my office has a wall of shame, interviewers keep commenting on my height, and more

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

1. My office has a wall of shame with the names of people who are late or out sick

My workplace has recently instituted a “wall of shame,” where the names of everyone who called in sick or was tardy are posted above the computer where employees clock in. The rumor mill has it that this is supposed to help us with our “accountability,” although no announcement has been made on the matter – it just appeared one day. My managers have some problems, but are generally pretty reasonable people when I approach them. How can I suggest this public shaming is a Really Stupid Idea without coming across like a whiner? (If it makes a difference in your answer, I’m never late myself. Also, perhaps shockingly, this isn’t a call center!)

A wall of shame is a stupid idea on its own, but including people who call in sick? What exactly are they being shamed for? Being sick? (This is even more outrageous if they’re using company-provided sick time, since people shouldn’t be shamed for using a benefit that’s part of their compensation package.)

Since no one has announced or explained it, why not ask about it? As in, “Can you explain what this list is about?” And then if it is indeed what it sounds like, ask, “Why are people being listed there for being sick?” … which should lead you to, “Is it possible to rethink whether this is the right approach? It signals that every unplanned absence or lateness is an incident of wrongdoing, when that’s not the case.. If someone has reliability problems, I’d hope it would be taken up with them directly, rather than everyone feeling that any instance is considered a problem.”

2. My office gives work to my coworker but not to me

I just started this new job. It’s my first real job since graduating college. Up until now, I have been interning for about a year. When I went in for the interview, I was told they would be hiring two assistants. Which I thought, ok, no big deal. I started first, and things were going great. I had no problem with the training and catching on to the job. Don’t get me wrong, I get along well with the other assistant, and it’s nice to have someone to balance the workload. However, in recent weeks, I have noticed that everyone comes to the other assistant when they want something done. I usually find myself feeling a little jealous, which is silly since I get along well with my coworkers. One of my bosses even took me out for lunch and has been really kind about explaining the business and job to me. I’m just really puzzled about why they never really come to me when they need something done. It kind of make me feel insecure about my work. You think I should ask or let it go?

First, I wonder if you can observe your coworker and figure out any differences in her approach that might be resulting in this. Does she appear more eager to take on new work than you? Does she complete it more quickly or more accurately? Is she more approachable in general? Is she friendlier with people assigning the work? There might be something in her approach that you can adapt yourself. But failing that, yes, I think it’s worth talking with your manager about what you’ve observed and asking if she has any insight into what might be going on. If there’s a quality issue with your work, or if you’re inadvertently discouraging people from giving it to you, that’s something you want to know.

3. Interviewers keep commenting on my height

I’m currently searching for a job after my old position was eliminated. Last week, I had two interviews (with different companies). In both interviews, there were individuals who came to the second half of the interview, after I was already seated. At the end of both interviews, I stood up and shook everyone’s hand. One person at each interview commented on my height. I am very short, 5 feet tall. When I get comments on my height in my personal life, I answer with sarcasm like “Wow, you’re not blind” or “captain obvious here just noticed I’m short,” but I don’t think these responses would serve me well in an interview.

In the first instance, the women said, “Wow, you’re just a little girl.” My response was something like “Um, yes I’m short,” but what I wanted to say is that I’m a grown ass women, not a little girl! The second instance wasn’t as harsh; as soon as I stood up before shaking anyone’s hand, one interviewer turned to the other and said “Wow, she’s short, I don’t think she makes the height requirement.” Then she shook my hand. I tried to make a joke and laugh it off, but i’m wondering what I’ll do in the future if I encounter similar comments.

These comments are thoughtless, but I doubt people intend to be mean. It sounds like they think they’re being funny in a way you might appreciate, just like the people who feel the need to comment on very tall people as well. Oblivious, perhaps, but not intending you ill.

The best way to respond to it in an interview setting — or any other where you care about keeping things comfortable more than you do about calling out the other person — is to be cheerful about it. Smile, make a joke, whatever, and move on.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Am I obligated to accept an offer from a former manager that I signaled I’d take?

I have gotten myself into a bind, and I’m wondering if I created a sense of obligation on my part to do something I’m not entirely sure about. Long story short, I contacted a former manager of mine recently to inquire about potentially going back a role I was in a couple years ago. In the end, she asked if I was serious about going back and I said yes. She only had one opening in my pay band, but it was for a different role. She took it down and set up an opening for the role I would be, specifically so I can apply. My interview is this afternoon, but it’s a formality…she makes the hiring decision and has said it’s already mine. I expect the offer tomorrow.

The problem is I’m not entirely sold on going back. I was that particular day, but I’ve done nothing to address her assumption that I am 100% certain I’ll accept the offer, and at this moment, I don’t know what I want to do. I want to go through the process and see exactly what that offer is, but I feel obligated because of what she had to do to get the role posted so that I could apply. I should mention that my current team and her are all within the same company. Am I crazy to feel obligated when it comes to something as important as my career?

You shouldn’t feel obligated — absolutely not — but you also shouldn’t knowingly mislead her about where you stand. When you realized that she was assuming you’d absolutely accept an offer — and that she was inconveniencing herself to make it happen — the onus was on you to find a way to correct that impression. For instance, working in a reference to considering several options, or being “really interested” in returning (as opposed to certain), or so forth. If it’s too late for that now, you’re still not obligated to accept the offer, but you should be prepared for her to be irritated; you can mitigate that a bit by being especially thoughtful and gracious about how you handle it now … although I’d still be prepared for her not not to extend herself for you in the future.

5. What should I ask a former coworker who now works where I’m interviewing?

I have a former colleague who works at a company I am interviewing with on Friday. In fact, he previously held the position I am interviewing for. While I fully plan on contacting him before I accept if an offer is made, I’m wondering if there is anything I should be asking him PRIOR to the interview. I don’t want to name drop, certainly not without his permission anyway, and honestly don’t know if that would really even help. Is there anything I should be asking him about? I am curious about the starting pay, as it seems as if there is no negotiation from what I could gather on glasdoor, but beyond that I don’t know how I can or if I even can use this “insider” to my advantage. Any advice?

Ask him what he wishes he’d known before accepting the job, what the most challenging pieces were, and what it took to truly be successful in the role. The first and second will give you insight into topics you might want to ask more about, and the third will help you think about what in your background you might want to emphasize in the interview (as well as whether it’s the right role for you). If you move forward in the process, you’ll also want to ask about company culture, manager’s style, upsides and downsides, and all the other stuff you want to know when you have someone on the inside, but that can wait until you’re further along.

{ 253 comments… read them below }

  1. A Teacher*

    #1, that’s just crazy! I mean our administrative secretary ends out an email in the morning with everyone that is out of the building or sick each day but it’s more so we know if we have subs or not in the building.. Not to shame anyone. This goes along with the wtf Wednesday idea for sure.

    1. Chinook*

      I have to ask if the the list OP #1 is intended to be like the one A Teacher mentioned – an fyi on who is not there – that is just being managed poorly? Knowing who is not in the office and not available to be contacted (ie. Not working elsewhere but at home sick so should only be contacted in an emergency) is definitely useful information. The shaming would only happen in the mind of the OP.

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        This was exactly my thought and what I came in to say as well. Of course if the thing is headed “Wall of Shame”, that’s got to go, but if its function is to be an in/out board, that’s normal and useful.

        1. Labratnomore*

          My first thought was wondering if it was supposed to be an in/out board too. We used to get an attendence e-mail every day at my old job, it would list who was out sick, if people were on planned time off (and when they would be back), or if people were going to be late. It was so you knew who to contact when you needed something, not to shame people. That was 12+ years ago and e-mail was new at the company, so I don’t think they had heard of out of office e-mails and blocking calendars and those types of things yet.

          1. Simonthegrey*

            In my department (there are only 5 of us) we have a whiteboard with magnets, and the magnets are moved between the “in” and “out” columns so that students can see who’s available or not, but there’s no shame attached. I might be at a meeting; a coworker might have had to leave early; someone might be on sick leave. That isn’t included on the board, just whether we are there or not. It helps us too, because that way I know if I can refer students to someone else.

            As someone else said though, if it’s labeled “Wall of Shame” then that’s really inappropriate!

      2. OP #1*

        People who are out using vacation time, floating holidays, or for training are not included, so it’s pretty useless for knowing who’s out of the building. Also not included are any members of management when out of the building for any reason, including illness.

        1. Anonymous*

          Okay, then this is just wrong. As posted below what happens when someone is out and didn’t get to call in because there was a sudden death or they had a heart attack. This will make people in charge of the wall look really assine and apologizing after the fact won’t do much good. How awful.

        2. Vicki*

          “Also not included are any members of management when out of the building for any reason, including illness.”

          Absolutely wrong, then.

          If management isn;t included (seriously? They’re never late?) then this is just bad.

  2. Zelos*

    #1: …what the hell? So a worker is shamed for catching the flu and staying home, rather than coming in and infecting the rest of the office? How do you hold someone accountable for that? Demanding he consume more Tamiflu? Require vaccines?

    I’m all for vaccination, but this is absurd.

    1. Laufey*

      And the flu is one of those things that you can get vaccinated for and still get. It just depends if the strain you catch was included in the shot, which changes every year.

      1. fposte*

        Even if it’s the right strain, in fact, individual immune responses to vaccination vary.

        1. Meg*

          Exactly. Vaccines don’t offer complete immunity; they are merely there to help promote and increase immunity. I’m all for most vaccines, but people need to understand what they do.

      2. Anonalicious*

        And vaccinations are only determined to be a certain percent accurate as the flu virus has minor mutations as it passes from person to person.

        1. Jamie*

          Amen to this. I got the flu shot this year and still came down with a very weird case of it last week.

          It happens.

      3. Christine*

        This! I was vaccinated this year, came down with classic (horrible!) flu symptoms anyway, wound up going to the doc, she tested me for flu and it came back negative, but she said that the flu test was geared to the same strains of flu that the current year’s vaccine covered, so if it was an off strain the test would be negative! She had had dozens of patients with flu symptoms that week and only 1 positive flu test, so whatever ran rampant around here this year was an off strain.

  3. Ajax*

    #3 – I disagree with Alison’s response; regardless of whether they intended to be mean or not, these comments are straight-up rude and unprofessional. Since an interview is a situation where you can’t speak your mind as you would socially, you may just have to rise above it – no pun intended. Work on perfecting a cocked eyebrow and a bemused expression, as though you can’t believe the comment you just heard, because really, can you?

    And I would seriously think twice about accepting a job to work with such rude people, especially the second example. She had to make a snide comment about your appearance, in front of you, before she could be bothered to greet you! I am staggered by how rude this is!

    1. Boo*

      Yeah, I’m with Ajax on this. I’m a petite woman too (4″11) and I have never been in a situation where an interviewer has remarked upon my height, or worse called me a “little girl”. If they did, I would find it incredibly demeaning and belittling. I’m not a “little girl”, I’m a professional woman with 10 years work experience behind me. I would seriously question whether or not to work there. New jobs are challenging enough without having to convince my colleagues/superiors that I’m an adult who deserves to be taken seriously not a kid playing dress-up.

      1. Laura*

        I’m also a 4″11 woman! I’ve thankfully never gotten a comment like that from an interviewer, just a really rude guy once. If I heard that in an interview I’d find it demeaning too, and if I had options, would seriously reconsider the job. Commenting on someone’s appearance is rude and unprofessional enough, but saying someone’s a little girl when they’re an adult woman is nothing but negative. I do think the first one is more rude than the second….with the second I wouldn’t find it funny but I could see how they’re trying to be funny, but I don’t see the first one as anything other than rude.

        1. Boo*


          This reminds me, I just got a “tribute poem” from my now Ex-Boss in which she calls me a “little girl”. This is the same boss who during my performance appraisal compared me unfavourably to her daughter. The expression just whiffs of looking down on me (both figuratively and literally!) as an inferior in every sense. I also found with my boss that it was pretty much impossible to get her out of the mindset that I was this quiet underperforming little girl, rather than a mature adult woman who was struggling with personal issues at the time (which she was even aware of). That’s what grates with me, I think. I’m not actually bothered about my height and I think I’m fairly hard to offend.

            1. Boo*

              Hehe. That was the title of the email she sent, which only contained the poem and nothing else. It just made me think of The Hunger Games…

    2. Sunflower*

      It is really rude, as I am a short lady myself, but I agree with Allison in that I don’t think they know it’s a rude thing to say. It sounds like maybe they are trying to make small talk. I’m not sure about you but at the end of the interview when the interviewer is walking me out, I never know what to talk about. Maybe they are just trying to fill the silence. I wouldn’t not take a job at this company on this alone- unless you felt this incident is pointing to a company culture where it’s normal to be rude to co-workers.

      1. Andrew*

        I could see the first one as rude, the second one seems to me to be an (awkward) attempt at humor.

        1. bearing*

          “Little girl” is unprofessional and demeaning and sexist. You do not call a woman a “girl,” period.

          1. RubyJackson*

            Could anyone even imagine a scenario where they would call a short man a ‘little boy’? I think not.

            1. Brett*

              No, they say “little man”. Which is also plenty demeaning, as it is a phrase commonly used to refer to little boys.

              I’m a 5’0″ man. I rarely get called anything like this either and think the the interviewers were unusually out of line.

              1. Editor*

                I think if I wanted to blow off the interview, I would have looked the offensive interviewer in the face and said, “Oh no, you aren’t one of those workplaces where instead of judging by performance, all the tall people and the handsome and pretty people get the high raises whether or not they’re good workers!”

                The other possible go-to in this case is the long stare without any comment whatsoever. The Death Stare can produce some interesting reactions.

          2. aebhel*

            This. I’m tall, so I don’t get those comments, but if an interviewer thinks it’s a-ok to call an adult woman ‘little girl’–joking or not–I’d give some serious thought to whether that was an environment I wanted to be working in.

      2. Boo*

        I agree I don’t think they know they’re being rude but really that just raises more red flags for me if I were thinking of working with them. I simply do not understand how someone who has presumably been working for a good few years (if they’re on an interview panel) thinks that personal comments of that nature are ever acceptable or appropriate. There are a million dull inoffensive things to make small talk about instead, like the weather or how the applicant’s journey was etc. I don’t know if it would prevent me from taking the job if I were in the applicant’s shoes but it’d certainly put me off.

        1. Miss Betty*

          How on earth can they not know they’re being rude? Making comments about another person’s size or shape, particularly in a professional setting (unless that setting is a medical office and the person making the comment is a doctor) is rude, period. It’s something we’re taught – or should be – from the time we’re children. Why would an adult in a professional setting ever make a comment about another person’s height, weight, figure, facial appearance – especially about someone they don’t even know! – and think it’s ok? That’s inconceivable to me. I was shocked at what the OP experienced and, to be honest, even more shocked at Alison’s answer. While it’s true there may be no way to respond to such comments, particularly in a interview, I believe it says volumes about the person who makes the comment, especially concerning their manners, how much thought they give to what comes out of their mouth, and their professionalism. Such comments are not acceptable even when meant as a joke. Big red flag! (And no, I’m not saying it’s rude to compliment someone’s new scarf or notice that they cut 12 inches off their hair, but it’s never been acceptable to make comments about someone’s body in the workplace.)

          1. Elysian*

            “It’s something we’re taught – or should be – from the time we’re children.”

            This honestly isn’t true for everyone, and I don’t think we can blame them for their ignorance. I grew up in a blue collar family, and at my father’s workplace it was incredibly common to comment on each other’s appearance – baldness, weight, butt crack display, what-have-you. My dad never thought it was strange to comment on people’s physical appearance. I was never taught that that was rude.

            That’s just one example. Some people really don’t know these things that others take for granted. Maybe they should, by the time they’re interviewing people, but its possible they don’t. People come from all different places, and we don’t all have the same background in etiquette.

            Not making excuses for the stupidity of the comment – I would never say it. But if no one ever tells the speaker it’s awkward or wrong, there might be no reason they would know.

            1. Miss Betty*

              Thanks for pointing out that our childhood experiences aren’t universal. I realize that might come across as sarcastic in print but it’s not – I really mean it. I like to think that I don’t make stupid generalizations, but I clearly do, at least sometimes! It’s always good to get a reminder to be careful there.

              1. Elysian*

                So sarcasm interpreted at all. I don’t think its a stupid generalization at all. Unless you spend a lot of straddling two “cultures” its probably not something you really think about much.

                I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of “how is it possible that you don’t know how to do x” (whether its snake a toilet or buy a suit that fits properly!) so its just good to remember that sometimes we’re taught things that come as second nature, that we take for granted.

          2. Sunflower*

            Similar to what Allison said below, height is not treated the same as weight, skin color, or facial appearance. We also associate those sorts of things with personality stereotypes which I don’t think come into play as much for height. Maybe I feel this way because when people say to me ‘wow you’re short’ sure it’s annoying because *duh I’m pretty sure i realize every day of my life how short I am* but I’ve never been offended by it or felt I was discriminated against because of it. I’m sure I’ve said to people ‘wow you’re tall’ and I’ve never met anything offensive by it

            1. Sunflower*

              That being said, people really shouldn’t comment on other’s physical appearance (especially in the work place) but I don’t think the interviewer thought it would have the connotations as ‘wow you’re a fat thing’

            2. Simonthegrey*

              Regarding “wow, you’re short” comments: I have been known to look down at myself and exclaim, “I am?” in a surprised voice. I’m about 5’2″, if it makes any difference.

          3. Jamie*

            I can believe they don’t think they are being rude. Of course it is rude to comment on someone’s physical attributes – but people do it all the time when it’s something conventionally acceptable.

            I doubt very much they’d have made the same comments to a man – because there is more of a social stigma in some people’s minds with men being shorter…but there isn’t that kind of negative bias against short women so it’s considered cute or at least inoffensive to mention it.

            My sons are 6’2.5″ and 6′.3″. They get comments ALL the time on how tall they are. Inane stuff like – wow, you’re tall. I bet you play basketball.

            I am sure people don’t think they are being rude because culturally men being taller than average is generally considered a positive attribute.

            So while people should not do this, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume they thought they were making at worse a neutral observation and not being deliberately rude.

            1. Windchime*

              I’m really tall for a woman (5’11”) and I get comments all the time. I hate it. It is rude; it’s basically someone pointing out, “Wow, you are really outside the norm! So outside the norm that I’m really amazed and I feel compelled to point it out to you”. Yeah. I’ve heard it all before and it gets really, really old. I don’t point out to short men that they are really super short; why do people feel that they need to tell me that?

              I have a son who is 6’5″ and he also gets comments, but as Jamie points out, it’s different for men.

              1. Laura*

                I think anyone outside the norm in appearance, especially women, might get those sort of comments and they’re always rude , but i would find it even more rude in a professional setting.

              2. Anonymous*

                I think that it’s often seen as ruder when you make comments to women about their height or to men about their lack thereof. Of course the very tall and the very short are both outside the norm, but height and masculinity are so culturally bound that comments about people who don’t fit that stereotype are, or are perceived as, more derogatory.

                1. Windchime*

                  Yes, and when I have the guts to let my annoyance show, then people are always quick to reassure me, “Oh, I’m *jealous*. I wish I was tall.” Uh huh. Right.

                2. Editor*

                  I am over 5’7” and not all that tall as an adult, but for years people commented on my height. When I was a kid, one time I noticed that for eight or nine months straight, every relative who didn’t see me on a daily basis greeted me with “my how you’ve grown.” I never use that phrase now, even if it is true. None of them asked me what I had been doing or what I was reading or similar questions, although occasionally people did ask “how is school?”

                  If you classify people mentally, fine. Just don’t blurt out the classification, particularly in a way that makes them feel they’ve been judged and found of no further interest.

                  Sure, in order to make small talk, I say vapid things. My go-to vapidities are about the weather. I can talk about weather endlessly. Your weight, height, reproductive choices, scars, and hair loss aren’t topics I will bring up. Weather works for people who aren’t sports fans, too: “How ’bout them weather predictions?”

      3. Priddy*

        I agree with Allison too. My last name is Priddy, do you know how many times I’ve heard “Oh, that’s a pretty name.” UGH But I just let it go. It’s more about them trying to be funny, witty, whatever, than it is about me.

        1. Kate*

          Oh my gosh. I love terrible puns and I would definitely say that if I met you. In my case it would be mostly about me being self-deprecating (purposely making a really obvious joke and looking like an idiot) as an attempt to put you at ease and possibly see if you had the same sense of humor. But … maybe I should try to avoid punning on people’s names. :)

        2. NutellaNutterson*

          It is a lovely name. People *might* not realize they’re making an overused pun. I worked with someone whose last name was “Best.” I about kicked myself when he did me a favor and I said “Thanks! You’re the best.”

        3. Simonthegrey*

          My maiden name was a couple letters away from being something cutesy (think something like “Honybar”) and people were always adding the letters in (“Honeybear”) and then commenting on how “adorable” that would be as a nickname. No, because it isn’t my name, so stop calling me “Honey”.

    3. Anonymous*

      I fall to the opposite side of this (“Wow she’s a tall one” and “how’s the weather up there” because people who feel the need to comment on height are even duller than the worst 3 year old humor). The pleasantly amused smile and cocked eyebrow work pretty well. It is sort of a don’t feed the trolls attitude (no pun intended!) which has worked really well for me.

      I will also say that there is less of this as I’ve gotten older, not that I’ve gotten any shorter, but that I tend to be around people who realize that it’s just not that interesting and there is no need to comment on it.

      (Also, “No, I’m not really tall, you just got really short and didn’t notice, I think you’re still shrinking.” said with deadpan or slight alarm, would work equally well the other way around!)

      1. Anonicorn*

        Same here. I don’t recall that employers have commented on it, but plenty of other people sure have.

        “Gosh, you’re tall.”

        “It’s congenital.”


        I also disagree with Allison. I do not agree with confrontation during the interview process, but I feel if it is accepted now with a smile or a nod, it will be assumed it is accepted when she is hired. Also, why is rudeness NOT a two way street during and interview process? I get that the interviewee should not be rude and, just for the record, I am not either, but what gives the hiring manager or other interviewers the right to be rude or otherwise practicing unacceptable behavior at ANY time? No person, much less any manager should be practicing what THEY would not accept themselves. Finally, I am a thin/fit woman. I am not skinny or otherwise aneroxic. I am a personal trainer and I PREFER to have my body fat low to show the muscle cuts. However, I eat calorie intake to maintain my optimal weight and I build muscle to my frame. So again, I am NOT skinny or aneroxic. However, I do get, “Oh my! you are soooooooooo skinny!” or “Why are you on a diet? You don’t need to lose weight.” FYI, people diet just means what you eat, diet does NOT mean intaking less calories to lose weight. I get so sick of these comments, but I usually come back with the definations of skinny, aneroxic, diet and otherwise to shut them the Hell up! Usually it works. However, one overweight gentleman always thought he tickled himself with his comments on my chicken, broccoli and baked yam lunch EVERY day, that it was getting past annoying. So one day (I was tenured and no chance of getting fired) he was eating a messy, greasy hamburger. So I said, “OH MY GOD! YOU ARE EATING A GREASY BURGER! NO WONDER YOU LOOK THE WAY YOU DO!” He shut up, no more comments from that peanut gallery. But yeah, I get it. I would love to come back with “My you are so fat, do you eat everything” when I get “My you are so skinny, do you eat anything!” I would never! but if you take what you say to others and turn it opposite, would it be acceptable to you?

        1. fposte*

          “Also, why is rudeness NOT a two way street during and interview process?”

          It often is, and sometimes it’s a one-way street from the candidate to the interviewer. You just can’t do that and maintain your goal of getting hired.

    4. Anonymous*

      Reading the question and answer for #3 just pisses me off. There’s no way it would okay to make similar comments about someone’s weight, skin color, attractiveness, etc. Could you imagine?! But because it’s height – something completely out of the OP’s control – we should just assume that these poor folks just don’t know they’re being rude and unprofessional? BS.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Because our culture treats height very differently than it treats weight, skin color, or attractiveness. Like it or not, there are vastly differently cultural norms around it.

        1. NylaW*

          Is there a difference when that translates to someone calling a woman “little girl” and being otherwise belittling? Seems to me it’s unlikely a man would be called “little boy” in the same situation, even while someone might comment on his height (or lack thereof). There’s a slightly sexist tone to the whole thing that really irks me, especially as women are typically the shorter of the sexes. And if there is any sort of dwarfism at play, that can get into a whole host of definitely illegal issues.

          1. Sunflower*

            I think the ‘little girl’ thing is pretty strange. I don’t think I would ever say that to someone because I don’t think those words would ever cross my mind. But if someone said ‘wow you’re short’ sure I might be a little annoyed but I’m not offended. Maybe it’s because I’m not insecure about my height and I don’t feel I’ve ever been treated differently because of it. except getting stuck in the middle seat on car trips..

          2. Laura*

            I think the “little girl” thing is the worst part, and it adds an element of sexism rather than just height. Calling a woman a girl, let alone a little girl, is not ok in any scenario.

            1. Joey*

              Except a lot of people find it acceptable to call women girls. I know tons of women that use girl liberally as if its some magical word that automatically creates a bond.

              1. Laura*

                Girl…maybe understandable that a lot of people don’t know it’s problematic but I don’t like it. Calling a woman a little girl is not acceptable and I don’t know anyone who thinks it is (though if they thought that, doesn’t make it ok)

                1. Sunflower*

                  I would have more of a problem with being called ‘little girl’ as opposed to being referred to as a ‘girl’. To me, they are 2 totally different statements.

                  I am not really offended by being called a girl mostly because I think this goes back to there not really being a middle ground between ‘girl’ and ‘woman’ for females the way ‘guy’ is between ‘boy’ and ‘man’ for males.

                2. Meg*

                  Sunflower, you mean to tell me “chick” isn’t an acceptable way to refer to a woman OR a girl?!

        2. Anonymous*

          Tell that to the family of the 12 year old who committed suicide after being bullied for two years for his short stature.

          When we condone cultural norms that treat height differently than other characteristics, we’re only perpetuating that norm – and the bullying and discrimination that accompany it.

          1. Zillah*

            I am in no way trying to diminish that 12-year old’s experiences or that family’s pain – I feel terribly for them. However, I really don’t think that’s a fair comparison.

            As far as I know, height does not routinely hold people back at work, or make people much more likely to be victims of domestic and/or sexual violence, or lead to their being profiled and punished disproportionately compared to other groups. It does not routinely interfere with their ability to obtain effective medical treatment, or get in the way of their ability to marry their partner.

            That’s not to say that people can’t be insensitive about height… but there’s not the systematic discrimination that we see with gender, race, weight, sexuality, and disability status, which I think is what Alison was saying.

            The 12-year old who committed suicide did so because he was bullied. If you’re referencing the case I’m thinking of, IIRC he was bullied about many things, including his height, his intelligence, and his deceased father. Height was what those particular bullies latched onto – that’s all.

            I was mercilessly bullied for being white when I was in elementary school. That doesn’t mean that reverse racism is a thing, or that this is something that white kids routinely have to face – my experience was very much an exception to the rule.

            1. Zillah*

              Again – I’m not saying that people don’t get bullied over height, or that what happened to that child isn’t absolutely horrible. I’m just saying that I don’t think that having some anecdotal examples puts height on par with attributes that have been shown through many, many empirical studies to be a serious bar to your ability to succeed in life.

              1. Anonymous*

                Zillah, you are completely wrong. Many studies have shown that being short limits men professionally and romantically.

        3. Wren*

          There really isn’t a value judgement around height or much overt discrimination based on it. There aren’t laws about who short people could marry or where tall people could live.

          1. Anonymous*

            Studies that show that tall people are more likely to get hired than short people, and that tall people earn higher salaries that short people – even when you control for other factors.

            * Annually, tall people earn an extra $789 – per inch!
            * If you’re running for president, you’re much more likely to win if you are taller than your opponent.
            *One-third of CEOs are in the 98th percentile of height. Only 3% of CEOs are below average height.

            Height discrimination really does hurt people. It’s not something we should be condoning just because of cultural norms.

                1. Zillah*

                  Sorry – my google skills must just not be up to par with yours. I’m not really sure your links are actually proving your case, though, so maybe not… and I do want to point out that I asked for studies, not news articles reporting on studies. News articles frequently wildly misrepresent what the actual study said.

                  The reason I asked for citations to your first point were that I wanted to see what the researchers who conducted this study controlled for. Gender is a big one (since women tend to make less than men and also tend to be shorter), but I was also wondering about socioeconomic status and whether the same findings were true of women than men. I’m also a little curious about whether occupation has been controlled for – there are some very lucrative professions in which height is a big advantage, including in many sports.

                  Reading your links has clarified that researchers seem to have controlled for gender – though again, popular articles can often misrepresent the actual study – but they haven’t established that socioeconomic status was controlled for, and that’s both relevant and hugely important.

                  People who grow up in well-off families have an enormous leg up on those who don’t in many ways, including the workplace. They’re more likely to have valuable contacts, to be able to avoid and/or leave bad work situations, to be comfortable around people who outrank them, to be able to afford to either have a family with a stay-at-home parent or afford flexible childcare… etc. All of those things make them more likely to succeed in the workplace.

                  And socioeconomic status is strongly tied to height. Money gives you access to more time and better nutrition, which tends to lead to people being taller. I’m curious to see whether this was controlled for, and I haven’t seen any indication from the articles you posted.

                  I have no problem believing that height can give people a leg up in many areas, but I’m not convinced that the causation you seem to be attributing to some pretty extreme outcomes is really warranted.

                2. Editor*

                  Zillah — This post has links to some of the studies commonly cited in these articles. I haven’t explored the links, but he names authors and academic institutions:


                  Even if you dismiss these specific studies, I would say that I am not as critical of them as you may be because I think they highlight the need to measure performance at work rather than just relying on instinct. In that sense, they’re useful even if they’re flawed.

    5. L McD*

      Yeaaah, I find it really, REALLY strange to make a blunt comment on some part of a person’s appearance that they obviously can’t do anything about. Especially in an interview setting where they’re likely to be nervous and off-balance as it is. Like, to me it goes beyond standard-issue thoughtlessness.

      Not that it matters, but 5′ isn’t even THAT short, and meeting someone who is short isn’t exactly a bizarre experience that should cause your brain to hiccup badly enough to make rude or even “thoughtless” comments. I don’t think it’s appropriate to make any kind of comment like this, even if the interviewee legitimately has something very unusual about their appearance. But 5′? Really? Have they never met someone before who’s a bit below average height?

      The nature of the comments she gave as examples also strike me as particularly troubling. I can’t read “little girl” as anything other than sexist, and they both sound hostile, even though I’m sure they weren’t MEANT to be, the point is that any reasonable person should know they’d come across badly.

      I mean, there is probably nothing the OP can do about these comments except act gracious, and think twice about accepting the job if it’s a person she’d be working with. But I wouldn’t necessarily just let it roll off my back.

      1. Bluefish*

        As a petite, short, pale women, I constantly get comments (constantly as in daily, and by repeat offenders) about how little I am, how short I am, how pale I am, “do I ever go in the sun?!”, “do you ever eat?!”, why are you so skinny?, and on and on. It drives me nuts. I find it incredibly rude and annoying. I have to force myself to remember that the people don’t mean to be rude. I think there are just a lot of people out there who can’t stand silence for 5 minutes. They always have to fill the dead air with their yapping. I’m not the most talkative person so I think it increases the likely hood that people end up saying dumb stuff to me. If you’re one of these people, for the sake of other’s sanity, just learn to think before you speak. There’s no need to talk incessantly just for the point of talking.

        1. Laura*

          I get comments about being pale too! Thought it was just me. When I have a tan, I am still paler than the average person. It’s so annoying, especially the repeat offenders.

          1. Anon*

            An acquaintance once saw fit to tell me in a smugly sage tone that, “You could use some color–you should get out in the sun more.”

            I flashed back with, “YOU can look like an old leather handbag when you’re 40,* but I won’t. I’m fine the way I am.”

            Sometimes I just tell people I’m anemic (I am if I don’t watch it, actually) and watch their eyeballs try to cross as they think about it. I don’t know; you get enough unsolicited comments on personal preferences and it makes it easier to take it all out on the next person who thinks they’re the first person to ever say it.

            *An unchecked statement I picked up somewhere, but it shut him up.

    6. Anon Cool Cat*

      While I am average height for a woman in the U.S. (the average is around 5’4″, although apparently people think it’s much taller, likely because runway/catalog models are so much taller), I am small-boned, large-breasted, and look much, much younger than I am. It has gotten better since I’ve moved to NYC, but not been completely resolved. I have gotten every sort of rude comment imaginable in the workplace, ranging from “For a little girl you got some BIIIIIIG ta-tas,” to “You must be a junkie because normal people aren’t built like that,” to “You were like, negative 10 years old in the 80s, so what do you know?” (I remember the 80s well, so I guess I know more than that guy imagined!)

      I wish I could say that these comments are benign, but based on how the rude people have acted toward me, I am 100% confident that they are delivered with malice. If that weren’t true, these same people wouldn’t attempt to take credit for my work, outright STEAL my work, bully me, spread false rumors about me, and encourage other people not to talk to me or to treat me rudely.

      When you are a highly competent, well-spoken, well-dressed, and frequently promoted woman between 25-50 years of age, you are almost certain to become a target of bullies. Check out this link for more info: I used to think I was targeted because there was something about me that people hated. I became extremely self-conscious about my social skills, and after a particularly rough episode of bullying, socialized with no one but my husband and attempted to drink myself to death for almost two years. I am better now and socializing again, but I still think less attention is paid to workplace bullying than should be. Bullying can completely destroy your life, and worse, the targets/victims are often blamed for being “weak,” “cowards,” or “asking for it.”

  4. A Dispatcher*

    #1 – What the…? In addition to all of the outrage-type issues surrounding the unnecessary shaming, I’m also pretty convinced this would not only be ineffective, but would do much more harm than good. I’m assuming this silly new policy was put into place because there are a few people who are abusing time off or are perpetually late. This type of thing doesn’t tend to go unnoticed by coworkers, so chances are the whole office is already aware Susie is out for the 4th Friday in a row without seeing her picture posted above the time clock. That type of employee isn’t likely to care as much about this “wall of shame”, whereas the good and responsible employees might, and therefore may feel obligated to come in when actually very ill.

    And don’t even get me started on the use of blanket policies when directly dealing with offenders would be the better option…

  5. periwinkle*

    #1: WTF? This isn’t going to encourage accountability. It’s going to encourage ill people to drag themselves to work (and possibly infect others) because they’ll be publicly shamed if they try to look after their health. Are managers eligible for the Wall of Shame if they dare to take a sick day? And I thought individual performance metrics on the wall were ridiculous…

    #2: Could it be that whenever people come along looking for help, you appear to already be quite busy but your co-worker doesn’t? This could be a matter of perception rather than actual workload; if she looks up and smiles when someone approaches, and you keep your eyes on your work, they may assume you’re fully booked and they’ll ask her for help instead. It could also be a case of the infamous Resting Bitch Face (RBF). I’ve got a rather bad case of it… “No, come back, I don’t hate you! I always look this grumpy!”

    #3: You’re a little taller than I am. Often I’ll just get it out of the way quickly. If the interviewer looks startled when I stand up, I might joke that yes, I’m about the same height either way. It helps that I’m not particularly sensitive about my height. “Wow, you’re short.” “Ridiculously so, yes. But as long as I can reach the coffee, all is well.”

    (also, the RBF may forestall some of those comments)

    1. Carpe Librarium*

      Ha, I have a Bitchy Resting Face that turns a frown of concentration into a if-looks-could-kill scowl.
      “No, really. I am enjoying this book, it’s my favorite!”
      Apparently I even frown in my sleep (it’s important to nap properly, don’t want to mess up something like that!).

      1. [anon]*

        Likewise. Apparently when I am really focusing on something I have a total “f**k-off face,” according to my spouse (and a couple of friendly co-workers of my past).

        On the one hand, I don’t want to look unapproachable… but on the other hand, at least it does usually mean I’m left alone to finish important tasks, hehe.

    2. ClaireS*

      I like the use of humour for number 3. Your particular line is great – both disarming and funny. But, the “your just a little girl” comment would really throw me and turn me off ever working with that person. The comment is not only highly inappropriate it’s also really patronizing.

      I think humour should work 90% of the time but sometimes your just going to meet really awful people and that sucks.

    3. OP #3 (the short OP)*

      “as long as I can reach the coffee, all is well.” I think this may be my new go to answer if this ever comes up in interviews.

      1. periwinkle*

        That’s the slight-acquaintance/interviewer version. For people I know better and are just teasing (or are strangers being obnoxious), I change that to “as long as I can reach the coffee, your life is safe… for the time being.”

        Now if someone had referred to me a little girl, I might not be so relaxed about the snark. Despite my height, I’ve never received that kind of comment. The RBF seems to be an effective barrier against that particular type of comment. Cultivate one!

  6. tp*

    #3 – I’m completely gobsmacked that anyone would consider voicing such things, especially in a professional setting ! Unless I was desperate for the job I’d not give them the time of day. I’m wondering if the other interviewers looked horrified or uncomfortable after these comments. If they didn’t then that would be an even bigger red flag, indicating that such inappropriate, unprofessional and just plain rude comments were commonplace.

    1. OP #3 (the short OP)*

      The first time, when I was called a little girl, I should note that until then, the interview was going great, and the women who made the comment was the newest addition to the team (this was a start up company). There was a little awkward laughter from the others in the room after the comment.

      The second time, the only laughter came from me. And during this interview there were other red flags.

      1. dustycrown*

        Run away. They’re rude, or they have no clue that they’re rude, and either scenario makes them a potentially awful bunch of co-workers.

        I once politely turned down a job offer because I couldn’t ignore the red flags I kept getting from the interviewer. His less-than-gracious response was, “Well, that’s fine. We have enough short people working here anyway.’

  7. PEBCAK*

    #1) Are we certain this is a “Wall of Shame” and not a really ill-conceived way of communicating where people are for business reasons? I had a job where we were expected to have 100% phone coverage, so even if I went to go pee, I was supposed to move my little orange magnet from “in” to “away from desk.” If I called in sick, the person I called would move the orange magnet to “out sick” or whatever.

    Of course, it’s still terrible management, in that it wasn’t explained, and AAM’s approach will get to the bottom of it, but I just think that, tone-wise, it could really be approached as “why?” not “WTF?”

    1. A Dispatcher*

      I’m not sure where tardiness would fit into that though. Unless by tardy they mean things such as Jane calling in while on her way to work to say traffic/snow/whatever will make her a bit late. Otherwise, the wall-of-shame tardiness posting would be put up after the fact when the person is actually in the office, meaning it doesn’t serve any valuable tracking purpose.

    2. Del*

      I’m thinking the same. Since nothing has been said about it by management, how do we know it’s intended to be punitive? My department gets an email every morning including, among other information about our workload for the day, a list of who is out, who will be coming in late, and who will be leaving early — but that’s so that we know where people are if we need them for something, and if need be we can arrange coverage for tasks the assigned person won’t be there to handle.

      It’s presented very matter-of-factly, with no sense of shame involved. “Out today: Wakeen, Jane. Del is leaving early. Bob will be in at 11 am.”

    3. Catherine*

      My office has a public calendar where everyone’s time out of the office–especially if it’s more than a couple of hours–is posted. It’s so you don’t spend time looking for people who aren’t there. My husband had a job where everyone in the office wrote their names on a white board upon arriving. This was partly for the same reasons, but also more of a management tool–the manager could check mid morning to see who hadn’t shown up. Since the OP’s example is near the time clock computer, I’m wondering if this practice isn’t partly so that whoever is checking to make sure that everyone has clocked in knows right away that the missing people have been accounted for, even just in the sense of making sure that no one is double-counted as tardy for the same day.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        At one place I worked, we had a whiteboard too. It had little dots by people’s names that they were supposed to move when they came in and out. They were really bad about doing it. So half the time, you would think they were in, when they really went out. It depends on whether people are conscientious, which many of them aren’t.

        1. Windchime*

          Yes, we had this little whiteboard thing at OldJob and it worked well. There was a magnetic strip with your name on it, and then you had a little dot that you would move around to indicate “in” or “out”. There was also a place to write “lunch” or “out till the 15th” or whatever. When someone called in sick, we would just write “out ill” on the board for them. It was definitely just a way to tell who was in or out, not a wall of shame.

  8. Karen*

    #3 – That’s crazy. I’m 5’1″ and on the smaller side and no one has ever commented on me being short in an interview. And I work in a male dominated field.
    Maybe wear heels? I can’t recall if I wore heels with my suits but my heels are never more than 3″. Actually, I think all of my suits are tailored to a half inch heel (I wear pant suits to interviews).

    1. AmyNYC*

      I don’t know why, but my tall friends LOVE heels while 5′-1″ me hates them.
      I’ll wear them to interviews but most of my offices have been casual so very rarely day-to-day.

      1. Gilby*

        Not a heel person either. At 4’8″ there is really not much I can do to make me taller…. : )

        1. tcookson*

          My boss wears very high platform heels, and she still comes up to about my eyebrows when I’m wearing flats. I’m only 5’6′, so not really very tall. I would never comment on it, though, because she has been known to verbally flay people for far less.

      2. Karen*

        My tall friends too!! Haha
        I went into a store to look for plain black pumps and said no platforms. I got an incredulous look (and no low heels).

  9. Confused*

    What a terrible idea. I can’t imagine it having any impact on accountability. Slackers are going to slack anyway. It is, however, a GREAT way to lower the morale of the rest of the staff. Way to go!

  10. EngineerGirl*

    My best friend is 4’11” and is in a very male dominated field. She’s very much a go-getter, which compensates for being short. She did have some horrid problems 30 years ago – In one case the plant manager picked her up so he could look her in the eyes while screaming at her. Response: Cold stare – PUT ME DOWN NOW!
    Another thing that would happen would be that people patted her on the head. She noted to the offender that the action of lifting their arm to pat her would cause their arm pits to be exposed. She also stated that the next time they did it she would punch them in the arm pit. Obviously, this response wouldn’t be acceptable in todays conditions, but worked well in the physical manly world of manufacturing of 30 years ago.
    But the best way to handle it is to take control of a room and be a presence or a force of nature. People are less likely to notice you are short if you’ve taken command.

    My own response to “Wow, you’re just a little girl” would be “Actually, I’m a full grown competent woman who’ll knock your socks off with performance” (Alternately – “You know what they say – good things come in small packages”) Both said with a twinkle in the eye that softens the correction but still gets the message through.

    1. Karen*

      I like that remark. I almost wish one of the guys would pat me on the head so I could respond with that (we get along and joke so I could really say it).
      I don’t like to be touched so if someone patted me on the head I would jerk away. And have a eat sh!t and die look of my face. Haha

    2. Jen RO*

      Picked her up?! Geez, some people are too dumb to live. And punching someone in the armpit should be allowed as a response to a pat on the head.

    3. Poohbear McGriddles*

      I suspect if the interviewer who made such a comment had been male, the response would have been much stronger as it could imply sex discrimination. Instead the OP was told it was just a bad attempt at a joke.

    4. OP #3 (the short OP)*

      Wow, I can’t even imagine being physically picked up!

      Thanks for the suggested responses, although I am hoping this doesn’t happen again. (These two instances are the only times this has happened, they just so happened during the same week!)

    5. The Real Ash*

      In middle school when people held my stuff over my head to point out how short I was, I learned the best thing to do was to punch them in the ribs. When they keeled over, I could reach my stuff to get it back. :D

    6. Meg*

      My response to someone addressing my height (despite being “average” height for US adult female at 5’4″, I still lump myself into the short category) is that I’m “fun sized.”

      1. Editor*

        When I had some trouble with unacceptable touching when I was in my 20s, I sometimes said, “No pay, no play” or “don’t touch the merchandise.” That was in the 1970s. Now I’m much more conscious of things that are demeaning or contribute to sex-worker stereotypes about women, so I don’t use any phrases that sound mercantile or like advertising cant.

  11. De (Germany)*

    “A little girl”? Seriously? Wow, that’s incredibly rude. I’m sorry you get comments like that. Especially in such a stressful situation.

    1. Gilby*

      I have not had anyone say that to me.

      Not sure, but I’d be inclined to say ” Can I call you old man? ” Sometimes a little reality check does the job.

      Usually I try to roll with that stuff as most people are just trying to be funny. Once in a while I can see a little more reprimanding response might be needed.

  12. mango284*

    #3 ugh, that is beyond inappropriate, especially the part about being “just a little girl.” wtf?!?

    I’m on the short side too and I also look a lot younger than I am (I just turned 30 but most people think I’m in my early 20s, and recently someone actually guessed I was *15*, which was a little extreme). Anyway I often feel like people take me less seriously because of how young I look and it’s actually quite awkward sometimes when people discover my real age… like they feel a little silly for talking “down” to me (as they should).

    It’s funny how it’s a lot more “okay” to make comments about someone being small or young than it is about someone being large or old… imagine “wow, you’re huge!” or “you’re just an old woman!”

    1. NP*

      Completely, 100% agree. I’m short and get short jokes/comments all the time from complete strangers. Somehow they think it’s ok to comment on my height, but I’m sure they’d be offended if I commented on their fatness, general ugliness, or horribly fugly feet (this was a ~90-year-old woman who lived in my former apartment complex and would comment “oh my you’re soooooo short” every time I saw her in the elevator. She had really knarly feet).

    2. LibrarianJ*

      This sort of thing happens to be a lot — I’m not especially short, but I do apparently look much younger than my age (I think the worst was being told “Oh sweetie, you look so adorable! Look at you all dressed up!” by a client at a previous job, but there have been lots of other instances). Now that I work with college students, there is usually at least once a week that I have to explain that I am not a freshman/sophomore/whatever but a 25 year old professional. I try not to be awkward about it, but a surprising amount of people actually take offense at being corrected! It is a major pet peeve of mine so I perhaps react more tensely than I intend to.

      Personally, I’d be more concerned about the “little girl” comment — people who are patronizing towards me usually don’t take me seriously as a professional or a peer (and sometimes have trouble doing so even after I’ve corrected them, I assume instinctively), and that can make your job pretty difficult.

    3. Shortie*

      I am also short and look about 10 years younger than I am. I feel I am not taken seriously a lot of times. I have taken steps to try to compensate, such as learning how to speak a little more deeply (yes, I have a squeaky voice too . . . that is now only a little less squeaky) and walking confidently and maintaining good posture. It has helped a little, but definitely hasn’t solved the problem.

      One day I showed up for closing to buy a home, and the seller exclaimed in loud surprise, “Well, she’s just a baaaabbbbyyy!!!” I, like OP #3, was a grown ass woman, not a baaaabbbbyyy, and this was my third home purchase since reaching adulthood. Sigh.

      In other news, just a few years ago, I answered the door and a salesman asked me if my parents were home. WTH. I have serious crow’s feet around my eyes and wrinkles on my forehead. Open your eyes, people! Small does not equal young. :-)

  13. James M*

    #1 is a little late for WTF Wednesday. Any possibility you could quietly put your manager(s) on the ‘wall’ for coming up with such an idea?

  14. Audiophile*

    Is this a retail environment?
    I would take Allison’s advice and approach them reasonably and ask if it can be removed.

  15. Hugo*

    #1 – that’s the American workplace for you, folks. Your WORK comes above all else – God, family, and your personal health. I’m surprised they don’t greet the “shamed” workers by pelting them with eggs and tomatoes when they return to work. Perhaps they should add a step where “the shamed” kneel at the feet of senior management and kiss their rings while pounding their chest in penance.

    If this situation continues or escalates, you should team with your fellow workers and then deliver to senior management a plan to unionize, which should bring down that stupid wall in short order.

    1. Ms Enthusiasm*

      Unfortunately I’ve worked in a place not so different from what you describe. One time I called off sick and my boss didn’t talk to me for a week after. Thankfully I’m at a place now where they treat us like adults but I know those bad places are out there.

    2. Positivity Boy*

      Yikes. That seems like a huge overreaction…threatening to unionize because of one instance of bad management? How about they start with speaking to management now, rather than sitting around waiting for it to escalate and then waving torches and pitchforks that management didn’t address concerns that no one ever raised.

      Not saying the “wall of shame” is a good idea, but as others have pointed out it may just be intended to let people know who’s not going to be available that day, or a manager thought it was a good idea without realizing how it would come off. Issues can be addressed without using threats.

        1. Positivity Boy*

          When it’s done under proper context, it’s not. When it’s brought up as a reaction to one incidence of bad management, it is. The comment above is a huge leap and unionizing should not be considered in place of just talking to management. I just don’t like the idea that management is always this unmovable monolith that hates those below them and would never listen to your concerns, so the only option when they mess up is to unionize. There isn’t a single indication of a pattern of bad management in the OP that would justify bringing up unionizing. In fact, the OP even says their managers are usually reasonable and approachable.

    3. Jamie*

      There is no need to take a sweeping shot at an entire country because of this incident. What the OP is describing is by no means common place.

      Between that and tossing out the suggestion to unionize as if that’s an easy or appropriate response to this suggests this is a knee jerk response to anger about our labor practices.

  16. straws*

    #2 – You may know the answer to this already, but if not… Do you know that you & the other assistant were hired to do the same exact work? Often when my company hires 2 assistants, one will focus on tasks A, B, & C and the other will focus on X, Y, & Z. They may be cross-trained, but it makes it easier to pass along work if each has a primary focus. If this is the case, they may need to re-evaluate how they’re splitting up the work, or it may just be a fluke and your tasks will pick up soon. Either way, Alison’s core advice to be observant and speak with your manager still stands.

  17. Aimee*

    #1 I worked at a company that had a “wall of shame” for about five minutes. It was ridiculous. But they put people’s work up on the wall.

    I came into work one night and saw something I wrote posted on the “wall of shame.” It was my story but the headline was the part that was wrong. I didn’t write the headline. It was one of the editors. When I saw it was on this “wall of shame” I took it down and talked to my editor.

    I asked why my story was up there and he said the headline was wrong. I told him it was wrong of him to post that because it looks like I made the mistake. I was very upset over it and I told him so. I just left my story on his desk and it never went back up on the wall. That night the “wall of shame” was taken down.

    Those types of actions really bother me. Bosses should talk to their employees if there’s a problem with people being out sick excessively or if work isn’t done correctly.

    I think having a “wall of shame” is a boss’ way of being passive aggressive and not managing.

  18. Katie*

    #1 – Just another example of a misguided attempt to address an issue with a few individuals by obliquely broadcasting the issue to everyone. Someone’s probably abusing leave policies, and their manager should address it with that person individually.

    It’s either that, or your workplace stinks overall.

  19. KC*

    #5 — I think Alison’s advice is spot-on, and those questions are just really good interview questions in general! I asked everyone I interviewed with for my current role that (I was particularly interested in the answers to “What did you wish you’d known before you started working here?”). The answers I received were refreshingly honest, and it helped me make a decision about the company with eyes WIDE open about fit, the company’s flaws, etc. Good luck, OP #5!

  20. ClaireS*

    The wall of shame idea is awful and Allison’s advice is spot on. My only addition is to turn it into a real wall of shame and post hilarious and shameful things unrelated to your work in anyway (I’m thinking those hilarious FAIL pics from the internets).

    I work in marketing and we have a wall of shame for horrible and/or hilarious ads.

  21. Laura2*

    #3 – Rudeness aside, since others have covered that, these people must be pretty oblivious unless you live in a country where people are much taller. 5 ft isn’t even unusually short.

    1. bearing*

      It would be unusual for the workplace if the workplace were male-dominated.

      The big problem with treating height as a physical characteristic that it’s okay to joke about? It’s a sexual difference too, and one that’s got plausible deniability because it is a difference in the bell curves of the populations — there are men under 5 ft and women over 6ft 2 — but comments on physical shortness made to women have a good chance of being a way of setting them apart.

      “Little girl” is just the icing on the cake.

      1. NylaW*

        This is exactly my issue with the whole thing. It’s not appropriate because it is possible for height to also be differentiating on sex. The average male height in the US is just a hair over 5’9″ and the average female height in the US is 5’4″. While there will always be outliers with every demographic, overall women are the shorter sex.

        1. bearing*

          Yes, brushing this off as non-sexist would be like saying that because some guys have man-boobs, it’s okay to comment on breast size in the workplace.

          Okay, I kid a little bit — but only a little.

  22. Ali*

    #2 happened to me at one of my first jobs out of college, and I wish I had been reading AAM at the time, because I never thought to bring it up to my manager. What ended up happening is that I went on a PIP and then couldn’t meet the terms and was eventually let go. Before that, every time I tried to ask for extra work, anyone barely had any while the other girl with my job title got all the projects.

    Now that it’s been almost five years, I’ve been able to see that job wasn’t a good fit for me, but I also believed at the time that I had to take the first job offer because I was laid off from another job, which was my first post-college role. Another reason why I should’ve been reading AAM at the time, but live and learn!

  23. AmyNYC*

    #2 made me think of Devil Wears Prada, Andy had to “earn” being the one with the coat thrown on her desk every morning

  24. Grey*

    “Wow, you’re just a little girl” ranks up there with “It’s a good thing you’re pretty.” It’s demeaning.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, that is my take on it, too. I found it off-putting.
      Perhaps not a deal breaker but it would definitely make me look around to see what else I may have missed during that interview. Minimumly, it’s a eye-opener, a cause to double check.

  25. Gilby*


    4’8″ here……. ( and a half )

    I just had an interview where my potential co-workers said they would not see me over the partions between the cubbies.

    I responded that I would put a flag up indicating if I was going to the washroom or if I was sleeping. The interviewing manager laughed and the girls cracked up.

    I have had a short comment in every job I have had. I mean every one. There is always someone who says… ” wow I thought I was short till I met you”.

    I can’t do anything about it. People just don’t think sometimes and for some reason they seem to think making comments to a short person is ” OK”.

    No one actually cares that I am short bottom line. I was picked to be chairman of commitees, head of ordering supplies as well as promoted within 9 months from a supervisory roll in a satellite store to the manager of a dept in the main downtown store, 10 times as big. Me being short did not deflect people from seeing my abilities at a job.

    And even as the work day, week , month goes on and I take care of whatever and a short comment is made…. I turn and smile and say…. yup…. short people rock…..

    I AM NOT… condoning the comments. But, getting angry and defensive to me will only refect poorly on me.

    Roll with it. They usually drop it all pretty quick. They make the joke, you come back with a fun zinger of some sort and no one cares anymore. And nor does it mean they don’t get a zinger from me to them on something I can pick on them about.

    1. KJR*

      Whenever I get some kind of strange comment along these lines, I usually just respond by saying “thank you,” implying that I’m assuming they were complimenting me. (Clueless person: “Wow, that’s a bright sweater!” Me: “Thank you!”) Then I quickly change the subject. It really throws people off, and I love the look of confusion on their face. :)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Hahaha, I love doing this. It stops bullies right in their tracks if you act like their “joke” was meant seriously. I used to do it to the bully manager at Exjob. It was so fun to watch the wind go right out of his sails. Then I would walk away with a great big smile on my face. :)

      2. AAA*

        I love this. I generally try to take any inappropriate comments about my appearance as compliments.

  26. Samantha*

    #3 – Being 5′ myself, I can sympathize. I have had similar comments made at work, but never in an interview. Why do strangers feel they need to comment on someone’s physical appearance?! This goes for being unusually short, tall, thin, etc. It’s not appropriate, especially in an interview setting. And the “little girl” comment just takes it completely over the edge. I usually just ignore comments about my height or respond with a tight smile. Not sure what the expected response is – “Wow, news to me! I’ve never heard that before.”??

      1. Samantha*

        Maybe not as derogatory, but it still feels like you are being singled out for being outside the norm.

          1. Samantha*

            Ok, but it’s still not an appropriate comment, especially in the workplace. It makes me uncomfortable to be singled out for something about my appearance that I can’t change.

            1. Positivity Boy*

              But it’s not a negative comment…it’s not a compliement, either. It’s just a statement. To me, a comment on someone’s height is no different from someone saying “Wow, your eyes are really blue!” or “Your hair is so long!” It’s just something far outside the norm that somebody noticed. It’s not really necessary to call it out, but it’s not like it’s demeaning or discriminatory. I’m not aware of a historical trend of short people being hired less often.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                Maybe not hired less often, but a published study showed that taller people make more money.


                Also, fwiw, I do think comments “really blue” eyes or hair that is “so long” should be avoided in the workplace. Unless we’re work BFFs and you know I’ve been growing my hair out or whatever, why mention it. I know it’s long. You know it’s long. Let’s talk about my work instead. Yeah, I’m probably oversensitive, but I don’t like my personal charactersitics commented on.

                1. Jamie*

                  @Elizabeth – I know, right?!

                  I keep waiting for my taller than average sons to get the millions rolling in so they can support me. :)

                  And at 5’7″ I am much taller than the vast majority of the people with whom I work and I have never gotten a raise for that yet.

                  Kidding aside, I have seen those studies before – if they are accurate it really does open up an interesting question regarding what biases we are acting on without even being aware of it in a tertiary way.

                2. AnotherAlison*

                  Jamie – I can wander across the hall and take a picture of our executive team. They are all men, and the shortest is probably 5′-10″, and he was in his role before the current top dog so he might not make the cut today, lol. The rest are over 6′. None are overweight. They all have hair. They may actually be androids.

                3. A Fundraiser*

                  While research shows a correlation between height and income, it has not been demonstrated to be causal. There is debate as to whether growing up tall makes people (esp men) more confident, and then that confidence manifests in ways that create workplace success.

                  So, the higher pay could be a result of the employee’s own actions and not any bias on the part of colleagues/management.

                4. Jamie*

                  There is debate as to whether growing up tall makes people (esp men) more confident, and then that confidence manifests in ways that create workplace success.

                  Interesting. I’ve often thought this about the studies showing attractive people having an easier time in work and life in general. I’ve always thought it had more to do with confidence than looks.

                  Unless looking for a romantic partner I don’t think we give such value to how beautiful or handsome someone is – but self-confidence is a very appealing quality and that will give you a leg up.

                5. QualityControlFreak*

                  The idea of confidence related to height (rather than the actual height) being an advantage is interesting. I am of average height, but people’s perception of me has consistently been that I am tall. A (quite tall) friend told me I appear to be about six inches taller than I actually am. I don’t wear heels. I do have very good posture and move quickly and decisively. Perhaps this conveys confidence, and people are associating that with height? I am confident in my abilities both physical and mental, but tall? Nope.

                6. fposte*

                  @Jamie–I think it’s circular. Being attractive brings its own kind of privilege and colors your expectations of the world (30 Rock went over the top with it in the Jon Hamm episodes, but they had the right idea), because people treat you better; it’s easier to be confident when life is relatively eager to remove your obstacles.

      2. NP*

        That might be the case, but all comments on personal appearance are rude. People commenting on my shortness are actually commenting on the one thing I really dislike about my body and wish I could change, but can’t. Believe me, if I had the option to be 2 inches taller, I would be.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Sure. And I say this as someone barely over 5’2″. But I do think comments on height play differently, and reacting strongly to them is going to come off very oddly, particularly in a business situation.

          1. Gilby*


            I have a friend that is obese. One of my best friends. I would take a short joke on me anytime before I would let anyone pick on her for being heavy.

            Not just a friend thing but for some reason I can’t put my finger on it is just meaner to say things like that to a heavy person than a short person.

            I think maybe because I can’t help being short and the perception is they can help being heavy?
            ( Notice I said the perception is they CAN help it ).

            Just throwing that out here…….

          2. JC*

            Yes, I agree with this and am confused about the number of posters who think OP#3 should have called out the interviewers on their rudeness, or something similar. I am 5’0” and hear comments about my height all. the. time. It annoys me and I have no problem saying something back to people with whom I have a relationship, similar to the OP. But there just isn’t an obvious taboo on commenting on height the way there is for commenting on weight. Someone who comments on it does not think they are doing something wrong, and a job interview is not the time to correct that.

            The “little girl” comment was really over the top, though. I bet for that one you could get away even in a job interview with something more than just laughing it off.

            For the people who say to wear heels at work: the problem with that is that most of the other short women are also wearing heels at work, so you’re still the shortest even with them!

            1. Gilby*

              Just being silly here…. but what really bugs me more than anything is when a short person complains…. to ME about being short….

              “Oh my goodness.. I am SOOOOO short….I have all these problems because of it….. ” as they are looking DOWN at me. These people usually have like 5 inches on me…..

              Don’t look to me for sympathy….. lol,,,,

          3. Joey*

            Why do people claim the 1/4 or half inch? It seems as though you’re sort of buying into the notion that taller is better and reaching. It would be like someone casually asking me what I make and I say fifty thousand two hundred twenty four dollars and eighteen cents. It gives the impression that you’re a little bit ashamed to round down.

            1. fposte*

              I think it’s pretty standard, though–I don’t hear it less from tall people than short people. Do you have a fear of fractions, Joey :-)?

      3. Positivity Boy*

        Agreed – calling out height isn’t a judgment on someone’s appearance and lifestyle the way calling out their weight is. Calling someone fat generally implies that they’re unattractive and lazy. To me, calling someone short just implies they’re short, because everyone is well aware you can’t impact your height and it doesn’t really have anything to do with your attractivness.

        The “little girl” remark comes off as demeaning to me depending on how it was delivered, but that’s a separate issue from general comments about OP’s height. I look very young for my age so I often get comments along the lines of “Are you even old enough to work here? You look 15!” I usually say “Well at least when I’m 30 I’ll still look this young!” and move on.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I think it’s a little naive to say height has nothing to do with society’s assessment of your attractiveness. Too far outside the average either way is not considered attractive, by conventional standards. I think if we were talking about a short man, the comments would be different. My own mom told me my husband was too short when we started dating.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Plus, you deal with a lifetime of athletic discrimination.
            I am 5′-4″ but was a late bloomer, so I was short and skinny in middle school. Never made volleyball or basketball. I see it with my kids all the time. Thank goodness my high schooler is a left-handed pitcher or he would never make the baseball team at 5′-8″. A big kid who wiffs every pitch at tryouts will be given a chance every time, because there is always a fantasy that they can coach him to crush the ball.

            1. Positivity Boy*

              Athletic discrimination doesn’t seem comparable since your height could actually have an effect on your ability to perform. Your height doesn’t impact your ability to work in an office.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                Yes and no. But, what I really wanted to get at was that your comments implied that you thought being below average height isn’t a big deal, like you shouldn’t be offended if someone calls you short because they’re just making a statement of fact.

                If you’re a small kid who’s good at sports but cannot compete in high school, your height does become a big deal. Even if it’s not sports, if you’re significantly below average, you’ve likely dealt with teasing for years. It becomes a sensitive topic beyond a simple statement of fact.

              2. AnotherAlison*

                Also. . .had to google this . . .Darren Sproles is 5′-6″ and an NFL running back, formerly of the Saints and Chargers (and my high school). So those examples are why I say “yes and no” about the athletic stuff. There are outliers. Maybe even more outliers than actually become professional athletes because not all kids’ league coaches give the small guys a chance.

      4. Grey*

        It’s not as derogatory, but it’s equally as rude. It’s never ok to point out something you see as a physical flaw.

  27. AnotherAlison*

    #3 – Gah, people are rude! My younger son is 9 1/2 and <10th percentile for height and weight. People love to comment on his size. "Wow, he's small." What am I supposed to say?"Yeah, I don't feed him." Grrr.

    1. Purple Jello*

      Any comments about my kids’ appearance were responded to with “She can’t help it, she was born that way”.

      Wow, she’s really short.
      -She can’t help it, she was born that way
      Wow, she has such long eyelashes.
      -She can’t help it, she was born that way
      Look at the hair on your baby!
      -She can’t help it, she was born that way
      Who picked her outfit?
      -She can’t help it, she was born that way

  28. Cube Ninja*

    #1 – Can’t wait until they post someone up on the wall because they were out sick due to an ADA-covered illness and/or for an FLMA-covered illness or unexpectedly out because their brother got hit by a car, or any number of completely valid reasons for being out on short notice.

    Assuming, of course, that said employer is big enough for either one to come into play.

    1. A Teacher*

      Even then, can you imagine the embarrassment? “Tom is absent today” later to find out his daughter was killed in a car accident, or he had a heart attack, or his house caught on fire….lets shame them for something not under their control and look like big jerks in the process.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        And this will eventually happen. I have never seen a work place yet that did not have several personal tragedies happen in the group of employees.
        The problem here is that WHEN, not if, this happens, there will be an outcry from the group of employees. And it is going to be difficult to apologize enough.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        If indeed it’s intended as a wall of shame. Other commenters have raised a good question about whether it’s just intended to communicate who’s out. OP, can you clarify whether there’s anything specifically shame-y about it?

        1. OP #1*

          It’s only used for call-ins and tardies, but folks who are out for training or vacation are not included, so it’s not useful for getting an accurate picture of who’s going to be in that day. Also, members of administration do not appear on the list, although they’re regularly out for meetings. So it’s possible that they’re trying to be helpful and are just being incompetent at it, I suppose.

          Somebody already landed on the list whose mother had just died. A coworker tore that one down.

          1. Meredith*

            Aack, that’s terrible! Maybe after that, the company will rethink the whole idea and take it down.

          2. Sarahnova*

            There will also, sooner or later, be a woman who’s out because she’s having a miscarriage, or pregnancy complications. I feel for her. :(

  29. ChristineSW*

    #1 – I’m inclined to agree with the couple of people who think this might be a way to note who’s out or will be in late on a given day. Agreed with Alison – I’d ask. If that’s all it is, it should’ve been made clear.

    #3 – I’m 5 feet myself and am (pleasantly!) surprised that I’ve never had comments made about my height. Sounds like the comments made to the OP are nothing more than poor attempts at humor, though the “little girl” comment crosses the line.

  30. Anonymous*

    #3-as much as we would like to call people out on bad behavior, it is worth considering that it might be a *fantastic* opportunity and that the OP might really want the job. Sure, it would be great to be able to say, ‘Oh I would never work somewhere where that is accepted,’ but a lot of us just don’t have that luxury. You take what you can get job-wise. I think Alison’s advice is great because you might not be working directly with the person you interview with so you would gain more by keeping things comfortable than by calling them out. You can of course discuss it later if in fact that person continues the inappropriate comments about height after you get the job, but in the interview stage I’d let it go or deflect with a joke.

  31. Frances*

    #2 – I had this problem once when I shared a reception area style desk with another coworker– I was hired to be the first point of contact for general admin duties while she was only admin for a specific set of issues, but people were going directly to her for everything. We finally figured out that I was both a little shorter and my computer monitor sat a little bit higher than hers, which meant people could catch her eye as they approached *just* a few steps earlier, and so went towards her desk. After that, I tried to be the first one to audibly greet people and it did seem to help. So you might look around to see if there’s anything just in how your workspaces are set up that might be subtly encouraging your coworkers to approach the other admin first.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Definitely. How are the desks arranged? If one desk is closer to the door/copier/whatever then people will just gravitate to the closer desk.

      Perhaps they can find a way to divide the work OR divide the people. Take turns answering questions etc.

      I got to thinking about the arrangement of the workspace because OP is saying everything else is fine. She likes the people, the place, the work.

      OP, if you think that this is a clue then you could ask about it. “I was wondering if we changed the position of our desks would people be more likely to come to either one of us, rather than chosing the same person over and over?”

  32. Windchime*

    #1 — I’m on a team that was formed from moving people from existing teams in the office. One of them introduced the idea of a “code monkey”. If a developer did something that broke the build (caused the code to not be able to compile), this little stuffed monkey would be moved to that developer’s cubicle and would stay there until the next person broke the build. It was intended to be fun, but it felt humiliating to some. One day, a non-developer teammate took it down and threw it away, saying, “I don’t like this thing. It hurts people’s feelings.” And that was the end of the code monkey.

    #3 — I am a woman who is 5’11”. People feel compelled to make comments about my height all the time. Way more than is necessary. I’ve tried the smart comments, I’ve tried the blank stare, I’ve tried laughing it off. I don’t think there is anything that can stop people from saying thoughtless things. In an interview situation, I think Alison is right–all you can do is smile and be gracious. I totally understand how you feel. (And for all of you who think “Did you play basketball in high school?” is an original question — no, it isn’t. And no, I didn’t.)

      1. Gilby*

        ELizabeth – my good friend in college was 5’11” and boy did we get looks when we went out….. Mutt and Jeff….. !!!

        Hey we had fun !

    1. Shuvon*

      Same here. Humor helps. I’m 6’2″ and female, and both my parents are over 6′ and all grandparents were tall as well. My family’s response to “Did you play basketball?” is “No, are you a jockey?”

      My brother is over 7′ tall and has a shirt that says, “I didn’t play basketball, my nickname isn’t Shorty, and the weather’s fine up here.”

    2. Judy*

      We had a code monkey once, but it was used for whomever got the task for a given build to integrate the code done by team members in Europe. They had convinced someone that it took too much time to log in and use the corporate revision control system, so they would code and then email the files to the team in the US. No one would answer why they could log in and get the most recent code to do their own integration with, but couldn’t check out and check in their own code.

    3. Jen RO*

      “It hurts people’s feelings”, really? That was the reason? How did this place function then? I’ve seen emails with the whole company CC’ed that said “X broke the build with check in #2495 on project 123. Please fix by EOD”. That is just standard procedure – a monkey is nothing compared to your fail being pointed out to everyone. (Everyone needed to be in the loop, because everyone was involved in the release process.)

      @Judy – I don’t know how it works for you, but my ex-job used ADSL, so uploads were much slower than downloads. We couldn’t get a local server and working off a server in NY was a major pain in the butt.

      1. fposte*

        I see a difference between carrying the sign of your error day after day after day and simply being told that there was a screwup and you need to fix it. It’s not about errors needing to remain private, it’s about turning them into something that might feel like ongoing taunting. I’d just as soon not have every mistake I made in lights on my office door for weeks myself.

        Presumably if everybody else had loved the practice the thing would have been reclaimed from the trash, but it sounds like people were happy to let it go.

      2. Windchime*

        We function just fine, thanks for asking. It’s not necessary to humiliate people to get them to not break the build. We were a new team and several on our team were new to using this type of source control, so it was humiliating for them to constantly have the stuffed monkey hanging in their cube, day after day.

        When the build is broken, it’s pretty obvious who broke it (we are a team of 6). There’s no reason to taunt and tease people about it.

    4. Meg*

      Man, I would love to have a code monkey! Our developers here are pretty close-knit, and could appreciate the whimsical nature of the Code Monkey. Much better than the siren we had go off everytime someone broke the dev build… except it was going off EVERY time we had a build, which, because of continuous integration, was nearly every 5-10 minutes. That siren didn’t last long.

      Now, we just get automatic email from Jenkins if a smoketest failed, or a dev build failed, etc with a log of all the commits and commit messages from SVN since the last successful build.

  33. Gilby*

    Yeah, really probe your friend. Ask about culture, polices, managment, work load and so on.

    I took a job where a friend worked because she said it was a ” great” place. I hated my job and wanted to get out.

    The problem was…. she had been unemployed for so long getting a job was in itself great.

    She didn’t look at anything other than she was employed. When I got hired and figured out the BS, the bad attendenace policies and so forth, you can’t even have a bag of chips at your desk, her response was……. Oh… yeah I guess.

    I hated that company and job from the word go. She never argued saying I was wrong about my assessment, but she needed a paycheck and that was all that mattered to her.

    Now, there is no fault in that, but, I still would have wanted a better idea of the company. She still could have said, ” For me it is working as I need the paycheck, but here are the ups and downs of the company.”

    Ask about everything that matters to you. Health ins, vacation days, work load, managment, can you have pop at your desk ( yes I know a company that forbids that).

    I took a lot of that stuff as a given and I was grossly mistaken.

    1. Dan*

      I think the larger point is also that what’s great for one person is not great for another.

      My current job/project has no real solid deadlines. Work is done when it’s done. I like that — it allows me to use my professional judgement as to what the appropriate level of detail and accuracy is needed to get the job done “right” without feeling the need to rush. Yet, some feedback I’ve seen on glassdoor from interns was “needs more deadlines… I don’t feel like I’m being pushed enough.”

      The funny thing is, I work in research. It’s done when it’s done. Working faster/harder/smarter is a bit of an odd concept.

      Oh, when I see people discussing their jobs here, two frequent and absolutely meaningless comments I will see are “great health care” and “great PTO.” What does that even mean? With the former, even “employer pays all premiums” doesn’t make it great, if your deductible and out of pocket max are through the roof. With the later, some people like having sick/vacation lumped all into one, and some don’t.

      1. Anon*

        I’ve made comments before regarding “great PTO” before (not on this forum) and at least in my case I said it was great because for me, it was way more than I could ever use short of a serious illness/accident. It also accrued per hour you worked, so if you were working overtime, you accrued more than someone who wasn’t. Long story short, I was never in want of time off. (Granted this was about the only “great” thing about this particular job)
        Contrast this to the job I have now, where I accrue 15 days per year, period, and have already burned 6 of them for “snow days”.

  34. Grey*

    I’m a 5′ 6″ male. I’ve heard “little boy” before. But what I hear most often, and the one that really gets to me is “hey, big guy!”

    So not only have you noticed I’m short, you think I need to feel better about it by calling me “big”.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      My ex is 5′ 6″. I’m 5′ 11″. I had to bend down to kiss him. I didn’t mind one bit.

      He was the first man I ever dated who was shorter than me. For some reason, guys my height and above only seem to date tiny women, and most short guys won’t date tall women either. So we’re kind of stuck!

  35. Not So NewReader*

    #1. So the company implements policies by using the rumor mill?
    Sounds like the rumor mill runs the company not the leaders.

    I guess I would start the conversation by pointing out that the rumor mill is running wild and it probably would be a good idea to have an official email or memo on the wall of shame.
    Helpfully suggest that the memo should include the reason why the company feels this will help the work flow.
    Then as someone wisely pointed out here, ask what they plan to do when an employee is struck with tragedy. I have had a couple times where family issues kept me out of work for a week. Does the company want to post abscences in similar cases? What is the point? That one should not have parents that die? [Good. Then only hire people with perpetual parents. No. Better not say that out loud.]
    I have worked with folks whose family tragedy made front page news… for DAYS. What is to be gained by posting that person’s name on the wall of shame, too?

    Finally, what if an outsider came in to tour the place (for whatever reason) is this something they want outsiders to see?

  36. Often Anonymous*

    When I first read #1, I thought the idea of public shaming was entirely unacceptable. After reading several of the comments, though, I reread the OP’s letter and am wondering if the OP works in my office. :)

    Recently the manager of the department put up a whiteboard where staff write the date and note if people are sick or late. No explanation of the board was given when it was put up.

    Although I work in this office, it’s not my department so I had no intention of putting up my whereabouts. (I’m out and about for my job much more often than anyone else and I don’t feel like being micromanaged or explaining myself daily to everyone here.

    However, I’ve realised that staff think the intention of the board is to know where people are in the event of an emergency (i.e., so they don’t look for people that aren’t here). That’s why they note both sickness and people coming in late. Now that I know that staff think it’s for safety reasons, I’m at least willing to put “Often Anonymous – out of office from 2-4.”

    In our office, though, once the person has arrived, their name is erased from the board. I can’t think of any reason to keep the name up.

    (btw – for information and research on how ineffective it is to shame someone, check out Brene Brown’s work.)

    1. Judy*

      I can certainly say it was mentioned in our fire marshal training to take a picture with our smartphone of the i/o board as we walk through to clear the area. We then use that to help keep track of who we should see at the gathering location for our part of the building.

      I find the boards more useful to know if someone is sick/on vacation vs business travel. I’ll try to find another way to solve the issue if they are off the clock, but I have no trouble calling their cell phone if they are just in another location. It can also be nice to know where they are traveling, in case you need them to bring back parts.

    2. Poohbear McGriddles*

      Yeah, I initially missed the part where she said it was the rumor mill that put forth the idea that it was to punish the absentees. There was also mention of listing everyone who “was tardy” for the party – not who “will be tardy”. That made me think that if work starts at 8 and Jane clocks in at 8:15, her name is on the Wall of Shame for the day. There is no practical use for that. Dog shaming is fun – employee shaming, not so much. However, if Jane isn’t going to be in until noon, having that information available in the morning might be helpful.

  37. RubyJackson*

    re: #3: Whenever someone comments on my height, I always reply, “Fortunately, my legs are just long enough to reach the ground!”

  38. I'm Short Too*

    #3– WOW, Alison, you are generous of spirit. Maybe it’s because I am also 5′ tall and interviewing for jobs, but I find those comments to be incredibly rude and out of line. “You’re just a little girl”? REALLY??? That’s rude, out of line, and sexist! I agree that it’s probably best not to respond in an equally hostile way, but I would really think twice about accepting an offer from a company that allows people to be that rude in a job interview.

  39. I'm Short Too*

    #3 If I ever encounter that I’m going to say, “You know what they say about dynamite!” Just thought of that. Pretty good, huh?

  40. JW*

    #3 – Alison, what is the difference between commenting on someone’s height like OP #3 and the comment made in a previous post: “It’s a good thing you’re pretty!” Both comments are incredibly rude and demeaning. I would rethink your answer to this one.

        1. Rin*

          One is sexual harassment, and the other isn’t. It’s kind of like saying to someone, “Wow, you’re fat,” which is totally rude and inappropriate, and, “Wow, your boobs are big.” That’s also rude and inappropriate, but height is not a protected class (is sexuality?).

  41. Anonymous*

    #4 Nobody commenting on this?
    There is no such thing as “that particular day I thought I really wanted the job”. OP4 reached out to a former manager and convinced her she was serious about coming back. That’s a lot of action for something OP4 thought for a day.
    These are long term decisions. You shouldn’t ask someone to marry you if you had that thought for a day. Of course, you don’t have to get married if you don’t want to. But boy, this does not look good for you, asking people to marry you and changing your mind after they sent out the invitations.
    OP4, be prepared for your reputation to take a hit.

    1. OP#4*

      I’m the OP for #4.

      Just to clarify, it wasn’t just that day I thought about it. There is some background here that I didn’t include because it wasn’t relevant to me not really correcting her assumption.

      I came into my current role 2 years ago, recruited by two former managers of mine. I changed from doing client work to an IT role doing programming. I love it, but to be honest, I don’t feel like I’m all that great at it after 2 years. I probably shouldn’t expect to be after 2 years, but last year was the first time in my career that I did not get a raise, even though I met expectations.

      I have been considering this move for the past year. It was a particularly bad day/week that I reached out to that former manager.

      Since then, I got my performance review. I was rated as exceeding expectations with a 4% raise. Now…to be honest, I don’t feel very deserving of that, but it’s not like I’m going to turn that down. I’ve been asked why I’m applying for this role and have been told there are salary adjustments coming up, that they can work with me on the project management responsibilities I want, etc.

      Bottom line – I don’t feel like I’m all that good at what I do, though my managers disagree and really want to keep me.

      I’m just not sure what I want at the moment.

      1. Anonymous*

        I understand the feeling.
        You probably need to call your former manager and talk this out with her. She took really significant steps to get you back.
        And in general, when you contact people about jobs, is better to be more vague, so they don’t go to such lengths for you when you’re not ready to commit.

      2. Hooptie*

        But when she asked you if you were serious about coming back you said “yes”, right? She spent some time changing around the postings to make a spot for you, and now you’re not sure?

        As a manager I would have a really hard time with this. I would feel that I went above and beyond for you and you burned me.

        I think you need to decide what you really want to do and what your priorities are. If you’re not happy in your current role and feel that you aren’t good at it, get back into what you were confident in doing (and save your reputation at the same time). You can’t let a 4% increase justify being miserable enough to have an ex-manager go above and beyond for you. If money is the most important thing for you (and it sounds like it is if you’re willing to burn an ex-manager by staying in your current role) then by all means burn those bridges and stay where you are.

        If you do stay in your current role, a heart-to-heart with your current manager is probably in order. They may be able to help alleviate your concerns or provide some training or resources to build your confidence.

      3. Dani X*

        So your current manager knows yoou applied for the other position? And is now offering incentives to get you to stay? That makes me wonder if you will now also hit the reasons that Allison says not to accept a counter offer.

  42. Brett*

    So I am a 5’0″ man, which is, in our culture, seen as more extreme than being a 5’0″ woman. I do agree all that you can do in that situation is react professionally, but also realize that a comment like that reflects on a workplace in a very negative light.
    There are two problems likely to come to light when comments like that are tolerated. The first is simply a respect problem. Any time you assert yourself, it will be blamed on your height and that you are overcompensating. If they perceive your height as extreme and significant to the point of that kind of verbalization, then they almost certain have the assumption that your height defines your personality. Very few people do this. There is a reason the other short people posting in this thread almost never encounter this behavior.

    But the second problem is worse. Some people are made uncomfortable by short people and literally develop a blind spot towards them. They will not contact you, will not acknowledge you in general conversation, and will only interact with you if absolute required to. I think it is possible that this is what you observed. The exclamation was a result of their sudden extreme discomfort upon realizing how short you were and being required to interact with you. I’ve encountered a few people with this problem, fortunately none professionally, and it is disturbing to deal with. It would be a horrible situation to deal with every day in your workplace.

    Last thing to point out though, is the Elsa Sallard case. Elsa Sallard was a disproportionate dwarf (Achondroplasia, the most common kind). Several years ago, I had the fortune of having as colleague the creator of the online Medical Resource Center for the Little People of America. He explained to me the emerging knowledge of proportionate dwarfism, and the recognition of genetically blended conditions that result in people of short statute not commonly recognized as dwarfs. My family was a text book case of this (I have a brother over 10″ taller than me). No EEOC case has dealt with this that I am aware of, but the Sallard case combined with growing recognition of proportionate dwarfism indicates that it is probably not wise to point out unusually short statute in a job interview.

      1. Brett*

        Thanks. I forgot to actually explain the case.
        Basically Elsa Sallard was a new Starbucks barista who requested a step stool so she could do her work. Instead, her manager fired her on her third day on the job as a safety hazard to other employees.
        She sued under ADA, and Starbucks settled with the EEOC for $75k and an agreement to train employees and post notices about ADA compliance.
        Not the first ADA case involving Achondroplasia, but the first one where a safety argument was raised against, and lost.

    1. annie*

      I was just thinking about people with dwarfism and am glad you posted this. My understanding is that if you are under 4″10, you can be, medically speaking, diagnosed with dwarfism. Besides that, it is pretty common for people who had various growth or development issues at birth to be shorter than the general population. I have a friend who was very short and very petite overall who confided in meet that she had almost died at birth because she was so premature. Jokes about her small stature were hurtful to her because she had some complications that continued to affect her as an adult. For me, comments on height are too close to comments about someone’s medical background and should really be avoided.

  43. Susan*


    I remember a situation where our office had two assistants and one was getting a ton of work and the other was never being offered work. One time I was passing along some materials to a coworker and there was a little more work needing to be done, and she kind of sighed because she knew the assistant was busy that day. When I pointed out that the other person could do it, she didn’t even realize he was an assistant!

    Your situation probably isn’t quite like that, but I think the difference between these two assistants was that one would always be asking for work or letting people know when her day was light and the other did his work well but kind of kept to himself unless addressed. I’d just suggest opening up more about your schedule, if you haven’t already. Maybe you’re right and they prefer this other person, but it also might be that somewhere along the line, they got the impression that this person is less busy and it’s the natural inclination of people to not burden people. In my office, anyway, I think the people giving assistants work weren’t necessarily talking to each other, so they might not even realize the work is being handed out unevenly.

  44. Anonymous*

    #2. If the work is the same, and you are supposed to be covering the same types of projects. You may suggest that that your manager institute a way that projects/jobs are submitted to you and your coworker more fairly. (i.e. every other, etc., and you guys have a log of the projects). Obviously if something is urgent it can bypass the line.

    I know that’s a policy of my newer work place. At first I thought that it was kind of silly, but then I routinely saw the same people offering to help in emergency time crunch situations and others who were content with letting everyone else scramble. Also, I noticed that there was a major discrepancy in work product. It’s worth asking about. I would phrase it in terms of “wanting an opportunity to learn how to do this work and tailor the work to the needs of the staff”

    others may disagree that this is a good idea, but I was surprised to see so many comments and it was not suggested/mentioned.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Yes, this. In my last office we had a situation where if people could avoid giving work to one particular person and could go to one of the other two of us, they would. In this case, it was because of performance issues, which I’m not suggesting is the case here. What I am suggesting is trying what we did which was to have one inbox and one in tray for work requests to go to, and work was never supposed to be given to one individual. Maybe your office should try this.

      1. Jamie*

        That’s been my experience as well, although I am not suggesting the OP has performance issues.

        Another thing came to mind is that the path of least resistance is going to the person who already knows how to do what you need rather than training someone else.

        I wonder if the OP’s counterpart has just done certain things before so she gets the repeat business and it’s not anything deeper than that – and as easy to remedy as asking to learn.

  45. Seattle Writer Girl*

    #3, as someone who is barely over 5′ tall myself, I like to use the phrase:

    “Well, you know that the best things come in small packages, right?”


    1. Cube Ninja*

      A friend of mine of similar stature defaults to “I’m not short, I’m fun size!”

  46. Short Woman*

    I clock in at 5 feet tall and I’ve never had an interviewer call me a littler girl, but I have had comments on my height. I am not really bothered by comments on my height. Yep, I’m short. I often joke about it myself (and find that often cuts down on jokes, maybe I steal their thunder). And I’m in a professional field where I try to demand respect, but I find that by acting professionally and ethically, and not coming off as oversensitive, I get the respect I’m hoping for.

  47. Steve G*

    #3 – Well yesterday I was complaining everyone was being “holier than thou,” but today I need to be! I’d never comment on someone’s height. I’ve interviewed people who were unattractive in many different ways. Why on earth is someone’s height worth mentioning?! Unless they are really tall and their head hits something.

    1. Windchime*

      Even then is it worth mentioning? Is it really possible that the super tall person is totally unaware? If you feel compelled to remark on someone’s height (or lack thereof), be assured that many, many people have done it before you and what you are about it say has most likely already been said to your short/tall friend many times before.

  48. Nina*

    #3: Those comments are awful, and those people really should know better. “Little girl” is flat out demeaning, and what really bothers me about the second comment is that that she throws that out there before the interview has even started, which puts you in a bad place before you’ve had the chance to even introduce yourself. Poor taste and obnoxious on their parts.

  49. Lils*

    RE: #1–AAM should post a management wall of shame, and this should be on it

    RE: #3–reminds me of when Michael Scott comments on Angela’s height–specifically he once refers to her by the nickname “Booster Seat”.

  50. *wow*...*

    As a short woman, I can affirm based on my own experience that Alison’s reply to the short woman is utterly obtuse. In what world is it acceptable to call an adult woman “little girl”? Being infantilized is humiliating. Moving on from this egregiously rude and shaming example, comments on another person’s body type or genetic traits are just not on. If I were to extrapolate a theory of acceptable body comments on the basis of Alison’s remarks alone, then I would have to conclude that it is acceptable for the interviewer to say, “wow, you’re really fat”, “you’re so black/so white”, “you have slitty eyes”, “you look like a beanpole”, “haha, dumb blonde”, “Latina hot tamale” or whatever observations come out of the mouths of people who need to get a filter. There is nothing wrong with the beautiful variety of human body types, but there is something very wrong with looking over an individual and making comments. A lot of people have been so routinely shamed by people applying stereotypical assumptions about our ability, character, etc. based on our physical attributes that such observations are at best gauche, at worst nasty.

      1. *wow**

        To answer your question of exactly how I’d respond to this situation calls to mind a somewhat similar experience. I’ve had a thing like this happen. Sight unseen, they expressed surprise at my interest, told me that they rarely had people with my qualifications apply (times were hard that year), and flew me halfway around the world for an interview. In the interview, they used this time, among other inane questions indicating that they had no idea how to select a candidate with my specialty, to inform me that I am short and ask me if I would be able to manage my subordinates. I told them that it had never been a problem, because it was true, I could think of nothing to say and wasn’t sure I wanted to burn my bridges. A friend told me later that I should have asked whether I would be required to lift them. They did not make me an offer. I’m not sure if it’s because I wanted them to ship a container, because they were concerned I would leave (one person who was well qualified and not hostile nonetheless expressed concern about this) or because they did not respect me. Having reflected on the experience, I would not consider a job where this seemed to be so important to my potential employers, in contrast to my experience. I would tell them up front that if their company culture is such that the staff respects body type over qualifications, and if physical imposition is required to gain their cooperation, then we should really all consider whether this is a good fit. On the other hand, if someone called me “little girl” in an interview, I would express surprise at the unprofessional, gratuitous personal commentary, terminate the interview, and possibly send a letter to the company’s HR head if I really felt I had the time. This phrase is unequivocally insulting. So far as I am aware, the gains of feminism by which we no longer have to accept personal, legal and professional infantilization extend to all women.

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