well with me and share my ideas of a good time so work is fun.”

        There’s nothing wrong with this in and of itself, but taken with everything else, no. I think you honestly need to learn more about working environments, the entire point of the work you’re doing. It feels like you’ve been taken by the whole “work should be fun”, which nothing wrong with that, it can be fun, but you’re looking for that to the exclusion of all else. You’re a manager now (which frankly probably not for much longer), this isn’t about you anymore, this about your team profiting your employer, this about making your ENTIRE team comfortable, so they can do their job.

        (Not addressing building your team because that’s in other better well written comments.)

        Reply
        1. fish feud

          Right?! Work can be fun, if you’re lucky, but most of the time, in most jobs, it’s not…it’s work, which is why you are paid to it.

          Reply
    7. paul

      Damn. You need manager training, or not to be a manager.

      You don’t remove someone for complaining about people being asses, you handle the people being asses. Making fun of a coworkers dress and the fact she drinks water is totally unacceptable. And someone pointing that out isn’t the problema nd shouldn’t be moved. The people *doing* it should be reprimanded or fired.

      Reply
      1. Anon Accountant

        This is a great point about retaliation. HR and upper management should take issue with this and would have a very serious discussion with the LW.

        Reply
    8. FDCA In Canada

      So the social media problem is that her coworkers were mocking her, via social media, on work time, in the workplace?

      That’s not a “move to another team” problem, that’s a “firing” problem. Honestly, your last sentence is extremely worrying. She is not the problem here. The rest of your team is the problem and your management style leaves a lot to be desired.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I believe OP isn’t talking about moving the mocking members to another team; she’s talking about moving the person who reported the mocking to HR. Which is…not better.

        Reply
        1. Leatherwings

          I misread this as well. Jesus.

          OP, you need to fire the people mocking people on social media and immediately start figuring out ways to apologize to the people being mocked. Stop trying to figure out who reported it, they’re just trying to temper the abuse that you’ve fostered on your team.

          Reply
      2. aebhel

        Oh, no, it’s even better: OP doesn’t want to move the people who were mocking her to another team (that’s how I read it initially, too), they want to move the person who complained about the mocking to another team, and evidently to retain the mockers with no consequences. Because culture.

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          Re Don’t Take My Beer Runs upthread, this is an excellent example of how an organization that relies on enforcing group-think can get walloped from their blind side, when it turns out that the marketplace, or the higher-ups, don’t agree that the important thing is Work Is Fun And Snitches Get Transferred.

          Reply
    9. aebhel

      You’re still really not getting this. What you are doing is not managing, and you need to step up. Her coworkers were taking pictures of her and mocking her on social media, and you still think (a) that she was the problem and (b) the solution is to transfer the person who complained to another team? WHAT??

      I just… I can’t. I’m utterly flabbergasted. You need to go get some management training, like, right now.

      Reply
    10. Leatherwings

      Holy.Hell. This is more than just an insular place, this is toxic and abusive. That poor woman.

      You shouldn’t move these people to another team, you should fire them. Immediately.

      f I knew she would have been like this, I would have pushed back on my director not to hire her in favor for someone younger but she had a fantastic background that wowed my higher ups.

      This is horrifying and I think you probably need to take some management classes asap. Not okay.

      Reply
      1. Purplesaurus

        Seriously! I want to hold OP’s nose into this sentence until she smells what a bad, bad thing she wrote.

        Reply
    11. Snark

      “Her co-workers in her pod had taken pictures of her and captioned them inappropriately on SnapChat-making fun of her weight, her clothes/style, how much water she drank etc. Someone who had seen them had saved them and also complained to HR. When I find out who complained, I want to move them to another team.”

      Just to clarify, your recently departed employee was bullied and harassed on social media, and your first impulse is to identify who complained to HR so you can retaliate against them?

      WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK ARE YOU THINKING.

      Reply
          1. MegaMoose, Esq.

            I certainly was. If we could post gifs here, I’d be posting the one of Jon Steward doing the “head exploding” motion.

            Reply
        1. paul

          yeah, that update makes me want a beer run of my own. Yikes.

          Personally I’m hoping they get terminated at this point.

          Reply
        2. The Other Dawn

          I think it made it through because it’s really the only phrase that appropriately and accurately sums up OPs horrifying follow-up. Seriously, it’s really horrifying.

          Reply
        3. Chinook

          I think the F-Bomb made it out of moderation because AAM is too polite to say what everyone else is thinking.

          Reply
      1. Wow... just wow

        +1000

        I didn’t want to pile on, but LW, you need to consider going to HR and arranging to voluntarily stepping down from the management level. You are not qualified to lead a team, and are a liability to your company. You are a lawsuit waiting to happen. I was willing to chalk your letter down to inexperience, but how can you not know in this day and age that it is inappropriate to retaliate against someone for bringing up concerns? That speaks to willful incompetence, not just inexperience.

        Reply
    12. AnonEMoose

      So…your employees sent each other nasty remarks about another employee…and your reaction is to move whoever brought it to HR’s attention to another team?

      Wow.

      OP, I’m saying this as kindly as I can. You need to seriously, seriously rethink your approach. What they did was workplace bullying. That kind of behavior is the sort of thing people should get over in middle school (although too many sadly don’t). And you should be coming down, HARD, on the the people who were doing this, not focusing on “who complained.” Because this was not “all in good fun.” This is stuff that could potentially violate your company’s harassment policies. I am not a lawyer or an HR person, so not going to expound further on that; I will leave it to those better qualified.

      Work is work. Work is not “happy fun time with people just like me.” That doesn’t mean it has to be dreadful, either, but you really need to think about what you are focusing on here.

      Reply
    13. Leatherwings

      One more thing: I think you also need to take some diversity, equity and inclusion classes. Some of them aren’t great, but you need to put some effort into finding a decent one. This isn’t just “diversity training” either and learning to be sensitive to others- this about learning why DEI is important.

      Reply
    14. fposte

      Oh, OP, please, please, please, take some time and reflect on this. You are asking to be the person at the heart of a lawsuit someday. Yes, we all make mistakes when managing, especially at the start of our careers, and you could learn from this one. However, depending on what your director thinks, you might be making mistakes that will end yours.

      You are seeing the problem as the employee, who interfered with your vision of a team that are all your friends. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the team wasn’t managed to be fair to all the employees and that the ideal of a good-time gang was prioritized over the actual doing the job.

      Reply
    15. Mike C.

      Wait, this sort of harassing activity was going on and you’re part of a large company? Dude, you’re in serious trouble. This meeting with HR is only the first of many and I would suggest you get your resume in order.

      Reply
    16. Hey Karma, Over here.

      “I wanted to build a team that would work well with me and share my ideas of a good time so work is fun.”
      Just no. A work team is not a weekend softball team. These people are not here to be your crew.
      If I knew she would have been like this, I would have pushed back on my director not to hire her in favor for someone younger
      OK. Nevermind. I’m being punked. Good one. You totally got me. I thought you were serious for a second.

      Reply
      1. k.k

        “I wanted to build a team that would work well with me and share my ideas of a good time so work is fun.”
        This part stuck out to me too. It sounds more like you’re looking to create a social circle than a productive work team. It’s good that people get along, but you can’t make your hiring decision based on who you think would be more fun to hang out with.

        Reply
      2. NW Mossy

        I audibly gasped when I read that line, because it’s 100% “I have zero idea what my job is or why I’m paid to do it.”

        OP, your job doesn’t exist to provide you with fun or social bonding opportunities. It exists to achieve a function for the business. In this case, it’s to manage effectively and lead people to successful WORK outcomes. Your objective in your job is fundamentally misaligned with what your employer is paying for, and that is a recipe for being unceremoniously dumped on your butt outside with a cardboard box filled with your desk tchotchkes tossed out after you.

        Reply
    17. Mustache Cat

      I want you to know that the lack of self-awareness in your letter seriously made me wonder for a moment if your letter was actually written by a disgruntled employee determined to paint you in the worst possible light. I think you need to work on yourself.

      Reply
    18. Mike C.

      My response was eaten somehow, but if this sort of behavior was going on and you work for a large company, you’re in serious trouble. I would suggest that you get your resume in order because this meeting with HR is only the first of many.

      Reply
      1. Leatherwings

        Yeah I hope that HR is now clued in on how awful and abusive this team has gotten and will take some real action.

        Reply
    19. Snark

      “Her co-workers in her pod had taken pictures of her and captioned them inappropriately on SnapChat-making fun of her weight, her clothes/style, how much water she drank etc. Someone who had seen them had saved them and also complained to HR. When I find out who complained, I want to move them to another team.”

      Just to clarify, your recently departed employee was bullied and harassed on social media, and your first impulse is to identify who complained to HR so you can retaliate against them? Wow.

      “If I knew she would have been like this, I would have pushed back on my director not to hire her in favor for someone younger but she had a fantastic background that wowed my higher ups.”

      So basically, you want a whole team full of bros you can do bro-y things with, and this old chick started harshing the fun vibe because she didn’t want to go on beer runs, wore frumpy clothes and drank too much water? Wow.

      “I’m 28 and this was my first management job;”

      It should be your last. I’m 34 and this is my first management job, and I am filled with the desire to grab you by the shoulders and shake you.

      Reply
      1. K.

        What’s weird to me (well, besides EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS) is that the OP acknowledges that the captions were inappropriate – like, there’s some kernel of Getting It in there … but then it’s shot when her approach to problem-solving is retaliating against the person who reported the acknowledged inappropriate behavior.

        Reply
        1. Liz2

          I think it’s because the OP is so completely stuck in this idea that “My Team is great, it’s the people who don’t Get The Team who should be moved. If I just keep making sure The Team has Right Fit people, there’s no problem!”

          Reply
          1. teclatrans

            I also think that LW thinks that any complaints shouldn’t have gone to HR (because that is snitching, and will get LW in trouble, and the crew’s primary loyalty —
            bought in beer runs and bro-ish behavior, no matter whether LW is a he or a she — should be to the crew boss and the team), but instead should have brought the complaint to him/her.

            Reply
      2. Salamander

        A thousand times, yes.

        LW, this isn’t high school. Your role, as a manager, is to (1) make sure that work gets done and (2) make sure that the workplace is pleasant and equitable for everyone, not just the people you think are cool.

        You are failing on the second count, clearly. There’s so much socializing going on, I bet you’re failing on the first, too. What exactly do you think this is? This is work.

        Reply
      3. Djuna

        She. Drank. Too. Much. Water. WTAF?!
        So, essentially, they ragged on her for every little thing they could, down to a perfectly normal and healthy thing like drinking water?
        And the manager is essentially chanting “snitches get stitches” like a middle-schooler about the one person (other than the fleeing employee) that had sense enough to know all of this is wrong?
        +10000000 to Snark’s comment above.
        This looks to me to be the juncture of failing upwards and flailing in the face of a lawsuit.
        How in heck did this person ever get made a manager?!

        Reply
        1. Detective Amy Santiago

          How in heck did this person ever get made a manager?!

          Well, if this company is anything like the horribly dysfunctional one that I used to work for… OP got promoted by having stellar sales numbers. OldJob assumed that if you could *do* the job well, you could help others do it well so people became managers all the time who had no clue how to actually, you know, MANAGE.

          Reply
          1. Julia

            Or maybe some employees just become managers at a certain point of their tenure – that’s how I ended up with a terrible boss.

            Reply
    20. Wannabe Disney Princess

      I think I just felt my head explode.

      You moved someone because they complained about extraordinarily inappropriate behavior? WTF. You do realize you were complicit in the bullying then, right? Instead of shutting it down you just moved the person who brought it to your attention. I cannot even begin to put into words how wrong that was. How dare you.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        I am trying not to just erupt in profanity and outrage, but I dropped an F-bomb and it made it out of moderation, so maybe I just need to be my authentic self.

        Reply
        1. Wannabe Disney Princess

          In this case, my authentic self would have been leapfrogging right over profanity and blacking out from rage then head smashing the keyboard. I thought a coherent thought or two might be more helpful.

          Reply
        2. fposte

          For the record, Alison is linguistically fine with F-bombs but it means she has to fish posts out of moderation so I think she prefers a bit of circumlocution to keep her from having to winnow all the time. I suspect she’s going to be particularly on top of the moderation today.

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yes.

            And by the way, the comment above “I wasn’t expecting that to make it out of moderation” made my head explode — c’mon, y’all, don’t post stuff that you expect to create extra work for me for no good reason.

            Reply
            1. Snark

              Truly not my intention to create extra work for you at all – it’s just, I’m having real trouble expressing how I feel about this post without recourse to some kind of profanity. On the internet, nobody knows you’re flipping a table.

              Reply
              1. Snark

                And, when I posted and saw it was flagged for moderation, and I just assumed, oh, it won’t go through, so I was surprised when it did.

                Reply
                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  They almost always go through! It’s just extra work for Alison, as fposte notes.

                  (But you are very good with words, Snark.)

    21. Kiki

      I literally had to read this 3 times to make sure I wasn’t reading it incorrectly. Your ex-employee was bullied by her coworkers and you think SHE is the problem?!?!

      Reply
    22. Havarti

      Ok, hold on. What? Move the person who complained to HR that their coworkers were being assholes by making fun of another employee behind their back? And no disciplinary action for the people engaged in the behavior? No. No. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. This is not how you manage.

      Never assume anything. Ever. “Assume makes an ass out of u and me.”

      I’m all for not making work suck but the way you went about it wasn’t correct. And you’re punishing the wrong person here. What did she do wrong? Does your ad include “Must be ok with coworkers teasing you behind your back and leaving you in the office while they go get beer”? The problem here ain’t her so don’t be playing that card of “if only I had known.”

      You may be new at this but check yo self before you wreck yo self.

      Reply
    23. Saturnalia

      Dude…

      You found out who complained about some seriously effed up S… and saw the complainer as the problem and transferred them???

      Look, I’m kind of in shock here, so I’ll try to be brief and kind: there’s some really good advice here that you need to spend time with. It won’t feel right or justified at first, but please just stick with it, come back to it, read it periodically, talk about it with mentors… This is a big adjustment for you to make that is kind of a prerequisite for being a good people manager.

      Reply
      1. Chinook

        On the plus side, I suspect the complainer was relieved to be removed from the Letter Writer’s management sphere.

        Reply
    24. Chickia

      what the what?!? You’d move the person who COMPLAINED about the unkind snapchat photos? what about moving the mean bullies who took the photos and addressing the mean girl culture on your team? And what you you mean – if I knew she was “like this”??? From your further information, everything I read seems to indicate she was fine and was the issue is your team! I don’t want to pile on to you, but I think you need to seriously reevaluate your ideas of what makes a good team.

      Reply
    25. Here we go again

      OP, I’m the same age as you and work in the same industry, but am not in management. I don’t know if you are new to AAM or what, but I am very saddened to see your attitude. I thought you writing into Alison was an attempt at self-reflection and inclusivity, but clearly it is not. Get out of management, now… You are not management material. You will make a fool of yourself if you continue on this path. Your direct reports will resent you. There are other paths in insurance. Lots of other paths. Take one of them before everyone discovers your attitude.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        No, hard disagree. LW, let your freak flag fly, my man. Follow your instincts, fire people on their 28th birthdays, make the beer run daily and mandatory, save all the snapchats for posterity. Ride the bomb, Major Kong. This is one learning experience that needs to be as epic as the delusions that necessitated it.

        Reply
            1. Symplicite

              I so love this, esp since I know the WOW reference it came from.

              If you have ever seen the video, you’ll see his raid group go, “WTF?! Nooooooo!!” while he’s doing it. It’s hilarious, and totally counter-productive to an effective working group. Totally applicable in this instance.

              Reply
        1. AnonEMoose

          Learn to stop worrying, and love the bomb!

          And I agree…it’s looking like this may be a very harsh learning experience. But I’m not sure any other kind will work.

          Reply
        2. Beancounter Eric

          I’m not a big fan of reality teevee, but I would almost pay good money to watch this train wreck.

          Reply
        3. The OG Anonsie

          Yeah I… I mean far be it from me to conclude someone is gonna be a certain way forever, but my reaction to this is not that the LW needs to learn and change but that someone needs to take this responsibility off their hands and keep it away.

          Reply
    26. MegaMoose, Esq.

      To be clear, you do know that if a potential employee is 40 or older, not hiring them in favor of someone younger is illegal in the United States?

      Reply
      1. Leatherwings

        I kind of hope OP gets sued. If OP is genuine, this level of cluelessness may only be fixed by having the fear of god put in them by the legal system.

        Reply
        1. Natalie

          Since the OP works for a Fortune 500 and their HR department is involved now, I’m guessing OP will be canned before they can get the company sued.

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Yes, this. OP is already a walking lawsuit without the age discrimination rhetoric. Any sensible HR at a functioning company is going to fire her.

            Reply
          2. Gadfly

            Anyone whose first instinct in response to a complaint is retaliation should make any reasonably competent HR cringe…

            Reply
          3. Cobol

            I don’t know what OP does, so this isn’t about this post specifically, but there are a lot of Fortune 500 companies (almost all in insurance, mortgage, or investment) that have tons of satellite sales offices ripe with all sorts of HR nightmares.

            Reply
            1. Natalie

              That’s a fair point. I was thinking more about how it’s hard to turn a Fortune 500 ship on a dime. That is, once HR is involved they’re probably not going to get un-involved. But I didn’t really explain that at all.

              Reply
        2. neverjaunty

          Based on the new comment from OP, the message from HR sounds very much like they are concerned about a lawsuit.

          Reply
      2. Eric

        (IANAL or even an HR professional, of course)

        We don’t have much data on gender/religion (i.e. practicing Muslims, Mormons not drinking) distribution of the team but given all the other data it’s fair to guess that OP’s opened their employer to EEOC, harassment, or retaliation complaints. And HR, being more responsible than OP, has begun the investigation/CYA procedure.

        This guy’s probably done at the company. Even if the departing employee isn’t making a complaint, the team will probably be interviewed by a lawyer, because the employer doesn’t know that the lady who left won’t change her mind and file one later.

        Not a manager but I wonder what management training is like. Someone messed up bad here.

        Reply
    27. Halls of Montezuma

      LW, be very, very careful with what you do to the person who complained to HR. Taking photos of another employee and mocking her appearance and weight is really sh*tty behavior. Depending on the age, gender, and hostility to it, it may even qualify as harassment based on a protected class. Legality aside, you don’t want the optics of being the manager seen to punish someone for reporting completely inappropriate behavior to HR.

      FYI – it’s illegal to base hiring decisions on age – you can’t not hire someone over 40 just because you want a younger team.

      Reply
      1. sunshyne84

        But but but…..she didn’t fit in with the team!

        ….but really this is so cringe-worthy I can’t do anything but laugh. OP needs to be fired today!

        Reply
    28. M

      I’m 21 and I’m actually shocked that you can describe that bullying the way you did and still come to the conclusion that the woman who left was the problem.

      Reply
    29. Desdenova

      Whoah. One of your staff was making fun of coworkers on SnapChat, a different coworker complained, and your reaction was to move the *complainer* off your team? Not to discipline the staff member who was mocking their coworker? I can’t possibly be reading that correctly.

      LW, as a manager your job isn’t to assemble a team that “shares your idea of a good time so work is fun.” Your job is to assemble a team that effectively accomplishes the business goals of your F500 company. If you want to be a successful manager, the lesson to take from this is not that you should hire less-qualified people who will be your office BFF and be cool with their coworkers mocking them so as not to make waves.

      Reply
      1. animaniactoo

        LW, as a manager your job isn’t to assemble a team that “shares your idea of a good time so work is fun.” Your job is to assemble a team that effectively accomplishes the business goals of your F500 company.

        This. Right here. This.

        Work can be fun, but it comes in 3rd behind being effective and behind not sucking. You created and allowed an environment that made it suck for this woman, and your whole team is likely less effective for it.

        Reply
          1. Jen

            Or, it can seem dismissive to people who’ve experienced this kind of bulkyband reinforce why they might be reluctant to report it

            Reply
    30. motherofdragons

      Whoa.

      So, people on her team, her co-workers, were taking pictures of her *without her permission*, writing mean things about her, and sharing them on social media (presumably during work hours)? And you want to take action against…the person who complained??? Wow. What about, I don’t know, disciplining the people who were bullying your employee?

      “If I knew she would have been like this, I would have pushed back on my director not to hire her in favor for someone younger but she had a fantastic background that wowed my higher ups.” This is pretty blatant age discrimination, maybe not in a legal sense, but definitely in a “What a gross hiring practice” sense. And, younger does not always mean “Down to be openly bullied at work and stuck with coverage when everyone goes out on drinking trips.”

      When I read “I wanted to build a team that would work well with me and share my ideas of a good time so work is fun,” I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, but when it comes at the expense of losing otherwise good employees, and when you’re so committed to it that you’re willing to overlook real work issues (like bullying, sticking the same person with coverage while the rest of the team bonds, people unwilling to help someone they don’t really like), it’s time to re-evaluate your approach.

      Reply
      1. Dust Bunny

        I feel like this LW went to the Eighties Hollywood College Movie school of management–when somebody wants structure, they’re clearly too old-school and uptight and need to be replaced.

        Reply
        1. Letter Writer

          hahah no but i am better educated than the ex employee. I have my MBA and I believe she had her bachelors in public policy.

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Okay, letter writer, this has gone past offensive. I’m putting you on moderation until you start responding with thought and decency to the points people are making here.

            Reply
            1. Electric Hedgehog

              LW, you don’t realize this now, but Alison is doing you a huge kindness here. If you HR department comes across this post, as it stands you’ll certainly be fired. If you post anything else and your ex-employee comes across it and figures out it’s you, you ay be targeted with an EEOC complaint or a lawsuit (IANAL).

              Reply
            2. Justin

              Random Q – several people in a day might be “Letter Writer.” If someone on the next thread responds, does it just mean (like the profanity above) extra moderation work to see who is who?

              Feel free to ignore if no time to respond!

              Reply
            3. steve

              Is it against your personal code to call someone a troll here if you think they are? I am not asking about me calling someone that buy you, (Alison) calling someone that. I mean do you always go with the assumption that the letter writer is genuine, no matter what?

              Thanks

              Reply
              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                No, I don’t always go with that assumption, but if I think something is clearly fake, I don’t print it. Stuff I print, I’m assuming it’s real … although I also assume that I’m not a perfect judge of authenticity and thus I might occasionally get trolled. I don’t think there’s a ton of point in speculating on that in the comments though, since it’s (a) derailing, (b) unkind if it’s real, and (c) often obviously really wrong (I’ve seen people say “this must be fake” about stuff that happens in real life all the time). Mainly, though, I just think it’s weird how invested some people get in arguing something can’t be real, because who cares?

                Reply
              1. Snark

                I loathe that phrase. It’s not possible to be “over-educated,” and education doesn’t replace or crowd out common sense or basic decency. Don’t be an anti-intellectual.

                Reply
                1. No, please

                  He was not anti-intellectual. It was his way of saying that all the degrees in the world do not necessarily make a person smarter or better than anyone else. Especially if common sense and treating people decently are no longer a priority.

                2. Trout 'Waver

                  Use the phrase over-educated isn’t anti-intellectual. Sometimes the best solution is a practical temporary solution.

                  For example, over-educated is designing a program and a running heat-tracing simulation that accurately modeled every piece during every phase for a chemical reactor to determine if it’ll freeze during the winter when you could just slap a thermocouple on the coldest part and monitor it. We would all tease the engineer who tried the previous solution around here and we all have advanced degrees.

                3. Elizabeth H.

                  It was his way of saying that all the degrees in the world do not necessarily make a person smarter or better than anyone else

                  You can say this without saying “overeducated.” I just don’t think there’s a way to use the word that doesn’t sound anti-intellectual in a bad way – it has too many connotations. There are a bunch of words like that, where sometimes there are very specific contexts where you could use it in the way you want but in almost every other case it will just bring a ton of negative associations to the forefront.

                4. Snark

                  “He was not anti-intellectual. It was his way of saying that all the degrees in the world do not necessarily make a person smarter or better than anyone else.”

                  The phrase itself implies that the problem is too much education, and it’s often used in an anti-intellectual way, so….maybe it just needs to die, and get replaced with something a little more semantically in line with how your dad uses it.

                5. No, please

                  I understand you don’t like it. That’s fine. At this point it’s starting to feel like you’re nit-picking my word choice. I was not trying to start an argument or upset anyone. Im sorry I have offended you.

                6. Bryce

                  Oh man Trout ‘Waver I do that sort of thing all the time. I call it tunnel solution: once you see one way to solve the problem, you lose sight of other, simpler ways and focus on making it work.

                7. Desdemona

                  It’s not a phrase I use, but I’ve always thought it referred to people on whom education was wasted. Their lives are limited by some fundamental humanity they’re lacking, so they keep getting more education to try to compensate. I think that fits OP pretty well. It doesn’t matter what tools she acquired in school, because she’s not even capable of understanding her job was to set business related goals for her team.

            1. MM

              Also, from what I know about MBAs, they really don’t teach things like “decency” or “interpersonal issues.” They’re much more focused on the “getting ahead” stuff than on the “getting along” stuff. Which says a lot about the business world in itself.

              Reply
              1. msnovtue

                I’ll offer this tale:
                My Dad was born, raised and educated somewhere other than the US. At the time, in his home country, basically only doctors, lawyers, engineers & professional academic types actually attended a university; still, his education was on par with a US bachelor’s degree.

                He worked for a major international company as a programmer for their international payroll database. In the mid-1980s, the company started hiring a lot of people with MBAs into his section. Problem was, while they knew a lot about business, but jack about programming. Dad would try to ‘encourage’ them not to do certain things in the database, but he was usually ignored, in part because many seemed to think he had only a high school-level education.

                Thankfully, that didn’t last *too* long, because the same thing kept happening; around 10:30 PM, the night before payday, our phone would ring. It was one of his coworkers… you can probably guess why they were calling. The payroll database was now completely fubar’ed, and they needed Dad to drive 45 minutes one-way back into work *right* *now*, because if he didn’t, *NO ONE* who worked *anywhere in the world* for this company would get paid on time.

                I won’t go into the various adjectives that proceeded the term “MBAs!!!” as he would get ready to go in. Some weren’t in English, and all of them are generally not used in polite company.

                Graduate degrees are worthwhile accomplishments, but they don’t teach you everything, not even within a limited area. I have a law degree, and I’m currently working as an editor/proofreader for some criminal justice/prosecution/public defender guidance stuff. All but the basics is pretty much new stuff, because when I was in school, I focused on intellectual property law. As the old saying goes, the surest sign someone doesn’t know much is that they think they know everything.

                Reply
            2. Julia

              I’m in a master’s programme in, and this is important, international culture and communication. (Although I actually study applied linguistics.)

              People in my programme use words like “crazy retard” (I think that was a Chinese student with a very shakey grasp on the English language), calling people in a coma “vegetables” repeatedly (my “excuse me??” just got me labelled as stupid), and similar antics. I am starting to regret my choice of programme, because I fear it will reflect on me badly.

              I would expect this kind of behaviour in a programming degree or a rich kid MBA programme, but an international communications degree?

              Unfortunately, university does not always teach correct language use, proper ways to articulate oneself, or professionalism.

              Reply
          2. Not a Real Giraffe

            Of all the comments in the thread, this is the one you came back to remark on?

            I am confused about why you wrote into AAM if you didn’t want to hear feedback that might contradict your own take. You might have gotten an advanced degree, OP, but you still have a lot to learn about professionalism and management.

            Reply
            1. Dust Bunny

              I confess I’m slightly flattered that I got a call-out.

              OK, not really. Luckily, I am old and in good standing at work so I can handle it.

              Reply
          3. V2

            And yet, Letter Writer, you’re the one on suspension and likely facing termination (though you probably don’t realize that latter part). Getting through school isn’t the same as being educated. You obviously missed some important lessons on how to manage. Frankly, it’s probably too late for you to salvage this job, but you should treat this experience as an important part of your education.

            Reply
          4. MuseumChick

            And she is the one with a job while you are suspended pending an investigation. Her credentials were highly impressive to the higher ups at your company, and have a strong chance of being fired and given a poor reference.

            A degree does not make you a good employee, manager, or overall person. Basically, your toxic management style, you lost the company a person that they were highly impressed with and who appeared from what you said to have been a very good employee.

            Reply
            1. The OG Anonsie

              The comments have really exploded but I can’t find reference to the LW being suspended– where did that come from? Am I going cross-eyed?

              Reply
          5. Kj

            I don’t think that is relevant. Clearly your MBA did not cover many important management practices or you have failed to apply them. I am very worried about your way of managing your team and I hope you will take seriously the concerns that commentators here have expressed.

            Reply
            1. Red Reader

              And this is exactly why I’ve thought on multiple occasions that the complete lack of ANY HR information, education, background in my MBA program is bizarre. (It’s a very finance, marketing, quantitative-heavy program, but I’d have thought there would be at least one administrative/personnel management type class in it, and there hasn’t been.)

              Reply
            2. Trout 'Waver

              I thought MBA programs these days were big into teamwork, inclusion, and how to create positive atmospheres. Am I wrong about that?

              Reply
              1. Liz2

                I posted similar above- I really think the OP feels he has the Perfect Team and that the problem is just Square Pegs who need to be moved off the island.

                Reply
              2. The OG Anonsie

                Does anyone remember that Tabitha’s Salon Takeover with the woman who kept insisting her declining salon had no management problems on her end because she had an MBA from Stanford? And she just kept saying that as her defense of any decision that had a poor outcome– it couldn’t be a bad decision because she made it and she knew what she was doing, she graduated cum laude from Stanford.

                Even when the repercussions were sitting right in front of her and the salon was going to go out of business, none of this was her fault because clearly her decisions could only be good. She graduated cum laude from Stanford, after all.

                Reply
                1. The OG Anonsie

                  I tried to find it again and GOOD NEWS, pieces of that episode (maybe the whole thing?) are actually available on Bravo’s website. You’re totally right, it was USC. I bet they were less than flattered by that one…

              3. Natalie

                Hasn’t their been an MBA boom, similar to the law school boom some years back that cratered the legal market? If that’s the case, I imagine many of those MBAs are basically worthless from an educational standpoint and imparted little if any relevant information.

                Reply