feeling awful about firing someone, confusion over name changes, and more

It’s seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. I feel awful about firing someone

This past month, I fired someone for the first time (background, I’m in my mid-20s and have been in a management position for less than a year after being suddenly promoted). It was certainly warranted — poor performance, lying, and never-ceasing argumentative behavior. Despite the fact that I well-documented the behavior and performance (HR even called me their “best student” because of how thorough my documentation was), I am left feeling, for the lack of a better word, haunted by this decision. Despite the relief in my department that her termination has brought, I have mixed feelings of guilt and like I’m the person who did something wrong. I even have recurring nightmares that she’s back at work to some varying degree.

I want to move forward for the sake of my current employees and the upcoming replacement, but I feel near-traumatized by the experience that was this termination. It was awful, as you would expect from such a meeting — I was anxious and feeling guilty, plus I felt abandoned by my boss, who mixed up the time so she was on the other side of town when she was supposed to be there for the meeting as well. I have had a hard time trusting her in the aftermath of this ordeal. Are these feelings normal and expected for a new manager? I didn’t expect firing to be easy, but I didn’t expect to be feeling like shit about it well after it’s over. Any tips for moving on and forward?

It’s normal for firings to be hard and to feel guilty even when you know the decision was the right one — even when the person was warned and chose not to change their behavior. Firing is hard. But what you’re describing — ongoing anxiety and guilt — sounds outside the normal range of reactions. There’s some advice here about how to deal with firings, but it also might help to talk your reaction over with your manager or another mentor, or even with peers who have had to fire people. Ultimately what you want is to come to see this as something that was difficult, yes, but (a) warranted, (b) not without warning to the employee, and (c) a reasonable part of the job of managing.

2. How to welcome a transgender employee

My workplace has recently hired a transgender woman. I personally think this is awesome (as far as I know, she’s the first trans person), but I’m wondering if I should reach out to her and make the extra effort to be welcoming, or if this is creepy and invasive.

I don’t work directly with her, and am unlikely to see her very often, but we do have some non-work interests in common and she seems to be someone that I’d actually like to know, socially. I also know that our workplace has a particularly awesome Ally group (as in, Ally and everyone actually in the LGBTQIAA-etc spectrum) that she might find useful.

However, she passes reasonably well and we have not been Officially Told (I mean, you can tell, but it didn’t even really register on me til later, and I was doing a quick Google on some of my new colleagues – which I do regularly – and found a website profile that mentions that she is transgender). I’m not sure if she’d like it to be brought up, as it isn’t really relevant to her job and as far as I can tell, nobody has given her cause to feel unwelcome or in need of support.

If I don’t reach out to her, it will not impact me at all, and will never be noticed that I did nothing. But I would like to be welcoming (and I do think it’s really awesome).

If you think she’s someone who you’d like to get to know better, you should absolutely reach out and be friendly and welcoming. But you can do that in the exact same way that you would with any other coworker; there’s no need to make it about the fact that she’s transgender or to bring it up on your own or otherwise make a big deal out of it. Just be welcoming to her, and you’ll have accomplished your mission.

3. Did my employer overpay me or was this a gift?

I work full-time at a grocery store and I recently took a week’s paid vacation. When I returned to work and payday came around, I received no check. I told the store manager and he said, “Sorry about that, what we’ll do is get you some petty cash to get you through the week and then next Thursday we’ll just pay you for both weeks.” I figured he just misspoke and what he meant was that he’d give me some cash now and the rest would go into my next paycheck. So he gave me $300 in cash, but then the next week they paid me in full for both weeks. It’s been a few weeks now and still no one has said anything. So, do you think they meant to gift me the money or did they just forget to get it back from me? Do you think they will figure it out eventually?

I think it doesn’t matter, because that’s not your money and you need to return it — unless they tell you explicitly that it’s yours. Go to them and explain what happened and ask if you should return the cash you were given. They’ll say yes or no, and then you’ll know what you were intended to do with it and then can either return if that’s what was intended or can keep it if that’s what was intended. Keeping money that wasn’t intended for you is not among these options.

4. Name change confusion

I recently got married (less than two months ago) and am currently searching for a new position. I’ve been using my maiden name because a) I haven’t changed everything over yet and b) all my professional work is done in my maiden name. I just sent a quick thank-you email to my interviewer and realized that although my actual email was MaidenName@gmail.com, it was showing up as “New Name (MaidenName@Gmail.com)”. I didn’t address my name change at all in the interview, and feel like it’s inappropriate/weird to send a follow-up on the thank you regarding the new name that would appear in his inbox. Should I just ignore it and bring it up in the next round of interviews if I make it that far? Or email?

It’s not a big deal. Most people are used to seeing some variation of this from people now and then, due to the complications around marital name changes. I wouldn’t worry about it — although you might make a point of making sure that everything with your name on it is set up to be consistent with the way you want it going forward, at least as far as the ways in which those things might intersect with your job search.

5. Can my manager make me do this?

I wanted to know if it’s illegal for a manager to make their employee to clean up animal feces, such as rat feces, if it’s not a part of the employee’s job description

No. There is no anti-poo-cleaning law.

6. My boss hasn’t paid me the money I lent him

I migrated to U.S. ~10 years ago, am very well paid, and have a million dollar home in very good community. My and my manager’s homes are nearby. My manager always asks me to coordinate his landscaping and house work. He asks me to pay for the same and collect the payment from him later. No issues, I can do this. However, he never pays me back. (I will stop reminding after reminding 1-2 times.) Compared to our salary/bonus, this is not a big amount, but still it bothers me. I want to get my money back.

I migrated to U.S., so I don’t know how to properly express this without offending him. Can you please help?

Send him an email that says this: “Bob, the landscaping and house work reimbursements total $X. I’ll stop by your office to pick up a check later this week, unless you prefer something different.” If you then stop by his office to pick up the check and he doesn’t have it, say, “I figure we should get this squared away because it’s adding up. When should I come back for it?” Don’t let this drop though — he owes you this money, and you should get it. Keep following up (pleasantly) until you do.

7. How to work with a low-performing student worker

I am a part-time contractor at a university. A student worker reports to my manager. While I do not have authority over this student worker, I am expected to give her work and explain to her how to do projects. While this worker started off fairly conscientiously, she effectively took the summer off without ever telling my manager as much. Now she is back on campus and at work again.

Since the beginning of summer, I have been trying to follow up with her on various projects, and most recently have had to send her 4 emails asking for a spreadsheet for her to get it to me. She didn’t finish completing it, so I had to ask her to fill in column X as we discussed when I gave her the project.

Earlier today, I told my manager that I have been having trouble getting into from this student worker and my manager promised to talk to her (this is at least the second time she has done this). Now I can either let my manager talk to her or update my manager that the worker did get me the info, but didn’t do the project properly (again, not the first time this has happened and I also discussed that with the manager today). This student employee is 18 or 19 and has no professional decorum. I will need to continue to give her projects and receive the completed projects to do my job, and it is getting to be a drag. In future, how should I handle working with this student employee?

Tell your boss about the problems you’re having. Make sure she knows that there’s a pattern. Additionally, be clear with the student worker about what you need her to do differently — e.g., “It’s difficult for me to have to follow up with you multiple times to get items sent to me. Can you be more vigilant about sending them on the first request?” and “I’ve noticed some work is coming back to me without all the details completed. I’m looking for X, Y, and Z on projects like this. Can you be sure to include them in the future?” And so forth.

And if the problems continue, you’ll need to let your manager know that you’re not getting what you need and what the impact is on your work.

{ 310 comments… read them below }

  1. Female sam*

    Op1 – whilst you mention you documented everything regarding the firing for your company’s purposes, we’re you explicitly clear with the employee about the possibility of being fired? You don’t mention in your OP whether you warned the employee or not and if not, I’m wondering if it is this that’s causing anxiety. I’ve seen managers in the past do exactly this – have extensive documentation to back up a firing to HR, but for the employee it came out of the blue because it wasn’t communicated to them explicitly.

    Of course, if you did warn the employee then the above is moot.

    Op3 – never assume a gift when money is involved. Get clear confirmation of the gift first, or else offer to pay it back. There is no honest reason why you would keep quiet about this – the fact you’re considering it at all suggests dishonesty and theft.

    1. OP1*

      Oh, yes, this employee was warned. The bizarre part was I noticed she was cleaning out her office over the month (taking home pictures, etc.) but she acted shocked when it happened. Guess she wanted to quit and I beat her to it.

  2. abankyteller*

    #2: Alison’s advice is right on. I hope you do go out of your way to introduce yourself to this woman. It’s unfortunately likely that she might need some work friends when the news about her transition gets out.

    1. Anne*

      *If* the news about her transition gets out, I would think.

      OP #2, really really don’t bring it up if you found out about it while Googling her. Really.

      1. Laufey*

        But agreed, OP, don’t bring it up unless she says something first. It would be like someone outing you in the office because they read your comments on a forum somewhere.

    2. glennis*

      I think you should be welcoming to this woman, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to refer to her transition.If she wants to be “outed” it’s her choice. Treat her like you would treat any other professional woman colleague in a professional manner. She IS a woman, in fact.

      1. ella*

        I agree. Wait until she outs herself before inviting her to any LGBTQ Ally groups or anything else. She may not want to be part of such a group in her workplace, or anywhere else; plenty of trans* folk just want their gender to be accepted and not be part of any LGBTQ community or activism. I don’t know how you can tell her that you found out about her status by Googling her and assume that she wants/needs an Ally group and not sound creepy while you’re doing it.

        I think the best way of being her ally, whether you introduce yourself to her or not, is to nip any office gossip you hear in the bud. If you hear people speculating about trans issues you can educate them without ever bringing her into it. If you hear them saying cruel things you can shut them down and make it clear that this isn’t a workplace where that will fly. That will do as much, if not more, to make her feel welcome than introducing yourself and inviting her to the Ally group.

  3. Jessa*

    #2 you welcome her by treating her like everyone else, the fact you know she’s trans has not one thing to do with anything. She may not want that information known to anyone, so pretend you don’t have it. And treat her like everyone else. If she wants you to know she’ll tell you.

    1. Jane Doe*

      Yeah, just because it’s online doesn’t mean she wants it known to everyone, especially since it’s not clear what kind of profile it is – she may be under the impression that her profile information is private/not searchable by Google, or she may not even be aware that it exists (especially if it’s an older profile or it was set up by someone else). It’s also not necessarily accurate.

  4. Anonymous*

    #3 An employer can’t give you a gift of $300. It’s taxable income to you and needs to be reported as such and the proper amounts withheld and taxes paid.

    1. Cheryl*

      Also, if it was from petty cash there might be a notation in that lockbox that says “$300 to (new hire)” which will eventually be added to an accounting sheet somewhere. This will come back to you – it looks better if you are proactive about it.

  5. Robyn*

    Q2 “She passes reasonably well…”

    Really? Are you sure you’re open and welcoming enough to be able to treat this woman the way you would treat anyone else?

    Because she isn’t ‘passing’. She’s a woman.

    1. abankyteller*

      I’m glad someone else said this. That comment rubbed me the wrong way but I wasn’t sure if I was being oversensitive.

      1. en pointe*

        I think the wording was a bit crass but I don’t think the OP meant any judgement. She just wanted to communicate that the woman’s transgender status isn’t something that would be immediately obvious to the office when she starts.

        That said, what did irk me was the OP’s tone throughout her letter. It sounds a little like she views this new coworker as her new “token” transgender coworker. Granted, that may be a little much to infer from such a short letter but from my own experience of having a transgender best friend, while she appreciates people being welcoming and friendly in all contexts, work or otherwise, she would rather that not be explicitly in relation to her transgender status. From what I’ve seen, it’s better appreciated when people either have a genuine desire to get to know her unrelated to her gender identity, or simply treat her the same as everyone else.

        I think it’s great that you want to welcome this woman, as many people might appreciate a friendly face when they’re new, however I would caution against mentioning anything about her being transgender or that you think a transgender woman being hired is awesome.

        1. Jen in RO*

          While I don’t have a problem with the terms, I do agree with en pointe and think the OP is going a bit overboard in trying to be welcoming. I would guess that the coworker would be happiest if you just treated her like any other female coworker you might have. If you have common interests, that’s great, she will probably appreciate someone to talk to – those first days at work can be pretty nerve-wracking.

        2. OP*

          I am worried I’m doing the ‘token GSM’ person thing, which is one reason I was trying to get a second opinion; I don’t meet many other openly gsm people around, and I’m really sensitive to the fact that our workplace has problems in the institute as a whole, so I’m really keen on more diversity on staff.

          And I really, really don’t want to be the person who goes up and says “so, you’re the one with the [irrelevant personal aspect to their life history]”. Especially if they’ve just moved on from their previous life and are trying to make a new start

          But equally, being detectably transgender DOES lead to more problems for people, so I feel like I should be making slightly more effort to counter that, as it isn’t going to take much from me. Stuff like saying hi, and here are some people you can contact who are good at dealing with issues/eager to promote stuff/willing to chat/whatever (i.e. official resources with no further pressure). And as one of the ONLY people in my workplace who went to the LGBTQ stuff, I’m pretty sure nobody else is likely to point them that way (not because the others are -phobic, just that it may not even register on them as a thing to do, nor do they have any idea how good/bad a resource it might be).

          The main reason it’s such a big deal is that I won’t ever work directly with, or in the same place as, them, so the only way I’ll get to this point, or even to find out if I really will get on with them (as I said, I think we would get on – but I don’t know that for sure!), is to make a deliberate, possibly creepy, effort to seek them out. Which isn’t something I’d normally do. Even if I do sit there thinking “they look pretty cool”.

          If I was going to actually ever see them, then I wouldn’t be worrying about all this much, as I think just being normal would be more helpful. I’d just go with the “being a normal, friendly, normally supportive coworker who is a neutral/safe space” option.

          But I’m also feeling somewhat protective – simply because there COULD be a problem, that I COULD maybe help with, which is how I react to things in general. And I know that if I was in a new place and didn’t know what the culture was like, and someone stopped by and said “by the way? the Brony thing? Totally awesome, and here’s where the local DVD collection is” it would make my mental state a lot easier. Or possibly worse, given that I might be going “WTF HOW DID THEY KNOW I FEEL TOTALLY INVADED WHO ARE THEY GOING TO TELL ALSO HOW DARE THEY SAY PINKIE PIE IS BEST PONY”.

          So I’m overthinking it from the start to decide if I should just let it go, or if this is one of those times it could actually make a difference to someone other than me.

          Oh look, totally huge random essay.

          1. Jamie*

            Your heart may be in the right place, but I’m finding this really patronizing. Since I’m sure that’s not the way you intend, you really need to think carefully of how this attitude will come off to your new colleague.

            And equating being transgender with being a brony – which would be completely and totally inappropriate to discuss in the workplace – is really problematic.

            You need to consider how any new employee would feel if a total stranger walked up and offered them official resources to deal with problems of being (insert characteristic) in the workplace. You have no idea if they will have problems…and it really seems like you want to seek them out for no other reason than the fact that they are transgendered.

            That’s patronizing and for me it would be insulting.

            1. OP*

              I was absolutely not equating it with being a brony. I was picking something silly that would work in the metaphor of bringing something up, that was obviously silly enough to NOT be meant as a direct comparison (also what the hell kind of workplace culture do you have where they AREN’T appropriate? People are allowed social lives. People are allowed to mention things they do for fun. That’s the same line of argument that states that one’s sexual preferences have no place in the workplace).

              I am considering how it would feel – I just came up with multiple possibilities, which is why I *didn’t* rush on with my first instinct. *Personally*, if my coworkers actually mentioned they knew I was gay, it would be a) super awkward (which is why I have never actually pushed it, aside from the small risk of it backfiring) and then b) a huge relief, because dancing around that thing that everyone probably knows, but you’re not sure, and there’s no easy/relevant way to bring up, is tiring and misery inducing. I would rather just have it gotten out of the way, clarified that it wasn’t a problem, and left to go my own way and/or be more open about it. Anything after that is optional. So my automatic response of helping out is basically what I would like from other people.

              (I do have other reasons I would like to talk to them; if they seemed like someone I had nothing in common with, I’d find it much easier to shrug and move on. Which would make me feel guilty, though, in that my empathy is linked to my personal interest/benefit, so I’d probably end up back in the same place. But I know me; unless I am forced into a confined space for several months with them, I will not make friends. I am NOT going to seek them out without some other reason, if only because the first apparent mutual interest might not work out. I am trying to decide if this is a good reason.)

              I mean, it’s obviously overwhelmingly likely to backfire, based on all the responses here, and it IS all stuff I was worried about. So I am probably just going to dump it in the too hard basket, move on, and never, ever talk to them. It will make my life super easy. I just feel like that’s the coward’s way out, and that, as it’s my strongest instinct, is probably wrong (given that I usually run AWAY from anyone that might talk to me that I don’t know super well). All the advice about treating them normally just means… I will never treat them as anything. I will NEVER see them. Our paths just won’t overlap unless I go out of my way to make them. So I wanted to make sure that it was okay to do that.

              1. Jamie*

                (also what the hell kind of workplace culture do you have where they AREN’T appropriate? People are allowed social lives. People are allowed to mention things they do for fun. That’s the same line of argument that states that one’s sexual preferences have no place in the workplace).

                Maybe I’m mistaken on what a brony is. I only know about it from the Hot in Cleveland episode and Cracked, but isn’t it a thing where people eroticize a child’s cartoon?

                If so, no it isn’t appropriate to discuss with co-workers any more than it’s appropriate to discuss any activity which is based on sexual gratification. Which is to say, never, unless among intimates.

                It’s a false equivalency to compare that to sexual orientation. Of course one’s orientation is fine to be open about…that’s an inherent part of who one is and it’s about relationships. Knowing that Rick and Steve are married and went to the Sox game on Saturday is fine, no different than Beth and Rachel or Mary and Bob. But the specific sexual turn-ons of any of those people have no place in the office.

                Seeing no difference between the validity of a same sex pair bond as opposed to a heterosexual pair bond is great and should be something society continues to work toward. Knowing what particular proclivities people have which arouse them…that’s completely different and has no place in conversations between people who don’t have a close and intimate relationship where sharing stuff like that is welcome on both sides.

                1. Nancie*

                  You’re thinking of the extreme bronies. A brony is any male fan of My Little Pony, and there are definitely some out there whose interest is G-rated. Some women also use the word brony.

                  Note: it’s best not to call someone a brony unless they’ve called themselves one first. Some people embrace it and are trying to erase the stigma that’s often attached, and others run a million miles from it.

                2. Jamie*

                  Thanks. I’m not sure people only familiar with it from casual media sources would know that, but if it’s not sexual then sure, they could talk about it at work. My mistake.

              2. Lee*

                @OP #2
                You do realize transgender women identify as “straight”, not gay. She might not even want to identify with the gay community or yourself.

                Why won’t treat her like you do every other woman, and see if she mentions your sexuality or appears comfortable talking to you about it first? I’ve known trans-women who did not particularly like gay people.

                It just seems presumptuous on your part to think there’s a connection.

                1. Jen in RO*

                  She could always be a gay, transgender woman… we don’t know anything about her sexual preferences.

                2. Magda*

                  Or bisexual. But either way assuminng someone’s sexual orientation based on whether they’re cis or trans is just not going to work.

                3. Anonymous*

                  Oh lord. Everyone, the person’s point was that she doesn’t necessarily identify as any queer/lesbian/bi/etc sexual orientation because of her gender identity and trans* identity.
                  Yes it was presumptuous, but it was poor phrasing, not ignorance. I’m sure Lee knows that this transwoman is allowed to be attracted to women and thus in that circumstance would not be straight.

              3. A Teacher*

                You need to treat her as a person and right now as unintentional as it may seem, you are treating your new colleague as a “thing.” Being transgendered isn’t the sum total of who she is as a person, just like having green eyes, being tall, being straight, or being gay isn’t the sum total of someone else. She’s just who she is.

                I’m not sure why you feel the need to treat someone or worry about how you’d treat someone any differently than you would any other new person that you would meet.

            2. Victoria Nonprofit*

              I’m interested in this thread and really don’t mean to derail, but: How is being a brony “totally inappropriate” for discussion in the workplace? How is it different from, say, being into Hello Kitty? ;)

            3. A Bug!*

              You need to consider how any new employee would feel if a total stranger walked up and offered them official resources to deal with problems of being (insert characteristic) in the workplace.

              You also need to consider that they are (insert characteristic), and they have probably already considered the potential for problems in the workplace, and to assume that they require you, a complete stranger (yes, you are a complete stranger, even if you’ve Googled her*), to point out resources to them as if they can’t locate them themselves, is pretty condescending.

              *You might want to stop doing that with new coworkers. There’s nothing useful that you could discover by Googling a coworker that you couldn’t reasonably learn by getting to know them. And by Googling, you risk exactly this dumb situation. Now you know something about your coworker that you can’t bring up to anyone, not even her, because bringing it up to others risks subjecting her to discrimination, harassment, abuse, and potentially the loss of her job, and bringing it up to her is just… well, weird and intrusive.

              If you didn’t care about getting to know your coworker before you Googled her and discovered her history, then I suggest you spend some time introspecting about the actual motives you have for going out of your way for her. If you see this as an opportunity to prove you’re an ally to GSM people, then you really, really should hang back on this, because your new coworker is not an achievement to be unlocked.

              1. Anita*

                I thought the OP made it sound as though it was very unlikely that any new employee would find the Ally group since there are so few participants and the culture does not promote it. Obviously the OP’s heart is in the right place. A whole lot of people are very sensitive about these issues and it sounds better not to engage. Clearly this is the takeaway message from all these posts that are essentially accusing the OP of tokenism.

            4. Bea W*


              This co-worker is likely fully aware through a lifetime of experience what difficulties she may encounter. She would not be where she is without the proper coping skills already in place. There is no need to “protect” her as if she’s helpless wading into odd territory.

              Equating being a brony with being transgenderas an example? To address what the OP explains in her reply, being transgender is not a social hobby or something people “do for fun”. That metaphor does not work in the way giving an example of bringing up someone’s love of 80s hair bands as a shared interest does not work as a metaphor for approaching someone and saying, “By the way, it’s totally cool you’re Chinese. I know this great Chinese buffet down the street.”

          2. Nancie*

            I can’t tell if you’ve lapsed into using gender-neutral language here, or if you’re speaking in the plural. If it’s the former, then you’ve got a ways to go before you can treat your coworker the way she’ll want to be treated — as just another coworker and a potential friend.

            Even if you are speaking in the plural, from everything else you’ve said, you need to try to forget that your coworker is trans before you try to make friends with her. If she picks up on the fact that you’re mentally making sort of a big deal of her being trans, she won’t appreciate it.

          3. De*

            Even with the brony thing – see, I used to write fanfic. And if you google my name a bit, I am sure you could find it. That does not mean it’s something I want people I don’t even know talking to me about. It’s really something I would want to bring up myself with people I feel more comfortable with. I can imagine that gender identity is something where this feeling is a lot stronger for many people.

          4. J*

            “But equally, being detectably transgender DOES lead to more problems for people, so I feel like I should be making slightly more effort to counter that, as it isn’t going to take much from me. Stuff like saying hi, and here are some people you can contact who are good at dealing with issues/eager to promote stuff/willing to chat/whatever (i.e. official resources with no further pressure). And as one of the ONLY people in my workplace who went to the LGBTQ stuff, I’m pretty sure nobody else is likely to point them that way (not because the others are -phobic, just that it may not even register on them as a thing to do, nor do they have any idea how good/bad a resource it might be).”

            I find this incredibly patronizing. How do you know that she needs to be put in contact with people who are good at “dealing with issues/willing to chat, etc?” Did you ever stop to think that she might have plenty of self-confidence? Did you stop to think that if she needed resources for this personal (non-work related issue) that she is capable of obtaining those resources? You’re way off base with this entire situation. You googled her and discovered that she is transgender and now you want to make a “special” effort to make her feel welcome? Why not just treat her like a coworker, with respect and dignity? I get the sense that you’re severely overcompensating for something… Are you feeling guilty for some reason?

          5. Elizabeth West*

            It’s nice that you want to welcome and help a new employee. However, her issues (or non-issues) handling her transgender status are 1) not your problem or responsibility, and 2) really not any of your business. I’m not trying to be harsh; but you need to forget about it. If she’s transgender and fully presenting as female, she’ll have worked that out for herself by now and I’m willing to bet she’ll find the group on her own.

            I don’t think you should avoid talking to her. Just be friendly and welcoming when you do meet, as you would with any other new person. If a friendship should happen, that’s great. If not, she’ll be fine and so will you.

            And I recommend that you stop Googling your coworkers. Then you won’t have to feel responsible for information like this because you won’t know it. :)

      2. Bea W*

        It rubbed me the wrong way too. It could be the OP is just not educated that much on what being transgender means and it was an honest mistake. That could also explain the other crassness described by en point, that she’s just suffering from some innocent ignorance. Her letter also comes across like she has little or no experience herself with transgender people, since she clearly has no idea how to approach this person. After all, this is why she wrote to Alison. If she had a clue, she wouldn’t be asking those questions in the first place. So I’m inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt that while the tone was insensitive, it wasn’t meant that way.

        1. OP*

          Yeah, context stuff: super active online, very familiar with the whole GSM spectrum and issues and many of my earliest online livejournal buddies were trans.

          In real life? Practically zilch experience. So it’s one of those actually practical areas that my general knowledge does not help me solve conclusively. Especially as I’m able to come up with conflicting approaches.

          So yes, hence the asking for help. I figured it was at least partly a work etiquette thing – the same sort of answer would probably apply to any random, possibly sensitive, non work related subject that one may or may not be supposed to know about.

          1. A Bug!*

            I know I wrote a novel up above, but there’s something else I’d like to say that is hopefully a little less harsh.

            You want to be a good ally. This is good, and is commendable. But sometimes people get caught up in the cause, muddying the line between being an ally, and being recognized as an ally. And sometimes, the desire to be an ally (or recognized as one) can influence your decisions in a way you never meant.

            So please be on guard for that. Understand that it’s not about you at all and be on guard for “validation-seeking” behavior. Do not make your new coworker the “face” of all your study and learning. She is, first and foremost, a person, and deserves to be treated as one just as any other potential new coworker.

            And finally, good luck!

            1. ella*

              “But sometimes people get caught up in the cause, muddying the line between being an ally, and being recognized as an ally.”

              So much this. I struggle with this myself, though not so much as I used to.

              Also want to add: you don’t get to decide if you’re a good ally, or even an ally at all. That’s not a title you get to take for yourself, that’s something that GSM (or PoC, or whatever applicable minority) folk bestow upon you. I find that remembering that helps me to take myself out of the middle of the equation, so to speak, and remember that it isn’t about me at all.

          2. Bea W*

            Best way to approach a person who is transgendered is to approach them as a person, the same as you would approach any other co-worker who isn’t transgendered. In that context it is no different than interacting with a co-worker who might be from a different ethnic culture. You would (hopefully!) not make that the focus of your interaction or even mention it as a topic of conversation.

            I live in an area where I’ve been exposed to, worked, studied, or been social or friends with many different people who fall outside of the standard born male/female and straight population. It might seem weird if you’ve not encountered a situation like this before or very often, but you treat a person who is transgendered just as a person who is not transgendered.

            I have had co-workers who were transgendered, and the interactions were all normal type work conversations or conversations about hobbies, school, life events, etc. The topic of being transgendered didn’t come up. That’s just the way it should be, people interacting with each other as people. That’s not to say that the topic never came up for them, but for me and the people I worked most closely with, it wasn’t a topic that came up. I think I had one person in the 14 years of full time career ask me if a co-worker went by “he” or “she”, and that was because she really wasn’t sure and didn’t want to mistakenly refer to a man as “she/her” or the other way around.

            You can think of your co-worker same way. Your co-worker identifies herself as a woman. Think of her as a woman, not as a man who identifies as a woman or a transgender woman. She is a woman. Throw every notion of what you have learned gender is out of your head. The more you can think of your co-worker as a woman like any other woman co-worker, the more natural it will feel. When you do have a chance to introduce yourself, talk about normal things you’d talk to any other co-worker about. The more you interact with her, the more natural it will feel to think of her just as “her”.

          3. nonny*

            I had to smile a little affectionately when I saw this. Hello fellow Livejournal person, there do seem to be a lot of us around here (and the web in general I suppose). I see a bit of my past self in you, in that I too was well read on this stuff before I got involved IRL. Now however the shoe is on the other foot and I’ve become everyone’s token queer, gender non conforming person that they have to be so caaareful around while I’m way past that feeling myself. (No prizes for guessing why I was lapping all that stuff up online before, eh).

            So, speaking from my very similar experiences:

            • DON’T tangle yourself up overthinking it to the point of paralysis.
            • DON’T ignore her because you’re worried about getting it wrong.
            • DO be friendly and welcoming, as you would be with any newbie. Personally, I’m also not going to fault you for feeling like you want to be even more friendly than with your average newbie – it’s good to have community and it sounds like you’re really missing that yourself. So long as it’s only goes as far as ‘I suspect I would get on with this person, and will make an extra effort to find out whether that’s true’ (which is something you can feel about people for all sorts of reasons/cues/hints) and not an attempt to force something when it’s not there, or assume you’re already starting from a position of intimacy and friendship because you have something in common (that has never even been discussed between the two of you!).
            • DO drop some hints if you like, such as mentioning that you were at Pride last weekend or whatever. Honestly even just using a term like ‘LGBTQA’ is a bit of a giveaway about your level of involvement with and awareness of these issues. The important thing about this though is that you’re being open with her (or whoever else this comes up with) about who you are, for their information, not pushing them to reveal more information about themselves, or tokenising them, or revealing that you’ve Learned Their Secrets via Google (ew).

            And, advice for you personally, rather than the general advice above:
            • Consider being more fully out in your workplace. You’d be amazed how much easier all this stuff becomes when you do that, for so many reasons that I can’t even begin to articulate them in this comment.

            I don’t know your circumstances but you say you’re avoiding it because it would be ‘super awkward’ and there’s ‘no easy way to bring it up’, but that it’s ‘tiring and misery inducing’. Oh my gosh, OP. If you feel like you possibly can, I recommend that you doooo eeeet. Namedrop a partner or an ex or a celebrity crush, namedrop going to Pride, or LGBT activist meetings, or whatever you need to do that is appropriate for the conversation. Whenever you feel that pang of tiredness and misery? That’s a sign that it would have been relevant to bring this out in the open. Even if just with a laugh and a ‘well, haha, that doesn’t really apply to me, what with not being straight and all’.

            Coming out is a long term process, you have to keep doing it all the bloody time. The more you do it the better you get at it and the less awkward it is.

            Good luck :)

            1. nonny*

              And, in response to some of your comments lower down on this page:
              • DON’T assume that because someone’s trans they’re a devoted well read activist who wants to talk about queer stuff
              • DON’T make any actions that you’re really only doing because you know she’s trans (when she hasn’t disclosed that to you) – no randomly sending her information about LGBT groups or anything like that.

              I have a LOT of sympathy for how much you’re overthinking this, I’ve been there (although not quite to this extent…) but at some point you have to get over yourself and not make someone’s minority status all about what it means for ~you~. She’s a normal human being.

      3. OP*

        I’m glad you said it too :D I felt a bit bad including it, but figured it was important context. I did try and use the “is this actually necessary information or just gossip fodder” rule of thumb!

        1. en pointe*

          I really think the best course of action would be to simply treat her the same as you would any new coworker. And I also believe it’s what she would appreciate the most.

          Anything more and I just don’t think you can get around the fact that it’s patronising, irrespective of whether or not you explicitly mention her gender identity.

      4. The IT Manager*

        I’m late to this comment party, but there is something about the LW’s assumption that she’s transgendered so we’ll be such great friends that makes it seems that the LW is completely buying into the stereotype of what a transwoman is – that you know her personality in advance.

        The LW is well meaning with the best of intentions, but he don’t know her yet. He should be friendly and welcoming, but extra special attention may be unwanted. However you do note common interests so in the course of your conversation, I would recommend you mention that through LinkedIn I noticed you and I both like X and see if a friendship develops naturally from there. (This assumes a normal level of googling and not extreme internet stalking. I sure hope you didn’t have to dig very hard to find this info b/c that would be creepy.)

        Assuming LW#2 is male (b/c of brony ref) but haven’t read all the responses yet.

        1. Jamie*

          What is the normal level of googling for a new co-worker? Not being snarky, but is this something people do?

          I know about googling candidates, but I can’t imagine ever being interested enough in a colleague to preemptively google them just because they came on board. Particularly someone on a different team with whom I wouldn’t be working.

          Maybe I just lack an interest in people, I don’t Facebook either …so this may just be one more thing I don’t get.

          1. Anonadog*

            When a new coworker joins at my company, their manager sends out a “Hey, here’s who this new person is” email – often without a picture of the new person. I almost always Google new coworkers/employees so that I can find a picture of them online and not feel like an idiot when I see them for the first time in the office. Usually this is limited to LinkedIn, unless something really interesting comes up on the first page of search results.

          2. Yup*

            When a new staffer is announced, I might google them just to look at their LinkedIn because I’m curious about their professional background. Have we crossed paths organizationally, are they new to the industry, etc. I don’t much care beyond that (til I actually meet them) unless it’s a super senior executive type. Then I might spend 2 minutes looking for articles they’ve written etc to get a sense of what they’re about professionally.

            1. Chocolate Teapot*

              If the name rings a bell, then I may look them up on LinkedIn or in a local business magazine.

            2. Bea W*

              I normally look them up on LinkedIn to see what their professional background is, but that’s about the extent of it.

          3. Jen in RO*

            I usually google my new coworkers and click the first few links (usually FB, LI, maybe a personal site). I don’t mention anything I’ve found to them unless they mention it first.

          4. KarenT*

            I Google all new co-workers. No real reason other than curiosity, I guess. If I see an announcement come out that John Smith is starting at our company, I’ll do a quick Google search. It’s usually just their LinkedIn that comes up. I’ve never found anything remotely interesting about an incoming employee but I like reading people’s work history because my industry is small and it gives me insight into what other opportunities might be out there for me.

          5. DMC123*

            I thought this was strange too!

            Why is the OP so nosy? Google and research a candidate, sure but a coworker… I find that a) really strange b) none of her business and c) creepy to approach a new hire knowing all of these personal things about them that haven’t been shared directly with them.

            Treat people nicely and like all people should be treated and everything will be just fine.

          6. Elizabeth West*

            No, I wouldn’t Google work peeps either. I have zero interest in anything they’re doing online outside of work, unless they tell me and it’s cool (like a blog or something), or we become friends.

            1. tcookson*

              I never Google work peeps, either, and I don’t really like the thought that people might Google me. I know that a lot of people do it, and I don’t think there’s anything bad out there about me (maybe embarrassing or awkward . . . like if someone Googled me up and linked me to my comments on this blog).

              But really, I only connect with my coworkers in ways that they invite me to connect (such as on Facebook or Linked In) where I’m only privy to things about them that they’ve chosen to give me access to. I don’t want to know more than that about them or to accidentally discover something private.

          7. Laufey*

            Like several others, I’ll just look at the first page or so – LinkedIn, professional page, previous work experience. I am absolutely horrible with names and faces, so doing this when we have several people starting at once gives me a leg up on identifying people. We also take all new hires out to lunch on the first day, so knowing where they used to work or what they do helps give me conversation fodder (Oh, you worked for so and so. How was it? How does living in BigCity compare to SmallCity? and so on).

            I take everything I find with a grain of salt, though, since I have been mistaken for my Googleganger in the past.

            1. cecilhungry*

              It could be worse. My sister shares a name, age, and geographic region with a fairly high-profile felon. That’s the only thing that shows up for SEVENTEEN pages. Good thing she already has a steady job, or she might have trouble passing background checks.

              1. LCL*

                I google everybody, but I don’t stalk them. I will read their linked in profile, and news stories, but not anything that appears personal. No facebook or address lookups. And I am very familiar with the duplicate name issue; there is an adult film star using the same work name as I use.

                1. Laufey*

                  Exactly. Also, I’m not looking up addresses, I just look at where they’ve worked (and assume that they live there or near there. There’s a high statistical probability of that happening).

          8. A Bug!*

            I find it a bit strange to Google (beyond LinkedIn) coworkers as opposed to candidates you are considering. I look at Googling a person as a way to look for liabilities in a person, because a person can’t be relied upon to share those with you.

            In an earlier comment I mentioned that there’s not really anything you can discover through the practice that wouldn’t also be learned by simply meeting the person and getting to know them. It just seems off-putting to me that, rather than just talking to a person, you’d first look them up on Google.

            I can understand the motivation behind Googling coworkers. You want to know about them. It’s a polite interest and you’re curious about this new person who is going to be working with you. But it just seems like yet another way to avoid personal interaction with people; isn’t it more enjoyable if you learn things things directly from them, in a context where you can then share with them also?

          9. Dang*

            I found out a coworker was trans by googling him one day; I don’t remember why I did it but there was a reason. Didn’t say a word about it (I just think that would be weird.. and.. why?) but eventually he told me. *shrug*

            OP, just treat new coworker like anyone else. I am also LGBT and couldn’t care less if people at work knew about it or engaged me in conversation about it. I might be a bit caught off guard if a new colleague started telling me about LGBT things in the workplace. Maybe if it comes up in conversation down the road or you’re directly asked, but other than that, I agree with everyone else- let her navigate the new waters of her job and don’t engage in conversation about it unless she brings it up first.

    2. Jen in RO*

      I don’t know about OP, but (through my online reading) I gathered that “passing” is not an offensive term. Granted I don’t know any trans people personally, but I wouldn’t assume the OP meant anything malicious with the word… especially since it seems like the coworker is the first trans person she’s met. We shouldn’t assume malice where it’s just ignorance (at worst).

      Personally, I don’t see why the term could be considered offensive, but I’d like to hear some explanations if it is.

      1. transIam*

        While in some cases, ‘passing’ can be an innocuous term, especially to someone who is just starting out their physical and/or social transition, it holds the implication that the person is not actually what they are. They are ‘passing’ as something else. This isn’t the case at all. The woman isn’t ‘passing’ as a woman, because she IS a woman.
        I hope that helps a bit as an explanation.
        Also, nobody likes to be the ‘token *insert minority status here* friend and while it may be ignorance (at worst), it’s still a poor way to come across in a letter and that is how I think people are taking it. Not taking it as an act of malice, just the tone of one that should really examine their assumptions and consider their motives.

        1. en pointe*


          I think it’s a term that’s going to vary dependent on who you ask, both within the transgender community and outside of it.

          From my understanding, it is offensive for the same reasons describing a non-transgender woman as “passing” for a woman is offensive. A transgender woman IS a woman. Therefore, it is crass to describe her as “passing” for one.

          That said I understand why the OP used the term, as she was trying to explain the situation to outsiders. I agree that there was likely ignorance, rather than malice, at the heart of it.

          1. OP*

            Yeah – I would never dissect to someone’s face how well they passed (unless they asked, in which case… uh, I have no anti-bluntness filters. But that’s a different issue).

            I meant passing as in transgender-or-something vs not. Not as in “man passing for a woman”. And I figured it was relevant because it’s a slightly different situation if nobody can tell and I only found out accidentally as opposed to it being obvious enough that most people will know/suspect/consider it at some point. In this case, people were considering it as soon as she was out of earshot, so I’m going by the average crowd response.

            The tricky part is, I’m addressing two very different questions to two different crowds that are overlapping – I knew I was going to have to compromise a bit else confuse everyone reading my question!

            1. OP*

              To be honest, I don’t actually know of another word to use. Passing is used in other contexts as well, so it’s pretty well understood.

              1. A Bug!*

                I think the point is that it’s not your place at all to be judging how well another person ‘passes’ as their own gender. She is a woman, and therefore, her appearance is that of a woman. It is her business and her business alone what, if anything, she chooses to do with her appearance and her body in order to be more comfortable in it.

                If I am correctly reading your letter, you read this coworker as female when you first met her. It was not until you learned she is trans that you started seeing anything that hinted at her history.

                But lots of people, whether or not they are trans, exhibit physical characteristics more associated with the opposite gender, so you don’t think perhaps that some of your “makes sense in retrospect” is colored by your knowledge?

        2. Ariana*

          This, especially combined with “I mean, you could tell,” because no, you can’t tell just by looking at a person if they’re trans or not.

        3. Jen in RO*

          For me, “passing” refers to the fact that it is a woman in a man’s body… she *is* a woman but that doesn’t change the reality of the body she’s in, does it? Unless she’s had surgery, which I’d assume she hasn’t. But I do get the point and I agree – talking to the person herself about “passing”, unless asked, would be rude (just like it would be rude to comment on anyone’s appearance without asked). But in the context of the letter to AAM, I didn’t see it as signaling any kind of malice on OP’s part.

          This is how I read the OP’s question: “I have a new trans coworker and you can tell she is trans/you can’t tell she is trans, but I know [not sure which is the case]. Should I tell the coworker that I know or not?” Maybe the terms weren’t entirely appropriate, but this is a valid question in my opinion.

          Contrary to what I stated above (shit memory, sorry), I do know a friend-of-a-friend who is trans, and while I consider her 100% female, you *can* tell she is in a male body. I simply ignored the fact, since it wasn’t relevant to our interactions.

          1. Robyn*

            I have several transgender friends, one of whom is one of my best friends, and if I ever said to one of them ‘You’re passing! No one can tell!!!’ they wouldn’t be my friends any more.

            Also, yes, it’s this attitude that comes through the letter that this person is going to be nice to the new co-worker because they are transgender. Just be nice because it’s nice to be nice!

          2. OP*

            Thank you, that’s absolutely what I was trying to say. I was trying not to go overboard with the whole “she’s a woman, but I know this, but it shouldn’t matter, but…” explaining while summarising it.

            Basically *I* didn’t really notice, I just went “wow, they are supertall and have amazing hair”, and someone else later mentioned that they must be trans (in a nonjudgemental way; as I said, I have seen no signs of hostility/discrimination) and I reflexively started saying well, no, they could be intersex or just hormones, or genetics. So I guess it would be more accurate to say that I am somewhat oblivious, but I think other people have noticed so it may show more than I am good at judging. Therefore it is possible it is something she is sensitive about/may face issues around.

            1. Michael*

              Just like any new employee, she probably would appreciate some genuine smiles when you pass in the hall. If her sex/gender/place in the Queer community ever do come up in the workplace, it’s for her to take the lead on.

            2. Anonymous*

              Just a quick point–I’ve noticed several times that you use the (plural) pronoun “they” when really you mean “she.” As in, “Wow, they are supertall” etc in some of your previous comments. Just something to watch out for….especially once she comes on board and you inevitably mention her to co-workers. You wouldn’t (I hope) go around saying things like “Have you met Shuvon? They did a great job in that meeting!” or whatever else.

              1. Bea W*

                “They” is only correct if the person(s) you are referring to are multiple. (I’m actually not joking about that.)

                1. ella*

                  It’s also acceptable if you’re dealing with an unknown person or persons. Not a person like OP2’s coworker, who is a woman, but a person or people you genuinely don’t know anything about, for example, “Our house got broken into last night. They stole our TV.” It may have been only one person who broke in, but since you don’t know if the burglar was a man or a woman or a gang, you can use they.

                  I think certain stylebooks will say that officially you should use “He/she stole our TV” to be grammatically correct, but “they” is so common and accepted as to be correct by default.

                2. Bea W*

                  I tend to go to some form of he/she in writing, or “one” is the gender neutral way I was taught in classes. Some days I am just too tired and revert to writing “they” reminding myself that it’s not a formal business document. School drilled that he/she/one into my head. In conversation, the unknown person is “they”. Its universally understood in conversation, and so much easier! English really needs gender neutral personal pronouns.

                3. nonny*

                  That’s not true. Singular ‘they’ is used everywhere from Chaucer to Shakespeare to the King James Bible. It’s extremely common in most forms of English.

          3. Bea W*

            Referring to someone as “passing” as a woman also ignores the fact that genetic females (XX) can have masculine features or look androgynous either because that is just the way they look or because they choose to dress or look that way or both of those things. As a woman, I find it…I’m not sure if “offensive” is an accurate term. It begs the question what defines “passing” as a woman? Everyone is fully dressed in the office (hopefully!), so it’s not going to be lack of a visible penis.

            When my hair has been short – as a child or an adult, I have been mistaken as male without even trying to look male at all. I guess I wasn’t “passing” for a woman even though I am one, born in the correct body – just rather flat chested, not curvy, and not always dressed or made up in a way that screams WOMAN! :/

            1. Chocolate Teapot*

              I think, with any new colleague, if you happen to have an interest in common, that can be a very good ice-breaker.

              1. OP*

                Argh, yes, that’s the other thing. I am sort of dying to have a chance to talk in RL to people about this sort of stuff and not have to skirt around it, or spend all my time in the super basic education stage. That doesn’t mean of course, that other people want to talk to ME.

                All my RL GSM friends are closeted, so I have to put all this energy into not outing them.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  As we discuss this more, it’s sounding like it’s more about you than her, and you don’t want that.

                  Your heart is very clearly in the right place, but as others have said, this is coming across as patronizing — as “this is neat and I want to show how welcoming I am of this neat thing,” which is really another way of making her the Other (which I’m sure you don’t intend).

                  The best thing to do is to put it out of your mind that she’s trans at all and treat her like you would any other coworker.

                2. Judy*

                  I agree with Alison. Read what you just wrote.

                  “I am sort of dying to have a chance to talk in RL to people about this sort of stuff and not have to skirt around it, or spend all my time in the super basic education stage.”

                  She’s not your science experiment. Work is not for socializing with people because you’re interested in WHAT they are. Were you just planning on barging in and not respecting her privacy?

                3. Judy*

                  Oh, and why are you googling new employees of your company? I’m not sure I’ve ever even thought of doing that.

                4. Anne*

                  Eeesh. Okay. You’re obviously trying to be good about this, but… basically what you’re saying is that

                  1. There’s a trans woman in your office who has transitioned quite effectively, but you know she is trans because you googled her
                  2. You wouldn’t normally make an effort to go say hi and welcome even if you thought she was cool
                  3. In this case you do want to, because you really want to have someone to talk about GSM issues with

                  Errrrrr. I… please don’t? How do you know she would want to talk about those things anyway? How would you approach it, what would you say? “Hi, I know you’re trans because I was stalking you on the internet, can you be my shiny trans best friend? I’m totally gonna help you to not have a hostile workplace!”

                  Obviously I’m being a little hyperbolic here, but…

                5. OP*

                  Eh, on the one hand, I completely understand where you’re coming from and I’d probably feel the need to say similar things to people online in a similar conversation.

                  On the other hand, I can insert two other completely random interests/things I know we have in common into my previous comment without it changing it in anyway and I know I wouldn’t get the same reaction.

                  I don’t mean “pressure them to tell me all about X”. I mean “being able to mention I went and saw Y/read Z/ran a blog on Q” and know they won’t care and *might* be interested.

                  The possibility of a shared interest =/= pressuring them to join me in marching in a protest about it/discussing it at length/wearing official badges on the annual day of whatsit together. Also it was like 15th on my list of reasons, and NOT enough to motivate me to talk to anyone on its own. I am not a good socially outgoing person.

                  But you have absolutely no way to know if I would do that or not, nor if my idea of pushing is the same as yours/if I have a good perspective on that.

                  I just… I considered all this stuff. It’s why I asked for advice to help figure out which of it actually matters *from the other side*. I haven’t gone ahead with anything at all. I’m already way out of my comfort zone in considering making first contact with someone (in real life – internet is much easier). And the universal response seems to be that I’m a monster for even considering it. Absolutely wrong course of action? Fine, good, now I know, that’s why I asked, I was genuinely stuck. I’m a horrible person? Really difficult to deal with and leads to me getting defensive and sidetracking and explaining more stuff, when really, none of the extra stuff matters much.

                6. Jamie*

                  And the universal response seems to be that I’m a monster for even considering it.

                  From where? Every comment in this thread has been very respectful and several have specifically stated that you seem to mean well and that your heart is in the right place.

                  I’m a horrible person?

                  Your the only person who is saying that. I don’t understand this reaction.

                7. Anne*

                  OP, no one is saying you’re a horrible person. I think everyone has been going out of their way to say that it’s obvious your heart is in the right place with this stuff. And can I just say, it’s also great that this is even a concern for you – it puts you way ahead of most people!

                  We *are* just making some points about how it might come across… and it might come across as very, very awkward and possibly offensive. I mean… “shared interest”? Er. Well. That’s… a way of putting it, I suppose.

                  Just be friendly in the same way you would towards anyone else. If she wants to talk about it, she’ll talk about it.

                8. fposte*

                  And to build on Anne’s response about the shared interest thing, you don’t know if you have a shared interest, because you don’t know her. You have no idea how she feels about LGTB groups merely from knowing she’s trans. You have no idea what any of her interests are yet.

                9. Victoria Nonprofit*

                  “On the other hand, I can insert two other completely random interests/things I know we have in common into my previous comment without it changing it in anyway and I know I wouldn’t get the same reaction.”

                  OP, I think this where the problem might lie: being interested in trans issues is not something you have in common. It is her truth and your interest. It’s genuinely nice that you are open and interested, but tht doesn’t give you the same common ground as it would if you were both, say, from Minnesota or both into monster truck racing.

                10. Ethyl*

                  I know it feels like folks are piling on and your intentions are pure and your instinct is to defend yourself, really I totally understand that. This is what happens when people get their privileges pointed out and have to do some self-reflection. It happened to me, it’s happened to lots of us, I’m sure. Think of this as a chance to put your social justice bona fides into practice — you said some things that sounded pretty hurtful to folks and you didn’t intend it that way but you didn’t know, right? So what would you want someone to do who said similar things to you about your identity? This is a great opportunity to walk the walk, not by approaching your co-worker, but by doing some self-reflection about your privileges and assumptions. Good luck!

                11. anonymous*

                  “All my RL GSM friends are closeted, so I have to put all this energy into not outing them.”

                  You should be putting lots of energy into not outing your coworker too. You have information about her that isn’t yours to share or discuss, whether or not you think other people know.

                  You asked how you should welcome her. Smile, say “Hi, I’m so-and-so. It’s good to have you on the team. Let me know if I can help you with anything.” and then go back to work.


                12. Elsajeni*

                  On the other hand, I can insert two other completely random interests/things I know we have in common into my previous comment without it changing it in anyway and I know I wouldn’t get the same reaction.

                  If those other interests were things you had found out by Googling her, not things she had told you herself, and were things that many people might consider private or personal, or otherwise have good reason not to want everyone to know? I think you’d get a pretty similar reaction — that it’s nice that you want to be friends, and it’s great that you’ll be accepting of [X interest] if and when it comes up, but it’s her place to decide if/when she wants to mention it to you, so you shouldn’t base your decisions about being friendly to her on how much you’d enjoy talking about [X interest] together.

                  Do be friendly to her — that’s a good impulse, and just a nice thing to do for any new coworker. If it seems like you get along well and a real friendship starts to develop, awesome! Keep being friends! And that “mention that I went to Y/read Z/blogged about Q” stuff — do mention it, as and when it seems natural to your level of friendship and your instincts about how she’ll react. But go into it with the knowledge that you might end up in the same position as with your other GSM friends, and without the assumption that she’ll necessarily be a good person for you to talk to about how much fun you had at Y or what your blog said about Q.

                13. Jane Doe*

                  It sounds like you should join an LGBT group outside the workplace if you’re not already involved in one, or find some events where there are speakers on LGBT issues or trans issues in particular. I think you’re a lot more likely to find some other people who are out and want to discuss it if you look for forums specifically for that purpose.

                14. Bea W*

                  Wow. Do you live in a region where it’s not as accepted or safe to be open about who you are? I kind of take it for granted, but then I live in a liberal state and tend to within my own region, gravitate toward a socially liberal crowd. Since I started my career, every workplace I’ve been at offered domestic partner benefits, even before same sex marriage was legalized, which probably attracts more of those people who are openly gay or transgender and straight (because the state goes by what is on the birth certificate) people. My church is openly welcoming as well. At some point I stopped assuming everyone I met was standard issue heterosexual or properly matched with their original factory installed equipment.

                  Now I feel like I ought to get out more.

            2. OP*

              I know; I never make assumptions about people if I can help it (also because I am terrible at them and tend not to realise for years that those really camp guys *were* gay because I was busy going “but stereotypes, not valid”. For a real and ongoing example).

              In this case, I know she is transgender, which led to the whole question. Otherwise it would have been none of my speculatizness.

              Also, I would also say it wouldn’t really *matter* what specific label applied, or was assumed to apply, only that they would have to deal with the fact that others noticed and assumed *something*. Somebody getting harassed for being *mistaken* for a transgender person is still facing discrimination and has to walk around worrying people will discriminate over their assumed identity.

              1. fposte*

                Yeah, I think this is about your internal narrative about how you want to position yourself, and it’s interfering with what’s likely to work for *her*. If she came in with a big belly, would you greet her with fat-acceptance resources? If she were using a wheelchair, would you talk about how your friends ride bicycles? If a man joined the team, would you make sure to have car magazines on offer for him and give him a blue coffee mug?

                No (I hope), because identifying and connecting with these people based on their archetype to you is offensive and diminishes them as an individual. Bond with the new hire over kitties or your shared interest in the World Series or your mutual hatred of the copier first, because those are about her as a person. And let her be the owner of the trans issue, because it’s her life.

                1. Chocolate Teapot*

                  By “interest in common”, I meant something like cute fluffy kittens, monster truck racing, bungee jumping, tap dancing or making models out of old baked bean tins and wire coat hangers.

                2. Jamie*

                  I will admit that if I were walking by and saw a co-workers desktop with a Van Halen, KISS, or Warrant screensaver I’d feel compelled to say hello and make sure they got the absolutely best IT support I could provide.

                  I wonder why no one has tried that? I’m easily won over.

                3. Rana*

                  fposte makes a really good point, here. Something to keep in mind is that, for her, being trans* is probably about as interesting as being tall, or wearing a certain shoe size, or being attracted to certain sorts of people – that is, it’s just part of her life and who she is, and not something she probably wants to be The Topic of Conversation all the time. That would get really old, really fast, no matter how well-intentioned the other person is.

                  (Think about that earlier thread when someone was expressing frustration with everyone commenting on their injured leg, every. single. day. Everyone was being nice, no one meant anything by it, but it added up and was annoying in the aggregate.)

                  So if you think you’d like to be friends with this woman irrespective of her trans* status, and can find enough common interests to avoid the topic entirely unless she brings it up herself, reach out. If her trans* status is what makes the difference between reaching out and not reaching out for you, I think I’d step back, if I were you, and let my enthusiasm for the subject die down a lot more before attempting to approach her.

                1. iseeshiny*

                  I’d also like to very kindly emphasize point #7 on the above article. I, like many other commenters, feel like your heart is in the right place, but that maybe you are a fixer person. Fixer people are great; the only negative is if they get so intent on fixing things that they step on people’s toes while they’re fixing something else.

              2. TL*

                I didn’t read the article, but, honestly, the best way to be an ally is to speak up whenever you see something that’s offensive.

                If you see someone at work musing on whether or not she’s transgender, just say that’s not appropriate for work and shut it down. If you hear something really offensive, like “is she a ‘real woman’?”, you should say a) that’s not appropriate for work and b) you may not realize it but that’s offensive to trans* people, regardless of whether or not she is, and there’s a great place/group on campus where you can go to learn more about trans* issues if you’re interested.

                Finally, get your group more out there! If it’s the only support group available, it should be known, so people who want to go can and people who don’t aren’t awkwardly invited by everyone who thinks they may fit under the umbrella.

              3. Elizabeth West*

                But that’s not your battle to fight. It’s hers. If people give her flak about it, it’s up to her to deal with it, because it’s her career. It’s the same as when people write in asking, “My husband/wife/partner’s boss is being a dick; can I say something?” No, they can’t.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  One tweak I’d make to that is that I’d argue that hatred and injustice is everyone’s battle to fight, in the sense that we should all speak out against it, advocate for others, etc. (which I’m sure you didn’t mean to exclude in your statement; I just wanted to draw that out).

          4. Elizabeth West*

            I simply ignored the fact, since it wasn’t relevant to our interactions.

            Bingo. None of this matters. It’s a new coworker. It would only matter if the OP were planning on marrying her, which I assume (s)he is not.

          5. nonny*

            By definition she has a female body – she’s female, and it’s her body.

            ‘Passing’ and ‘woman trapped in a man’s body’ and the idea that you have a man’s body until you get ‘the surgery’ are all phrases/concepts that are in common use at the moment but are getting left behind as time goes on. They may not be outright hateful or malicious (at least… not all of the time. I’ve certainly seen them used hatefully) but even in the best case scenario they do display a fundamental reluctance to accept trans people as their actual gender.

        4. Anita*

          So, someone who presents as male in all aspects of their life (clothing, facial hair, name) “is a woman” the second they say so even if they make no attempt to take on “female” traits?

          1. ella*

            I have never in my life heard of someone doing such a thing. Every trans* person I’ve known (and there’ve been a fair few) started their transition even before they asked to be called by a different name or pronoun. Hopefully somebody here will actually understand your question and be able to answer it, because I don’t. It’s not based in the reality I’ve experienced/watched my friends experience.

            So what’re you really asking?

            1. Anita*

              This is what I’m really asking. I have seen people do this multiple times, sometimes in quite disturbing ways, so the idea that we need to erase the idea of passing is kind of problematic to me. Sorry, it’s late and I can’t be more coherent. I grok what you’re saying about the term, quite eloquently put, but I guess there are some things I still don’t quite get.

              1. Kinrowan*

                But how do you know they are not trying to adopt female traits? Male to female individuals in particular face enormous threats of harassment and violence in our society (even in liberal areas) when a male looking person even hints at being female, so what are they supposed to do? What do you think would happen if a male appearing individual was wearing a blouse and skirt? For someone maybe letting their hair grow a bit longer than usual may be a first foray in acknowledging their female self. Our society has made huge strides, but we are far, far, far from being all-loving and accepting. Younger people often are given more latitude but an adult male appearing person who wants to transition and keep their job might find it very difficult to let their hair grow long, wear skirts and other more standard female signifier. That is why most often these things happen out of work much earlier than they do at work.

                [This is a very on the ground kind of analysis, a more complicated analysis would also include race, class and patriarchy but that is not for here]

    3. Anonymous for this one*

      “Because she isn’t ‘passing’. She’s a woman.”

      Agreed that she’s a woman. However, she may be choosing to present as a man or a woman depending on the context. If people aren’t familiar with interacting with transgender people, they may not understand the distinction between “pass” and “present” – and even people who are familiar with the distinction may slip up occasionally.

      My best friend’s partner “M” recently came out as transgender. (M came out last year to my best friend “H” and to their families, then came out to everyone else earlier this year.) Long story short, M&H’s relationship is stronger than ever.

      H and I were talking last night about a situation I have at work (which I posted below). H and I were talking about how transgender people may present differently depending on context (e.g., present as a man at work but present as a woman in her personal life). (For example, she may choose to use she/her to refer to herself in her personal life, but may present as a man at work. At all times, though, regardless of how she presents, she is a woman.)

      Anyway, getting back to people mis-speaking “pass” and “present”…In talking about M, H caught herself a few times saying “pass” instead of “present” (e.g., “If M is passing… presenting as a man when we go for dinner, people may sometimes use the male or female. If she’s presenting as a woman, though, it would never be appropriate to use the male pronoun.”)

      H is probably as accepting and understanding of the issues transgender people face as anyone. (Her job involves working with various LGBTQIAA communities and she now has a partner who is transgender.) If H can occasionally slip up between pass/present, I think we have to give the benefit of the doubt to others who may be less familiar with interacting with transgender people.

      1. Kinrowan*

        I just wanted to add to this that Alison said:

        One tweak I’d make to that is that I’d argue that hatred and injustice is everyone’s battle to fight, in the sense that we should all speak out against it, advocate for others, etc. (which I’m sure you didn’t mean to exclude in your statement; I just wanted to draw that out).

        Whatever you do in terms of getting to know her (and I agree that you should treat her as you would any new employee), you can be an ally by speaking up when disrespectful things are said, including discussions of whether she “passes” or not (which is so full of assumptions, it’s best not to even go there).

        Having allies speaking up for trans people (and other minorities in general) is often more powerful than having those people speaking up when injustice/disrespect is happening because being part of the majority gives your word more weight (it’s unfortunate but it is true). That is a really powerful way to show that you are on her side without engaging into all these convoluted ways that seem to be creeping up.

  6. en pointe*

    #5 My boss also asked me to do this once. While it’s undoubtedly gross, it helps if you consider it from the point of view that if your office, like mine, is small without daily cleaners, somebody is going to have to clean this stuff up.
    Assuming that your boss or other staff likely have higher level / priority tasks than you to complete, poo-cleaning duties are probably going to fall to you. And, as much as that sucks, it also makes sense. As long as it’s not a regular occurrence (presumably signifying a pest-control problem your employer isn’t taking care of), than I would just accept it and get it done quick.

  7. Anonymous*

    #4 I’ve done a similar thing, I changed my name but not my email address when I got married. Not all email programs are alike and if they already had your email address stored as a contact it may not have even shown your Gmail name.

    1. Jen in RO*

      In my experience this is very common. Few women I know have changed their e-mail addresses once they got married – some just changed their display name and some didn’t change anything.

      1. Jamie*

        IME most women change their work email, at least in places where the convention is to use their last name in the email addy itself, because external contacts won’t remember your former last name if they are emailing you for the first time – its just simpler.

        For my personal email mine I have first initial maiden name married name as my email address. Unless I’m in your contacts or you’re a close relative no way would you be able to email me without my being in your contacts. At least not without a million failed attempts first.

        Sometimes I wish I’d hyphenated, but then I see it written down and realize good sense dictated that I not try to make society spell or pronounce that combo.

        1. Jen in RO*

          In my previous company the display name was changed, but the email address itself stayed the same.

          I don’t know how this works, but we all basically had 6-7 addresses in Outlook, like first.last@company.com, last.first@company.com, initial.last@company.com… I guess they were all redirected to the main one? Either way, the main one stayed whatever you used when you were hired. My friend who just got married has the address “jane.oldname@company.com”, and the display name “Newname, Jane (former Oldname)”. I think sometimes they added a new redirected address of firstname.newlastname@company.com, but it was not set as the “main” address.

          However the IT support in that company was not great. My just-married friend got to work one day to discover that she couldn’t log into Windows, because they had changed her username from oldname to newname without telling her… and then her new username didn’t have any of the access rights she needed… fun times.

        2. Same Anon*

          My work email address got changed as part of the process when I changed my name with HR, although my old work email address still worked and my log on didn’t change, just my display name.

          If OP#4 doesn’t plan on using her married name when she starts the job it’s probably best to have a job hunting email address (and display name) that she can keep tied to her maiden name. As long as you sign the email with your maiden name chances are it won’t register (if it even showed up).

          1. Jamie*

            When people request a name change from me I change their email addy, but keep the old one and just have it forwarded to the new.

            A totally clean swap will be a problem for everyone who has them in contacts and is replying to old email. Nice and easy.

        3. Lora*

          “Sometimes I wish I’d hyphenated, but then I see it written down and realize good sense dictated that I not try to make society spell or pronounce that combo.”

          This was a very wise decision.

          Both of my last names are easily pronounced and simple, but sticking the two of them together results in some truly bizarre interpretations by various software packages. On my first day at work I always have a call from IT asking which one I prefer because they can’t fit that many characters or hyphens or whatever. Think of every software system that requires you to first login with FirstInitialLastName–every. single. one. of those things is invariably screwed up for me. I call the helpdesk and get the canned answer: “Oh, you just use FirstInitial LastName.” Fine, which one? “Which one what?” Which last name? It’s hyphenated. “Ohhh…ummm…I don’t have access to tell you that directly, you’ll have to ask your local desk guy.” Local desk guy gets the ticket and says, “login UserID issues? That’s the regular helpdesk, don’t bug me with this!” And it goes round in circles for as long as two weeks until they get it figured out that no, I need to be told what they did, specifically for my login, which I’m sure made sense at the time.

          I have only gotten a computer login that worked on the very first day once, at a startup, because the IT contractor’s desk was across the hall and before I even stepped into my office, he introduced himself and said, “I didn’t know if you prefer (Prehyphen) or (Posthyphen), so I used (Prehyphen). If you prefer the (Posthyphen), I can change it, no problem.”

          I’ve seen people have their last name changed to the new last name, but then the display name is “Wakeen (MaidenName) MarriedName”

        1. Jamie*

          Oh- if that was at me I meant to write “most women that change their name change their work email.”

          I wasn’t implying that a woman should change their name – I’m a fan of people going by whatever they like, just let IT know how it’s spelled. :)

          1. De*

            Well, I’d really prefer if people would phrase that as “people who change their names”. Getting asked why *I* didn’t change my name got tiring really quickly after getting married – I usually correct people and say “we both didn’t”

            1. Jamie*

              In the US culturally it’s still typically women who do, hence the phrasing – but you’re right – people is better.

              Interesting facts – Between 8-18% of women in the US keep their last name upon marriage – so the vast majority do make a change of some kind. Only 7 states allow men to change their last name upon marriage as easily as women – in the other 43 they need to go through the more complicated and costly legal name change.

              So while anyone can change or keep any name – odds are if someone is changing it’s still the woman and most do…which is why language tends to reflect that.

              1. De*

                About 90% is of course a majority, but that means women choosing something else is really not a rare occurrence. I hope that at one point language around this can change.

                I had no idea the process differed between men and women in the USA (not being from there). That seems like something that really ought to change.

                1. Jamie*

                  I didn’t either, until I googled it – and I totally agree that needs to change. It’s one of those archaic laws on the books that were written in a different time and don’t have relevance now.

                  I have a son who has always said he hopes his wife has a cool last name because he’s taking hers…but he will be pretty POed to find out in our state that it will cost him an extra $350 to do that and he’ll have to run notices in the paper for the attention of creditors for a number of weeks first.

                  I agree that language is important and it’s interesting to point it out, because you’re right and it’s something I hadn’t considered and 10% of the female population is a lot of women.

                2. rw*

                  My wife and I both changed our last names to my last name -hyphen- her last name . We chose that order because the other way (her last name -hyphen- my last name) sounded “less cool” as she put it.

                3. Elizabeth West*

                  Alison–I kind of figured you wouldn’t, because of your blog/books. :)

                  When (NOT IF!!!) I get married, I’ll change mine, but if my writing career gets bigger before then, I may continue to use Elizabeth West as a pen name. (It’s a shortened version of my real name, which would never fit on a book cover.)

                4. Joey*

                  This is such an interesting topic for me. For anyone who kept their name, was your decision in part because of your career, because of family reasons such as to carry on the family name, you view the tradition as outdated and chauvinistic, or some other reason? And did your SO have any heartburn over it?

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  The main reason I kept mine is because I’m 40 and I’ve established a professional identity with it. I could see changing it at 23, but not at this point (particularly when my name is out there on columns, books, etc.). I do see the appeal of changing it and both having the same last name — and I did think about it — but it’s trumped by the already-established-identity thing for me.

                  To add to that, I don’t like that the tradition is rooted in sexism and in subsuming your own identity into your husband’s … but really, the fact that it’s sexist just gives further impetus to a decision I would have wanted to make anyway, and the truth is that if I were 23, I might have gone ahead and changed it, sexist roots be damned.

                  I think my husband would have liked me to have changed it (and comes from a family where women generally change their names upon marriage, whereas mine doesn’t care and already has the precedent of my sister not doing it, so we were coming to it with different norms), but he understands why I didn’t.

                6. The IT Manager*

                  People are free to do what they wish but as AAM points out, people (usually women) are more likely to change earlier before their career is established and they “make a name for themselves.”

                  Yeah, it has sexist origins and all that but I think the best case for a woman changing her name is so that the whole family, children included, can have the same un-hypenated last names. (Hyphenating last names only works for a single generation.)

                7. Jamie*

                  but I think the best case for a woman changing her name is so that the whole family, children included, can have the same un-hypenated last names.

                  I’m not opposed to changing names if people want to, heck – I’ve done it 3X as an adult. Maiden > 1st Married > back to maiden after divorce > 2nd married.

                  So the only time I’ve shared a last name with my kids was when I was married to their dad…but even with different names the school still knows who to call when they they forget their snowpants or are collecting field trip money. :)

                  It’s simpler when ordering printed Christmas cards to have one family name, but other than that I can’t think of one time when it’s made life easier.

                8. Rana*

                  Yeah, it’s hardwired into the marriage application in some jurisdictions, in fact. For example, if I had wanted to legally change my name at the time we married, there was a box in the online application right there for me, and it would have only been a minimal extra fee. For my husband, he’d have had to pay a larger fee and fill out a separate change of name form.

                9. De*

                  I didn’t change my name because I don’t like the expectation that I have to and because I just plain don’t like changing my name. I like my name.

                10. AgilePhalanges*

                  I know this thread is old, but just wanted to chime in. When my now-ex and I got married in California, we were able to both change our names for free and with minimal hassle.

                  Let’s say his last name was Smith and mine was Jones. We shortened and combined them into a new, unique (only a few other people in the US have the same last name with the same spelling) name–Smones.

                  The only hassle either of us received was at the SS office. The desk clerk helping us didn’t speak English very well, and apparently didn’t understand the rules very well. She kept insisting that we couldn’t drop letters from our names when changing. We could become Smith-Jones, Jones-Smith, or Jonessmith or something like that, but not Smones. We asked if we could just both change our name to something else entirely, like Doe, and she said that would be fine. So we said to forget the backstory and just change our name to Smones. After getting a supervisor, she finally did just that.

                  After our divorce, I kept the name (I rather like it, and my son has that name), but my ex and his then-girlfriend had a baby, and were planning to get married, so decided that their new family name would be an entirely different name, his mother’s maiden name, so the baby’s birth certificate was issued with the last name of, say, Brown, and when they did get married a few months later, they both changed their names.

                  We’re not in California anymore, and I don’t know how much hassle it was for him, but I do know he needed our marriage certificate and divorce decree to show the chain of events leading up to his then-current name, but maybe a woman would have needed the same documentation (his wife had only one name up until their marriage). He also needed all that documention plus his latest marriage certificate when getting a passport (he always asks me for these documents even though he should have his own copies and they’re available from the authorities if he doesn’t).

                  So now their little nuclear family of three have all the same last name, but my son (who spends half his time there) has a different name. He doesn’t seem to mind, but I’m glad I kept the married name even after divorce–it feels like he and I are the only two with our name. :-)

                  If I were to meet Mr. Right, I’m not sure whether I’d change my name, hyphenate, or keep a name that in all reality is partly my ex-husband’s “maiden” name. Maybe I just wouldn’t tell Mr. Right the history of Smones and keep it. ;-)

                11. AgilePhalanges*

                  Oh, and I was mildly ticked off when our boilerplate divorce paperwork had a space for my maiden name but not for his. I asked the attorney to add his, just out of equality, but he couldn’t be bothered. If I was my ex, I would have insisted harder (papertrail like for the next name change and passport mentioned above), but he didn’t, so I didn’t press it. But it is midly amusing when you don’t fit the norm that’s assumed.

              2. De*

                And so you don’t think this is only the USA being weird: my country, German, does not allow both partners to have the same hyphenated name. So the only other option my partner and I contemplated was impossible.

                (The reason it’s forbidden is that kids need to share their exact last name with one parent and kids aren’t allowed to have hyphenated names. And when you get married, the last names need to reflect that so when a child is born to the couple a last name can be picked. I don’t think this is a smart set of laws, but it’s the way it is…)

                1. businesslady*

                  considering that German is notorious for creating super-long compound words, this surprises me–you’d think they’d be all about hyphenated last names!

                  re: Alison’s post above, I’m not at all surprised you kept your name, & good for you. I changed mine mainly because I thought my husband’s was cooler, but I also wasn’t as professionally established back when we got married. I’d probably do the same today, but it’d be a bit more fraught (which is not to say it wasn’t fraught at the time, even though it was something I wanted to do). the US is very weird about names & gender, to say the least.

              3. Felicia*

                I hope to get married to a woman some day (been legal here for a decade!) And if I liked her name Id consider taking her name, just because im not to fond of or attached to mine. Though if i had more published under my name i’d reconsider. I dont care if i have the same last name as any children, but as im not fond of hyphenating, there’s really no precedent for what name the kids get when they have two moms:) If /when i change my name, id probably plan how id handle the change over of all official things beforehand. But what other people do is up to t hem!

            2. Same Anon*

              Like a poster below we both changed our names, was expecting problems for my husband but didn’t encounter any (UK based).

              1. De*

                I also enjoy telling people a line from Scrubs about us being one of those modern couples that don’t love each other. It usually results in people thinking about their assumptions.

          2. De*

            Oh, and I was replying to Jen, because “once they got married” should say “once they changed their last name” – it’s not equivalent.

            (This is a minor peeve, nothing more – but it showed up several times in the comments here)

            1. Jen in RO*

              I was obviously referring to the people who do change their names when they get married… otherwise there would be no need to change e-mail addresses, would there? (I personally have no intention of changing my name if my boyfriend ever talks me into getting married.)

    2. annie*

      Whatever you do, just keep it consistent with your business contacts. My very strongly felt personal/private view is that people should not change their names as it is a tradition rooted in sexism, and to be honest part of me cringes a little bit when I see that happen – however of course I would never express that to a work contact as it is absolutely none of my business what other people do. But, when I get a series of emails that start with your out of the office honeymoon message, then your back in the office group message, then your name change to the husband’s name, then your name change that you’ve changed your mind and now want to hyphenate, then a bounceback that your old email isn’t working… argh. It just reinforces my already biased views about the silliness of name changes and it is hard to take you seriously. I am in an industry/age group where this is happening a lot and it drives me nuts.

      1. Cath@VWXYNot?*

        My very strongly felt personal/private view is that people should make whatever decision works best for them, and not be thought silly or not taken seriously as a result.

        Is the name I inherited from my father any less rooted in sexism than the name I chose to take from my husband? My mother’s name isn’t represented anywhere in my birth name.

        I consider my married name a trade-up (from 4 letters to 5, and 1 syllable to 2) – I just like it better than my birth name, especially because my first name is so short. If I’d been more established in my writing career when I got married, though, I’d probably have kept my birth name. It’s up to the individual, no-one else.

        (end rant)

  8. Jamie*

    I also know that our workplace has a particularly awesome Ally group (as in, Ally and everyone actually in the LGBTQIAA-etc spectrum) that she might find useful.

    I don’t know what this is, but a quick Google and I’m assuming it’s a form of diversity training?

    If I were new to a work place and someone suggested there was a diversity thing for women I might useful I’d get very worried very quickly that I might have issues…or at least my being a woman would be a thing for people and not irrelevant to the job.

    It’s always nice to welcome new colleagues, if you’re so inclined, but I kind of don’t get the enthusiasm that they hired someone who is transgender. Why would it matter? If someone was excited I worked somewhere because of some non work related thing about me (gender, ethnicity, whatever) it would make me really self-conscious…like a novelty.

    1. Amy B.*

      Ally used to be a youth-led movement but has more recently become a youth and adult group that supports the LGBT+ community (more specifically, speaking out against bullying of LGBT+ persons).

      1. Jamie*

        Thanks. So yes, if I were new and someone thought a group that deals with anti-bullying would be helpful to me and offered this up unsolicited it would make me very nervous.

        1. OP*

          Eh, as someone who has been bullied, it would make me really happy knowing that this was a thing that was acknowledged and had resources for and I wouldn’t have to go hunting for. Actually, I think anti-bullying and similar resources should be part of the standard intro package. Pretending it doesn’t exist just makes it worse and much harder on the people being bullied.

          It’s the accompanying personal aspect of “also we know about YOU” bit that’s squicking me.

          1. Forrest*

            Except she sees herself as a woman and assumes everyone else will too. You don’t think its odd to be all “here’s an anti-bullying group you’d be interested in” to a woman and not have her assume that the work place has a bullying women problem?

            1. Jamie*

              Exactly. I am glad there are resources for those who face bullying…but if I was brand new on a job and someone pointed me to a place to protect women from bullying unasked…I’d wonder what I had gotten myself into working at a place where it’s assumed that I’d need a support system.

              1. fposte*

                And there are some awkward conversational possibilities here. “Hey, I thought you’d like to know about our Ally group here.” “Uh–why me?” “Oh, I found your sexuality on Google.” I don’t think that has the welcoming effect intended.

          2. TL*

            It’d be nice to see a flyer, group email, or some sort of general notice. It’d be weird if someone came up to you out of the blue and was like “This is thing!”

            1. Judy*

              Everyplace I’ve worked on the first day, you get a folder of employee resources. It had a flyer from the credit union, a flyer from the sports committee (whatever corporate leagues the company is involved in), the info for the EAP, Toastmaster’s meeting info, any dress code, etc, etc. One place had a ski club that would go on 2-3 trips a winter.

              All loosely semi work-ish info in a folder. Maybe OP could figure out if the company does that, and if not work on getting the company to do one to give all the new employees. (and make sure the Ally group is on a flyer that is in the folder)

        2. OP*

          Oh yeah, the ally group (at my workplace) also much more than just anti-bullying. It’s a … one stop shop? of everything to do with lgbtqiaa issues. So it’s not really implying anything specific other than the specific issue of “this applies to YOU”.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes, but she hasn’t told you that it applies to her or that it’s something she might be interested in. I think you’ve got to let this drop.

    2. OP*

      What the other commenter said. It’s an official support group/*optional* social group, and has official staff whose job it is to deal with discrimination, raise awareness, and generally act as support staff for people on the LGBTQIAA spectrum. They’re enthusiastic and nice people, who I would feel quite safe handing someone over to. That said, they’re pretty hidden in the overall workplace, and easy to miss if you don’t know who to look up.

      The enthusiasm is both general – it’s progress! It’s great that someone who is detectably trans made it through the hiring process! – slightly more specific – thank goodness we have some more diversity on staff to help the students, as I know we have trans and other LGBTQ students, some of whom have experienced serious problems, and some of it’s specific – yay, another *real life* person who actually knows about LGBTQIAA stuff. MAYBE WE CAN BE FRIENDS.

      1. Jen in RO*

        I totally get what you’re saying, but I think you should take it slow. Do you have anything else in common? Something “safer”, like video games or tennis. Start from there and, if you click, maybe she will tell you that she’s trans and you can then point her to these resources. If you don’t work closely together, do you have an internal IM system? If so, and if you have something non-LGBT in common, you can just say hi and that you heard from [so and so] that she likes [this and that]. If you don’t have anything non-LGBT in common… I think it will be harder to connect. If I were trans I’d be a bit weirded out that someone wants to talk to me for this sole reason. (Just like Jamie said – if someone came to me, all enthusiastic that I’m a woman, I would be “WTF dude!”).

      2. Cat*

        I feel what you’re saying here, but here’s part of what worries me: it sounds like you’re putting a lot of expectations on this woman because of an inherent characteristic of hers over which she has no control. That’s part of why the My Little Pony example is bad – this isn’t an interest she’s chosen; it’s who she is, and it’s not really fair to her to assume that it goes along with all these other characteristics like wanting to be involved in X and friends with Y.

        Your new co-worker might just be wanting to do her job without this coming into it at all. She might not want to be specifically involved with mentoring trans students or representing diversity or the ally group. She might just want to show up, do her job like anyone else, and go home. Which is totally okay. But it’s not fair to introduce yourself and these resources to her in such a way as to expect that she has any more obligation to involve herself with them than anyone else does (which is to say, none). By all means, introduce yourself. And go through normal channels to make sure everyone in your workplace is aware of the Ally group and the resources it provides – put yourself out as an official point person for it if you want! But don’t approach this woman in a way that suggests (a) you’re watching her more carefully than your other co-workers; or (b) you expect things from her that you don’t from them because she’s trans.

        1. en pointe*


          I realise that it’s probably unintentional but everything you’ve written here smacks of pinning her up, at least in your eyes, as the Token Transgender Employee, which I don’t think is in any way fair on your new coworker.

          1. OP*

            Is it unintentional if you’re aware it might be an issue? That’s why I came onto the internet to figure it out.

            It’s just annoying because I can think of all these different reasons to do and to do not, and I can’t figure out which factor is most influencing me from inside my own head.

            1. en pointe*

              If you want to demonstrate real respect for her, don’t let gender identity factor into it at all

              1. Consider if you did not know this new coworker was transgender
              2. Decide what you would do in that instance
              3. Act accordingly

        2. Dulcinea*

          I strongly agree with this. OP, replace “trans” in your letter with “Black” or “Jewish”, and maybe you will better see where some of the commenters are coming from on this.

          1. OP*

            I think that example would have much more impact if I was from the US ;P

            But in that scenario… if we are the only two non-local-whatever, there would definitely be a natural impulse to reach out on my part, and go ‘hey, how are you dealing with the cultural clash, don’t worry, they don’t actually care about the accent, also there’s a cool language resource centre over here’. And then drop it, because my script would run out and I would have played my part and could go hide again (Obviously that would be without a lot of the major baggage that comes with LGBT stuff. Which is the stuff I came for advice on and is the only reason I DIDN’T go with that reaction).

            1. fposte*

              And I think that might apply if you were trans, but I’m presuming that if you were you’d have mentioned it here. (Interestingly, you’re sharing more about her gender/sexuality identity than your own.)

              I think what you’re talking about is a fine second-phase exchange, *only* after she’s been open about being trans and you’ve started a cordial work relationship. But as an opener, it’s got a good chance of creeping her out a lot more than welcoming her.

                1. fposte*

                  All I saw was being in the GSM category, which is a fairly broad term that avoids individual details like gender or orientation, but maybe I missed something more specific.

                2. Jen in RO*

                  She said: “*Personally*, if my coworkers actually mentioned they knew I was gay…”. I think that she means that she’s gay, but she hasn’t officially come out to her coworkers?

      3. Rachel*

        I kind of understand where you are coming from OP. I work in an organization that supports work with youth in the community. I have also spent significant time studying race issues (academically) and happen to have mostly work experiences with Black bosses and co-workers. So when I transitioned into a university work environment, where most of my coworkers were White, I would get really excited when they did hire a Black person. I had the same thought as you did: maybe we can be friends! This will be so great for the Black students we work with!

        But even though I already had mostly Black friends, and we seem to have similar interests based on our work, I found that sometimes the personalities just didn’t click. There really has to be a more personal reason for starting the friendship then just an interest in the group that the person happens to belong to.

        1. OP*

          Yeah, that’s pretty much exactly it.

          I have no expectations of actually becoming BFF or anything and I’d probably run the other way if I thought I was committing to anything like that. It was more the “should I reach out at all” step I was stuck on.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            It’s totally fine to reach out, but only as “Hey, new coworker, cool. Welcome to the company. The coffee machine is here, the bathroom is here, and watch out for that third step–the carpet is loose.” Like you would with any other coworker–male, female, black, white, purple, green, five tentacles, etc.

      4. Forrest*

        “They’re enthusiastic and nice people, who I would feel quite safe handing someone over to.”

        The point (and bottom line) is she’s not yours to hand over.

    3. Lora*

      Eh, I think it depends on your field–in mine there are often very few women at all, typically 5-30%. So we have a lot of Women In STEM type organizations, and it’s not unusual for an AWIS or WEST member to invite you to their potluck dinners, networking things, seminars, etc. I don’t think any woman anywhere I’ve worked would have been put off by someone saying, “Hey, we are having a hen party on Thursday with a lecture by Morrigan Maneater on ‘How to get ahead when your boss is trying to F you in the A.’ You’re welcome to join us!'”

      Okay, maybe not exactly those words. But some companies (Sanofi, Novartis) actually have their own in-house chapters for WEST and AWIS, and the company sponsors their networking meetings in the campus cafeteria. It’s nice, lots of women go. Especially when you’re the only woman in your department and the dudebros leave you out of their golf games and Friday night pubcrawls, so you never get the scoop on interesting projects or spend much time with the SVP of Important Stuff like they do.

      1. Forrest*

        I think there’s a difference between inviting someone to a networking group and alerting someone to anti-bullying resources.

        1. Anonymous*

          I am in general agreement with the overall sentiment folks are expressing toward the OP, but I don’t think it’s fair to describe the Ally group exclusively focused on anti-bullying. I’d guess that it’s an affinity group that grew out if the Ally movement.

        2. Lora*

          Oh, I agree–I’m just saying, it’s not totally weird to be invited/alerted to resources based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc. But that is not really the case here. Unless the OP wants to invite her to the lady executive professional groups, which can also have some great anti-bullying, dealing with discrimination type resources.

    4. Tinker*

      I think it varies — my last company was kind of an globalmegacorp, and hence of a size where it seemed natural to have various diversity-type groups. Or at least to have had them, before the grind of a few cycles of layoffs caused most “extracurricular”-type activity to get chucked overboard.

      Personally, I found it not at all indicative of a problem that the groups existed — it actually gave me a pretty good impression that there were safe space symbols on the cubes of most people who had been there a while, and that a bit of browsing in the corporate portal led me to an old website that appeared to be “Here’s how to go about transitioning at GlobalMegaCorp” which seemed to indicate that the primary source of woe was the possibility of being stuck in IT ticket hell whilst updating email addresses.

      I would have been way weirded out had someone come to me, particularly early on, and been all “So I see you’re all being queer and queerly walking down the queer hall and getting some coffee, queerly, and here are some queer groups that you might totally be interested in!” Like… can I please just drink my coffee and file defects? And I’m the sort who favors being at least somewhat visible. Not everyone is.

      Honestly, I think the OP is way overthinking things, and I’m sympathetic to that because lord knows I went through that stage myself. Complete with saying a few… well, let’s just say clunkers. Some of which proved to be terribly ironic.

      I think the OP just needs to pry themselves off the ceiling a bit, interact with this new coworker normally, and possibly give some thought to their own level of visibility. As far as comfort level goes I think it says a lot for there to be people who are just around and also something, even more so than it does to have a lot of big gesture supportive huggz and ally type statements — which I for one am a little bit over at this point, even if I recognize the good-heartedness behind it.

  9. Andrea*

    The first time I had to fire somebody I threw up. It also haunted me although not as much as you describe.

    It’s part of your job, it gets easier every time you do it.

    I’ve been management for 25 years now and my theory is, it should always feel bad to fire somebody … but it doesn’t have to haunt you. (Ironically, the couple of times it felt good to fire somebody ***man did they deserve it***, those are the couple that haunt me a smidge because I never want to get to a place where it doesn’t feel bad.)

    Here’s the thing: beyond the responsibility you have to the company to let go of workers the company is paying for who aren’t doing the job, there are two other reasons to clear out low performing employees:

    1) co-workers. Co-workers who don’t do their jobs are one of the biggest killers to job satisfaction and work place morale.

    2) to make a job available to somebody who *will* do the job.

    Firing a low performing employee is a good thing. That should always feel bad when you do it…but then you need to pick yourself up and do the rest of the job you are responsible for. Use your energy to look out for the people who are performing well.

    1. Ramona*

      I’m not sure it gets any easier, but sure the more times you do something, it’s more familiar, and you get better at it. I think it’s a normal reaction to feel bad about having to fire someone. It’s a very human response. I console myself by knowing that if they weren’t fitting in well, they knew it too, and wouldn’t have been comfortable on a day to day basis. I’ll stop short of saying you’re doing them a favor, but ultimately it frees them up to find the right opportunity. I know of many instances where a firing leads to much greater happiness for the former employee.

    2. KJR*

      Just had a rather unpleasant termination myself. An earlier commenter was right — it should never feel great. But, having said that, if you’ve done everything within your power to help the employee turn things around, and they either can’t or won’t, you’re not doing your company or the other employees any favors by keeping them around. I think once you internalize this, you will be OK. If done properly, people “fire themselves.”

  10. Bea W*

    #6 – If you are unable to get the money from him or get it promptly on a regular basis, I’d stop doing him the favor of fronting the money for his landscaping and house work. This can’t be inexpensive to you, especially if it has happened repeatedly. Heck, even if you do get paid back, I’d say it’s not worth the hassle and you should stop whether he makes good on everything he owes you or not. You can also ask that he pay you up front. Presumably the cost of this work is still up in the air when the people come to do the work. Housekeepers and landscapers have set fees. There is no reason he can’t front his own money even if he isn’t coordinating the job.

    1. Bea W*

      To add – if the people who come do the work accept checks, your boss can give you a check written to them before hand. There is no excuse to ask you to front the amount if he can just hand you a check to pass on to them.

    2. Jamie*

      I wouldn’t do this at all – I admit this makes no sense to me.

      Why is an employee managing personal stuff like this at all? Ever. The OP mentioned twice that they immigrated here so is this a cultural thing? Because I can’t imagine any boss asking me to do that, and I can’t imagine any employee going along with such a wtf request if they did.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Me either. I think the boss is taking advantage of the employee.

        OP, don’t do this anymore. If you’re not your boss’s personal assistant, you shouldn’t be doing it. If you are, then you can make the arrangements and they can send him a damn bill or he can leave a check.

    3. Colette*

      Totally agree that you need to stop doing this since he’s not willing or able to pay you promptly. Either he pays in advance or he makes his own arrangements (and really, there’s no reason for you to be doing this at all).

      1. fposte*

        Or it’s his turn to handle the arrangements until things break even, but something tells me he’s not going to make sure the OP’s lawn gets mowed.

        Boss is a serious jerk.

        1. Colette*

          Yes, that would be reasonable, but I completely agree that relying on someone unreliable means your household/yard stuff isn’t going to get done.

    4. Lily in NYC*

      And OP, you will not be offending your boss if you ask for the money. He is taking advantage of you because he knows you are uncomfortable asking and that you will stop after 1 or 2 times. Please don’t feel embarrassed or guilty asking for the money he owes you. Next time he asks, just say that you find it too stressful to have to ask him for payment and that you prefer to keep household tasks separate from now on. I hate asking people for money and my old boss never used to pay me back for getting her lunch – she still owes me a few hundred dollars but I blame myself for being to chicken to ask. And she’s a dang mult-millionaire. grrrr.

  11. Bea W*

    #3 – I interpreted what the manager said as you would be getting 2 full weeks pay in your next check and the $300 “to get you through the week” as a loan, not a gift. Don’t assume this was a gift at all. In fact, I wouldn’t even ask if it was meant to be a gift, I’d just pay your manager back the $300 because it’s the right thing to do. As someone else also mentioned, you’re manager can’t just give you a “gift” out of petty cash. It would have to be reported as income, included on your W2 at the end of the year, and there is no mechanism for reporting this coming from petty cash.

  12. huh*


    Your manager sucks. They bailed on you on purpose and if you don’t realize this, you need to rethink this managing thing. It gets worse. I am glad you knew the employee was warned and was actually a poor performer, with a manager like yours I’d not trust anything they claim.

    You sound diligent and sincere unfortunately, those qualities in management will destroy you. Destroy because you will probably take others at their word too, and in most instances, in political situations, they are always out for number 1 and will do anything to cover their mistakes with you.

    And this time the firing was fair, imagine when it’s not….or layoffs? Is it worth the stress? And if you really have little experience, I’d ask why you were promoted so young? I was hired once for a job with little experience- they wanted the cheapest person- me.

      1. huh*

        Should we always make positive assumptions? ;-) I just used her post and my experience, like I assume you do.

        1. Jamie*

          Of course not, but stating definitively that the boss left her hanging intentionally (maybe, but meeting mix ups happen all the time – no way to know from the letter) and the implications that diligent and sincere people are destroyed by careers in management…that’s a harsh assessment and not accurate. There are millions of people in management, some great, some soul suckingly bad…but most are somewhere in between. Decent people just trying to do the right thing.

          1. huh*

            I take people on their actions, not intent or words. She probably could have postponed firing till boss was back.

            1. OP1*

              HR was with me, and it was the only time they were available. So while I was not alone, I would’ve appreciated my boss backing me up too.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’m not sure if this will make you feel better or worse, but it’s pretty common to handle firings on your own or with HR and not to have your own boss present. If you’re a new manager and I was your boss, I’d want to sit in with you, but otherwise this is actually pretty normal!

                1. Jamie*

                  Yep – a lot of companies for whom I’ve worked the rule is either manager and HR (typical) or manager and another member of upper management (if HR is unavailable.)

                  I personally wouldn’t do it without a witness, but I’ve heard of that as well.

                2. OP1*

                  No, I think makes a lot of sense, but like you said, as a new manager, I would’ve felt a lot better if my boss had been there!

                3. Joey*

                  I think your manager being there is a bit too much hand holding unless its a term with some weird circumstances. This might just be me, but Id see it as a sign that you might be letting your nerves get the best of you.

                  What purpose would your manager serve other than being there for moral support? In my view it would lessen your credibility and authority as a manager. If I were that employee Id think you were either you were too scared to do it yourself or that you didn’t have the authority to do it on your own.

              2. ella*

                OP–do you have an EAP at your work that you could contact? As Alison said, your reaction to this seems a little beyond the usual expected level of feeling bad. If your boss isn’t easy to talk to and you don’t have a mentor you might try there.

          2. Judy*

            I would keep a close eye on the manager to see if things like this keep happening. The team leader of the group I worked closely with would “have to go on a business trip” every time a delivery on the major project was due. The first time, ok, it happens. But when all 6 deliveries over a year happen that way, and he never had his part of the project done?

            It’s a clue about the manager, is it part of a pattern or not?

            1. FD*

              Agreed, you have to watch whether it’s a pattern or not; that’ll tell you what you need to know.

              (But it’ll only tell you about this particular manager, and not about all managers.)

    1. FD*

      I’m sorry that you had a bad experience and/or a bad transition to management. However, it’s not fair to paint all management positions with the same brush.

      I agree that I was a bit suspicious of the OP’s manager as well–but things do happen. Scheduling mistakes happen. Miscommunications happen. If you automatically assume the worst of everyone, you really WILL be a bad manager. It is true that you have to be extra alert for mistakes vs. dishonesty as a manager. In general, both from your boss and from your reports, you need to ask yourself “Is this a pattern or a one-time occurrence?” (Obviously you can’t force your boss to change her ways, but you can look for a new job if necessary.)

      You say that being diligent and sincere will destroy you in management, but I’d say the exact opposite is true. Think back to your own managers; did you prefer lazy game-players or people who worked hard and communicated directly? It’s true that there are some things you can’t tell people (due to privacy reasons or other issues), but that isn’t being insincere per se. But you can be diligent and sincere without being *naive*. In fact, I’d say those are key qualities in a really solid manager.

      It is certainly true that not everyone is suited to be a manager. Some people really hate being in a leadership position, because they don’t enjoy working with people or they don’t feel comfortable with that kind of responsibility. And that’s okay. It’s certainly not a bad idea for the OP to look at herself and confirm that it’s just the firing that’s bothering her and not that she feels that management in general just isn’t her cup of tea. It’s also true that there are a lot of really hard aspects to being a a manager. Not just firings, but having painfully awkward conversations (the infamous ‘body odor’ problem). You can be a good manager and not find any of those easy. In fact, if you start finding firings easy, that’s probably a really bad sign. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not worth it to the OP.

      Honestly, everyone has to start somewhere, and mid-20s isn’t really weirdly young for having your first management job. I think it’s wildly unfair to the OP to assume she only got the job because she was the ‘cheapest person’.

      It’s clear that you had a rough transition to management–probably your own managers not supporting you well, or being given a team to work with that had been dysfunctional for a really long time, or both. But please don’t assume that one bad experience means that there are no good management jobs out there.

      1. huh*

        Problem is, in my humble experience, “managing” comes in when others can’t…meaning you are there to pick up crap and not get anything on yourself. Most good work gets done by folks who don’t need “managing” they need space. And yes there are alternate management theories out there they don’t support the “team” idea at all. Think of the greatest work done, it’s done often by inventors- like Edison, not team A at Acme Co.

        1. Jamie*

          It’s team A at Acme company that gets Edison’s inventions produced and on the shelves. Otherwise all that great work won’t change the world one little bit.

          1. FD*

            Exactly! Ideas are absolutely useless without a way to produce and distribute them.

            (Also Edison was kind of a jackass but that’s another subject.)

        2. Colette*

          I think you’re confused about what managing means. It can mean providing direction (our priorities are A, B, and C, in that order) and letting capable, competent people do their jobs.

  13. Working Girl*

    #3 cash payment – Always take a pay check in the form of a pay check so you are above board. Giving a cash payment seems wrong on the employer part – sounds like he gave you cash to tide you over til pay check so it sounded like from your post that you received an advance – petty cash is low by this amount – you should talk direct to the boss who gave it to you as he may not have told others that he gave it to you – you need to clear this up before it spins into something negative for you taking petty cash money, even though they gave it to you.

  14. the gold digger*

    I wish it were illegal to make someone clean up poop. I was a lifeguard in high school and college. For $3.75 an hour, I not only watched the pool but I also cleaned the bathrooms. One year, a bunch of boys thought it would be funny to poop on the bathroom floor – repeatedly. The city would not let us keep the bathrooms locked – our plan was to give the key out on request so we could hopefully prevent pooping – so any time there was poop, we had to take turns cleaning it up.

    Cleaning human poop off a bathroom floor is a horrible job.

    1. Jamie*

      Or bathroom walls. The employees that smear it on the stall walls and toilet to make a statement…I’ll never understand that but it’s why the cleaning service doesn’t get paid enough.

      No matter what they make…it can’t ever be enough.

      1. Bean*

        I don’t understand people who smear it around…it’s not exactly making a statement if nobody knows it was you. I just picture the person having to physically touch their poo and smear it. No amount of handwashing would ever make my hands feel clean after doing that.

        1. Natalie*

          And of course, whomever the person is trying to bother doesn’t have to clean it up.

          It reminds me of the employee strike on Archer – “but it looks like we’re picketing the cleaners!”

      2. Anonymous*

        The worst for me was someone who smeared it all over the floor and walls of a bathroom stall, then locked the door and (apparently) crawled under it so whoever had to clean it up had to crawl through it, too. Of course, as Bean points out, thye had to muck around in it just as much or more than the person cleaning it up.

    2. FD*

      Yeah, but the problem is that *someone* has to.

      In my field, the two words I most hate to hear is ‘soiled linens.’ You never know WHAT that’s going to mean this time.

    3. A Teacher*

      Or swimming to the bottom of the pool to pick up the feces that aren’t floating…yep, fellow former lifeguard here…YUCK!

  15. Martina*

    #7 I wonder if the student employee is confused about the expectations of her position. Have you given her clear deadlines i.e. when you request a document over email, do you specifically offer a time frame? Perhaps she’s under the impression that whenever she submits her work is fine as long as she submits it. Also, it sounds like perhaps she’s even having trouble understanding the assignments–if you don’t already, maybe you can ask: does this make sense? Or you can try asking her to do an example in front of you to gauge whether she’s following. I do, however, agree with AAM that her manager should be in charge of ensuring she is completing her job responsibilities; (these are just a few extra considerations.)

  16. Cruella Da Boss*

    The first time I had to fire an employee, I went out to my car and cried. It gets easier. Hang in there.

    1. thenoiseinspace*

      This is the kind of thing that makes me pretty sure I’ll never be management material. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to handle that with any kind of tact. In my last position, the whole group of us were very close friends and around the same age, including our boss . But the company “restructured” and our boss had to lay off several employees. The company didn’t handle it well (not her fault at all) and there were a lot of hurt feelings, anger and resentment toward her for not letting anyone know in advance or stopping it (which, of course, she couldn’t have done). I think she knew that that reaction was coming because she had seemed upset for days before it happened, and was even overheard crying in the bathroom. My heart goes out to anyone in that position – I don’t know how I’d get through it. :(

  17. thenoiseinspace*

    #5 – yet another excellent entry for the “Yes it’s legal” files.

    I do sympathize, because that sounds horrible, but at the same time, someone’s got to clean it up. :/

    1. FD*

      At least mice and rat droppings tend to be sweepable. Gross but you can usually get them with a broom pretty well instead of having to scrub like you would with human waste.

      1. fposte*

        Though you’re still going to want to do a bleach wipe of the area afterwards. (Can you bleach the broom? Are brooms leachable?)

        1. FD*

          Oh absolutely.

          And as the poster below said, I think you probably could bleach a synthetic broom, but we more had designated brooms for certain purposes.

          And when you’re done mopping, you’d want to make sure that mophead gets bleached too.

  18. Catbertismyhero*

    #6, I wold also add that you should tell your boss that you will need to stop arranging and paying for the services until you are paid in full. You should also not be doing this at all.

  19. Natalie*

    #1, if you find yourself having this much anxiety over other issues (i.e. this is a pattern rather than a specific reaction to the firing) perhaps you might benefit from speaking to a counselor about anxiety. There are lots of techniques you can learn to manage anxiety and, speaking from the other side of that work, it’s so worth it.

    1. Ethyl*

      Agreed — I said this in another thread, but part of how my anxiety manifests itself is being unable to let things go, especially bad things.

  20. GirlFromIpanema*

    #2 If it were me I would hope OP would NOT single me out, or try to have some kind of ‘friendly’ aside with me. I am there to work- not discuss my personal life, I would be really embarrassed and uncomfortable. Reading that ‘someone passes’ is so incredibly offensive. I don’t need to be rescued or befriended by someone sounds so ignorant and frankly unprofessional-regardless of if the feel their “heart is in the right place”.

  21. Amanda H*

    #5–There’s a good comment above about needing to follow the OSHA guidelines.

    That said, while there are certainly no anti-poo cleaning laws, there ARE sanitary laws. It’s why I have to take poo bags with me when I walk my dog. :)

    And especially if your workplace is public-facing, I’m quite sure there are laws about cleaning up any animal feces. So definitely reference the OSHA guidelines and make sure you receive the proper training and equipment, but your workplace is likely legally required to keep it clean of animal feces.

  22. smallbutmighty*

    Regarding the student worker: Please, please talk to her in simple terms and let her know what’s expected of her, where she’d falling short, and why it matters.

    I could totally have been that student worker back in the day. Because I only worked a few hours a week, I didn’t have a solid understanding of how my tasks fit into other people’s workflows, and of why my work was important. I was still very much operating in the student framework: my work was my work, I got a grade for it, but no one else was depending on me to do it. My work having an impact on other people was, honestly, a foreign concept to me at that point.

    I was lucky enough to have a manager at the part-time job I held my freshman year in college who kindly but firmly sat me down and broke it all down for me. The one stern talk he had with me has proven more useful than all my college coursework combined. I’ve no idea what became of Yamir from the University of Idaho, but I’m eternally grateful to him for acquainting me with how work works some 20+ years ago.

    (I’d had a few mindless menial jobs before, and I was good at them, but my college job represented the first one where my work required cooperation and coordination rather than just the completion of simple tasks.)

    1. NBB*

      These are such great points! The student may not realize what impact her performance has on anyone else.

  23. Anonymous*

    Re #1, yes, this is very difficult to do, even when it is well deserved. However, I am going to say something that may sound a little harsh, but it is meant to make you address this head on – do you really want to be a manager? There are some people who are simply not cut out for it – they don’t want to have to have the difficult conversations, the stress, or the responsibility for taking these kinds of actions. Relatively speaking, this was an easy one – how are you going to handle laying off a good employee because the company has to cut expenses?

    It’s perfectly fine to be upset about this – but the real question is how are you going to deal with it? Most people find that it gets easier over time and they adapt – but, again, not everyone. If this is having an impact on your quality of life (a serious, long term one rather than just a bad day), you need to rethink whether or not you want to be in this position. Firing is part of the job – knowing that, make the decision about whether this is what you want to do for what may be a very long time.

  24. Anoners*

    #2 I have a lot of trans friends. Treat them exactly like you would anyone else. Obvs use the gender language that fits the sex they identify with. Otherwise, no need to do anything out of the norm. If they confide in you about it and open up, then you can talk a bit more about their journey. If you witness any sort of bullying/discrimination, then I’d probably lose my cool on said people, (or go to HR or whoevers appropriate I guess).

  25. Vanessa*

    I’m sure you’re well-intentioned but you seem to be missing a critical part of being a good ally: you don’t get to put your goals and preferences before those of the person you are trying to support. You don’t get to decide what resources she might need, which battles she should fight, and you don’t get to step up and involve yourself in her very personal business unsolicited. Being a good ally means being quietly supportive until otherwise asked to intervene, it does not mean drawing attention to the person you are supporting without their permission and most importantly, it does not mean making their identity a convenient avenue by which you display what a good person you are. If you want to support her, treat her no differently than you would another new coworker. If a relationship is going to develop let it do so naturally, don’t force it so that you can get experiential learning by having a trans* friend.

  26. The Other Dawn*

    #5: This falls under that magical line on the job description: “Other duties as assigned.” The job description is just a guideline of what you are expected to do. There are usually many other things, often unrelated, that you will also be expected to do.

    It sucks, but that’s the reality. You can either accept it’s part of the job, or look for another one.

  27. Anonymous*

    I think the best thing you can do to support a trans* person is to be their ally by nipping any transphobic behavior by other coworkers in the bud. It sounds like your workplace is pretty tolerant but there are always uneducated people who think it’s funny to refer to someone as a “shim” or giggle and say “heehee tranny.” You can calmly and politely respond as to why that isn’t appropriate and help educate them.

  28. Interviewer*

    OP#1 – I am always nervous about firing people, and I’ve spent 10 years doing it. You never know until you’re in the moment how they will react – the mild-mannered ones that you think will be okay will blow up, and the wild ones you fear the worst, somehow they always expect that firing, and sit there calmly for the whole thing. But it pays to be prepared for the worst case scenario, every single time. Don’t have anything pressing planned for the hour or two afterwards, so you’re not rushing through it. Have boxes discreetly ready for packing up their stuff. Have the meeting when IT staff are still around to cut off access. Let building security know they’re on standby. Have all copies of paperwork ready to go. Make sure there’s a box of Kleenex in the room. Best of all – practice what you’ll say. Never wing it. The firing meeting is not an oppportunity to change your mind – it’s to announce the end and get them out. The more prepared you are, with every resource at your fingertips, the easier it will go for everyone.

    Keep in mind, OP – the firing is about them and the company, not you. Statements like “I’m sorry” have their place in a meeting involving a layoff, but not one that is the end result of an employee’s poor performance. If you did your job to offer additional training, resources, help, etc. and the employee still didn’t improve – well, that is 100% on them, not you, and they should have seen the writing on the wall. You can’t feel guilty about doing your job, when they didn’t do theirs. If you don’t fire them for poor performance, then you’re not performing well either, and the company will suffer because of both of you. A subtle mindset shift, but it works for me.

    At the end of the day, if you handle it with dignity and don’t make that meeting about you, ever, then you’ve done a professional job of firing someone.

    I am not sure if this is the best time – but have you seen the George Clooney movie “Up in the Air”? It’s more about mass layoffs than firings for poor performance, but many of the principles are the same. Great training, if you can adopt the language they use – it all comes from HR professionals.

    I fired someone with a vengeance that I shouldn’t have enjoyed, but I did. A lot. She totally deserved it. The only thing I feel guilty about today is gloating about it to my staff as much as I did at the time. I was young and didn’t realize I really should have been far more discreet – gloating never reflects well on a manager. Lesson learned.

    I hope this helps. It doesn’t sound like you had a mentor or someone to coach you through the language of how to fire someone, and if you’ve never attended a meeting before, it probably was the worst experience for you. Sit down with your manager ASAP and ask for some practice to prep for the next one. Let them know you’re struggling with how to handle the aftermath of that meeting. You need someone who can coach you through this. It is not easy. If you don’t get any good advice that sound like the tips I listed above, your manager might not know how to do it, either, and then you have some decisions to make on whether you want to continue with this role.

    Best wishes to you, OP.

    1. fposte*

      How literal were you being on the “I’m sorry”? I’ve never had to do this and am taking close notes just in case. Do you think “I’m sorry it didn’t work out” could be acceptable in a firing for cause?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think it depends on the context. Someone fired for deliberate misconduct, no. Someone who tried hard and just couldn’t perform as needed, yes. As long as you’re not implying that the decision was about anything other than performance (which is why overly cautious lawyers and HR types sometimes warn against it; you don’t want it to be taken as “I’m sorry that the horrible CEO is so sexist that I had to fire you” or so forth).

        1. fposte*

          Ah, got it. I think I’m likelier to encounter the poor performance issue, which is probably why it seemed a likely phrase to me.

          1. Jamie*

            I haven’t been involved in a ton of these, but I prefer disappointed to sorry. You can be genuinely disappointed something didn’t work out (as Alison mentioned – not with deliberate misconduct) but too many people interpret “sorry” as an apology rather than an expression of regret that things didn’t have a better outcome.

            1. Joey*

              Hmm, I don’t do either of those things. To me disappointed and sorry evoke a sense of blame. I prefer to say something like “we are letting to go. As you know we’ve discussed with you x issues and they haven’t improved to a satisfactory level. Thanks for doing your best and giving it your all. Good luck to you.”

  29. Ruffingit*

    #2: I love that you want to welcome this employee, but you seem way overenthusiastic about the fact that she’s transgender. Welcome this person as you would anyone else, but don’t make the transgender thing a defining characteristic. It’s not, it’s simply this woman being who she really is so let her do that the same you would any other colleague and don’t make a big deal about it.

  30. Anonymous for this one*

    I feel like I could have been the OP for this thread.

    We had a new employee start last year – first as a student employee, now as an auxiliary. The employee’s first name is gender neutral (let’s say “P”) but when I first met this employee, my instinct was that P identified as a woman. Unfortunately, I had no way to know for sure: the way P dresses isn’t overtly feminine, though there always seems to be a subtle feminine quality; the employee bathroom is gender-neutral so I couldn’t determine how she identified based on which bathroom she uses; when P and I talk, we never refer to ourselves using third-person pronouns. I’ve been unsure for over a year about what pronoun to use. Similarly to the OP, I have limited interaction with P so I’ve treated P the way I would treat any other coworker (e.g., dealing directly with any work questions; sharing brief pleasantries as we pass in the hall). It doesn’t actually matter to me how P identifies. P is professional and seems like a nice person. In my mind, I’ve referred to P as “she/her,” but haven’t known which pronoun to use.

    Last week, another coworker (“L”) asked me about P in a fairly gossipy way. (I stay away from gossip when I can.) In the course of removing myself from the discussion, L mentioned that other coworkers had googled P and that on P’s facebook page she refers to herself as a woman. My first thought on hearing this was “P identifies as a woman” and, whether out at work or not, identifies as a woman in her personal life. My second thought was “Who Googles new employees? Is that a thing?”

    I’m glad to have confirmed that, at least on some social media, P identifies as a woman. I’m not sure, though, which pronoun to use in a work setting. I’ve decided that, if P and I ever have a conversation in a private area, I’ll ask her “Which pronoun would you like me to use?”

    1. Forrest*

      Except the OP isn’t you, he’s the gossipy coworker.

      I think if you’ve managed interacting with P for a year, you should just stay the course until P says otherwise.

      I think the important thing for everyone to remember is that minorities are not here to make us feel comfortable about them but we’re here to make them comfortable. And one of the ways to do that is not go out of our way to identify them solely based on their minority standing, especially before they have or are ready to do so.

      P and the OP’s coworker are not out at the workplace. Its not your or the OP’s or anyone’s responsibility to make that happen, even if it is in a misguided attempt to be inclusive.

      1. Anonymous for this one*


        I haven’t interacted enough with P to know if she’s out in the workplace or not. It’s simply never come up. And why should it? It’s not like any other new employee/ coworker would randomly say, “By the way, I’m straight. Please refer to me using pronouns X/Y.”

        If she’s living her life, why should she have to “out” herself wherever she goes. What does it matter whether she’s transgender or not? That’s why I’ve been interacting with her in the same manner I interact with others. We should all simply be in the habit of treating everyone else equally and respectfully.

        1. Forrest*

          I’m objecting to this statement: “I’ve decided that, if P and I ever have a conversation in a private area, I’ll ask her “Which pronoun would you like me to use?””

          You shouldn’t be asking that question, in private or not.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think that’s a fine question to ask once a person has come out to you as trans — but problematic if they haven’t. (Plus, if it turns out that the person is in fact cisgender, that’s going to be an awkward conversation.)

                1. Anonymous for this one*

                  I’ve since done a quick google search for P (which felt icky and gross).

                  The first hit is P’s homepage from which it is apparent that P is transgender: P refers to herself using feminine pronouns on her website; in interviews she discusses transgender issues; etc. P’s website showcases work she does that is similar but not related to our profession. It seems clear, therefore, that P identifies as a woman personally and in this other work.

                  You mention that I shouldn’t ask the question unless she comes out directly to me. I understand the sentiment, but is that fair? Do others have to come out / identify themselves to colleagues as straight? Why should transgender people have to? If a simple google search shows that P identifies as a woman, what would you suggest is the best way to use that information?

                  (I’m not meaning to be argumentative. I’m really trying to figure out the most appropriate way to handle this.)

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I might be confused about the situation, but if she refers to herself as a woman, why not just use female pronouns? Why ask her about it at all?

                3. Forrest*

                  I thought I inferred that Anonymous shouldn’t ask that question because P isn’t out.

                  Not that you should never ever ask that question.

                4. Forrest*

                  Well, Anonymous, are you asking every single coworker what gender pronoun they’d like to be refereed to as?

                5. Anonymous for this one*

                  Sometimes transgender people present as a woman in some contexts but as a man in others (e.g., a woman in their personal lives, but a man at work).

                  It’s not obvious whether P is presenting as a man or a woman, so even though she identifies as a woman personally and in this other professional context, I don’t want to out her to colleagues – especially when I haven’t spoken to her about it.

                  For example, I heard from L that the manager hired P thinking that P was a man. (Don’t get me started on how inappropriate that is!) I don’t want to put P’s employment / relationship with the manager in jeopardy by outing P.

                  Because of this, I wanted to confirm with P what her preferences are. I didn’t want to ask “are you transgender?” because she can be transgender and still present as either gender. That’s why I thought “What pronoun would you like me to use?” was a better option. It’s non-judgemental (I think) and gets to the pertinent point I need to know moving forward.

                6. Rana*

                  The thing is, though, just asking for preferred pronouns is problematic, if the other person doesn’t bring it up first. Some people are genderqueer deliberately, but others are not, and having someone make it clear that they can’t identify your gender – especially someone you’ve known for a while – is going to be weird and uncomfortable.

                  Does it really matter what P’s gender is? Can’t you just keep referring to P as “P” or “they” when talking about P to other people?

                  (I have to admit I’ve never quite understood other people’s “need” to know what other people’s gender is, unless you’re in a situation where it makes a real difference, such as in a medical office where you’re prescribing sex-related treatments. It’s like people who can’t handle a baby in gender-neutral clothing – I’ve never grasped why it freaks them out so.)

                7. Felicia*

                  You should refer to her the way she refers to herself. If she refers to herself as a woman , then that’s what you do. You always take the other person’s lead. If she wants other pronouns she’ll say so, but it’s treating her differently if you ask. Also most people who’s proper pronouns arent obvious wont be offended by an honest mistake , and you dont generally refer to a person as he or she when talking to them. I’m sure you’ll be able to tell how she identifies at work without it coming up .

            1. Anonymous for this one*

              I’m trying to determine the most respectful way to know what pronouns to use when referring to P. I obviously don’t use third person pronouns when talking to P directly: I use third person pronouns when talking about P to others. It becomes awkward and noticeable if one doesn’t use pronouns:

              “P may have ideas for how to incorporate caramel into the design of the chocolate teapots. When P worked at Caramel Coffeepots, P learned the intricacies of caramel production. One of the reasons we hired P was because of P’s proficiency with caramel and that P has strong ideas about our new chocolate teapot line.”

              At some point, one wants to use a pronoun. Not using a pronoun seems to draw more attention to P’s gender than simply using the pronoun P prefers. As others have mentioned (including Kinrowan in reference to my comment up-thread), it’s important to have allies speak up for transgender people when injustice/disrespect is happening.

              When my coworker L talks about P, L keeps questioning what P’s gender is and which pronoun to use. Her “questions” have to do with how P presents himself/herself, that “P is making it very confusing for the rest of us” by what P chooses to wear. Now that I know that P identifies as a woman on social media, I cut L off every time and say that L is a woman. Period. End of conversation. When I talk with L about this (because L brought it up), I use “she/her” to refer to P.

              However, I’m not sure what pronoun to use when generally talking about P to coworkers. That’s why I wanted to check with P about which pronoun to use. For the past year, I haven’t wanted to use “she/her” in case P’s cisgendered, but I also don’t want to use “he/him” which is inappropriate if P presents as a woman. (As I mentioned, P’s clothes, hair, presentation, name don’t clearly identify which way P is presenting.)

              For P’s first year here, regular staff and I didn’t interact with her much. (P worked on days we weren’t here.) Now that I’m interacting with P more, I feel it’s becoming more important that I know how to be most respectful. In terms of general treatment as a coworker/person, it’s a non-issue. The pronoun piece seems to be my only stumbling block

              I’m really open to suggestions in order to know the correct pronoun to use.

              1. Forrest*

                Or just keep using P’s name.

                Really, this sounds like another case of “what’s simple for me to do!” rather than what’s best for the other person or what they would want.

                1. Anonymous for this one*

                  I’m not sure that’s fair. It’s simple enough for me to only use P’s name. (That’s what I’ve been doing for over a year.)

                  But in speaking, it does because awkward to never use a pronoun. It seems to emphasise the fact that one is avoiding identifying gender.

                2. Forrest*

                  Honestly, I don’t see the problem. But I don’t have long conversations about my coworkers without them present.

                  I feel that you would have to monologue a bit about P for the awkwardness to hit.

                3. Anonymous for this one*

                  In reference to your question above, no I don’t ask other people their gender. That’s why I don’t really want to have to ask P about this.

                  However… I’ve now learned from L that people are talking about it – and not necessarily in a kind or respectful way. I want to be able to nip this in the bud if/when it comes up and be sure I’m an ally to P.

                  The easiest way to stop the conversation would be to simply say, “She’s a woman. Period.” or to repeat/correct “she” when coworkers are questioning the pronoun to use. But I don’t feel I can do this without touching base with P.

                  As I’ve mentioned before, it doesn’t matter to me either way. Because I have a good friend who has recently come out as transgender, I am keenly aware of the discrimination and awkwardness that can occur. I want to ensure I am a support to P (and my friend, and other). It’s just challenging to know what’s best.

                4. Forrest*

                  Or you can nip it in the bud by saying “Its none of our business. Period.”

                  P is not out as you’ve repeatedly said. By giving in to L, you’re just encouraging her. Do you honestly think L’s going to stop if you say “P’s a woman, she told me so?” Because I’ve met people like L and they don’t tend to stop. L doesn’t care what or who P is, she just cares that P is “different” from her.

              2. Rana*

                Embrace the awkwardness. It’s only awkward for the other person (L) if you yourself don’t care. Let L fret about what to call P and be awkward all on her own – there’s no need for you to join L in that drama.

            2. Anon*

              This. I used to work with someone whose gender I couldn’t immediately suss out and whose name was gender-neutral too. We did have separate bathrooms so I eventually spotted her going into the women’s and had my answer. She was also not trans at all, just a ciswoman who looked stereotypically “masculine” in some ways, and I’d have really put my foot in it if I’d ever asked her about pronouns.

              1. fposte*

                Yeah, that’s my concern. For some people, it’s a nice thoughtful query about preference; for others, it’s a seriously offensive aspersion on their gender identity.

                I don’t know that there’s a solution here that works in all situations.

            3. FD*

              Do you think it can be acceptable in general to ask ‘is there a preferred pronoun you’d like me to use’–not because you think a person might be transgendered or gender queer, but just in general?

              1. Jamie*

                I would think that would be problematic for the reasons fposte and Rana detailed above.

                For some people it would just be a courtesy question and others would find it extremely off-putting that you needed to ask about their gender.

          2. KellyK*

            Yep. It would be nice to live in a world where that was a standard thing people said to everyone, not just to people who they view as androgynous or possibly trans (because it’s *not* something you should expect to “notice” about people). But because that’s not the world we live in, it risks being kind of insulting by implying that their gender presentation is “off” in some way.

            My guess would be if you can Google someone and find out that they are a trans woman, they’re probably not identifying as a man at work. Since that’s a huge safety thing, and it seems insulting to the coworker’s intelligence to think that they haven’t considered that they’re Google-able.

            But that’s only a hunch, and acknowledging something you only know about a coworker by Googling them seems creepy and intrusive. So I would go with “name only, no pronouns” when talking about P, and try to avoid long conversations about coworkers who aren’t present unless they’re necessary for work.

            1. Kinrowan*

              I know it’s not grammatically correct and some people have issues with this but “they/their” works well in this situation. It’s not gendering, and you get to use a pronoun. It is often less awkward than always referring the name of the person all the time.

              I am with Forrest also – P’s gender presumably does not matter for their job (see how I used their?) so I would just bring it back to this. It’s a job, the gender doesn’t matter. They are trying to create drama that is unrelated to the job.

              I also wanted to give a little more context to the trans experience because i think it is missing here and point out that the vast of majority of trans people do not stand out in this way that seems to be described here. Yes, pre-transition and early transition perhaps, but after a few years (and usually less for F-M than M-F (used here for expediency, I dislike them)), no one can tell unless one actually outs oneself. I have the impression people think they can always tell, and that is just not true – a bit of the feeling “look, I see one there!” much like one does when visiting a zoo and spotting the lion snoozing in the shade.

              Some of the awkwardness in those early years also happens because most often to go to work in your chosen gender (whether transitioning at the place of work or in a new job) you need to have official documentation identifying yourself in that gender and the legal paperwork and steps you need to take for that to happen are complicated and bureaucratic. There have been some recent changes that have made it easier but it’s still not a quick process of going to the DMV to get a change. And it is expensive to get your documents changed, and, in most cases, none of the medical treatment is covered by insurance so you have to deal with that expense too, and in most places there is no gender identity protection, so you are vulnerable to being fired, losing your apartment, being thrown out of your home if you are still living at home, being harassed, etc.

              For that reason, the last place that knows about their transition usually is the workplace, even if the person has started transitioning but might not have been able to get their documents changed.

              The kindest thing is to treat the person as a person, not a unicorn (“oh! so special!” – which seemed to come up a bit from the first OP) and to make sure that their gender or how they dress is not an issue because it should not be for 99.99% of the jobs out there. You show you are an ally by doing that, by speaking up if there are offensive things being said, by making sure everyone’s eyes are on the job performance not the gender presentation of the person doing the job, by making sure the workplace a safe place – and if it is not, working to make it safe (does the person have to use the bathroom in the 3rd floor all the way at the end of the deserted hallway because that is the only gender neutral bathroom? for example).

              Sorry I went on a bit! but it’s something I care a lot about.

  31. OP1*

    Thanks, everyone, for your insights. You all have given me a lot to think about and to consider. While firing was hard, I definitely understand that it’s necessary to do. I don’t want to give up on management, but needless to say, my first year in management has not been the easiest, but resources like this website and the input of others have been invaluable. :-) We’ve just finished hiring for the replacement, so I am looking forward to training the new person and getting my department back at full-staff.

  32. Audiophile*

    I don’t find this strange at all OP. The company I work for now does this, and it stretches for most of the summer. For $5 you can wear jeans every Friday during those specified weeks. I can’t participate because I’m a contractor for an outside company, and I have to wear my uniform. But it seems to bring in quite a bit for the charity and the company matches the employees’ donations.

  33. Rana*

    #1 – Something that may help to keep in mind is that, if you’re a good manager who doesn’t fire people on a whim, a firing is not a one-way process that you impose on someone, however much it can feel like it.

    Rather, firing is the final sentence in a dialogue between you and your employee, and they are as much responsible for that “conversation” as you are – they have the ability to change their actions, their behavior, etc. and if they don’t, then the dialogue is going to go in the direction of firing, no matter what else you do (unless you abandon your responsibilities and principles, which is no bueno).

    Yes, the buck ultimately stops with you, but it was carried to your desk by the other person – don’t forget that.

    1. huh*

      Um, sometimes people fire themselves but often too it’s not about work per se, but politics. Perhaps the manager was inflexible or the situation rife with favoritism and dysfunction…people get fired for many reasons other than asking for it. Given the rotten alternative for the employee, I am betting employees get the shaft far more often than deserved. As a manager, you have to consider whether you want to be part of that system.

      1. Jen in RO*

        In my experience (at least in larger companies), bad employees are kept on for far longer than they deserve. It takes a while for the manager to realize that employee X sucks, then company internal regulations say that you can’t fire someone without a warning, a negative performance review, a PIP… in the meantime, the people who actually do their jobs have to witness their slacker coworker get the same amount of money for doing half the job. (Me, bitter? Never. The coworker in question got laid off before the end of the PIP, but it took more than a year to *get* to the PIP, and morale was pretty low by that point.)

        So yeah – your results may vary. I think (hope) that most offices are not dysfunctional, we just get to hear about those because no one writes to Alison to say “oh I love my job and my boss”.

        1. Judy*

          In my experience, in large companies, there are some slackers that are kept on for longer than they deserve. But many more of the firings are done because of more political reasons. Forced rankings (requiring a minimum of 5% level 5 which requires firing or PIPs and 10% level 4 which may require a PIP) means the strength of your boss and how much he’s willing to fight for you in the “beauty pageant”, and if another manager doesn’t like you, you could be part of the 15% out the door. Someone did what their boss told them to, which was the wrong thing, and someone had to get fired for it, what’s the boss going to do, take responsibility? The boss left for a new job, and the new boss doesn’t like half the team, so 2 get put on PIPs, and when they’re gone 2 more are. Engineering is not ready for something, but the “business team” accepts the risk, and then when there are quality problems, the engineering project manager gets fired, and most of the engineering team is put on PIPs.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            While that absolutely does happen, my experience matches what Jen described — that more often it’s a case of real performance issues and the firing happens way later than it really should have because companies wait too long to fire.

  34. op7*

    I have asked the student employee to set a deadline for when she thinks she can get the work done and told her I will tell the manager when she does this. I figure if she sets her own deadline, she can stick to it. If not I will tell the manager. I have already made it clear to the manager this is a pattern with the student employee, and she knows.

    FWIW, it sounds like the trans employee that OP#2 mentions is not stealth. As the OP, I would try to play up my ally status in group settings in a way that was broad, i.e. mentioning my gay bf or that I was reading kate bornstein’s memoir or something, or even getting a safe space sticker. not in a trite way, like “oh you must have watch rupaul, b/c …” but only if genuine.

    this way, the trans employee can identify queer-positive folks at work and disclose, if she wants to. plus being an out ally could benefit others who might be lqbtqaa, have queer family members etc. it never hurts to be a better ally.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      On the student worker, make sure she knows you’re counting on that deadline so she doesn’t think it’s flexible just because she set it herself! You can do that by saying, “I’m going to plan around that, so if it ends up needing to change, please let me know by DATE because of XYZ.”

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