who can managers talk to, my boss only gives gifts to women, and more

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

1. Who can managers talk to?

One of the things I haven’t see much written about is who managers _can_ talk to about management-specific issues. Like all other humans, they need to bounce ideas off of others, discuss challenges and problems, feel connected and heard, and try out solutions.

Who can a manager talk to if they are having a particularly trying time? All the management advice out there seems to be saying “Keep everything confidential” and of course there’s no way that discussing a lot of management issues with their direct reports is appropriate, but who is left?

I think keeping all the things that managers come up against “under your hat” must be excruciating at times. I’m wondering if this is why some managers really aren’t that great – they can’t get good mentoring and they can’t relieve the stress because they are trying to keep all of that inside. It’s got to add up.

Well, you can talk to peers — other managers at your level — and people above you, like your own boss. If you’re at the very top, you can talk to other CEOs and in some cases your #2 (if you have a deputy or COO). But yeah, it can be tough, sometimes very tough, when there aren’t many people around who you can let off steam with or simply talk freely and openly with.

2. Can I suggest canceling the daily meetings my team no longer needs?

My company had a many years-long project that necessitated two shifts of employees using a shared set of equipment. The two shifts had a 15-minute overlap: we used this time to fill each other in on minor workflow changes and project updates.

The big project ended, over half of the employees were laid off, and there are no longer two shifts. Yet the daily meeting has continued out of habit, only now my supervisor uses it to convey irrelevant administrative items or hold one-on-one conversations while the rest of the team just sits quietly and waits. The meeting no longer deals with technical details or other topics relevant to our projects.

This meeting is an anachronism from the big project days, we could all be using the time for billable projects instead, and frankly it’s almost always the low point of the day. I know that nobody on the project team wants to attend this meeting, but I sense that my supervisor still feels it’s important or doesn’t realize how much it has changed. Should I say something to ask him to restructure or cancel the daily meeting?

If you have a decent rapport with your manager and/or your manager is reasonably open to input, speak up! I’d say this: “I know we started these meetings back when we needed them for Big Project. Now that that’s over, I wonder if we still need them or could switch to a less frequent schedule.”

3. My boss only gives gifts to women

For some reason my boss used to give birthday gifts and also on administrative professionals day he would buy the each person office staff a gift, but lately he is only giving gifts to the female workers. One of my coworkers is saying that this is discrimination, but I said that he does not have to give gifts to everyone and he can give gifts to whoever he wants to. Can you please clarify if I am correct or give me your opinion?

Discrimination in the legal sense? Highly unlikely — to meet that bar, you’d have to be able to show actual adverse employment impact on people connected to the gifts. If people were being denied promotions or wages or professional opportunities based on sex, that would be illegal. Gift-giving based on sex is gross, but not illegal.

4. Professional societies on a LinkedIn profile

I had a question re: work/skills-related societies. A lot of them are really expensive (ie. $150 up to $400 for yearly membership of International Teapot Society), but I still think they’ll look good on my LinkedIn profile. (Assuming that you’re a teapot contractor and the payment is solely out of pocket, and the cost is too high to afford by yourself). Which leads me to this…..

If there’s an International Teapot Society that has private membership on LinkedIn and the administrator allows you in after requesting membership (because you do highly-advanced relevant work) can you put that on LinkedIn that you’re a Member of International Teapot Society and put (LinkedIn Membership)? Seems like a gray area, and wanted to check in case.

You’re putting way more weight on these than you should. No one is really that impressed by seeing society membership on your resume or your LinkedIn profile — and they’re going to be even less impressed by seeing “LinkedIn membership” in one of them.

People really don’t care, so you definitely shouldn’t be paying money if you’re only joining to make a profile page look better!

5. Should I tell other employers that I’m a back-up candidate for another?

I am a current job-seeker. Today I heard back from a place I interviewed at about three weeks ago. They’ve offered the position to someone else, and reading between the lines that person is playing some negotiating hardball, so they’re reached out to me as the backup candidate. They want me to come in to meet with the third member of their team (unavailable when I was in the office three weeks ago), and I’m looking forward to the second meeting and reinforcing my position as a solid candidate (after all, offers can fall through, and these folks may be hiring in the future). I also have been working with recruiters, and I’m in the post-in-person-interview waiting space with another great place. Am I obligated to let these people know that I’m a backup candidate? Just the recruiters? No one? Thanks in advance for any guidance and advice you have.

Nope. If you get an offer, at that point you should alert anywhere else that you’re in the process with, but telling them that you’re a back-up candidate doesn’t really convey anything particularly actionable for them.

{ 95 comments… read them below }

  1. PoorDecisions101

    I will hopefully be starting in my first managerial position soon and I’ll admit to having next to no idea what I’m doing.

    Luckily my referees are friends and were/are high level managers. I keep in touch on a personal level and also ask for advice professionally which they are happy to provide.

    OP1, I suggest being able to find people outside your current company to discuss these things, unless you know you can trust your peers and bosses – that’s not to say in all circumstances, but especially consider if it’s not information you particularly want passed around.

    1. Graciosa

      I think Alison overlooked one key resource for managers – HR professionals. (Really, Alison, you surprise me!)

      I am fortunate enough to have a really good one assigned to my function. She has kept me out of more trouble than I want to admit, and has been invaluable in working through difficult situations. She has seen every type of managerial issue imaginable at this point, and has the benefit of far more experience with ‘HR stuff’ than I ever expect to have.

      If you are blessed with a good one, they can be unbelievable coaches, sounding boards or cheerleaders as needed, and getting the benefit of their wisdom doesn’t require involving your boss or breaching confidentiality inappropriately.

      1. OP 1

        Thanks! I have asked our HR department for guidance on several occasions, and I agree with you that they are phenomenal at coaching, finding the right phrasing, and encouraging managers to keep doing what they need to be doing. At the same time, I don’t want to monopolize all their time or seem too needy – I don’t want them wondering how I ended up in this job, if I have this many questions.

        1. Teacup Puppies

          I don’t want them wondering how I ended up in this job, if I have this many questions.

          This holds good for approaching your boss also…unless its big issue, its your job to figure out how to handle it. Really stressful at times…

          1. inkstainedpages

            The problem is, as discussed on this site before, that managers often come into the position with no training on how to be a good manager – it’s all hit and miss, learn as you go for new managers. Add to that the fact that you aren’t supposed to approach your boss with problems for fear of looking like you can’t handle being a manager, and it’s no wonder there are so many bad managers out there. It’s really too bad – I expect my direct reports to come to me with problems, and yet I can’t go to my own manager with problems lest I undermine myself.

        2. Juli G.

          Don’t worry about that. I speak for at least 5 HR people I know that would tell you we have many more issues with managers talking to us too little than too much.

          Also, we get it! HR is in a worse place than you are when it comes to ability to vent. The ratio of managers to general population is small and the HR ratio is even smaller. My boss apologized a couple weeks ago for venting to me about a really stressful situation he was dealing with but there was literally no one else to go to given the confidential circumstances.

          1. Rat Racer

            No offense to HR people, but they’re not always the right resource for management problems. It really depends on the scale. If you’re grappling with minor annoyances and just need someone to listen to you vent, going to HR can make problems appear more serious than they are, and raises the risk that something will be escalated unnecessarily.

            I went to HR to talk about an employee on my team who was a low performer, and got some really *really* bad advice on how to deal with her. This may be specific to our HR department, but the woman I spoke to was entirely focused on procedure (Step 1: put employee on PIP; Step 2: plan to terminate within 90 days…) rather than listening to the specific circumstances and trying to help me better communicate with my direct report.

            We have a notoriously awful HR department, and I don’t mean to slander the wonderful insightful HR people who post to this blog, but my experience working with HR is that they’re focused on the macro level, on procedures and protocols, rather than on specifics and nuance.

            1. Juli G.

              I understand. I was reassuring OP specifically as she said her HR team was great.

              A PIP should never just be precursor to firing – that’s the sign of a bad HR person.

              And it’s fair warning – if you tell HR a fireable offense “off the record”, most will feel obligated to take action.

            2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

              “but my experience working with HR is that they’re focused on the macro level, on procedures and protocols, rather than on specifics and nuance.”

              Of course. Remember that HR’s primary task is to protect the company. So, they’d rather you follow protocol , the PIP, the discussions with the employee, prepare to terminate, etc. etc. than general motivation, performance improvement or enhancement, etc.

          2. OP 1

            Thank you! I’ll keep that in mind – that it would be worse to never tell them what’s going on.

            I think that’s part of it – the ratio of people you can safely talk to gets smaller the higher you are promoted, and the stress just gets higher.

      2. Cheesecake

        Maybe because it is not clear what “issues” OP is talking about? But i totally agree with you – HR should be OP’s 1st stop especially for questions that OP finds “potentially confidentiality breaching”; these cases must be reported to HR. Also, for all people specific matters if you have problems placing your people or developing them – this is HR. Good HR dept has plans in place and if you, say, worry about Jane leaving because job is not challenging enough – HR has an overview of what can be done. General discussions or technical job questions – this is for peers.

        1. OP 1

          Not issues like how many widgets we need to be making, or how many staff we need to do that job, but the stress that comes with managing people. When you have someone whom you feel like you are telling the same thing over and over again, with examples, and they tell you they are hearing it, but their behavior does not change. You know what to do there; if the requirement is not being met, you need to terminate that employee and find someone who CAN do the job the way it needs to be done. But that’s stressful to implement; honestly there’s a lot of soul-searching that goes on. The manager has to do what’s best for their department and their company, but you can’t (or I can’t) ignore that that decision is cutting off someone’s income and what that means for their life.

          Now, you can argue that the manager is not doing it, the employee is doing it, by not meeting the requirements. I know that, but the stress is still present. So in that case, it’s not really “What do I do in this situation?” it’s “How do I get past the bad feelings associated with what I know I have to do here?”

          Or when you have someone who has been with the company for a while, and now all of a sudden their performance is slipping. It’s hard to know how to motivate someone. You can lay out what they are doing and where they need to be instead, but is that enough? You can ask them what happened to precipitate this change, so that you can try to mitigate that, but is that enough? You can offer scheduling changes to give them flexibility to deal with whatever is causing their performance to suffer, but is that enough? When have you done enough, and when do you throw in the towel and say, “This is not working?”

          I kind of feel like that answer isn’t something that can be defined. And that makes me uncomfortable, because you never do get there, and that’s where the stress comes in. The manager has to eventually make the decision that the arrangement is not working, and act on that. I know, this is what managers get paid for – this exact sort of judgement and action. But it’s hard on people to make those calls, and having to keep it confidential is a strain because the urge to talk about it and relieve that stress is strong.

          I think if people knew how often managers think “Please don’t force me to do this – please just do the things we’ve talked about,” they would be surprised.

          1. Liane

            Unfortunately that is a part of the job. I am not a manager but my dad owned his own business in the 50s- early 80s & he told me many times over the years that letting someone go–no matter how bad an employee there were–was the worst part of being the boss. All he could ever do was be as kind and forthright as possible to those workers. He must have been doing something right because I recall several of his former people visiting him later on, just to say hello.
            I hope you find the support you need.

            1. OP 1

              Thank you! Intellectually I knew this would be part of it back when I went into management, but sometimes it just feels like so much with no real outlet. I think your dad had it right. It’s best to just be honest and do it, as kindly as possible.

          2. TalleySueNYC

            I think these are things that a *good* HR person ought to be able to help with.

            And don’t forget the option of a decent therapist!
            Actually, having done some therapy, I really think what most of us need is a good life coach. Someone who knows a little more than my mom, but is the same sort of “let me help you think this through and then encourage you and make you stronger” approach.

          3. NENonprofitDirector

            I am going through this exact same thing right now; I need to terminate an employee who will not change. I really don’t want to discuss it with my spouse but of course he can tell it’s affecting my mood, casting a shadow on weekend and free time. I can relate to all of these feelings, the soul-searching, etc. We share office space and the employee in question is either delusionally upbeat or sitting and seething with hatred. It makes for a very long day. I am looking forward to it being over. HR has been very supportive, thankfully. But it’s awful.

            1. OP 1

              I’m really sorry you’re going through this – I totally get what you’re saying about how it affects you outside of work, and yet you don’t want to discuss it there.

              I just watched The Assets on Netflix, and I was really feeling the main character’s stress. She worked for the CIA and couldn’t talk about anything with her husband. I guess I should be grateful I’m not under those kind of restraints, but it’s still tough.

          4. Cheesecake

            OP, i think you are a very nice&kind manager who thinks about your people and their well-being. But this tough decisions must be done. And that is why you have HR function. I believe it is very important to talk to an HR person about your concerns. Soul searching is one thing but ability to run business smoothly is another one. And flagging your issues is a key to have “a plan B”. Now, a lot of people won’t agree with me, because they have dysfunctional HR. But in our org. for example we have a talent manager and a lot of people come to him for advice for exact situations you’ve described. He can advise what to do and how and plan accordingly in the meantime.

            1. OP 1

              Thank you. I do have faith in our HR department, so that’s a good thing. I’ll work on a plan B.

          5. Connie-Lynne

            Places I’ve worked often have weekly or monthly manager get-togethers which are great for talking about this stuff. You still don’t want to necessarily discuss specifics, but you can certainly vent about general cases, and you’ll find out you’re not the only one.

            If your workplace doesn’t have a “Monthly Manager Lunch” or “Manager Discussion Hour” or whatever, you can always start one!

    2. OP 1

      Hi! Thanks for that idea. I guess I thought that talking about specific issues to those who are outside the company would be “talking out of school,” and a betrayal of confidentiality that the company would expect of the manager. Even if you’re very careful to not use names, some of the situations may be enough to identify who and what are involved.

      Good luck in your new position, I hope you find it’s a good fit!

      1. PoorDecisions101

        I was thinking where I’d slip up would be in relation to people management, while otherwise I’m fairly confident in my technical abilities and strategic direction I want to take, so I wouldn’t be discussing those sorts of things externally.

        With the people stuff, as long as I leave out names, I don’t see how it would be detrimental to the company or if anybody would care externally, with potential harm discussing internally. I also trust the people I would be talking to.

        That’s just my opinion anyways, and like I said it’s not like I’ve actually done managing before. Good luck too!

      2. The IT Manager

        I think it is fine to speak to an outside mentor IF you trust that person not to share this info with others. Be careful who you select.

        1. OP 1

          I’m not sure I can think of someone who would fit that bill for me. I’m too distrusting, I think, that things will be shared.

  2. UKAnon

    #3 – There’s a bad vibe coming out of this one. I can’t help thinking that as a receiver of the gift I’d find it all extremely shady and wonder why I was being given presents.

    OP, do you have a particularly good relationship with any of the women? It sounds like you don’t feel like you can talk to the boss, but I’m wondering if one of the women could help you out, because it seems like everybody could benefit from this stopping. A loud celebration of the birthday of one of the men (doesn’t have to be gifts, a card for example would suffice) within hearing of the boss, might quietly let him know that you’ve noticed.

    1. MK

      I don’t think this qualifies as “shady”, mainly because I cannot think what the motive would be for no longer giving gifts to men (which is what happened). If, for example, a boss who never gave gifts started giving them to female employees, that would raise all sorts of questions.

      However, I agree that this gives a wrong impression; it’s never a good idea to treat men and women differently, unless there is a good (objective) reason to do so. The best thing would be if someone who has a good relationship with the boss asked what the reasoning was behind the decision; ideally, that someone would be a woman, since coming from a man it would seem like complaining. Maybe that would be enough for the boss to get the message that this could be viewed suspiciously.

      1. UKAnon

        “…mainly because I cannot think what the motive would be for no longer giving gifts to men…”

        I think the problem is that I can only think of “shady” ones :-) (I’m not quite sure how else to phrase it. I don’t mean ‘shady’ in the illegal sense, more a feeling of… not quite right, if that makes sense. There can’t be a good reason for it!)

        I like your suggestion too, provided there is someone with a good enough relationship to risk asking it. This is one of the know-your-workplace things I think.

        1. MK

          I interpreted shady as nefarious. If by shady you mean sexist, I agree. It could be something like the company not having the budget to give everyone gifts and the boss deciding to give only women, because he thinks gifts mean more to them.

            1. Sadsack

              I don’t want a gift from my boss, especially if he isn’t giving them to everyone. It puts the person receiving the gift in a very awkward position. It also makes me think that the boss thinks of his female employees as lesser professionals than their male coworkers. Not even sure I can explain why, that’s just my impression.

    2. neverjaunty

      Yes, this. Whether or not giving personal gifts to women only is illegal, it’s definitely a sign that something is problematic, in ways that might well show up in other, work-specific ways.

  3. NJ anon

    #1 re using hr professionals. Be careful, our hr manager told our CEO EVERYTHING we talked to her about. Sometimes with negative consequences. I would reach out to others in your field outside of your own organization. Perhaps there is some sort of group already in existence.

    1. NJ anon

      It’s gotten to the point where managers do not go to her for anything unless absolutely necessary. Very unfortunate.

    2. Anne

      I agree about HR; our HR spends time in the big boss’ office every day, briefing her about everything that comes to her. I say keep your relationship with HR to technical questions and things re; hiring, FMLA, benefits.

    3. LBK

      That’s their job, though. They aren’t your therapist, your doctor or your priest; there’s no expectation of confidentiality unless you specifically request it, because they work for the company, not for you.

      1. Perpetua

        This, to an extent. As the only HR person at my company (so I truly empathise with not having people to share many things with), I struggle with meeting the balance between getting employees to trust me enough to come to me with (some of) their issues and getting them to understand that, in order to get many things done, I HAVE to share some of it with the CEOs.

        Some of the employees expect total priest/therapist confidentiality, some of them expect none (so they’re pretty unlikely to come forward with their commentary), I’m trying to show them that the answer is somewhere in the middle. My approach is taken from Alison’s advice (at least I think she mentioned it somewhere, if not, the misinterpretation is entirely on me) – I try to be as transparent as I can, telling them directly “you know, I need to talk to A&B about this to see if something can be done” or “yes, this stays completely between us”.

      2. NJ Anon

        I get that. But with her their is no such thing as “just venting” to a peer or keeping ANYTHING confidential. I know who she works for. But people come to me (the finance manager) rather than her because they are afraid of the consequence. It shouldn’t be that way.

        1. Rat Racer

          YES – this. Totally this!

          I so wish that there was a “Hand-wringing Managers Anonymous” group available where managers could go to talk about issues with direct reports in front of a council of the wise, where the information could be guaranteed not to go anywhere. I tend to use this blog. :)

        2. LBK

          Well, personally I think venting is pointless anyway, but that’s a separate conversation. Why aren’t these people going to their own managers?

          1. OfficePrincess

            Because when your manager says it’s your call, and you can make a convincing argument for either option, sometimes you need to bounce ideas off someone or just vent about how you’re not getting useful support. Some of us do our best thinking while trying to explain the situation to someone else.

          2. Rat Racer

            And because some people need to talk things through out loud. Also, another brain/another mind can offer insight and perspective that a single brain misses when locked in its own echo chamber.

      3. JB (not in Houston)

        True, but that doesn’t change the point that maybe HR is not who you want to vent to, depending on what you’re venting about.

        1. LBK

          That’s exactly my point, actually – that you can’t just vent to them because part of what they’re hired to do is provide that information to the relevant people in management.

          1. JB (not in Houston)

            I guess I was confused because that was NJ anon’s point, too, and I interpreted your comment like you were telling them something they hadn’t already said.

            1. LBK

              I read NJ anon’s comment as saying that that’s something bad HR people do, or that it was something unexpected that they didn’t think HR should have done. I was countering by saying that’s completely normal.

              1. NJ Anon

                HR manager and I are peers. But there is no peer-to-peer “feeling” or “conversation.” It is all or nothing with her. So I, and others, tell/ask her nothing unless its completely technical like when will the employee be put on the insurance, etc.

    4. Jazzy Red

      My cousin is an HR professional, and even though I love her, I wouldn’t even trust her in an HR capacity. I don’t know what kind of schooling or degree HR professionals are supposed to have, but apparently they don’t know jacksprat about confidentiality, conflict resolution, discrimination laws, or the myriad of other situations that come up in most workplaces. I learned very early on to keep my problems and personal situations private from as many people as possible at work. I have had a couple of good bosses who earned my trust, but I’ve never felt I could trust anyone in HR.

      1. Cheesecake

        There are jobs that involve equipment maintenance: you make sure to note any change to prevent equipment from going out of service and disrupting operations. HR is the same job, just with people and people have way more issues than machinery. So HR guys make sure they note any change i your performance and engagement to fix or replace you so business is not disruptive. How do they know? The only way is manager’s feedback or observing your behavior. So yes, if you go vent around me how you hate the job or send me emails asking “so if i leave the company, do i have to return relocation bonus?” i will bring it to mgmt’s attention. It is a part of a job.

  4. Another Salesperson

    #1: this is also where a good corporate/career coach can help. Sometimes companies will pay for this for you present a decent business case for it.

  5. edj3

    OP1, if your company has one, also consider talking to your organizational effectiveness group. OE has a lot of tools that can help new managers–things like 30/60/90 day plans, they can facilitate team chartering, they can give you all sorts of coaching as you develop as a manager. Not all companies have an OE group, and generally small ones do not but if your company has that function, also ask them.

  6. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

    I just cannot say enough how valuable it is to find a peer group, especially if you don’t have a natural group of peers within your own organization. I have a fabulous informal peer group of nonprofit executives that has been meeting for years and I’m lucky it’s a group where there’s a lot of trust and everyone can speak freely without worrying about information being repeated. This is done wonders for my career – and my wellbeing.

  7. Amanda Shore

    I’m a big fan of yours, Alison, but I don’t feel you gave the reader’s question about who managers can talk to a fair answer.
    As another reader mentioned, manager can talk to HR professionals or take advantage of one of any number of digital communities.
    The Internet gives us the unique ability to connect with people of similar interest. My advice would be that “who managers can talk to” do some research into online communities where managers in her field meet. I guarantee she will find a huge amount of support and people to talk to.

  8. Allison

    It’s definitely not illegal to give gifts only to women, but it’s not a good idea. There’s no good reason to do it, and nothing good can come of it long-term. No one’s jumping to conclusions, and no one knows this guy’s exact reasons, but it looks bad, and it’s clearly creating some confusion and morale issues. Why is he giving them special treatment? Is he trying to butter them up? Does he have weird ideas about what women value vs. what men value?

    Honestly, it’s best to not give anyone gifts. If you want to reward your employees, why not give them an extra day off? Extra afternoon off? Pizza?

  9. Soon to Be

    #3 – While I do think Alison’s correct that the actual gift-giving is not in itself illegal, it is definitely problematic and I think it hints at things that may indeed be illegal. Separate but equal is a fallacy — if someone is drawing a distinction between employees based on gender for one thing, they’re making it clear that they do see a difference between their male and female employees, and I can’t help but wonder where else that distinction comes into play.

    Basically, I have trouble seeing gift-giving as being innocuous in the bigger picture: it might not be some attempt at flirting or sexual harassment, but gifts are often perceived as a mark of favor. Alison’s comment is If people were being denied promotions or wages or professional opportunities based on sex, that would be illegal. I’ll be honest — I would be very surprised if the boss were buying gifts for women only, but then treating all employees absolutely equally in the matter of promotions/wages/opportunity.

    It’s not illegal discrimination in and of itself, but it’s a major red flag for the possibility of that kind of discrimination taking place on a more subtle level.

    1. Artemesia

      my knee jerk was the opposite — men get the promotions and women get the trinkets. It is a way of maintaining broader societies sexism in the workplace — men get bonuses and raises and women get flowers and cookies.

      1. neverjaunty

        Good catch.

        Raises? Why, what do the ladies need that for? It’s not like they have families to support. Just give them some chocolate or whatever.

      2. Allison

        I got that feeling as well. Sort of a benevolent sexism thing going on. “Ladies, don’t worry your pretty heads about silly things like equality at work, you have it so good right now! Men buy you dinner and open doors for you and give you presents, that’s nice! Why are you trying to throw that away? You don’t need to be treated like people, you just need a nice piece of chocolate.”

        Blegh, I cringed writing that. It’s an exaggeration, of course, but it’s definitely a mindset people have about gender these days.

        1. kozinskey

          This is exactly why it sets my teeth on edge when men I work with make a show of opening doors for me & other female coworkers. It’s a door, I know how to open it and walk through it. Please don’t rush past me to do something I’m perfectly capable of on my own. It’s not appropriate workplace behavior.

          1. Allison

            Right? If you get to the door before someone, by all means hold it open for the person behind you, but rushing to get in front of someone just to be a gentleman is outdated and unnecessary. Same goes for insisting on carrying something for someone else – offer help, and if they don’t want it, let it go.

          2. Chinook

            “This is exactly why it sets my teeth on edge when men I work with make a show of opening doors for me & other female coworkers. It’s a door, I know how to open it and walk through it. Please don’t rush past me to do something I’m perfectly capable of on my own. It’s not appropriate workplace behavior”

            I so get this, but my reaction has been to make a point of opening doors for them as well (in a land of double doors, it makes sense – first person to each door opens it for subsequent people) or making a joke about it in a way that highlights what they are doing. But, I have also decided that this isn’t a hill worth dying on and if they keep doing it (out of a polite Canadian habit), I just accept it and move on.

            BTW, I see this happenning amongst guys of all generations and even among those who see colleagues as gender neutral, so i don’t take it as a red flag on its own.

            1. Allison

              See I try to open doors for men too, but most of them refuse to go through the door! They’ll go “OHHHH no no no, please, ladies first, I insist!” What are they afraid of? Their balls falling off? Their mom jumping out from behind the door and beating them with a wooden spoon? I don’t get it.

              1. Chinook

                In my crasser moments, I have noted that having breasts doesn’t interfer with my door opening skills one bit. :)

          3. NJ Anon

            +++10000000000000000000000000000000000 People think I’m crazy when I express this exact sentiment!

      3. Soon to Be

        I wasn’t trying to say that the gifts are necessarily a sign that the boss is treating women better — my point was more that even if they’re not per se a sign of illegal discrimination, outsiders would perceive gifts as being a mark of favor, so that even in the absence of other discriminatory behavior the gifts would be problematic because it creates a climate of differing treatment. It’s about the optics of the situation.

        The realities of it are likely to be what you’re pointing out — men get cash, women get trinkets that don’t pay the bills. But that is speculation on our parts — it would be up to the OP to decide if they want to investigate that or flag the situation for someone else to investigate. But regardless of the realities, with just the information we have on hand, I can confidently say that the situation looks bad and red-flaggy just as it is.

        1. LQ

          I think this thread shows just how problematic is it regardless of what is the “reasoning” behind it. Quite frankly it doesn’t matter what the reality is because the perception of it will be (is) problematic and perception matters with something like this.

          1. Jaydee

            This is the plot of season 2, episode 17 of “Better Off Ted.” Lem is mysteriously given a red lab coat while everyone else gets a standard white lab coat. Chaos ensues as everyone tries to figure out what the red lab coat means. Turns out, it is part of a corporate initiative based on the belief that change of any sort increases productivity. But Lem and Phil assume the red lab coat is a mark of favor – or maybe disfavor?

            Moral of the story: don’t single people out arbitrarily. Make it clear why some employees are treated differently than others, and make sure those reasons are based on actual work-related justifications like productivity and job responsibilities rather than unrelated (and potentially illegal) things like gender, age, or race.

      4. Connie-Lynne

        Yeah, this was exactly what popped to mind for me.

        It strikes me as “the ladies can be satisfied with baubles, since they’re just doing this job for funsies, but for the men, it’s all Serious Business.” I mean, unless the gifts are things like “a business suit” or “an upgraded machine” or … I dunno, I’m just trying to think of gifts that would hold business value that aren’t raises.

      5. Jamie

        My knee jerked exactly the same way. I am huge fan of little gifts and trinkets both giving and receiving – from my kids, husband, friends – heck my one of my sisters “paid” for my free tech support with a tiara and the other with a HK pez dispenser. Best payments ever…from my family from whom I wouldn’t accept money because I love them and am happy to help.

        I’m having a hard time imagining a situation where only women get personal gifts where I wouldn’t feel patronized. I find this so odd I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from asking why. Nicely – but yes, I would need to know to either alleviate my suspicions or confirm that there was some innocuous reason.

        I don’t get it though – if you are going to do birthday things just passout gift cards to all and be done with it. Even $5 card to some coffee place or whatever – if people won’t use them they are easy to re-gift. (Not suggesting it’s necessary as I think it’s weird to give birthday gifts at all in this sense, but if you are going to do something weird be unilaterally weird.)

  10. sunny-dee

    OP#4, for almost all professional organizations, you cannot say you’re a member if you’re only a member of a LinkedIn group. Like, with the Society for Technical Communication (which I used to be a member of), you are only a member “in good standing” if your dues are current. If you tried to put it on your resume otherwise, they’d be PO’ed.

    1. AnonAnalyst

      Yeah, OP4, I think the most you can do with this is display it in the Groups section of your LinkedIn profile. Anything else is going to seem like at best you’re over-valuing membership in this group (and at worst, as sunny-dee noted, misrepresenting your affiliation with this organization).

    2. NoTurnover

      Yeah, I work for a professional organization, and listing yourself as a member (LinkedIn group) would look at best silly and at worst like an attempt to misrepresent. In many fields, belonging to a professional society and especially being active in it (participating in committees, presenting at conferences, etc.) really does mean something besides just “I paid money,” and you won’t do yourself any favors with this workaround.

  11. Joie de Vivre

    OP#1 – One thing you want to keep in mind when talking through potential issues is that your choices will impact the employee’s reputation. No matter who you choose to speak with within your company – peer group, HR, your manager – they will likely have less regular interaction with the individual than you do. So a large part of the impression they get of what kind of worker your employee is will come from your assessments. Because of this, regular venting about minor issues can be very damaging to the employee’s reputation within the company. In the case of serious problems that could result in termination, that’s less of a factor and you probably will need the input regardless. But when it’s smaller issues I generally prefer to handle it by thinking about how good managers in my work history have handled similar situations, how coaching I’ve received has helped me progress or looking for books/online resources that can help with the broader issue (i.e. communication; motivating employees, etc.).

    1. OP 1

      Well, that’s it exactly! I mean, that’s part of where my question came from. There are so many ways that something could ripple out. That’s why it’s hard to know who to talk to about some things – as noted above there are times it really helps to talk things out with someone, but if you don’t have anyone you can trust to keep that information from going any further, that’s a huge concern.

  12. AW

    OP #4 – I’m pretty sure that any LinkedIn groups you join are visible on your profile by default, they’re just at the bottom.

    I agree that it’s not something worth paying for if all you’re getting is an extra line on a resume.

  13. mess

    #4 – the real value of belonging to professional societies in my mind is getting involved with committees or other volunteer opportunities so you can meet people and network.

    1. MsM

      Or if the organization has a widely-recognized certification process that you’re planning to go through. (Though that can get really time-consuming and expensive.)

  14. Evin

    For posting #5…I wouldn’t say anything to anyone unless you have a solid offer in hand. Nothing is written in stone unless you have a full, written offer in place.

    In fact, it even seems to me as if your prospective employer isn’t being quite fair. I think they are unfairly wasting your time for their own gain.

    1. KW

      I think in some cases it would make sense to let them know, especially if OP thinks they would prefer the “other great place” over the “back-up candidate” place. This is an email I once sent an interviewer when I was in a similar situation:

      “My apologies for writing again so soon, but I want to share an update with you about my job search. Today I had a second interview with another organization, and I may soon have an offer that I’ll have to respond to within the next week or ten days. I know this is sooner than the timeline you mentioned for YourCompany’s decision. I am much more interested in YourCompany and the Teapot Manager position than in the other organization, and would prefer not to make a decision without first hearing from you. Without trying to rush you, is there anything that could be done to speed the process?”

      I was really unsure about sending it since I didn’t yet have an offer from the other place… but the interviewer replied right away, said they appreciate my “candor and continued interest” and said she’d move the process along as quickly as possible. So, it worked out well.

      1. Sparkly Librarian

        That is a really good way to phrase it. I wish I’d had that in hand when awaiting the last job offer (which is one I accepted, as I really wanted it!) at the same time that I was surprised with the offer of an internal transfer/promotion (would have been doing stuff I wanted to do, but not as much as the new job).

  15. Lisa

    So I’m a new manager (two months) overseeing 20 hourly people after previously overseeing 2 reports. I have an employee who constantly works outside of her normal hours. Leaves early every Friday because her daughter gets out of school early (I just found this out; I’m not in the same building as half my team) and when approached about it she’s nonchalant and very cavalier about the whole thing. My bosses want to give several chances before moving towards a PIP but I’m ready to fire the girl as it seems pretty cut and dry to me; either you want to work and follow the rules or you don’t, I’m not a babysitter. What is the breaking point? When is enough enough? I’m starting to doubt my abilities as a new manager because of this situation

    1. KW

      You just found out she leaves early every Friday… but do you know if she’s coming in early some other day? Working from home in the evenings? And was it approved by the previous manager? Start by asking questions (with an open mind) before firing even enters the conversation. And if it turns out she’s not making the hours up some other time and you think it’s important enough of an issue to be fireable, in my opinion you should make your expectations clear before firing her. That’s primary only because you’re relatively new as her manager and the old manager seems to have put up with it – so unless you tell her, she might not know it’s an issue that could get her fired. (Versus if expectations were always clear but an employee willfully and consistently ignored them, then firing seems reasonable.) … Just my two cents, hope it helps!

  16. jen

    #4 – no. not in any way shape or form. being a member of a linkedin group related to a professional membership-dues-requiring society does not make you a member of that professional membership-dues-requiring society. and many organizations offer member look-up on their sites as part of the promotional benefits, depending on the industry. at best, you’ll come off like a person who takes questionable shortcuts and relies on technicalities to make themselves look superficially better. at worst, you’ll be branded a liar.

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