I caught a coworker searching for adult photos, how to tell my boss I’m a psychopath, and more

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

1. I caught my coworker looking for nude photos

This morning I entered a meeting room and got a quick glance at my coworker’s work laptop. The web browser was on a Google page looking for nude photos of an adult film star. He quickly closed the tabs and I was the only person with a view of the laptop, so nobody else saw it. Would you report this to your boss, the employee himself, or ignore it?

To make matters more complicated, I am planning on giving notice soon, due (in small part) to this employee’s behavior. He’s the typical problem employee: argumentative, lazy, and stubborn. He lowers the morale for others, and I know at least one other person has switched teams because of his behavior. He’s also already been caught downloading illegal movie torrents to his work computer. My boss knows the general problems he’s caused in the past, and hasn’t taken action yet. So I’m not sure if it’s even worth speaking up.

What should I do? My boss and I have a good relationship so I’m not worried about retaliation. But since I was the only person who saw the content it’ll be obvious who reported it. I am the only female employee in our 10-person group, and there aren’t many women in general in my field (tech industry). I wasn’t personally upset at seeing the content, but obviously this is unacceptable behavior and I wouldn’t want any other person to feel uncomfortable if he does it again.

I could argue it either way. I mean, obviously he shouldn’t be doing this at work for reasons that don’t even need to be said. If he were a coworker who you were friendly with and generally liked, I could see just saying something directly to him (“Dude, don’t search for that stuff at work; I don’t want to see that, and it would be so embarrassing to get in trouble for that”) or ignoring it as long as it was a one-time thing and not part of a bigger pattern of inappropriate behavior. But on the other hand, this is so very much not the sort of thing a manager wants her employees doing, and especially not in an industry like tech that’s already known for having a bro culture that’s not always woman-friendly. So I think it would be reasonable to report it too if you want to.

But from a manager’s perspective? I’d want to know. I’d especially want to know in a context like this one, where the guy is already a problem for other reasons.

If you do decide to tell your boss, it doesn’t have to be a big formal thing; you can just say, “Hey, I walked into a meeting room the other day and couldn’t help seeing that Fergus was in the middle of searching for nude photos of an adult film star. I felt like I should pass it along to you.”

2. Using titles with gender-ambiguous names

Should people with gender-ambiguous names provide a courtesy title (Ms. or Mr.) in their resume or cover letter? I was taught to put a title in parentheses before such a name, on the grounds that knowing the proper form of address might make the recipient more comfortable contacting the applicant. I wonder if I should stop giving this advice to my students (I’m a professor), given that (1) addressing people by their first name is increasingly common, (2) most of my students are women applying for computer science jobs, and (3) gender shouldn’t matter in job searches. What do you think?

It’s really up to the job candidate and whatever they’re most comfortable with. If they’re going to be annoyed if an employer guesses wrongly, then they should sign their cover letter “(Ms.) Jordan Montblanc” or “(Mr.) Sasha Mulberry.” If they don’t particularly care, they can skip that; it’s unlikely that an employer isn’t going to contact them just because they’re unsure about whether to address them with Mr. or Ms. (And as you note, it’s increasingly common for people to address each other by first names, even in hiring.)

But I’d put it in the cover letter signature, not on the resume; Mr. and Ms. don’t really belong on resumes. It’s not a huge issue if someone uses one there anyway, especially if it’s clearly to denote gender, but I wouldn’t counsel people to do it.

3. How do I tell my boss that I’m a psychopath?

Recently I’ve gotten a new manager, and with that, the bar at my job has been raised. The problem is that I work with the general public, mainly over email, and I have a lot of trouble relating to the emotions of our customers owing to my psychopathy, and with that my performance is suffering.

How do I tell my boss that I’m a full blown emotionless psychopath? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a good person, I have a moral code but I have no sense of empathy and I don’t feel emotions the same way others do. When I broach this subject, people get scared (thank you, movies). I’ve been here a long time and she wants me as a senior member of the team, but I don’t have the emotional spectrum to do that. How do I explain to her that I need to be in the junior positions, I need to move on to find another job (in or out of the company), and she is asking something of me that I cannot provide? How do I get it across to her that I am a functional and moral psychopath with an extremely low emotional intelligence and I’ll never be what she wants me to be?

Well, don’t use the word “psychopath.” I’m not sure you actually are a psychopath (there’s more to the definition than not having empathy), but even if you meet it to a T, describing yourself that way is going to scare the shit out of people.

Instead, what about framing it as EQ? You could say something like this: “I’ve found that I’m best at X and Y, and not at A and B. The direction you’d like me to move in requires fairly high EQ, and I know myself well enough to know that it’s not a strength. I’d like to stay in roles like X or Y, even though I know that will limit my ability to move up. Would you be willing to talk about moving me to a role focused more on X?”

4. Who keeps the resume I bring to an interview?

When we take our resume to an interview, do they keep our resume or do we keep it?

If your interviewer asks for a copy of it, they keep it. Of course, your interviewer may have her own copy of your resume and not need your copy at all. But if you do hand it over, then assume that they’re keeping it. It would be a little odd for them to hand it back to you afterwards.

5. When you didn’t meet all your goals for the year

Do you have any advice for how to handle the annual review when we did not meet all our goals for the year?

My goals were all long-term projects to benefit the company structure and operations effectiveness that required a lot of time outside of my day-to-day responsibilities and immediate requests for my time. I had no idea how to schedule those projects across the year to account for time dedicated only to them (new goal for 2016). Of my six goals, I completed three, almost completed one, halfway completed another, and got barely started on the last one. I still accomplished an awful lot, which I hope I presented well in my self assessment based on your advice, but how should I discuss the goals I did not achieve this year?

Well, if I were your manager, I’d want to know your assessment of why you didn’t meet them. Was it because we explicitly agreed that we’d push some of them back in favor of other priorities? Or did workload simply get in the way, and if so, did you warn me previously that that was happening or is this the first I’m hearing of it? (If the latter, that’s a problem — although I’d also have dropped the ball by not checking in on those goals until now.) Was it a stretch goal that we always knew was going to be tough, or is it a core duty that’s fundamental to success in the job? All of those factors matter, and you can help things by addressing those questions proactively ahead of time — laying out “here’s what happened with this and why.”

{ 363 comments… read them below }

  1. Melissa*

    LW #2: At my workplace, which is pretty formal with initial contacts like responding to applications, we do not make assumptions about gender if the name is ambiguous. Jane Doe would get “Ms. Doe,” John Doe would get Mr. Doe,” but Jordan Doe would get “Jordan Doe.”

    Arguably we shouldn’t be making assumptions about Jane/John either, but that’s an even bigger social shift…

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think that’s a good rule of thumb. I also think it gets really hard when gender ambiguous names shift more toward one gender over time. My boyfriend has one of those names that’s become almost exclusively female, so he gets “Ms.” a lot (he also has a family name as a middle name, so that’s no help!).

      1. Melissa*

        Yeah, I think it does also require a bit of training to recognize gender-ambiguous names. (I wonder how many people my age realize Ashley is also a male name, for example?) And without other contextual clues, we’re still going to make mistakes, as Lily in NYC pointed out.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      My first name is not really gender-neutral – it’s almost always the name of a male (similar to when a woman is named Michael or James – it’s not unheard of but it’s unusual). My resume solution is to use my middle name as well.

    3. Alex*

      A gender neutral word to use is Mixter. Abbreviate to Mx.
      So you could address all correspondence to Mx, Smith

      I have agendered friends that use it and it wouldn’t offend anyone you identify as male or female.

      1. I Play Too Much DragonAge*

        I like the idea of Mx, but the word Mixter sounds strange to me (not wrong, just strange, and I can’t put my finger on why).

        I’m just going to start using Serah for everyone in place of Sir/Madam and Ser in place of Mr./Mrs. It’s what they do in the DA games.

        1. Alex*

          lol – I like Serah!

          The Mixter took me a while without saying it with a weird accentuation. I felt I was saying it as a mix drink… a mixture

          1. Anna*

            Even when say it without the mixture thing, it sounds like an attempt at a hipster gathering. “Oh, parties are so 2010. We’re having a mixter.”

        2. VintageLydia USA*

          You’re either TurtleCandle by another name or there are three of us far too into that franchise.

          1. I'm a Little Teapot*

            *waves* Four of us! Though I haven’t had the chance to play the third game yet because of a combination of health issues and getting my writing career off the ground while way too busy with day job/commute/etc. I will make time this winter, I promise!

            1. VintageLydia USA*

              Get the GOTY version, or at the very least the Trespasser DLC. It’s the ending that should’ve been in the main games.

              And with that I’ll end this OT tangent, lol.

          2. Turtle Candle*

            Haha, apparently we are legion! (If I ever need to write in to AAM myself, it is going to be so difficult to not use those particular names and out myself to everyone who knows me. It’s just too funny imagining Cassandra dealing with a broken copier or Fenris and Anders having to work on the same project together.)

        3. Blurgle*

          That’s a real archaic English word, except that it’s usually spelled “sirrah”. It was however used to convey strong classist contempt; a rough modern equivalent might be “weasel!” or “worthless peon!” I’m not sure I would use it in an office setting even in jest lest an English or history major (or someone who played Civilization II) recognize the word.

        4. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Makes me think of a DJ. “DJ Mixter”. I don’t know whether it would confuse them, but do think most people would assume a typo. Why not avoid the whole thing by using first names?

      2. asteramella*

        This is not at all used outside of certain sections of the LGBT community.

        You might not offend your average cisgender person with a gender-ambiguous name, but you will certainly confuse them (with Mixter) or cause them to think you have made a typo (with Mx.).

        1. Alex*

          I think it should be used more often and the more people use it, the more it will be mainstream.
          And the risk of confusing them outweigh the risk of offending them with using the wrong pronoun.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            It’s quite possible that if I’m corresponding with you over email and I have never met or seen you and you have an ambiguous name (like your name is Blair and you are a man), I might get it wrong by accident, but I’m certainly not trying to offend. If I do pick the wrong pronoun, PLEASE tell me so I can use the correct one.

          2. asteramella*

            Regardless, if people make the choice to use that form of address, they should know that it is non-standard and that most recipients will require explanation to understand that it’s intended to be a gender-neutral title.

      3. Ellen Spertus*

        FWIW, Mx. was added to the OED [http://www.out.com/news-opinion/2015/8/27/gender-neutral-title-mx-added-oxford-english-dictionary]. I only use it for people whom I know prefer it (such as my nibling).

      4. Melissa*

        I have no problem with a general shift to less/non-gendered salutations, but at this point in time if I received business correspondence with “Mx. MyLastName,” I’m unfortunately going to assume they didn’t edit a placeholder.

  2. Daisy*

    Personally I think not having empathy shouldn’t be that important to customer service. It’s more of a problem-solving thing- do we need to fix this problem? If so, how? In fact, caring less could be useful, in that you’re less likely to get rattled by difficult customers. Most customer service agents just use a few boilerplate expressions to suggest they empathize with the customer- ‘I’m sorry to hear that’, etc. Maybe you could just note down/ memorize a few phrases like that?

    1. Sherm*

      That’s true. I’ve worked in customer service before, and I know that customers can be emotionally manipulative (and this time of year, they’ll say things like “But it’s Christmas!”). I agreed to a few exchanges I shouldn’t have, because I didn’t want to feel like the big bad meanie saying no.

      1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

        All the time they spend in CS training teaching us to “build rapport” by doing X, Y, Z. Learn to spit out X,Y,Z and you’re fine, even if you clearly suck at caring.

        1. Shannon*

          I’ll be honest, the two years or so I spent working in the pharmacy section of Big Box Store Hell was worth it just for the CS training as a floor worker. Make eye contact, smile, ask if the customer is finding everything okay. Answer their questions. Fix the problems that are within your realm to fix. Call a manager for the problems that are not within your realm to fix. Discuss/ suggest potential solutions for problems that routinely come up that require a manager’s intervention. Tell the customer to have a nice day. Call them sir or ma’am when safe to do so.

          I have a reputation among people who know me for not having the best people skills, however, just by doing the above, I got a promotion and groomed for a management position. My friends who still worked in BBSH would tell me that customers would ask where I was after I left. (“Where is that nice young lady who always helps us?”) Apparently, I had a following.

          1. the gold digger*

            all them sir or ma’am when safe to do so.

            I worked at Macy’s over Christmas the year I was laid off from my corporate job. I discovered the best way to deal with obnoxious customers was a simple, “Yes ma’am/no ma’am.” It did me no good whatsoever to argue with them and I realized that for nine dollars an hour, I just didn’t care that much. I just wanted to check out all the people in my line in Better Women’s Sportswear.

            1. Koko*

              When I worked in food service I felt similarly. There were always people who were obviously running scams for free food with transparently overblown or false complaints. Whatever. If PizzaShack wanted me to be personally invested in the store’s bottom line, they needed to pay me more than minimum wage. For $5.50 an hour you get me taking the path of least resistance which is to appease every customer with free food to make the problem go away.

              1. Kelly L.*

                Oh yeah, there was a family in OldTown that carried around mouse feet (yuck!) and would then “find” them in restaurant food. It was obvious because they complained to two different places in the space of two days with the exact same complaint. What are the odds that two totally different restaurants served mouse feet on consecutive days in the same town…to the same people?

    2. Jeanne*

      I think there must be a way to continue in the job even with less empathy. The problem is your manager is new and doesn’t know your limitations. Maybe you can do all the cases where someone has to say no to the customer. But don’t say you’re a psycopath. Tell your boss you want to find the best way to use your strengths and then list those.

    3. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Yes, it can also mean you won’t get caught up in someone’s emotions. You can’t be emotionally manipulated and you can’t over-empathize with a customer and lose your perspective. could autism-type training help? People with autism are not as emotionless and empathy-free as they’re made out to be, but they also don’t respond to emotions like neuro-typical people do and there is a growing body of techniques and information on how to compensate.

      1. Chalupa Batman*

        This was my thought-learning to go through the motions may be able to help mitigate the negative and benefit from the positive (difficult to manipulate with emotions, able to stay focused on the problem rather than the customer themselves, etc). I would guess that as someone who describes themselves as moral but non-empathetic, the OP already has strategies that they use to treat people nicely as part of the social contract that could be translated to the workplace, they may just not know how. Autism-type training seems like a solid suggestion.

    4. LPBB*

      I see your point, but a lot of times when people contact customer service, they don’t just want their problem resolved, they also want to be heard. They want some degree of commiseration or validation of whatever situation they’re dealing with. A true empath would be a terrible choice for customer service, but someone without any empathy at all wouldn’t be a good choice either if they couldn’t recognize that need of their customers. There’s a reason why CS scripts are written the way they are and why CS agents repeat the same phrases over and over again.

      1. Daisy*

        So, if even people with no empathy problems are using scripts then I don’t see why the OP can’t fake it. I’m suggesting she basically writes herself a script for the ‘I hear you’ parts. And the OP clearly does recognize the need to do this otherwise she wouldn’t have written the letter to AAM.

        1. fposte*

          Right, or a go-to checklist. If you know to let people talk for a bit and then ask the relevant questions in a friendly tone, it doesn’t matter if your heart is brimming with love or desire to look at your phone.

        2. CMart*

          Yes, “I hear you” scripts are great to have in your pocket even (especially?) if you’re a regularly-functioning empathetic person.

          I bartend and it’s sometimes SO much easier to use scripts to “hear” upset customers than actually “hearing” them, since a lot of the time their grievances aren’t rational. Knowing that all I need to do is widen my eyes a bit, nod earnestly, and say “Absolutely. I understand. Of course.” is a sanity-saver.

          For more important client interactions, I’m sure someone who lacks empathy can still listen to and understand what an issue is, and then when repeating back the issue can add in the “hearing” scripts. “So what I understand is that you are getting your shipments too late. I understand, of course. We can absolutely work this out.”

      2. INTP*

        I don’t think it requires empathy to make people feel like they’re being heard, just certain words and cues. I’m sure it comes easier to people who naturally emote in a typical way because they know what to fake but others can learn. I know neither I nor most of my coworkers were feeling empathetic feelings about our customers during my brief turn in CS, nor were we encouraged to, just to fake it.

    5. Lionness*

      As someone who manages customer service for a company that consistently scores very high in both internal and external NPS surveys (a key indicator for how good your customer service actually is), I could not disagree more. Empathy is exceptionally important, but it is not the only important skill. It has to be on par with problem solving, critical thinking, etc.

      Great customer service specialists do care and manage to care without getting rattled. What you are describing is mediocre, if not bad, customer service.

      1. the gold digger*

        I was talking to the head of customer service at my company. These customer service people are programmers who have to be able to debug systems on the fly and they have to do it fast – our customers lose a lot of money when a production line is down.

        The head of CS said that he is de-emphasizing the tech skills and looking more for the soft skills. “I can teach them the technical stuff,” he said, “but I cannot teach them how to deal with people. They have to be able to stay calm and solve problems while they are under a lot of stress and people are angry at them.”

        I asked, “Have you considered looking for adult children of alcoholics? They would be perfect for the job.”

        1. Angela*

          That is the truest thing I’ve heard today (says the adult child of an alcoholic). I spent 18 years under the same roof where I was going to be yelled at/belittled/duck flying objects daily and the worse something gets, the calmer I get. It’s not a skill that can be taught. Well, I guess I *did* learn it, but I wouldn’t recommend the “training” to anyone.

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            So, so true. My 50-year old alcoholic brother had a crap-ton of drama a few days ago (involving the police, EMTs, his meth-addicted girlfriend, and his probation officer) which I got dragged into because my [non-drinking] recovering alcoholic mother lives with me and she still enables the hell out of him. It’s Finals Week at school, but I launched immediately into my childhood “training” and took charge of the situation. I told my mom last night, “I’m so good at this kind of thing, and I really wish I weren’t.”

          2. hnl123*

            Sadly…. so true. I also had a very similar childhood to what you described. When I worked a stressful retail job, I was noted for my *exceptional* ability to remain steadfast, even in the most stressful situations/customers. Unfortunately (?) I learned this skill early on – angry people/flustered people/ yelling people affect me absolutely zero.
            Came in handy for sure, but definitely don’t recommend the “training” to anyone either.

        2. Anna*

          Aww man, that makes me sad because it’s so true. #askmehowIknow

          But really, that’s something we struggle with where I work. Every time we sit down with employers to discuss what our students may need or what our program can improve, we hear about soft skills. Only the most difficult thing to train!

        3. get some perspective*

          “but I cannot teach them how to deal with people. They have to be able to stay calm and solve problems while they are under a lot of stress and people are angry at them.”

          He might not be able to teach it, or his tech people may be too set in their ways, or it might be too costly to teach it to them. But people skills certainly can be taught. There are whole industries around people skills.

      1. beefy*

        Right, the OP didn’t write in for advice on how to provide better customer service and does not seem to want to be in that position. OP is *already* uncomfortable with the EQ required of the current, recently changed role, and there’s no reason to go down the road of, “Oh, but you’d be fine if you just did [this, this, and this]” without the OP indicating that they’re interested in doing so.

      2. Zillah*

        I agree. While it may well be possible for the OP to develop coping mechanisms to deal with their difficulty with CS stuff, it sounds like it really wouldn’t come naturally, and putting so much effort into being something you’re not can get exhausting in a hurry. If the OP has other options, it makes sense to used them.

    6. Minion*

      It sounds to me like the OP isn’t really that concerned about the customer service aspect of it, but being moved into a more senior position which says to me that it could include dealing with coworkers in a different way and not having the ability to empathize with their concerns and issues as well as dealing with customers. I may be wrong about that, but that’s how it sounds. So, I would think the customer service is secondary, though OP says s/he struggles with that as well.
      So memorizing phrases may help for the CS part of it, but when you’re face to face with a coworker that you’re senior to and they need you to understand how they feel about an issue, having a memorized phrase handy isn’t going to help and, in fact, may hurt the situation.

    7. Roscoe*

      I disagree. I think empathy is an important part of customer service. Even if you can’t do anything to help the person, acknowledging and understanding their frustration is huge. I know I call certain cable companies call centers, and I swear these people have no ability to empathize for why I’m so annoyed. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth every time.

      1. fposte*

        But you don’t know if the people who *are* acknowledging your frustration elsewhere are feeling empathy or just following better training scripts. It would be awfully coincidental if the cable company managed to hire people with less empathy than other call centers across the board.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          True, but think about when you get escalated to a better tier of customer service — the reps who are more skilled. Talking to them is often like night and day, and one thing that’s different is that they can read you and respond in a way that the script-based reps can’t. (For example, they can pick up on it when you don’t want apologies and just want a quick resolution, or when you just need the apology and an explanation that the thing can’t be fixed, or whatever.)

          1. fposte*

            I’m still holding out on this because I’m not a high-empathy person in those situations and I’m still good at resolving them, because I know what to do to get the outcome. It may be that we’re getting at the difference between empathy and EQ here. I don’t necessarily care deeply, but I can still know and act accordingly.

            1. A Bug!*

              I have to agree with this. It’s less about how much the service rep understands the caller and more about how much the service rep is focused on finding a satisfactory resolution. I’m sure that there’s correlation between the two, statistically, but one doesn’t always come with the other.

        2. Perse's Mom*

          Think of experiences you’ve had with cashiers.
          Cashier A gets your stuff scanned and bagged and totaled efficiently, but mumbles through ‘did you find everything okay,’ cracks a forced smile, and never makes eye contact even while handing you the receipt.
          Cashier B gets your stuff scanned and bagged and totaled a little slower, but makes eye contact and says hello and the smile seems genuine when the receipt’s handed over.

          At some point, learning to ‘fake it to make it’ becomes a skill. All that matters is that the customer *feels* like the rep was sympathetic and calm and did their best.

          1. Beth*

            …And I for one genuinely do not care whether the cashier smiles at me. Is that really something that matters to people? Genuine question.

            1. Pennalynn Lott*

              I would much rather have a fast, efficient cashier (even one who is a little surly) than one who was friendly and chatty and slow. I hate shopping. I’m there to get my stuff and get the heck out as fast as possible; I’m not hoping to come away with my purchases *and* a new friend. I was so disappointed when my local grocery store took away the self-checkout lanes. *THAT* was my kind of cashier. :-)

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Some retailers do emphasize smiling, eye contact, etc. I really noticed an uptick in this emphasis when the economy tanked. Many retailers thought that the niceness of their employees would be the deciding factor for consumers to spent what funds they had.

            3. Rana*

              It depends on why a person is shopping. When I’m just getting stuff and want in and out quickly, I don’t care. When I’m going stir-crazy from being at home too long with a small child, I really appreciate friendly adult interactions, even if they’re superficial.

          2. AA*

            I think you are turning a (US) cultural preference into a universal. When WalMart entered the German market, it insisted that its cashiers smile when serving the public, as they do in the US:

            “The insistence that staff smile at customers as brightly as possible and help them pack their shopping bags was a mistake in Germany since many Germans regarded such behavior from shop personnel with deep suspicion and felt uncomfortable. German employees felt equally uncomfortable and awkward when being told to follow a simple ‘American’ wish: smile at customers”.

    8. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah, good point, as long as you can fake it, and do it well. Also, I think what happens is you build up a thick skin after a while and become desensitized, heck that happened to me. I mean, one can’t realistically be emotionally invested in every customer, coworker, etc.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Same, and people in high-stress and high-emotion professions such as law enforcement, fire and rescue, etc. often have to develop an emotional callous just to deal with all the horrible shit they see on the job.

        As far as the OP is concerned, I like the EQ recommendation. Someone who is not a psychopath can have stunningly low EQ. Or they can just not be oriented to the kind of work where a high EQ is important. Not everything is a perfect fit for everyone.

        On the other hand, a true psychopath who is also intelligent can totally fake it. Look at Ted Bundy–he used to work right next to crime writer Ann Rule on a suicide hotline. She used to be a cop (she was one of Seattle’s first policewomen), and she didn’t have a clue.

    9. aebhel*

      This. I work with the public, and I can honestly say that I don’t give a damn on an emotional level about most of the problems people bring to me–but I am good at solving those problems, and not giving a damn is very useful from the ‘not bursting into tears in public’ standpoint when somebody gets nasty.

      Also, OP, I’m not sure if anyone else has mentioned this, but psychopathy is not an accepted clinical term–there are psychopathic traits present in a lot of personality disorders, but psychopathy as a term is primarily used by the criminal justice community, so that may be why you’re getting the reactions you are. I very much doubt you’ve been clinically diagnosed as such, and frankly even if you have it’s probably better to frame the issue specifically in regards to what that means in a work context. ‘I’m an emotionless psychopath’ is not going to be a beneficial framing. ‘I struggle with empathizing with clients’ may be a lot more useful.

  3. Nanc*

    Sigh. Tip for all you new-to-the-workforce folks, tell all your friends (you don’t need telling because you’re AAM readers!) that unless it is specifically stated as a duty in your job description, it is never acceptable to search for porn/nudity of any kind on a work computer.

    In case it isn’t clear–I’m on the side of telling. Do you know how many security kerfluffles are delivered via dodgy porn sites? I do–cause it’s part of my job to research and write about this stuff! Trust me, no one wants the kerfluffle source infection traced back to their work laptop . . .

    1. Sherm*

      I’m torn because the company already apparently did nothing when the employee was caught committing theft on the work computer. I almost feel that a security kerfuffle is what this place needs to wake up.

      1. Jeanne*

        I’m with you. If no one cared about those pirated movie sites, it will take more than a Google search and a few pics to get action.

    2. the gold digger*

      I worked for a company with over 100K employees. I was one of the top-10 banned website violators – turns out those searches on the work computer to figure out if it was a UTI or not led me to places with names that IT did not like.

      1. voyager1*

        Meh. I am indifferent on the porn star thing. So he was looking her up, that isn’t the same thing as downloading a whole porn film from say the porn version of YouTube.

        Part of me wonders if the LW wants to report this just because she doesn’t like the person and knows she is leaving. Seems kinda petty, but I do get that vibe.

        Since it is a work laptop good chance it will hit a IT report anyway.

        1. Kate M*

          Looking up any naked pictures on work time is inappropriate. It doesn’t matter that it was a porn star, if you’ve got naked pictures on your computer where other people can see, that could make it very uncomfortable for some people to work there (especially in tech where it’s already an industry that’s less-friendly to women). It’s this type of thing that needs to be shut down immediately, not just something that’s “not a big deal, John was just playing around, boys will be boys.”

          Not saying that OP should report it if she doesn’t want to or care, but it definitely doesn’t seem like pettiness to me.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yep. He should not be looking at naked pictures of a porn star, or of a “regular” celebrity, or of his girlfriend, or of anyone else, at work, except maybe the Venus de Milo. ;) (I think there are real reasons one might be looking at fine art, and that’s a whole different matter.)

            1. voyager1*

              I reread the letter, I assumed Google search page meant it was on Google on first reading. If pics were seen then yes report it, but still get this vibe that the LW has more issues with the fellow employee then his internet searching.

              1. Kelly L.*

                I think she saw the Google image search results. Doesn’t matter if she does or doesn’t have other issues. He shouldn’t be doing that.

                (And this, incidentally, is why a LW was a bit off base a few days ago in thinking that slackers don’t all-too-often land on their feet. This guy has been watching movies at work and searching nudes at work and getting away with it, even though the workplace knows about at least the movies.)

              2. neverjaunty*

                Well sure, he appears to be kind of a jerk overall, which is relevant to the issue of ‘was this an unfortunate accident’ not ‘there goes Fergus again, failing to understand that you don’t do some things at the office’. How can anyone with two brain cells to rub together think ‘looking up’ a favorite porn star might return some NSFW results?

                1. teclatrans*

                  But she says he was looking for naked pictures. If he were doing a search for articles and biography and etc., that would be one thing. Searching naked pictures means it is extremely likely that this was an image search, which means LW walked in and saw a screen full of naked images (Google image search doesn’t provide a screen full of text and links, it is just a wall of pics).

                2. Kelly L.*

                  @teclatrans, yep, I figure she either saw the image results, or “nude pics of Busty McCuddles” typed into the search bar.

              3. Kate M*

                Well she obviously has more problems with him than that – she said so herself. I don’t get though why that would make it petty – she doesn’t like him, so that means that she shouldn’t report inappropriate things he does? Sure, if you don’t like someone, you should make sure that your actions would objectively make sense, and you’re not just in bitch eating crackers mode, but this seems like precisely one of the reasons WHY she doesn’t like him. There can be correlation AND causation here.

                1. Roscoe*

                  My questions is whether or not that is the sole reason. I posted this below. If this was someone she liked, and she was on the way out, would she still report if. If not, I say let it go

                2. Kate M*

                  Roscoe – but I don’t think it’s necessarily an apples to apples comparison. If it’s someone you liked (especially if you like them because they are always professional, treat everyone equally, do good work, etc), and they had one slip up, then no, I probably wouldn’t report them for doing something like this. I’d probably say something to them, like, “dude, you probably shouldn’t be doing that on a work computer,” but that would be about it.

                  But if it’s someone I don’t like precisely because he’s done stuff like this before and is lazy and incompetent, then I’d be more likely to report it. It’s the sum of all your actions; not everything you do is a one-off. It’s like if a good employee is late once, you don’t really say anything. If its a bad employee that is already slacking on work and disruptive and can’t get along with others, then it’s another mark against them in a pattern of behavior.

                  Again, if she’s on her way out, it might be more trouble to her than its worth. But that would be my consideration – whether its too much trouble for her, not whether the guy deserves to be reported or not.

                3. Roscoe*

                  I get what you are saying, but I still think it makes a difference on whether you should report them. Its fine either way. But if you are solely doing it because you don’t like them and want them in more trouble, then to me thats different than doing it because “its the right thing”. The motivation behind going to the manager does influence how I see it.

                  Here is the thing, I could like someone personally, but hate working with them. So even if they are a screw up, lazy and incompetent, I still probably wouldn’t go to the manager. When the sole goal of doing something is to get someone in trouble that you don’t like, then to me that does make a difference.

                4. bearing*

                  I read that as more like: If she has a level of trust and rapport with the employee, she is in a good position to deliver the “you shouldn’t look at porn here” message herself and be heard. If she doesn’t have that rapport, the person’s manager should deliver it.

        2. Bob*

          “Since it is a work laptop good chance it will hit a IT report anyway.”

          Luckily, this is what most people seem to think. I’ve worked at numerous companies in IT, from small with 300 employees to Fortune 500. The one thing they all had in common was they never proactively checked anyone’s web history. Nobody has time for that. We block offensive categories like porn and carry on with our day. There is no flashing red light with a siren because Toby is on the Victoria’s Secret site (though I’m sure we block that site anyway).

          I have accidentally stumbled upon some absolutely shocking things or found stuff when a manager asked for a report (usually in building a case to fire a lazy employee) but we never went looking for it. My co-workers and I were sharing porn-related employee stories the other day and we all had similar tales, from minor fetish stuff to things that could get you arrested. Simply searching for a porn star would barely get my attention but it shows me the person is clueless about what is appropriate in the workplace. I might wonder what other rules they are breaking.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I got blocked from a pretty normal clothing shop once because they sold lingerie in addition to regular clothes. That didn’t happen across the board with clothing store websites, so there must have been a “magic” word mentioned or something.

          2. Middle Name Jane*

            This is good to know, Bob. I am very careful not to look at any NSFW sites or anything questionable on my work computer–and I wouldn’t look at porn regardless of whose computer I was using–but I check my personal e-mail, read blogs, AAM, Yahoo, etc. during the workday (mostly at lunch). Our company blocks certain sites and if you try to go on one that’s been blocked, you get an ominous page saying the page has been blocked by our IT department and it gives your IP address. I’ve had that come up on sites I never would have imagined would be deemed “inappropriate,” and I’m always afraid IT is sitting around collecting reports and it’s an “x” number of strikes before you get reported to HR/management. If it matters, my company as about 1,300 employees at different locations nationwide.

            1. A Non*

              I’m in IT – it’s highly unlikely that they care. Most web filters are put together automatically using key words and err on the side of blocking things, so there are lots and lots of false positives. You’d have to be pretty blatantly trying to do something naughty before IT will even begin to care, and even then they’re likely to be more worried about viruses than the content of the site.

              (By the way, it’s okay to ask IT to unblock a site if it’s a false positive. My department once had someone who was into car modding ask us to unblock hotlicksexhaust – sounds like a porn site, was actually Hot Licks Exhaust and didn’t contain anything sexier than very shiny car parts. We unblocked it and had a good laugh.)

        3. OP 1*

          To clear up a few points:

          This was an image search, and the results were exactly what you would imagine.

          I have spoken to this person before about his sexist and racist comments toward me. He has not stopped with these remarks (I.e. if I leave the office at 5:30 he always remarks that it’s to make dinner for my husband). I have not reported this because it hasn’t risen to the level of a hostile work environment.

          I am also wondering about how much is driven by my dislike of him. But at the same time, are we only supposed to report bad behavior by our friends? I know that I absolutely do not want another woman to be in this situation with him. And it seems like reporting it is the only way to make a difference here.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            What?! Yes, you need to report all of this, actually. From a purely practical perspective, sexist and racist comments are a liability for the company; they need to know. From a human perspective, they also need to know so they can shut that down because he’s being a crappy person to their employees.

            1. Middle Name Jane*

              I completely agree. The OP has been way more tolerant than I would have been, and I hate workplace drama/confrontation/having to report stuff. But it’s a pattern of behavior with this slimeball, and he needs to be stopped.

              And whether all of this meets the legal definition of hostile work environment or not, it sounds pretty hostile to me.

          2. A Bug!*

            I am also wondering about how much is driven by my dislike of him. But at the same time, are we only supposed to report bad behavior by our friends?

            No; that would be silly. But if you’re in a situation where a personal interest presents a possible conflict, you should be putting extra thought into whether or not that interest is affecting your decision, and more importantly, how. That often means you have a little less discretion to cut your friends slack, especially when you’re exercising authority as opposed to just deciding whether or not to report something and the ultimate decision is someone else’s.

            Okay, you don’t like him. That’s your personal opinion of him, sure. But you don’t like him because he’s got a pattern of making unkind sexist and racist comments toward you. And even if you didn’t mind the comments, that sort of thing is objectively inappropriate for the workplace and he shouldn’t be allowed to continue unchallenged.

            Also? First off, you don’t have to wait until behaviour meets the definition of “hostile work environment” to report it. Your boss is legally allowed to discipline employees for pretty much anything as long as it’s not based on the employee’s membership in a protected class (or otherwise restricted by an employment contract). But second off, your boss is, generally speaking, obligated to take appropriate action if you report harassment that’s based on your membership in a protected class. So if you complain to your boss about it and the comments don’t stop or you experience retaliation? That’s where you’d want to start looking for a consult with an employment lawyer to tell you what your legal position is.

      2. Bowserkitty*

        I about spit out my tea with that!!! Too funny. That’s kind of ridiculous that IT didn’t like THAT.

        I used to work for a security department and one week my boss, who was out of office but still emailing, asked me to research casinos and how they do their security. This actually only entailed gathering a list of local casinos and their phone numbers, but you can imagine my naive shock at it being flagged and I’d only been there a few months! Luckily IT never said anything, and I would have had my boss’s back (as well as her right hand woman, whom I told immediately) but I was worried for a little bit there…

        1. voyager1*

          Yep, I try to avoid searching medical stuff.
          Two jobs ago coworker who worked with the firewall/blocked sites got a report of a workstation that had been searching STD information. Can’t imagine why someone would search that at work…..

            1. Nervous Accountant*

              Not everyone has a smartphone. Or the wifi or cell reception is terrible. Sure it could wait til end of the day when you’re at home, but…not always possible.

            2. A Non*

              Not if your phone uses your building’s wifi – that will go through all the same filters and reporting mechanisms as using your workstation. Turn off your phone’s wifi if you’re going this route!

      3. Mononymous*

        Just today I hit the work firewall for trying to open the website of a local pizza place to check their menu. Nothing about their name or website even hints at improper content, so I have no idea why it was blocked!

      1. simonthegrey*

        I worry about this because I teach a unit on advertising and we talk about depictions of violence, racism, etc. in ads. So at school sometimes, in order to keep my powerpoints current, here I am googling these search terms and wondering if CIS is going to lock my account.

        1. Chinook*

          “I worry about this because I teach a unit on advertising and we talk about depictions of violence, racism, etc. in ads. So at school sometimes, in order to keep my powerpoints current, here I am googling these search terms and wondering if CIS is going to lock my account.”

          I actually checked with out IT department when I had students googling about our school burning down and they discovered an article about the KKK doing the same thing 70 years earlier. They, of course, then followed the rabbit hole to find out why the KKK would bother burning down a school for white students (turns out they also hate Catholics). Once one of them asked me about it, I realized that IT had to be informed ASAP due to the sites they were looking at. Turns out that, in schools, if you tell IT about it upon going to an inappropriate site, there are no problems. It is the hiding that you went there that raises the red flags.

      2. Lore*

        I recently had to copyedit an article for the romance category page on our website that was called “A Beginner’s Guide to Menage.” You can only imagine the googling that ensued. (Second in embarrassment only to a conversation with my boss and his boss about the subgenre of male/male erotic romance that went from a generic “if we must do erotica, isn’t it nice that its horizons are broadening” into *really* uncomfortable territory terrifyingly fast.)

        But yes. Essentially, I spend a lot of time reading porn for work these days.

          1. Lore*

            Book publishing. E-original erotic romance is a Big Thing right now, and we’re getting a lot of the authors for those imprints to write blog posts for the website.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I searched for a lot of weird stuff for an upcoming crime novel, including on the darkweb. I’m quite certain I’m flagged somewhere. But I did NOT do this at work!!!!!!!

      3. Doralee*

        1. I had a discussion at work yesterday about whether or not our filters catch Hentai (don’t google that!).
        2. It was not the strangest conversation I had at work yesterday about porn.
        3. Yesterday was an average day.

          1. Oryx*

            As a librarian, I have to say that this is the rare field where porn may be a frequent and acceptable work topic.

          2. Doralee*

            No, but a very similar setting. And every day there is a moment where I think ‘Well, that’s not something I ever thought I’d say. And it was at work.”

            On the other hand, it’s a great job and I work with a really really awesome group of people.

    3. Wendy Darling*

      I worked in voice recognition and one of my jobs at one point was figuring out what had gone wrong with customer queries that hadn’t worked. Either they weren’t recognized correctly or they didn’t get what they wanted for whatever reason. Sometimes these were searches for things I had no idea what they were, so I had to google them to even get an idea of what the result SHOULD have been. At work.

      Our customers said a lot of filthy, filthy things I was unfamiliar with until I also googled them. I’m shocked IT never came down on me. (At one point my boss actually asked if I was okay with doing it because she could assign it to someone else if it upset me — fortunately I just thought it was HILARIOUS.)

    4. Sigrid*

      So a (male) friend of mine used to work for Google as the “porn police” — one of the people who make sure that the proper websites are being filtered out when someone has “safe search” on. His job was pornography all day, every day.

      It was not a fun job. He was very, very glad when he got hired elsewhere.

  4. Lisa*

    I’m not a psychologist, but it seems to me that if you feel guilty that you haven’t told your boss you’re a psychopath, and you’re willing to decline personally rewarding advancement because you don’t feel you as a psychopath should be in those senior roles, you’re probably not actually a psychopath. Are you sure you’re not just on the Autism spectrum?

      1. RKB*

        Psychopathy is no longer a well-regarded diagnosis. I would be very surprised if the LW was actually diagnosed with it. I’m currently in grad school for neuropsychiatry, so I can’t say for sure as my psychotherapy colleagues are more knowledgeable on this front… But back in my undergrad we were told it was a no-go diagnosis.

        1. doreen*

          I don’t know that “psychopath” was ever a an actual diagnosis. Many people who are described as psychopaths fit the diagnosis of “Antisocial Personality Disorder” , but they are not one and the same thing. But OP , it requires more than a lack of empathy to end up with that diagnosis. At the very least, it requires a disregard for the rights of others

        2. Green*

          There’s a psychopathy checklist, but it is not at all intended for self-diagnosis. It’s also a multifaceted test that doesn’t turn on a self-assessment of one’s level of empathy. The checklist tool is used almost exclusively in prisons or mental health facilities as a proxy for risk to others if a person is released rather than as a true diagnostic tool. The diagnosis of “psychopathy” is rarely used because there are often more relevant diagnoses that represent components of the psychopathy test. The other reason that diagnosis is rarely used is because of the risk of considerable harm in that label and in a misdiagnosis. Which I think we’re seeing here with the OP, who thinks he/she is a psychopath but almost assuredly isn’t but may have other conditions that are less associated with causing harm to others.

          1. Green*

            Edit: I don’t have any mental health training; I just read lots of books, including several on psychopathy.

        3. pieces of flair*

          It’s pretty well-regarded among forensic psychologists. (Antisocial Personality Disorder is not particularly useful in correctional settings because it’s so heavily based on behavior that most inmates qualify.) The Hare Psychopathy Checklist is the gold standard, but it takes an experienced clinician to administer. There are no good self-report measures of psychopathy, and I doubt that a psychologist in a community setting would check for psychopathy at all. So unless the OP clarifies otherwise, I doubt she has an official diagnosis and I doubt she’s a psychopath.

          Lacking empathy is not at all synonymous with psychopathy. What psychopaths lack is conscience. They tend to be manipulative, glib, grandiose, and superficially charming. Psychopaths can have very good social skills despite lacking empathy.

        4. Sigrid*

          Just finished my psych unit in medical school. There is no such thing as a diagnosis of “psychopath” according to the DSM. OP *might* mean antisocial personality disorder, or she might just have been very badly diagnosed and have something else entirely, or nothing at all.

    1. LabMonkey*

      Whoa, don’t bring us autistic people into it. We have a pretty normal range of empathy, even if we might be a little weird in how we show it. Some of us are highly in tune with others’ emotions, some are oblivious, like everyone else. (Because we do usually have a harder time parsing what people feel from body language or tone, it might seem like we lack empathy, but it’s there very much if we know someone is upset!)

      1. Lisa*

        I don’t think OP actually lacks empathy though. I think OP lacks social skills and has decided s/he lacks empathy. Worrying about how it would affect the boss to be told about the OP’s (believed) psychopathy IS empathy, as is knowing that his/her being in a senior job might not be a good idea because of how it would affect others.

        The reason I suggested Autism-spectrum disorders as a possibility is that I think a lot of undiagnosed people on the spectrum are led to believe that the way they are different is BAD – usually by people who encounter them and tell them they’re bad, and people I’ve met with Autism-spectrum diagnoses seem to tend to take that kind of thing as “Oh, huh, maybe I am bad,” given their generally fact-based approach to life. I wonder if OP was told at some point, maybe by an angry friend or nasty family member, “it’s like you’re a psychopath!” and then looked up the symptoms online, falsely believed they matched, and adopted that label, when really what’s missing is social skills and awareness, not empathy.

        I think the letter writer actually shows quite a bit of empathy!

        1. Nothing Nice To Say*

          Yeah, as someone on the spectrum, I recognized a lot of myself in that OP. I have no shortage of empathy but quite a lot of difficulty reading people, and from the outside, these can look like the same thing. I was never told that I was psychopathic but I was made acutely aware of how much I lack relative to neurotypical people. I can see how someone on the spectrum might mistakenly judge themselves so.

          Naturally no one can make a diagnosis via Internet, but I think that it’s worth discussing with a professional.

          1. DuckDuckMøøse*

            I also can recognize a lot of myself in the OP’s letter, with minor rewrites addressing extreme introversion instead.

            For the OP, you might reconsider your manager’s wishes for you to be a more senior person, if you can have a discussion on how you could use your individuality to enhance that role. They may not have fully thought about it, not knowing exactly where you are with EQ. Too often, managers want more people who do things their way (because that’s all they know) when what they really need is more varied viewpoints, to add balance and robustness to the team. You should not have to change anything you don’t want to change. Having a discussion with your manager about how your existing skills and traits can align with a new role might be useful, to see if there is any possibility that you could thrive in such a role. It may be possible that you could grow into the role, or the role could adapt to you. Neither side is written in stone. If you still don’t feel it’s right to move up, then total honesty with them is the way to go. “It’s just not a good fit, because of X, Y, and Z.”

            Aside: thanks to everyone who has weighed in, especially the folks on the spectrum – it’s good to hear about as many different opinions/experiences/etc as possible. I only know what goes on in my own head, until someone tells me what goes on in theirs ;)

        2. Ezri*

          I don’t have any diagnoses to provide input on, but I have quite a bit of experience with people thinking I’m not empathetic when I really am, I just suck at showing it. I don’t read other people’s emotions well, especially people I don’t know; but if someone outright tells me they are upset about something I can generally empathize with the situation they describe.

          In my case, I do have social issues that I’m aware of, but the apparent lack of empathy is a symptom of that rather than its own isolated thing. The problem is that my family interpreted it as being cold and unfeeling, and they told me I was cold and unfeeling when I was a kid, and then I started believing I was cold and unfeeling. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I *do* have and understand feelings, it’s just that I don’t have good emotional communication skills.

        3. INTP*

          I will take the OP’s assessment of her own empathy at face value, but I DO think it’s likely that she might be over-estimating the amount of empathy that other people feel. The coworkers are probably predicting the customers’ emotions based on social skills and past experience, not their own internal well of empathy, and conveying understanding via intentional cues. It’s not really unusual for a CSR to appear to empathize with a customer then go mock that customer with their coworkers. If you emote in a more typical manner then that’s going to be easier for you, but the good news is that I do think these skills are probably learnable for the OP (though ultimately she will also be happier in a line of work where she can reach her full potential because it suits her strengths, not one where she has to work really hard to perform passably).

      2. Tau*

        I also wish people wouldn’t conflate “being able to recognize someone’s distress”, “knowing the things to say/do to ease someone’s distress” and “feeling bad about someone else’s distress” when it comes to empathy. Autistic people are going to struggle with the first two almost by definition, but it doesn’t mean we lack the last. Some of us have way too much of that one. (I have some kind of hyperempathy/emotional mirroring thing going on and it generally just sucks.)

        1. INTP*

          And conversely, many neurotypical people show way more of the first two than the last, or at least are able to show the first two without feeling the last. It’s not at all unusual for people to feign empathy to diffuse a situation when they don’t actually feel it – and I don’t mean that in a bad “people are so fake” way, it’s just a useful skill that some people have and others don’t. Or there’s me, I can read cues and feign interest and empathy like a neurotypical person but don’t externally emote things I actually do feel without concentrating on it (and the more intense the feeling, the less I can concentrate on it).

          I’m not arguing with you, just backing up that perceived/demonstrated empathy often has very little to do with how much actual empathy a person has.

          1. Tau*

            I honestly don’t think the “feeling distress at someone else’s distress” thing is particularly useful for performing empathy, for much the same reason as that having a sprained wrist will not make you better at fixing someone else’s broken leg. Quite the contrary, in fact, since you’ll be too busy looking after your wrist. (I’m way better at the reading cues and providing appropriate responses thing if I’m *not* being swept away by what someone else is feeling.) And – yeah, all of what you said makes a lot of sense.

            There’s also the whole – it’s a lot easier to both figure out what someone is feeling and work out what to do with it if that someone thinks basically the same way you do, because you can take a shortcut through “what would I be feeling in X situation, and what would make me feel better?” Which is where autistic-NT empathy can break down, and can do so going in both directions. I’ve had neurotypical people display some absolutely astounding lack of empathy towards me before.

            And that’s getting off-topic, but just… I find “empathy” such a fuzzy, ill-defined concept and have seen “lack of empathy” be used in such stigmatising, dehumanising ways, particularly when it comes to neuroatypicality. The whole autism = lack of empathy thing is so prevalent and it always makes me want to scream. I don’t want to tell the OP how to identify or think about themselves, but finding another way to describe their difficulties that isn’t quite so laden may at the very least help a lot with being able to get it across to people without triggering backlash.

            1. JB (not at Houston)*

              What do you mean by “performing empathy”? I’m not nitpicking, I just haven’t heard that phrase before.

              I don’t know if your comparison is 100% appropriate for a customer service position. If you can understand the other person’s feelings, it might help you understand what they’re really looking for, or it might help you to act in a way that helps the customer feel like their concerns are being treated respectfully and sincerely. It might not. But I can’t discount the entire idea that having empathy can’t ever be useful in customer service.

    2. blackcat*

      Let’s not debate the OPs actual condition–they reported not feeling empathy, so let’s take them at their word.

      That said, the OP may find it helpful to see a counselor or therapist a time or two to navigate this. Even if they don’t get (or want) a diagnosis, a therapist can get more info and offer more tailored advice to the OP about how to communicate these limitations without shooting themselves in the foot.

      1. Not Myself Today*

        I’m not sure I’d take them at their word about not feeling empathy when there are other likely explanations. In my case, my “problem” with empathy was that I am a very strong Myers Briggs T.

        There are so many, many times when people bring problems on themselves and expect sympathy. For example, someone arrested for being drunk and disorderly *chose* to get drunk, but then expects other people for feel bad because they are now suffering as a result of that choice.

        I never understood that – I was usually sitting there silently while other people gushed about how terrible it all was and quietly wondering why I didn’t care. If I had been stupid enough to express my thoughts, I’m quite sure I would have been accused of being unfeeling.

        Then there are all the times when it’s nothing personal. Fergus is next in line for the weekend off, so Harriet isn’t getting it. Harriet is sobbing in the corner about missing her date with Dream Man, but this isn’t the universe (or even the boss) being out to get her – it’s just the schedule. Why would Harriet even accept a date for a time when she wasn’t confident she would be free?

        And again – saying that would have labeled me as unfeeling.

        The nice part of Myers Briggs for me was the “Thinkers feel, and Feelers think” mantra. I am actually quite empathetic – the gap is related to the criteria used to make decisions about outcomes. I have such a strong tendency toward objective, impersonal criteria (including insisting that people accept the natural consequences of their choices) that I would come across as an unfeeling hard ass if I didn’t carefully filter what I say.

        When I was much younger, I actually thought that there was a problem, and that it was me. It took some experience for me to realize that Thinking (in the MBTI sense) is not a problem, and it can actually be an asset in a lot of situations.

        I would also probably have reported not feeling empathy (I certainly didn’t feel sorry for the drunk complaining about his arrest) but I would have been wrong. I was comparing what I thought to what I assumed other people felt (and totally missing the fact that this is an empathetic exercise!).

        In the absence of a valid diagnosis from a professional, I would urge the OP *not* to categorize themselves as deficient in empathy. It is possible that other people can see what the OP does not.

        This doesn’t mean that the OP has to want to move up in the organization (I didn’t for many years), but I would definitely stick to other explanations than a lack of empathy. There are other options which do not involve the OP having any mental issues.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I truly believe the MBTI will eventually be debunked as junk science and go to it’s rightful place in history next to phrenology and Rorschach tests.

          1. Koko*

            But how can a system of descriptions be “debunked”? MBTI is sometimes misused as a predictive tool or a deterministic tool, but it was never intended to be that. It’s a description of ways people have of relating to the world, and a single person might present as multiple different types over the course of their life as their environment and the things they experience trigger shifts in personality and outlook.

            1. Not me*

              What Lily said. It will sort people into binaries, whether they accurately describe people or not. My own test results show this.

              This is related to another issue with the test, poor reliability. If a person takes the test once and retests in nine months, only about 50% will still be given the same results. After nine months, even fewer will. While this might mean that the test could be a decent measure of a person’s behavior in their current, specific situation, like you said, it also means that it isn’t an effective measure of long-term or lifelong personal traits.

              And a large amount of the published material on MBTI was produced for the Center for the Application of Psychological Type, which is funded by the test’s sales.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Bingo. We had the DISC one and the instructor said the same thing—if you test as I now, you might come back later and test as S. She gave an example of a guy who was going through a big old huge personal crisis and took the same class a year later, and his results were completely different. Which kind of made me wonder why we were bothering with it in the first place!

                1. Lily in NYC*

                  I found the DISC training to be so much more useful than MTBI. Not for self-reflection, but for external relationships. It completely helped me to repair a crappy relationship with my boss because I was communicating with him the way I would like to be spoken to instead of the way that worked best for him. Once I changed my methods it was a world of difference.

            2. fposte*

              But if it’s not a predictive or deterministic tool, it doesn’t have enough to offer to be worth the price of admission. Might as well go to enneagrams or talk about what astrological sign you feel most inclined towards, and those are available for free.

              I think it’s fine for people to consider how they like to relate to the world, but the codes get trotted out as if they’re a fixed part of identity, and they’re not.

              1. Tau*

                Being a Hufflepuff is a deep and fundamental part of my identity. Clearly Hogwarts Sorting is a scientifically valid extremely insightful psychological tool. :)

                I’m honestly glad for anyone who finds the MBTI useful in making sense of how they think and deal with the world, but that doesn’t mean projecting it onto the whole of humanity is a good idea. (I haven’t gotten literally every possible MBTI result on tests, but I think I’ve gotten close at this point.)

                1. Minion*

                  I have never taken the MBTI test, if indeed that’s what it is, so I don’t know much about it’s validity. However, I trust the Sorting Hat implicitly. I admit I was hoping for Gryffindor, but I soon realized that Ravenclaw was definitely the correct House for me! It’s so hard, sometimes, to see yourself for who you really are.

                2. Cath in Canada*

                  Heh, Minion, I’m the same. I’d love to be a Gryffindor, but who am I kidding, the hat would have put me in Ravenclaw in an instant. Even though I’m basically a mash-up of Hermione Granger and Lisa Simpson – probably too much Lisa though :)

                  Ravenclaws can be pretty kick-ass, though, e.g. Luna.

                3. Al Lo*

                  I’m a Ravenclaw, and my husband has never bothered to figure out what house he’s in, either through Pottermore (which I take as the definitive answer) or another sorting hat quiz. I’ve always thought he was a Hufflepuff, though. Well, a year or so ago, I commissioned some fan art from a friend, and he customized it based on houses. When he was confirming with me what I wanted, before he even gave me a chance to answer, he stopped himself and answered his own question. We are pretty definitively what we are, Hogwarts-house-wise.

                  I have one of my great-aunt’s old college sweaters from the ’40s, and it’s burgundy and gold. When my mom gave it to me, my first thought was, “But I can’t wear this! I’m a Ravenclaw!” and then I realized that was awfully silly. There was a hole in the sweater in just the right place to put a Gryffindor patch, and while I love it, I always feel a little bit of a traitor when I wear it. Not enough to not wear it, because it’s a pretty awesome mashup of family history and fandom, but just a little bit.

                4. Shell*

                  I’m a Slytherin and an ISTJ. I’ve never gotten anything else on any MBTI test (a few Sorting tests waffle between snakes and badgers but the definitive one, i.e. Pottermore, always puts me with the snakes). Not sure what that says about me. :)

                5. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

                  I hatstalled on Slytherin and Ravenclaw, and if you’d asked me before I actually took the test I’d have picked Ravenclaw in a heartbeat, but I actually realised that Slytherin suits me better.

                  Hubby is a Hufflepuff. Apparently, quite a common relationship pairing :)

              2. Not Myself Today*

                Well, mine has been. I’ve taken this test (both the original and the new version) multiple times over multiple decades, and the result has always been the same (with the caveat that the new one added additional factors not present in the original, but all common items were the same). This may be the result of the fact that my preferences are generally pretty strong rather than borderline, and I do know some people who have tested as “slight” preferences who cross back and forth a bit over time.

                I’m not saying it should be used in job placement (“We only hire Extroverts in sales”) or as an excuse for bad behavior (“You shouldn’t expect me to stay in the room with the guests we invited over for dinner because I’m an Introvert and need alone time”), but I have found it interesting and helpful in understanding the ways in which I relate to the world differently from other people.

                I don’t regard analytical systems that help people understand themselves or each other as a waste of time.

                1. Anna*

                  So you’re one of the 50%. That still doesn’t make it a good tool for the thing it’s being used to measure. A stick can measure how long something is; that doesn’t make it the best tool for measuring that thing.

                2. fposte*

                  I didn’t say it was a waste of time; I said you might as well find a system that allows you the same kind of self-reflection for free. If people are getting to take the MBTI for free, that would remove a lot of my objections.

                3. Koko*

                  Oh yeah, I’ve only ever taken it online for free. And one of the biggest ways it’s been helpful to me is that I used to take for granted certain things about how I viewed the world and didn’t realize there were other ways to look at things. Beginning to recognize those alternate approaches has helped me over and over again with interpersonal conflict.

        2. the gold digger*

          There are so many, many times when people bring problems on themselves and expect sympathy. For example, someone arrested for being drunk and disorderly *chose* to get drunk, but then expects other people for feel bad because they are now suffering as a result of that choice.

          Then I, too, am cold and unfeeling! I have no sympathy for drunks who cause problems for themselves and others. Nobody forces them to drink. (And yes, I am talking to you, late in-laws who drank themselves into oblivion every single night and would sometimes drunk dial my sweet husband and tell him what a bad son he was and then not remember anything the next day.)

          1. louise*

            You big meanie! This comment needed a spoiler alert! I’m way behind (like, end of October) on your blog so I didn’t know the late was plural yet. Though, let’s be frank, the writing’s been on the wall for awhile so you didn’t spoil too much. ;)

              1. Liz in a Library*

                Yeah, after a comment in (I think?) the open thread, I had to go catch up because I was way behind. I’m so sorry you guys are having to deal with so much post-funeral family drama! It sounds nuts.

        3. Lady Bug*

          I am exactly the same way. I have tons of empathy when it comes to children, animals etc., but with adults I have to decide based on the situation. The drunk arrest situation I’d have 0 empathy because actions have consequences. And I would have no problem telling that person exactly that. I’m definitely that tell it how it is, raw honesty, I don’t care if it hurts, you have to hear it person.

        4. DuckDuckMøøse*

          It’s very draining, dealing with other people’s drama. If you don’t give them the reaction they want, they accuse you of not being empathetic/sympathetic. That sounds more like a problem with them, like all they care about is what benefits them. I’m not here to cater to anyone. If the fates align, that I can genuinely offer what they need at that point in time, YAY! I’m not going to offer rote, perfunctory responses, just so they think I’m a nice person. I don’t need their validation, and I certainly don’t need someone judging me based on how I do/don’t act/react. Blah.

        5. Not me*

          While I’ve already said what I think of MBTI, I think you’re right that this could be something of a personality difference, rather than a complete lack of empathy. If it isn’t, it could still be useful to think about. OP doesn’t need to explain an extremely stigmatized term or go into detail about their psychology.

        6. Temperance*

          You’ve totally described me here. I’m an INTJ. I feel sad when bad things happen, but not if the person did something to merit the bad consequence. I think this makes me a jerk, because I sometimes approach what other people see as emotional problems from a purely logical standpoint. (For example: my husband’s grandmother needed a lot of care after a surgery, and my MIL was running herself ragged tending to her mother, who is a difficult and demanding woman. I pointed out that there are visiting nurses who could pitch in, free of charge, and it was like I suggested someone leave grandma naked on the street.)

          I remember distinctly feeling like a monster because I didn’t cry when my chainsmoking grandmother died of lung cancer when I was a teen, because other people made me feel bad that I wasn’t crying and losing sleep over her passing. She smoked 3 packs/day, and I had asthma and being near her made me physically ill. It was sad and hard on my grandfather and aunts, which I felt sad about.

          1. Kassy*

            Sobbing into a corner for all hours of the day and night is not the only way to deal with death. In fact, it’s not how a lot of people deal with death. What a horrible time and reason for your family to be shaming you. :( and how close can you be with someone whose presence makes you sick?

          2. F.*

            Another INTJ here. I try to *think* my way to solutions to problems rather than giving vent to my emotions. The feelings and emotions are still there, but to my way of behaving, serve no practical purpose in solving the problem. Solving the problem is what will make the emotional pain go away. Everyone has their own method of dealing with things, this just happens to be mine.

            1. A grad student*

              INTP here to agree with you. I have issues with my boyfriend sometimes because he tends to get caught up in how he feels about problems/setbacks, while for me, how I feel about something doesn’t change anything, I just have to find a solution and then there will be no need to be sad. It’s not that I’m not feeling the same frustration at a setback; giving in to feelings is just not useful in most cases, to my mind.

          3. Not So NewReader*

            What rubs me the wrong way here is people telling you how you should grieve. In my mind, the reasons for what you do or don’t do should not matter to anyone. They should be concentrating on processing their own grief instead of looking for crutches (like, finding fault with you) to avoid their own grief process.

            FWIW, every death is different to everyone. Like you, there have been times where I felt sadder for those left behind than I did for the actual loss. There are many, many reasons for feeling this way. A person who tells you what to feel and/or when to feel it may be telegraphing more about themselves than they actually want you to know.

        7. Koko*

          Right, you don’t lack empathy, because you’re perfectly capable of assessing how others feeling – your bar for what deserves sympathy is just at the high end of the spectrum (the person has to have been screwed over through no fault of their own to deserve sympathy; making mistakes doesn’t entitle them to sympathy).

        8. Natalie*

          I think you’re mixing up empathy and sympathy here. Empathy is simply being able to understand someone’s emotions given their position and circumstances. What you’re describing is more like sympathy or pity, different things entirely.

          1. F.*

            They are different things, but when some people actually want sympathy, if they do not get it, they accuse the other person of not having empathy. I may certainly understand that someone is having emotional pain, but like Temperance (above), I am not g0ing to feel very sorry for them if the pain is due to consequences of their own actions. I just don’t play that game.

      2. Green*

        They reported lacking empathy, but they gave a diagnosis that is far more likely to be a self-diagnosis rather than one from a mental health professional. There’s a reason you aren’t supposed to self-assess for most conditions.

    3. Minion*

      Do you really think a few paragraphs is enough for you to question what may be a concrete diagnosis that the OP has received from his/her own psychiatrist? The OP doesn’t say that, but I would assume if you’re calling yourself a psychopath it’s not because you think you might be one. Regardless, all we have to go on is the OP says s/he is a psychopath, so let’s just accept that s/he has reason to believe that other than just a hunch based on lack of empathy.
      Also, diagnosing people with Autism over the internet and based on a couple of key phrases is really a bad idea. And that would be true even if you actually were a psychologist.

      1. voyager1*

        Is anything documented about your condition? I am assuming when you say psychopath you really mean anti social disorder? Is your current manager trying to push you into
        some job you don’t feel comfortable with. Maybe tell him/her that you don’t feel you have the empathy for
        what they want you to do?

        Just seems like there’s more going on here….

      2. Green*

        Psychiatrists will almost never give a diagnosis of psychopathy and would be extremely hesitant to label anyone a ‘psychopath’ (most notably because there are more specific diagnoses available). I feel pretty comfortable that this is something OP has self-diagnosed without professional guidance.

        1. Minion*

          Not knowing much about psychiatry, I don’t know about specific diagnoses so I wouldn’t know if OP had been officially diagnosed or if that were a possibility – I just figured that OP wouldn’t call him/herself a psychopath just from self-diagnosis…but I guess people self-diagnose all the time.
          Regardless, my point was that we know nothing about any ongoing psychiatric treatment OP may be receiving and Autism could have already been ruled out. I know a high functioning Aspie and he often hears things like, “Oh you can’t have Aspergers, you make eye contact with no problem!” So, I just dislike seeing diagnoses, or criticisms thereof, being bandied about all willy-nilly like, especially on the internet.

          1. Anna*

            I would think the OP would be MORE likely because pop culture does have an idea of what psychopathy looks like and it fits in with how the OP talked about it. If it were a clinical diagnosis, I don’t think the OP would have used “psychopath” or used the descriptions they used.

          2. Green*

            But if you’ve likely falsely diagnosed yourself — especially with psychopathy– it can cause the OP real damage.

            1. Minion*

              Yes, I agree. That could definitely be damaging. Maybe my hope that someone wouldn’t self-diagnose themselves as a psychopath is just what I’d like to believe. It would just surprise me to learn it was a self-diagnosis because I’m thinking I would have a hard time accepting that diagnosis from a trained professional, let alone just from what I’ve googled. I’m projecting, I guess. I’d have to consult a psychologist to know for sure, though… :)

      3. Panda Bandit*

        People claiming to be psychopaths or sociopaths is a super common internet behavior. None of them actually are psychopaths or sociopaths.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      Okay, I can’t help but think of the 100s of posts where employees behave inappropriately for their job expectations.

      Now we have an OP saying do not put me in role X, it’s not a fit, and it sounds like you’re saying they should give it a shot anyway. I think this will just lead to a scenario where the OP can’t perform as expected. Probably not an abusive, emotional outburst level of ‘bad fit’ like some of the posts we see, but bottom line, the OP knows what’s best for them. The OP is presumably an adult, not a 14 year old still figuring out their personality style.

    5. Aya*

      Agreed here! I’ve worked with a few psychopaths/sociopaths, and they’re very high-empathy… they just don’t necessarily care, unless they want something from someone else, and then they’ll use said empathy to get it via manipulation. This, paradoxically, makes them capable of a lot of success in customer relations.

      OP, I’m not reading that in your letter. You sound like you’re low EQ, which is a thing that many people are, and might make CR difficult– or just mean you might need/want some training in it. I’ve improved my EQ over time, so it is doable.

    6. borogirl*

      I wonder whether there’s something you can say that’s stronger than “I have low EQ” but WAY less alarming than “I’m a psychopath”. If someone came to me as a manager saying that they don’t want to be advanced because they have low EQ, the obvious step to me would be to help them with EQ training or mentoring, which doesn’t actually feel like the outcome OP is looking for.

      I wonder if saying somewhat vaguely that “the way I process things mentally makes it fundamentally difficult for me to take on X roles because I have to do Y and X” might be stronger to get to the goals you’re hoping for. It has a connotation of mental differently-abled (I suspect many people would assume autism spectrum, for better or worse) that a manager is really unlikely to actually probe deeper into, except to figure out the lines of what’s feasible.

  5. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    Okay this is a pretty measly peeve, but I find it irritating and disrespectful when they ask me to bring a copy of my resume, and then they have their own copy printed out from when I sent it to them the first time. Why do they do that? This was worse in the late 90’s when they couldn’t assume most people had a printer…they had to figure most people would go to a copy shop…I realize most people do have a printer now, but for me, asking me to bring a hard copy means a trip to the copy shop and plunking down laundry tokens. Then you don’t even have a use for it, ask to see it? What is this even for?

    1. Brooke*

      “asking me to bring a hard copy means a trip to the copy shop and plunking down laundry tokens.”

      That does sound inconvenient…. unemployment a bit more so? :) It’s just a small effort that show’s you are prepared, that’s all. A nicety, and those can go a long way towards making a good impression!

    2. Jeanne*

      I think if they ask for a copy when you can see they have one, you are allowed to use that in your assessment of them.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Except that it’s a very normal thing for candidates to bring. If I’m reading Seven’s comment correctly, she’s frustrated by being told to bring one and then getting there and seeing that it’s unneeded (versus people asking for the resume when they have a copy right there). Employers who ask you to bring your resume with you usually do it because you just never know if it might end up being useful (printers are down, someone gets pulled into the interview at the last minute because they realize they’d have a useful perspective on something for you and doesn’t have their own copy, etc.). It’s just a smart thing to bring, and I’d just count it as normal interview prep, like getting your suit dry-cleaned.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Alison, I have a question about this. Now that most resumes are submitted electronically, do employers still expect the copy to be on the nice, high-quality resume paper? I might be going to some interviews soon (fingers crossed!), but it’s been years since I’ve interviewed for a non-internal position, and I’m wondering what the expectation is. (I update my resume pretty regularly, and I hate throwing away nice paper.)

          1. Recruiter*

            Normal white paper is fine–I’ve never met a hiring manager that cared about the quality of the paper.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              That’s just what I was going to go looking for. No one cares anymore– normal printer paper is fine. (In fact, I’d argue that the old-school nice resume paper even seems a little out of touch now.)

              1. Wendy Darling*

                Well NOW what am I going to do with the leftover nice paper I had my master’s thesis printed on for binding? I guess I could make myself some fancy letterhead…

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  I think mine just became very expensive note paper. I had been wondering what to do with it and I don’t want to lug it through life.

              2. AnotherAlison*

                I immediately thought of my old HS friend, who is charmingly old fashioned. She is the type of person whose home is decorated with Boyds Bears and needlepoints. I occasionally get a handwritten card from her, with a long carefully printed update of her life.

                She’s been a SAHM for a long time, but the only job she was successful at was managing a gift shop, and that makes PERFECT SENSE that paper would be important in that job! So, unless you’re gunning for a gift shop position, you must recycle your old resume paper*. : )

                (*If you were well-qualified, I would still interview you, but I’d be curious to see if you showed up in a flowing floral skirt or a suit.)

          2. Claire (Scotland)*

            Just use standard printer paper of a decent quality (e.g. at least 80gsm) – no one expects fancy “resume paper”.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              Thanks, everyone! I thought this would be the case, but sometimes old ideas have a weird way of hanging on.

              I do love the looks and feel of resume paper. It’s like when you read an antique hardcover book and realize how much nicer it all feels and looks compared to most books nowadays. (And easier to read for those of us with vision problems…)

        2. Jeanne*

          It’s very normal to bring it. But you can keep bringing the same copy to many interviews if you get there and they already have a printout. It is odd to obviously have a copy of the resume in front of you and ask for another one with no explanation.

    3. Merry and Bright*

      Been there! Sometimes they say (even the hiring manager!) “Sorry, we haven’t had time to read it yet”.

      It just goes with the certificates, right to work evidence and general ID I’m often asked to bring then nobody wants. I just run with it and chalk it up as Interview Stuff.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I had an interview where the person hadn’t read my resume yet, asked me for a copy, and immediately rejected me upon reading it. :( Ended the interview on the spot and sent me home.

    4. misspiggy*

      It’s not a common thing for interviewers to expect in the UK, unless you were applying for a retail job by going into the store and bringing your resume. But wearing a suit to an interview in a casual-dress office is expected, which is arguably much more inconvenient. Is it all part of a ploy to determine whether interviewees for white collar jobs are from a ‘safe’ economic and social class?

      1. Blue Anne*

        I don’t know how true that is? When I was interviewing for entry-level, studenty jobs – call centers and such – about five years ago, they often specified that casual dress was fine. I usually showed up in nice trousers and jumper anyway and that was fine.

        1. Blue Anne*

          Ha, actually, I’m remembering what I wore to my interview at my first “real” job, admin for a small tech company – lacy sleeveless blouse, frilly skirt, butt-length hair unbound, flip-flops, and my mom’s old army bag covered in badges. I was intending to just drop off my CV with a friend who worked there, on my way to pick up my boyfriend at the train station, and friend said “Actually the boss wants to meet you now.”

          Not the normal situation, maybe, but I did get the job!

    5. Colette*

      I’ve never had an employer ask me to bring my resume to an interview (although I do, because it’s in my best interests to have a copy of they ask for one). Unless you are seriously modifying your resume for each position or they ask for it every time, you don’t need to print out a new copy every time.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeah–I bring mine, but they rarely actually take it from me, so that same one is there for next time.

    6. BRR*

      I find less people own a printer now than before or own a printer but it’s out of ink. I was more irritated when someone reminded me to bring copies of my resume. I was applying for a mid level position that requires a real thoroughness, if I forget a resume use that as a test.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, we had a printer for a while, but we had some compatibility issues with new software, and realized we didn’t use it that much anyway, so we no longer own one.

        We do print things out occasionally at our respective jobs, although it feels a bit sneaky to print my resume from my current workplace.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          My home printer went kaput a few months ago, and it hasn’t been worth it to buy a new one. Honestly, if I need something printed up, I’m never that far from a library branch, and they can use my dimes.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              Mine would require me to sprint from my cube to a separate room about 50 yards away. And the doors to the room are locked at 5 pm.

        2. BRR*

          I believe it can be tracked what gets printed and if it’s through a copier the actual image might be stored. So just a heads up if you do your resume.

    7. Traveler*

      There’s no good reason to ask – other than for possible updates or to make sure that if someone else that wants to see it can have a copy if you’re meeting others around the office. I’ve never asked for someone to bring resumes printed out. But, I wonder if you’re not the exception rather than the rule? While I might not always have a printer, or it might be out of ink – I’ve always had a friend, neighbor, apartment/university/hotel printer that I could get access to for no cost. So I don’t normally think of it as prohibitive.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I wonder if it’s just a test to see if you follow directions. :/

        Or, more innocently, that the person who tells you to bring it isn’t the same person who prints a copy out for themselves, so the one doesn’t realize the other already has it.

        When I worked in a library, we did get a fair number of people printing resumes. It did cost–it was cents per page, but not free.

        1. fposte*

          It’s really not likely to be a test. It’s that it’s a benefit for the job-seeker if she has resumes to distribute when people have come from a meeting and forgotten to get it, etc.

          I’m pretty good about remembering to bring resumes, and we don’t ask people to come with copies; however, I really like it when they do, because it’s a sign of the kind of forethought that bodes well for the position.

    8. Erin*

      I think it happened to me one time that I had updated my resume in between the time I got called for the interview and when I came in, so I wanted them to have the newest version. Admittedly that probably isn’t the norm, or even advisable.

      But, yeah. Maybe they’re thinking something like that might come up, or maybe they’re insensitive and don’t care if you’re spending extra money on printer ink, or going to Staples to get it printed.

      In any case, I think it’s a normal, expected, part of the interview to be prepared with it in your hand, just in case.

    9. Kate M*

      A little annoying maybe, but disrespectful? I think that word is so overused, first of all. But secondly, couldn’t you say that about anything? “I had to go out and buy a suit for an interview, and I get there and everyone was in jeans.” “I had to go buy a briefcase and it turns out I didn’t even need to bring anything to the interview.” It’s all normal interview stuff. Just go to the copy shop once, print out a ton of resumes, and keep them on hand.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I think it’s natural to think some of it is a little silly, though, and mostly ceremonial. Interviews are kind of a ritual really.

        1. Kate M*

          Yes, but so are many things we do in society. Shaking hands doesn’t really make sense, but we do it anyway. Talking about the weather when it’s obviously raining outside, just to make conversation. If you want to parse down everything we do that doesn’t make sense, we’re going to make a lot of changes. A lot of societal interactions are ritual, because we as a society have agreed that we like having those rituals. You don’t necessarily have to like it, but it doesn’t really make sense to rage against something that is going to be expected when you’re trying to find a job, and at worst will only hurt yourself if you don’t do it.

        2. fposte*

          It’s ceremonial like backing up your computer is ceremonial. It won’t feel like a ceremony when you get to an interview with a person who picked up the wrong resume and then can’t talk about yours because you didn’t bring a copy.

          1. Kelly L.*

            (I do bring mine–but I think you’re talking general you. I don’t mean the bringing is ceremonial, I mean the interviewer asking the interviewee even though they’re going to print it too.)

    10. Stranger than fiction*

      This seemed silly to me too, until a couple of times I noticed my resumes that the interviewers printed out looked like crap, because it came from Monster or some other online system that turned it into an unformatted text document. In those cases, I was glad I had my nice copies with me.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      I had this problem when job hunting quite a few years ago (no printer). Sometimes, you get into the interview and they forgot to print it beforehand. It always impressed them when I would hand them a copy.

      If you have a state career center, you can often make copies there very cheaply or even free. I would do this and make a bunch of them every time I went in. They also had a free fax you could use, back when employers wanted you to fax your resume.

  6. Mando Diao*

    OP1: Does you company do exit interviews? I’d save it for then. “I’ve gotten a lot of great experience here, and I’ve enjoyed my time with most of you. However, to be honest, one of the main reasons I’m moving on is because I don’t want to work with Fergus anymore.” And then give examples.

    OP2: How about including middle names on the resume? “Jordan Sarah Montblanc” would make the applicant’s gender clear.

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*

      RE OP2:

      Not necessarily. In catholic cultures it is not unusual for men to have the middle name ‘Mary’ and for women to have the middle name ‘Josef’ or the language equivalent thereof.

      Like Klaus Maria Brandauer, the German actor. One of my male class mates had ‘Maria’ as a middle name.

      No idea how likely a gender neutral first name would be in that case.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I never make assumptions about the name “Andrea.” And unless it’s a nickname for “Janet,” “Jan” can apply to either gender, too. (There is a clue in the pronunciation, but a resume doesn’t tell you that…)

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      Why is there a need to include gender at all? It should be completely irrelevant to the hiring process.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Well, when they contact you it’s awkward if they call you “Mr.” I’ve been on the receiving end of that.

        1. Jenniy*

          Hubby’s name is “jessie” and we constantly get mail for “jessica”
          Because his voice is (supposedly)lighter sounding on the phone, people put the name and voice and assume female, then a 6’3 250# guy shows up… it’s hilarious

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I have a friend who has a name that could be male or female–it’s typically female, but she also has a VERY deep voice. She laughs about it and says people often think she’s a guy.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Yup. As I said above, my boyfriend gets “Ms.” a lot. He feels really awkward correcting people, but he often writes, “PS To avoid any confusion, I should let you know that I’m a man.”

          1. TotesMaGoats*

            I still get asked by telemarketers if they can speak to my mom and dad. Or, in one memorable occasion, if my parents knew I was placing an order for pizza. I’ll be 33 tomorrow.

            1. LBK*

              At least that’s just on the phone! I had a coworker who answered the door once and the person standing there asked if his parents were home. He was at least 30 at the time and he owned the house.

                1. Middle Name Jane*

                  I have a co-worker with this problem. She’s in her late 20s and dresses age appropriately, but people regularly assume she’s still in high school. In fact, a ditzy co-worker in another department has asked Young Looking co-worker (on more than one occasion) how her high school classes were going, what colleges she was considering, etc. Young Looking co-worker had to say, “I’m not in high school. I have a bachelor’s degree and have been a full-time employee here since [insert date].”

              1. VintageLydia USA*

                I’m 29 but dressed a certain way I look really young. Like high school young, or maybe undergrad student. We own a home in a neighborhood full of much older people, too, so the rare times we have solicitors come I get that weird… are you the homeowner or the homeowners granddaughter? look before they launch into their spiel. Usually my toddler makes his presense known which seals it for them.

                That is, if I don’t run inside and hide when I see them coming because despite my age I am a literal child and maybe their original assessment of my age is correct on some level ;)

                1. Kelly L.*

                  I like to tell the story of how I got mistaken for an undergrad and an undergrad’s mom in the same week, when I was actually 30, and thus neither. It was all in how I dressed and how much makeup I put on.

      2. Chinook*

        “Why is there a need to include gender at all? It should be completely irrelevant to the hiring process.”

        It is only relevant when you need to use a pronoun in written communication. Using someone’s name in every sentence instead of using a pronoun.

  7. Cari*

    #1 – your boss will already know. You think the IT department can’t see his searches, or what he may be doing to cover it up what he does on his machine? Nothing is private on a work machine.

        1. Mando Diao*

          They probably all have IT training, but dedicated IT departments (and HR departments for that matter) are not as common as AAM commenters’ experiences lead them to believe. Small businesses and start-ups don’t often have that stuff in place.

    1. Windchime*

      Agree that nothing should be considered private on a work machine. They will only know about the pics, though, if they run an audit on his workstation/IP. At my workplace, there are hundreds if not thousands of computers. Any naughty sites that IT knows about are already blocked, but images on a search engine could (I imagine) sneak through. Hundreds of computers yield thousands of clicks, and yes, they are all logged. However, the chances of a human eye seeing that are pretty slim unless someone like a supervisor requests an audit.

      I would probably lean towards telling, if only for the fact that I”m pretty sure my company wouldn’t be happy about paying an employee to look at nekkid pics at work.

    2. Colette*

      That’s not necessarily true. The boss can probably request the coworker’s search history, but they’re not necessarily going to see it if they don’t ask.

    3. BRR*

      I agree nothing is private. Most IT people I’ve heard from have stated they don’t actively monitor what employees are doing. That checking a computer’s history is a PITA and they have enough to do without this task.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s true that it’s not private, but that doesn’t mean anyone is actively looking. I wouldn’t assume they know (I’d assume they don’t know, in fact, since that’s the most common scenario).

    5. Oryx*

      I work for a tech company so it’s pretty much a given they have the capability to monitor all our online activity. But even the head of our IT has told us that just because they CAN doesn’t mean that they ARE. It’s not like they have a dedicated person watching that stuff 24/7.

      1. Allison*

        Right, IT people aren’t hall monitors, they’re there to solve problems and make sure bad things like malware and viruses don’t get through. They may have it set up so websites or files with certain key words trigger an alert, but for the most part it’s not like they have people actively watching what sites you go on and what information is sent.

      2. McAnonypants*

        Exactly this. There’s other work that needs doing! At my previous jobs, a person’s browsing activity is only scrutinized in one of two situations: you wound up on a predefined report for browsing patterns (certain types of activities, large files, etc) or something else is wrong enough either performance or behavior wise that a manager requests a report.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Yes, to my knowledge that’s been the case and I even found this out the (very) hard way at one job. Turns out, the person I was chatting with was being investigated for performance and other issues, so my side of our conversations was seen too. It was pretty embarassing. Now I never have personal conversations via company chat.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          This. An IT manager at an old job could see everything (he showed me the page once), but he never said a word about my internet use until I got in trouble for something and they apparently asked to see it. He said he didn’t really care what people looked at unless it broke something.

  8. Blue Anne*

    #2: Personally, if I had a gender-ambiguous name, I would capitalize on it by making sure NOT to include any other information that would identify my gender. Because I’m female, and unfortunately, unconscious bias still plays a part in hiring decisions.

    1. Nursey Nurse*

      We gave our baby daughter a very unusual gender neutral name (as far as i can tell, only one other person in the U.S. has it) but generally call her by a feminine nickname. We chose the name primarly because we liked it, but i also considered the flexibility it will give her in school and work life.

      1. Christy*

        Oh man, now I desperately want to know your daughter’s name. Or its origin, or something! That said, I wouldn’t tell the internet this information about my own theoretical baby name, so I understand not doing it. (The theoretical baby name is apparently insufficiently common to appear on the howmanyofme dot com website, so I want to keep it for myself.)

        1. TotesMaGoats*

          Why have I never heard of this??? I did my married name and it says there are 14 or fewer people in the US with my name. And 1,600 or fewer people with my first name. Let’s not look at my last name which broke the 2 million mark though.

          1. Al Lo*

            There are apparently 2 of my name in the U.S.; however I’m the only me with a significant presence on the internet. If you search my name with quotes, it takes to the third page to get anything other than my actual results, and even then, they’re all genealogy sites, historical archives, and so on — no social networking or other living people with my name.

            (And buried on the 5th page of results is a newspaper article that references an 8-year-old girl in the UK [in 2009] with the same name as me, so I keep expecting her profiles to start showing up one of these years.)

        2. hayling*

          Huh. Never used that site before. However it’s not entirely correct. I put in my maiden name and it says there’s only 1. However I know of at least one other person with that name.

          1. Liz in a Library*

            Yeah, it tells me that I’m the only Liz LastName too. Which is patently untrue. When I search Elizabeth LastName, it also tells me that there are only 4 of us. Given that I know two of the others, it seems awfully unlikely that there’d only be one stranger with my name in the whole US…

            1. Tau*

              I imagine the numbers might be artificially low if they’re treating the probability of someone having X first name and the probability of someone having Y last name as independent. (And I can’t imagine how they’re doing it if they’re not.) Which… seems unlikely, to say the least: if one guy is named James and the other is named Johannes, I know which one’s last name I’m guessing is Schmidt.

        3. Agile Phalanges*

          Ooh, this website is COOL! I knew my name was rare, because both my first and last name are rare, and Googling doesn’t come up with anyone else with my particular combo, but if this is accurate, it confirms there is exactly one of me with my first and last name. My first name has over 40,000 people, but my last name (with its exact spelling–there’s a variant that is MUCH more common) only has 323. If they count minors, my son is one of those, and the only person related to me who has it. I love that it tells me one or fewer people have my first/last combo. Maybe I exist, maybe I don’t. ;-)

          1. Agile Phalanges*

            I just plugged in my son’s name, and there’s only one of him, too. Using the more common spelling of our last name, there could potentially be 12 people who have my same first name and that last name, and 85 for my son’s more common first name. Still pretty rare, but not as unique as our actual last name. Love it.

          2. blackcat*

            On the other end of the spectrum, there are ~2k people with my first name, last name combo. I knew there were many, since I have FirstnameLastname at gmail.

            I just checked for my dad, and there are MORE THAN 10K Dad’sname Lastname’s out there. No wonder he ended up on the no-fly list for a while. One of those TEN THOUSAND men must be up to no good.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          Forty three people have my full name. I kind of expected that. A quarter million people have my first name. Must go back and do maiden name!

    2. blackcat*

      I’ve been told that the career center at university where I work tells all Sam(antha)s and Alex(andra)s to do exactly this, particularly in male dominated fields. Several of my students commented that it was strange, and I said “Well, it helps you get the initial resume-culling thanks to unconscious bias. They’ll Google you, and if you have a LinkedIn or similar, they’ll figure out your actual gender. There is also a small chance that a firm is *more* likely to hire a female engineer, so it could go either way.”

      I have to do something to add nuance to the commandment-type statements from the career center.

      1. Blue Anne*

        I think it varies by organisation size as well as industry.

        I work in accounting. It’s generally been an old boys’ club. But the sense I’m starting to get is that while small firms often still have that atmosphere, big firms are starting to be more progressive, if only so they can be seen to be more progressive. Clients are starting to expect it of the big firms – a colleague at my Big 4 firm told me about going to a pitch, and the prospective client saying “You couldn’t even find ONE woman for your team?!” when she saw them. (Actually, the manager on the job was a woman, but she was sick that day.)

        So in the big 4 it seems like my genitalia are a career bonus.

        I’m switching to the Platonic Form of Account Firm in the new year, though; established a century ago, 50 people, 6 partners who are all middle-aged white guys fond of golf, serves high net worth individuals and small-medium businesses. It actually feels like a real culture fit, but I’m interested to see how this part of the dynamic works out.

    3. CM*

      I agree, especially for women looking to be hired in the tech industry! There is so much data out there showing that people will read the exact same resume and be far more impressed with the man. (Also, I think it looks weird to have (Ms.) on the resume. They’ll probably figure out your gender when you show up.)

    4. Chantal*

      I agree with this, too. Unfortunately, my name is clearly feminine, so when I start job-hunting again, I’m going to put initials only and see if that makes a difference. If you’re a man with a gender-neutral name, mark it with Mr. If you’re a woman with a gender-neutral name, don’t indicate your gender. Unfair, but will get you farther ahead in the game.

    5. Ellen Spertus*

      I have a female cousin named Terry who worked in tech. She would sometimes get a negative reaction when her interviewer realized by phone or in person that this Terry was a woman. Unconscious bias isn’t just at the resume stage.

      1. Tau*

        This is actually something I was thinking of in this discussion: places where your gender is the difference between your resume getting filtered out or taken forward are probably more likely to be sexist in other ways. I can easily imagine that there’s times where Anna McFeminine’s resume getting tossed due to unconscious bias spares her the terrible interview experience Kim McGenderneutral gets when she turns up being all female, so I’m not convinced going the gender-nonspecific route is unilaterally a good thing.

        …and now I realise I don’t actually know how this works for me. My name is a female-only one, but it’s sufficiently foreign and sufficiently little known in the UK that I’m not sure how many people know that.

  9. Katie the Fed*

    #3 is one of the most interesting letters I’ve read on here in a while – I’d love to ask the OP more questions just to learn more.

    Anyway – I don’t think you need to explain your condition (which I also think might be an erroneous self-diagnosis) to say that you’re really content in the level you’re in and actually aren’t interested in moving up. Like “Boss, thank you so much for looking out for my career! I know it sounds strange, but I’m not actually interested in moving to a more senior role – I love the work I’m doing here and it’s a better fit for my skills and interests. Is it feasible I remain in this type of position?”

    1. Ezri*

      Honestly, even if OP’s condition *is* an official diagnoses (I know people are saying it’s not likely, but let’s assume), I think she should leave the term ‘psychopath’ out of it for the reasons Alison provided. There’s a pretty big stigma, and it’s not a common enough diagnosis to circumvent that gut reaction.

      However, that doesn’t mean OP can’t still talk to their manager about her strengths and weaknesses. Honestly, I just had this conversation with my boss during my review. I’m in IT, and there are pretty much two tracks for promotion – becoming a higher level technical person and management. I told my boss frankly that I am not interested in getting on the management track, because it involves many of my weaknesses and few of my strengths.

      I didn’t present it as ‘I don’t like talking to people and I can’t tell what people are thinking’, I presented it as ‘Management in this company appears to require quite a bit of leadership and interpersonal communication. I believe I can get better of those things, but those skills will probably never surpass my technical and problem solving skills. At this time, I am better positioned to provide value and grow in a technical position.” Or something like that, I can’t remember the exact wording. OP, if you can present your situation less as a diagnosis and more like you are demonstrating how your skills don’t align with that particular role, I think you’ll have better luck.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am not clear why her diagnosis would come up anyway, unless OP fears the manager may strong-arm her. However, I do know some places you either take the promotion or eventually get pushed out the door. It could be that OP sees she might get strong-armed into taking the position.

  10. Katie the Fed*

    OP1 – why don’t you just include it in your email signature block? I have a somewhat gender-neutral name (it shouldn’t be, but it’s unusual enough that people don’t know) and include “Ms” in my signature block.

    1. EnterPseudonymHere*

      I do the same! I have a name that doesn’t point to a gender so I have (Ms.) in my email signature.

  11. Premium*

    #1–When I was in college, I saw a library employee in a library conference room (the walls of which were all windows) looking at porn–that was being projected onto a TV screen. I reported it to the library security. As it got investigated, it turned out that dozens (at least) of other students had seen him looking at porn on library computers and never reported anything.

    As for me, I would report it. Being forced to look at a colleague looking at porn is, for me, the definition of a hostile environment. Who knows who many other people have witnessed it.

    1. Xarcady*

      And when I worked in a university library, people would sometimes report people looking at porn on the public access computers. We were not supposed to do anything about it, because it was possible that there was a valid academic research reason for the porn viewing–sociology, psychology, marketing, communications–all those fields as well as others might have a legitimate reason for viewing porn.

      All we could do was try to seat the person with the complaint at a different computer where they wouldn’t have to see the porn.

      And then someone would bring their small child into the library on the weekend, and see the porn, and raise holy heck, and not understand why all we did was suggest they move away from the porn.

      Employees were different. They installed blocking software on all staff computers after I discovered that one of the student employees was going on my computer at night and visiting some unsavory sites.

      1. Elysian*

        I’ve heard this from library employees before! Apparently there are first amendment problems with public library employees telling patrons not to look at porn. I find this whole thing really interesting, but thankfully I’ve never been a library employee so I don’t actually have to deal with it!

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          This is really interesting because my understanding is that pornography is not protected as “speech” by the 1st Amendment on the grounds of it being obscene. This has gone through many incarnations, but probably the most quoted is the “I know it when I see it” test. (I really enjoyed my constitutional law class in college)

        2. Sparkly Librarian*

          I gave a patron instructions on finding and printing pornographic images from a library computer the other week; it’s a point of professional pride to remain (or at least appear) unfazed. The big issue we’d have with it as library staff would be related to copyright; I also showed him how to sort Google image search results by usage rights. He’s very conscientious about using the privacy screens we provide, and about keeping the printouts private, not just sitting around where younger visitors could see them. All of this is allowable by library policy.

      2. HR Recruiter*

        Wow! I worked at a library and this was a huge no no. I can’t believe you allowed it. Perhaps the difference between public and university. If they repeatedly violated our policy they would be banned from the library because there were always children around. One time we even had a police officer who happened to stop in and caught someone on their own laptop using the library’s wifi. He got reprimanded from the cop and banned from the library property.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I would think public would be more likely to allow it, for first amendment reasons, but then I’m not really up on how this is interpreted legally.

          1. HR Recruiter*

            The law basically says they can’t share what patrons are viewing or reading and cannot deny access unless policies are violated. You can pretty much have a policy for anything as long as its not discriminatory (and its approved by the board). We also had firewalls. So those viewing inappropriate material were typically doing so of things sent to them by email for Facebook.

        2. VintageLydia USA*

          In my experience the vast majority of libraries allow it (under first amendment reasoning) but they ask patrons to move to different computers with privacy screens or, if on their laptop, to a more private location. Obviously masturbation and stuff is right out but just viewing the material is OK. I know growing up, in a world where most people didn’t have laptops or personal computers at all, the librarians were stricter about who could use the “unfiltered” computers. Generally, they discouraged younger minors away from them if there was a “filtered” computer available unless it was a student doing research on something like breast cancer which would’ve been blocked by their programs.

          1. another academic librarian*

            I work at a university library. We’ve had questions from patrons who needed to look at pornography for legitimate scholarly reasons (our women’s studies program specializes in sexuality studies, so it does happen), and we’ve had to have internal conversations about how to handle this kind of thing. We can’t have an explicitly stated (sorry, pun unintentional) policy on our website about porn viewing being OK in some cases (concerns about us being a state university announce “hey, come look at porn!!!”), but we realized we needed to talk about it because we didn’t want people who legitimately needed to watch something (say for example the Linda Lovelace documentary, which includes clips from her films) getting into trouble with other patrons. Tricky stuff. IIRC, we went with “watch it someplace less populated,” but to my knowledge we haven’t had questions about it for awhile now.

  12. Shannon*

    #4, If I gave an interviewer a copy of a resume and they handed it back after the interview, I’d take it as a sign that they weren’t that interested. Of course, chances are also that they have an electronic copy of my resume and just wanted to see it in print, too.

  13. Oryx*

    #3, unless you’re trying to manipulate those of us on AAM right now, the fact that you describe yourself as a good person with a moral code lends me to say you are not, in fact, a psychopath:

    I’m actually the opposite — I’m an Empath, so someone of us have too much empathy while others have too little. Doesn’t necessarily mean anything other than simply that.

  14. Blight*

    #3: To me this is an extreme case of self diagnosis, if OP were truly a psychopath then he/she would of mentioned an official diagnosis by professionals. In school we did an assignment that was actually on psychopaths and how easily it is to apply the characteristics to everyone… there is at least one aspect of a psychopath that anyone can find in another person. I think the biggest sign that this is a mis(self)diagnosis is that the OP is actually writing in and concerned about it, a psychopath probably wouldn’t be seeking advice from Alison.

    It is hard to hear someone say that they don’t experience emotions the same way as others… how do you know? Not everyone has the same emotions for the same events and some can even be described as lacking all empathy because they have a certain mental disorder. In the current climate of shootings it would be very unwise to have people thinking you are a psychopath… I could see management trying to get rid of a person with this label.

    I had a friend in high school who did this very thing – she was convinced she was a psychopath even though she never once spoke to a professional about it. She’d tell it to people to get attention and reactions from them, it made her different. She swore up and down that she had no empathy for the suffering of others and even lied to everyone that she had witnessed a dog drowning and enjoyed it. She even speculated that she could be a serial killer if she wanted to… considering that she became a kindergarten teacher I highly doubt she was truly psychopathic.

    I agree with Alison that OP should have a conversation about the exact limitations rather than scaring management with the thought of a psychopath on payroll. Also, I really hope OP goes to seek professional diagnosis so that his/her mental condition can be properly diagnosed and treated.

  15. Red Wheel*

    Alison said this very well. I am not a psychologist so I won’t comment on the substantive aspect, but when you have the conversation with your employer, you may not want to use the word “psychopath”.

  16. OriginalEmma*

    OP#3: Are you self-diagnosing or have you been given a diagnosis of psychopathy of sociopathy by a psychtriatric professional? It’s important because if you cannot convince your manager to maintain your more junior role by simply saying “Thanks for thinking of me but I think I’m better suited to remain in this role given my talents,” then you might need to bring in the medical aspect. “Thanks for thinking of me but due to a diagnosed medical issue, a more junior position is more suitable for me.”

    1. Temperance*

      I’m not sure that I would give a statement like this – it’s outing himself as mentally ill to his manager, which might not have the desired effect (keeping him at a low-level, low-stress job), but might have a different effect (calling his integrity/abilities into question, especially if the position is similarly situated). Calling it a “diagnosed medical issue” doesn’t really mask it.

    2. Erin*

      I like this wording too, but only if she really needs to bring up a medical issue at all. Someone else suggested simply emphasizing that she’s happy in her current role and I think that’d be the safer option. But if the manager presses it, then maybe it would be appropriate to cite a medical condition.

  17. Three Thousand*

    #3 Out of curiosity, if you don’t feel empathy for others, does that mean you’re less likely to be bothered by insults or abusive behavior? I can imagine that would be an advantage in a customer service position. On the other hand, if you just don’t get why a customer is so idiotic as to not know a wireless router needs a “wire” to be plugged into an electrical outlet, I can see why relating to them enough to solve their problem would be difficult.

  18. OriginalEmma*

    OP#1: REPORT IT. Absolutely. That is such an egregious offense that it must be reported to his manager as well as to your InfoSec folks. He’s most definitely misusing company assets and violating your organization’s computer use policy.

    As for being a woman in a male-dominant field, I know it’s easy for us to have our concerns swept under the rug under the guise of not being a team player, being too stuffy, etc. However, any reasonable person, male or female, would think it’s wrong to access such materials at work! If they DON’T think that’s a bad thing, well, I don’t know what to tell you but run away!

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I wouldn’t say that inappropriate pictures seen from a google web search are necessarily an egregious offense.

      A google image search can be somewhat innocent and still bring up inappropriate pictures. Not for the OPs co-worker, of course. But sometimes when I’ve done an image search, I’ve been surprised at what came up. And sometimes I don’t know enough to know not to google something at work. If a coworker had casually mentioned a name and told me to look them up, it would be easy to have something inappropriate on my computer. Which I would immediately close!

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Yeah, quite true – Googling pretty innocent stuff can sometimes get you risque results – but in this case OP mentioned this coworker repeatedly made sexist (and racist) remarks to her, which tells me he is a creep with no sense of what is appropriate to do at work and the search was deliberate.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        In my last job, I had to find contact information for a researcher whose name my manager had given me. When I googled her full name, it was obvious from the instant image results that the professor in question shared her name with a young actress. What I usually do when something like this happens is to add the name of the person’s research field – which in this case happened to be breast cancer. Let’s just say that I’m glad there was no-one standing behind me when the first instant image results for Actress Name Breast started to come up…

  19. Bend & Snap*

    #3 I have VERY low emotional intelligence (EQ), but that’s not a concrete personality trait. It’s a skill that can be developed, especially in the workplace.

    I highly recommend Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. It’s one of the most recognized books on the topic and is full of great information.

    Please do a little homework before you blow up your career! There’s no need for it.

    1. OriginalEmma*

      Ooh, thanks for the recommendation. I’ve been told (by an ex) that I have low EQ so this may be helpful.

  20. Shayna*

    #2: If your student is female I would definitely not include a note about gender/sex. Having someone in hiring assume you are male is often a leg up that people with gender neutral names reap the benefit of. The only reason I might include “Mr.” is so that hiring staff would, in fact, know the candidate was male. My hunch, though, would be that the assumption would be that the candidate was male unless they are applying in majority female fields (nursing, teaching, etc.).

    1. JC*

      I definitely agree with this. The fact that the people you are advising are mainly women in STEM fields really stood out to me. There has been plenty of research demonstrating that when all things are equal, companies are more likely to interview someone with a male name on their resume than a female name. Some of these studies also gave the fake applicants gender-neutral names but put other types of markers on their resumes of their gender, including the kind you are suggesting (Mr. or Ms. before the name) and had the same kinds of results. And in the world of anecdata, there was a story floating around the internet a year or two ago about a man named Kim who started getting interviews as soon as he added the (Mr.) to his resume.

      TL;DR: I only see drawbacks to drawing attention to a female applicant’s gender on a resume.

  21. Mark in Cali*

    In my years of interviewing, I’ve never had the employer take a copy of the resume I brought along. They are always prepared with a printed copy from my application submission.

    1. Audiophile*

      I got scolded for not bringing a copy with me, because my interviewer wasn’t prepared. Now I try to bring copies with me.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        Funny, i brought one and my interviewer was like, wow, nobody does this anymore. It made me feel like a dinosaur.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Not even for themselves? I always carried it in a folder-type thing and I’d “cram” from it before the interview, just to make sure all my history was fresh in my mind, and then it was available if they needed it.

        2. AnonForThis*

          I would not adjust being prepared because of one oddball interviewer. Because this is odd and not the norm. I also think the comment was rude.

    2. LSCO*

      I’ve found the same – however it doesn’t stop me from making sure I take at least 1 copy of my CV, a printed copy of the covering letter and a hardcopy of any other application materials with me. I keep them in a folder, and rarely have I ever needed to get the folder out of my bag, but I just know that the one time I don’t do this, I’ll be asked for a copy of something and not have it to hand.

  22. Allison*

    I have an interview today, and since I was approached as a passive candidate and didn’t have an updated copy of my resume ready to go, I figured I’d only update it if they asked for one. But since they found my LinkedIn profile which is pretty substantial, and haven’t asked for a formal resume, I haven’t bothered to update mine. Also I ran out of printer paper a month ago and haven’t gotten around to buying more, so there’s that . . .

    Fingers crossed that they don’t mind! They seem pretty chill, so I don’t it’ll be a big deal.

    1. FutureLibrarian*

      You still have time, please update and bring a copy of your resume! A LinkedIn profile is not a substitute for a resume.

      1. Erin*

        Agreed. LinkedIn should have much more information than your resume, which will highlight your most important accomplishments. You don’t want them to have to wade through your LinkedIn stuff.

        Even if you bring your resume and don’t end up needing it you’ll look and feel professional for being prepared. :)

  23. Roscoe*

    Haven’t read all the responses yet. I’m sure this won’t be popular on here, but for #1 I say just let it be. Based on the way the question is phrased, you aren’t really trying to report this solely on this. You seem to not like him anyway, so this would be ANOTHER thing to go to the boss about. My question is, if this was a person you liked (as a person, co-worker, or both) would you still be considering doing this? If you can honestly say you would, then I say go ahead and tell the boss. If not, then it would be you solely doing this to get this guy in more trouble.

    Before people get up in arms, I’m not saying what he did he was appropriate in the work place. However, he probably knows this already. We have all done things we probably should have. I don’t think every transgression in the workplace needs to be reported to management, especially if you are on the way out. Hell, I’ve opened up my twitter account at work and had some NSFW pics in my feed, that if someone happened to walk by at the wrong moment would look very bad.

    1. AnonForThis*

      I read the responses, and I agree with you. The OP is on their way out. The crappy employee deserves to be fired for a myriad of reasons in addition to this – he’s lazy, combative and produces a poor work product. He’s also been caught before misusing the company’s system, so they should be watching him pretty closely anyway. I find his behavior extremely unprofessional and he should be fired, but he hasn’t been so far. Sometimes, you have to understand the organization you work for, and that this is probably part of the reason you started looking for a new job in the first place!

    2. Erin*

      Hmm, yeah I think I agree with you. As Alison pointed out it certainly wouldn’t be unreasonable or inappropriate to report this, but I’d lean towards not.

      As you said, we’ve all done things at work we shouldn’t or had things on our screens that would look really bad if someone saw them. But more importantly, the boss is already aware that this is a problem employee. And he’s her problem, not the OP’s, especially since (but not only because) she’s leaving.

      He’s your dog, Charlie Brown.

    3. OP 1*

      If it were a person I liked I would have talked to him directly. And I’ve taken that approach with him in the past (on various occasions he’s made stereotypical comments about my gender and race), with no results. So this is definitely a last-ditch option.

      1. Kelly L.*

        It just occurred to me that he should have been fired 1000 times over for other stuff, so the porn thing is like nailing a mob boss for tax evasion–it’s not the worst thing he did, but it’s something that might work when the other stuff hasn’t stuck.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          At some point this becomes more of a story about a crappy manager and less of a story about a crappy coworker.

    4. BuildMeUp*

      The OP would not be reporting him to get him in more trouble, though. Please don’t pretend like the OP is the one doing something wrong here – the coworker who’s *looking at porn in the office* is doing something wrong. And yes, it is another thing to go to the boss about – another thing which, going by OP’s other comments about this coworker making sexist comments, is part of a larger pattern of behavior that someone should be made aware of.

      And having surprise NSFW pictures show up on your twitter feed is very, very different from googling a porn star’s name.

  24. Dr. Johnny Fever*

    I cannot believe the sexism displayed – again – to OP#1. She’s being told the standard “don’t worry your pretty little head, you just don’t like him, it’s not a big deal.”

    It’s porn. In the office. It’s freaking porn, in a male-dominated atmosphere, freely displayed to the only woman in the group (who feels intimidated because of the atmosphere). Unless OP works at Kink, this is NOT. APPROPRIATE.

    At. ALL.

    OP#1, of course report this. This behavior cannot be tolerated in a professional environment. No one should be forced to confront porn, unwanted, at work. Personal history aside, this singular act is worthy of dismissal, even termination.

    It’s 8 hours that this guy can’t suppress his desire to see boobs and more. This is his problem, not yours. He’s making you feel uncomfortable. You are not obligated to accept that, nor are you obligated to stay silent. Speak up, report him. He’s accountable for his own juvenile behavior.

  25. John*

    I’d advise LW 2 to encourage her male students with gender-ambiguous or feminine-sounding names to put “Mr.” on their resume, but to discourage women with gender-ambiguous or masculine-sounding names from adding “Ms.” or “Mrs.”

    There are a significant number of stories (most notably the account from a couple years ago of an experienced manager – male – named Kim) who found a remarkable increase in interview offers when adding “Mr.” to their resumes and people stopped assuming they were women because of a feminine-sounding name.

    It sucks, but passive sexism is a thing, especially in tech. It even influenced the name we gave our daughter, who we did not want to be the victim of passive sexism when she enters the working world in 20-25 years.

    1. Ellen Spertus*

      Thanks for the feedback. I’m LW2.

      Unfortunately, as I posted elsewhere in the comments, sexism sometimes comes up at the interview stage if it’s missed in the resume stage.

      Of course, the person reviewing the resume is usually not the same as the interviewer, and only one may be sufficiently biased, so there may be an advantage in going stealth when one can.

  26. Chris*

    My kneejerk on 1 is “no snitching.” It wasn’t directed at you, and is the kind of thing that will catch up with him in the end, if he’s that freaking stupid.

    On the other hand, the individual situation might warrant it. I think it is highly, HIGHLY affected by the company atmosphere and other issues. If it were someone I was on good terms with, I would bring it up personally, but I wouldn’t go to the boss over JUST this. But as I say, individual situations will vary widely.

    Note: don’t be tempted to report him SOLELY because you dislike him. If you wouldn’t report the nice guy who never bothers you, consider whether it’s the action itself, or the chance to report on someone you don’t like. Again (and again), I’m not saying you shouldn’t, just be sure it’s really something that warrants reporting.

    1. BuildMeUp*

      Reporting a coworker for looking at porn in the office is not “snitching.” It’s reporting a coworker for looking at porn in the office, and unless that’s part of his job description, it is not okay for him to be doing it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. Going one step further if he did not want to be “snitched” on, then he could have avoided the porn sites in the first place. In most places I have worked, there was always at least one (maybe more) who would complain to the boss about everything. It’s safe to assume that someone would complain about this also.

  27. Dynamic Beige*

    First, OP#1, is there an Employee Handbook or other document that sort of lays out what is expected of employees in general? If your company is large enough to have an HR department, there may be something on the books that deals with this kind of situation. I mean, it should be obvious that you don’t search porn at work/on company property or that you can’t use your corporate credit card to hire escorts, or that installing software that allows illegal downloads of content is… illegal… BUT some people’s kids just ain’t that smart. Or think the rules don’t apply to them, or that they can get away with it or whatever.

    I say the above because most of the companies I deal with are not large enough to have IT departments or HR. They may also not be run by the most erm… “professional” business people who take time to ensure that expectations of their employees are laid down in some way, shape or form.

    Here are two real world examples of what kind of things happen: #1 I had a co-worker who sat next to me who at 5pm would pull the separator between us (he was in the middle of the row) and shut himself off. We didn’t have traditional cubes, we were all separated by curtains, so there was some privacy in terms of visibility, but none in terms of sound/phone calls. Yes, curtains. Don’t get me started. Anyway, one day I got a peek at what it was he was doing — downloading porn. This was in the days when the Internet was all new and shiny and the porn taps were just beginning to be opened. I have no idea if this co-worker was doing other things than just downloading. I didn’t like it, but it wasn’t being waved about in my face like a red flag, he was taking steps to keep it to himself, but we had no HR, we had no guidelines to work by. Was that something private, because it was after 5? I didn’t know and I didn’t know if I should report it to, or to whom. Eventually, he left and I never caught anyone else (not that I was on the lookout or anything) doing that.

    #2, I was working in the office of a client. There were 6 people in total at this place and they didn’t have HR or IT. I couldn’t access their internet — which was a problem because I needed to download their content and do online searches for stock images. They didn’t have a public or “guest” access account, so they told me to use ThisGuy’s computer because he was out sick and that would be fine. So I sat down, and started my first download — which went directly to a folder that was full of nothing but porn. I mean, you know how on a Windows machine there is a folder called “Downloads”? And many programs send you to that as a default? Exactly like that. His Downloads folder was full of porn. Once again, what do I do? This is not my computer, I am not an employee, there isn’t any HR. Do I tell on him like a little kid? Would his employers care or would they just laugh it off? I decided to pretend I hadn’t seen anything and just do my job and get out of there.

    So, if I ever decide to have employees because my business gets large enough to allow for that, I have already decided that they will get The Speech in person about all the things that may seem like a good idea but are not. For example: “I cannot stop you from looking at porn, or searching for it on your personal time, personal things like your phone. What you do with your personal property or resources is on you. But, this is a business and we do not deal in pornography. The computer that you are supplied is not yours, but belongs to this business. The internet you use is shared by all. When you work here, people may be looking over your shoulder as you work, other people may be required to use your computer — including our clients. If porn is found on the computer that is assigned to you — which you are responsible for keeping in reasonable working order — you will be [fired/whatever is allowed by law]. I’m telling you this right now in as plain language as I can because I don’t want there to be any sort of misunderstanding in future. This is not acceptable at this business and will not be tolerated.” <– regardless of gender 0r age.

    Why? Because it wouldn't be something that I, as a boss/manager would find acceptable. If you can't get through the day without seeing boobs, you've got a problem. If you're going to spend the time you should be working searching for images of sex/nudity/whatever, you've got a problem and it's not a problem I want to deal with. So you'll be gone. It probably can't be that simple, and I would have to consult lawyers to get the right thing in place because this is Canada and I don't think the whole "at will" thing exists up here… but I would do it. I would do whatever I could within the bounds of the law to deal with this kind of thing. Because other people shouldn't have to figure out how to handle their co-workers like that.

  28. alex*

    Go to therapy, immediately.
    It’s the very best thing you can do for yourself. “happy holidays, Me: a therapy appointment!”

  29. Tau*

    Hi #3!

    I absolutely agree with Alison that you should probably avoid letting the word “psychopath” drop. Not only is it horrifyingly stigmatised, most people don’t have any sort of clear idea what it means. As a result, it actually just muddies the waters instead of clearing them, with people coming away with even more misconceptions than they had before. Instead, you can

    – explain the problems you have without using any sort of diagnostic/disability/mental-illness-related language. Your emotional intelligence is not the greatest! You’re not that good at customer service! Some potential ways to frame this: one, like Alison suggests, bringing things you *are* good at into the conversation. (You’re great at X and Y, but not so much Z.) So in this situation, I’d absolutely bring up the things you are very good at in your current job and why you want to keep doing them. Another suggestion for framing, phrase it along the lines of “I’ve worked at Z and I’m better at it than I used to be, but honestly it’s never going to be my strong point.” You want to avoid coming off as too negative and scaring your manager, and you also want to avoid giving the impression that you’re lazy or don’t care enough to work at Z (not saying that this is true AT ALL to be clear, but that’s what some people will hear if you just say “I can’t do Z.” or “I’m bad at Z.”)

    – explain the problems you have and tie them into a disability/mental illness context without disclosing the exact diagnosis. I… am not sure how possible this will be in this situation, someone better-versed with US disability laws than me should mention. (You might be able to do something like have your therapist write a note that talks about your difficulties but doesn’t mention your exact DX if your manager demands proof. Again, I don’t know.) Anyway, this is a tactic I’ve used to good effect when I wanted to let friends and acquaintances know that there was something serious going on but didn’t want them to know my diagnosis. By which I mean something like “I have a disability/some mental health issues that mean I have trouble with X.” Nobody pressed when I said this, but if they demand to know your actual diagnosis evade or push back with something like “I’m not comfortable going into detail, and it’s not really relevant anyway. I want to focus on what it means for me in this situation.” People will imagine all sorts of things, but with something as stigmatised as psychopathy I think you’ll still get much better reactions than if you disclose the actual DX – and at least they’re basing their imaginings around the actual problems you have said you are dealing with rather than movie psychopathy.

    I’d also be careful about how you phrase it. A lot of the time, when faced with something outside their experience people will take their cues from the person in the room who seems to understand it. Which, in this case, is you. So if it’s clear you think of what’s going on with you as something shameful, bad, or something that makes you broken, then… that’s how they’re going to treat you. I bring this up because you come across as quite negative about yourself in your letter in some ways, and if you disclose in real life the way you did here people will probably react to that. This is probably more of an issue if you do the above and don’t talk about the psychopathy part, that being so heavily stigmatised I’m not sure how much of a difference your attitude will make. But it’s really something to consider. (Very different situation, but I navigate this pretty regularly with my speech disorder – I’ve noticed many people I meet take their cues for how to treat me *from* me, and the more “hey, it’s no big deal” I am the less of a deal it becomes.)

    Finally… this may just be a wording thing, but. I get feeling that you’re not suited to the particular position your boss is trying to push you into. I get feeling you’re not suited to, say, managerial positions in general. But it’s not really sitting well with me that you say this in terms of “junior” and “senior” positions and needing to stay in junior ones. There are other career paths, if possibly not at your current company, and your career does not have to stagnate just because you have a disability/mental health issue/personality disorder/etc. that means you struggle with certain things. Look around, play to your strengths, see if you can turn up a job to aim for where the difficulty with empathising isn’t going to be prohibitive. It’s out there!

  30. Elizabeth West*

    #2–When I send correspondence to clients, I always use their first names. Sasha Harris would be “Dear Sasha, here is your deliverable.” So far, nobody has said a thing about it being too informal.

    I think it’s true that more people are using first names these days–I rarely come across anyone who says Mr. or Ms. who isn’t above a certain age. Even children, though I have one friend who taught her kids to address adults with a title. All the kids I skate with call me by my first name. But it really depends on whom I am addressing. I would obviously be more formal if I were writing to the Queen, but then she would be “Your Majesty” and “Ma’am,” not Mrs. Mountbatten-Windsor.

  31. Cassie*

    I was chatting with a coworker and he let it slip that he had seen another coworker viewing some “bad” stuff on the computer. I tried asking what the “bad” stuff was but he wouldn’t say – I’m guessing porn. How bad does your judgement have to be to think that it’s okay to be viewing inappropriate stuff on your work computer, but also in such a way that a passer-by can see what you are looking at?

    Now it kind of makes me question this coworker’s past job changes (he’s had a few different jobs at our university).

  32. Chickaletta*

    Fun twist to #1: Long time ago I caught a young female intern looking at porn on the internet, she was probably 19 or 20 years old. I was young myself and a bit naive, so I thought she must have accidentally came across the images by accident (even though all 15- 20 images on her screen were of nude couples in compromising positions). I was shocked and embarrassed for her, so I turned and walked away and didn’t say anything to the manager.

    Two weeks later she was fired. Apparently she was looking at porn frequently enough that IT caught it.

  33. Back in the saddle*

    Way back in the day when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth and our computers were running Windows 3.0, I was trying to find some lab glassware and tripped a hidden link. An EXTREMELY explicit image popped up–and when, panicked, I tried to close it another appeared. It kept on happening….every time I tried to close the window a worse image came up. I ended up having to call IT to get it to close (I didn’t dare turn the computer off because it was running something else). I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life…

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