manager publicly criticized me in an email to our whole office

A reader writes:

I work in IT in an office full of men where I’m the only girl. I’ve felt left out for a while and generally keep myself to myself.

This morning, an email was sent by a supervisor to the entire office giving 2 examples of how inputting certain details on a spreadsheet should and should not be done. The bad example was mine shown at the top with my name clearly visible and there was another below, the good example, with an office “favorite” name clearly seen.

I didnt want to overreact but I did think it slightly unprofessional as it shows the entire office that I’m incapable. I’m wondering, is this professional or should the names have been left out with just examples given?

Let it go.

Oh, you wanted an answer to your question? Yes, your manager should have removed the names. Maybe she didn’t because she lacks tact, or because she simply didn’t think about the names being attached, or yes, maybe it was because she actually wanted to publicly shame you. That last one is unlikely, but not impossible. But in other words, maybe it was utterly inadvertent or maybe it wasn’t. If you have reason to think she’s treating you poorly in other ways, then that’s an issue to focus on — but this one email isn’t.

Yes, it sucks to be publicly called out like that, but in the larger scheme of things, this isn’t that big of a deal … unless you dwell on it and make it into one, which will harm no one but you.  No one thinks you’re incapable based on one email. So let it go. You’ll be happier.

{ 50 comments… read them below }

  1. Maze*

    Let it go!
    (totally wasn’t expecting that)
    But yeah, the lady who wrote was probably associating her feelings of being left out.. Office politics are hairy by themselves, don’t CREATE new ones!

    1. jmkenrick*

      Yeah, this is a sucky one.Regardless of whether it’s part of a larger pattern or not, complaining about it will make the OP look childish.

      That said, this would really take the spring out of my step, so I do sympathize with OP.

      1. theTRUTH*

        I agree jmkenrick….

        OP, I would start looking for another option though/job if you are uncomfortable or feel inadequate. Sounds like they brought you in to balance the office but didn’t really want that option. I would however keep all documentation and not stir the pot just yet.
        I would attempt to be more professional and speak first and always. You don’t have to form lasting bonds but communicate so they feel your comradery and not your personal alienation. There are many areas on the Internet to help you brush up on your Excel as well as Word usage. It may benefit you to over due covering all of your bases to show that you are more than efficient.
        Accidents can happen but a professional would have at least resent the email with the corrections even if everyone already saw it. It is the principle in the matter.
        Also, men and women are different and pending the type of Alpha Male you are dealing with, He probably doesn’t see any harm or foul.
        So you will have to move on forward from this or find a new gig….Prayers Up Sweetie…..

  2. Nichole*

    I really hate that you’re right about this. The OP has every right to be mad, this was so inappropriate. It creates a bad scene all around to single out employees by name to the group, which is basically what happened here. But making a big deal of something that could have been an honest mistake (the boss could very well have been mortified to see later that he/she forgot to remove the names), the OP makes things worse with almost no chance of anything good coming of it. I agree with Maze that there’s some projection here, and it’s the bigger issues (either workplace or personal) that need to be addressed, not this one faux pas. But for what it’s worth, OP, you have my sympathy.

  3. AThing*

    I work in IT in an office full of men where I’m the only girl. I’ve felt left out for a while and generally keep myself to myself.

    Maybe you feel left out because you keep to yourself? Also who cares about your genders? Are you skilled?

    1. Katie*

      Considering that there are dozens of studies that have shown that gender-based discrimination in the office is real, it’s clear that many people do care about gender, intentionally or unintentionally. AAM’s advice is still the right advice, though. In this case, OP should let it go. However, if she generally is experiencing trouble “fitting in” in the office, she should go talk to her manager. Not about this issue, but about her problems in general. This could help her tease out where she’s going wrong–whether it’s just a personality conflict, an issue with her overall performance, or something else. While I would never, ever hint to a boss that I felt there was an old boys’ club in my office or under certain managers, I think this conversation could be useful, because it could help her figure out her trouble areas, bring her to the attention of a manager who has previously counted her out, or let her know that this is not the place for her long-term.

      I also think it’s reasonable to believe that the manager in question here is male, since she says she works in an office that is all-male.

        1. Anonymous*

          Maybe she’d feel better about herself in an office of men if she started referring to herself as a woman rather than a girl. Respect starts within.

  4. Emily*

    Here’s a silly thing that bugs me – you’re the only WOMAN in an office full of men. Unless you’re the teen intern or something, you’re just as grown-up as they are.

    1. Anonymous*


      If you see yourself as a girl among men, you have already put yourself in isolation. If you prefer girl to woman, then try thinking of yourself as a girl among boys. Make yourself equal, empower yourself.

    2. Jamie*

      I’ve never been bothered by the use of the word girl for women at work – if there’s no deliberate insult implied. I know this is an issue for many women – but it just never registers with me.

      If I’m talking about male co-workers I don’t typically say “the men on second shift” – I say “the guys on second shift.” When girls is used in the same manner it’s just informal shorthand.

      If used with condescension, then it’s rude – the same as anything for it, it’s all about intent.

      – “Go tell the girl in the first office that the computer log in isn’t working.” Fine.
      – “Oh so you’re the IT girl?” from a new employee being introduced – no.

      All about intent – but since this does bug a lot of women it’s a good idea not to stick with using the word women – just to be safe.

      1. KB*

        that’s fine that using “girl” doesn’t offend you, but there are many women who ARE offended by it. it’s not unusual for a woman to be offended by being called a girl in the workplace. Therefore, it’s probably just better all around for people (generally) to NOT use the word girl and instead use the proper word.

        It’s an easy change to make and it can make a big difference. I personally lose some respect for any woman or man who uses “girl.”

  5. ITgirl*

    I was the only woman in our IT department at 2 previous companies. I never had an issue with it and neither did the men (I have no idea what the OP’s first sentence has to do with the rest of her question)

    1. Jamie*

      I agree – as a woman in IT I can honestly say that it’s never been an issue.

      And I’m a woman in IT in a manufacturing environment…where women in management is scarce in both my field and my industry.

      In fact I think tech people care less about this than other positions, because it’s all about the work. If you have skills it doesn’t matter if your a man, woman, ghost, or klingon…personal biases don’t come into play as often as other management realms.

      At least that’s been my experience.

      1. Charles*

        ” . . . or Klingon.”

        Jamie, if you weren’t a trekkie before; that comment shows that you have adapted to the IT culture around you; You’ve clearly learned how to “play the game.” More power to you!

        1. Jamie*

          My husband’s insidious trek influence…and I refuse to admit publicly that the data collection stations I deploy are called tricorders.

          If I were really one of them I would suggest that the OP could settle any office disputes with a friendly game of rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock. :)

  6. Jamie*

    About the name issue on the example – I admit it’s not the nicest way to make a point, and I wouldn’t have done it that way, but unless it was deliberate I don’t see it as that big a deal.

    For concrete issues of “do it this way, not that way” showing rather than telling can communicate this more clearly. I’ve worked in too many places that go the other way…so afraid that someone will feel criticism is directed at them that general statements are issued to everyone instead of direct communication. Then management gets annoyed when the offending party didn’t pick up on the fact that it was directed at them.

    Given the two options I would prefer to be offended over transparency than to have to try to read the subtext in every memo to see if it’s a veiled critique for me.

    1. Anonymous*

      I’m with you on this. I have been both the picked on and the “favorite” (and assuming theirs is correct I don’t know what about that person makes them a favorite? if it was incorrect and still lauded that would be concerning) and I guess I didn’t care too much in either case. In the error I wanted to fix it. In the correct, I was glad mine was clear and correct. And in both cases I was glad that I knew what was wrong and what was correct.

  7. CK*

    It’s possible that others didn’t even notice the names – there are plenty of people who just don’t catch that kind of detail. Since you’re already in the mindset that you’re left out, etc., it’s likely that seeing your name attached to the “should not” example completely stood out for you.

  8. Malissa*

    I agree with let it go. at least about the name. But don’t pass up the golden learning opportunity here. Instead of getting caught up in politicky side of it, own up to the mistake. Own it and work on making sure it doesn’t happen again.
    On getting along with coworkers, it’s a hard lesson to learn, but keeping to yourself does push you out of the “group.” I learned this one the hard way. You’ve got to share a little of yourself and take an interest in your coworker’s lives. Talk to them about their kids, talk to them about the latest gadget coming out. Just talk to them. If this IT office is anything like the dozen or I’ve dealt with, see if you can get together with your co-workers on World of Warcraft.

  9. KayDay*

    That sucks (but I agree with the “get over it” crowd). Keep in mind that the reason for the team-wide email may be that others had done something similar. You were just the lucky duck whose incorrect work was chosen.

    You didn’t mention if the “example” of your work was very recent or on the older side, or if this was a new type of work, or if you had been doing the same thing for a while. If it was the first time for this type of work, or very recent, I wouldn’t worry about it. However, if this is something you did a while back or if it is something you have done multiple times, I would be very concerned that your manager is not giving you feed back on incorrect work. This may be a good opportunity to speak directly with your boss and find out if there are any other things you need to improve.

  10. Ornery PR*

    I sympathise with this so much, but I absolutely agree with the advice. I’ve alway been in male dominated fields, and am currenly the only woman in an IT department of 4. However, I’ve never really had an issue feeling left out; I’m typically ‘one of the guys.’ And I didn’t understand exactly how the male dominated workforce and the being called out parts of the question related at first. But I think what was left unsaid in the original poster’s story is that maybe she works in an environment where they assume women are not as smart as men.

    The IT Director at my work (who is not my boss, though he does manage the other two IT guys; it’s a complicated situation) would do something exactly like call me out to everyone on some dumb mistake I made and name names. He’s also been known to ask me to contribute to something he’s presenting to the entire office (remember, he doesn’t give me my assignments) and then throws my work in there, giving me no credit, and leaving others to assume it’s his work. He’s an ass. But I’ve had to learn not to get too upset, because again he’s an ass, and he doesn’t care if I’m upset or not.

    Luckily, because of the relationships I have with others in the office, no one would assume I’m an idiot because of something the IT Director says in an email. Or that I made the mistake because I’m the only woman there, and women are not as smart as men. They just assume he’s an ass. I would advise the OP to try to build relationships, own mistakes, be human and likeable, do good work, and people will start to overlook the gender discrepencies.

  11. Anonymous*

    I would respond to this, with thanks for letting me know. I’m glad I could be the guinea pig to make the errors so I don’t make any more going forward. And then I would be extremely careful that I didn’t make that, or other related, errors at all. So hey, learn!

    And just because they are guys and you’re a girl (and I agree about the power language here) doesn’t mean you have to keep to yourself. I know that it isn’t fun (well for some people it is) but sometimes it is required for your career to suck it up and smile and be a more friendly outgoing version of yourself. Or try to channel the person you know who is and think of this social aspect as “other duties as assigned”.

  12. Hella*

    Why don’t you find the office “favorite” and use a little honey and compliment him/her on being named best. Then ask for advice on how to improve your own way of doing things.
    If that person has a really good character, he/she might be just as mortified at having his/her name published as you are.
    Good Luck!

  13. Anon*

    You are part of the team, start acting like it. Don’t think of yourself as ‘the girl in an office full of men’ or they will do the same. Not a good way to be accepted.

    You’re the new kid in class; it’s your responsibility to figure out what they do, how they do it, what they like, why they like it, what they talk about, etc. Do a lot of listening and learning. Soon you’ll understand the norms of the group and you’ll find yourself being accepted as a member.

  14. Anonymous*

    THANK YOU to Alison for answering my question and to EVERYONE who commented.

    After reading the comments I walked into work this afternoon, (the email was sent yesterday) and felt truly empowered. I realised that maybe I was wanting to be a victim because of all the negative advice I was getting from people at work.

    A few of the guys in the office were making me believe that the email was discriminatory and unfair, and I should report it. It became so toxic in that office that I believed that I was the victim…and now I see, after making a decision on how I was going to react, that I’m really not.

    I kept my head down, I smiled, and I worked harder than I have for a long time.

    Thank you again everyone!

  15. Marie*

    This thread proves what I believe is very important for women to always keep in mind: the workplace is a man’s world, and as women, it’s our duty to submit to male domination. Not because men are better than us – it’s just that we women are naturally meant to be subservient to men. *Note: this does NOT mean that ew have to put up with something really bad, such as sexual assault, fo course.

      1. Marie*

        No, I’m NOT trolling. I’ve never done that, and it’s a bit insulting for you to assume that. In any case, I’ve always thought Internet trolling means to post comments not relevant to the original thread.

        I was simply expressing the truth that in the workplace – as in all aspects of life – women should be subservient to male authority, so that if a male supervisor publicly criticizes a female employee, she should bow her head and accept this.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Trolling = intentionally being inflammatory. I have no idea if you’re joking or not, but if you’re actually serious, this isn’t the place for it, just like this isn’t the place for racist comments either.

          1. Marie*

            Then we have different definitions of Internet trolling.

            I was not joking. And to equate my post about relations between women and men in the workplace with racism is not logical.

            1. KellyK*

              Sure it is. Saying women should be subservient is actually *very* similar to saying that non-whites should be subservient.

    1. Anonymous*

      I don’t understand Marie’s comment at all, it seems like Marie is concluding more than the facts warrant.

      I conclude, however, that is perfectly acceptable for blog owners to remove posts that do not add to the discussion…

    2. Anonymous*

      So if my boss tells me I need to wear short, tight skirts and bring him coffee on a platter every morning, despite the fact that I am an accomplished attorney with better grades than he got all through his law school career, I should go right along with it and giggle happily as my intelligence, work ethic, and all the things I bring to the table at my job are degraded simply because I happen to have “ladyparts?”

  16. Anonymous*

    Glad to hear of the outcome, OP! And I actually would have thought the opposite of AAM, but after reading the comments, I was able to get both perspectives.

    Kepp in mind, if I had saw my co-worker’s name on that spreadsheet, I wouldn’t think any less of them in any way.

  17. Another Anon*

    I live now in a very conservative part of the country where men and women retaining their biblical roles is thought to be the solution to many social ills. Being liberal myself I struggle with that culture, but I can understand how Marie’s point could be quite seriously and constructively intended. If we respect diversity, we need to respect that viewpoint even if we don’t agree for ourselves.
    I’ve also been in IT for thirty years. Women are typically one in six or seven nearly anywhere. In a dozen positions I’ve been delighted to be just one of the guys and I’ve struggled with being cold shouldered. I cheer for the OP not taking a victim’s role, but if she feels she’s facing some challenges in that regard, I wouldn’t doubt her. But even in a sexist group one has to act as though one doesn’t notice. Showing them a victim only encourages the wrong behavior.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Respecting diversity is different from respecting someone directly infringing on someone else’s rights, dignity, etc. Let’s be clear about what we’re talking about here: Marie wrote, “In the workplace – as in all aspects of life – women should be subservient to male authority.” People are welcome to live their personal lives however they want — truly, I mean that — but suggesting that we assign authority in the workplace based on sex is ridiculous and so far out of the mainstream that I can’t even entertain it as a serious thought (which is why it sounded like trolling). Although if I could take it seriously, it would be offensive in the same way that suggesting we assign authority based on race or religion would be.

      1. Anonymous*

        Exactly. Toleration does not extend to “tolerating intolerance”. If someone insists that I’m an inferior being who by “nature” needs to defer to a superior being, that is infringing on my basic rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

        And I still think she was trolling.

        1. Jamie*

          I do, too.

          I know there are some people who feel that way (female inferiority) which is certainly their prerogative. But to post that in a fairly nonchalant manner in a management blog written by a woman is suspicious.

          Oh the off chance that it’s not trolling, it’s not something I even consider worthy of comment.

          Women should defer to men in the workplace based on gender? Okay – I’ll file that along with “when hiring a unicorn make sure to give full access server permissions” in my list of completely ridiculous rules.

          Okay – I guess I found it worthy of one comment :).

  18. Michael*

    Ok, folks. I read enough (didn’t get past the first 5 or 6 entries). There is only one issue here as presented by the poster. She was being criticized in a very public way. There is no room for this, period. If it was on purpose, the supervisor should apologize when/if he becomes aware of his mistake. As to how the poster should respond, since this could be a single instance, there is no recourse at this point. If the public criticism continues, particularly if it is unjustified, then she needs to take action. That could entail first going to this supervisor, or going above him straight away. If the reason for the continuing criticism is bona fide incompetence (should it continue), then the poster has a tough battle. If they report the supervisor, they blow their cover. My gut reaction is that the poster is not incompetent (she was hired, after all), and the supervisor is just a blatant a-hole. No one posts something like that and accidentally overlooks that the parties’ names are included. Play it by ear and go by what I’ve said. Ask friends what they think. Ultimately, unless things become real bad, just try to write out your feelings on a document that you don’t send anyone. As the Brits say, try to keep a stiff upper lip — unless, and until, it becomes NECESSARY to act… Good luck, and I am sorry you’re going through this.

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