we have to meet with our manager about why she sucks, Anglo-sounding names, and more

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

1. We have to meet with our manager to discuss the negative feedback we gave about her on a staff survey

I’d love to be able to benefit from your advice on how my coworkers and I should handle an upcoming discussion with our manager about the results of a staff survey.

We are a department of five people and our manager has been with us for over five years. Simply put, she is incompetent: disorganized, forgetful, tentative and timid yet often officious, easily threatened, and the list goes on. In spite of her, we function quite well as a department and only involve her in our work when it can’t be avoided. Many of us have voiced our complaints over the years to our manager’s manager. For whatever reason, there doesn’t seem to be any desire to change the situation though our manager has received a great deal of coaching on how to do her job better, but to little avail.

We recently completed our annual staff survey about our workplace. For the first time, we collectively decided to be brutally honest in the questions that asked for opinions on our manager’s performance, etc. The next step is apparently that we all meet with her to discuss the results, particularly those that are most negative (i.e. the ones about her). She will be looking for constructive feedback. I anticipate a very awkward meeting particularly since most of our complaints aren’t about easily fixable problems but seem to address the core of her very personality (at least her “work” personality).

All the usual advice I have read is about how managers should deliver poor performance evaluations to their staff. But do you have any advice about how staff is supposed to address poor performance in their manager in a scenario like this? Is there anything to be gained from asking HR for guidance? I believe an HR person will be attending to facilitate. Do you have opinions on how these kinds of performance conversations should be handled or what the framework for them should be?

Your employer is making you all meet with your manager to discuss the negative critiques you gave her in your staff survey? What the hell? That is not the way to handle this. If anything, someone else should be meeting with you all to dig more deeply into the issues you reported.

I don’t see how this meeting is going to go well, and that’s doubly true when she apparently works for someone who has heard complaints about her in the past and chosen not to act. What are the possible outcomes of this meeting? That your boss becomes more competent, less forgetful, more organized, and a better manager? That doesn’t seem likely. I can’t imagine what they’re thinking in asking you to do this.

2. Does contacting HR on LinkedIn make you stand out or is it just annoying?

There is a lot of advice out there about how to stand out and score that first interview. Some people recommend sending messages to the HR person via LinkedIn. Is this something that makes you stand out or just annoying?

There are so many advice articles out there and, if you haven’t been on the job market for a while, it’s hard to tell whether it’s bad advice or if times have just changed.

Contacting HR outside the normal application channels is unlikely to do anything; they’re likely to tell you to apply using their normal methods. Contacting the hiring manager can have more effect, but whether it does depends on (a) how strong your candidacy is and (b) the individual hiring manager. Some hiring managers will be annoyed no matter what, some won’t pay any attention to the message at all, some will just tell you to apply, and some will take a look at your resume — and if it’s strong, it’s possible that it could help you. But if it’s strong and you write a great cover letter, you’re likely to get looked at anyway, without the risk of annoying people.

You’re better off using LinkedIn in a different way: to see whether anyone in your network is connected to the employer you want to work for, and having them either put in a good word for you or make a personal connection to someone there.

3. How can I change fields when employers want to hire people with experience I don’t have?

I’m currently working as a contractor in a position that has no possibility of becoming permanent (at least it doesn’t appear to be that way). I have been interviewing for permanent position outside of the company because, although I would like to work here, my current position is not related to my degree or interest. I have come close to getting job offers but no offers. The common thread between the outcome of the interviews is that the potential employer has chosen to go with someone else who is currently in or has been in a similar position in the past.

My contract position is very different from the typical communication roles that I am applying for and I feel like it’s holding me back. Do you have any advice on how to go from a very technical support based position to an entry-level communications position?

It’s hard! In a tight job market like this one, employers have plenty of well-trained candidates who have already worked in the field. That means that even though you might feel that you could excel at the job if just given the chance, employers don’t have much of an incentive to take a chance on you.

What you might try instead is finding a way to combine the two. For instance, look at communications roles where a tech background would be an asset — in applying for those roles, you’ll have a qualification that a lot of other candidates won’t.

4. Asking to work from home a few days a week

I started my new job 3 months ago at a company with many employees working virtually around the world. During the interview process, I thought (based on conversations in my multiple interviews) that even though I live somewhat near to a satellite office, I could work from home a few days a week. I asked for clarification during the offer process and was told that when training was complete, we could talk again about working from home. I’ve asked to work from home a couple of days so far because I had been tasked with a major, time-sensitive project (and I was allowed to do so), but there’s no established schedule for ongoing virtual work.

There’s no set training schedule here, but I feel very comfortable in my new role. And, since most other workers work virtually or in another state, I communicate via phone/email/IM instead of in-person anyway. Is it too soon to ask to work from home? What should I say when asking?

I’d wait another few months, and then say, “You asked me to raise the prospect of working from home a few days a week once my training was finished. Would you be open to trying it now?” The reason I’d wait a few more months is that at three months, you’re still very new, and your manager is still getting to know you and your work ethic. Also, by asking that early, you risk looking overly focused on it, versus focused on the job. Wait until you’re more settled there and then raise it again.

5. Should I use a more Anglo-sounding name?

I am a soon-to-be graduate and I have been showing my resume to people for critique. One person suggested that I should have a more “Anglo-sounding” name next to my legal name, which as you can see is pretty ethnic. Her rationale is that many hiring managers only spend 10 seconds on a resume and they are gravitating toward familiar names. It was somewhat disheartening to hear but I have to admit her explanation seem to make sense. I answer to Susie with my family and friends but professionally I always go with my first name.

Do you agree with her? I would love to hear what you have to say on this subject.

There is indeed a bunch of data showing that applicants with Anglo-sounding names are more likely to get hired. This is messed up but true. But whether or not you change the name on your resume as a result is a personal decision — there are arguments each way, and some will resonate with you more than others.

That said, if you’re already going by Susie with family and friends, there’s more of a case for doing it professionally too. In general, I tend to think it makes sense to use the name you’re known by in the rest of your life in the professional realm as well, unless there’s some specific reason not to. (But doing that will make lots of things easier; for instance, when the guy on your weekend volleyball wants to recommend you for a job at his company, you want him to refer to you by the same name that the company is going to see on your resume.)

{ 189 comments… read them below }

  1. Worker Bee*

    #1 Alison I am surprised. I don’t see any advice in your answer to number one? I am really curious how OP should handle this…

    1. Ruffingit*

      I agree, I was surprised that Alison didn’t offer some way to handle this. It is bizarre and not something that the OP should have to endure, but she does have to so I’d love to hear Alison’s take on what to do here.

      1. Jessa*

        I think Alison was so flabbergasted because geez, this isn’t how it’s done. I’d seriously however, if it were me, go back to upper management and say some sort of polite but very very obvious, “Not only no, but Hell no, it is not our job to deal with this. It’s not going to end well, how are we supposed to work with her after?” And I’d strongly consider calling off ill the day this meeting is to take place.

        1. Zelos*

          I can’t imagine skipping out the day of would do anything. Obviously not quite the same situation, but…I had a high school teacher who was similar to this. A legion (there was a group of…seven, I think?…kids including me, and I heard another group of approximately ten people) of complaints were lodged directly to the principal…and she cornered me one day after school and asked for an evaluation. Just me, even–no one else was there. Talk about awkward.

          If management is willing to endorse this, I highly doubt the potential for awkwardness will be limited to meeting day. Management has to call this meeting off posthaste.

          1. A*

            Agreed. This meeting needs to be called off posthaste. I know at least I would feel blind-sided by an approach like this.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      The answer is to push back. It’s best if the team go to HR and let them know that it’s inappropriate and can place the work team in a bad place. Frame it as something that could be horrifically embarrassing/damaging for the boss (talk about ganging up on someone?) Remind HR that corrections are best done in private and that this is the senior managers job, not the direct report. If all of the people decided to be brutally honest, they can also refuse to do this thing that would be so very harmful.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        This is exactly what I was thinking. There is no mention of HR in the OP’s letter, so it is possible that HR is not aware of this meeting. I hope that’s the case here, because I can’t imagine why any HR department or representative would think that this was a good idea, or encourage this approach.

        The way to handle it is for the OP’s team to meet with the manager’s boss, along with someone from HR to keep everything above-board. And as always, if there’s any hope of the situation improving, the OP and other team members should have specific examples of what makes their boss so difficult to work with.

        1. Daisy*

          Last para: ‘I believe an HR person will be attending to facilitate’. So apparently they do think it’s a good idea, for some reason.

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            Oh, you’re right. I didn’t see that on the first read-through. I must have been so distracted by thinking about how appalling such a meeting would be that I missed it!

      2. Ruffingit*

        Pushing back is the immediate answer, certainly, but I’m suspect of that working since the OP says I believe an HR person will be attending to facilitate. If that is the case, they already know about it. Also, I think an answer needs to be given to the OP in the event that pushing back doesn’t work. Then what? How should she handle this conversation? I really hope Alison will provide an answer for that.

    3. AnonK*

      I’ll take a stab, because I’ve been in #1 before.

      I hate these surveys because this is what ALWAYS happens in my experience. Actual complaints are delegated so far down that there is no chance of them being resolved. Chances are, the manager’s manager didn’t even read the survey and just saw the response for this particular team was universally graded low and asked the bad manager to “fix it”. Like I said, I’ve been here before. Both as an employee under a horrible boss, and once when I was the manager of a team who universally complained about the CEO’s highly publicized raise in comparison to their own (really, what am I supposed to do about that? But I still had to have the meeting to demonstrate to HR that I was engaging my employees in their concerns and to prove to my boss that I was trying to improve the survey score.)

      In the case of my completely awful manager that we all complained about, the meeting started as a lecture (you don’t know how hard I work) to a witch hunt (who made this particular comment) to insults (none of you are worth a damn without me). I realized at that meeting that it was time to move on. I updated my resume that evening and had a new job within 6 weeks. You cannot change a manager like this. If the company is willing to put up with this behavior, even after they’ve clearly been informed, as sounds to be the case with the OP, then the boss is just the symptom of an overall problem where a company has no personal accountability and is not honestly concerned about the voice of their people.

      It’s time to move on. I’m sorry, as it sounds like OP likes their coworkers. But even if this particular boss is removed, the culture is there for the situation to repeat itself.

      1. Vicki*

        And this is why the workplace is so screwed up.

        It should never be “time to move on” when the manager is bad. It should be time to move the manager “on”.

        1. AnonK*

          But my point is – the manager isn’t the problem. The company that allows this is the problem. If the manager vanishes tomorrow, the forces that allowed these practices to continue despite complaints from several of her subordinates prior to the survey are still there.

      2. Kate*

        I agree with this sentiment. I have also been in this position before. An under performing manager (subject matter expert promoted into management position with limited management ability and no interest in building her skills) set up a feedback meeting at the request of senior management. My colleagues and I discussed our approach and delivery beforehand – three targeted areas with some practical suggestions for each.

        The response was less hostile than AnonK’s, but along the lines of, “Oh that’s just your subjective opinion, I’m personally happy with the way I’m performing”. The section of four people moved on within months. I’ve heard through the grapevine there has been another 100 per cent turnover in the space of this year.

        We figured we’d done all we could to identify the issue and contribute to a resolution. But if there is no interest in changing things, you have to decide whether it’s worth staying on.

      3. Bea W*

        This gives me flashbacks of a “lessons learned” meeting to discuss team feedback on a project with an extremely difficult client. The lesson I learned was that upper management was totally dysfunctional, and my only hope was to gtfo.

        Maybe I should thank them, because I left just at the right time to land an awesome job that has really been as close to perfect fit as it gets. :)

    4. Anon for this*

      We had a situation where the dean of our school was known for having a blind (completely, utterly blind) spot regarding making any decision if an attractive woman was a factor in it.

      So we got a new female director-level employee in the dean’s suite and a new female receptionist at around the same time, and they both seemed to intuitively recognize this weakness of his. They started laying on the flirtation so thick, it would make a normal person sick with embarrassment on their behalf. But it was totally working for them.

      The dean’s assistant got to the point that she couldn’t even manage the office, because the dean would never back her up on anything where these two were concerned. The dean’s assistant didn’t make policy herself; she was simply the messenger to the rest of us regarding the dean’s own policies. She got to where, before she would communicate anything to the staff, she would ask the dean if he was absolutely sure that this is what he wanted to have happen. She would then ask him directly if he was going to back her up on it. He would say “yes, yes, of course”, so she would tell the staff that the dean said such-and-such was supposed to happen in such-and-such manner. Then the two manipulators would go into his office immediately afterward , and then the dean would come out and reverse the decision. The dean’s assistant was supposed to be the direct supervisor of the receptionist, but she couldn’t manage her at all, because the receptionist could get anything at all she wanted from the dean.

      We, as the rest of the staff, called a couple of group meetings with the dean to try to talk to him about how what he was doing was affecting the rest of our work. He pretended to hear and listen to us, and commended us for coming to him, but he just continued to carry on with these two women. So the whole rest of the staff decided to put everything into his annual staff evaluation. It was painful and awkward to do it. The university dealt with him on the upper admin level, but he did confront us in a staff meeting and demand to know why we would do such a thing to him.

      The receptionist later ended up filing a sexual harassment and racial discrimination suit against the university and was awarded a settlement. The dean’s assistant took a promotion to another department (after 25 years in our school) because she couldn’t stand being undermined by him any time a younger, attractive female was involved.

      Things seemed to settle back to normal for about 3 years, and then suddenly the dean announced one March that he was stepping down at the end of May. It seemed kind of sudden, and it came out later that it was because a female non-traditional work-study student had filed a sexual harassment suit against him. The university decided that he was too much of a sexual-harassment liability and forced him to step down.

      I have no advice for the OP about how to handle a meeting like this, though. The answer is, the staff below the supervisor’s level shouldn’t have to deal with it. It is the upper administration’s job to deal with it.

      1. Ruffingit*

        That guy was such an ass! What did you all say when he confronted you as to why you’d put things in his evaluation? I hope you all told him because he was a spineless tool (in nicer words). Wow. I feel awful for his assistant, that poor woman couldn’t really do her job effectively due to his crap. And then a sexual harassment suit by the receptionist? Gee, what a surprise, couldn’t see that coming a mile away.

        1. Anon for this*

          Yeah, we really did everything we felt we could to avoid saying anything in his evaluation. We met with him twice to try to get him to get some sense about what he was doing. Then after he confronted us about putting the stuff in his eval, he started trying to match the comments on the eval to individuals in the office so that he could . . . I don’t know what — have individual confrontations with people? The sad part is, he was a good dean when not in the throes of infatuation with somebody. But throw that element in, and it was like Kryptonite to him. It rendered him completely unable to do his job.

        2. Anon for this*

          I just realized I didn’t answer your question about what we said to him when confronted by him directly. We mostly just side-stepped it as best we could. But there was one part of the situation where the manipulative director-level employee had tried, unsuccessfully while the dean’s assistant was still around, to promote the manipulative receptionist to a several-levels-higher pay grade (even with my pay grade, as a matter of fact). The dean’s assistant had, while she was still with us, deflected that promotion as inappropriate to the receptionists’ duties. Then, awhile after the dean’s assistant transferred school, I had a sneaking suspicion about what had happened with the receptionist’s pay grade, so I looked up her position and salary in the payroll system. She had been promoted, as soon as the dean’s assistant left, and was making $1,000 more a year than I was — for the reception job!!

          I made a big fat hairy stink about it, and when the HR office found out that they had been basically tricked into giving her the promotion — turns out the two manipulators had falsified her duties, and the dean had approved it — they were absolutely livid and immediately stripped her of the promotion and returned her to her original title and salary. That is when she filed the fateful lawsuit.

          Anyway, in one of the witch hunt meetings where the dean was trying to figure out who had said what about him, we brought up that unmerited promotion as something that he had done wrong. He tried to justify it, and I just flat-out told him that there was no justification for it. That her duties had been falsified, and that his assistant had determined (before she left) that there was no merit in pursuing a promotion for her. There was some arguing back and forth about that between him and me, and it became obvious that there was just no use in it — he was defensive and delusional about what his part in it had been. I did get some congratulations from my coworkers for trying, FWIW.

          1. Ruffingit*

            Wow. That is incredible. Kudos to you for pushing back on the dean about that phony promotion. Again, wow. It’s amazing what goes on in workplaces sometimes. I’ve been in a few myself that were no less than abusive so I’m not surprised by this stuff, just disgusted. So wish I had the independently wealthy thing going on so I could skip over the whole employment thing and just volunteer my time and talents as needed.

            1. Anon for this*

              It was so miserable and the situation felt so hopeless. At the time, it felt like even putting it all into his evaluation had little effect. But it just took about three years for it all to play out. The fact that everything from the first situation was in writing on his record made it easier for him to be demoted then next time he did something. But the stuff he was doing was serious, lawsuit-drawing stuff. For less spectacular instances of low-grade incompetence, the agony could be drawn out for even longer — or even never be resolved satisfactorily. OP may have to decide if this is something she wants to live with for a long, long time.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sorry, I thought the advice was implied in the answer, but on re-reading it, I see that it’s not clear. The OP and her coworkers should push back on whoever told them to do this. If that person was the manager herself, they need to go to the manager’s own boss (or maybe to HR, depending on the circumstances, but I prefer the former). They need to explain that they (1 )gave this feedback in confidence, (2) aren’t comfortable giving this type of extreme criticism to the person responsible for their assignments, evaluations, raises, and job security, and (3) don’t believe it’s appropriate to tell her, essentially, that they don’t believe she’s fit for the job (pointing out that this isn’t about giving feedback on things she can tweak; it’s about multiple serious problems that go to fundamental fitness for the role).

      If they are forced to meet with her despite this, I would keep the focus on what they need from her that they’re currently not getting, keeping it as impersonal as possible, and even framing it in terms of what the department as a whole can do better. (For instance, “Right now, when other depts send us work, it often sits for a while before it’s assigned, which means that when it does ultimately get assigned, we have to scramble to meet the deadline and sometimes it’s already been missed. What can we do differently to avoid this in the future?”)

      But I’d try hard to avoid being in that position.

      1. Anonymous*

        1. If this isn’t the OP’s dream company (and judging by the question, it’s not likely it is), how about simply refusing to attend?

        2. Alison, it would be fantastic if you could let us know more about your positions on matters like this. When you say something like “It would even be legal for your manager to fire you on the spot because you came to work one day with a runny nose”, I am wondering if you believe that only the worst managers would do something like this, or if you believe there would be nothing morally wrong with do so.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I used to generally add to statements like that something like “Obviously this would be ridiculous and generally not in your employer’s interest and very few managers would do it,” but that became tedious to say every single time. I kind of assumed that it was a given that firing someone for a runny nose would be horrid.

          1. Anonymous*

            Do you believe it’s reasonable to force someone in a position unrelated to cleaning to clean up rat poop?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Depends on the context.

              If your workplace doesn’t have daily cleaners or someone else to whom the job would obviously fall, then someone is going to have to do it. It’s reasonable that they’re not to going to call in some specialized rat poop cleaning service to handle it.

              (Obviously, you should be given appropriate gear to do it, and if it’s a regular problem, then they need to address it at its source.)

            2. Josh S*

              Depends on the situation.

              I mean, ideally a manager would never ask someone to do that if they weren’t signed on for such a task or if there were any other way. But perhaps the person is the most senior person on hand and there’s nobody else to handle the task–then yes, it’s reasonable to require that most senior person to maintain a workplace that is free of hazards like rat poop.

              Do I think the manager should force the employee to do that task casually as though it’s no big deal? No. But if it’s gotta get done, it’s gotta get done. And sometimes the task falls to someone who didn’t ask for the job.

              1. April*

                Josh, I know that you and Alison are being careful to say “depends on the situation” but I also think it might be helpful to delineate what a situation on each side might look like. For example, one can think of it in terms of pest control generally. Some companies have an ongoing pest control service that comes out annually or monthly or whatever to take care of insects. Others don’t have an ongoing contract, but if a situation arises that’s bigger than what can be dealt with by a can of raid, they hire out for that one situation. I think that dealing with four footed pests (and the mess they leave behind) would reasonably be approached the same way. One odd animal that was quickly dispatched without having to hire any service – then sure, employee cleans up associated mess. An entire massive infestation that had to be eradicated by professional exterminator- then, no, employee does not need to clean up associated mess, a professional should tackle that.

          2. Ruffingit*

            Yeah, given the general tenor of your blog, I always just assume that you believe stupid management decisions (ala runny nose management if you will) to be…well…stupid. I don’t need the disclaimer. It’s pretty obvious to me that you’re against poor/stupid management given that you write articles and this blog about good management.

            1. Vicki*

              I tend to assume that statements such as “What the hell?” can be expanded to cover a paragraph’s worth of “This is so wrong I’m not even going to start to say why, just go back and read the archives… but sadly, it is legal.”

          1. Anonymous*

            That’s why saving is essential. Working for a company which would fire you for refusing to participate in ridiculous activities and with no money to change jobs is about the closest thing our society has to slavery. The enormous power that employers have over employees with no money is simply frightening.

              1. TrainerGirl*

                I cringe every time I hear a “xyz work situation is the closest thing to slavery”.

                Although it’s very true that having savings keeps you from a perilous situation should you find yourself unemployed, being fired/laid off doesn’t include institutionalized torture, humiliation, dehumanization, rape and general mistreatment.

                1. Jamie*

                  I don’t even think it’s that – you can’t be imprisoned, beaten, traded without your consent, or forced to be separated from your family if you leave your employer – all of which happened to indentured servants.

                  I know you weren’t being literal, and just like the slavery analogies it’s hyperbole, but those comparisons trivialize the very real plight of those in the world who truly don’t have freedom to leave – like exploited child labor, etc.

                  And as for being trapped in a crappy job because one can’t afford to leave and still be self supporting…that’s the way it’s always been. We all need some source of income to live and if we don’t like our current deal we can find another one, find someone to take care of us, or rely on the kindness of strangers. But the ability to walk out without risking our freedom or physical safety is something we shouldn’t take for granted.

                2. fposte*

                  Right. It can be a really bad situation in modern industrialized terms without approximating historically bad situations. I was just listening to BBC Radio’s History of Britain in Numbers, and it’s an eye-opening overview of how demographics have changed and how much prosperity is available to us, including just about everybody in America, now compared to then. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck to be at the bottom in a system that makes it very, very difficult to get out of it, and contemporary society should be judged by that. But it’s still a world away from slavery or indentured servitude.

            1. Ruffingit*

              The idea of saving is a good one, certainly, but doesn’t take care of all such problems. Having been through long bouts of unemployment myself, I know how easy it is to run through savings to pay the basic bills and still have no job. Then, you get a job and it turns out it’s a hell hole or whatever, but quitting isn’t an option because you don’t yet have the savings built back up to do that. Also, it’s a huge leap of faith to quit a job without one to go to even if you do have the savings built up for the reason I mentioned already – it’s super easy to run through savings before you get another job. It’s not easy out there, not by a long shot.

              So, while I agree people should save, it’s not the be all, end all answer for freedom from putting up with employment crap.

              1. Vicki*

                Also, savings or no, you’re still strongly encouraged not to just quit or do anything that could get you fired on the spot because doing so looks bad in interviews and may prevent you from finding the next job sooner.

              2. Lily*

                “At will” at least means that there is a possibility that the company can fire managers and employees who are underperforming. I recently read an article that you can’t fire an employee for not performing in Germany, if he/she is trying. Think about being permanently stuck with everyone you hate!

                1. Worker Bee*

                  Hi there Lily!
                  It is not correct that you can’t fire an underperforming employee but it is a lot harder in Germany. In general labor law seems to be much stricter in Germany. But the nice thing a lot of stuff I read here, where you think”this is stupid, it can’t be legal but actually is legal in the US” is not legal in Germany. The labor law here has it pros and cons for employees as well as employers..

              3. Anonymous*

                It also relies on having enough spare income to build a meaningful savings. Socking away enough money even to cover a month of no job would take me ages, because I just don’t have enough spare income to put away more than a pittance from each paycheck.

                1. Anonymous_J*

                  I’m in the same boat. All of my income goes to mortgage and bills. There’s MAYBE $30 left at the end of a pay period, if I’m lucky–and THAT’S with a 2nd income earner contributing!

            2. Colette*

              Savings are, of course, a good idea, but if otherwise the job is a good one (even if it’s not her “dream company”), this may not be where she chooses to make a stand that will cost her her job.

            3. Sandrine*

              Yeah, saving sure is nice, but then you have the people who can’t do it for one reason or another, and these people shouldn’t be told “Should have saved” when a problem arises :) .

            4. Mike C.*

              You understand that human trafficking, aka “actual slavery” is a huge problem around the world, and even here in the United States, right?

              I agree with the idea that there is economic coresion in many places going on, but please do not confuse it with actual slavery.

            5. Anonymous (OP)*

              I didn’t expect there to be such a response to my statement regarding slavery. But homelessness–which can and does result from not having a paycheck–can quickly bring “torture, humiliation, dehumanization, rape and general mistreatment” into your life. And a jerk manager is the only thing standing between some working poor and homelessness. You don’t necessarily have the freedom to leave homelessness either, for that matter. I don’t imagine, however, that most readers of this website would know what that’s like.

      2. Ms Enthusiasm*

        I agree that this meeting is a bad idea but sounds like the OP might not have a choice but go through with it. The only way I can see it working is if the manager is sincerely open to improving herself and genuinely wants the feedback to be able to work on herself. Of course that should have come from the survey but if they insist on having a meeting then I hope the manager is really just looking to learn more about herself instead of making it about who said what on the survey. And the team members in the meeting should approach it like the manager is asking for their help – and they should be willing to help her if it means she might improve.

        1. Windchime*

          If Alison’s suggestion of pushing back doesn’t work, I would be tempted to agree, as a group, to say nothing meaningful in the meeting. Nothing good can come from delivering brutally honest feedback directly to this manager’s face, I suspect.

        1. AB Normal*

          LOL, the same happened to me, I used to be “AB” until someone else started to use the same nickname. I’m glad someone suggested my new one :-).

    6. Vicki*

      She did give advice. Her advice was: This is a bad idea and I see no way in which it can have a positive outcome.

      Perhaps she should have added “Readers? Have you ever done this with a positive outcome?”

  2. Carpe Librarium*

    #1. Usually those manager surveys are undertaken with the understanding that the responses are anonymous, to encourage honest feedback.
    How do the higher-ups expect to maintain that honesty and anonymity in the meeting?
    I worry that offering criticism or suggestions will have negative repercussions; or that fear of the manager’s reaction will prevent them from speaking up at all.
    That’s precisely why these reviews are anonymous in the first place.

    1. Erica B*

      This was my thought exactly. Its going to make working there a nightmare for everyone too.

      I would bring this up to whomever thought of the bright idea and explain it’s not a wise idea. Its possible they weren’t thinking clearly when they decided this

        1. QualityControlFreak*

          I’d go one further. This is abdication. To me this sounds like upper management saying “Screw you; you’re going to do your jobs, her job, and my job too. That’ll teach you to complain.”

          I could be a tad bitter.

            1. QualityControlFreak*

              I’m sure that’s true, and I do tend to focus on the impacts on operations, systems and resources, including people. But pointing out incompetence on the part of one’s managers is still a dicey proposition at best. I certainly understand the hesitancy on the part of the staff. If pushing back isn’t an option, I like the suggestion above of pointing out specific impacts on the work. Focus on functions, processes and workflow.

              Good luck, OP. This sounds like a stressful situation for everyone. (After all, how would you like it if your boss made you sit in a meeting with the people you manage and hear this kind of feedback from them?). Remember that in situations like this, often your best bet is to simply sit quietly and respond to any questions directed to you. If you keep the focus on the work, and are able to describe specific areas that can be improved while keeping emotion and personality out of it, it will go better for everyone.

    2. Vicki*

      I was in a department like this. The manager in question was the director and the people who filled out the survey were the managers (not the individual contributors).

      There was no meeting scheduled to discuss the results, but I heard that the director was cornering each manager on the halls to ask “what did you say? Were you one of the people who wrote XXX?”

      Every manager denied having had any part in the (majority) feedback. It was surreal.

    3. Kimberly*

      They are not anonymous, they are supposed to be confidential. The third party which administers the survey knows your identity.

    4. Lindsay J*

      I don’t really trust companies when they say things are anonymous anymore. I almost got fired for filling out the survey at the end of a mandatory training session truthfully. They were upset that such critical feedback on both the training session and the conduct of the trainer got seen by corporate, and their response was – rather than changing the training or the trainer – to go on a witch hunt and try to get my manager to identify the handwriting on the survey. She refused and I got to keep my job.

      The next year they changed the feedback for the training session to a 1-5 rating system rather than allowing for written comments.

  3. PEBCAK*

    Interestingly, the more Anglo-sounding name might give away the fact that you are female to an employer who wouldn’t otherwise realize that. Which can also work for or against you. Which is why we should give it up already and just go by government-assigned combinations of numbers and letters.

    1. CL*

      Haha, wouldn’t that be nice?

      But really, though, I’ve used both my ethnic name (gender ambiguous) and Anglo-sounding name (feminine to the nth degree) to apply for jobs and I’ve received more responses when using the latter. Maybe just a coincidence?

      I remember discussing this topic with a previous supervisor who actually told me if I had not used my Anglo name, my resume would have likely been overlooked by our very conservative and mostly white organization. Made me sick.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      I’ve trained myself not to look at the name on resumes. It’s always in big bold letters on top, so it’s easy to learn. Instant color and gender blindness! I wish more people would try it.

  4. Ann Furthermore*

    #4: I think Alison’s advice is spot on here. Her answer reflected exactly what I was thinking: that the OP seems to be preoccupied with being able to work virtually rather than learning his/her new job. Personally, I think that working virtually on a regular basis is a privilege to be earned, not a automatic right. I would not be comfortable letting a new hire start regularly working virtually until that person had been in the job for at the very least 6 months. That’s enough time to evaluate whether or not he or she knows the responsibilities of the job, and also whether or not the employee has the right personality to work virtually and still meet deadlines and get things done.

    Asking here and there early on to work from home to help you stay focused on a time-sensitive project is OK. I even think asking to work from home for personal reasons (e.g. needing to be home because someone is coming to fix the furnace) once, maybe twice in the first 6 months is acceptable too. It’s a good test run for the employee to demonstrate to the manager that he or she can be trusted to work from home on a regular basis. But beyond that the employee needs to be in the office, working.

    1. Emily K*

      I think it really depends on the job how much time is needed to demonstrate competence and work ethic. I negotiated one day a week from home during my hiring negotiations, with the caveat that I wouldn’t be able to start doing so until I was fully trained. I’d asked for this benefit as a way to decrease the time and money I spent commuting and allow me regular periods to focus uninterrupted on creative writing which would be a large portion of my job duties. I started my position in the first week of September, and our “busy season” is December in my line of work. (50% of revenue for the entire year comes in this month.) I was one of several in my department who worked from home on the days between Christmas and New Year’s so we could all stay on top of our year end duties without having to sacrifice time with family (this is also very common in my line of work).

      Come January on the heels of a successful December, I felt comfortable asking if I could begin taking my regular one day a week even though I’d only been on the job 4 months–my boss and her boss both approved my request with no concerns. If I could work from home for 3-4 days during the busiest part of the year and stay on top of my workload and perform well, 1 day a week during the rest of the year wasn’t a concern.

      1. Windchime*

        Most of my team works at home one day per week (we all choose the same day). It works really well for us. We have a new hire who has been with us for less than three months. He has a great work ethic, tons of experience, and fits right into the team so there was no problem when he started working at home on the same day that the rest of us do.

        That’s my long-winded way of agreeing that it really depends on the person and the job. For our team (BI developers), it works out quite well to work from home.

      2. tcookson*

        Demonstrating competence may not take very long, but building up a reputation for having a good work ethic is about putting in the time, and proving one’s soft skills can take significantly longer than proving the hard skills. People can have good hard skills, and can appear for awhile to have a good work ethic, but then prove otherwise about themselves later down the road. There really isn’t a quick-fix substitute for old-fashioned reputation-building. It just takes time.

    2. Vicki*

      Working from home (like vacation time or the ability to take breaks without raising your hand) should not be considered a “privilege” of exempt salaried employees. Adult professionals who can organize their own work and schedule wth minimum supervision should be allowed to do so.

      At LastJob, I negotiated 1 day per week telecommuting when I first accepted the (12-week contract) position because I knew that most of the people in the department worked from home one day per week. When they offered me fulltime employment, telecommuting two days a week was part of my negotiation for agreeing. Working from home is more important to me than $$.

      The OP knew that there was precedent for working virtually when she applied. She asked for clarification during the offer stage. What she forgot to do was to Get The Answer In Writing.

      “…beyond that the employee needs to be in the office, working.”
      <== this is simply and substantially Not True anymore for many jobs.

      1. Jamie*

        I agree that is can be negotiated in right off the bat for some jobs, especially those individual contributors who work mostly independently with a measurable product.

        And this may not apply when you’re talking about 1 day a week, but one of the problems with working remotely before establishing relationships in the office is the lack of rapport. I know a lot of people who work in the field or remotely exclusively have a harder time when working with colleagues because there is no relationship there.

        For jobs where it’s not negotiated upon hire I think waiting 6+ months makes a lot of sense…because working remotely once you have credibility and trust can be great. Doing it before that’s established can lead to a lot of micromanaging to check up because trust isn’t there yet…and that isn’t worth it for a day a week.

        1. Stephanie*

          Ugh, yeah. I had a boss who worked out a different office permanently. We never actually met in person before he resigned.

          I think it can be done successfully, but in that case that boss and I clashed a lot. I think a lot of the personality clashes, micromanagement, etc. could have been minimized if we worked in the same office.

        2. April*

          Jamie, yes, this all over. Definitely working remotely, in roles where the work permits it, should be negotiated right away upon hire. By not negotiating it then, one is yes, self imposing that in-office probation period to develop credibility.

          But the probation period being in-office really does not make sense, because criteria for evaluating credibility is – or should be – the same whether the person is in-office or out of office: Is the work quality good (this includes communicating well with others etc)? Are deadlines being met?

      2. April*

        Thank you, Vicki!! I’ve never understood some employers’ fixation on having employees onsite. Salaried employees should be evaluated on quality of work and meeting of deadlines, not on where they were when they did the work or what time of day they happened to do it.

      3. Cat*

        The reason it’s a privilege for a lot of jobs is because there are things that can be done on-site that can’t be done as smoothly or as easily from home. If someone is at home, the rest of the office is going to be running slightly less efficiently or someone else is going to be picking up certain on-site tasks. That might be worth it as a perk to an employee who is really fantastic but not for one who isn’t; or it may be offset by certain other efficiency gains in some jobs and for some employees but not for others. None of this can be assessed without time. It’s not just about inappropriately micromanaging adults; it’s often about real issues that crop up regarding off-site work that aren’t always obvious to the off-site worker (since they don’t see what is happening in the office to adapt around the fact that they’re gone).

        1. Jamie*

          This. Not all jobs can be done 100% remotely – or as effectively. Some can – so this really has to be evaluated on a case by case basis.

        2. April*

          Cat, I would think there are two categories of “if someone is at home the rest of the office is going to be running slightly less efficiently.”

          The first is where the person at home is not actually in a role where working remotely fully makes sense: there are tasks that are part of the role that just truly can’t be done from a distance.

          The second category is where the tasks that appear to need to be done onsite don’t inherently need to be done onsite – the office ways-of-operating could just as well be set up to run efficiently (or even with a net gain of efficiency) with some, all, or most people working remotely – but no one has bothered to think that way because of being entrenched in a mindset formed before the technology that now enables remote work existed. This second category is more common I think than some people realize.

          It’s true that if just one person out of a group works remotely there can sometimes be some feelings of “where is so and so when you need them” but a hard look at just how inefficient the situation really is would sometimes reveal that it is not in fact less efficient, it is just *different* and a lot of times people dislike different.

          One example of this would be if I am in the habit of walking out of my office and down the hall to discuss things with coworkers who are in-office, whereas when I need to discuss things with John who works remotely, I have to use online chat or call him. Now, John is available when I chat or call just as reliably as the coworkers whose desk I walk down to. It actually takes slightly less time to reach John than the other coworker because the time I spend walking (roundtrip) is a bit longer than it takes phone to ring or response on chat. Thing is, I *dislike* having to pick up the phone or type a message, so I *perceive* it as less efficient – when it really isn’t. That’s just one possible scenario, there are all sorts of other ways that “different” could be incorrectly perceived as “inefficient.”

  5. Anonymous*

    Alison, on #1, this sounds like my workplace–and very close to a manager I work with, only my team never banded together bc of the knowledge we’d have to have to have these awkward conversations. The culture at our office is predicated upon everyone–managers and staff–constantly looking to improve. In most cases, this creates a fabulous environment. We can speak bluntly to upper management and know they won’t be mad that we’ve spoken up. There are some guidelines, such as you are supposed to broach your concerns with potential solutions, like “I think the current process for tracking teapot handles creates confusion because there is no consistency to the status observations. If we filter our observations up to Jane’s group, they can collect them and assess the appropriate status level.”

    In general it works great, but when you have someone completely unwilling to be an equal partner in the discussions (ie “*I’m* not the problem, they are!”), it tends to cause problems. I actually struggled quite a bit with trying to figure out how/when to voice my concerns about the horrid manager we had, knowing that I’d end up stuck in a room with him sounding on board, but shoving blame fully back on me for every issue (in a manner that makes me out as the non-team player). The thinking from upper management is that they try to push the parties to work out their issues together and only step in when that fails.

    In my case, eventually the manager screwed up some top level tasks that he couldn’t blame anyone else for, and he’s being slowly re-org’ed out of relevancy. In my opinion, he’s still a major source of toxicity, but we at least have a new manager in place who understands the issues and is tackling the problem for us.

    I’d really like to hear your advice to #1 in terms of having to say “Yup, we think you suck” as a first step in conflict resolution when you know the other party is a manager who will be aggressive in trying to blame you, since you usually have such great wording for tough discussions. In our case, refusing the meeting outright would make us be the ones who looked bad. But we can’t move on to any of the facilitated steps unless we’ve had that initial step of speaking directly to the person.

    1. fposte*

      If somebody put a gun to my head and made me do something like this, I’d make it feedback about what we need from the manager than about the manager herself. “Here’s what would increase our productivity: a written/emailed outline of the goals for an assignment before it embarks; getting the assignment at least five days before delivery with no changes in mission after that; the ability to take personal days with notification rather than with a wait for permission. Can we do a trial of these for a quarter?” Get together with the other employees and pick three main things–this can’t be a laundry list or else it it’s just a “you suck” session; even good staff would find an ever-growing list pretty hard to hear and change for.

      Right now the OP’s complaints about the manager aren’t specific enough (which is fine for a blog post, obviously); she needs to think of what identifiable actions would be helpful rather than just saying “Don’t be how you are.” It also makes a failure to deliver very concrete in a way that might be illuminating to upper management (and yes, you should write these down somewhere, though don’t hand a list to her–just offer to email a followup if she thinks it would be useful).

      If it sounds very like you’re managing her now, well, that’s pretty much your only option at this point, since her management clearly won’t do it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Agreed. It might also be worth finding a way to point out to upper management that their system works well when everyone is competent and able to maturely take criticism, but not so well when those factors aren’t present, and that it might make sense to have an alternative for the latter.

        1. Windchime*

          You are so good with words. I wish I had the gift of stating things the way you do. I would probably just blurt out, “You suck.” Not good.

          1. TL*

            Whenever I edit papers/ect for friends, my comments always start out as “this sucks/this is terrible/REALLY?” and then I have to go back and identify why I hate it and what could be better and rewrite all my comments…
            That’s the hard part, but sometimes I try to channel my inner AAM, which helps.

            1. Kit M.*

              Ha! That’s my process, too! I mean, it’s not always that bad, because some of my friends are good writers. But sometimes people’s writing choices will just infuriate me so much that all I can do on the first run through is write “What the hell?!” Then I write constructive comments later, when I have cooled down.

            2. Seattle Writer Girl*

              As an editor who frequently uses content mills (my boss’ decision, not mine), I deal with this a lot. I have literally given feedback that says “You have several issues with subject/verb agreement. See example sentence here… It should read like this…” or “You copied this directly from Wikipedia. That is plagiarism and against the rules.”

              Is it annoying to have to write stuff like that? Heck yes. But sometimes people just really need to have things spelled out in black, white and bold for them.

  6. MJ of the West*

    To #3:

    I think that the advice given is certainly valid, but I’d also suggest another tack. Try going for a full-time tech support job like you currently have, but with an employer who can offer internal mobility.

    I realize that might be a tall order, but if you are able to secure such a position (and it sounds like you could, given your existing experience in that particular area), you might find it easier to transition to a new role within that company. In general, most companies that I’ve worked for are willing to help an existing employee take on new (untested) responsibilities in a part-time or probationary situation much more readily than they would an external hire.

    And as an aside, I’m not sure if this is allowed here, but… I’m a hiring manager for a major company with great internal mobility and I have some openings that may suit your existing experience. Let me know if you’d like to chat about that. (Alison, please accept my apologies in advance if this type of offer is inappropriate for your blog. I understand completely if you feel the need to edit my comment accordingly.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nope, fine to do — I’d just suggest that you both use the LinkedIn group to connect about it if there’s mutual interest rather than posting email addresses here (for privacy reasons).

  7. KAZ2Y5*

    #1-no advice, just know you have my sympathies. This happened to me at one job. Every year we would fill out an anonymous survey online and the manager was supposed to work on anything that was rated poorly. One year we all decided to be brutally honest about our manager’s performance. It was not pretty. Not in the meeting where our manager told us about the results and not later. We were required to email our manager with suggestions on how to improve the low-rated areas. “Anonymous” kind of flew out the window there.
    There were some people who worked really hard to come up with suggestions on how to fix things without accusing the manager. But there were some who basically just gave up then and emailed back that they personally didn’t have any problems. I know how some of the people replied and there was a feeble attempt to correct them, but things soon went back to normal.

  8. Rebecca*

    #1 – the dreaded anonymous survey. At least my company doesn’t ask us to do this for our manager. Once we had to fill out an anonymous survey about the IT department – online. I laughed when they said it would be anonymous, especially when we filled it out from work, logged on to our work computers on the company intranet. Yeah, right.

    At my job, many of us have lost all respect for our manager. We do what she says, but that’s as far as it goes. We do our best to limit interaction and just to avoid her all together. She will not change. But if I had to fill out a survey for her, I’d give her all five stars and tell the company they should hire more like her, just so I wouldn’t have to go through the meeting that the OP described.

    1. Joey*

      I’ve heard this before and I don’t get it. Why do people think a company is going to put out an anonymous survey only to turn around and pull logon information behind the scenes. I’ve had people think that we seriously have nothing better to do than to take the time to do this. Even when they can complete it at home they think we’ll track them down. Even when we get a third party to do it there are still some people who are adamant that they’ll be identified and their info will be handed over. And this is when we’ve done it before and shown otherwise. C’mon people, nearly all companies have better things to do than to try to trick you into believing your comments are anonymous or confidential.

      Do you really think we’re going to say “that damn Rebecca. Why did she give us her opinion? She’s making us look bad. She’s a liar.”

      The point of a survey isn’t to argue over which comments are lies and truths. It’s normally to understand what the overall perceptions are and to look for trends.
      Sorry, that wasn’t directed at you Rebecca. It just blows my mind how some employees think anonymous or confidential surveys aren’t a real thing.

      1. Nerdling*

        Actually, this does happen. People have gotten called on the carpet here and in my last office over what was written only on their “anonymous” reviews. Sometimes it’s a case of having the logon info pulled, but in my current office, it’s because we’re a small division and you’re required to include such identifying information as your gender, your grade level, your time with the agency, and your work role. All of which is shown to executive management or can be made available to them. It’s not hard to ferret out which of the analysts has been on the job for 5-10 years, is female, and is a certain grade when you only have 14 total analysts.

        Just as inspections are “anonymous,” so are the annual reviews.

        1. LD*

          In the situation you describe, the results were poorly presented if they included the demographic information for each respondent or even for small groups. I’ve been involved with surveys for groups from as few as 3 individuals to more than 70,000 employees at one company. All the companies I worked with requested demographic information but it was never provided at such a granular level and often wasn’t required. It was considered unethical to report that information for small groups or even whole departments in some cases. But we could tell, for example, that older vs. younger, or males vs. females, or longer-tenured vs. shorter-tenured employees had different responses to some questions and that was helpful to know. But the results were never presented in a way that would identify an individual.

  9. JFQ*

    For #1

    If you actually end up in this meeting, try to avoid indulging the natural impulse toward the fundamental attribution error (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error). That will help avoid accusatory language and a sense of futility about the manager’s performance and ideally move the conversation into concrete language about actions and problems and solutions.

    In that vein, having specific examples of current problems and how those problems affect the staff would be good. Don’t just say, “You’re disorganized”; talk about how better planning and organization would help the team accomplish X.

    None of that is a guarantee that the meeting will be anything but an ill-conceived bloodbath, but if your manager enters the meeting in the right frame of mind to accept some constructive feedback, you and your coworkers could do everyone a service by providing it in a way that can result in specific improvements.

  10. Zahra*

    When I was a student, one semester we gave a general low score to all the professors. We were 15. The program director (so these professors’ manager, in a way, since she was in charge of that particular and rather new program) met with all of us so we could voice our concerns. It was awkward, but our jobs weren’t on the line. Our future scores weren’t on the line either. I think we gave valuable feedback, but I wasn’t there the next year to see if any changes were implemented. I know some professors do not teach for this degree anymore, since the feedback was anonymous on them, for a few years in a row.

    1. Anonymous*

      Why did you give low scores to ALL the professors? I’m assuming it wasn’t teaching skill in that case – curriculum? The quality of the new program?

      This one has me quite curious.

  11. ExceptionToTheRule*

    Oh, #1, I’ve been you and it doesn’t end well. It effectively ended whatever relationship we had.

    I’d try talking with whoever’s grand idea this is and express your concerns that you don’t think your manager can properly handle this type of feedback and give examples of why. If those examples include any type of proclivity on your manager’s part for retribution, make sure you include them.

  12. Not So NewReader*

    OP 1: I am so sorry you are going through this. Basically, you are being told to do a job that upper management is refusing to do.
    And yeah, the fact that your team functions well in spite of a bad manager, happens often. People will pull together to keep each other employed. Probably, upper management does not see a material problem because hey, the team is doing just fine anyway.
    I think you are saying that you must go into this meeting and you would like to be forearmed.

    I see one of two approaches:
    Approach number 1 might be a passive aggressive approach, but I prefer to think of it as reality based. You already feel the meeting will be of no benefit. So rather than having a prepared agenda, let your bad boss guide the conversation. Sit down and open with “What questions do you have for me?”
    I prefer to hand out fishing poles, not fish. So my answers to her questions would basically direct her to sources that would help her get up to speed on the topics she mentions.
    If the conversation deteriorates to “people here don’t like me” or similar remarks, I would say “well if you feel that way perhaps EAP or hiring a private employment counselor would be of help to you.”
    Approach #2, which is not my favorite, would be to walk in there and say basically what you said here. The disorganization and forgetfulness go hand-in-hand. Point that out to her. The sooner she gets organized, the less forgetful she will be. She can find sources for advice on systems for organizing on Google. However, none of these systems will work if she fails to use the system.
    I would probably say that, too.
    As far as her being easily threatened there are plenty of books on the topics of making business decisions, handling tough people and so on. I don’t know where her exact weaknesses are but even if she started with one of her smaller weaknesses she could get a feel for how to confront weak areas. If you get a snotty reply you can point out that work places are constant learning and you personally read AAM, etc to try to keep yourself informed and growing your knowledge.

    I hope this helps you in some small way. There really is no help for a person who refuses to help themselves. I think that is what Alison is picking up on. We cannot help people who will not help themselves.
    If all of you stick by your guns and tell her face to face what you think, I can foresee a couple of things happening. One is that she never meets with everyone under her. By the time she gets through her second or third person she will be in total meltdown. Or another possibility is that she does speak with all of you and then one day just suddenly decides not to report to work anymore.

    Base line: Whatever you decide to do definitely decide to remain professional. Don’t allow yourself to get drawn into drama. Decide what points are no fly zones. (Ex: “I will not discuss Joe’s remark three weeks ago.” Or “I am not her shrink. I refuse to discuss anything that feels like a mental health issue.”) Know your own boundaries.
    Let us know how it goes.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Excellent advice, especially about knowing your own boundaries. Be very clear with yourself that you are not obligated to discuss every topic that is brought forth by her. Decide in advance what is off-limits to you and stick with that, otherwise it’s very hard in the moment not to be defensive.

    2. Cassie*

      “We cannot help people who will not help themselves.”

      Ah, this is so true! We had a situation a while back where one staff member of a two-member unit was getting overloaded with work (while the other staff had a minimal workload). Faculty were also voicing their concerns about how this staffer was overwhelmed.

      We brought up the situation to the head of the dept but when the head met with her and asked her about it, she said it was manageable and said she could resolve the workload issue on her own. It was frustrating, but if she’s unwilling to speak up to the person who has the authority to make changes, what can we do about it?

  13. Barbara in Swampeast*

    #5 – any chance of working for a university? Most universities are hyper-alert for candidates who sound as if they would help the university’s diversity numbers.

  14. ChristineSW*

    #3 – No advice, but just wanted to commiserate. I’ve been trying to switch roles for awhile now (same field, just different function). If you were in the nonprofit sector, I would’ve suggested skilled volunteering as a way to gain experience. Not sure if the communications field can offer the same opportunities though. Good luck!!

  15. Anonymous*

    #5 – if they don’t want to interview you because of your name, it would probably be an unpleasant place to work, anyways!

    1. Anonymous*

      It’s easy to hold the moral high ground when you’re advancing in your career and can afford to keep the lights on.

      1. Stephanie*


        You have to pick your battles here. She might be in a very conservative industry where that’s just the norm, unfortunately. It would be way easier for OP to change the system from the inside by working on hiring a more diverse candidate pool than for the OP to initiate radical change as an outsider.

        1. AB Normal*

          “It would be way easier for OP to change the system from the inside by working on hiring a more diverse candidate pool than for the OP to initiate radical change as an outsider.”

          Thank you for saying this! I’ve mentioned it in a previous thread here in AAM, and always like when this concept is reinforced. It has much more impact to “be the change” when you are inside and can influence the status quo in a broader way. Instead of looking for a non-discriminatory place to work, I think we make a greater impact if we do what we can to put our foot on the door, show our competence, and pave the path to make it easier for others to overcome bias and discrimination and increase the diversity of the workforce.

        1. Anonymous*

          +1. Also, I wouldn’t say those people will refuse to interview you because of your name. Rather, it is that some people would prefer to interview those with familiar names. It is human nature to go with familiar and resist change.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Keep in mind that studies have shown a lot of unconscious bias on this issue, from people who think of themselves as pro-diversity and welcoming of people of different races/ethnicities/cultures.

      1. Anonymous*

        That’s correct, but we’re talking about studies in which the speed of pressing buttons associated with positive/negative words is calculated after participants see a quick glimpse of people from different racial groups here. I wouldn’t imagine that kind of subconscious bias affecting hiring decisions, at least among those who identify with the “pro-diversity” label.

          1. Anonymous*

            I read about one pro-diversity participant. She did press the right buttons, but not quite as fast as she did after seeing photos of people belonging to the majority group. Considerable frustration was expressed by that participant after she was notified of her results. I wouldn’t be surprised if some pro-diversity hiring representatives overcompensate and show a slight bias toward minority groups, even when they have that deeply subconscious bias toward the majority population.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Sure, I’m sure some do. But not nearly as many as don’t, from everything I’ve seen and read.

              (By the way, would you mind picking a user name for commenting here? When people can’t tell if it’s the same Anonymous all these times or different ones, it makes it harder to carry on an exchange. That goes for all the Anonymous’s posting here!)

            2. Joey*

              Every company that I have worked for that didn’t keep track of diversity stats did a horrible job of hiring people that reflect the local job market. That’s ranged from minorities tending to hire mostly minorities to minorities hiring mostly white to white hiring mostly white. Only when people see how they hire compare to real statistics can they see where their tendencies lie. But its tricky. Its hard not to use those results in the right way. Its easy to just fill in the gaps quickly.

        1. Sophia*

          That’s not true. In sociology there are experiments being done with sending out resumes with Anglo vs ‘ethnic’ names with everything else equal, and it shows the same bias

        2. fposte*

          Some of this work draws on Project Implicit, but there’s plenty that doesn’t; some of it is actual field work with actual managers. In general, in all kinds of jobs, the blinder the selection, the better people who aren’t European white males do.

        3. Anonymous*

          I did an online quiz like that once, and I figured, as a white middle-class American who grew up in mostly white towns, that I would have some bias. I was surprised when it showed I didn’t. It made me wonder how good the quiz really was. I like to think I’m not biased, but I know that I probably am.

      2. Editor*

        I saw something recently that suggested minority candidates use initials on their resumes, or an initial for an ethnic first name if the middle name is less ethnic. My recollection is that most of the research I have seen on this focuses on black American naming trends, less so on Jewish or Hispanic, and almost never on Asian.

        Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago and the economist half of the Freakonomics duo, did some of the well-known work on the topic. I think one of his studies used California data, so maybe it is worth looking at to see if there are any observations about Hispanic names.

        But yes, it does seem to be something that’s unconscious despite the best of intentions.

        1. Natalie*

          I’m not always a huge fan of the Freakonomics podcast, but their one on names (titled “What’s In a Name” IIRC) was pretty good and gave a decent overview of the various biases that can be at play here.

    3. EngineerGirl*

      This is an illogical and short sighted attitude. You are extropolating a single persons actions on to entire company. All you need is one biased person filtering the resumes and no one will ever see it. So if HR has a bias the resume will never make it to the hiring manager who is a wonderful progressive person.

  16. minority sounding name and proud of it*

    Is the data you cited in support of more application success for Anglo sounding names adjusted to reflect the numbers disparity between those who have an Anglo sounding name and those that don’t? I would imagine those with Anglo sounding names get more jobs interviews etc than those who have different ethnic origins, simply because they’re the majority population.

    To the OP: I am an ethnic minority with a name to match and couldn’t care less what some backwards application-sorter thought of my name. Use your real name proudly; anyone who prefers familiar names, whatever that means, in today’s globalised society has no place in it anyway.

    1. Anonymous*

      What is “real”? What if OP has gone by “Susie” her whole life, but is under the impression she needs her legal name on her resume?

      1. Anonymous*

        It still should not matter what type of name is on the resume. Anyone who neglects a resume because the name is not Todd, Allison, Mike, or whatever, is an idiot and possible bigot.

        1. CoffeeLover*

          I had a professor in university that would cover peoples’ names on submitted assignments because of unconscious bias. He was a very progressive individual, and he did this because of all the studies out there that show that profs tend to give people higher/lower marks depending on their name. I.e., they held certain people to a higher standard than others based on their name. We’re all biased, and I think trying to say anyone isn’t is just denying human psychology.

          1. Natalie*

            In fact, I seem to recall reading that people who are aware of the fact that they are biased are actually less likely to let those biases affect their decisions. Presumably being aware of it makes it easier to actively correct for it (i.e. cover the names on the papers).

    2. Stephanie*

      I agree with this in theory, but not sure if this works in practice, especially at OP’s level. She may not have a lot of leeway to reject companies outright while looking for entry-level work. Plus, I’m not sure how you’d even know this was going on from blind resume submissions.

  17. Jake*

    I bet #1 is far more common than you think AaM.

    I’ve been asked to do this once and something very very similar once.

  18. Stephanie*

    OP #3, I’m in the same boat. It’s hard and it sucks. Employers want have-done, not can do.

    I worked in intellectual property and want to do something more related to my degree (mechanical engineering).

    Here’s what’s helping me so far (all anecdotal, to be fair):
    -Applying to fewer legacy employers that might have stricter requirements (e.g., like an engineering job at GE that requires the candidate be within 12 months of graduation).
    -Looking at smaller companies, nonprofits, even startups (if you’re ok with the instability). A smaller org tends to really care about fit, and may be willing to work with less experience if you really gel with the team.
    -Volunteering in work related to your degree or the field you’re interested in. I think employers do still discount volunteer work a bit, but it will help vary your resume experience outside tech support.
    -Applying to roles where maybe communications isn’t the company’s focus, but still needed. So, instead of applying to a big PR firm (apologies if I’m confusing the two fields!), look for a communications opening at auto parts manufacturer.
    -Being upfront about what you might lack, but what you can bring to the role that’s unique. So in my case, I’ll say I’m relearning software skills that might have gone rusty since graduation, but that I understand patents and the whole application process (which a lot of engineers don’t).
    -Defining very, very broadly my transferable skills. Very broadly. So for the patent stuff in my case, I spin it as understanding regulation, following government guidelines/standards, and interpreting technical drawings. I get no more detailed than that.

    Good luck!

  19. Anonymous*

    How can we penalize employers for outrageous issues like #5? And I can think of several other serious problems where those came from. The frustration is overwhelming.

    1. Stephanie*

      For clear discrimination cases, there’s penalization. But short of having David Duke as your interviewer, I’m not sure how you’d know this was even happening. And Alison said upthread that a lot of the bias is unconscious.

      1. Anonymous*

        “I’m not sure how you’d know this was even happening. And Alison said upthread that a lot of the bias is unconscious.”

        This is precisely where my frustration is coming from. That coupled with the obvious issues of suing the person/company responsible for the vast majority of your income.

        1. Stephanie*

          Hmmm, I know diversity recruiting initiatives are controversial, but this is probably one area where they DO help. Recruiting (and retaining!) more diverse candidates/employees could help with some of the bias.

          (I hope I am not opening a comment can o’ worms.)

          1. Jen in RO*

            I think we opened this can of worms in a previous thread, which explains the lack of comments today.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think it’s actually just because it’s a Sunday! But I agree that making sure you have a diverse workforce is a good way of combatting this.

          2. fposte*

            I would say that anything that foregrounds the issue and makes it something people can talk and think about when hiring helps. I think that’s one of the roles such initiatives play–it’s not just attracting and hiring, it’s keeping the issue in people’s minds when they’re hiring, and it’s giving them time to process away from any initial subconscious biases toward a narrative of the benefits of diversity.

            Honestly, I think legislation has more impact for putting that kind of narrative on the table than for providing people with a recourse when wronged. It’s virtually impossible for people to make themselves stop thinking in a way they don’t know they’re thinking; what they can do is make their thinking bigger.

    2. FD*

      (In the interests of full disclosure, I am white with an extremely European-sounding name, so this is more from a position of becoming aware of my own biases and trying to acknowledge and not act on them than from experiencing this from others.)

      Suppose that all your life, you’d lived in a country where black suits = professional. Then you moved to a country where lime green suits are considered equally professional. You might be consciously aware that in the place you’re living now, lime green suits are perfectly professional, but I bet that in practice, you’d end up hiring more black-suited people than green-suited people.

      In practice, this is what tends to happen. Most people are consciously aware that they shouldn’t judge people by their names. Yet, they’ve grown up with most of the powerful people on TV, in movies, and in their professional lives having European-sounding names.

      Even many of the people who are powerful and who are not white have European-sounding names. Non-fictional examples include Clarence Thomas (US Supreme Court justice) or Don Thompson (McDonalds CEO); fictional examples include Nick Fury (Marvel Cinematic Universe) or Camille Saroyan (Bones).

      All of this tends to mean that many people unconsciously are conditioned to associate European sounding names with authority, (as well as trustworthiness, etc.). The problem is that people also want to think of themselves as good people, and are also conditioned that prejudice is bad. As a result, people tend to deny that they have biases, which makes it harder to root them out. It’s much easier to deal with a bias someone is aware they have than it is to deal with something they’re sure doesn’t exist.

      I’m not trying to defend this practice at all. But it’s not a case of a bunch of people running around going “HAHA I’M GOING TO BE A RACIST TODAY”. I’m pretty sure most of the people who do this would also swear they don’t have a prejudiced bone in their body.

      I’m also not sure there is any practical way to penalize employers like this–how do you prove a bias that people don’t even believe they have? Trying to penalize them might even make it worse because it has the double effect of making people deny their biases even more and creates an anger that ‘those people’ are always causing trouble and getting upset over nothing. This is wildly and utterly unfair, mind you.

      I think in general, perhaps it’s best if everyone try to acknowledge their biases and be more conscious about them. I don’t know if people can ever completely erase the biases they grew up with. I think there might always be a moment of ‘I need to not be put off by the unfamiliar name’. I hope that over time, if we all work on acting less on our own biases that we can avoid passing them on to the next generations. What might always be conscious effort for us, I hope will be automatic in the future.

      What we can do depends on where we are and what we do. Hiring manager? Try to work towards a diverse pool of candidates and be aware of your own unconscious biases. Writer? Consider including characters with many different body types, skin colors, names, orientations, and the like. Just…try to avoid having the ‘black best friend’ phenomenon. (For a really neat, and very entertaining, example of doing this well, I would suggest checking out the podcast Welcome to Nightvale.)

      Regardless of who you are, you probably have some biases. They might be about race, sex, body shape, sexual orientation, religion, disability, gender identity, or any number of things. And you probably are never going to be able to completely erase those. Having biases doesn’t make you an inherently horrible person any more than having a hot temper makes you an inherently horrible person. It’s whether or not you choose to act on them that’s the key. And acknowledging where your biases are will make it a heck of a lot easier not to act on them.

  20. Anonymous*

    OP#3, I’d look for some kind of comm role at a tech startup. Startups are often more comfortable taking “risks” on people with less experience, and there is room for growth. Also you can use your cover letter to explain how your tech support experience helps you understand the audience and communicate effectively.

    Another type of position that you could look for that might help you transition to comm is a support/education role at a tech company – someone who writes the help docs and articles. You need to have a good tech understanding, understand the user, and be a good writer. Even if you eventually want to do more general comm, that would be a good starting point.

  21. Ruffingit*

    Off-topic and I know this was discussed before, but I’d like to put in a vote for having the open thread once a week. It’s super helpful to me and I’m always waiting for it to come around so I can read other’s stuff and learn from them or post my own things. Anyone else for once a week?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I wonder if it would be less unwieldy if it were once a week instead of every other. It seems like the comment count gets so high because everybody is waiting for it, and we all pile on all at once.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Excellent point too Elizabeth, it does get unwieldy sometimes with the number of comments. I think weekly could definitely solve that problem too.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Funny, I was thinking about that too. I cannot imagine how anyone would handle a once a week open forum. I start to nod off about 3/4 of the way through. The only reason that I last that long is because it is so interesting to read.
      The one thing that I thought of would be to open the forum at night. I see night owls coming on late and hoping someone is still reading. Quite a few posts start out- “I hope someone is reading…” If the forum opened late in the day the night owls might be able to be at the top of the forum instead of 752 posts down?
      It could be that this would not work out because of some unforeseen on my part, though.

      My primary concern is you, Alison. Don’t put yourself in a spot where you burn out. If this means we get open forums twice a month and that is it- I will take that quite happily. This forum and all the commenters have done more to help me than anything else I have tried. I would recommend this forum to someone who was having a “PTSD” type of situation from an abusive boss. The sanity here has restorative properties…. I can only see AAM growing and growing.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m torn on the idea of weekly open threads. On one hand, that’s one less post for me to write that day, which I like. On the other hand, it usually ends up taking up more of my time because no matter how often I decide I just won’t read the open threads, I find them interesting enough that I end up needing to skim at a minimum (and sometimes much more than that). And those threads are time-consuming to read! (One obvious solution would be for me to drop any hope of reading them all, but I like them.)

        I’m also balancing this against the fact that some people don’t read the open threads and would rather have a regular post.

        But I’m thinking about it!

        1. Trixie*

          Since the biweekly emails are still somewhat new, I wouldn’t mind seeing that schedule continue as is. For myself, I’m looking specifically for AAM’s input on specific questions. Ideally with a word count I can actually manage to read through. (Plus the LinkedIn AAM group is an open forum of sorts if folks want to post questions to group/universe.)

        2. FD*

          What if you did them on Saturday instead? Since you’re lowering the number of posts on the weekends, that way there’d be something for people to read during the weekends if they want, but you don’t have as many posts to write for that time frame?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Interesting. Traffic is MUCH lower on the weekends (less than half what it is on a weekday) so I’m sure they’d get filled up much less quickly … although it might not be great for the people who only or mainly read during the week and still like the open threads. This is all good input though; feel free to keep it coming.

            1. Jamie*

              I wouldn’t never presume to suggest you do more work to provide awesome dialogue for free …and I’m totally fine with however you want to do it because the open threads are so time consuming to read, but since you asked for suggestions :) I was thinking maybe splitting the open threads into two – one for work related stuff and one off topic. Because of the copious amounts of posts, it would be a little easier to split them so those just looking for work stuff don’t have to scroll through off topic.

              And I would love weekly, but I totally get how time consuming it would be for you.

              1. Lore*

                Jamie, I was thinking something similar–or, one week a true open thread where anything goes, and one a lightly focused one: let’s talk about bosses, or application systems, or training. Slightly broader than an “Ask the Readers” but not quite the free-for-all of the open thread.

                Having said that, I think I like your idea better!

              2. Natalie*

                Regarding the copious amount of posts – I don’t know what would be involved from a coding standpoint, but it strikes me that a “collapse thread” or similar function would be really helpful. If this blogging platform has that functionality and you could add it, hurray! If not, if might be a suggestion to pass along to them.

            2. jesicka309*

              Do it on a Sunday! It’s currently Monday here in Australia, and I’m jonesing for some coffee break fuel!
              I hate that there are a gazillion Friday posts to read on a Saturday, but nothing on a Monday. I also miss the opening of the Open Threads on a Friday because they usually hit at about 12 am Saturday morning! :(
              I’d love an Open thread at an ‘unpopular’ time, so I can participate more. :)

            3. Not So NewReader*

              A couple random thoughts:

              Can you close down an open forum after a given number of posts? Meaning change it to read only. Let’s say you decide when we hit post number 600 on the open forum you are DONE, anything after that is over the top for you. Can you shut that particular forum off? If yes, would that impact your decision about the frequency of the open forums?

              Do you think that you could snooker–er, uh, — recruit some of the regular commenters here to assist you in reading? This might look like “Okay, Bob, when they hit 500- I am done for the day and it is your turn to read.” The thinking behind this is I believe that the comments are high quality because people feel that you are reading along with us and you will chime in with “NO, STOP.” when that is firm hand is needed.
              Alternatively, Bob could read every other open forum.

              Off topic: I think it would be interesting if you had one stand alone post just asking people to come on and say what state or country they are in. You might already have an idea because of seeing the IP addresses, but it still might be interesting.

            4. The IT Manager*

              I actually like that idea a lot. I find the open forum posts intimidating because there are so many comments updating so fast. The open forum posts are the hardest to keep up with. I don’t use a RSS feed and would that even work with nested comments anyway (really understanding what the new nested comment was responding to)?

              After a few hours I scroll all the way to the bottom and read up until I get to content I already read but it is obvious late-comers get a lot less viewing and repsonse.

              I’d put this idea down as worth a try to see what happens.

              It’s like open threads are a victim of their own success. Weren’t the first ones the most comments you had ever gotten – but around 400 or so? Now they seem to hit 400 in an hour or two.

            5. Joey*

              Speaking of why don’t you do a survey on what people want from your blog. You know something quick like a free survey monkey instead of relying on all of the random feedback. I’m sure you’d get a pretty good response.

    3. The IT Manager*

      BTW might be worth a slightly open thread to dicuss what users like/don’t like about AAM site. As a user I have opinions, but I’d also love to see dialog between Alison and others who do something like this (social media ??) for a living.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’d feel too self-indulgent doing a thread devoted to that, but people are welcome to raise that kind of thing at any time in the comments! (And I would welcome hearing it.)

  22. amaranth16*

    Re: #1 — I really disagree with Alison and with other commenters that everything about this is fundamentally a terrible idea. I think #1’s company is making a poor decision by throwing everyone into the room together – the manager will feel ganged up on – but I am going through the exact same situation at the moment and I think there are good and bad ways to handle this.

    I work on a small team and some of my peers and I gave some very negative upward feedback to our manager this year. Our HR director met with each of us one-on-one to get a better understanding of the issues, and we’re each having one-on-one meetings with the manager in question soon. The purpose of those meetings is for us to give constructive suggestions for how we can all work together more effectively. Now, I have a very difficult relationship with this manager because I am deeply frustrated with poor communication, lack of leadership, lack of understanding of operations, etc. And a bit of a special situation applies here: although I don’t think this manager would change on his own if he were only hearing the feedback from us, he is motivated to change because he reports to our executive director, who has seen the feedback, and has a good relationship with the entire team and takes our concerns very seriously.

    SO. OP #1, if you’re reading, I totally sympathize, but I don’t think the meeting is a lost cause, and I recommend you do these things:
    1.) Make a list of the most important things you need to see change, but do it in a prospective way. Don’t say “When you did X, that hampered my work because Y.” Say, “If a situation arises where P, it would be really helpful if you could Q, because that would help us R.”
    2.) Another commenter said this, but I need to signal boost it. Don’t frame any of the problems as immutable characteristics of your manager (e.g. manager is incompetent, disorganized, etc.). Talk instead about *behaviors* you would like to see more of. For instance, if it’s a lack of relevant skills/knowledge (that you or another team member could share), you could say “It makes it difficult to communicate about our work when it seems like we aren’t on the same page about X. I would find it helpful if I could share some things about X with you so that we can understand each other better. Could we set up a time for that?” If it’s a communication issue, you could say “In order to do X, we really need Y information in Z timeframe, because Q. How can we work with you to ensure that all of us have the information we need?”

    Also, I’m sure you’ve considered this, but I’ve noticed that mistrust breeds mistrust. When my manager screws something up, I am way less willing to give him the benefit of the doubt than I am to give it to other coworkers that, frankly, I like better and trust more. But I really need to work on that, because we can’t have an effective relationship if I think every single screwup is evidence of incompetence – everyone screws up sometimes, and it’s not always because they’re fundamentally inadequate.

    I know many workplaces aren’t as safe as mine with regard to sharing constructive criticism, because not all HR departments are created equal, but I think it would be extraordinarily counterproductive to give insincere feedback on anonymous internal surveys, and I think it’s irresponsible not to air out concerns when they arise, even if it is awkward. And please consider problems fixable until they repeatedly aren’t fixed, that your manager is coming to this meeting in good faith, wanting to improve.

    1. Zelos*

      I think the thing with your situation is that your manager in question is reasonable and open to change. My opinion (and example with the teacher above, which I’m aware isn’t quite the same thing) is that if the manager in question is open to change, they would’ve been open to hearing our point of view out when we first brought it up to them when we disagreed with what they’re doing. (I think most of us have brought it up to problematic superiors prior to going over their heads.) Lodging complaints over their head was a fall-back tactic when it was evident that our complaints/feedback were falling on deaf ears. Given that, I think the powers that be making us talk to the problematic manager again after they have our feedback in confidence is needlessly confrontational and likely ineffective. After all, the problematic manager weren’t open to hearing it earlier (when feedback was likely gentler/less frustrated/had less problems all piled up together), why would they be open to it now, in a direct confrontation after raising it with their boss?

      I agree with you and Alison about framing it in the best way possible should this situation go ahead, but from a personal perspective, I’m not expecting anything good to come for it.

      I am glad for you that you’ve reasonable higher-ups, though.

      1. amaranth16*

        I hear what you’re saying. I know what a lucky position I’m in here, despite the toxic relationship with this manager – and I certainly know how unpleasant a crappy boss makes work! I guess what I’m trying to say is that even if you’re not optimistic about it, if you come into the meeting with the mindset that it will inevitably go poorly, it probably will. But approaching it with the benefit of the doubt doesn’t cost you anything, and could help it go better.

        We have approached our concerns with our manager before (in fact, one of the complaints is that he pays lip service to wanting feedback but doesn’t actually act on it… sigh); the difference is that now he’s hearing about it from HIS boss. So both your problematic manager and mine will be defensive (the group setting is certainly not going to help that for you), but other people are aware of it now, and the increased visibility could be an asset – the manager may not LIKE changing, but he/she may have to.

        One other thing that occurs to me is that now that the concerns are on the table, you (and I!) can’t very well not follow through in these meetings. If we all eviscerated a manager anonymously, but then in person butter wouldn’t melt in our mouths, the higher-ups are going to see the insincerity and say “well, either these aren’t real problems and they only wrote it because they have an ax to grind, or there are problems and the people who exposed them them either don’t care enough about the work to fix them, or aren’t willing to try to work through conflict constructively” – either way it would reflect badly on us.

        Let us know how it goes, and good luck…

    2. Jamie*

      I get what you’re saying about doing it all in one meeting will result in the boss feeling ganged up on, but wouldn’t he feel the same having individual a meetings with everyone to go over the same things. Seems like meeting after meeting with the topic of here’s how you suck would be worse. Because things would be repeated, since everyone would be starting from the beginning.

      Just curious as to how this works.

      Personally I think the OPs bosses boss should investigate the feedback for veracity and details (or have HR do it) then take that information and speak to him themselves. Then have a meeting with everyone where there is a discussion where they talk about what the issues are and what the plan is for addressing them moving forward.

      Without calling anyone out on what they specifically said.

      1. Joey*

        Yeah, its nt a good idea for employees to give face to face criticism to their boss. Its awkward and uncomfortable and the tendency is to water it down. It works much better when there is a neutral go between. That can be HR, a consultant or someone who employees feel they can open up to without having to worry about whether it will be held against them later. Regardless of whether or not that’s occurred in the past employees will always worry whether those comments will affect the way they’re treated in the future. The goal is to minimize those concerns.

  23. Anon*

    Why were there two questions about working remotely two days in a row? Hopefully the intern can help AAM diversify he questions she asks

    1. Jamie*

      They were two radically different questions. Feeling out ones boss about moving to a long distance 100% telecommuting job requires a completely different approach to someone local asking to work from home a couple of days a week.

  24. jmkenrick*

    Regarding Number 5: My Dad has two names, one that he goes by professionally and one that he goes by personally. They’re totally different names, although both Anglo sounding. He has voiced several times that he regrets adopting the more formal name for work, for the exact reasons Alison describes…as he’s gotten older and more advanced in his career, there’s been a lot of cross-over and it’s been more trouble than its worth.

    1. Amber (the Canadian girl)*

      My dad came from another country and his “real” name is really hard to pronounce. On government documents, his real name shows up, but everyone knows him by the simpler, more English spelling of his name.

      1. Jen in RO*

        I get his reasons, but that’s sad. My real name is somewhat difficult to pronounce for English speakers and I shortly debated signing e-mails as “Jen” to stop them from butchering it… but I decided that if they care enough that I’m an actual person and not some drone, they would at least *try*. (Most didn’t. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t even copy 5 letters correctly from my signature, but oh well.)

        (Of course, my situation is different in that I was an offshore employees, in a country where my real name is super common.)

        1. Amber (the Canadian girl)*

          He has some buddies who also came from that country who do the same thing as he does, but then again the names are really weird. I wonder how it would be like to respond to two names…

  25. Anonover*

    At my Big Multi National, our anonymous manager reviews usually result in a department meetings where we discuss the results. It’s the reason that I stopped included comments. I will check ticky boxes, but that’s it.

  26. Wren*

    You should have seen my face getting increasing contorted with horror as I read #1. Is management totally mental? I agree that the best approach is for the team to band together again. See if together they can convince management up a few levels, or HR, that this is a terrible idea for the obvious reasons already discussed. If this fails, you can come up with an approach together on how to handle the meetings.

  27. S*

    All interesting questions. Question number 5 particularly resonates with me because I can relate. I have a name that’s not very popular and I think falls into the ethnic category. The unfortunate truth is I always wonder is my name preventing me from getting an interview. But I have decided to not be frustrated or angry about it. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s my name and it is what I respond to in both personal and professional settings. To try to go by any other name would not be true to who I am. I might be missing out on some job opportunities but I guess they just weren’t meant to be.

Comments are closed.