my remote team isn’t responsive, my managers joke about not hiring women who might get pregnant, and more

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

1. My company’s managers all joked to me about not hiring women who might get pregnant

I was telling the senior division chiefs of my pregnancy a few months ago, in individual meetings, and each of them said something along the lines of, “Wow, there so many pregnant women now! We are going to need to stop hiring women in their late 20s/early 30s because you all get pregnant. Just joking of course!” I don’t think they would actually make hiring decisions based on that criteria, but it didn’t make me feel very positive. I didn’t say anything at the time as I was relatively stressed out about telling them in the first place.

Where I’d like your opinion: I’d like to go to our newly appointed HR person and report that this happened. We have a lot of women at our company. Can I do that, even if it’s months later? If I do, what steps could they actually take to make sure this doesn’t happen to someone else? I was thinking about why women are at a disadvantage, and I think it’s partially because our company policy provides women 6-8 weeks paid leave, while men only get 1 week (and most don’t take it). If men had access to additional parental leave, then the playing field would be more equal.

While I’m (mostly) sure that the managers you talked with were joking, they shouldn’t be saying things like that. Pregnancy discrimination is a real thing that women have to contend with (whether they’re pregnant or whether they’re just of typical child-bearing age), and no good comes of having comments like that floating around, no matter how non-discriminatory the company’s actual practices might be. It’s bad for the women who work there, and it’s bad for the company itself if they ever happen to be faced with discrimination allegations. So yes, it’s something your HR department would probably want to know about it.

I’d say something like this: “I don’t think they actually meant they’d factor this into hiring, but the comments bothered me enough that I’m still thinking about them months later, and think the company probably has an interest in making sure that its managers aren’t saying things like this. Again, I do know they were joking — but I think someone needs to explain why they shouldn’t be making those jokes.” A good HR person will step in and handle this from there. And you should also be able to request that they take steps to ensure that you don’t face even minor repercussions for raising it.

2. My remote team isn’t as fast or responsive as I need

I’m working for the first time ever with a 90% remote team, where there is a 9.5 hour time difference. Most of the “action” in terms of decision-making, deal-making, etc. happens in my time zone with my clients and the leadership on our account team. In a lot of situations, time is of the essence and it’s the difference between winning a big project or losing out to a competitor. However, I’m finding that it’s difficult to make quick decisions, because we need to vet all of our estimates with the remote team before we commit to timelines and costs.

When it comes to communicating with my remote team, I’ve been experiencing a lot of frustration. It’s difficult to create a sense of urgency, and they tend to focus on pedantic aspects of what we’re being asked to develop or estimate, rather than taking a more holistic view of the issues.

The branch of the company they work in also functions differently than my branch, in that it’s a lot more bureaucratic. In my local office, titles don’t mean much and people work collaboratively to get things done. For my remote team’s office, titles and perceived power/position are important, so I’ll often need to get a member of Sr. Leadership on the phone before they’ll speed up their processes or provide needed information.

Do you have advice on how best to work with remote teams, especially where the time difference and culture make trying to connect remotely (and work harmoniously and collaboratively) really challenging?

I don’t think this is about working with remote teams; it’s about working with a team that’s out of sync with your needs and priorities. This is something you should raise with your manager — spell out what you need, how it’s working currently, why it’s a problem, and what you’d like done differently. This is exactly the kind of thing your manager should be aware of and charged with resolving.

3. Company rejected a job applicant because of a past relationship with a current employee

Recently a qualified job applicant was not hired, because they were in a past relationship with a current employee of our company and there were concerns about people feeling comfortable working with each other. Neither person was talked to directly about the issue. Is this is legal? We do have an internal policy about relationships, and spouses/partners cannot be hired if they will work in the same location (which this falls under). My concerns are about the grey area of past relationships. Is there any legal standing for this or is this just a subjective call by HR?

That’s perfectly legal. And in some cases, it makes a lot of sense. For instance, if one would be managing the other, the company might rightly fear bias or the perception of bias. Or if their current relationship is strained or hostile, the company might rightly not want to deal with the fall-out from that. Or it could be a situation like this one.

4. Should I ask this staffing agency to remove me from their database?

I applied for a position advertised on Craigslist that was being handled by a temp/staffing agency. It was a specific position in my field, for which I am qualified, and I only submitted my resume because of this. However, the response I got was that the agency does not currently have a position that fits my experience but they will store my resume in their database and contact me if something matching my experience comes up in the future. While I do need a new job, I’m not seeking “representation” by this agency. Can I/should I ask them to discard my application?

One reason to ask them to discard it is because if they submit you for jobs without you knowing about it, but you’re also applying to those jobs on your own or through a different recruiter, you risk a big mess over the question of who “owns” your candidacy (and whether the employer would owe a fee to them if they hired you, even though you weren’t actively working with this agency). On the other hand, you might want the advantages of being connected to jobs you might not otherwise know about.

If you decide you’d rather opt out of their database, you could say something like this: “Thank you, but in order to avoid the complications that can arise if a candidate is submitted by multiple recruiters, please remove my materials from your database.”

5. Companies that ask candidates to pay for background checks

What are your thoughts on companies that ask prospective employees to pay for their own background checks?

Those companies are asking prospective employees to pay what should be the company’s cost of doing business — companies should pay recruiting costs, not candidates.

(By the way, a small number of states do prohibit employers from passing this cost along to candidates, but most don’t.)

{ 212 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    I am curious about #2. Is this a case where significant work is outsourced to a cheaper country? If so, then this is a prime example of the cost of not hiring local qualified people when you have to be nimble in responding to contract competitions.

    #3 If I am hiring, I don’t want the drama of past loves or potential stalkers.

    1. CAA*

      #2 is almost certainly someone on the east coast of the U.S. dealing with a team in India (the extra half hour in the time difference being the biggest clue to the locations). I’ve been in this situation (from the west coast, where the time difference is 12.5 hours), and the only thing I’ve seen that made a positive difference was to have someone from the Indian company stationed at the U.S. office. You need someone who understands the culture and hierarchy there and can make sure he’s pitching requests for information to the right people at the right level.

      1. Dan*

        Since we’re on that subject, if the op is female and dealing with male colleagues in India, its going to be an uphill battle. Women aren’t seen as authority figures.

        1. GrumpyBoss*

          That’s a pretty gross generalization. I’ve managed teams in India several times in my career and have never had problems with my authority being respected.

          1. A Jane*

            Agreed. As a female in tech, haven’t had any issues with developers based in India. If there was even a hint that someone was being disrespectful, it would have been immediately escalated and they could be removed off of the team.

        2. OP #2*

          I do happen to be female and my largest roadblock right now happens to be male, but I also have a mixed-gender team and haven’t experienced any sort of blanket gender-based discrimination or dismissal. I don’t think any of the issues with my current team have to do with my gender as much as they have to do with my seniority level. One of the three leadership people I’ve been dealing with is a woman.

          I have experienced issues of being dismissed by an on-shore male colleagues in the past, but I’m fairly certain in those cases, it had more to do with the individuals in question being jerks in a more general way. They were jerks to everyone.

        3. A Cita*

          Wow. Super gross over generalization. I lived in India for 2 years and have made about 6 other additional long term trips. This is simply not true. Especially in urban areas where these call centers are located (many inside of or just outside of Delhi and Bombay–Pune area). I do think that there are cultural issues at play here, but not the ones you’re alluding to. Just the same ones that would be true of any cultural difference pertaining to work, as found in Europe or East Asia or anywhere else.

      2. Jen RO*

        I’m pretty sure it’s a culture thing and not a remoteness thing. I also work on a remote team (7 hours time zone difference from our manager) and we always answer everything ASAP.

        1. CAA*

          Yes, definitely. I’ve had remote teams in India, China, Russia, Israel, as well as individuals in various other countries. It’s much harder to get timely responses from India than from anywhere else. It doesn’t matter if the American manager is male or female or if the remote team members are all male or have some females.

          1. A Cita*

            Yes. And keep in mind, if some of these interactions are online (vs on phone), internet even in the cities is not the same speed and reliability as in the states. There are lots of brown outs that disrupt electricity (even when there’s a back-up generator) on an almost daily basis in the summer months.

        2. MaryMary*

          I think the culture thing is further complicated by the remoteness thing. It’s even harder to communicate a sense of urgency, or micromanage if that the only way to get things accomplished when you’re trying to do it all over phone and email, or you find people have left for the day without finishing what you need.

      3. James M*

        An acquaintance of mine (computer programmer) native of India explained some of the ways that their culture around software development is different than in the US. One is a very keen sense of hierarchy in the workplace. I know that doesn’t seem like such a huge deal but culture is all about subtleties that can’t be explained on a bumper sticker but have significant influence nonetheless.

        The difference in culture implies a hidden cost to outsourcing… and if the horror stories I’ve heard are any indication, that cost has bitten more than a few behinds (including my Boss’s!).

        1. Cari*

          Kidnd of OT, but I remember in CS we had a woman come in and talk to us about a project one of the third years were doing with her company that also had dealings in India. She said the gender balance with programmers was fairly even because programming wasn’t seen as a stereotypically man’s job over there – did your acquaintance ever mention anything similar? I found it interesting that it was like that, because it certainly isn’t that way over here, or in the US from what I’ve read…

          1. Laura2*

            I don’t think that’s always been the case in the U.S., though, since there were many female programmers in the 80s and it used to be seen as more of a “female” job, like administrative/secretarial work.

          2. Cat*

            Which is hilarious given how many people in the U.S. think that women’s brains are inherently unsuited to computer programming.

          3. James M*

            My acquaintance did not mention perceived gender roles. I have to assume that he didn’t have much information about perceived gender roles in software development in the US. In all fairness, I don’t have much information on that topic either.

        2. hayling*

          “Hidden cost” to outsourcing. Yes. I’ve never heard it described this way but that’s exactly it. My company also has an office in India (not technically outsourcing, we work for the same company) and there are so many roadblocks, communication issues, and quality issues. I am not saying that it’s true for every company but it’s certainly the case for mine and many others I’ve heard of.

        3. A Cita*

          This isn’t just in tech. This is everywhere. Some of it a continuing by product of British colonialism (lots of addressing seniors as “sirs” and “madams”). There is also the very important tea time and a different cultural sense of urgency around keeping to time tables (and appointments). It’s a cultural difference that’s no better or worse than corporate culture in the States. But you do have to be cognizant of how the difference play out in your particular scenario in order to make things run as smoothly as possible. Best advice is above, with the recommendation of having an Indian manager stationed in the US office to help translate these things (and maybe vice versa too, as long as the US manager in India is culturally sensitive).

      4. D*

        If it’s other-country remote, culture can be a huge difference in how people work. We engaged with an Indian outsourcing company at my work, and we actually had someone come in and give a one-day training session on Indian Cultural Awareness. It was eye-opening, frankly.

        I’ve still got the notes from that course on my desk, and #2’s problems sound very familiar. Titles are very important, seniority and hierarchy are important, junior members of the team will want to run almost everything past the seniors rather than engage directly because that’s just how their culture works. On a lot of axes it’s almost the complete opposite of US/UK work culture and both ends will get frustrated until you appreciate that.

        It helps here that we’ve got people on-site in our offices to act as a liaison, and it’s a big outsourcing company so they’re pretty used to working with Western cultures, but there’s still a lot of differences and it really helped to have those explicitly explained to us. I can highly recommend doing at least some personal research on the differences in working cultures, just to help make sense of it. The remote office might even come to appreciate you reaching out to them half-way on those differences.

        1. Traveler*

          + 1 I really think that if companies are going to be employing members of different cultures there needs to be some cultural awareness training to avoid situations like these.

          1. anon-2*

            It cuts both ways.

            Perhaps the outsourcer should adapt more to North American / European culture. That is, migrate toward what their paying customers need and expect.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              Well sure, but that’s not within the locus of control for the OP (or her company).

        2. Colette*

          I think it’s about culture, but I also think it’s about being very clear about how you measure success. You get what you measure, so if you want turnaround within a day, that has to be part of how you measure whether that team is successful.

          1. Jen RO*

            But also understanding that, in that culture, *you* might need to do things differently too – either screening for more “Westernized” team members, or running all assignments through the senior person on the remote team.

        3. OP #2*

          That’s a really helpful suggestion. Thank you. I did notice early on that when I tried to communicate with team members directly, the oversight resources on their team stepped in and answered for them. The barrier between me and the “feet on the street” sort of roles on my team is new for me; I like feeling connected to my team members and I definitely don’t get that. I spend my time butting heads with my offshore counterpart.

      5. OP #2*

        You hit the nail on the head. East Coast and India both. The main difference is that these offices are the same company as the one I work for (we’re not outsourcing to a conglomerate out there; on paper, we work for the same employer). I even have an on-shore resource who used to work out of those offices and is now state-side helping me–and he is a HUGE help. I’ve just been running into a wall with the oversight resources on their end recently. It takes me DAYS of hour-long discussions in the morning (followed by radio silence until the following morning) to make decisions that should really have taken a few hours. I’ve escalated to the Sr. Leadership on my side (my “manager” isn’t involved in my day-to-day work life; she’s doing work for other clients on other projects), but so far, it hasn’t helped much.

        1. misspiggy*

          In your place, I would produce a clear cost/time analysis of doing this work with the other team, based on the last few months, and make sure that it is seen at higher levels. As long as higher management are aware of the costs of doing business this way, you’ve got to assume they accept it.

        2. MaryMary*

          OP, have you tried formally documenting your process? When I worked with an offshore Indian team, they lived and died by their documentation (to an annoying degree, sometimes). Scoping out a work flow might help you set expectations. I’d encourage you to make the process collaborative, so you can document where the offshore team feels they need approval and how they think things should work. Once you have the full process mapped out, you’re in a better position to talk about exceptions to the process, or determine if you can convince the offshore team to streamline anything. It would also help you to be able to show senior leadership the disconnect between the timing the onshore team expects, and the process the offshore team is actually following.

          I agree with the other posters about seeing if you could get someone from the Indian team to work in the US with the onshore team for a couple of months. It was invaluable for us (and quite helpful for some of us to visit the Indian office, as well).

      6. Jamie*

        If they are more likely to respond based on title why not just have their manager, or whomever they would listen to, tell them that when Jane or Bob need them to do something they need to do it promptly. Make it a blanket directive.

        If the person requesting whatever has the authority to do so it seems to me the answer is to make it clear they do have the authority so the onus is on the remote team to respond properly and not filter requests through channels just so people can take direction from who they prefer.

        This makes no sense to me.

        1. LBK*

          I haven’t worked with an Indian team so I don’t know the culture exactly, but my guess is that if they’re unfamiliar with the idea of having authority and autonomy, they aren’t going to use it even if it’s nominally given to them by their managers. I work with our Filipino team a lot and I see a similar thing – they’re extremely bound by procedures and rules and they aren’t comfortable working outside of them without their managers’ involvement.

          1. Jamie*

            But the issue is that they aren’t responding to requests unless it comes from someone who they perceived as in authority, at least that’s my understanding.

            So the answer, to me, would be for someone they perceive as in authority to tell them to respond to requests from Jane, Bob, whomever.

            If it was Jane’s job to ask me for things and I didn’t want to provide them until I heard it from someone who outranks me my boss would tell me once that Jane has the right to request X and I’m to respond to her as I would to anyone above me. He wouldn’t filter Jane’s requests through himself just because I’m more comfortable taking direction from someone above me.

            Am I not understanding this?

            1. MaryMary*

              Jamie, my understanding of OP’s issue is that the offshore team is taking excessively long (in her opinion) to respond to her, and part of the reason is that the people she’s requested the information from feel like they need approval or sign off from people higher up in the organization.

              I’m not sure if this is exactly the issue, but here’s a problem I used to see on my teams. Say we’re in the running to land a contract to build a website for a customer. I’d be the account manager, and part of my role is to estimate the cost based on what the customer wants. I figure that it will take 2 hours to finish specifications on the site, 12 hours to do the programming, and 2 hours to do QA. Then, I send my estimates to my programmer and tester to do a quick review and let me know if they agree with my numbers. In the US, the programmer and tester might eyeball the numbers, respond in an hour or so and ok the estimates (or tell me that I seriously underestimated testing time and need to double my estimate). In India, the programmer and tester aren’t completely comfortable reviewing the hours estimates without knowing the full scope of the project (which no one knows 100%, because we’re in the sales process). They put significant time into thinking through the estimates, and ask their manager to review and see if she agrees. Let’s say the Indian testing team thinks I seriously underestimated testing time. The main tester can’t tell me that directly, because it would be rude to tell a superior (me) that she made an incorrect estimate. The tester goes to her manager, and they both review the project to see whose estimates are correct. If both of them agree I’m wrong, then they go to the manager’s manager to see if he agrees testing time should be increased, and to talk to me about my hours estimates. The manager of managers tells me he thinks I underestimated testing time. I push back, because I think two hours is plenty of time. Maybe we have a discussion and land on 3 hours for QA. But the next time I send a request, my programmer and tester, their managers, and their managers managers will all review the request, to ensure the estimates are valid. So the offshore team’s process takes four times as long, involves three times as many people, and probably requires at least one transcontinental phone call. But the offshore team probably feels like that process is the best way to make sure they give correct information to the onshore team.

              1. Jamie*

                I gotcha – thanks, makes sense.

                I was thinking of it as they were not considering OPs requests as a priority because SHE wasn’t high enough on the food chain…not that they were uncomfortable working autonomously without their managers input.

                Seems like this could be solved by telling them they have the authority and responsibility to do X and Y without involving management and their direct managers backing that up 100%.

                1. LBK*

                  I just don’t think that they would do it culturally. I get what you’re saying – if Bob’s issue is that he always wants Joe to approve everything before it goes out to Jane, why wouldn’t Joe just say “Bob, you are free to communicate anything you want to Jane without my approval. Do not run these issues by me every time”? I think that makes sense from a US perspective because we’re much more comfortable with having blanket approval and trust from a manager to do things on our own and communicate with other managers/senior reps. We’re also accustomed to judging when something requires manager intervention because we do it all the time, so we have a better sense of what to escalate and when to loop in someone senior.

                  But I think even with this directive issued, it would be such a culture clash that they wouldn’t be able to flip the switch – my guess is they would still be very timid about direct communication and you might either get responses with heavy caveats, things would still be run through managers that didn’t need to be, or you’d just get extremely conservative results.

                  Could it be done? Yes, probably, but it would be a big cultural change. Imagine if starting today you had to run every potential solution to a client ticket through your manager before you implemented it – you’d probably get used to it, but it would be miserable at first and your efficiency would drop dramatically until it became part of your routine and your found a comfortable way to do it.

          2. A Cita*

            Right. And even if OP and US side management is telling them directly that they have the autonomy and authority to do X, it’s not going to happen unless their onsite manager gives it the OK.

      7. Artemesia*

        Or maybe American companies should hire and pay wages to Americans rather than cheaping out and then expecting that they will be able to function as well when they need analysis and information quickly to turn around projects. I feel for the OP’s situation but the company is getting what it deserves.

        1. Cat*

          I have mixed feelings about this. It’s not like Americans are inherently more deserving of jobs than people in India.

          1. Jamie*

            I agree we’re not inherently more deserving of anything, but hiring Americans supports our economy. More employed Americans buy more goods, which support more businesses, which hire more employees…and more employed people mean fewer using government resources and a more stable society overall.

            The same way I would certainly assume someone in India is more vested in supporting their own economy than ours – it’s self-preservation to want to improve your own economic landscape.

        2. Chinook*

          As someone who has worked for an American company and is currently working for another one, saying that Americans should hire only locally is to simplified a response. Where I am right now, the item the American company owns is valuable because of its permanent location in Canada and cannot be moved. Hiring Americans to do our jobs in Canada would mean putting lcoals out of work who know this industry and item backwards and forwards. As well, we locals understand much better the local political and social climate of the areas we are working in.

          As for the other American company, it was a computer firm bought by Americans and one of the conditions of the sale was that the previous owner would continue to do R&D and QA work in his hometown in Canada. As a result, we became a satellite office. If he had been required to replace his employees with Americans or move to California, he wouldn’t have sold.

          The only way that these companies could have avoided having foreign offices would have been by not choosing to expand beyond the American borders. If your company is going to work internationally, you are going to have to expect to have international offices with local employees and cultural differences.

          1. Jamie*

            But outsourcing, which I believe Artemesia was referring to, is different than having an international office and staffing locals for that office.

            It’s the companies who close American plants and outsource manufacturing to other countries due to lower labor costs and looser environmental regulations that are the issue. I work in manufacturing and we are wholly based in the US so we can get stuff to our US customers faster and if there is an issue it’s a quick solution. We also buy our raw material locally. So our company is putting millions of dollars a year into local businesses and employing hundreds of people so millions of dollars are flooding the local economy with purchasing power, housing, paying taxes, etc.

            American manufacturing companies are undercut all the time by companies who outsource those jobs to other countries so the thing you’re shipping from Illinois to Iowa comes by way of overseas. They aren’t servicing the population over there.

            If we had an American branch in Canada where it served the Canadian population I would think the same thing. Staff locally so that company is boosting that local economy with wages and purchasing power – because moving American’s to take those jobs doesn’t help the American economy. They’d still be spending in Canada.

            1. Artemesia*

              Boeing once has a highly skilled workforce in Seattle and a couple of other cities that knew how to build airplanes. The they got the brilliant idea to outsource parts and then put the thing together from these outsourced parts. The quality control issues meant relative disaster for the quality of the airliner they built that way that is still haunting them and nearly tanked the company. I don’t have much sympathy for companies that truly believe that squeezing the workforce is the best way to run a company.

      8. Angela*

        IME, this is primarily a cultural issue. I deal with our international location frequently (although not in India)and lack of urgency is our biggest frustration. It gets better when someone from here goes there and explains in person and in great detail why our deadlines are critical, but they just do not respond with any sense of urgency to email.

    2. Windmill Tilter Extraordinaire*

      #2 struck me as cultural differences between the US and India.

      First, are both teams aware of the cultural differences? This may seem like a silly question, but it is worth taking the time to learn the culture of the people. Hierarchy, time, and urgency have different meanings. Saying no in one culture might come across as agreement to somebody in another one. There are subtle signs that entirely change the meaning of the content of a conversation.

      You can make off-shoring work. Plan on building in buffer time, though. If you don’t communicate precisely the first time and need any back-and forth, you’ll soon add days to all turnaround times. But on the plus side, you’re saving a few bucks an hour! :)

    1. Terra C.*

      Well, I have done substitute teaching quite a bit over the years, and in many large district this is handled by agencies. Nearly all of them require the teachers to pay for a criminal background check.

      1. Stephanie*

        Seconding this. In my area, you go get fingerprinted by the police and pay for the fingerprints and background check (and also pay to send your transcripts to the state education agency). Once all that’s cleared, you go to the individual districts to get on their substitute lists. You sometimes have to do fingerprint clearance for volunteer roles involving children as well.

        1. Liane*

          I first thought “It’s only right the employer pay,” then recalled that I will have to pay for my background/fingerprints when I apply to my state’s very good alternate teacher certification program. Maybe it’s one of those things that is common/expected in a few fields, but not in most?

          For the record, I still think this is an expense that employers should bear. I will pay for it when I apply to the program, because it is the only way to get certified here–all routes to teacher certification or substitute teaching require the applicants to pay. (Only school volunteers don’t pay for their required checks.) And going through this particular program means that I will only pay once, not every time I apply to a district/private school.

        2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Yeah, my mom does support/clerical work at a school and had to get (and pay for) fingerprint clearance.

          1. Loose Seal*

            Even student teachers have to pay for their own background checks (in the last two states I’ve lived in anyway).

        3. Rose*

          Our teachers have to pay for their own. It’s like $70, and the teachers get paid really poorly in an expensive area.

          1. Muriel Heslop*

            As a teacher I have paid for my fingerprinting but not my background check. I assume this varies widely, but most people I know have paid for their own fingerprinting.

    2. OP #5*

      Hi everyone, thanks for your thoughts. I got interviewed for this job and all that is left is to fill out paperwork, do training, and pay $25 background fee. I wouldn’t say it is a scam, per se (there’s lots of information about this company online) but I didn’t feel right paying them money… although, honestly, I’ve been out of work a long time now and it’s almost getting to the point where I’ll pay $25 if it means a job! But, no, I think I’ll pass on this one. Thanks.

      1. LK*

        Another thing to consider is who you have to pay the fee to. I’ve paid for a lot of background checks in my career (some reimbursed, some not) but I always directly paid the fingerprinting agency or police department that was performing the background check. Is the prospective employer asking you to pay *them* for the background check? If so that’s pretty shady.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Well, wait — if everything else seems good and you’ve been out of work for a while (and you’re sure it’s not a scam), I wouldn’t turn down the job over this. Some companies do this, and if you don’t have a ton of options right now, I wouldn’t take a hard-line stance on this.

  2. neverjaunty*

    OP #1 – your managers are not really joking. They may be exaggerating in that they probably wouldn’t flat out refuse to hire any young women ever – but they are almost certainly reflecting a pervasive attitude among management. Note that this isn’t one rando guy with weird opinions; this is several managers who felt totally comfortable saying TO YOUR FACE that, in their opinion, you and women like you are a drag on the company. (Also, the one week off for dads is pretty telling.)

    Joking-not-joking like this is a way for them to cover their butts if somebody complains or sues the company, by pretending they were just kidding.

    I agree with AAM that you should tell HR. You may want to seriously consider whether this is a place you want to stay at long-term. Having seen managers like this in action, I would bet that you can expect any time off for family issues to be held against you.

    1. Chuchundra*

      What purpose do you think it going to be served by going to HR at this point besides pissing some senior people off? What conclusions do you think they might draw about OP#1 based on the fact that some off-hand comments that were made months ago and not remarked on at the time roiled around in her gut for so long?

      I honestly don’t see any upside here at all.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        I’m with you. Should it be joked about? No way. But I am a believer in diminishing returns when reporting these things to HR. It doesn’t take too many reports before someone is branded as high maintainence/a whiner/sensitive, etc. Is something that happened months ago worth that? Only the OP can decide that. We all have our own thresholds for what we are comfortable with in the workplace.

        Personally, I think it puts a new HR person in an awkward position. Feedback and coaching are not of much value if it is not timely. But if a complaint is made, she needs to investigate. This will color her opinion of senior managers, and theirs of her.

      2. Meg Murry*

        I think it depends on your relationship with HR as well. In the giant bureaucracy I’m in now, I wouldn’t know anyone in HR other than the secretary if I passed them in the hallway. In other past companies, I spoke to or met with HR regularly, and had a good working relationship with them, and would have had no issue popping into their offices for an “FYI, this is what’s going on and you should be aware of it – I know managers are joking, but the next person they say it to may not find it funny”. And HR at that company had regular (monthly or quarterly) trainings and meetings with managers and group leaders to go over policies and how to use timecard software, etc – and they would definitely bring this kind of issue up to the managers in that meeting. Not in a ” you’re in trouble” way, but in a “this is a really bad idea and I suggest you stop joking about it immediately” way.

        I don’t know that this is the kind of issue needs to have a big meeting separate meeting with HR, but chances are OP needs to meet with them to go over maternity leave details (fill out forms, clarify how much time she gets off and who she has to contact, etc) – this is worth bringing up at that meeting. I’d mention that while you knew they were joking, it still made you uncomfortable.

        Also, OP, are you not in the US or not at a company large enough to qualify for FMLA? Or when you say 6-8 weeks maternity for mothers and only 1 week for fathers, is that referring just to paid maternity/paternity leave? Because by FMLA law, both mother and father are legally allowed to take up to 12 (unpaid) weeks off. As a working parent, I would be concerned about working for a company where the culture is for no one to take more than the bare minimum off for maternity/paternity leave, and personally, I would be starting to look at what other jobs are out there that were more family friendly – in culture, not just on paper (it doesn’t matter how family friendly the policies are on paper if the culture is that no one actually takes advantage of maternity/paternity leave or other work/life balance policies) . I’ve worked at one of the places where people took the bare minimum, and it was not a good fit for me as a working parent.

      3. Lefty*

        I agree. Even in the remote (extremely remote based on what I’ve seen at every company for which I’ve worked) chance that HR doesn’t tell senior management who reported them, it’s likely they will figure out for themselves who it was. No matter what kind of policy is in place re retaliation, there will be retaliation – it will just be in hard to prove forms. I can think of quick half dozen ways that OP can be ‘punished’ that she cannot prove. I mean, you can’t prove that you didn’t get a promotion because 2 years ago you reported something to HR, or that you didn’t get put on a high visibility project because someone held a grudge.

        I don’t see anything to be gained from this and wouldn’t do it unless I was planning to leave in the near future, or had no real ladder-climbing aspirations. I would seriously consider whether this is worth it to you or not. This is career suicide.

      4. Mike C.*

        The upside is ensuring that this sort of thing doesn’t become part of the culture of the company. Saying nothing is just as good as saying that you approve.

      5. neverjaunty*

        Purely to create a record that she said something. Because otherwise, down the road, when OP finds that she’s getting meh performance reviews and her managers are grumbling about her ‘lack of commitment’ and the usual stuff that happens at a company with this attitude, HR will be shocked, SHOCKED to hear about it.

        Though you’re right, realistically they’re not going to do anything. OP should probably just start planning an exit.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Wait, planning an exit over a joke? Without evidence that there’s actual discrimination going on at this company, that feels like a serious overreaction!

          1. Sal*

            I kind of disagree, I think. The fact that more than one person made this “joke” seems to imply that there really is a culture of resentment of pregnancy/family among management at this org. If work-life balance is important to the OP, I’d recommend looking elsewhere, too. She’s always going to be going up against a culture that’s not oriented in her direction.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But if there’s no other evidence of that and in fact there is evidence to the contrary, you’d want to believe the evidence that you actually see where it matters (hiring, promotions, actual work-life balance), not be led off-path by jokes.

          2. neverjaunty*

            This wasn’t one joke. It wasn’t one manager. It wasn’t “I overheard Bob making a joke…” OP says that multiple persons – division chiefs, ie senior management – made these comments separately, to her face, in her individual meetings with them when she informed them of her pregnancy.

            That is a set of big honking (flapping?) red flags about how the decision-makers at OP’s company think. I don’t understand saying that OP should ignore those red flags and wait until the flagpole bops her on the head, so to speak.

            Should OP immediately resign? No, but with that kind of heads-up about senior management’s attitudes, looking for a better employer is probably not a bad idea. “Wait and see if they actually screw you and ignore what they actually said” seems ostrich-y to me.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think the difference is that I believe that managers can make jokes like this and mean nothing by it, and you clearly don’t. But having seen that in real life, I know that it’s true and it would be really premature to be job searching over it.

              1. neverjaunty*

                No. The difference is the context of these ‘jokes’. Are there other, different circumstances where a manager might make these comments and it’s harmless? Possibly, but this ain’t one of them.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Right, but no one here is arguing that it’s okay for those managers to have said to her. We all agree they shouldn’t. What’s in dispute is just whether she should leave a job over it, absent any other concerns.

      6. OP #1*

        Thank you for all the comments everyone. Gives me lots to think about. There is a very legitimate reason why I would be going to HR so long after the fact, so I’m not as concerned about that as everyone would understand why.
        Why I am thinking about going is that, I am worried that it is part of company culture that permeates multiple levels of the organization in dealing with people with medical or personal issues – the whole process of finding out policies that relate to pregnancy (paid and unpaid leave, how to bill time, part-time work, benefits coverage) was very confusing and I was often given contradictory responses about what I could or could not do. And the comments made to me along the way, well… I was thinking about approaching it from that aspect – that the company has a chance to provide training and education (on what employees can do and what they can and cannot say) holistically to all managers to support pregnant employees. I see that as more constructive than complaining about one incident and being hostile about it. This would give me a chance to say what the managers said to me without providing specifics or names.
        And normally, to follow up on Wakeen Teapot’s comment below, I am very much the person who usually has a speech at the ready, but I was just thrown off my game at that moment. I now am much better prepared and have a speech very similar to that one, and I won’t let comments like that go without responding in the moment. I think that’s a very good idea!

        1. Jeanne*

          I have to disagree. There is no way for HR to protect you from retaliation. They probably will remember that you heard the “joke.” They may say that retaliation is not allowed but there is no way to protect you from the retaliation we’ve all seen. When you come back from maternity leave, you will have impossible deadlines, no flexibility with your schedule, bad reviews. I see no benefit to you for coming forward.

          Yes, there is a tiny chance that someone will believe you and use it to make change. However, as many of us found out the hard way, HR is there to protect management not peons. These people are higher up in the food chain. Please think this through carefully.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That certainly happens. But there are plenty of workplaces where it absolutely doesn’t, and we have no reason to tell the OP that it will happen. She’s in the best position to judge her own workplace.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Maybe that’s the case, but I think it’s also quite likely that they really are joking. I’ve heard plenty of managers make jokes like that — and they were managers who hired and promoted plenty of young women (and in some cases were women of child-bearing age themselves). It’s a stupid joke to make, but people make it with some frequency without it being reflected in their actual actions.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I grew up in time where women were discriminated against because they had parts that just might bear children one day. It’s a pretty dear issue to me. And…

        I have made this joke. To my husband. More than once.

        While I would never make the joke at work, and think that the joke at work is inappropriate for a slew of reasons, I have a ready made speech for anybody who does make the joke at work.

        It’s a business case for the importance of supporting the life cycle of our employees and how it benefits the business economically overall. I use words like “competitive advantage” and any other business buzzwords that pop to mind with zero social words. It’s a pretty damn good business case, I must say, and the next effect is glazed over eyes and you can see the thought of the other person “jeez, it was just a joke, sorry I brought it up, won’t make that one again. I didn’t know speeches came with it.”

        I’ve done this with PTB, people who work for me and even HR.

        Knowing how to suck the life out of the room when you need to is a life skill. :)

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Very few people *ask* for my speeches! :)

            Short on time, a couple highlights.

            Women of childbearing age are a significant part of the available talent pool and (of course) can’t be ignored. Because of that, you will always have some maternity leaves and some business disturbances due to them.

            I make the case that the more women of childbearing age you have, the easier maternity leaves are to deal with institutionally (because you are used to it, because you have put in best practices, etc.) and your business is much stronger and less vulnerable than if you tried to limit the number to just a few.

            Not only is this logical, I’m actually right. If one were serious about limiting the number of childbearing women, it would cost more and be more disruptive than having more.

            There’s more about costs of employee turnover vs the not having turnover with a group of employees who are loyal to you because you’re prepared to accommodate their personal life needs smoothly. I can argue that people who need a little accommodation are a better choice than people who need none (although I then have to branch off from just talking about women and children since plenty of people need a little accommodation at stages/during circumstances in their lives). Basically, that’s the section where I can wax on about competitive advantage in retaining employees and the institutional knowledge that goes with them.

            There’s more sections but those are the best two I think.

            1. Jamie*

              I love this and storing it in my head in case I ever need it.

              A few times in my career I’ve heard similar jokes – not about childbearing age women per se, but jokes about needing more young people because they are so much cheaper or women being cheaper because we work for supplemental income. (last one made by a man who made a lot less than I so…his argument kinda falls apart.)

              I just do that humorless stare thing I do and start talking about labor laws and protected classes and how jokes like that cause liability because even if not true if someone sues for discrimination everyone who heard it would have to say truthfully it had been joked about, if asked…yada, yada.

              Yeah – kill them with speeches. They may think you’re a stick in the mud but you’ve made your point.

              FTR – not my current workplace. That would not fly.

            2. patty*

              “Knowing how to suck the life out of the room when you need to is a life skill. :)”

              I am going to give some thought to how this can be applicable in other situations. Totally respectfully plagiarizing this.

            3. LCL*

              Speaking as someone who is dealing with a lot of absences right now, none of which are maternity leave, I would love to have some people on maternity leave, because those leaves seem to have much firmer start and end dates. The “I just need a few more weeks” kind of leave is killing us. Yes, I understand things happen and maternity leave may start earlier than planned, but those leaves are much easier to handle then indefinite extensions.

      2. Sunshine DC*

        I can definitely see it being a joke, but being a protected category… I wonder, does it help clarify things further re: appropriateness to consider how such comments would sound for other protected classes? What is someone said Mormons or Jamaicans or people with asthma (instead of women of childbearing age?) in the joke…

      3. JMegan*

        They probably were joking, but I agree with Mike C that it’s important to disrupt the culture there. These sorts of jokes are word for word what someone would say if they were actually discriminating against women of childbearing age. Written down, and absent any context of tone, body language, knowledge of the people involved, etc, the “joking” part is not so clear. Especially when repeated by multiple people (multiple *senior* people!), it becomes harder and harder to tell the jokes from the actual thoughts.

        Also, regardless of the intent of the speakers, the effect is that the jokes made the OP uncomfortable. Pregnancy is a pretty personal thing, and she shouldn’t have to be uncomfortable about it in her office, or feel like she has to defend herself from jokes about it.

        1. Helka*

          These sorts of jokes are word for word what someone would say if they were actually discriminating against women of childbearing age.

          Absolutely. And more to the point, the person who said it might be joking — but if someone else in the group legitimately believes that hiring young women who might become pregnant is a liability to the business, that kind of joking reinforces to them that they are correct and that other people share their opinions. “Ironic” or “just kidding” prejudice can foster and support the real thing; it’s not at all benign or harmless.

      4. neverjaunty*

        Plenty of people also make those jokes with some frequency because those attitudes are, actually, reflected in their actual actions. At a minimum, it shows this is an atmosphere where senior management feels comfortable telling OP to her face that they kinda wish they hadn’t hired her. This isn’t a case of OP accidentally overhearing one manager in a company with a great track record (one week off for dads, remember?) fake-complaining to another manager.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But I’ve heard plenty of managers make that joke about women they absolutely didn’t regret hiring. I’ve probably said it myself at some point (although I hope not at work, and I was 100% kidding). Sometimes it’s just a bad joke, nothing more. I absolutely agree it’s not appropriate, but it doesn’t always means there’s something more nefarious going on.

          1. neverjaunty*

            You recognize that it’s not a appropriate thing to say at work. Why isn’t it, if it’s just a harmless joke?

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              Well, not speaking for Alison but for myself, I can have a pretty caustic sense of humor. I’ve certainly fake threatened to call social services to take the kids or the pound to pick up the dogs after a harried day. (never in the ear shot of either the kids or the dogs).

              It’s a little stress relief and a laugh because it’s the last thing I’d ever do. It’s the opposite part that makes it funny.

              I’m not going to make that joke around anyone who would ever have half a second’s thought I was serious.

              In the same vein, I have absolutely joked about not hiring any more women under 60 or putting birth control pills in the water, in the privacy of my own home and with my husband who knows that’s just as absurd as any other things I say (including “that’s it, 20 years, it’s been nice but I’m packing up my things now” after some silly difference like he wants to watch a tv show I don’t want to watch)

              It’s how my sense of humor runs but I’m quite aware of time and place and audience.

              1. neverjaunty*

                And that’s the problem: you have to be very sure of time, place and audience if you are actually 100% kidding.

                When multiple senior managers feel comfortable saying this at work, directly to a report who is informing them of maternity leave, that is not a sign they are a great kidder or blowing off steam. That is a sign that they really believe that, and the workplace environment/their own status is such that they don’t anticipate any negative consequences from “kidding on the square” about it.

                And the fact that the OP is asking makes it pretty clear that this was not a situation of all those managers being 100% confident nobody would ever dream of thinking they were serious.

      5. Anx*

        Nearly every time I’ve heard people joke this way, they wouldn’t dream of discriminating against the oppressed class in the subject of their joke. And nearly every person I’ve heard joke in this managers regularly commits microaggressions and is completely oblivious to their biases.

        I personally would rather hear an acknowledgement that these biases persist than for a company to insistent it’s fair and unbiased and dismiss pregnant employees for being 8 minutes late to work in a non client facing position or ‘deciding to go in another direction.’

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I mean, it’s absolutely possible that Wakeen’s Teapots and I are both regularly committing microaggressions against women, but I’ve hired, managed, promoted, and rewarded plenty of pregnant women and others of child-bearing age and it sounds like she has too.

    3. Wren*

      Yes. I have long believed that this kind of joke is absolutely revealing about the joker’s attitude. They may or may not admit it to themselves, but at minimum they have an unconscious bias.

      And honestly, the joke itself is pretty bad. It’s not as bad as a rape joke, but for much the same reasons one shouldn’t let rape jokes slide, one shouldn’t let jokes about discrimination slide either. 1, real people have real and reasonable fear of and sometimes real experience with this type of discrimination, and it is not a laughing matter to them, and 2, jokes like this normalize the attitudes exemplified by them amongst listeners and the speaker if not called out.a

      Yeah, bigots all think I’m a humourless bitch. Trust me, I laugh when it”s actually funny.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yes, this.

        I mean, even people defending this “joke” admit it’s inappropriate at work.

  3. Jane*

    I’m not sure I agree that the issues faced by letter-writer #2 aren’t about working with remote teams. In my experience, these issues are absolutely typical of working with remote teams. (The company I work for has clients in the North America and Europe, but a lot of our work is done in a development centre in South-East Asia).

    I’d say that one of the biggest challenges faced by these arrangements is that the remote teams are almost completely divorced from the day-to-day experience of our sales staff and clients. It’s really difficult for remote teams to put themselves in the shoes of end users of the systems they work on, because they don’t have any face-to-face contact with these people; their idea of what they do is purely theoretical. This is exactly the kind of thing that contributes to the lack of urgency that the letter-writer describes.

    One of the ways my organisation tries to solve this is by arranging for key staff from our remote office to travel to our main office to work there for a few days, and vice-versa. This kind of cultural exchange may be cost-prohibitive, of course, but for us it has worked pretty well to help both sides understand where the other is coming from, to get a feel for how they work and the challenges they face. Being able to put faces to names helps a lot as well to diffuse tension and help forge a sense of shared purpose. We also use video-conferencing a lot for the same reason.

    Another piece of advice that I’m always hearing here is to “assume best intentions”. When something’s going wrong, it’s easy to blame it on the sales team being “too demanding”, or the remote team being “pedantic” or “too hierarchical”. If you take it as a given that each team is trying to do the best they can with the knowledge and resources they have, it can be a lot easier to communicate effectively with these teams. If your interactions are coloured with resentment and prejudice, it’s a lot harder to get things done.

    These aren’t perfect solutions of course; working with remote teams is always going to be a challenge. But breaking down some of those “us” vs. “them” barriers, in big and small ways, can be really effective.

    1. M.S.M.*

      I agree wholeheartedly about assuming best intention when working with overseas/off-shore teams. I work with them on a daily basis and a lot of times they really are trying to do the best they can with the information they have. I’ve found explaining why their piece of the project is important and how it fits in to the other pieces – and how the other pieces can’t start until their part is completed correctly – helps them to understand the importance of timelines and why if I go back and say “this part needs to be rushed, it takes priority” that piece really does need to be rushed. Including them in these talks – and even having them on the client calls in the background to listen – helps them understand the big picture and helps them feel more invested in the projects since they understand the importance of the piece they’re doing.

  4. Al Lo*

    Related to both yesterday’s question about Canadian mat leave and today’s question #1:

    Last weekend, my husband and I were babysitting my 18-month-old nephew for the weekend, and my sister dropped him off at my office on Friday afternoon. My boss gave me the, “Oh, that looks so good on you!” comment — which is kind of annoying in its own right (yes, I know I’m comfortable with babies, and I’ve always loved them, but that doesn’t mean I want them right now — or maybe it does, and we’re having trouble conceiving [we’re not trying, but how would she know?]), but at least it’s not in the ballpark of “Oh, you’d better not be thinking about having babies and leaving the office for a year or more, haha, just kidding, not really.”

    When I have a baby, I’ll go on my mat leave — or my husband will go on parental leave, or some combination thereof — and office life will go on. I have one co-worker leaving on mat leave in the next month (with twins), and hiring her replacement has basically been officially a one-year mat leave position, but the co-worker doesn’t intend to come back. But, if things change, she’s on leave, not quitting, so there’ll be a position for her in a year, even if it’s slightly different than the one she’s leaving.

    1. Al Lo*

      I meant to say, her replacement is officially a one-year mat leave contract, but with the knowledge that an extension will more than likely be offered. Honestly, unless she ends up being a disaster in the role, I would imagine that we’d find space for both of them after a year if it came to that.

      (This co-worker’s position — Marketing Manager — is our organization’s Defence Against the Dark Arts job. We’ve had 4 people in it within the past 18 months, and the leaving co-worker is a long-term employee whose portfolio shifted to include that department, and that’s the most successful it’s been in over a year.)

        1. Kelly L.*

          I apparently had the DADA job at one of my previous places of employment, and we did indeed call it that too! There had been something like 5 people in it in the 2 years before me. And then I ended up staying there for nine years, so I guess Voldemort kindly lifted the curse.

  5. MR*

    While there is nothing wrong with having remote teams, if they are doing time-sensitive stuff, it makes much more sense to have them be working within a couple of time zones of you. Otherwise, you are looking at the problems described here.

    I’d look at relocating the teams or work to a much more convinient time zone, to help with this problem.

    1. Kate*

      Interesting. Both my spouse and I work with remote teams, and in some ways, having a big time difference can be a blessing. What can’t be done by the end of one team’s workday can be picked up by the other team in the other time zone. Rather than an 8-10 hour workday, the team gets a 16-20 hour workday (simplified because it really depends ont he time zone) in which to get everything done.

      1. OP #2*

        I’ve had some success in the past with this sort of set-up when some of my resources for development were on-shore, and some were off-shore. In those instances, we’d have pretty much around-the-clock development going on, and that was a boon–I also worked directly with the development leads and resources, which helped keep things moving at a clip.

    2. Chinook*

      “I’d look at relocating the teams or work to a much more convinient time zone, to help with this problem.”

      Sometimes this isn’t possible. I worked for a national Canadian office where we had to deal with people in 6 different time zones.. This sometimes included scheduling phone meetings that everyone had to attend. This means there was roughly a two hour window when everyone was in the office. We worked around it and you learned to accept that someone in Newfoundland or BC will get back to your email within 24 hours if they can’t do it right away. We also had to deal with different regional cultures (Quebec and rural offices with limited resources are different from those in Toronto, are two examples) and you just learned to suck it up, not take it personally and be very clear with expectations. But, the biggest thing was having an open mind about it and understand that things may be done differently for reasons that are valid if not obvious.

  6. Throwaway for this post*

    For OP 3, i a, really glad that some companies, like the one i am at now, take relationship stuff seriously. I was put in a bad situation where my ex husband’s mistress (the one he was dating while still married to me) applied at my company and i only found out well into the interview stage when they were probably hours away from making an offer to her, but the info happened to pass my desk because i work in IT and we were planning some desk moves. Because i am in a helpdesk position i would have had to interact with her at hire then about once a week. I would have never been able to work with that woman and i am grateful to my HR department for deciding they did not want the drama. I would have quit had she been hired.

    1. Jen RO*

      I would be *really* pissed off if someone didn’t make me an offer just because my lover’s ex-wife worked there and couldn’t be civil. Yes, it’s an unpleasant situation to say the least, but it’s also work. No one was asking you to become BFFs, you just had to fix her computer.

      1. fposte*

        I think that’s a price that somebody can fairly expect to pay for dating somebody married, though, and I think it’s overoptimistic to apply at the workplace of your boyfriend’s wife. I’m with Artemesia in thinking that I would want a heads up here and that it could be a dealbreaker even if the ex didn’t object. There’s just too much nuclear potential, especially if there are kids or other ongoing issues.

        1. Kelly L.*

          +1. I’m not sure why the mistress would apply there in the first place, if she knew the ex-wife worked there, unless it’s one of those situations where it’s a huge company and one of the only games in town. I sure wouldn’t apply at, say, a 10-employee business with the ex-wife if I’d been the mistress who broke up the marriage.

        2. Jamie*

          Yes. I would be pissed, too, if it was just an ex relationship and the timelines didn’t intersect – but I think it’s completely unreasonable to expect to not be blackballed in this instance.

          An ex of an ex? A current SO of an ex? Okay. Slept with my husband while he was married to me? Yeah, I’m not going to quietly welcome you to the company either.

          1. Fact & Fiction*

            I completely agree, and I don’t think the mistress has the right to be upset. We all make choices, and consequences are a natural result of those choices. I don’t think the mistress is necessarily an evil person and I wouldn’t wish harm on her, but I darned sure don’t think the woman whose husband she slept with when he was married to her should be forced to work with her, either. Even if you just look at it from a logistical viewpoint from the company’s side of things, this could just open up way too many cans of worms with potential drama to justify the risks, in my opinion.

          2. Chinook*

            “Slept with my husband while he was married to me? Yeah, I’m not going to quietly welcome you to the company either.”

            Add me to those saying that this is a line I would draw, especially if this is a recent event (in which case, I would inadvertently react emotionally (anger or tears) at how first she took over my husband and now she wants to take over my job).

            But, if the couple had split before the new person came on the scene, then all parties need to grown up and be mature.

      2. StarHopper*

        I think there’s a difference between “lover’s ex” and “lover’s ex who was actively involved in cheating” that makes the situation more than unpleasant. I don’t know that I’d be able to work with someone like that, either.

      3. GrumpyBoss*

        Each of our actions all have consequences. I’m sure when she was hooking up with a married man, she never dreamed it would impact her career. But unfortunately, we live in a very small world.

        Morale of the story: We are a representation of our actions. If you don’t want someone to judge you based on that, think twice before taking an action.

        1. Mike C.*

          I hate the use of “actions have consequences” because it implicitly assumes that those consequences are completely justified. “Some guy forgot to signal when changing lanes so I ran him off the road, actions have consequences!”.

          We all have no idea what the relationship was like between the husband and his mistress – there are plenty of cases where the unmarried party isn’t told about the marriage, was told “the divorce is in the works” or hell maybe they knew all along what was going on. Either way the idea that someone should lose their job or have an offer rescinded is simply nuts. And yes, I’ve been cheated on before. I don’t think it should prevent her from getting a job, I’m not that vindictive.

          1. Jamie*

            It doesn’t imply the consequences are always justified – just an acknowledgement that actions do have consequences and adults should understand that, whether they agree with the consequences or not.

            For a non-emotionally charged example let’s say I personally believe dress standards in business are ridiculous and it’s only my performance and skill that should matter at work. I absolutely believe with all my heart no one should be judged on what they wear as long as they have everything which is legally required to be covered …covered.

            If I show up for a job interview in a nightgown, bathrobe, and bunny slippers…or cut offs and a halter top… it would be madness for me not to expect that there would be major consequences to that. I didn’t hurt anyone, I’m still as smart and as good at whatever I think I’m good at…but a reasonable person understands there are consequences to certain actions.

            If I disagree with a speed limit and go too fast who is to blame if I get ticket? The cop for enforcing the law I don’t agree with or me for not understanding the rules apply whether I like them or not?

            You sleep with someone’s spouse there can be fall out – that should be something one takes into account before doing it.

            1. Mike C.*

              What else does “take it into account” mean other than “to accept personal responsibility for anything bad that might happen to you by other people”?

              1. Helka*

                I can see what you’re getting at, Mike. Using “Well, actions have consequences” as a be-all-end-all of the conversation or as a philosophy in and of itself definitely lends itself to the kind of issues you’re pointing out… but on the other hand, our decisions do indisputably have consequences and when we take those actions, we do accept that there will be consequences. The question becomes whether the consequences are ones we should reasonably expect or not, and whether our actions are entirely voluntary or whether our free will is constrained (the difference between someone who slacks off at work because they are lazy vs someone who slacks off at work because they have ADHD and are unable to stay focused for long periods of time, for example).

                I doubt this person’s free will was constrained in getting into a relationship with this particular gentleman.

              2. Jamie*

                I never said anything bad by other people. If I bump into someone on a busy street and accidentally spill soda on them I don’t have to take personal responsibility if in anger they shove me into moving traffic…because that is not a foreseeable consequence stemming from that action. Just like running someone off the road because they cut you off isn’t a foreseeable consequence of that action – no one is saying that irrational and disproportionate responses should just be accepted as consequences.

                That’s reductio ad absurdum.

                But that there are consequences to violating commonly accepted social norms is a given – whether you personally agree that there should be or not for that particular norm. And yes, when you sleep with a married person it’s a logical consequence that their ex probably won’t want to work with you if she has a voice in the matter.

                It’s no different than the letter about joking about pregnant women in the workplace. It’s not illegal to joke about it as long as it’s not affecting hiring practices. But it’s ridiculous to think you can say those things in the work place and not make people uncomfortable or cause some backlash you need to explain.

                Our past actions can haunt us. I know people who were bullied as kids who were very traumatized and as adults would absolutely be unnerved if their former bully applied for a job with them. Is that fair that someone would have an instant bias against someone for actions that took place when they were kids? The bully may be a lovely person as an adult – but the knee jerk response is there. Would it be great if the former victim/now hiring manager could be 100% impartial and see them exactly as any other candidate with a completely neutral POV? Sure, in a perfect world…but not a world run by humans.

                People will have a powerful and visceral bias against those they hold accountable for causing them great harm. Some can overcome this, but most will have serious issues and so yes, I believe it’s a reasonable inference to make that the spouse of the person you cheated with will torpedo your candidacy if possible. That has nothing to do with taking personal responsibility for everything other people choose to do over anything.

          2. neverjaunty*

            Good grief, Mike. OP didn’t say ‘this woman should be jobless and die penniless in the street’. She didn’t even say ‘this woman should never ever work at my company’. She would have had to work on at least a weekly basis with the woman who had been screwing her husband during their marriage, and I don’t think it’s hugely unreasonable for the OP to decide it is untenable for her to work with somebody with whom she has a massive personal conflict.

          3. Zillah*

            We all have no idea what the relationship was like between the husband and his mistress – there are plenty of cases where the unmarried party isn’t told about the marriage, was told “the divorce is in the works” or hell maybe they knew all along what was going on. Either way the idea that someone should lose their job or have an offer rescinded is simply nuts. And yes, I’ve been cheated on before. I don’t think it should prevent her from getting a job, I’m not that vindictive.

            From the letter, it sounds to me like the offer was never given in the first place, not that one was given and then rescinded.

            You’re right – we don’t know what the relationship was like between the husband and his mistress. But the OP probably knows, at the least, a bit more than you… and regardless, the fact that the husband and the mistress are still together indicates to me that she must have known that he was married. I don’t see how you can go through a divorce without your girlfriend being aware of any of it.

            We could argue about whether or not it’s fair all day long, but ultimately, the company’s concern is productivity, not fairness. I can completely understand not wanting to get caught up in a situation like this, particularly if there are other highly qualified applicants.

          4. krisl*

            I can’t imagine how tough it would be to work closely with someone who had been at least some sort of factor in breaking up my relationship. It would be different if the person didn’t know about the relationship, but even then.

            I feel a lot more sympathy for the person who was cheated on than the person who helped someone cheat.

        2. annie*

          I dunno, I think if you are doing something jerk-y, you have to realize that if you run across the people who have been affected by your jerkiness, that’s going to impact how they view or deal with you. It’s basically a personal or character reference, which is considered antiquated now, but it’s similar to when we ask the receptionist if the job candidate was rude when they came in. I once had a horrible experience with a coworker who was just a major jerk and a friend at a company he applied to a few years later asked me about him – I had no problem being truthful and I don’t think that I had any obligation to be “fair” to the jerk. In fact, I felt I saved my friend a lot of trouble, had she hired him and had to deal with his insanity.

      4. Illini02*

        Yeah, something about this doesn’t sit right with me either. I have plenty of exes that I still have a civil relationship with, so if I happened to apply at the same place, I don’t think I should be rejected because of that. Nor would think one of my exes should be rejected. If the person currently working there could show an actual reason (violence, stalking, etc) that they shouldn’t work there, thats one thing. But “it makes me uncomfortable”? Eh to me, thats not really enough to reject an otherwise good candidate. I mean even if someone cheated, that may make them a bad person, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad employee. I know plenty of great people who sucked to work with, and plenty of awful people that were great.

        1. Colette*

          Would you hire someone new (who may or may not turn out to be a high-performing employee) if you knew it would increase the chance of a known high-performing employee quitting by 50%?

          It’s not a moral judgement on her actions, it’s considering the impact of hiring her on the rest of the business.

          1. fposte*

            Yup. I also probably wouldn’t hire somebody who was in litigation with a current employee, regardless of where fault may seem to lie. I’m not looking to assess blame, I’m looking to minimize problems.

            1. Zillah*

              I’m not looking to assess blame, I’m looking to minimize problems.

              This is the key point, for me.

          2. illini02*

            Well, that is a special case with the mistress. I’m guessing there really are some hostile feelings there and they really may not be able to work together or be civil. I was more speaking to an overall situation with exes (as in the original question). I think if someone is going to quit because of an ex being there, they need to grow up a bit. Again, if the ex was violent, thereis a real threat of danger or even emotional abuse, I’m all for that. But just because of a bad breakup to me isn’t enough.

            1. Colette*

              I think that a bad breakup is enough, if it’s recent and the company/location is small (although I’d question the judgement/motivation of someone applying to an ex’s company in those circumstances). I don’t think it’s reasonable to refuse to work with any ex, no matter how long ago the breakup was, but I can think of circumstances where it would be an issue.

              1. fposte*

                Yeah, some of this is instance by instance. Factors include the value of the new hire, the value of the current employee, the reasonability of the current employee’s stance, the office policies, etc., etc. But in general, I would take seriously any reasonable employee’s statement that s/he has personal issues that would make working with a candidate difficult.

                1. illini02*

                  But there was no statement that they were uncomfortable. They weren’t ever asked, it was just assumed

                2. Colette*

                  I work on the same floor as one of my neighbors. If my employer had decided not to hire her because they didn’t want to get involved in any neighborhood disputes, that would be their choice. They wouldn’t have to consult her or me – they werejust decide that they weren’t going to hire me.

                3. Mephyle*

                  But there was no statement that they were uncomfortable. They weren’t ever asked, it was just assumed.
                  And this is the problem in the scenario presented in the letter. This makes it different from some of the other hypotheticals and other cases that have been discussed here.

            2. Elsajeni*

              I don’t know — that seems like you’re saying that “I can’t work with the person my ex cheated on me with” is inherently more reasonable than “I can’t work with my ex who cheated on me,” when, if anything, it makes more sense for there to be hostile feelings between the ex-partners than between the ex and the mistress. As you said, this is a special case; the problem is, given how varied relationships and personalities can be, every situation like this is going to be a special case. I think, if you’re going to factor in personal relationships like that at all in your hiring decisions, it just has to be a case-by-case thing.

          3. Mike C.*

            Average length of a job is a few years anyway, so this idea that “it increases the chance of leaving” is a bit overworked. Maybe they were going to leave a few months down the road when something new popped up. Maybe they’ll get over it. Applying a raw number like this is a bit much.

            1. Colette*

              In many big companies, a lot of people change jobs but remain with the company, and companies try to retain people. It’s not unusual for people to stay with the company for much longer than two or three years.

              1. Mike C.*

                Yes, my company is one of them. The other thing that’s really interesting about that fact is the insanely high divorce rate – mostly from folks who work here as well. Yet for some strange reason, they’re all working here just fine.

                1. Zillah*

                  Great. Some relationships end on those terms, and I’d also argue that when you mix your workplace and your relationship, you should be prepared to deal with it ending poorly.

                  But some don’t.

            2. Cat*

              I think part of that is the kind of place you’re at. Obviously there are no guarantees, but I work somewhere where the goal is not to have that kind of turnover in some positions (unless there are sound reasons), and where that’s often successful. We’re also small. Hiring someone with a bad history–of whatever sort–with a current employee who we want to stay probably just isn’t worth it; the other candidate is inherently going to be a bit of an unknown quantity and it’s hard to take that risk knowing that we could lose the existing person as a direct result of our action AND the new person could very well flame out as well.

        2. Kathryn*

          My group absolutely bounces candidates if they make someone on the team or who works closely with us uncomfortable. We work in delicate positions of trust, often facing a lot of conflict that has to be handled with grace, and some pretty specific technical skills.

          The second fastest way to get bounced from our interview process is to throw up flags that you have no intention of treating others kindly. ( the fastest is to have a lack of integrity.) All the technical chops in the world won’t get you past “demonstrates hang ups working with women/young people/older people/non neurotypical people” We have a great team, acknowledged to be world class in our field, and we do it by refusing to accept that we have to make do with talented assholes.

      5. AnonAnalyst*

        I don’t know, I get that it feels unfair since it seems unrelated to the person’s candidacy, but there are so many considerations that go into a (good) hiring process to make the best decision for the business overall. Several others have already made great points about wanting to avoid creating a drama-filled work environment. However, I’d also imagine that the leadership at that company would have recognized that because of the history with this particular individual, there was a chance that her hire might prompt ‘Throwaway’ to leave. If she’s extremely valuable to the company (and bringing more to the organization than the potential new hire), it would make sense for them to choose someone else for the open position in order to retain ‘Throwaway.’

        1. Hooptie*

          I agree. Several years ago I didn’t hire someone because she was very close friends (and lived in the same neighborhood) as two current employees. The two current employees were already showing signs of ‘clique-y-ness’ and I honestly didn’t want to hire another of their friends when I had a definite gut feel based on her interview responses and manner that if I did hire her it would only get worse. It was a Mean Girls-like situation.

          Before I get jumped on for ‘not managing’ I was actively dealing with the issues with the current employees. Adding another to the mix at that point just felt like a bad decision, and I had other equally qualified candidates for the position. We ended up letting one of them go and the other went back to hairdressing and I’m still glad I didn’t hire their friend. You do have to take teamwork and team environment into consideration when hiring.

          1. Hooptie*

            Oh and I also didn’t hire someone who had slept with the ex-husband of a current employee while they were still married. My employee saw the candidate in the lobby and approached me after the interview and let me know the history in a very professional manner. THAT one would have been great in the position, but I felt it was more important to be loyal to my team.

      6. Taz*

        There’s no law that says employers are obligated to hire someone who steals one of their employee’s spouses, or not let that factor into whether they want to make an offer for whatever reason, and there’s more than one reason stemming from this that an employer might decide that applicant isn’t a good fit.

        1. Mike C.*

          Who’s discussing the law? “It’s not illegal” is a pretty flimsy justification for doing something, don’t you think?

          Also, “steals one of their employee’s spouses”? Are you serious here? My wife certainly isn’t property to be stolen, and the idea that the spouse was taken against their will is rather dehumanizing, don’t you think? If someone cheats, they make a decision to cheat.

          1. Jeanne*

            I agree with you Mike that the whole thing sounds crappy. I keep trying to think it through as if I were doing the hiring. I would have to decide what I want for my team. Will the tension keep us from doing a good job? Will we be worse off without the new person or without the current worker? I would hope I wouldn’t just say that any coworker can veto a potential hire. I would have to put all of it together. But if I decided against the new person, it would still look like I had caved to the ultimatum even though it’s more complicated.

        2. Poe*

          Sorry, but can we stop talking about people “stealing” boyfriends/girlfriends/spouses? Short of actually kidnapping someone, you cannot “steal” a person. Takes 2 to tango, y’all.

          1. Jamie*

            It’s a figure of speech. I get what you guys are saying and agree…believe me if my husband were to cheat on me I wouldn’t be able to care less about her – my anger would be a laser beam aimed directly at him*…and I don’t think people who use the term mean it literally as if the spouse in an innocent victim of conjugal theft. It’s just shorthand for ‘engaging in a relationship with a married person who is not in a marriage where they have agreed that this is acceptable behavior, so there was betrayal and deceit involved.”

            *I never understood why people get mad at the other person when they learn their SO has cheated. That other person may have questionable morals, be a skank, or be an innocent party who didn’t know the person they were dating was married …or anywhere on that spectrum. Their intentions are irrelevant because they aren’t the ones who made promises/vows…they aren’t the one who owes you loyalty and someone you don’t know can’t break a trust that never existed. That’s all in the SOs lap.

            Unless the person they cheated with was your friend or sister – then all bets are off and feel free to hate everyone equally.

            1. Mike C.*

              Yeah, I’m with you here. There are all sorts of things the other person could have been told from “I’m single” to “the divorce papers are waiting to be signed” to “yeah, I’m totally married”. If they weren’t at the wedding then focus on the person who was actually wearing the ring.

            2. Jen RO*

              I didn’t want to get into this, since it’s not really relevant, but YES. Who cares about the woman? I would be pissed at my SO! Maybe she didn’t know that he was married, maybe she didn’t care, but HE sure as hell knew.

            3. Fact & Fiction*

              I completely agree that my anger would lie foremost with my husband (although if the woman were someone I knew and/or had full knowledge of my marriage with my husband and slept with him anyway, I would dole out a lesser portion to her); however, I in no way would want to work closely with that person if I had any say at all in the matter.

            4. Lyssa*

              Presumably, Throwaway was also angry at her husband, since he is now her ex. It’s possible to be angry with and cast blame on more than one person.

            5. Chuchundra*

              Often the person is going to still have feelings and affection for their ex, no matter what they’ve done. Love is just like that. It’s much easier to channel your hatred towards someone you don’t care about.

              My dad cheated on my mom a bunch of times before he left and Mom reserved special venom for the woman he finally left her for. I’d pop by mom’s house for a visit and the conversation would often go like this:

              “Did you see your dad this week?”


              “How’s he doing.”

              “Oh, he’s fine. ”

              “How’s the whore?”

              Mom’s been gone for some years now and I miss her every day.

            6. AGirlCalledFriday*

              I’m thinking anger against the third party has more to do with jealousy and insecurity. When my ex fiancé was carrying on with a coworker, I was upset with him but also felt that I was to blame because I wasn’t good enough, where this woman apparently was superior. These feelings did come out as anger, though I never actually expressed it.

      7. Allison*

        A part of me might be pissed if I was in that situation too, because losing out on a job I’m qualified for would suck – a person’s only qualified to do so many things, y’know? But then I’d realize, that situation would suck too. Working with a boyfriend’s jilted ex? No thanks. Any potential drama or hostility should be avoided like the plague – because it basically is a plague.

      8. BRR*

        At first I took the position of “good, factor in relationships” but the more I thought about it I agree with the people should be able to be civil in most cases. I think certain exceptions like assault or things as severe as that should be taken into account but it reminds me of a phrase I heard, “there are 7 billion people on this earth, there’s a good chance one of them at any given time is going to be doing something that’s pisses you off.” It’s important to be able to work with people you don’t like.

        In this case it’s easy to say the mistress’ actions have consequences, but other times people just break up (or sometimes people don’t know the person is in a relationship which has happened to me twice, it’s fun having someone come up to you and call you a whore for sleeping with their boyfriend and you have no idea who they’re talking about, not saying this is the case but it happens). Certain towns and certain industries are small, sometimes people need to suck it up.

      9. Meg*

        A company can reject you for wearing a color they don’t like, as long as what they are rejecting you for isn’t a protected class or status for EEO. Companies reject candidates based on how well the candidate meshes with the team, or culture fit, all the time. If the candidate’s presence is going to create tension or discomfort with my current employees (as long as it’s not like, “I don’t feel comfortable working with Sue because she’s a Muslim” or anything else related to EEO), you bet your buttons I’m going to reject the candidate based on not gelling with my team.

  7. evilintraining*

    #4: This is a pretty common scam to get your resume and claim to represent you. Often the position doesn’t exist at all; it’s just a lure. It’s particularly common for recruiters to place these ads on Craigslist due to the low cost.

    1. Kelly L.*

      It happened to me when I was job searching. It was so annoying–I wanted the particular job they’d advertised, and when I called they were like “OK, but before we talk about that, do a surprise phone interview and do our questionnaire and come in for an interview with us (they were out in the suburbs on the complete other end of the metro area, much farther away than the actual job) and jump through all these other hoops and maybe we’ll allow you to apply for the job you saw on Craigslist.” Ugh.

      1. Kay*

        Well, the recruiters are offering to represent you to their clients, it makes sense for them to want to interview you first. I agree that it sucks when agencies aren’t upfront about the type of work they do or whether the job is a current posting.

        1. Taz*

          I have a thing against recruiters representing me when they prefer to deliberately misrepresent themselves in the first place.

          1. Kelly L.*

            This. I would be fine with them interviewing me if I’d applied to be represented by the agency. What I don’t appreciate is thinking I’m applying to a specific job only to find that I have a hundred hoops to jump through first. The bait and switch puts a bad taste in my mouth about both the agency, and perhaps unfairly, the company I wanted to apply to too.

    2. Artemesia*

      The big giant clue in this one is that the OP inquired and was basically told that there was no job i.e. that this was just a fishing lure she had bit on and now they had her hooked and owned her resume. Absolutely request to be eliminated from their system.

    3. AHN*

      LW here – thanks for all the responses! The ad was up front about being an agency post, and in fact I had to go to the agency site using a link to the specific job in which I was interested. If they’d interviewed me and said sorry, not a fit for this job but we may have others in the future, would you like us to keep you on file, I would probably have been OK with that. But I did not intend to apply generically to the agency, and since I was not asked to come in for a screening interview to determine what might be a good fit for my experience, I would prefer they not try to match me in the future. There is a reputable agency in my field that I would prefer to work with and will likely submit a resume to them.

      1. Gene*

        Make sure you keep a copy of your request to have your data removed from their system, and any reply you get from them. If they don’t reply, send the request in writing, Registered with Return Receipt so you have proof you made the request and they received it. In the future, if a worst case comes up and they are claiming they submitted you for a job you applied for on your own, you have proof they did not have your permission to do so.

      2. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

        I personally don’t think you have to give the agency a reason why, I think you can just say, “Thank you very much, but I prefer not to be included in your database, so please refrain from adding me.”

  8. Allison*

    #3 actually makes sense. I sure as heck wouldn’t want an ex working with me, and that means that any ex who applies to work on my team, even if qualified, wouldn’t be a good fit with the group. Same goes for some of my former co-workers from my first job actually.

    The fact is, qualifications are important, but if the person is unlikely to work well with the group, or likely to cause issues, they shouldn’t be hired. They don’t need to be everyone’s BFF, but they shouldn’t be a source of tension or awkwardness either.

    1. Allison*

      I should clarify, there are some exes I could work with. And there are some I’d never want to see again, and would absolutely despise having to see every day.

    2. Cari*

      I was living and working with an ex at one point (we were together before going to work there). It was utter hell and affected my productivity badly. But, once I moved out and started a new relationship (with someone else who worked there – I know, I know!), and my ex was working on a different project to me, things settled down and in the end he was the best person I talked to about them letting me go. It was weird.
      I took VR in my last job (which I loved) because my abusive ex pushed me to, but I’m glad I had that opportunity now because Satan would be skating to work before I went back there after I dumped him. He always seemed to have this idea I wouldn’t give up my job if we broke up, even though I told him about previous situation. Lessons learnt though: never date a co-worker and never work with an ex.

    3. OhNo*

      Yeah, I get along well with all of my exes, but I wouldn’t want to work with some of them every single day either.

      Put in business terms, the company was hiring (or not hiring, in this case) based on cultural fit. Someone decided that the risk that the two people wouldn’t get along wasn’t worth whatever the applicant’s skills are. If that decision were made for any other reason, it probably wouldn’t be questioned or even commented upon.

  9. Kay*

    For #4,

    In my experience recruiters generally don’t send you resume without checking with you first (if they are halfway decent at their jobs) and they certainly won’t send your resume without having met with you first. Generally, when they say they will keep you in their database it doesn’t mean much more than if an employer said it.

  10. illini02*

    For #3 I also think it depends on how big the company is. I can be a little more sympathetic to not putting 2 exes on the same team, but just in the same company seems a stretch if it is a big company. If you can’t even handle possibly seeing that person a couple times a week in the hallway or possibly across the room in the cafeteria, then thats an issue you need to deal with on your personal time and not at work

    1. some1*

      I’m of this mind. While I have exes that I wouldn’t want to work with for 7 figures, most of them I’m cool with or am neutral about.

  11. CB*

    I think the point with #3 is that neither person was directly asked about the issue. It sounds like it was just assumed that it would be an issue. Maybe they are still friends who get along really well and the current employee would have said there was absolutely no problem – but he/she wasn’t asked. That’s the part I have a problem with, the assumption that adults can’t act reasonably and mature.

    1. fposte*

      I think you’re right that she should have been asked. I do wonder, though, if this may be a case where she didn’t need to be asked; if I actually knew the name of the woman an employee’s spouse had been cheating with, that’s a sign right there that the drama was pretty significant.

      1. illini02*

        Nothing in the letter indicates any of that. All it said is that they were exes. Even if YOU think it doesn’t need to be asked, if you are going to say Jane is the reason I’m not hiring this guy because she would be uncomfortable since they dated a few months ago, you need to make sure Jane is actually uncomfortable. You are pushing this way past the scope of this letter to mistresses

        1. Colette*

          I do agree with the drama comment, though. If the hiring manager had to deal with Jane crying at her desk or telling the dramatic breakup story to all of her coworkers, that’s a sign that she shouldn’t hire Jane’s ex – and she doesn’t even need to consult Jane.

    2. Kelly L.*

      I’m actually wondering if they were asked, or if at least one person was asked, and the OP just wasn’t privy to the information.

      1. AVP*

        My totally-reading-too-much-into-it thought was that the OP is the person who didn’t get the offer. Then asked their ex if they knew anything about it and the ex said “Nooo I don’t know they didn’t ask me at all!” Even if they totally did ask and the ex said they’d be uncomfortable and just didn’t want to prolong the conversation.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I wondered the same thing, because I couldn’t figure out why it was on her radar if she wasn’t either of the involved parties. But I guess it’s possible she was on the hiring committee and one of the other people said to her, “Don’t hire this person, they used to date Jane in accounting.”

        2. Zillah*

          I don’t know about that – the OP referred to the company as “we,” and I’m not sure how the applicant would know that they were rejected because their ex works there.

    3. OhNo*

      I wonder if part of the reason that they weren’t asked was because the people in charge of hiring feared they would “suck it up” for the sake of the company. As in: Jose SAYS he’s fine working with his ex, but really he only said that because he thought that was what his boss wanted to hear and really it will be making him miserable. Same thing on the other side: George SAYS he will be fine working with his ex, so they hire him, but really he was just so desperate for a job that he would put up with the devil himself in order to have work.

      Either way, what you could end up with is one, or possibly two, employees that are very unhappy and leave sooner than they might have otherwise.

    4. Zillah*

      Yeah, I agree that they should have been asked. If the company’s policy is strict, I can sort of see it, but still.

      I have an ex who I’d quit the greatest job ever without notice if he was hired. I also have an ex who I’d be perfectly happy to work with. It really depends.

  12. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    For #1, I agree that taking it to HR is a totally fine reaction. I wonder, however, if it might be better for OP to approach the subject with the leadership directly?

    This could be a terrible idea, but I have worked in cultures where this might well be the perfect approach, so I wanted to put it out there. Since OP heard pretty much the exact same joke over and over again, that’s probably the wrinkle that these manager’s don’t see. What if she did a group email to all of them (even BCC’ing people, so they can’t see who else is on the message, but they can tell that there are indeed others), something like: “Hey all. There are 5 of you on this email, and I wanted to let you know that every single one of you did this when I told you about my being pregnant. I totally understand that you were all joking – I really do – which is why I didn’t take this to HR. But you gotta know, there’s so much opportunity for that joke to create a liability (as well as an unwelcome work environment) when told once. Again, you guys ALL told it. I presume that you can see the problem with that.”

    This approach has the benefit of telling them what’s up (as opposed to “getting them in trouble” with HR) and also reduces the chances that OP would face any kind of retaliation (since it would be obvious who the complaint came from with HR).

    Is that a horrible idea?

    1. JMegan*

      I love this idea. Of course it depends quite a lot on the culture of the workplace, and whether or not the OP feels comfortable going directly to the senior management team, but I think it’s a great plan. “I don’t mind the joke on its own, but hearing it five or six times from people senior to me, made me wonder if there’s actually some truth behind it.”

      Assuming they’re all decent people, they’ll both apologize to the OP and rein in the jokes, and the point will be made without having to go to HR.

    2. Artemesia*

      Months after the fact it is. This is the sort of thing that needs to be said right when it happens and not months later unless you want to look like a squirrel. The pushback can be something as simple as ‘whoa — I know you think that is funny, but let’s not even joke about discriminating against women.’

      1. JMegan*

        I still think it’s worth it, even a couple of months later. Because several people said it to her, she can be pretty sure that it’s not a one-off, and that they will say it again to other people. As Kimberlee, Esq pointed out, it’s not about the individual joke, it’s about the cumulative effect of the jokes. And the only way to get them to stop, is to say something.

      2. Jen RO*

        Yeah, I don’t see how this can be brought up months later. If it happens again, just say something as you hear it.

        1. Jamie*

          I agree with this. At the time, maybe, but months after the fact I’d be concerned I looked like I had an axe to grind against one of them and I was scouring the recesses of my memory for dirt.

          And months after the fact there is total plausible deniability that they have no idea what she’s talking about – who remembers casual conversations and off hand comments months later? (I do, but my brain holds on to everything I’ll never need again – but normal people don’t.)

          how can spell check not have deniability? I had to go to the dictionary since it red-squigglied me and didn’t give me the right spelling as an option and I was correct the first time. It’s a word, wth?

    3. neverjaunty*

      It’s not a horrible idea if they’re just good-natured dumbos who didn’t realize what an inappropriate joke it is. It’s a horrible terrible no-good idea if they’re anything else, because they’ll see that as “Here is me being uppity and making a written record of your attitudes about women in this company.”

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In the right culture, I think this would be a great way to handle it — and in the right culture, I think it would be fine to do months later too. I’ve worked places where this would be perfect. It’s 100% dependent on culture though.

  13. LUVS_A_Laugh*

    #2. You need someone on your team who understands the culture of your remote team. From your letter I see issues that are related to cultural differences. I am not going to try and recap semesters worth of diversity and global human resource graduate studies to you. I just strongly advise getting someone on your team who understands your culture and the other culture. You and your state side team may also benefit from some team building excersises wiht the remote team as well. Hard to do when their is an ocean seperating you, however use technology and get creative. Good luck

  14. anon-2*

    #3 – it’s rather common. Let’s say Joe worked at Acme Teapots. Bill worked with him there, too, and didn’t get along with him. The situation forced Bill to depart, going on to Beta Teapots.

    Joe is ecstatic; he drove his “rival” out the door. Joe goes on working every day — but take note — companies that love people who love political battles, experience political battles. And companies and groups often strangle themselves under their own politics.

    So one day, Joe is called into the office. “uh, owing to reduced revenues, changing market conditions, da-da-da-da”, Joe either loses his position or is advised to go find something else.

    The only other teapot maker in his metro area is Beta. Joe sends his resume there.

    Now – what USUALLY happens is this – Joe’s resume crosses someone’s desk over at Beta. They notice Joe worked at the same place Bill worked. They immediately go out to the floor, “hey Bill, gotta minute? Do you know Joe from Acme? He’s lookin’ for a job, looks like he’d do OK…”

    Then Bill chimes in — torpedoes Joe’s candidacy. Either he doesn’t want to work with him again and says something bad — or tells the truth “Joe is a political creature, not a skilled worker.” Before the application / interview process begins, Joe gets a response =

    “We have received your application and thank you for your interest in Beta Teapots. However…. (no openings, we’ll keep your app on file for year, blah blah blah, do not call us, we’ll call you if….”). Most often, miscreants, or those who had a “past” with incumbent employees don’t get called in for interviews.

    1. illini02*

      Well to me thats a bit different just because you are actually rejecting a candidate based on their professional merits, or at least the opinion of someone who as worked with them. Not something completely unrelated to work like the fact that Joe didn’t show Jane enough affection as a boyfriend. Again bad person (in a personal sense) =/= bad employee.

      1. Colette*

        But in the situation we’re discussion, they are basing their decision on the business needs. It’s not about whether Joe showed Jane enough affection but about whether Joe and Jane can work together without letting their personal relationship interfere.

  15. mel*

    #1. Psshaaww…. why stop at 20s & 30s? If they’re committed to forever avoid women who “could get pregnant”, that’s pretty much any woman between the ages of 12-50, regardless of relationship status, unless they’re going to start requesting doctor’s notes for infertility. Good luck with that!

  16. A Reader*

    #4: I actuall work for a really great staffing agency (AVID Technical Resources) and I have to say that this is a big problem with some other agencies that give the whole industry a bad name. They post fake jobs so they have a lot of candidates with a specific skill set when a real job comes in. (We don’t do this, and I would have a hard time respecting my managers if we did). We also make a real relationship between the person and the recruiter working with them. So they’re really only contacted by that person, who knows exactly what kinds of jobs they are qualified to do and want to do.

    If this staffing agency doesn’t seem to have practices like this, I’d recommend staying away. They don’t care much about you as a candidate. They care only about filling their jobs. Big red flag.

    Of course, this just my perspective from inside the industry. Hope this helps.

    1. AHN*

      Thanks for this perspective (LW here). I’ve worked with an agency before, and through them I found my last full-time position, but it doesn’t seem to place people in my field any more. I have seen a lot of the kind of ads you mention (postings that say this is representative of the jobs we have available, that kind of thing) and have purposely avoided them. There is a different reputable agency that I plan to work with if nothing comes up soon.

      1. A Reader*

        Good luck in the search. It’s hard to tell who the good guys and bad guys are in the staffing industry. Hope you find your dream job soon!

  17. Wren*

    In regards to #1’s suggestion that if men received more equal leave when they add to their families, it would lessen bias against women of childbearing age:

    1 week is indeed pretty stingy, but equal doesn’t sound totally right to my Canadian ears. In Canada, pregnant women technically get pregnancy leave in addition to the parental leave they can split with their co-parent (because we recognize same-sex co parents.) Adoptive parents would also have access to parental leave without the pregnancy leave.a

    However, I second general principal about father taking leave. I’d like to see American parents of any gender be allowed to take more time to bond with their new babies.

    In Canada, it’s at the discretion of the parents how they split the parental leave and I’ve known parents to split it in a variety of ways according to their own situation. It’s paid for by our employment insurance system, so parents on leave are still taking a pay cut usually, but many large employers offer partial or full top-ups as an employee benefit. Which parent has access to better benefits in this regard often affects how parents choose to divide the leave. I don’t recall which jurisdiction, but I heard of a place where there was a leave allotment that was only accessible to men. This made it more normal for men to take leave, since few people want to leave benefits on the table.

  18. A Jane*

    Related to #2 –

    For people working with offshore development teams, I would highly recommend speaking to whomever your contact is for the offshore vendor about communication best practices. It doesn’t hurt having those discussions and can help improve relationships.

    Also, this sounds silly, but see if the team would be willing to send a photo of themselves to the office and vice versa. As soon as we actually had a face to the name on the conference line, there was a small change but positive change in the working relationship

  19. SouthernBelle*

    #3 – I’ve had similar situations to this letter. In one, I was beginning a new job in a call center, walked into my first day of training and right before the day was to begin, my very recent ex with whom I had had a VERY bad breakup came in. Turns out he was hired to start in the same cohort as me. I left; quit on the spot. At that point in time, there was no way that I could be in that situation and maintain composure. The more recent time, I accepted a position and then later found out that an ex worked for its sister company, which is located in the same building. I had done a lot of growing since the first incident, so I didn’t have the same reaction. I guess it also didn’t hurt that my position was senior to his and that we hadn’t parted on bad terms. All that to say, I can understand why the company would try to avoid the situation. I only wonder how in the world they knew of the former relationship without talking to either party. I can’t imagine that the applicant came in and just volunteered that information.

  20. Timon*

    OP 1; let it go. It would be career suicide to bring it up now, more so to HR. The intent isn’t there as much as they just chuckling about an unpleasant thing they are dealing with. It isn’t influencing their decision as much as you think it is…

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