the word men don’t hear in performance reviews, the 40-hour work week is dead, and more

Over at Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I take a look at several big work-related stories in the news right now: the word men don’t hear in performance reviews but women do (let’s drop the mystery: it’s “abrasive”), Gallup data showing the 40-hour work week is dead, and more. You can read it here.

{ 380 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*

    Huh. On the “abrasive” one – that’s interesting and definitely tracks with my experience that areas of improvement tend to be more personality focused rather than skill focused. In fact almost all the feedback I’ve ever gotten has been personality related. Interesting!

    1. Clever Name*

      Yeah, me too.
      Boss: You do great work, but you need to work on your communication skills
      Me: Okay. What specifically do I need to work on? Can you give me some examples of problems?
      Boss: No. Just work on your communication with others. Here’s a pamphlet.


      1. EngineerGirl*

        Me too. They even sent me to a class (Crucial Conversations). That helped. But at some point you realize it’s them.

        1. CA Admin*

          The CEO of my company gave all the employees a copy of this book as mandatory reading. Is it worth it? Knowing him, I just assumed it was a bunch of garbage and tossed on my bookshelf without a second thought.

          1. EngineerGirl*

            I thought it was worth it. My first test was to get important information from my sister, who has Borderline Personality Disorder. She was embezzling my Dad’s bank account. Let’s just say that I got the info, the embezzling stopped, and there were no histrionics. I was sold.

            1. CA Admin*

              Good to know! I may read it now. CEO isn’t the best at dealing with people, so I didn’t think highly of his recommendation. Outside verification is helpful.

            2. Alurah*

              I’ve read Crucial Conversations for work (work in higher ed) and thought it was helpful also. I really like Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg (I have a counseling background). It definitely tends to lean to the touchy feely side though, so may not be some people’s cup of tea.

        2. Clever Name*

          Yeah. Fortunately (unfortunately?) I realized the person giving me the feedback is a manager that everyone else besides me has problems communicating with. To my company’s everlasting credit, they’ve started intensively training the new managers, and I’ve seen significant improvement with this particular manager. I can finally figure out what he needs from me, and I’m so much happier to do it. And yes, I did tell him that.

        3. Christina*

          Oh god, Crucial Conversations. In theory it’s useful, but try putting 150 IT people through this, and with no follow-through from management, in an attempt to correct poor management and communication and see how well it goes over. Fun.

          1. Anonfornow*

            How true -I had my annual performance review last week and the three managers that wrote my evaluations gave me exceptional rating on the technical skills. The points for improvement said ‘ needs to work on interpersonal communication’. I asked for examples and they pulled out a few emails I had sent more than a month ago. One of the emails was a monthly project update I had been sending to a group of customers. The managers said nothing during the year when I was sending those monthly messages. Suddenly at the year end review, one manager pulls it out of his file and says ‘this is so unprofessional; you should not be copying everyone on project updates.’
            It was so obvious they tried so hard to find some development points for me and all they could find was those emails.

      2. Annette*

        I was once told by a middle-aged male manager that he would always “smarter, wiser and know more that I would, so I should just be quiet and listen” because I had a different way of organizing my daily tasks – I quickly left that company. One thing for sure he’s still a jerk.

        1. LJLIo*

          I got the same from a female manager. And almost all feedback personality-based. Frustrating. I think she wanted a mini-me, but I. Have found things that work for me.

          1. Ka'El*

            God, her name wasn’t Pat was it? Sounds exactly like one of the nightmares I worked for… No it’s not a personality appraisal it’s a performance appraisal. No, disagreeing with you or getting irritated when you keep coming up to the front while I am mid flow training and interrupting does not mean I am bi-polar I am simply deeply pissed off with you. Oh and NO not everybody else in the organisation agrees with you that I have an issue with my social skills, I get on fine with everyone else – It’s you Pat, just YOU!

      3. Lora*

        Oh, you worked for Ken too?

        My other favorite:
        Me: You seemed to think I’d be the obvious choice for this promotion, and it didn’t happen, so what can I do in the future to be more promote-able?
        Boss: I don’t really know, I mean, you know your technical stuff, you do the most projects of anyone in the group. They said you sometimes look stressed, when you’re running around with your coffee cup. You should work on that.
        Me: Uh, can you be more specific?
        Boss: You could wear more make-up. Do something with your hair.

        1. Jenny*

          A friend of mine had a similar conversation regarding a promotion.

          Friend: You seemed to think I’d be the obvious choice for this promotion, and it didn’t happen, so what can I do in the future to be more promote-able?
          Boss: Well, I don’t know. I mean, Ron has a family he has to provide for.
          Friend: He has a wife who also works full-time . . . that shouldn’t be an issue.
          Boss: He has to provide for his family! It’s what a man does.

          She was left thinking that there was really no way she could get a promotion unless she spontaneously grew a penis and then got married.

          1. Ebonarc*

            The boss at least did your friend the courtesy of explicitly stating that promotions are based on gender, at least. The world would work far more efficiently if all unthinking jerks labeled themselves as such as cleanly as this boss did.

          2. Rutendo*

            I worked on numerous projects this year, designed modifications to a plant that was performing poorly resulting in 75% increase in production. Not only did my boss give me no recognition for my work on that huge project (don’t mind that, after all my job is to my boss look good), but I was passed over for a promotion that was given to a totally incompetent and unqualified older MALE who has miraculously escaped being fired for 15 years (it is almost impossible to fire anyone in my country unless he has committed an egregious offense e.g. criminal offence. He has been given disciplinary warnings and put on improvement plans, gotten fired, appealed and returned to work a cycle that repeats itself every three years, given how hard it is to write someone up and have it stick. arggghhhh). This person is not a registered engineer and has never worked in a technical capacity yet he was given an engineering post (he has been floating from department to department as no one wants him in their department). I am a registered engineer in 4 countries including the UK, but I’m FEMALE unfortunately (and quite young too). I have now been tasked with checking his work but not letting him know I am correcting it (how ridiculous is that?) in addition to my own work.

            Sorry for the long rant but seriously being a professional woman in my field in my country is excruciatingly painful…I’m also severely underpaid because I am female, don’t have a husband or children to take care despite being a very high performer. The general manager told me my income is a bonus for my husband, I told them I wasn’t married and then he said I better hurry up and get someone to take care of me? Oh yes, because all women are incapable of making their own living right?

          1. Lora*

            If it’s any consolation, he was let go to pursue other opportunities a year later, although sadly for unrelated reasons. And not before many, many good people left because of him.

        2. JCC*

          I wonder if your boss went to school in a place that punishes “grinds” socially? Some places are like that — over-achievement isn’t enough, you have to make it look like you achieved without stress, without worry, as though it were as natural as getting up in the morning, even if you were working furiously the whole time. I’ve heard people who do that called “ducks”, because they smoothly glide along on the water, while their furiously paddling legs are invisible.

      4. Mister Pickle*

        Yeah, I ***love*** getting feedback on my communication skills from someone who does not possess any such skills themselves. I had a manager once who had crap for people skills – I once saw him tell a client “I can tell by your waistline that you’re a man who likes to eat” – who attended a meeting I ran, and afterwards he said “you know, your interpersonal skills are getting better”. Somehow I kept my self-control and merely answered “thank you”.

    2. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

      All of my negative feedback has been personality based as well.

      More approachable when stressed – might as well make a macro.

      I did get “too focused on ethics” at a former job – which cracked me up. I was leaving anyway.

        1. Marcy*

          I got something similar. I was called “too nice” because I couldn’t force other departments with people way senior to me to do things they didn’t want to do.

      1. cereal killer*

        Oh, I was told once by a manager that I was “more moral than the rest” of the people that work for him. This was stated as a negative. I’m not really sure what you want me to work on there?

      2. Jake*

        I got that from a manager lateral to my own.

        When I told my manager about it he said, “Jake, my whole staff is too focused on ethics because if you weren’t I’d fire you all” as he laughed hysterically.

      3. K.*

        I was told that I was making people “uncomfortable” and that I was not “being a team player” because I brought up the fact that the team was engaging in e-mail marketing practices that were explicitly illegal (and I even phrased it in the AAM-approved way, like, “Hey all, we really need to make sure we’re within the law on this, look at this help CAN-SPAM resource I found…” etc)

      4. Hillary*

        I got that one during an interview during an interview for a compliance job. I decided my brand of compliance and their choices weren’t going to fit.

    3. C Average*

      Last year, there was a whole kerfuffle in literary circles about female authors feeling pressure to write more likable fictional characters in order to be considered marketable.

      I often think performance reviews for women are like literary reviews of female-focused literature: you just need to be a more likable fictional character if you want to be considered marketable.


      1. Traveler*

        I’m googling this now because I have so many questions about this but don’t want to get us off topic.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Did you know that when Jane Austen wrote Emma, she intended Emma Woodhouse to be an intensely unlikable character and then was surprised and baffled about why people liked her? I’ve always found that interesting. Emma is probably my favorite Austen book, but it’s true that Emma (the character, not the book) is pretty horrid at times, although she eventually evolves.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          That’s interesting. I tend to prefer “Pride and Prejudice,” but am fond of “Emma,” too. The character is pretty horrid at times, but I think people might like her because in spite of some of the things she does, Emma has a good heart. She wants people to be happy and thinks she knows more than she does; I think many of us can relate to that to some extent. (I also love the movie “Clueless” – for my money, it’s one of the best adaptations of “Emma.”)

          1. Adam*

            Indeed. We like when characters who don’t get it realize their faults and evolve to be better people which is exactly what Cher (Emma) does. She spent most of her story trying to engineer everyone else’s lives with good intentions but disastrous results. When she decides to leave everyone else alone and works on herself she becomes a much more likeable individual and we feel she earned her eventual happy ending. It gives us hope for ourselves as well.

        2. Cheeky*

          So Alison, what DO you do when you get the “feedback” that you’re abrasive, or in my case, told to be aware that I “have a strong personality?” On the one hand, it may be completely true and valid feedback. On the other hand, it may be something that is sticking out solely because you’re female. I work in a technical role for a utility company, which is VERY male-dominated, even though there are more and more highly-educated women being hired for highly-skilled positions. A lot of men in my company still hang on to old social norms with overt and covert shades of sexism. What to do?

          1. RJ*

            I am in the same boat. I have been branded as “aggressive” but only from insecure people and impostors who have been promoted way beyond their level of competence. Everyone else really enjoys being around me and vouches that I do great work.

            I was basically told by my current (male) manager that if I wanted to keep my job, I would have to ingratiate myself to the people who have problems with me (older male coworkers who still hang on to old, outdated social norms with overt and covert shades of sexism and racism). That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but I also didn’t want to leave this job, so I had to do what I could to ingratiate myself to them and ignore the pain from selling out to keep a job. I learned a lot about mindfulness and detachment.

            I still have issues with them from time to time, but they did become slightly more pleasant to work with. At least I got taken off probation and made full-time permanent. I have some measure of job security, but I still have to just clam up and ignore them when they say grossly inappropriate stuff at work.

          2. HR Madness*

            Personally, I would own it. I have also been told (and probably in a negative way at times) that I have a strong personality, but I love it. I think it’s a great quality and one that has served me very well in both my personal and professional life so far. Do I have to check it from time to time? Certainly. But don’t we all have personality traits that require this? I typically try to find a person in the company or outside that I trust to be bluntly honest with me and run scenarios by them to see if I went too far :)

            In my first ever adult job, I worked in a very male dominated environment and was never discouraged for being strong. Not only did they like it, they encouraged it. In my current position, it’s not outwardly encouraged, but I have found it to be rewarded.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              This is basically what I’ve ended up thinking too. You’ve got to know and accept that sometimes it might cause issues, but so be it. It’s tiring, seen from a certain light, but I’ve had pretty good luck in just deciding not to care about it too much.

              There are moments when you’ll care though, which sucks.

          3. J-nonymous*

            I remind myself continually that feedback is just information and that I get to determine how I’ll react to it and incorporate it into my view of myself. (Note: I don’t delude myself – some ‘information’ is far more urgent than other info, and how I react to it and address it, and how quickly, could affect my employment!)

            In regards to this feedback, context is what matters. If your boss can point to specific examples *and* explain why the traits described affected the team/performance in a negative way, then that is information you can take action on (if you choose, of course).

            If your boss cannot provide that context or the details, well – that’s also information–about your boss. Perhaps he’s being sexist (a very distinct possibility given the perception of strong and assertive women in the workplace), or maybe he’s just not very good at feedback regarding the softer skills.

            Ask for specifics in a non-confrontational way. Ask for feedback on how team interactions are going as soon as you can. Your boss might get better at articulating what it is about your so-called ‘strong personality’ which is bothering him. Or he may not, and then you’ll know that regardless of whether the feedback is true and valid, there’s not much you’re going to be able to do with this manager to assess those areas and come up with a plan to address them.

            At which point, I’d recommend finding a mentor you trust.

        3. L McD*

          Anecdotally, but I’ve noticed that I have to try very *very* hard to write female characters that readers actually end up liking. When they behave like how *I* think normal people would behave in a given situation, they come across as unlikeable to a lot of readers (which are 99% female in my genre). They have to be more apologetic, more forgiving, and less assertive than male characters, I find. It’s the Skyler White effect.

        4. books*

          That probably worked out the same with Cher too. You shouldn’t like her because man is she spoiled and dumb but I totally want to be best friends!

      3. Calla*

        I remember this! I totally understand the WHY of it (sexism) but it’s so bizarre to me because some of my favorite books are about mean, manipulative, and/or complicated girls and women.

      4. LBK*

        I’m reminded of the whole Walter White/Skyler White dichotomy. Viewers generally accepted that Walter was a bad person who did bad things out of selfish motivations, but spoke about him in a neutral way and kind of a badass genius even if he wasn’t ethical. Skyler, on the other hand, acted mostly out of justified anger and self-defense and was constantly trashed as an evil bitch.

        Same thing with Walter White vs. Nancy Botwin, two very similar characters that got dramatically different audience reactions.

        1. K*

          I heard that people even sent death threats to the actress who played Skyler. People REALLY need to learn to separate the performer from the role.

        2. Mister Pickle*

          People thought Skylar was an “evil bitch”???

          News to me – although I guess I believe it. But I can’t think of a single instance where Skylar didn’t have a darned good reason for being “abrasive”.

        3. BOMA*

          Honestly, I despised Skylar’s character as well. Although sending death threats to the actress who played her? That’s completely unacceptable.

          1. LBK*


            I think it’s because in the earlier seasons when Walter is still kind of the hero/someone you want to root for, she stands in his way a lot so it sort of makes her the primary antagonist. I think some of her questionable actions are also more relatable – people REALLY raked her over the coals for sleeping with Ted because most people have a personal connection to infidelity. Most people don’t have a personal connection with their business partner poisoning their girlfriend’s son, so while on an intellectual level that is clearly an evil action, it doesn’t hit people on the same emotional level.

            It’s like why people have a more visceral hatred of Umbridge than Voldemort – most people don’t have experience with a genocidal mastermind trying to take over the world, but a lot of people have dealt with an infuriating authority figure that no one in a position of power seems to understand is wrong and evil.

          2. Natalie*

            Well, I hated her, but I hated all of them – Skyler, Walter, Walt, Jr, even the baby. (Not really the baby)

            I made it through about Season 3 of that show and then I just quit in annoyance.

        4. Mints*

          Disclaimer: I only watched one and a half seasons. But I came across a quote from the actress responding to some of the hate, while I was towards the end of my petering out on the show. And I was so shocked by this reaction. Walter is the embodiment of privilege (as a white male), as a character in relation to his public reaction. Does Skylar get that much worse in later seasons? (I’m off to Google…) He’s sympathetic for like a week then I stopped watching.
          I don’t need all my fiction to have likable characters, but I think I acknowledge when they’re horrible people.
          This is actually the disclaimer I give when recommending It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (The show is really funny, but they’re all terrible horrible people and they only get worse)

          1. LBK*

            FWIW, critical commentary of Walt did acknowledge him as a villain as the show progressed. Towards the beginning he was more of an anti-hero, doing things for the good of his family and to fight a system that had screwed him over. As it went on and it was clear he was just acting out of hubris, people started to see that he was no longer in a moral grey area, but he was still liked as a depiction of a character – that is, the way he was written was praised and allowed him to be appreciated in a way that Skyler wasn’t. Basically everything I read prior to the final season airing said people were expecting Walt to get his comeuppance for all the horrible things he had done. No one wanted him to get away scot-free anymore, especially for everything he did to Jesse. And he does acknowledge in his final scene with Skyler that he did everything out of pride and selfishness and that he had deluded himself into thinking it was for his family.

    4. holly*

      i’ve gotten that i need to smile more. i guess smiling really helps people produce work… or girls should just be smiley.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I have an overwhelming urge to punch people in the face if they tell me to smile.

        I guess that makes me abrasive.

        1. LittleT*

          @Katie & Holly, you beat me to it! I was just coming here to say this.

          I have never heard of a male colleague being told to “Smile! or Smile More! People might think you’re angry or upset.”

          Uh, but I am angry at the moment.

          “Well, you don’t have to let it SHOW” as I was once told.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I had a guy come into the office yesterday and be really rude and confrontational, and when he was done ranting, pulled the “Smile, it’s not that bad!” thing. Dude had been yelling at me for ten minutes! I don’t know what he expected.

          2. RJ*

            Women are basically damned if they do, damned if they don’t. You have to smile a lot and be “feminine” and “pleasant” yet you also cannot smile too much, or else people don’t take you seriously. Leil Lowndes has a good description in her book “How To Talk To Anyone” about how women need to smile and be perceived as pleasant, yet they cannot also smile too much or too quickly.

          1. Windchime*

            That’s great! I hate, hate, hate being commanded to “smile!”. It’s shorthand for, “Your feelings are secondary to my need to view you as a decorative object. When you smile, I (mister man) feel happy because your exterior looks happy!”

        2. Anx*

          I finally had it about 2 weeks ago. I had read some particular upsetting personal news and someone told me to smile on the bus and I asked him why I should be happy that a friend’s 3 year old son is terminally ill. Or if I was just being silly for still thinking about it over 20 minutes later. Or if I was just reacting too emotionally, what with the whole failure to keep my neutral, unengaged expression under wraps.

      2. Jennifer*

        Girls have to smile. That’s according to the random strangers on the street, anyway. When someone did it to me, I pointed out that I had just seen a dead squirrel and he just kept on rambling on like I’d said nothing. I was lucky that level of crazy didn’t follow me home or something.

        I smile so FAKE at work and it’s sad how people just eat it up with a spoon. I feel like I’m upping how Stepford I am by the day and nobody, but nobody notices.

        1. Artemesia*

          I have mentioned this before, but I was on a plane from Chicago to Seattle when my father died — I had been in Chicago on business and had just gotten the call that morning and was rushing to assist my mother. The guy in the next seat said ‘oh come on smile, it can’t be that bad.’ Sad though losing my father was, I got great pleasure in turning to him and saying ‘My father just died this morning.’ He didn’t say another word on that flight.

        2. Kyrielle*

          Oh my word. I have had compliments at work for how happily I answer the phone!

          I learned it in self defense. I have to answer a phone at 3 am sometimes: when I am answering a work phone, any work phone, I plaster a smile on my face and chirp, because I wasn’t being “pleasant” enough when I just gave the standard, “(Company), this is Laura” greeting. I use the same words now but I chirp them. It’s become habit.

          One of my favorite managers (never MY manager, alas, in a different part of the company that I often work with tho) is also the only one who asked me – the first time she called me at like 2 am and heard The Voice – “How do you DO that? Doesn’t it hurt or something?” In this ‘what the hell is that’ tone of voice.

          I do it because it makes interaction with the people who pay me easier. And because it’s kind of evilly amusing, but it would be moreso if anyone else, ever, asked why I sound like I’ve just been transported to a show intended for 3-year-olds.

      3. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

        Ahhh – the smile more. You’re so pretty when you smile. People look to you so when you’re stressed the tone of the office changes – you should smile even when you stressed and you’ll feel better, too!

        Smile – why so serioussssss…

        Or maybe people could stop using me as an emotional proxy, that could work too.

        I have never once, in my life, ever heard someone tell a man to smile.

        1. OhNo*

          “I have never once, in my life, ever heard someone tell a man to smile.”

          Isn’t that weird? I’ve heard people use a hundred different phrases to get men to lighten up – “cheer up”, “it’s okay”, “c’mon, it’s not that bad”, “it could be worse”, etc., etc. – but never once have I heard a guy being told to smile.

          It’s almost like people think they have some right to control a woman’s physical body or something…

          1. Who are you?*

            LOL! I tell guys to smile all the time. I swear, I do. I’ve been doing it for years. A teacher in high school used to point out non-smiling faces in the hallway (almost exclusively female) and it bugged me. He would do it in this sing-song voice I’ve always associated with people who take self-help mantras too seriously. So I started doing it as a joke. My guy friends would be sitting there with neutral or frowning faces and I would say “Come on big guy! Turn that frown upside down” (Or let a smile be your umbrella or whatever cheesy “show me your smile” phrase came into my mind). Most of them would smile. So I kept it up. I tell everyone to smile. It’s been over 20 years now. Of course, you have to read a person. Most people are in a good mood and just have that neutral face that seems serious (BRF, if you will). If I sense that a person is genuinely upset I won’t say anything and I almost never say it to strangers on the street. (Though, to be honest, while in college I did tell a couple of cute guys to smile and ended up getting and giving numbers because of it.)

            1. De (Germany)*

              Almost never? Really, please don’t tell strangers they should be smiling, regardless of gender.

              I really hate to be told to smile even if I am not actually unhappy and just have my “neutral” face on. Why can’t I just look the way I do?

        2. Trixie*

          It’s like we’re an alternative mother-figure at the office, and need a smile that says everything will be alright. Messed. Up.

          1. Former Cable Rep*

            It’s not just you. When strangers tell me to smile, I grin big, put on my smile voice, and tell people to go f*** themselves.

      4. Mints*

        This one really annoys me too, because my resting face is neutral, so I don’t get the smile commands as much as my “resting bitch face” friends. However, I have an intensely frowny thinking face. And there were several several times when I’d come out of class right after getting a paper topic or something, and I’m mulling over ideas >:( and got the smile command and felt like telling the stranger “No you’re interrupting my train of thought thinking through an argument against Plato’s classist denouncing of democracy” (for example). But I never did. I just rolled my eyes and kept walking

        1. NoPantsFridays*

          This is just like when people ask you “what are you thinking about?” which interrupts your train of thought to begin with. It’s as if they think they’re entitled to know what you’re thinking about, which they’re not. Moreover, it’s a thought, there’s a reason I’m not voicing it. But they seem to think you must answer, even if you don’t remember what you were thinking before they interrupted you. And of course if you tell the truth (“I don’t remember”) they think you’re lying…

      5. Jeanne*

        Yeah this kind of crap. I was the best worker in the department. Fastest and with least mistakes. Almost everyone wanted me to work with them. I got “work more happily”. I asked for goals, training, what I needed to do to be promoted. Silence.

    5. EngineerGirl*

      I believe this comes down to male entitlement. A senior tech woman (senior women in general) can and must say “no” on occasion. She has the ability to enforce that “no”. An entitled man will be enraged that a woman is telling him “no” and enforcing it. He then goes to the woman’s boss and complains.
      The worst review I received in my life was after I said that something “totally didn’t work”. I was being kind – it took over 1-1/2 years to fix the item. The team’s manager complained to mine about it and said that no one wanted to work with me. Pretty interesting, as I had received praise for getting said item fixed. Something I couldn’t have done without full cooperation and support from that team.
      So which was it bubba? I can’t work with your people or I worked so well with them that we fixed the serious flaws?

      1. EngineerGirl*

        By the way, this same manager zapped 3 other senior women the same year. We only found out about it after we talked with each other. It was too late to change the performance appraisals.

      2. Jennifer*

        “An entitled man will be enraged that a woman is telling him “no” and enforcing it. He then goes to the woman’s boss and complains.”

        Yup, that sounds like my job, especially since we’re like 90% women.

      3. CA Admin*

        A lot of men do that with women who say no outside of work too. Ask for a dance/drink/date with a woman and she says no? Feel free to call her a b*tch, c*nt, etc. because she’s a worthless wh*re who doesn’t see your true value.

        What’s so threatening to men about a woman who says no? I really don’t get where all the hostility comes from.

        I was an assistant manager at a pet food store right after college and I had to deal with all this same crap. The male managers all treated me like an associate and would complain to our boss if I told them no or disagreed with them in any way. I was great with customer service and I knew the systems backwards and forwards, but I always got dinged in my evaluations for being difficult, abrasive, or condescending to the male staff.

        Now I work under a female boss with predominately female peers and magically I don’t seem to have those same personality issues. Funny how that works, huh?

        1. Jennifer*

          “What’s so threatening to men about a woman who says no? I really don’t get where all the hostility comes from.”

          When someone “lower” than them doesn’t just roll over and give you whatever you want, I guess. We’re supposed to smile and obey immediately.

      4. RJ*

        Nobody likes to hear bad news, and unfortunately our society forces women into the nurturer/peacemaker/cheerleader role. Few managers like to hear bad news (although they should; otherwise the faster they realize there’s a problem, the quicker it can be solved); however, if you’re a woman and you try to raise issues you will be judged very harshly as negative, abrasive, aggressive, bringing the team down, etc. This article discusses how an inability to respond proactively to bad news is cancerous to any organization, and that when management surrounds itself with “yes men” the rest of us end up dealing with huge disasters like the Deepwater Horizon (the article doesn’t mention gender stereotyping)

        1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

          I do think a lot of this is the expectation of nurturing thing and I think by and large people aren’t conscious of it.

          My sister loves to tell this story…when my mom was in the final stages of cancer the four of us (my 2 sisters, brother, and me) would take turns at the hospital round the clock sleeping in this fold out chair/cot thing next to the bed. Of course there would be overlap where we’d all be there, or various subsets, at the same time.

          The nurses were great – very good to our mom and nice to all of us. But with my sisters they would say hi, a little chit chat, as they did their duties (I wasn’t real chatty). We’d ask where we could get more blankets and they’d tell us. My brother? They would bring him meals, snacks, ask him if he wanted another blanket and really fuss over him and tell him what a great son he was for being there for mom. Both younger and older nurses, it was like he was goodness personified. And one of my sisters (a nurse herself) was flabbergasted when one went on and on to her about what a saint he was to take time off work and away from his family to spend so much time with his dying mother.

          Women have always been like this with my brother and I see it with my ex-husband – strangers just want to take care of them. They are both exceptionally good looking, so that may play a part, but they get the flirtatious as well as motherly attention. Someone needs to study this effect because it’s irritated me my whole life.

          My sister, who was so direct that she could be really intimidating – you look at her and see 5′ and 90 lbs of cuteness…until you piss her off and she starts talking. She pointed out that yes, my brother was the saintliest saint who ever sainted, but we also were there for our mom and had families and jobs and businesses and that no one brings us blankets or brownies. Why is it so extraordinary that he does the same?

          I didn’t notice it at the time, because I was either sleeping/crying/or angry, but my sister swears it was the most eye opening experience to see how differently men and women are treated.

          So long story, but I do think some of it comes down to a societal belief which isn’t largely conscious that we’re supposed to be nurturing and warm as the default (probably going back to the universal mother experience of the ultimate nurturer) and so what’s just expected of us is extraordinary when they do it.

          And there are absolutely circumstances where it would be reversed where the societal expectations of men to be strong and protective are the default so when they deviate from that there is far less fall out than for us.

          1. Artemesia*

            For me this is summed up in the phrase ‘fix him a plate’ as in wives should fix their husband’s a plate at buffets; this phrase causes me to (internally at least) become foam at the mouth filled with rage. It embodies that assumption that women just be subjugated to the needs of men, always. I have seen it with men flying with babies or toddlers alone. Everyone fusses over them and helps them and brings them things while the mother with 3 kids struggles alone getting them situated and gets dirty looks for bringing them on a plane.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I wonder if the hidden message there is that because he is a man he could not possibly handle a small child AND airplane travel at the same time.

          2. RJ*

            Thank you for sharing this story. I am sad that you and your sisters weren’t treated with greater compassion during such a difficult time. It is creepy to see that kind of favoritism in action, and I agree that most people simply are totally unaware of it.

            For what it’s worth, I read a study about how men and their time is more valued than women. The study looked at wait staff. Men consistently received higher tips even for poorer service, regardless of whether the customer was male or female.

          3. Jessica (the celt)*

            Jamie, this reminds me of an article I recently read that talked about a study that showed a wife’s happiness had more correlation to the long-term prospect of a marriage than the husband’s happiness. One thing in the article struck me more than anything else:

            Still, she said, the study also found that while wives became less happy if their spouses became ill, the husbands’ happiness level didn’t change or reflect the same outcome if their wives got sick.

            “We know that when a partner is sick it is the wife that often does the caregiving which can be a stressful experience,” said Carr. “But often when a women gets sick it is not her husband she relies on but her daughter.”

            (You can find the source by going to Rutgers news page and searching for “A Wife’s Happiness Is More Crucial than Her Husband’s in Keeping Marriage on Track, Rutgers Study Finds.” I’m avoiding moderation. ;) )

            It probably stuck in my mind because I’m a non-parent by choice, so you’d better believe that I told my husband that the “sickness and health” part certainly included the sickness for both of us, no matter which of us is ill (and he’s good for it, so I don’t worry). However, I also was struck by how all of the caring fell to women: wife or daughter. Where are the husbands when care is needed? Where are the sons? (Heck, now we know that they’ll get preferential treatment from the nursing staff if they do attend to their wives’ or mothers’ care, so they have even less of an excuse! They don’t even have to get their own meals or ask for an extra blanket like we women do!)

    6. James M*

      “Abrasive” is code for “you don’t meet my unspoken expectations for a woman <role>”. The male version is “Poor communicator”. It’s just a weaselly way to offload blame for a mutual situation onto one party.

      Certain ‘criticisms’ are actually revelations about the critic’s own judgmentalism and not a reflection of the subject.

        1. Gloria*

          I’m totally necro-posting here, but thanks for your comment. It really helps to hear a guy say that.

  2. Dan*


    For security reasons, my company prohibits connecting your phone to the company email servers. (Managers have company provided phones.) It’s great, because it takes away the “feeling” of always having to be on.

    And my company may be one of the few still beholden to the 40 hour week thing. RIP.

    I will admit to bringing work home, but that’s because I might only put in 6 hours in the office. If I bail for evening activities, then I need to make the time up.

  3. BRR*

    I am so thankful for my employer respecting a work life balance. I keep thinking I peaked too soon with jobs. We had several last minute requests and my director said the person who requested it will just have to change their expectations instead of us staying past 5.

    1. Nicole*

      That reminds me of the saying, “your lack of planning is not my emergency”. Good for your director; they are setting good expectations and boundaries. I understand sometimes people have to stay late to get something important done, but all too often at companies it becomes the norm and “trains” other departments to not be considerate with turn-around expectations.

      1. Adam*

        Yeah, some days I feel like that saying has gone out the window. I also remember back when I was reading Covey books and learning about the Four Quadrants. Some days it feels like everything is in the ‘Important and Urgent’ square.

      2. OhNo*

        Oh, I had a situation recently where this phrase would have come in handy. I’ll have to remember it for next time!

    2. Beancounter in Texas*

      My boss (the owner) is old school. It’s a mixed box. It’s amusing to see him call & request yellow page directories from far away cities (so he can look up phone numbers), frustrating that he wants everything printed (uses computers primarily to make more paper) and then quite a relief that even if he stays until 6pm and works Sundays, we are expected to work Mon-Fri 8am to 5pm, no more and no less. I do so quite guiltlessly.

  4. Auditoholic*

    I’ve gotten the abrasive one a few times, but to be fair, I’m very blunt person. I don’t hold back on my opinions (work-related, relevant opinions that is) and there are some people who do take offense to that.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Yep, I have too. I’ve said here before that my reviews every year are some version of the same thing. “Your work is outstanding, but you have a short fuse.” I got dinged for it more heavily last year because I had to work closely with someone on my team who, despite being very smart, is rude, pushy, and bull-headed, and we had a few run-ins because she’s used to steamrolling over people to get her way, and I will not back down from something until I’m satisfied that my concerns have been addressed, or talking through the issue until I fully understand. So I’m sure that came across as “abrasive” and she mentioned this to my manager. (On a side note — I think my co-worker got dinged for the same thing I did, and to give her credit, she’s been easier to deal with lately. I think she took her review feedback to heart and is really trying, so kudos to her.)

      But what was funny is that my manager, who is a woman, has some of the same challenges I do. She’s very blunt and puts things right out there. So during my review last year she said, “I’ll work with you on your communication issues, and you can work with me on mine.” Ha!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        We should all share our negative, gendered performance evaluation feedback. I can remember being told that I don’t suffer fools gladly (this is true), and that the crew of much older men in the office (when I was about 30) would probably respond better to some pretty serious changes we were implementing if I could soften the message (but when I asked if I should soften any substance, they said no … and when asked to explain, they were unable to reconcile those two things).

        1. Katie the Fed*

          In writing:

          “Needs to improve tone of communication with superiors.”

          Not in writing:
          “Emotional” – this from a guy who once threw a phone across the room
          “Prima Donna”
          “difficulty dealing with adversity” (during a time when I was working 80 hour weeks and had a hospitalized parent)

        2. Mimmy*

          Oh I’ve definitely gotten the “your work is excellent, but…” kind of reviews, particularly on my “decorum” (an actual item on one job’s evaluations!). I’d have to look at my reports, but I don’t think I’ve been cited for being abrasive, but I have been cited for my temper. Yes, sweet little Mimmy has a temper :)

              1. Kelly L.*

                And the funny part is, a different manager at a different job once passed me over for a promotion because my voice sounded too “nice” and not authoritative enough. I need magic Exactly Firm Enough but Not Too Firm dust for my vocal chords.

                1. Windchime*

                  A friend of mine who used to be a bank teller got chastised when she was doing window service because she sounded “too professional”.

            1. Jennifer*

              Me too. I’ve gotten that a TON because I apparently have Bitchy Resting Voice.

              Now I am so completely fake and perky on the phone, it’s ridiculous. But again, people just LOVE it and think I’m the best because I’m so HAPPY all the time!


              1. Alex (Female)*

                I think I love you, lol. Bitchy resting voice is the perfect compliment to bitchy resting face! I’ve got the whole package!

                1. Kelly L.*

                  And my perky fake smile just looks wrong. I look like I want to eat you and suck the marrow from your bones. Trust me, people, you want me to stick with my regular smile that you don’t think is smiley enough. it’s better than the alternative.

              2. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

                People LOVE my sarcastic “OMG I’m so super happy to be talking to you on the phone today” voice and no one knows it’s not sincere!

                I haven’t had to use it in ages – but the faker I was the more people liked me.

                I think the lesson there is real me isn’t all that appealing.

            2. Who are you?*

              Would honestly prefer this over being told that I sound like I should be a one of those phone sex operators. And I wish that this was a one time thing. I’ve been told this several times over the course of many jobs over 20 years. I have tried to change my phone speaking voice but I feel like I am talking unnaturally. I’m not trying to sound provocative. It’s just my flippin’ voice!

              1. Mints*

                Lol I’m curious, what do you sound like? Could you name a famous person? I’m thinking Scarlett Johansson, hers is like pleasantly husky

              2. AVP*

                My accountant (much older woman) told me I had a “sexy phone voice” a few years ago. She’s generally great, but what am I supposed to do with that? It made me so self-conscious whenever I picked up a phone call!

                1. Incognito Horrible Human Being*

                  Back in the old days when dinosaurs roamed the earth and we had phone connected to our landline at home I was always asked if my mommy was home.

                  Not sexy, but helps keep the telemarketers away.

                2. Windchime*

                  I’ve been told by a male coworker that I have a sexy phone voice, too. Um….it’s the one I was born with. Sorry that you find it sexy; I am just trying to get my printer working again.

              3. chump with a degree*

                I had a coworker with a lovely husky voice-one caller sang to her instead of leaving a message. I have also learned that lowering my voice when I leave a message makes a call back more likely.

        3. OriginalYup*

          “OriginalYup struggles with those in leadership positions that cannot translate a concept or goal into action and frequently change their decisions. She needs to learn to disguise some of her frustration so that she doesn’t appear short with them.”

          This was written after I calmly said “I’m concerned that we’re going miss the deadline if we don’t come to a decision soon” to a director who showed up unprepared for 6 consecutive meetings on a business-critical project I was managing.

          1. Judy*

            I apparently can’t hide my frustration when explaining the same concepts to people multiple times, either.

            1. Judy*

              Oh, and I had a mention of raising my voice in a conference call, mentioned that day by my boss and in my review. One of my male co-workers actually used obscenities that next week, and several other time through the end of the year. I don’t know if my manager spoke to him about it, but I did mention it in my peer review, because that company certainly didn’t have the culture of that kind of language, I’m pretty sure he was the only one I’d ever heard use it.

          2. Alex (Female)*

            Oh jeez. I really struggle with situations like this at work – I’m a factual, this-is-what-we-know and this-is-what-we-need communicator. Direct, but reasonable and polite, like in your example. On one hand, I understand the social stigmas and I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot by letting people walk on me, but I also don’t want to just roll over. There comes a point when the polite and reasonable approach isn’t working, and I think, “What would my (male) co-worker do here?” and use that as a course of action, but I really worry about the reputation that I create. I just don’t know any way to reconcile the social expectations and being able to get my stuff done.

          3. Traveler*

            We had a work-wide training on this. That all of us who met deadlines and were analytical and concerned about hitting all of our bases were just “one type of worker” and that those that didn’t do those things were just a different kind and that we needed to find middle ground. Now, I see some merit in that because people are the way they are, and you have to learn to work around them – but I don’t think disorganized, unprepared, and in general bringing down the batting average of your entire team can be so easily dismissed as “one type of worker”.

        4. gold digger*

          “You use too many big words and it makes people feel stupid,” the boss who laid me off 8 months later.

          1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

            I have gotten that – although not in a crappy way, but I’ve been reminded I need to write to a much lower reading level when I want everyone to get it. To be fair it was my first job and I used Kafkaesque in an email that went out to all production.

            I got my favorite work nickname from that job – Queen Vocabula.

            1. ClaireS*

              While hilarious, this is completely legit feedback in some situations. I used to be in publishing and we wrote at a grade 8 level because that was legitimately the needs of our readership (not actual eighth graders). I sometimes got the feedback that “what a grade article but it’s at grade 11 and I need it at grade 8.”

            2. Ann Furthermore*

              Ha!! I get this too, but from my husband who teases me when I use big words. His usual response is to quote the movie Blazing Saddles. I can’t bring myself to actually write it here, but it contains the words “twenty” and “dollar.”

            3. Not So Skinny Pete*

              LOL I wasn’t sure whether to respond with “Kafkaesque? Yeah, totally…Kafkaesque.” or just “Church”.

          2. Sara*

            I should use fewer big words because it intimidates (sorry, scares) people. I should also approve my communication and be less direct.

        5. Natalie*

          I don’t remember the exact wording, but 50% of the criticism I got in the my last performance review was related to tone.

          Amusingly (or not), my manager would consider herself a feminist and an advocate for women in the workplace. She is part of the leadership of a women’s networking group for my industry and mentors a lot of young women. Just goes to show how much day to day sexism is unconscious and ingrained.

        6. JMegan*

          Food Service Job #1: You’re an excellent waitress, but your hair is a little out of control.

          Food Service Job #2: A nice girl like you needs to look nice and pretty while she’s at work.

          I mentioned #1 the other day, in the context of “things I already know about myself, which I am unable to change, and which have no impact on my job performance.” And #2 came in the context of a legitimate request to dress up a bit – I really was pushing the dress code, and I knew it. But even so, I’m pretty sure the manager would have told a male employee to just stop wearing jeans at work, without any comments about how “nice” or “handsome” he should be.

          The same manager at #2 also told one of my colleagues that she needed to learn some domestic skills if she wanted to get herself a good husband one day. Ugh.

          1. Traveler*

            Oh, if we are talking food service that stuff is rife with it. I’ve been straight up told I was hired primarily for my appearance- as was every other female, told that I should ignore the stalkers because they’re just being nice and if I just flirt a bit it encourages business, etc. I’ve just written that whole sector off as generally lacking ethics of any sort.

          2. Suz*

            I was dinged on a review once because when I was talking to patients, my hair bounced too much when I nodded my head. WTF?

            1. fposte*

              That is just bizarre. Was it via a patient complaint that they didn’t have the nerve to ignore, or did a supervisor actually observe your hair movements and note them for feedback?

            2. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

              Is it wrong that I’m ridiculously jealous of you – I want bouncy hair.

              And that is performance review WTF Hall of Fame worthy. Ridiculous!

        7. Alex (Female)*

          I used to work at a tech support call center, was the #2 employee and had great customer survey scores. The constructive feedback that I got was that I need to be more friendly and make light conversation during my calls. For example, if I needed to do an update and reboot that takes maybe 4-5 minutes, I generally take the cue from the customer if they wanted to chat. If they seem busy, I stay silent and just get in, get out, and get them back up and running. Alas, I wasn’t being friendly enough.

          I can’t say for certain that this was a gendered feedback, but I thought I’d share. I did take it to heart though and attempt to be more friendly and chatty, but I think it comes off as obnoxious and forced sometimes. I’d rather focus on being effective, thorough, quick, and generally pleasant vs. being friendly and chatty, or the dreaded word – bubbly. (Not meant as an offense to bubbly people, it is just a very gender specific word that has become a flag for a sexist personality expectation aka females must be bubbly or else you’re just a crab mentality)

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yes! I think if I try really hard to be gendered-friendly, I veer more into “scaring small children” territory. :D

          2. Natalie*

            Bleh, I hate that feedback because I don’t want to make awkward chitchat with tech support while they reboot my router. Five seconds of “how are you today?” is fine, but really, how much do we have to talk about?

            My phone company has recently started requesting if they can put me on mute/hold while they attend to my request, and I love it.

            1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

              Thank you – this.

              Pleasant and polite and then you work and I’ll check email and we’re both happy.

          3. Traveler*

            Yeah. When I call in for customer service, I will gladly take silence (even if slightly awkward) over forced chatty convo with the rep. I know you don’t care about the weather where I am or how my day is going. I’m totally fine with you just doing your job.

        8. LMW*

          I’ve gotten abrasive. And that I should not say anything when I have questions about why we are doing things a certain way. And that I didn’t have a communication style that would encourage a promotion in my future. I also had a wonderful manager who said I wouldn’t have received any of that criticism if I’d been a man and worked for two years to get those comments removed from my file and get me a promotion.

        9. alma*

          I had a male manager who gave me little to no feedback on the performance of my actual jobs, but constantly stopped by my desk to give me Sadface Talks about how I never went out to lunch with him. It never crossed directly into sexual harassment, but I was not surprised to later find out he’d had affairs with two other female subordinates.

            1. Lora*

              Very right. Very true.

              I think he was quoting John Wanamaker IIRC, saying that he had plenty to do dealing with his own inadequacies, he hardly had time to bemoan the uneven distribution of intelligence in mankind.

              Although it does make you really cynical about people after a while, that they are so easily manipulated, it’s a good approach for anyone doing consulting or sales type work. The fools are the ones writing the checks.

          1. BritCred*

            Heroes. As in those who want to be everyones hero. They are attracted to the weak willed, moany foolish types who will give them more latitude to step up and be a hero without them actually having to do anything out of the ordinary to get that accolade…

        10. LJL*

          Yes, we should! I’ve gotten some doozies. My favorite is that I need to be less polite. I doubt men’s politeness or lack thereof is noteworthy.

          1. Oh Anon*

            I got this once. I was told not to respond to “Thank you.” from a customer or client with “You’re welcome.”

        11. lucy*

          I was told that I need to work on accepting compliments when I was offended at a vendor calling me “honeybun”

          1. QK*

            Ugh, this is awful. I’m so sorry you were told that. From anyone other than a close friend or loved one with whom you have a humorous rapport, “honeybun” is icky/creepy.

        12. Joey*

          Is softening the message gendered? I tell that to my reports (both genders) all the time when they’re either too to the point or stressing the negatives too much. For example “OT is required and you’ll be fired if you don’t do it when directed” vs. “here’s why we need to work OT. We’ll give you as much of a heads up as possible, but there will be times when it’s required.”

            1. CA Admin*

              Or when both men and women are using example #1, but only women are getting told to tone it down. Basically, if both groups say the same thing, but only women get called out (or thought of poorly), that’s when it’s gendered.

        13. Coelura*

          Need to wear high heels (for a call center job)
          Aggressive because I speak up and don’t back down, and as a woman, that isn’t the best impression.
          That I am too nice because I don’t cuss, making me look weak because I’m female – that if I was a male, it wouldn’t be an issue.
          Wear makeup

            1. QK*

              Yes, I’ve gotten this. At my current job, at first I was told I need to back down more and not take stands so often. So I recalibrated my approach in dealing with certain colleagues. Then in my next review (under a different boss), I was told I was too “passive”. Can’t win. :/

        14. WorkingFromCafeInCA*

          After giving a full-day training session, boss says to me: “One small thing, don’t put your glasses on top of your head. It’s distracting for the audience. Put them either on your face or on the table.”

          Two days later, boss emails me a picture of myself during the training:
          Subject: “This is how you look with glasses on your head.”
          Body: “As I said, not terrible, but distracting.”

          It’s weird, right? Not just me? Are glasses on your head really a no-no?
          Note: no feedback about the actual content of my 6-hour presentation.

          1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

            I inadvertently went through my whole first interview here with my giant sunglasses on my head like I’m Marlo Thomas because I forgot they were there!

            And if glasses on the head is a career killer I’ll bow out now. Reading, safety, sun – most of my waking hours are spent with a pair of some kind of glasses perched up there.

            1. Windchime*

              I always put my sunglasses on top of my head when I come in out of the sun. I’ve never worn them that way to an interview, but I don’t think I would give it a second thought if anyone else did. Except that weird thing that some guys do when they put them on their heads backwards. That is strange.

            2. Cath in Canada*

              I only recently realised that I have my sunglasses on my head in the photo I’ve been using all over the website for a research consortium and associated conference I’m involved with. It’s still my favourite recent photo though, so it’s staying!

          2. Judy*

            As long as you know they’re there, it’s fine I think. I just flashback to my grandmother and having to search for them, but they were on her head the whole time.

            You could always get straps and hang them from your neck. They make sparkly ones.

          3. EngineerGirl*

            This is actually good feedback, as nitpicky as it appears. I’ve taken classes on teaching for adult audiences. You do get the “don’t distract your audience” lecture. Don’t wear sparkly things, don’t wear yellow and black (warning combination in nature), don’t wear your glasses on your head. Yes, that was mentioned.
            I’d just counter with “What about the presentation part – what areas do I need to improve there?”.
            If there are none then fix the glasses. And if it continues to be nit-picky call your boss on it.

          4. Traveler*

            Well – glasses on your head, no, I don’t personally find that distracting. But that thing people do where they hang their glasses reverse off of the back of their neck. I’ve found that super distracting. I’m waiting for the glasses to fall, wondering who thought that up, and how uncomfortable it must be. It’s just a weird place (to me) to put them. So.. maybe this is just a weird pet peeve?

            1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

              I share that. I can’t watch Guy Fieri (and who wants to?) without wondering how much care he takes in making sure the glasses don’t fall off the back of his head. The thought of prepping for something so silly make it more absurd to me.

              I’ve never seen that irl, though.

              1. Traveler*

                Thank you. I feel like a weirdo for hating it so much, so I’m glad someone else feels my pain. Guy Fieri – ugh!

              2. Catherine in Canada*

                It’s “cool” here. Gotta be at least half a dozen guys that do it. (Any yeah, I want to tell them it looks silly…)

        15. Jenny*

          At my second job out of college, I was hired to be an Associate Producer. They fired a Senior Producer, made me fill in on her tasks “temporarily” – four months later I was still serving as a Senior Producer and working 6 days a week as a salary employee with no overtime. I scheduled a meeting and explained to my boss that I was no longer going to be able to do this if he was not going to promote me to at least a Producer role with a pay raise to cover the increase in duties. I did this as calmly as I could. I was only 23 years old so my voice was probably shakey. He told me that I was too emotional and hysterical and gave me a card to talk to the employee assistance program. He also said that he thought my attitude towards work would improve if I had Jesus in my life.

            1. Jenny*

              Ha! Yes, indeed. I usually yell at his dad first but he’ll get a mention every now and then.

              I danced in the parking lot the day I left that job.

        16. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

          Not from an official performance:

          “You need to try to be less sensitive.” (after wanting accountability on someone for screaming and losing their sh*t in public at me)

          “you need to hold Bob accountable, but he’s sensitive to criticism so you need to get him on your side…make him think X is his idea.”

          “Wakeen notices you don’t laugh at his jokes, he thinks you don’t like him. I know he’s not funny, but laugh anyway because he thinks it’s personal.” (they weren’t inappropriate, just stupid)

          and yeah – I’m the one who’s sensitive.

          And one that still bothers me – not so much feedback but an unintended slap in the face:

          Woman exec to outside trainer brought in telling him how great I am and how everything he’s saying is stuff I’ve been covering, but she thinks it will be so great for them to hear it from you. You know how men are, sometimes they take it more seriously when it comes from another man. Ages ago and I was new to leading huge company wide projects, and it kind of broke my heart.

          Afterwards I met with her and suggested several men who could take over the project, if she thinks it would be more successful being led by a man because I didn’t want to waste my time or their money if being a woman would interfere. She said I was being too sensitive and no one else was qualified and I was doing a great job and how else are they going to learn to take direction from a woman if I step down. Maybe if you stop assuming it’s okay if they take the trainer more seriously because of matching genitals?

          Sad thing was, the guys she thought were going to take it better coming from a man were already on board. I had buy in because I explained the whys and it was a cooperative effort. So the problem wasn’t even there – but that another woman said it hurt. And she had been through a lot of sexism in her career for decades before I started working, and she didn’t think I was less than…but it made me feel less than and in front of an outsider. That one still stings.

          1. Clerica*

            I had a coworker like Wakeen. He made numerous misogynistic “jokes” which management never did anything about. One day as I was going around checking to see that everyone had logged off for a system upgrade, Wakeen was still online, so I joked, “Wakeen, it’s the big gray button with “Start” written on it” (Windows 97).

            The next day I was called into a conference with my manager. Wakeen’s feelings were hurt, he felt targeted and victimized, and it became a Very Big Thing.

            To this day I regret my actions which reduced such a mild-mannered grown man to a shadow of his former self.

        17. Ann O'Nemity*

          My current manager gives me negative feedback in my performance reviews for being too abrasive and not friendly enough. The only actual example of this behavior dates back to over a year ago, when I interrupted a male co-worker when he was trying to throw me under the boss in a meeting with the CEO. Now, I readily admit that I could have handled it better in that meeting! But it bugs me that the incidence has defined by personality to my manager and colored my performance reviews ever since.

        18. Ann Furthermore*

          I was once told that people thought I was rude and that I ridiculed them for asking questions. When I was asked for specific examples of this behavior, my boss refused to provide me with any because he said that the people who had complained had come to him in confidence. When I asked why he did not address my behavior at the time it occurred, rather than hoarding this information to use in an ambush during my review, he said that I should have known I was being rude and should have known that I needed to correct it.

          I had a pretty good idea of the group that the complaints came from. It was people who would stop by my desk on the day of month-end close and ask me questions like, “Can you move this $9 transaction into another account because it’s causing a variance?” and “Why was this purchase [that was posted into the system 3 weeks ago] being charged to this department?” Every month-end close I had a list of about 30-40 things that had to be completed in a timely fashion, in a specific order, throughout the day in order for the books to be closed, financials reviewed, and everyone released to go home. If I got derailed researching something, then that would result in meetings being delayed, and people staying even later, because no one leaves until the close is complete — 9PM, 10PM, even 2AM once. So that type of thing was not high on my priority list on that specific day of the month.

          So yeah, my responses tended to be on the terse side: “This is an immaterial amount, and no one on my team has time today to move it.” Or, “I don’t know why this purchase hit your account, and we don’t have time to dig into it today. Posting to the GL occurs daily, and this transaction could have been researched at any time during the last 3 weeks.” Are those responses all hearts, flowers, and unicorns? No, they’re not. But on that one day of the month it was the best I could do.

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            And also — I doubt that if it was a man giving those blunt and straightforward answers that it would have been perceived as “ridicule.”

          2. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

            During month end close anyone bothering you about anything not literally on fire or affecting month end should consider you amazingly polite if you refrain from smacking them.

            There is a reason my door is half closed at month end – so everyone has to knock and I can take a deep breath to remind myself to be civil before they start talking.

            You gave them the answers they required and didn’t tack “dumbass” onto the end of each sentence. That’s hearts and flowers enough – what do they want? Backrubs?

        19. Sara*

          We work closely with a large chain of home improvement stores, and they can be difficult. I was having a hard time with them one day, and was complaining to a coworker after the call about how nasty they were. The CEO/Owner told me that the next time I get frustrated I should put them on hold, and take a minute to ‘freshen my lipstick and calm down’ before picking the line back up.

        20. Muriel Heslop*

          -“You’re too perky. Please don’t talk to me before 10 am.”
          -“Don’t smile so much at people. They will be suspicious.” I have Resting Happy Face. I can’t help it!
          -“Don’t have so many sticky notes on your computer. It makes me wonder what you’re forgetting.” (not really gendered – just weird.)
          My personal favorite:
          “You should wear less black. People might think you’re depressed.”

        21. Anonicorn*

          One of my reviews felt more like a therapy session where my manager suggested that I was highly analytically and able to quickly see the flaws in plans, but that I shouldn’t be so quick to verbally point out those flaws because it makes me seem critical and negative. (Identifying flaws and adjusting plans accordingly is part of my job, so what exactly should I do?)

        22. BRR*

          My boss (woman) told me she has received feedback numerous times that she was too direct. She gets to the point but in a good way. I guess her bosses want her to dance around the topic so it doesn’t get fixed.

        23. Jenny*

          “You’re unfeeling.” I translate it to: “you continue to be professional and effective” whenever I hear it.

        24. Chinook*

          “I can remember being told that I don’t suffer fools gladly (this is true),”

          I have been told this and the year I worked with a man who saw the world the same way was the best. Neither of us were marked down on it or treated differently due to gender.

          I have been told that I need to be nicer. When I asked for an example, the boss couldn’t come up with one but just said that she heard people saying that I wasn’t that friendly.

          I have also been told I need to watch my tone (again with no examples) but I don’t know if that is a gender thign or a personality thing because my mother always told me to watch my tone when I was growing up.

        25. Anon55*

          -Too brusque in emails was part of one of my reviews. When I asked for examples my boss suddenly couldn’t find any, despite claims that “multiple people” had in confidence told him this and that they were afraid to talk to me about it. These were the same coworkers that constantly yelled, swore a blue streak, regularly threw things, punched walls, one was sent to anger management classes as a condition of keeping his job and another was sent to outpatient rehab because they were showing up drunk to work at 7a

          -Boss told me to supervise and direct a project that had made it from development into production and was running on a line. The person in the plant working on it wasn’t following the written directions and if allowed to continue the item would be unusable (think gluing the teapot handle to the bottom of the pot). When I pointed out to him that he wasn’t following the written instructions he was holding in his hand (!) he got pissy and wouldn’t acknowledge me for the rest of the run. Then I was chewed out by my boss, not for my tone or similar BS, but for telling the line worker what to do, despite that being my assigned job for this run. I explained if I hadn’t stopped him from doing what he was doing then the prototype would have failed. My boss told me I still shouldn’t have told the line worker to stop. I asked if I should have sat there and watched it be built incorrectly. My boss said no. I asked what I was supposed to do then. My boss couldn’t answer this one

          -Being written up for “storming out of my boss’ office” when I went to go get an email from my laptop. A coworker claimed he had asked me to do A and I ignored it which is why A wasn’t done, so he went to my boss to report this. When I was called into my boss’ office I was already written up for this despite our boss never asking me about it, my claims that this coworker had specifically said NOT to do A and I had this in an email that was a day old. I went to go get the email, brought it back to the meeting and the write-up was changed to storming off in a huff. Oddly nothing happen to the male coworker who lied to our boss to cover his rear for not having something done on time

          -Amazingly (not really) this boss allowed white males to get away with murder. Well not exactly murder, but one white male caused massive property damage once (mid five figures to fix) and minor property damage twice (under a grand each time) due to sloppiness/gross negligence in less than three years. Nothing happened to him and our boss even defended the incident that caused the massive damage to our grandboss by claiming that no one could have foreseen what happened (yes we could, easily)

          -This boss also had a seething hatred for any female coworkers who were pregnant or had children. A male coworker coming in late because he was hung over, carrying Starbucks while bragging about how drunk he was the night before and this being an ongoing pattern? Fine. A female coworker coming in late once because of an issue with their child? Write-up! Any male coworker that wanted to leave early or take an extra day off would just have to mention they needed to do this for their kid and it was a thirty minute conversation about what a good dad they were. Any female coworker that dared do this was asked if they were really serious about their job

          -To the surprise of no one our department had high turnover in general and very high turnover with people who weren’t white males, which despite my boss’ best efforts there were a few non-white males in our department. HR, VPs and the Cs couldn’t understand this so they simply took our boss’ word on it being bad employees leaving. Well once my boss had run off everyone who was there when he started and was managing a group made up of 100% his hires you’d think this excuse wouldn’t fly anymore. Nope! Now he was saddled with all the terrible employees who had lied and tricked him into hiring them by snowing this saintly old man during the interview process. In one five month stretch we lost four female employees out of less than 20 total in the department. No one was able to pick up on this pattern or care to wonder why more than 20% of a department and 75% of the females left so abruptly

        26. Anon for this*

          So I’m an analyst. Last year I worked for director. Manager also reported to director, supervisor works for manager, team reports to supervisor. Supervisor and I are peers.

          Last year director says manager says I need to connect better with team, after I’d spent six months trying to not undermine supervisor when his team started coming to me instead of him.

          A couple transitions and org changes later I report to manager. Now he’s not concerned about how I connect with team.

          I also got feedback to not interrupt on conference calls, which was good and really hard to put into action in a male dominated industry.

        27. Windchime*

          I can’t remember the phrasing, but I was told that sometimes I don’t hide my feelings as well as I should/could. Basically he was telling me that I have a bad poker face. No, I have an excellent poker face; sometimes I *want* people to know that I’m annoyed or pissed off.

        28. Verde*

          I commented on this original article when a male person stated that maybe women just don’t know how to be aggressive. I asked him to explain, he said to “know your tone”. Again, I asked, if we’re taking all the same leadership classes, doing things the same way as a male counterpart in the same tone, etc., what else are we supposed to do? When the bias is on the side of the receivers, we need to start training for that, as well.

    1. Mike C.*

      I’d mind it less if folks were always paid for their time. I don’t buy the intention of exempt laws because few employers are going to be happy with the idea of paying someone 40 hours to work less than that, and they have every incentive to work them more.

  5. LBK*

    “This kind of negative personality criticism—watch your tone! step back! stop being so judgmental!—shows up twice in the 83 critical reviews received by men. It shows up in 71 of the 94 critical reviews received by women,” Snyder writes.

    Hooooly crap. That’s a crazy statistic.

      1. LBK*

        It’s just jarring to think about that applying in my office. We have 13 women in my department – so to extrapolate from that statistic, that would mean 10 of them would be told they were too abrasive or aggressive. That is just batshit insane, especially since I can’t think of a single one who anyone remotely reasonable would consider aggressive.

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      When detailing to a male coworker that I switched electricity providers, he blurted out, “Your husband let you do this?!”

      This is the same coworker that was hired into an administrative assistant position, in which the male owner had a hard time seeing a man placed. The owner really struggled with envisioning a man being an assistant (with a female supervisor!), but adjusted.

      I find sociology fascinating.

      1. LBK*

        I kind of love working with a sales department full of men that’s run by two female managers. Especially since one of the managers puts up with zero of the sexist crap that goes around our industry sometimes. We used to have a female president in charge of our division, too, and I was lucky enough to get to have a one-on-one with her and ask her about what it was like being a higher up at a well known company in a heavily male-dominated.

      2. Kay*

        Oh man! I would have whipped around and firmly let that person know that I have no need for a man’s permission to do anything and haven’t since I moved out of my father’s house.

        1. Artemesia*

          About 23 years ago I worked for a couple of weeks in Kuwait; this was shortly after the gulf war. Standing around at church after the service when this came up, someone said ‘I can’t believe (husband) is letting you do that.’ My then 12 year old daughter standing next to me said ‘let? let? What is she a cocker spaniel?’ I was so proud.

          1. Beancounter in Texas*

            “Let? Let? What is she? A cocker spaniel?” LOVE IT.

            In 2001, I was living in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and there was a letter to the editor in the Gulf News responding to an article about the increasing number of women being involved in traffic accidents, even though they are a tiny minority of drivers (it was 1 female to 4 or 5 male). The letter suggested that given women’s tendency towards aggression because of the surge of testosterone during that time of the month, women should be limited to a certain sized car, with a limited power engine, etc.

            The cultural attitude is that women need to be taken care of and I enjoyed certain aspects of it. I didn’t have to wait in line at the bank or at the post office. I literally went straight to the front of the line and took the next available window. There were women-only check out lines at the telephone company (to pay a bill) and the grocery store (and never more than three women in line). I carried my own groceries to the car sometimes until I got a really nasty look – women aren’t supposed to carry things. The OB/GYN had its own portable building completely separate from the main building and only boys below of the age of seven could enter; no men.

            But being on the pedestal came with a price. A women is expected to be very modest by American standards. I couldn’t wear clothing with hems above my ankles (and it is above 100 for many months), no sleeveless tops (without getting verbally harassed & followed), forget a collar much lower than your collarbone and preferably a sleeve no higher than your elbow. Just for dressing in Western clothing (without an abaya), I was stared at nearly constantly & mistaken for a prostitute more than once for simply looking a man in the eye.

            1. Beancounter in Texas*

              I want to add that in 2001, 90% of the population in the UAE were expatriates. The Emiratis were the golden standard of politeness & hospitality.

            2. Artemesia*

              I took a male assistant with me on the job thinking the female in an Islamic culture thing might pose difficulties but I found that I was viewed as a ‘professional’ not a woman. I dressed modestly, but I do anyway and no head cover — professional women don’t wear them in the workplace in Kuwait (well some do and some don’t). But even though I had this male assistant with me, they always deferred to me as the person in charge and it wasn’t an issue on the job. Off duty it got tricky. Men with whom we conversed with easily on site, would ignore us totally when in public with their chador wearing wives and my assistant could not sit in the front seat with the female employee who had been sort of assigned to us to show us around. It as a very interesting experience. I didn’t feel like a woman but as this sort of third thing.

        2. Chinook*

          Sometimes the women do it too. Last week I was talking to my women’s group about helping out the men’s group at any funerals of their members by doing things like directing traffic at big funerals (which they usually do). I wanted to do it in the spirit of helping them in a time of need but the furor I got from a couple of the older women about how we need to find men to do that job because no woman should be doing it was jaw dropping. And when I pointed out that the men could repay us by helping with a funeral luncheon for one of our member’s funerals if they wanted, the comments from the women even a little older than me were offensive in how poorly they thought men could bake or make sandwiches.

          I just sat there, shaking my head, no longer wondering why they had a hard time recruiting members under a certain age. (for the record – the motion passed with a silent, but slim, majority. I will drag us into the twentieth century kicking and screaming if I have to).

      3. Auditoholic*

        I’m pretty independent and I get the “does your husband mind” or “will he let you” quite a bit. Apparently women aren’t supposed to make decisions.

      4. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

        The husband thing is less frequent for me than it used to be, but I still get it from time to time.

        Your husband doesn’t mind that you work late or alone on a Saturday? Doesn’t he worry about you?

        Doesn’t your husband mind the kind of hours you put in? I wouldn’t let my wife spend so much time at work, I’d miss her. Maybe he likes having you out of the house – ha ha – just kidding.

        Always makes me feel awful like he doesn’t care about my safety or wish I was home more. That kind of stuff strikes a nerve with me that it shouldn’t. A lot of things are wtf irritations or annoyances – the husband stuff makes me feel less than. And not less than an employee – but like maybe he doesn’t care about me as much as these guys care about their wives.

        We’ve had that discussion and he says when I’m working crazy hours I’m already stressed and he didn’t think it would be right to add more stress by complaining I’m not home more – because if I could be I would be – why make me feel guilty about things I can’t control? And the safety thing – he’s a cop and knows the crime stats and how paranoid I am and the security measures here and he’s not unduly concerned. And like he says – so if I forbid X like you’re going to stop? No? Why have the argument?

        Those comments from others still go right to my heart, though.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          I’m sure they do, because they’re snarky and passive-aggressive — and totally unnecessary. My husband is the same way. He understands that the work I do has an ebb and flow — hours increasing the closer we get to a project go-live and then they ease off after the launch. When I tell him to be prepared for that, he just says, “Do what you gotta do, baby.” I also told him that I really appreciated him being so flexible and supportive when I have to travel, which has been a considerable amount in the last few years. A few of my co-workers aren’t that lucky, and their spouses whine and moan when they have to be away from home. His response was, “Marriage is a partnership. Sometimes, one of us will have to put work first, and the other has to pick up the slack with the kids. Plus, you make most of the money!”

          Only once have I ever had someone come right out and address my gender when dealing with an issue. I had to fire someone once, and while that is *never* a pleasant experience, this was particularly bad because this poor guy was in the midst of a huge amount of personal turmoil, and it affected his job performance to the point that I had no choice but to let him go. It was terrible. Anyway, I gave him 3 options for getting his personal stuff from his work area: we could do it right then, I could box it up and mail it to him, or I could meet him at the office that Saturday and he could gather up his things without so many people around. He chose to meet me on Saturday. After the firing meeting the HR rep who’d been with me (a guy) said, “I’m just going to come right out and say that I don’t think you should meet him here alone on Saturday. And, I hope you don’t think I’m being sexist, but I think the person you bring with you should be a guy.” I could see what he was saying, and he was saying it because he was concerned for my safety. So I said, “How about my big, huge, scary husband?” And he laughed and said, “That’ll work!” (My husband is 6’5 and about 290 lbs.) So that’s what we did. I’m pretty sure my ex-employee had no intentions of trying anything, but on the off chance he did, seeing my husband there with me took care of it.

    2. Robin*

      Yeah, I think it is one thing as an individual woman to receive this kind of feedback, and another one entirely to see the pattern.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I will say I honestly didn’t know this happened to other women this frequently. I thought I just had personality issues :)

        1. fposte*

          And I think this is a reason why research like this and subsequent discussions are important. As we were talking about in yesterday’s thread, if most women get criticism like this, it’s not about them.

  6. Karowen*

    Regarding the vacation days stat – I wonder about the causal relationship. That is, is it that the vacation days make people better employees? Or is it that really good employees are rewarded with more vacation days and feel free to use them (because they don’t have to worry about someone doing their job better while they’re gone)?

    1. MT*

      Thats funny, EY is great company to work for if you don’t mind working the long weeks. They pay great, there is tons of room for promotions and moving. The problem with these studies like the review one, its super limited and super specific. This was for one company, the review one was a limited field and pre-selected reviews.

    2. Beancounter in Texas*

      I also wonder about any correlation between the company culture & vacation use.

      We have a group of managers who rarely take vacation because they are responsible for finding their own replacement to cover. I think this discourages them to take vacation because of the challenge of finding a reliable worker to do their job. Plus, they understand they’re accountable for this person’s job performance, so when they are on vacation, they field questions via phone and worry about things while gone. I’m trying to make changes at the top to utilize a temporary staffing agency for a small list of reasons, but one of them is so that these employees can guiltlessly take vacation & truly be ~on vacation.~

      1. C Average*

        I’ve said it a million times here, but I’ll say it a million more: This is one more reason why sabbaticals rock.

        At my company, even if you’re second in command to God himself, you take a six-week paid sabbatical when you hit the 10-year mark, and you take another one every five years thereafter. No matter how tenured you are, no matter how important you are, no matter how critical your work is to the projects you’re involved in, you leave the office for six weeks and your email gets turned off and your badge gets disabled.

        You come back refreshed and ready to re-engage with your work, your team gets cross-trained, and everyone gets reminded that no, no one is actually indispensable or irreplaceable. (That said, there have definitely been times when we knew to the day when someone was returning from sabbatical!)

        1. Beancounter in Texas*

          I felt that way about my leave to give birth. I long ago learned not to make myself “indispensable” to the company (because I’m not) and I was refreshed to return to a work routine and adult interaction, if not actually well rested.

        2. MaryMary*

          I love this! I used to work at a company where employees got an extra week of vacation for their five year anniversaries – one extra week at five years, two extra at ten, three at 15 and capped at four for anything past 20. It was nice, but no one forced us to take the time (I didn’t do anything special with my five year and the program ended shortly before my ten year). Several senior people did take their 15 or 20 year bonuses in blocks and were gone for a month or six weeks. They still had access to email and could respond if something big happened, but people tried to be respectful.

      2. Suzanne*

        How vacation you take might be dependent on your financial situation for one thing. My husband is in a low paying “helping” profession and I’ve had more than one job with no paid vacation. He is also responsible for finding his own replacement when we are gone but if we stay home, the phone never stops ringing. When I did have paid vacation, much of it was spent for time to attend kids’ field trips, orthodontist visits, sickness, etc. The kids are on their own now, but I am once again at a no paid vacation job, so the grand tour of Europe is out!

        So you have to have the time & the means to take those promotion inducing vacations.

    3. LBK*

      Yeah, my guess is that good employees get more leeway to take more vacation. My manager kind of just lets me do whatever I want because he knows the work will get done, whereas some of my coworkers get their vacation time denied more frequently because their productivity is already questionable.

    4. April*

      Great question, Karowen! I wondered the same thing! My instinct would be that it isn’t the vacation days causing the high performance – it’s the high performance causing the vacation days.

  7. Calla*

    I used that Fortune article for some homework yesterday! The context was emotion work which really made me think about how this is not just an abstract “Women have to act this way but men can act this other way” double standard, it’s actual work required. And if we don’t do that work, we can be criticized or penalized or otherwise held back.

    It made me recall the time a few years ago when I was having an off day and wasn’t my usual peppy super-friendly self and actually got called into my manager’s office to ask if I was unhappy with my job. I’m chipper enough that people sometimes notice if I don’t do a good job of covering up my bad days–if I don’t do that work!–but getting called into my manager’s office to discuss it was a new extreme.

    1. Jennifer*

      I really, really “femme” or “girl” it up when I have to serve the public for this reason. (See above comments about being ridiculously perky and fake smiling at all times.) I am a peon who has to be submissive anyway, so if I fulfill the role, I get written up a whole lot less.

  8. You Graze Me Up*

    Decline of labor unions = decline of working conditions. Unions got us the 40-hour work week, so we can’t be surprised that we’re losing that!

    1. MT*

      First of all, if you are salaried there is little chance you are in a union. Second if you hourly you get paid every hour you work, plus overtime

      1. Elysian*

        Neither of these statements are true.
        (1) Nothing at all stops salaried employees from being in a union, and I could name tons of salaried union members. Most of IFPTE, I think all of the NEA and AFT, lots of AFGE… I’m sure there are more. Those are off the top of my head.
        (2) Being paid hourly does not mean you are entitled to overtime, though there is a correlation. There exist hourly workers though who work very very long weeks and are not entitled to overtime.

      2. CA Admin*

        A lot of people confuse salaried v. nonsalaried with exempt v. nonexempt–they’re separate categories and you can combine them differently. For example, I’m salaried (same pay 2x per month, no matter if it’s a 31 day month or a 28 day month), but nonexempt (I get OT if I work more than 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week). They calculate my OT by taking my total salary, dividing by 2080 (52 weeks * 40 hours per week) and multiplying that 1.5 times.

      3. Mike C.*

        The engineering union would beg to differ. Also, I’m pretty sure that members of the Screen Actor’s Guild, the Writer’s Guild, and most (if not all) professional sports unions are also salaried.

        I think you’re looking for management here.

    2. LBK*

      I assume my position on unions is skewed by the constant horror stories I hear about them, but in general I think many of the factors that led to their rise don’t make sense in the modern working world and that there are many workplaces now where they cause a lot more harm than good.

      1. MT*

        Unions aren’t all bad. I have spent many years both in the UFCW and the Teamsters union. Never had any issue with them except for the union job classifications. Loss lots of overtime because the teamster wouldn’t let me fill in other departments. Other than that the only time i noticed i was in a union was on pay day. Probably didn’t hurt that my brothers best friend was my shop steward for many years.

      2. Artemesia*

        It is the policy of those who make economic decisions in this country to impoverish workers. Workers receive a declining percentage of the benefits of economic growth and economic policies are designed to depress employment making workers willing to take low salaries and benefits ‘and be grateful they have a job.’ There is no political power now on the side of ordinary workers, which describes ALL of us reading this.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I work in economic development and we have an entire large department of people whose job is solely to create opportunities for our disadvantaged population. You are making huge generalizations.

      3. Jennifer*

        I am in favor of unions in theory, but in reality my union drives me crazy and is incredibly pushy on everyone. Why they treat the people that they are supposedly on the side of like that, I don’t know, but then they wonder why the voting membership is low. Gee, I can’t imagine why I don’t want to be a voting member and come to the meetings and be on the e-mail list so I can hear from them MORE. I won’t even come out when they ask for me in person at work.

      4. Jillociraptor*

        It’s important to remember that unions are political organizations, i.e. their aims aren’t solely to advocate for their members, but at a high level to influence policy and make themselves powerful political actors. I have some qualms about unions (I work in education so that’s my context–and worked in education in Chicago so…let’s say I’ve seen the dark side?) but it becomes easier to understand the utility of their behavior when you recognize the larger purpose of their work.

    3. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

      Unions got the 40 hour week for straight time and OT after – that’s still the case for non-exempt people.

      They got other things too, back in the day of heavy reform, but I’ve never known a union that didn’t have people working OT, sometimes mandatory.

      1. Phyllis*

        Thanks to my union, I will be drawing a pension starting next month. I left “Ma Bell” in 1994 with 21 years service due to our local phone co. office closing. Our union fought hard to get us this benefit because most of us were leaving against our will. The down-side was that I had to wait till I was over a “certain age” to draw it, but at least I will get it.

  9. Vee*

    The 4o hour work week shouldn’t be dead and needs to be revived. People are supposed to live to work, not work to live, and people need a reasonable amount of free time to unwind before they suffer mental breakdowns and depression. I really don’t like the ‘overtime is just what you have to do these days’ mentality because no. It shouldn’t have to be. Employers need to stop expecting their employees to be married to their jobs and actually allow their workers to have a work life balance.

    1. Beancounter in Texas*


      There is a book titled “The Golden Boy” about the billionaire Harold Simmons who worked regular business hours while acquiring corporations.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, moderated because you’ve posted multiple uncivil comments in the past and then used alternate user names to respond to yourself, which isn’t cool here.

      1. Ruthan*

        Moderating twerpy comments comes across as very abrasive! You should probably tone it down so you don’t alienate your readers. ;D

    1. Clever Name*

      Heh. As a consultant who bills her time, I know exactly how many hours I work. And it’s usually around 20, because I’m part time. :D

    2. Elysian*

      I think this is super interesting. I have a friend who swears to all that is good that he has never worked less than a 60 hour week in the last 7 years or so. When I forced him to break it down it turned out he was counting all the time from getting in his car in the morning until he got home at night (including his whole commute both ways, and lunch, and time that he was doing personal things while at work, etc). I agree with Clever Name – I’m a slave to the billable hour, I can tell you exactly how much I’m working each week (not working right now!!!!)

    3. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

      Interesting how perception can be skewed.

      I always know how many hours I work because everyone clocks in here – even exempt – but before we clocked in I had been underestimating my time by about 5 hours.

      But aside from butt in seat hours, it’s hard to classify all the little bleeds during off time. Like if I’m on call on my day off it’s not working – but if I can’t turn my phone off or nap without it on the dock so it can wake me there is still an availability I have to provide that you can’t quantify. It’s not working – but it’s not unplugged and recharging either. On PTO days off I unclench about the same time the office closes because I’m always braced for something that will derail my day or cause me to head in.

      I think that makes people feel like they are working more than they are sometimes, being in a state of alert all the time is never letting work leave your head for very long.

      I’m sure that’s not healthy.

      1. Elysian*

        I think someone (it might even have been you) once used the phrase “contaminated time” for stuff like this, and its stuck in my head ever since. It’s a really good descriptor.

      2. LisaLisa*

        I think that’s definitely true. Should I count those times I wake up in the middle of the night fretting about a project and can’t go back to sleep because I am turning that project over and over again in my head? I certainly can’t bill that time to a client but I might have the break through during that late night fretting session that sets the whole project in a new direction.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yep, I used to over-count my hours. It wasn’t intentional. At the time, I had a job that required me to frequently bring work home and be accessible by email. It really felt like I was always working. In my head, it seemed like 80+ hours. But once I counted it all up carefully, I was surprised that it was under 70. I think it seemed like more because of all the interruptions and how rarely I had a solid chunk of free-time.

  10. alma*

    I will never, never, never forget the time when a female coworker of mine, who was managing a long-term project, told the staff “on [project launch date], night work will probably be needed to meet our deadline.” This was in no way an unusual thing to hear at that particular workplace, and she said it in a completely factual and neutral way. But she was later taken aside and scolded by her (male) boss for sounding too “harsh” because “people’s faces looked upset” when she said the words night work. Couldn’t she have said it in a more nice and friendly way?

    Of course, this is the same manager who would have had her head on a pike if the project wasn’t complete on time. Everyone knew night work was HIS expectation, and it was a constant one. Which is his prerogative, but our department was pretty severely burned out after several years of steadily increasing work/decreasing resources, and he was able to avoid thinking about that by rationalizing “Oh, people are only upset because [Project Manager] wasn’t sweet enough about telling them!”

    It was a pretty good example of how sexism isn’t just offensive, it’s also often the canary in the coal mine for dysfunctional management in other ways.

    1. RJ*

      THIS. “It was a pretty good example of how sexism isn’t just offensive, it’s also often the canary in the coal mine for dysfunctional management in other ways.”

      I appreciate you pointing this out. I have remained in dysfunctional workplaces for far too long and put up with far too much out of fear. You are absolutely correct that these types of environments where discriminatory behavior is tolerated or encouraged is always indicative of a larger, systemic issue.

  11. Lily in NYC*

    Our evil former division head is a woman and was the worst performance review offender I have ever seen. She told her managers not to praise anyone, and told our highest performer that she shouldn’t smile so much (she smiled a normal amount). She wasn’t my boss but decided to stick her nose into my evaluation and wrote that I should be fired because she expected “blind obedience” from me. She really used those words! My boss just laughed at her but I was pretty nervous and was so relieved when she quit.

  12. Oh Anon*

    I’ve dealt with #3. I was told I was “too aggressive” during a review. Why? The regional office, that I was working in a branch office of, didn’t want to pay my holiday pay per corporate policy. This policy was in writing in our employee handbook; I even spoke directly with the benefits and payroll heads at the corporate office, and all agreed I should be paid X. However, the regional office wanted to pay me Y, which was less. I stood up for myself, which apparently meant that I was now “aggressive” since I called them out on their BS.

    1. Artemesia*

      There is research that shows that women who negotiate hard on entry are thereafter viewed negatively whereas men are viewed as more competent if they do so. My daughter at my suggestion negotiated a signing bonus on her second big job where they were trying to bring her in at the bottom of the range although she had good experience; she succeeded and did in fact find that the bosses viewed her as ‘abrasive’ and ‘difficult’. To put it in context, she is the ‘nice’ one in our family and in fact is rather tactful in managing people. I have seen her in action and can’t imagine that ‘difficult’ was at all justified.

      1. Artemesia*

        And why is my name being linked to someone I have never heard of’s website? (my email is also being used by someone in Indiana who is checking out films from Redbox — so I am feeling weirded out by the internets.)

        1. Kelly L.*

          Bug from a few days ago. I think clearing out your cookies and reentering your info in your next comment gets rid of it.

    2. Alex (Female)*

      I can relate to this post. I just can’t rollover on things that aren’t equitable like this, and I have gotten similar feedback.

  13. Allie*

    The gendered feedback really hit home for me. I haven’t gotten any feedback about my tone, demeanor, or personality at my current job, or my job before that. But at my first job, I definitely felt like my manager was nitpicking my communication and trying to make me more likable. My phone calls were never pleasant enough, my e-mails never “professional” enough (even though I got plenty of passive aggressive garbage from other people). I was buying Easter candy for the team, which was mildly appreciated, but it was still an issue that I wasn’t offering to fill people’s water bottles when I went to the kitchen. When people greeted me in the morning, my response had to have at least two syllables and had to be cheerful! Sometimes it felt like the work version of “smile, baby!”

    Is it okay to want people in your office to be positive and pleasant most of the time? Sure, no one wants to work with a cranky person. But it’s hard to work on being more likable in an office where people don’t seem to like you.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Two syllables? Well, there are two that come to mind, but I doubt they’d have considered them cheerful. ;)

      1. Allie*

        Well “morning” wasn’t enough, it had to be “good morning,” at least. So I guess I meant at least two words, not syllables, my bad!

        1. Kelly L.*

          Oh wow, you couldn’t even just say “morning”? Or “hello”? Or a zombielike “Coffffff…..eeeeee” as you lurched toward the coffeemaker? ;)

      2. Artemesia*

        See if you lived in the south your problem would be solved as all words have at least 2 syllables in our ty-own.

    2. Liam*

      You were chastised for not offering to fill people’s water bottles? o_O I wouldn’t WANT anyone else touching my water bottle. Cripes.

      1. Allie*

        Everyone else on the team would offer to do it, and I decided I preferred getting my own water. I liked the walk to the kitchen, it was a nice little break, especially when I was working on a difficult problem. But maybe my manager thought that was too “lone wolf” and thought this would make me a team player.

        1. Lora*

          This is one of the weirder things I have heard. Maybe I am too much of a Yankee to understand it. Here, the nicest we get is to actually tell colleagues there’s cookies in the break room *before* picking over our favorites.

          1. Allie*

            I’d call myself a Yankee too, but I’m a Sox fan :P

            But seriously, I am from the north, and while I do try to be nice to people and help people out here and there, I thought my manager was being ridiculous expecting me to get water for people. If other people on the team wanted to do it, fine, but to expect everyone to do it was just odd. Guy was new to management and I suspect he didn’t really know what he was doing.

        2. Cath in Canada*

          Weird! I do very occasionally offer to get people water or make cups of tea for them, but only if they’re on deadline and visibly/audibly stressed. I’ll even get lunch for them if it’s a really tight deadline. But absolutely not on a regular basis.

    3. Natalie*

      Did we work together? That “morning” vs “good morning” thing sounds very familiar.

      I once caught a glimpse of a memo draft on my boss’s desk, which was essentially chastising the new people (which was all of 2 people) about not being friendly enough and various other nitpicky items. I don’t know if she ever sent it, but I sure hope not.

  14. Peony*

    Hell, even 40 hours seems long to me. Standard in my place is 37.5 per week. EU Working Time directive is 38 (in all but a very few cases). The business, and the EU, have yet to grind to a halt.

    I got told in one review that I was not to express any negative emotion, as it bought the rest of the office down…. Guy who routinely swore and ranted about people he had to deal with didn’t even get ticked off….

    1. BritCred*

      Working Time Directive is 48hrs a week unless you opt out.

      Yeah, Europe is a little more relaxed about hours.

  15. Dennis*

    The sexist language can cut both ways. Being a male in a female dominated work environment I get it the other way. I have to tone things down so I don’t ruffle feathers. It took me many years to adapt and my performance reviews are great now.

    1. Liz*

      I’m a woman who favors very ‘male’ (in the stereotypical sense) communication patterns and I had to learn this in my female-dominated profession as well.

    2. Clever Name*

      Google male privilege. Then Google “Men’s Rights Activists”. Then follow the Twitter hashtag #yesallwomen.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Saying “these issues can also affect men” does not mean he’s an MRA. He’s not out protesting – he’s sharing his experience. I took this to mean that sometimes we’re expected moderate our communications style to our environment.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Whoa, that seems really unwarranted! I agree with you that gendered expectations affect women way differently than they do men, but it’s reasonable and okay to point out that they do affect men too. I don’t see anything here that warrants MRA accusations.

        1. Tinker*

          I haven’t closely followed the #yesallwomen hashtag, and these things have a way of going in all kinds of odd directions, but my impression was that the original point of it was to illustrate that an important component of modern gender prejudice is in patterns of interaction rather than open and notorious expressions prejudice. Although that happens also, sadly.

          People don’t understand trends well sometimes. There’s a certain false even-handedness that relies on a shallow reading of a scenario — replying to “women get performance reviews following this overall pattern, in a way that ties in globally with gender prejudice in thus-and-such way” with “I got a performance review like that also one time, so that means it’s not really a gender thing” would be an example of this — that’s both a common misunderstanding and a gambit that is used with some success by folks who are pushing a misogynist agenda. Which some people presumably fall for and repeat, not having understood the issues involved.

          I don’t want to read into what either party actually intended, but I’m choosing to salvage that point from the wreckage ;)

          1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

            I agree with what Tinker has pointed out. You can be derailing and dismissive without intending to do so.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Absolutely, and worth pointing out. But I also think intentions matter in the way you respond to someone — accusing someone of being an MRA activist when that’s not at all where they’re coming from isn’t going to help advance the conversation and can really change the tone of the discussion for the worse.

          3. A Cita*

            Yes. The point is really about discourse (in the social science way, not the talkie way)…how patterns of discriminatory belief and behavior get reproduced through institutions, in a way that’s not even conscious at times, so that the old rally cry against “the man!” isn’t so appropo any more (even though there may be individuals in power that one can point to who are doing this). So taking a systemic thing and arguing against it with an individual experience reads a little tin eared (at best), even if not intended.

    3. Observer*

      Obviously we don’t know what actually happened in your case. But, my experience has been that when guys in female dominated workplaces or fields get told to “tone it down” or not to “ruffle feathers”, it’s because it was fully earned. I’ve yet to see a situation where a guy was being held to a higher standard than the women around him in terms of personality issues.

      1. Dennis*

        Yep…and my experience is that women tagged as abrasive have fully earned it too. I mean, really, what purpose does that serve?

        Go back and read “You Just Don’t Understand” by Deborah Tannen. The differences we experience are often the result of the different styles of communication that males and females have.

        1. Judy*

          The point to the article was a small informal study in tech about reviews. The author gathered reviews from her network, received 248 reviews. 83 of the men’s reviews had critical feedback, while 94 of the women’s reviews did. Out of the 83 men’s reviews with critical feedback only two had personality criticisms, while 71 of the 94 women’s reviews with critical feedback had personality criticisms.

          Quoting from the original article:

          There’s a common perception that women in technology endure personality feedback that their male peers just don’t receive. Words like bossy, abrasive, strident, and aggressive are used to describe women’s behaviors when they lead; words like emotional and irrational describe their behaviors when they object. All of these words show up at least twice in the women’s review text I reviewed, some much more often. Abrasive alone is used 17 times to describe 13 different women. Among these words, only aggressive shows up in men’s reviews at all. It shows up three times, twice with an exhortation to be more of it.

          I can point in my experience of having my boss sit in on a few conference calls after it was reported I raised my voice. It also was written in my year end review. Another person on my team swore at someone on a conference call (multiple calls) I regularly attended and the same boss did not monitor his calls. It was certainly not in our corporate culture to swear the way this guy did.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          I was lucky enough to have her as my professor for two classes in college. She was incredible and I retained more from her classes than any others.

      2. Muriel Heslop*

        I’ve worked in female-dominated fields my entire career and I have seen more of what has Dennis has experienced than the reverse.

        My negative feedback is “too perky” or something similar. I work with people! I wonder if any men ever had “perky” used on their performance evaluation. Of course, almost all of my evaluators are women.

    4. RJ*

      That’s funny. I have several friends who work in female-dominated fields (nurses, dieticians). The few males who are in those fields tend to have much higher job satisfaction, get promoted much faster, and get paid significantly more than the norm.

      By having your personality and natural demeanor attacked and criticized…I guess you now know how women tend to feel in most jobs.

      1. Phyllis*

        True. We had some male telephone operators, and nearly every one of them were promoted to management in a year or less.

    5. Stumped*

      That seems like the same message though, isn’t it? The study reported on women who were told that they were to abrasive and had to tone things down – the same feedback you’re hearing. You’re not having to become more aggressive.

      Although ITA that sexist language hurts both sides.

  16. HM in Atlanta*

    I often find that people (coworkers/vendors/consultants/whoever) who are not meeting expectations/hitting deliverables, will quickly go to the abrasive woman red herring to move the conversation away from their failures. The worst part is, it’s usually given serious weight (and the missing deliverables piece is put aside, which is what was wanted).

    1. Katie the Fed*

      This sounds like you’re saying that pointing out gendered language is a diversionary tactic? So then it’s a no win situation – either we put up with that kind of language OR we must be masking another performance deficiency?

      1. Kelly L.*

        I’m thinking (and hoping) it means that people who are failing will distract attention from their failures by blaming the woman who’s calling them on it and calling her abrasive.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          I thought that too. Instead of looking at the criticism they’ll try to invalidate it by saying the criticism was overly harsh.

  17. Stephen*

    I’ve heard that word lots in my performance reviews, as have a number of my male colleages. Maybe we’re just more progressive when in comes to gender in the sandpaper business than you would find in a lot of other industries.

  18. David*

    #1, this does go both ways, at least in terms of sex impacting feedback. I was told that because I’m a bigger guy with a deep voice working in a largely female dominated environment that I can be perceived as intimidating. This came from another male (senior VP) who’d received similar feedback. He certainly wasn’t endorsing the feedback, just saying that’s the perception and I have to be aware of it. Sorry for, um, being.

    1. Observer*

      That is very interesting. And, it’s the first time I’ve heard something this gendered that actually makes some sense. I get that it’s not really fair to you, though. It’s not the norm, though.

    2. RJ*

      Body language is a tough one. I’m a 5’5″ woman, and I’ve gotten feedback from men 6ft and taller that I am “intimidating”.

      Many people with a larger physical stature are unaware of how their body language affects others. Even someone like me, at only 5’5″, can come across as intimidating, and I really have to watch my gestures and body language. There are lots of books available; I read one by Joe Navarro, a former FBI counterintelligence officer, and thought it was useful. Simple things like noticing how closely you are standing; noticing the volume and tone of your voice; how you are making eye contact; not standing up to talk to someone if they are seated; taking a seat to talk to someone; your facial expression and smile; noticing where you are positioned in the room, etc. are all things to keep in mind.

      Women are basically bombarded with criticism and feedback and admonished to continually be aware and mindful of our surroundings and always consider how others feel. One of my colleagues worked in Japan where junior employees are expected to keep an eye on older employees’ drinks during social events and top them off. He said that as a male, he had never been conditioned to notice stuff like that, and it was extremely stressful for him. He had a very hard time relaxing and enjoying these events because he constantly had to maintain vigilance of others around him, which he had never been socialized to do. I laughed because my parents drilled it into my head that I had to take care of others, learn to be a good hostess, and those types of things are second nature to me because of my conditioning and gender. It sounds like you are in a similar situation, maybe this gives you some empathy for the expectations placed upon women.

      1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

        It really is something we’re actively trained in in a way men aren’t. Taught how to sit, how to walk not too sexy but not don’t stomp like a man – walk like a lady. Don’t slouch, don’t drink directly from the bottle, be careful how you eat so it’s not suggestive, cross your legs at the ankle, for goodness sake never bend at the waist in front of people…and smile!

        1. fposte*

          Yes, I talk about that with colleagues sometimes in my female-dominated field. At least in my area of academics, men are likelier to be acculturated in ways that at least makes them behave as if they were aware things like this–and as a result when you have a guy who’s never learned that not all space and time is his for the taking, it really stands out.

      2. Lora*

        Ha. When I was a manager, people routinely thought I was much taller than I actually am. I’m 5’5″ also–people who see me as authoritative tend to see me as 5’9″ or taller, and people who see me as a peer think I’m of average height. This applies whether or not I am wearing heels.

  19. CAA*

    I read the Forbes article earlier this week and it really disturbed me. How can we managers who are giving the feedback fix this? Is awareness enough, or do we need help? My company is starting our annual review cycle next month, and I’m toying with the idea of removing the names and having a neutral 3rd party read them to see if he can figure out which of my employees are men and which are women. That will give me a chance to edit if I’m guilty of this.

    What are other people going to do?

    1. EngineerGirl*

      May I offer a few suggestions?
      * First off, follow up when you hear someone is hard to work with, or abrasive. Dig down to find out the specifics of the accusation. Was it a one-off or a pattern? Was it a tone thing? Would men be given a pass but the women held accountable?
      * Bar labels from reviews. “Aggressive” is a label. If someone is giving a negative review they should be able to give specifics of the negative behavior. Refuse to accept reviews with labels.
      * Work with HR to detect patterns of bias. Look at the aggregate performance median for the women Vs the men at your organization. On a scale of 1-5, BOTH groups should be around 3-3.5, If the women’s median performance is 3.1 and the men’s 3.6 you have a problem. HR should be able to do this analysis in the aggregate so no personal data is identifiable. More importantly, do the performance analysis at the higher salary grades. This is where the women will be saying “no” and enforcing it.

    2. AVP*

      In addition to EG’s great advice, if you want something very concrete to do…I would suggest going through the reviews with two colors of highlighters. Reading the comments upthread, many people are saying that feedback is frustrating when it’s a comment on a vague personal quality that’s hard to measure and not based on actual work situations (tone, “seeming abrasive,” “not friendly enough”) or something physically unchangeable (voice, bearing, resting face). Highlight any comments you see like that in one color, and comments relating to performance standards, specific work situations, or other legitimate feedback* in a second color. Then compare them, and if you have a review thats full of the former, you’ll know you need to do something about it.

      *Also want to add that this isn’t only for negative feedback. It’s just as unhelpful and can be borderline offensive to get positive feedback in some of these areas as well!

    3. Jenny*

      I work with a lot of students and new professionals in the 18-25 age range and I decided that I was going to focus on developing a really accepting culture where differences in gender, income, ethnic background, and age, are accepted. The reason I have worked on this as a plan for my workplace is because I noticed that many of the people new to our profession were replicating behaviours that I saw as sexist. This is made more complicated by the casual racism in our community. I thought it was probably a lack of exposure to women in the workplace that was causing the behaviour and therefore I had a chance of making a change by normalizing behaviour that is welcoming to different people and where we can have open conversations about invisible and visible barriers.

      So, I try to model openness (asking appropriate questions, being open with information myself when I have it), kindness (phrasing things in a diplomatic way because we can and it makes conversations easier), and respect (setting boundaries for behaviours that are and are not acceptable, for example I do not accept racist or sexist comments). I try my best to demonstrate these principles in meetings/performance reviews and informal conversations including emails and texts – for example being careful to discuss how negotiating salary is a feminist issue with both female and male colleagues and staff – and genuinely trying to make it a conversation so that people have time to absorb information and reflect. This also allows me to broaden my perspective and gain a more nuanced understanding for myself which matters to the process I think.

      I also label behaviour in a matter of fact way so that it’s clear I observed it and that I think it is not ok (for example: “that’s sexist”). Typically I adopt a cheerful or friendly tone and pause for a moment after making my statement, then I immediately change the subject. Sometimes I say what I think very neutrally almost with no inflection at all followed by either a long pause or just walking away calmly. I decided to handle things this way because I found that for people that I’m going to see on a regular basis this changes their behaviour when I’m in the room. I hope that it changes things in general, but at least I can count on my facility being welcoming.

      For negative patterns of behaviour I deal with them individually and privately, the above is more of a general setting the tone thing.

  20. Senor Poncho*

    This might just be me, but I feel like every time the comment “Your work is great, but” is followed by [random subjective personality thing] with no specifics, the latter half of the comment is almost always total BS.

    I’ve gotten that a bit in the past, though never w/r/t “abrasive”.

  21. Snarkus Ariellius*

    I’m not a touchy feely person. I don’t go to work to make friends. My boss is not my friend and never will be.

    I once worked for a woman who constantly complained about the face I made when I was concentrating. She also accused me of frowning all the time and stressing her out. But my male coworker slamming a door and kicking the coffee table when things didn’t go his way? “He’s just so dedicated to his work.”

    I also worked with two other women (one of which I mentioned here who had the cube that looked like a dorm room) who were always giggly and smiley even in serious situations. If something went wrong, they’d do the head tilt thing, wrinkle their eye brows, and say, “Oohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” like they just saw a puppy.

    One day my boss and two female coworkers were walking in the office. All three of them were all smiley and girly. Then it dawned on me that’s why my boss nitpicked the tiniest things: my handwriting, the door I used to enter a building, my font size choice, my facial expressions, etc. Another time, she ended up agreeing with a proposal I’d advocated earlier when she wasn’t around. Riiiiiiiiiiight before she signed off on it, I said, “Oh hey great. I figured you’d be behind this because of X, Y, and Z, and that’s what I said when I initially proposed it.” She immediately got upset, demanded to know why I thought she’d think that, and then opposed what she’d originally supported. Like…yikes.

    All that came down to was: I wasn’t acting the way she thought women should act. Nothing to do with my performance because she always give me high marks.

    I wish I could say it was her problem and not mine but she certainly went to great lengths to make it mine with her nitpicking. Good riddance.

  22. Andrew*

    I find that women get told they are too abrasive to be strange, because I would like to tell my boss that I think she needs to speak up more. I think she lets people take too much advantage of her, based on my observations. She has also admitted to me that she feels left out of the loop on a lot of things that concern her and our department. I should add that I’m the #2 person in our department, and she doesn’t go around generally complaining about it to the other staff. Just a one time thing. I’m not really sure how to tell her in a way that won’t go over poorly, or even if it’s something I should be saying to her.

    1. FD*

      The problem is that women tend to be afraid to speak up because when they do, they tend to be punished for it socially–by being seen as too abrasive, hard to work with, etc.

      1. fposte*

        That’s *a* problem, but I still don’t think that’s an acceptable out for somebody who’s weak in her position.

    2. fposte*

      I think unless she asks, it’s probably not a good idea to tell her; even if it’s well-meant, it’s not likely to be empowering to have a junior, especially a male junior, tell her what she needs to do.

  23. Camellia*

    Ditto to everything here.

    I also once worked with a woman who 6’2” tall, making her about 5 inches taller than our manager. She came out of her first review and said he told her she had to “watch her body language”. When she asked what that meant, he couldn’t give her an answer or an example, just that she had to ‘watch it’. The only thing we could think was that he didn’t like that she was taller than he. She already only wore flats so she couldn’t even stop wearing heels to make it better. He continued to ding her on that at every review.

  24. Ka'El*

    Other than through the Peter Principle how on earth do these nutters get these jobs? Is it simply that they somehow float up through the ranks by default like some glorified goldplated turd as it decomposes in the sewerage system laughingly entitled my career? In this last organisation I have had two such individuals who’ve had ‘issues’, one an out and out narcissistic bully and the other a gatekeeper – both had been with the organisation (HE) for many years in an admin role yet neither had managed to acquire a degree and had a chip on their shoulders for anyone brighter than themselves. Both were women and both were exceptionally good at playing the political game even when there weren’t any to begin with. Neither could cope with other women of a higher educational, vocational, experience or subject knowledge level, nor could they cope with those who had the ability to network outside of their departments. Both would chip away bit by bit, either with comments or by removing resources to make work impossible. Once you were in a bad state they’d then call the performance review and criticise not your ability but your personality or even in my case my health. Oh yes, I have a disability it’s hidden, it doesn’t affect my IQ or intellect, it simply makes me very, very ill from time to time. One performance review said I “had to except the affect her condition has on her life and career” – which would explain why she banned me from any external paid for training or continuing my Masters degree part time. It’s not the illness that has the effect on my career, it’s narrow minded people like the gatekeeper…

  25. Joe*

    I mourn the 40 hour work week not only for the benefit of all of us poor schlubs who have jobs that require more work, but also for all the people without jobs. There are too many companies out there that are cutting back on hiring, or even laying people off, and getting by by making other employees work longer and harder.

  26. Trixie*

    Re #1, Abrasive. This story was recently highlighted on This American Life and may result in additional investigations, none of which helps Segarra.

    “Segarra became a polarizing personality inside the New York Fed — and a problem for her bosses — in part because she was too outspoken and direct about the issues she saw at both Goldman and the Fed. Some colleagues found her abrasive and complained. Her unwillingness to conform set her on a collision course with higher-ups at the New York Fed and, ultimately, led to her undoing.”

  27. Lisa Petrenko*

    Why are people so willing to allow work to consume their lives? Unions worked so hard for fair working conditions, including a40 hour work week and overtime posy, but so many people today just accept that companies demanding more for no extra pay to be just fine. This is ridiculous and workers need to push back. Work is imporant but pointless is that is the only thing you have time to do!

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