my manager doesn’t give us input on new hires, my manager shared a coworker’s medical details with us, and more

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

1. My manager hires new people without consulting with the rest of us

I work in a team of 4 full-time employees. We are a small web and software development team. My boss didn’t bother asking for our input on the last hire, nor did he ask us to sit in the interview. He didn’t even tell me that he chose someone. I only found out because there was someone new when I returned from a conference. But when I was hired, my future coworkers even sat in my interview.

He currently has a position open, and the only way I found out is through our job listings online. What is your thought on this? I find it to demonstrate how low he thinks of us.

As a manager, it’s good practice to involve staff members in hiring processes because it can help you make better decisions — because candidates may reveal different information to would-be peers than to the you, or staff members may simply pick up on different things than you do. But certainly plenty of managers hire without doing that; your manager isn’t terribly unusual in that respect, and it’s not a sign that he holds you in low regard. (There might be other signs of that, of course, but this on its own isn’t one of them.)

But why not ask him if you and your coworkers can play a role in the hiring process? You don’t want to sound like you’re asking for decision-making authority, of course, but you could point out that it could be useful to have additional people assessing the top candidates, as well as that you’re in a good position to answer candidates’ questions about the day-to-day of the work.

2. Manager accidentally emailed a coworker’s personal medical details to our division

A manager two level above me had mistakenly sent out an email to our division instead of his direct reports. The email disclosed the details of a coworker’s upcoming visits to a doctor and procedures that needed to be done. My coworker is extremely embarrassed and has only received a halfhearted email as an apology. There has been no acknowledgement to the division of the mistake. Any suggestions on how this should be handled?

How the manager should handle it, or how the rest of you should? The manager should profusely apologize to the coworker who the email was about, should send a follow-up apologizing for inappropriately disclosing details that weren’t meant for others to read, and should rethink his habit of discussing details of someone’s medical procedures with other people (because I can’t see why it even needed to be shared with his intended audience). There’s not really anything for the rest of you to do though; your manager made a mistake, he apologized to the person it affected, and that’s about all that can be done.

3. Should I keep a waitressing job on my resume?

Last year, 2 years after graduating from college, I was finally able to land a full-time job. Before that, I had a part-time job related to my field and was a restaurant server to make some extra cash. I left my serving job off my resume, but it would usually come up in interviews — mostly when asked about time management and how I handle stress. A lot of interviewers would ask me why I left the job off my resume since serving teaches you so many transferable skills. Many told me they thought it was the hardest job out there and I should definitely have put it on there. While I 100% agree with that, I had 3 college internships plus a part-time job, so I felt it was best to just leave it off. I’m still employed, am looking for jobs again and am curious on your thoughts. I no longer serve there, but should I put the serving job on or leave it off?

Sure, it won’t hurt you to have it on there, and it can certainly demonstrate customer service skills and the ability to juggle lots of things under pressure. That said, you’re probably gaining more work experience that demonstrates those same things within a context more relevant to your field, so I wouldn’t leave it on there indefinitely — maybe until it’s about five years old but not beyond that.

4. My coworkers constantly share their inappropriate, bigoted, and hostile views with me

I work in an absolutely toxic environment and I’m not really sure how to deal with it. My coworkers frequently have loud and inappropriate conversations. We have an open work plan that doesn’t allow me to block it out and headphones only help so much due to the volume (and they’ve backfired some as coworkers have told me they assume I’m not listening or can’t hear them).

One coworker described the exact details of sexual abuse that her young relative had undergone in order to get advice on the situation, as if knowing that specific acts would help. Another coworker complained that she was kept up late the night before because a neighbor was beating his wife and he needed to keep it down. She even imitated the woman begging for help. Coworkers have told me all the reasons I need to have children right now and why as someone in my mid-20s, it’s going to be too late if I don’t. They’ve had loud discussions about Jesus and the Bible knowing that I’m not Christian (I’m an atheist but I don’t talk about my views at work). They’ve complained about people abusing welfare and “illegals” using medical resources. One said being gay was a choice and yelled at me for disagreeing. She then went to a gay coworker and lied about what she had said. People talk about beating their kids and threatening other people with violence when they’re angry. There are plenty more stories. I never know what I’ll walk into on a given day and it destroys my mood and productivity.

I’ve tried talking to my boss about it and all she did was have a staff meeting where she told me not to say anything and then told everyone to “be professional.” The head of HR told me that I’m doing the “same thing” as my coworkers by telling people what they can or can’t say at work. When I said that I don’t tell people what to say, she told me that I was “judging them in [my] head.” She told me I needed to work on dealing with my frustration with the situation. I tried to remind her that our customers/patients could potentially hear these things too but she didn’t seem bothered.

Everyone tells me to go to HR (tried it twice), find a new job (easier said than done) or to just not be bothered by it (way easier said than done). What am I supposed to do in a place like this?

Your company sucks and isn’t going to change. I’m sorry. You’ve raised the problems and been told, in essence, that they don’t see it as a problem that they plan to do anything about.

You can choose to live there with this BS or you can find another job — which yes, is easier said than done, but you’ll have to leave there eventually, assuming you don’t intend to stay there for the rest of your career, so why not do it now?

Read updates to this letter here and here.

5. Which business books should my team read?

I work in human resources, and each quarter our team does a book review. We all read a business-related book and discuss it at one of our staff meetings. It doesn’t have to be long; our last one was a 45-minute read, but it’s supposed to have something useful that we can apply to our professional lives or behavior. I sort of volunteered (since no one else was) to research suggestions for the next book we’ll read. Our team is smallish but consists of HR, payroll, benefits, the building manager and admins. I love your blog and think you give great advice (I think your blog helped me get my current job which I love) so I was wondering if there are any books you’d recommend?

Well, on the nuts and bolts of how to actually manage — as in, what does managing well really look like day-to-day, what are the words you use for the conversations you have to have, etc. — it’s probably no surprise that I recommend my own book, Managing to Change the World, which I co-authored with Jerry Hauser, the former COO of Teach for America and founder of The Management Center. It’s written for nonprofit managers, but 99% of what’s in there applies to every sector.

I’d also take a look at the excellent First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham, which early on helped me shift the way I looked at struggling performers; Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath, which shows you how to make difficult changes stick — socially, organizationally, and personally; and Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, which argues that intelligence and abilities aren’t pre-determined as much as they’re  the result of learning and hard work … which has implications for tons of things in the workplace.

* I make a commission if you use those Amazon links.

{ 108 comments… read them below }

  1. Brett*

    #4 I feel you there on stupid bigoted comments in the workplace. We definitely have a problem with that, although a lot of people in my workplace are going to straighten up really damn quick.
    Why? Well, when you make enough stupid bigoted comments to enough people, eventually the wrong people overhear. And several people are forced to resign, and you get sued by the NAACP. This is a very timely letter, because that is what happened to my employer last week.

    A private sector employer is less likely to get sued by the NAACP than a public sector employer, but you create a hostile enough workplace and someday that is going to come down. That is the lesson your HR needs to learn.

  2. Elizabeth*

    For #2, this might be obvious, but I would add that the coworkers who accidentally received the personal information should act as if they did not have this information (aside from informing the person whose info it was, if they didn’t know this had happened – but it sounds like they did). That will help the person get over their embarrassment faster.

    1. Jessa*

      Especially this, you have to pretend you do not know things. It can be tough especially if you like the person and want to help.

      But if the boss just wanted to list the times the coworker was not going to be at the office, then the other information should have been stripped from it.

    2. BadPlanning*

      I was thinking the same thing — ignore it, do not discuss with coworker or with other coworkers.

      I was thinking that the OP could bring it up with the manager — emphasize that they are worried about any confidentiality with their theoretical future health information. It might drive it home to the manager that this was a Big Deal and not just an oopsie.

  3. Anonymous*

    #4 Your coworkers sound charming. It sounds like the managers and hr gave up. Good luck finding a better job! :)

  4. PEBCAK*

    #4) Wait, have you asked people to keep it down and/or not talk to you very much? I can’t tell if you’ve done that with the framing that you are just easily distracted by noise or something, not focusing on the subject of the chatter.

  5. jasmine*

    Re: #1: I think you missed one of the most important reasons why staff should participate in interviewing: the staff may have a much better ability to evaluate the candidate’s technical skills than the manager has. In a rapidly changing field like software development, managers who have been in a hands-off role for a few years may actually know very little about the technology being used in their department’s day to day work.

    1. Kara*

      While that’s probably true (actually, it is, I’ve worked in IT under a manager who didn’t have a clue what I did because he didn’t participate in the day-to-day activities), you’d want to be very careful how you phrased that point. It could easily come across as “You should include me because I know more than you do/I’m smarter than you/you don’t understand the technology/etc,” which isn’t likely to be well received. Proceed with caution on this point.

    2. James M*

      Software development is a field where it makes absolute sense to have an actual developer involved in hiring new developers. Firstly, it’s a popular position, and far too many applicants believe (wrongly) that they can “fake it ’til they make it”.

      Secondly, hiring a developer is a bigger risk than most other positions because a bad hire can actually create more work for the rest of the team. Yes, a programmer can have a negative net productivity.

      Including a developer (or better: a project lead) in the interview process significantly mitigates these issues. Who wants to be responsible for hiring a programmer who can’t actually write code?

      1. hamster*

        Yeah, that is why many such position have tests to filter out for coding ability even before the in person interview ( especially for entry level positions) . Afterwards , there are tests and discussions.
        There are managers that do that alone but most will want a peer/team-lead tech person there for that part.
        Actually in many places they have a separate technical interview.

        1. De*

          I seem to remember a discussion when someone was really annoyed and insulted that having people code is done in interviews quite often. Was that discussion on this blog? Something interviews being too stressful to even produce some pseudo-code…

            1. Jen in RO*

              And now I’m gonna spend an hour trying to finding out where I also read that discussion. Are you sure it wasn’t on AAM? I don’t think that topic would come up on any other blog I read…

            1. Betsy*

              Man, now I totally want to reopen that conversation, because I have FEELINGS. But I am going to refrain. Thanks for the link!

            2. CAA*

              OK, I stand corrected. That conversation has happened here. It’s not the one I remember though. I’ve definitely seen it elsewhere also.

    3. CAA*

      In a team of 4, it’s highly likely that the manager is a developer. That’s not to say that he should be making these decisions on his own because it’s always valuable to have more input from a different perspective, just that you can’t assume his skills are rusty or inferior to the rest of the team’s.

  6. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    Restaurant jobs are impressive and working to support yourself in college and through three internships is impressive.

    Can’t train work ethic, ability to handle pressured environments, multi-tasking. That’s a “sign” that employers look for in reading a resume or having a first interview. Seeing a server job that lasted some length of time is big plus.

    1. Chinook*

      #3 I agree that the waitressing job should be on your resume. Since you are new in your career, all recent work should be on your resume as it not only signals transferable skills but work ethic, the latter of which cannot be taught (though it can be developed over time).

    2. Anonymous*

      I agree, definitely leave the serving job on your resume!

      I’m always impressed by people who have been servers for years. It’s really hard to do it well!

    3. kelly*

      Keep it on the resume. I was looking over some resumes with a co-worker for several student worker positions. He has final hiring authority and is their supervisor, but I serve as the backup supervisor in his absence. He thought he had several promising leads that had come through pre-screened by HR, including relevant academic background, prior work experience and work study eligibility (a big consideration in budgeting). He asked me if I had any questions that I would ask and I gave him a couple. One was describe a situation where you stayed calm when dealing with a upset customer. Another was describe your reliability and work attendance record. I gave him those two questions because we had one hire last fall who seemed to be too introverted to be working in a public service role. I told him if he could get someone who had prior retail or restaurant experience, that would be great because they would be more comfortable dealing with people.

  7. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    Here’s a thing that I have found to be true: people ask for your opinion when they think your opinion will be useful and hassle free.

    There have a been a bunch of times in my career life that I’ve been left out of advice or decision processes that I think I could have contributed to and should have been included in. Some of the best work I have ever done on myself has come from these situations.

    In my case, my natural style is loud, and passionate and fullofalotofwords. When I investigated why I’d been left out of some advice situations, with the attitude of “okay, what am I doing here that you wouldn’t ask/consult me on this”, I got some pretty direct feedback that I was seen as reacting to situations and not providing cool advice.



    Whatevs. I was being misread but whatevs.

    Changing my style changed my opportunities.

    1. fposte*

      Hee. Yep, you’re likelier to be included if it feels like solving the problem rather than adding to it.

  8. straws*

    #1 – If your manager used to include the team on interviews, it might be useful to start by finding out why that stopped. Even if there isn’t a good reason, it could open up a discussion with less chance that you’ll come off as overstepping.

    1. MissM*

      Reading this, I was speculating that maybe when the OP was hired there was some disagreement between the manager and the staff as to who to hire, and the manager has stopped getting input because it caused problems the last time.

      1. KAZ2Y5*

        That happened where I work now. The staff really liked one man–he knew everything there was about chocolate teapots, even some things we didn’t know and would have been a real asset to our workplace. At the last minute there was one more interview–the second man was nice, but he knew nothing about chocolate teapots. His main qualification was that he was best friends with the manager and assistant manager. Guess who got the job? We decided after that it was pretty worthless to actually offer opinions any more.

  9. Michael*

    5. “Crucial Conversations,” a book I’ve recommended to several coworkers. It’s helpful in and out of work.

  10. Jim*

    About #1, it sounds a bit like you were recently hired. It may take a while for your boss to feel like he trusts your judgement enough to include you in the hiring process. Plus, it’s not at all uncommon to only use one or two members of the team to help evaluate a candidate.

    1. Judy*

      Yes, in our team, only the leads are involved in the hiring process. My manager delegates bits to different people. Some hiring seasons, I’m phone interviewing. Some hiring seasons, I’m screening the resumes. Some hiring seasons, I’m doing part of the in-person interview or a tour of the facilities. But I’m the lead of a team of 4 within his team of 25.

  11. EJ*

    #4 – when I’ve run into a situation like this in or outside of work, where a group of people are just plain crude, I try to watch them as an outside observer – think scientist-observing-a-nasty-mating-ritual. This helps me feel less surprised, and therefore less offended.

  12. Allison*

    #4) I’m trying to figure out how my company should deal with this issue. We’re a tech company so we know that there’s a good chance we’ll have problems with employees creating a toxic environment by being crude, bigoted, prejudiced, etc., how should a company approach those problems? How DO you make sure people stay away from certain topics without making them feel like you’re repressing their freedom of speech?

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      “Freedom of speech” and the First Amendment only apply to restrictions on speech by the government.*

      Your company can restrict employee speech and should in terms of sexual harassment, discrimination of protected classes and the like. You should set standards about what’s appropriate for your work environment and then you hold your employees to those standards.

      *Applies to the United States only – YMMV in other countries.

      1. Zahra*

        Also, make sure all the managing levels know to take complaints about crude, bigoted, etc. speech/actions very seriously (and not brush them off as “overreaction” or “boys will be boys” or “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”). They don’t need to go ahead and take it as 100% true, but they must investigate and act. If it means losing your top performer, so be it. Keeping your top performer but losing 5 other people because your top performer is a jerk means you chose the wrong person to keep.

    2. Diet Coke Addict*

      Well, freedom of speech doesn’t really apply, because that only says that the government cannot restrict what you can say. A workplace can place any sort of restrictions they like on workplace conversations.

    3. Sunflower*

      Agree with Exception To the Rule that technically you can tell any employees that they aren’t allowed to talk about certain things. They may feel hurt that you trying to tell them what they can and can’t talk about but it can also be used as a way to screen out bad candidates. No good candidate is going to not take a job because he isn’t allowed to have open discussions of religion, sexual orientation, etc. You come to work to WORK and unless you’re at a non-profit dedicated to one of these missions, I have no idea why any person would want to speak about any of these things.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        I believe the only exception is that you cannot forbid employees from discussing pay amongst themselves?

        But you are certainly allowed to restrict employees from discussing issues of race/sex/ethnic origin/political views/current events/whale species/numerology/whatever else you so desire, as long as you’re not violating a protected class in the meantime.

        1. TL*

          I know Allison’s said that one before – you can’t forbid people from discussing pay (or unionization, I think.)

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, you can’t forbid people from discussing wages or working conditions with their coworkers (which is tied to their right to unionize). But you can sure as hell prohibit people from engaging in conversations that would create a harassing or hostile workplace (in fact, the law requires you to prohibit that kind of speech, which is one way in which workplace speech is very different from the free speech requirements placed on the government).

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            When did the law about not forbidding people to discuss wages go into effect? I had a friend from college who was hired by EDS, Ross Porot’s company, and I remember her telling me (in the mid to late 1980s), that they weren’t allowed to tell anyone what they earned.

    4. Anonymous*

      I’d suggest nipping it in the bud. Shut down the conversations as soon as they are overheard, and make it clear that bigoted, prejudiced comments and conversations are simply not tolerated. Make it clear that it is a condition of their employment that they converse in a respectable manner whilst at work, and that failure to adhere to such a condition will result in disciplinary procedures (up to and including dismissal). And make sure you follow through with that disciplinary action.

      It won’t make you popular, but soon enough the errant employees will get the message – and it also sends out an important (and often overlooked by management) message to those employees (like OP4) who feel uncomfortable with these types of comments being made that your company will not tolerate this behaviour.

      The freedom of speech thing doesn’t really apply – workers in customer-facing roles are banned by their employers from saying all sorts of things (swearing, insulting customers, engaging in bigoted or prejudiced comments). This doesn’t violate their right to freedom of speech, but also the employees should recognise that the speech may have consequences.

      1. Graciosa*

        While this is very good advice for a manager, I don’t think that the OP is in that position. This environment needs a major culture change – that would be very hard for an individual contributor to institute under normal circumstances. In this case – given the response so far from both management and HR – I think Alison was right that the only real solution is to get out as soon as possible.

        1. Anonymous*

          Oh absolutely – I was answering Allison’s post above who it would appear is a manager/director of a company, and that the impact of “being seen to be dealing with” an issue can be a helpful morale boost to employees who may be in a similar position to OP4 to see that management is actively trying to change the culture.

          OP4 definitely needs to get out as soon as she can – her management are just not bothered and things will only get worse.

    5. Elysian*

      I’m a little concerned that you start off with tech company = likely bigotry. If you’re the manager at your company, you might consider starting with higher expectations. I don’t see any reason why working at a tech company would mean there’s a good chance of encountering a toxic environment. To that end, I agree with Zahra’s comments, especially about nixing ‘boys will be boys’ excuses.

      1. CAA*

        Yeah, I’m concerned about this too. It’s a pretty pernicious stereotype that really doesn’t hold true. In my experience, engineers are no more likely to be crude or bigoted than anyone else. You need to treat them like you would any employee in any discipline — if they’re young, you teach them appropriate workplace behavior and habits; if they’re not young and they behave inappropriately, you counsel them and then fire them if they don’t shape up.

        Also, try hiring a diverse workforce. It’s a lot harder to be overtly bigoted when you constantly work with people of different races and genders.

        1. Allison*

          A diverse workforce is the end goal, and making sure our office isn’t toxic toward women and racial minorities is part of that effort. I’m not saying it is, or it definitely will be a problem, but I have heard this has been an issue in some companies and I want to make sure it doesn’t happen here.

  13. Sunflower*

    #4- Have you asked about possibly being moved to your own office/area? Obviously the headphones in are a sign you don’t want to be bothered and HR knows you aren’t happy with the situation(doesn’t seem like they care so much). Especially if you frame it in a context that constant chit chatter of any sort is interfering with the ability to do your work. Also, start looking for a new job. It seems as if HR is almost condoning their behavior and it will probably only get worse for you down the line

  14. nyxalinth*

    #4 First, I want to apologize on behalf of us Christians who do not act like total douchecanoes. That sucks badly, and I’m sorry you have to put up with that crap. We don’t all believe that being gay is a choice If you like, next time someone throws that at you ask them if they chose to be straight. If nothing else, it short-circuits the robotic way of thinking people sometimes get and makes them think..or at least shuts them up.

    As for the rest, when dealing with jerks like that, i often will say ‘Wow.’ or ‘Oh, dear.’ and nothing else. sometimes I might say “I don’t think Jesus would do X’ or ‘I don’t recall there being something written about trashing the environment/beating our kids/whatever dickery they’re espousing’ but it depends on you and your comfort level.

    I hope you get out of there, soon!

    1. some1*

      “We don’t all believe that being gay is a choice If you like, next time someone throws that at you ask them if they chose to be straight.”

      I don’t believe being gay is a choice, but even if it was, who cares? I mean, I feel like the people who go out of their way to point this out are basically saying, “Gay people don’t deserve ridicule only because it’s not their fault”. How about not ridiculing people who are gay or disabled or whatever just because it’s the right thing to do? It’s not ok to ridicule an overweight person just because they refuse to go on a diet.

      1. Felicia*

        As a gay person, imo the real problem with people who believe it’s a choice is that they believe I can choose not be gay, and so of course they’re going to try to “convert me” to being straight. Bullshit conversion therapy is still a major problem which is perpetuated by people who believe that being gay is a choice, which is why believing that is so dangerous.

        Also, even though it’s horrible, it’s almost socially acceptable to ridicule overweight people . At least, when it happens, people rarely speak out about it in the same way or as loudly. Maybe it’s because of the perception that the person can change it.

        1. Calla*

          Yeah, I agree. In the ideal world/big picture, no, it *shouldn’t* matter whether or not someone chooses to be gay (or whatever orientation). But on the smaller or individual level, “I can’t choose to be gay, and here is evidence supporting it” may be the only thing keeping a teenager from being shipped off to an abusive conversion therapy camp.

          1. some1*

            Certainly thinking being gay can be changed, suppressed or cured is an issue. My point is that I know straight people who always point out that it’s not a choice when arguing for gay tolerance. Tolerance is important whether or not it’s a choice.

            If you are overweight because you eat too much and don’t exercise enough, you don’t deserve scorn for it more than I would if I was overweight because I just had twins or I’m on meds that made me gain weight.

          2. Felicia*

            That’s exactly it. It shouldn’t matter, and to reasonable people it doesn’t matter, but in the world we live in it matters to enough people that we still need to keep loudly proclaiming that it can’t be changed…because that’s what people are really saying when they say its a choice , that it can be changed. There are enough churches/synagogues/other religious institutions that say if you pray hard enough or are pious enough you’ll just stop being gay. There are enough guys that think if only I would sleep with them , then I wouldn’t need to be gay anymore. For a lot of individuals proclaiming that it’s not a choice matters a lot. I’m uncomfortable when people say “who cares if it’s a choice?” because so many people do care, and it feels like it’s minimizing my experiences to pretend like it doesn’t matter anymore. With people who really believe it’s a choice, they usually also believe it’s a “lifestyle”, so we’re not yet at the point where we can stop emphasizing that.

            So who cares if it’s a choice? Unfortunately, a lot of people do, and when you’re the one who they’re trying to convert, you need that attitude to go away before any other change .

            1. Felicia*

              I hope that made sense! This is a topic on which I have a lot of feelings, and I find that it’s predominantly (though not always), straight people who say “who cares if it’s a choice?” So as someone with personal experience , I always feel compelled to explain.

              Also in terms of the OP I would be so uncomfortable in such a workplace. I’d try to get them to not talk directly to me and leave ASAP.

              1. Calla*

                Yes, that totally made sense! I think this is very similar to many “blind” attitudes — i.e. colorblind, or the equivalent “why should sexuality matter” though we don’t have a catchy name for it. It matters, and acting like it *doesn’t* actually usually contributes to the problem.

                And I agree this is often tied to less violent but still problematic/harmful attitudes, like “lifestyle” or “preference.” Oh, how I hate “preference.” I prefer vanilla ice cream over chocolate but I’ll happily eat both, but if men were an ice cream flavor I wouldn’t eat it if it were the last flavor on earth, no matter how much you push it on me.

                1. Felicia*

                  I’m going to use that ice cream analogy next time I encounter the word preference in real life Calla, because it’s awesome. :) Although I prefer chocolate ice cream over vanilla:) Though otherwise I totally agree – I would never eat man flavoured ice cream no matter what!

                2. Felicia*

                  I also like your comparison to “colourblind” ! Because while people may personally be colourblind and race shouldn’t matter, at a societal level it still does, and pretending it doesn’t will only make racial inequalities worse.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I too worry that the focus on it not being a choice sends the message that it would be a problem if it were a choice, thus reinforcing the bigoted idea that there’s something inherently wrong or bad about gay, and that it’s just being excused because the person didn’t choose it. I mean, if people kept talking about how it was okay that I have red hair because I didn’t choose it, I’d be pretty annoyed.

        And I wonder if we’re going to move away from that focus as social attitudes change overall (because that focus is only necessary while there are still crazy conversion-therapy types out there).

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I always want to say, “You have no right to try and control other people’s lives because of some bullcrap issue you have with them being gay or black or ginger or tall or short or fat, etc., and then squawk when you get called on it.” That last bit is the part that burns me the most.

      3. Betsy*

        For me, the point of stressing that it’s not a choice comes down to legal protection. We protect race, sex, and age-related discrimination because it’s not a choice. Saying, “It’s not a choice, it’s innate to these people,” means that people can’t say, “You chose being gay over moving ahead in your career.” It’s easier to demand equal treatment for someone if they have no choice in whatever condition you are protecting.

        Socially, I absolutely agree that it shouldn’t matter, but I think that it’s still important to stress it for issues like gay marriage, workplace discrimination, and the like.

        1. Felicia*

          +1. I’m Canadian , so not sure, but IIRC, sexual orientation is not a protected class in a lot of places , both for workplace discrimination, housing discrimination etc.

      4. Cath@VWXYNot?*

        I heard a theory once (can’t remember where) that people who think sexual orientation is a choice are likely to be found in or near the bisexual section of the orientation spectrum. They most likely don’t realize this, either through honest ignorance of how these things work or because they’re in denial. They then tend to assume that everyone else is just like them – attracted to both men and women, but able to “choose” which specific attractions to act on – and don’t get that for people further towards either end of the spectrum, it’s not like that and there’s an attraction only to one gender.

        No idea if this is a valid hypothesis, but I thought it was very interesting. It has an air of truthiness to it, for sure :)

  15. Gjest*

    #1 If you do argue for more input, consider whether they actually will be taking your input into account, or if they are just saying it to make you feel like they are including you.

    So far the places I’ve worked that said they were asking for our input didn’t seem to do anything with what the team said. On most occasions, they would go with the opposite of what the general consensus was. I realize that they couldn’t always do what we wanted, but there also wasn’t ever any explanation such as “although the team pointed out that Candidate X had exactly what was stated in the job description, we went with Candidate Y because even though they do not even fit the description at all, they will bring in more grant money” or some other more PC explanation.

    So be careful what you wish for. Or decide if they are likely to be serious about including the team.

  16. Graciosa*

    Regarding #5, I am surprised we haven’t yet seen more book suggestions. I would love to hear some more recommendations, and I’ll toss one out to get things rolling – Type Talk at Work, which is a work-oriented version of a Myers-Briggs resource. I return to these regularly to remind myself of all the ways other people are not like me and won’t react as I do.

    I especially love a description of how various types reacted to a bomb threat against an embassy – SJs sought out the official manual to determine the SOP, the SP started directing traffic, NFs called their families, and NTs began an intellectual discussion on the efficacy of bombing and bomb threats.

    I am decidedly in the discussion group, although I admit this type may not be the most useful in this exact situation. :-)

    1. louise*

      That sounds like a great read! I love understanding some of the basic things that seem to hold true in each type, but find I’m often frustrated that no one seems to care what *my* type is or how that affects my response in any given situation.

    2. Betsy*

      I’ll add a recommendation for “Your Brain At Work”, by David Rock, which is not about management, but about how to be aware of your brain’s physical limitations and learn to maximize your effectiveness. It had a tremendous influence on how I plan my days.

      I think it’s a book that almost anyone can get something out of.

    3. Fiona*

      I think I’m going to suggest this to my academic advisor (she teaches both intro and advanced management classes) – this seems much more useful than the standard Myers-Briggs discussion, where (IME) everyone gets hung up on introverts vs extroverts and ignores the other three factors. ;)

    4. annie*

      Yes, more book recommendations please! It’s funny, I was going to write in with almost the exact same question, and then I saw it on here.

    5. hilde*

      One book I read recently that could be applied to personal and work is “The Power of Habit.” Great insight into some of the habits I have. The author weaves together fact and story very well.

      I always recommend anything by Bruce Tulgan. “It’s OK to Be The Boss” is a must-read for any supervisor. He has “It’s OK to Manage Your Boss” for employees (though I haven’t actually read that one yet). Also “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy” regarding the youngest members of the workforce.

      “How Full is Your Bucket?” is fairly quick and uplifting read, too.

    6. FRRibs*

      It’s been a few years since I read it, and it may not have an obvious application for everyone, but I remember enjoying “Riding the Waves of Culture”, and how it spoke about how differently we deal with what may not seem so obvious on a case by case basis. Things like not showing the bottom of your feet/shoes to certain people, or the size of personal space bubbles by culture.

      That last one resonated with me as one company I worked for we had an Egyptian and a Pakistani on our team who would move to what was a comfortable distance for conversation for their culture, continually charging into our personal space bubbles, which would make us step back in reaction, which would cause them to advance…completely changing the meaning of a meandering conversation.

  17. Betsy*

    On #1, to look at it from a different angle: I am one of a group of 5 developers on one project. For our last few hires, my manager included everyone in the interview process, which has led to a lot of… let’s call them “heated discussions.” After the last few of these, my manager got incredibly sick of it and told me that if we had another opening, he was absolutely going to exclude people from the interview process, and they could suck it up or quit.

    I’m not saying that’s what’s happening in your team, but it’s worth considering whether your manager might not want everyone involved in the decision for some reason.

    1. Anonymous*

      I can see pros and cons of involving team members in interviews.

      But it’s really weird that the manager didn’t even tell anyone they were hiring!

  18. louise*

    #5 – I really appreciate the Harvard Business Review compilation “On Managing Yourself.” Easy read in that it has 10 articles (and a bonus!) so it’s in nice, bite-sized chunks. Since every article is by a different writer and has a different focus, a group might find they each connect with different writing styles, approaches, etc, and therefore the format might reach more people than a typical one-author book.

    “On Managing Yourself” is one in a series called HBR’s 10 Must Reads — I haven’t read any others in the Must Read series, but they all look really interesting to me.

    1. Mike C.*

      I’ve found the HBR to be a really decent source of good business literature in a never ending sea of one hit wonders producing garbage.

  19. Laura*

    To #4 – Get your resume out there – not just for the purposes of finding a new job, but to take some of the psychological burden off you. It worked for me. I was working in a fairly toxic environment (also, coincidentally, rife with mal- and mismanagement) that put immense strain on me, like you described. But, once I started applying for jobs, I was able to say to myself “I won’t be putting up with this for much longer”, and now, I’m not.

    Think of how good you’ll feel when you hand in your resignation from this awful place!

  20. BCW*

    #1 It just depends. I’ve had jobs where I was in, as well as jobs where I wasn’t involved. What can be hard though is if you make it clear you don’t like someone, and they are chosen anyway. Because then people are often thinking “what was the point in my being involved in this process if my opinion doesn’t matter?”. When its a consensus yes, its much easier then if its not. Maybe the manager had a feeling it would cause some issues.

    #4 Its a very interesting question, because while some of it does sound bad, it also sounds like a lot of the issues only bother you because you are already annoyed by these people. For example, I’m not super religious, but if religion was being talked about around me, I wouldn’t care (unless they just said I was going straight to hell or something). Then there is the “beating the kids” comment, which really could vary based on the person. Personally I think some kids need a good spanking at times, others are so against it that they would call it abuse. But I think your best bet would be to come at it from the volume issue and not the topics. Aside from the choice to be gay thing and referring to people as illegals, most of it doesn’t really sound like “hostile” conversation. Inappropriate maybe, but what is and isn’t considered appropriate can vary from place to place. So maybe if you just mentioned how its hard to concentrate when its so loud, maybe that could give you a bit of relief.

    1. Question #4 Asker*

      I stay out of religious conversations because I find them inappropriate for work and know my views aren’t welcome. I had to listen to someone state that you don’t have to go to church to e a “good person,” you just need to believe in Jesus and follow the Bible. That says any non-Christian cannot be good.

      Responding to someone’s cute story of their kid making a mess with, “Did you give her the pow-pow?” or complaining that you know you’re not feeling well because you can’t hit your kids as hard as usually are not disagreements about whether spanking has a place in parenting (although I don’t think it does based on all the copious studies available on it).

      1. BCW*

        Thats fair. My point was just without really knowing the specifics, it was hard to say how bad it was. As I said, I really have no problem people talking about religion in general terms, or even talking about their religion, but when you start putting down others with different beliefs, then yes, I can see what you are saying.

        And again, I’m not trying to get into a debate about spanking your kids. I know its one of those things that you would never change someone’s mind anyway. But my point was just that depending on what exactly was said, what one person might call beating a kid another may see that as punishment that is well within their boundaries.

    2. Anonymous*

      @BCW — Doesn’t surprise me at all that you feel like this *rolls eyes*

      These conversations are simply inappropriate for the workplace — full stop.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’d appreciate if we didn’t make discussions here personal in this way. I don’t want people with dissenting opinions to feel they’re not welcome here. Thank you!

        1. Anonymous*

          The problem is that the co-workers are mocking illegal activity and NOT reporting it to the police and no one has even mentioned this. I’m actually shocked. It’s deeply disturbing.

        2. hilde*

          Yeah, easy on BCW. He’s one of the very few regular commenters here that often has a differing and unpopular opinion but he always tries to explain his perspective in an agreeable way and continues to comment. I often understand what he’s trying to say and sometimes agree with him (but am too chicken shit to jump in the fold). But aside from all that, what makes AAM so unique is that people can have wildly different perspectives minus the personal judgment. It’s why this is such a valuable place for rich discussion. In the comments we spend a lot of time reaffirming to each other tolerance and respect – let’s continue to practice what we preach around here.

  21. Steve G*

    #4 the only advice I have is to not bring up religion/your Atheism in any discussion with HR, I think it causes people to lose credibility because the other person you are talking to is thinking “if you really don’t believe in God or any religion, then what your coworkers are talking about can in no way be offensive to you, because you think it is all made up jibberish.”

    And as a Catholic, why on earth are they talking about wife-beating and gay-bashing, the Bible preaches acceptance/love!

    1. Question #4 Asker*

      I’ve tried to keep my complaints to more widely offensive topics like the homophobia incident rather than ones that are more personal to me but it has still been less than successful.

      There was also bashing of Catholicism for baptizing people as infants when they thought should let them make their own choice later. They were unaware of confirmation but it doesn’t matter anyway. I have no dog in that fight but it should be obvious that it’s unprofessional to declare your religion better than another.

      1. Steve G*

        OH, well then they are just unreasonable! I feel for you though, I actually come in 9:30 and stay late to avoid all of the office chitchat. Of course, I have a job where I can come and go as I please. Sometimes people interrupting to ask work related questions is annoying enough, this would be really annoying to have to listen to.

      2. Chinook*

        Steve G and OP #4, I was just going to say that the good news is that those “Christians” wouldn’t consider Catholics one of them (yeah! I would rather burn in hell then listen to such hateful ranting). As for how they can read the same set of books that we do and not get the same message, it comes down to finding what you want, which is really easy do with such a large set of documents when you cherry pick.

    2. Cath@VWXYNot?*

      If they’re just talking to each other about their own beliefs, then sure. But the moment that starts to stray into even suggesting that other people need to live their lives according to the rules/values of a religion they’re not part of, it becomes problematic, whether the “other people” are atheists or of some other faith.

      It’s not clear from the original letter which category is going on in this workplace. In my experience (I’m an atheist), I don’t hear many examples at all of the second category – but when I do, it gets my hackles up like few other things do. Mind you I grew up in the UK and live in Canada, which are both much more secular societies than the US; the vast majority of people, even people I know to actively practice their religion, keep their beliefs firmly to themselves. I think I’ve had maybe one or two conversations about religion at work in the last 15 years…

  22. Clever Name*

    #4 That really sucks that your entire company is that way. I’ve worked with coworkers who mistakenly assumed that since I’m white I’d share their racist views. At least you know what kind of people they are.

  23. Nonprofit Office Manager*

    #3) When I was applying for jobs after college, one of the partners at a PR firm I ended up working for was impressed that I had been working at a gourmet dog bakery since graduating college (for about six months). He remarked that a lot of fresh college grads choose to not work at all until they can find a job in their field, which he doesn’t respect. Keep your waitress job on your resume (for now)!

  24. Malissa*

    #4–I feel your pain. My last work place was in Washington State. During my time there both gay marriage and recreational pot usage were ballot issues. Both ended up being talked about extensively in my work place, which was full of conservative people. One of which was very outspoken. I just learned to give a look that says “I can’t believe you are actually saying that” and learned to ignore the conversations.

    I actually learned to tune out a lot at that job. Sadly it was to the point that people actually had to say my name before I would start listening. They just couldn’t throw random questions at me in the middle of other conversations.
    I eventually started job hunting and the stress relief just from looking was more than I expected.

    1. JuliB*

      Not to focus on you, but as a conservative, I’ve been in the same situation when working with many liberals. It is equally uncomfortable being the person with the opinions that others do not hold. And please realize, liberals can be just as nasty about conservatives and our opinions too.

    2. JuliB*

      #4 – “They’ve had loud discussions about Jesus and the Bible knowing that I’m not Christian (I’m an atheist but I don’t talk about my views at work). They’ve complained about people abusing welfare and “illegals” using medical resources.”

      I can’t see why discussion of religion is insulting. When I was an atheist (for 25 years), I learned not to get overly concerned about such talk. As a very devout Catholic, I may participate or just ignore the conversations. Since I actively chose this religion, I obviously think that it is right and others are not. But I wouldn’t really get upset if people said anything anti-Catholic unless they were aiming at me as a person. People need to realize that there’s no right to not be offended, and MOST people don’t mean to be offensive. So it’s up to me to decide not to be unless it is really in my face.

      FWIW, what is wrong with being anti-welfare abuse? Or against the facts that there are many NON RACIST opinions on the opposite side of the illegal immigration debate?

      One of the rare things that really offends me is the attitude by liberals that conservatives are racists, etc. We’re not, any more than liberals are – ie I’ve known people with unpleasant opinions on both sides of the spectrum.

      1. Editor*

        JuliB — For me, there’s a big difference between someone saying “I am sick and tired of all those illegals coming in and going to the emergency room all the time” and someone saying “I went to the emergency room Saturday and of the eight people ahead of me, all but one spoke (foreign language) and I am sick and tired of those illegals” and someone saying “Did you see that article that says 70 percent of the emergency room admissions from XYZ neighborhood are people who are in the country illegally?”

        Generalizations set off my concerns about prejudice. When a generalization is accompanied by all caps in the comments or an angry voice in person, I become more likely to attribute the attitude to prejudice rather than to data-driven reason.

        When someone speaks with anger underlying generalizations, that anger becomes a giant black cloud on my mood-sensing radar screen, and it doesn’t matter if it is liberal vs. conservative or black shoes vs. brown shoes vs. sneaker wearers or some other set of categories. Sometimes when people express so much anger they sound like they hate certain groups of people, I conclude they hate certain groups of people rather than concluding that they hate certain institutions, rules or policies.

        P.S. Sandals or grey shoes, no sneakers, and no stilettos except during closet photo-ops. Black boots.

      2. KellyK*

        I can’t see why discussion of religion is insulting. When I was an atheist (for 25 years), I learned not to get overly concerned about such talk. As a very devout Catholic, I may participate or just ignore the conversations. Since I actively chose this religion, I obviously think that it is right and others are not. But I wouldn’t really get upset if people said anything anti-Catholic unless they were aiming at me as a person.

        Talking about how your religious group is better than other (or no) religious groups is really unprofessional. It creates an “us versus them” mentality that conflicts with the concept of being a team at work. If someone is proclaiming loudly that people of X religion are stupid/heretics/going to hell, how can anybody of that religion feel comfortable working with them?

  25. Fiona*

    #5 First, three thumbs up for “Switch.” I read it for a management class and it is by far one of my favorite business books. I’m trying to get my current company’s management team to read it – we are implementing some major organizational change and it would way more useful than the dumb “Who Moved My Cheese” we read last month. But it’s not exclusively a “big change” book – it offers advice that can by applied to all kinds of situations.

    Also: “Strengths Based Leadership.” It’s more interactive than your typical business book in that in order to get the most out of it, you need to take an online assessment (access code included) that identifies your top 5 talents or “strengths” from 34 possible themes. Then the book itself dives into how to leverage different people’s different strengths to build effective teams, and how to be a better manager by understanding the strengths of the people under you.

    1. Fiona*

      P.S. Do NOT confuse “Strengths Based Leadership” with “StrengthsFinder 2.0.” SF2.0 is the “foundational” book for the assessment and is a waste of money, IMO. It’s about 30 pages explaining how they developed the assessment and the rest of the book is profiles of all 34 “strengths”. The online assessment will give you all that info about your specific Top 5 and you can Google all the others if you really want to read about them.

  26. nyxalinth*

    Didn’t mean to upset anyone if I did. I seem to be very good at inadvertently upsetting people today, so I’m feeling a bit oversensitive. I’m sorry :(

  27. teclatwig*

    #3 You say that you’re leaving off the server position because you already have 3 internships and a part-time job. I couldn’t tell whether you’re saying that a 5th position would somehow seem wrong, or if you are running out of room on your single resume page. If it is the latter, you might want to rework your resume, as 5 jobs doesn’t seem unwieldy to me.

    And +1 to what everybody else has said about the position strengthening your resume, at least for the first few years when your direct competition will have only the internships or retail experience.

  28. KellyK*

    For #2, the only thing I’d add to the common advice (pretend you didn’t see it) is to assume that any medical information you provide to your boss has the potential to become public knowledge. (You said it was a manager 2 levels above, so I’m not sure if they supervise the employee directly or if the info came to them from that person’s boss, who they supervise.) In either case, I wouldn’t put anything more detailed in an email than “I have a doctor’s appointment on this date at this time.”

  29. Belinda Gomez*

    I think there’s a big difference between hearing conversations that offend you and an actual hostile workplace. If the idle chatter is not directed at you, (like the woman discussing her relative’s abused child, which may be distressing, but how she chooses to tell the story isn’t really your business) I think you have to tune it out. I’m offended by all sorts of things, but I keep my opinions to myself, and use the more outrageous examples as dinner table conversations. People are allowed to have bigoted opinions, provided they don’t put those opinions into action at work.

    1. Question #4 Asker*

      Yeah, this is way late but it doesn’t work that way. You don’t get to say bigoted things and then say it’s fine because you’re not acting on them. Talk is action.

      If two employees have conversations about all the sex they’re having in front of the rest of the office, they can’t claim it’s okay because they weren’t bothered by the discussion and other people were only hearing it. You can easily create a hostile workplace that way.

    2. Question #4 Asker*

      And I absolutely should not have to hear the graphic details of a child being molested when I’m at work.

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