I’m in so many meetings that I don’t have time to do my job, being called “manageress,” and more

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

1. I’m in so many meetings that I don’t have time to do my job

After an extended unemployment, I finally got my dream job at a place I have long wanted to work. I love my team and the project work is interesting. However, the environment is intensely meeting-heavy, which leaves little time for me to do the work I’ve been hired to do (I can’t work during meetings). The culture places a high value on collaboration and positivity, so I have been gently warned not to complain or question in any way that may come across as negative; one friend actually suggested that I am just going to have to suck it up and put in my eight hours of meetings and then go home and take the three to four hours a night I need to do my work, off the clock.

I quit a job after being burned out from years of working in a high-pressure environment (hence the unemployment). I don’t want to get to that point again, yet I want to make a good impression by being a good team player and still do a high quality of work. I’d love any suggestions you might have!

Ignore the friend telling you to do hours of work off the clock every night. And is the person who warned you never to question things someone who works at your new office, or someone outside it? If the latter, definitely ignore them; if the former, pay a lot of attention to their positioning in the office and what you know of their judgment in general when deciding how much weight to give their input, since you can find people who think silly and wrong things in most offices.

It’s not “not being a team player” to tell your boss that you’re having trouble finding non-meeting time to do your work. It’s possible that you don’t need to be in all the meetings you’re in, or that there’s some other trick to carve out time for your actual work. Talk to your boss, explain what’s going on, and ask for her insight into how to navigate it. (There’s also lots of advice about tackling this here and here.)

2. Employee keeps referring to me as his “manageress”

I was recently promoted from a four person team and became the head of that team, replacing a male manager who departed.

I have no complaints, except that one person consistently refers to me in emails to others as his “manageress” instead of his “manager” – e.g. “I’ve copied my manageress into this email”.

Even with that person, I have no complaints about his performance, which makes me think I should just let it drop, but I wanted to ask if you think that’s the right thing to do and also if it’s normal to refer to female managers as “manageresses”?

No, it’s not normal. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s doing it because he thinks it’s funny, but I think you need to tell him to stop because why does he need your gender to be such a focus of how he identifies you at work? Also, it’s like the problem with saying “male nurse” or “woman cop”; he’s saying that he thinks that men are the default for managers.

I’d say this: “Hey, Bob, I know that’s meant to be funny, but please cut it out since it’s too putting too much focus on gender. Thank you.”

(Also, for some reason I’m picturing this guy as the “hello, m’lady” guy from this Amy Schumer sketch.)

3. My mentor said he didn’t tell me he applied for the same job as me because he was “bound by confidentiality”

I have a mentor of sorts who I just found out had applied to the same job I had applied for and not told me, even though I had talked to him about the job and about my applying for it. The job ad was very public and expected (the previous person had left) so it’s not like he found out about the job from me. He said he was bound by confidentiality so could not tell me. I was not told in any of my interviews (or ever, really) that I could not disclose that I was applying to this job. Is there some unwritten rule of confidentiality that I don’t know about?

Neither of us got the job, but I feel like my trust in him has been really shaken, as I I can’t really think of any reason why he could not have given me a heads-up. I was not going to blab to anyone that he was applying, just as my assumption is that our conversations about career paths and job hunting in particular were confidential.

No, there’s no unwritten rule that you can’t tell people about jobs you’ve applied for. I think his “bound by confidentiality” was just a super awkward way to explain why he didn’t say anything to you. The real reason he didn’t say anything to you was probably that he felt uncomfortable about it and didn’t know how to bring it up. “Bound by feelings of awkwardness” would be more accurate.

I don’t know that you should look at it as a trust-breaker though. I mean, now you know that you can’t count on him to deliver awkward news in a forthright manner, and that’s useful to know. But I doubt he meant it as a betrayal or anything like that.

4. Director is pressuring employees to support her run for professional office

The director of my workplace is running for office in our professional organization. The director recently asked one of my direct reports, Jill, to endorse her on social media. Jill is not a member of this organization (and thus cannot vote in the election) and doesn’t think it’s right, since she is a paid subordinate. Jill feels very uncomfortable about this and asked me what to do, but I’m also at a loss! Help?

If you have good rapport with the director, I’d say something to her like, “Hey, while you’re running, I think it’s important not to ask employees to endorse you, because it’s going to look like a conflict of interest since you’re their boss, or may just make people feel like they don’t have a choice.”

Otherwise, I’d tell Jill to ignore the request in the hopes that it was a one-off but that if it happens again, she should feel free to say “Oh, I’m not a member of the RSA” (plus, if she’s comfortable, “I think would look bad since I’m your employee and it would be seen as a conflict of interest”). Also, tell her to let you know if that does happen, because at that point you really do need to say something yourself if Jill doesn’t feel like her response put it to rest.

5. Mentioning a layoff in a LinkedIn recommendation

The company I work for recently laid off a lot of great people. I worked directly with some of them, so I know they weren’t just pleasant to chat with but also really good at their jobs. I plan to write recommendations for a few of them on LinkedIn (not the valueless “Does this person have skills in Microsoft Word?” endorsements, but a written recommendation that talks about their skills and attitudes). Is it appropriate to mention the layoffs in the recommendation? For example, “We were all very sad to see John go in a recent layoff” as a lead-in to the rest of the recommendation. Good, because it gives a good reason for the departure? Or is it not done for some other reason, such as the fact that it advertises we had layoffs?

Eh, I wouldn’t. Some people are still weird about advertising that they were laid off. Plus, it doesn’t really strengthen the recommendation. Focus on what made the person great at their job.

That said, also be aware that LinkedIn recommendations aren’t give a ton of weight (in part because they were written for the recommendee to see, so employers know they may not tell the whole story) so you might be better able to help people in other ways, like by connecting them with job leads and offering to serve as a reference (which is different from writing a recommendation).

{ 320 comments… read them below }

  1. Doriana Gray*

    What I don’t get about OP #3’s mentor is, if he applied for the job and wasn’t going to say anything then, why say anything at all now? He just put doubt about his trustworthiness in his mentees head and for what? A job he didn’t get? It’s so strange.

    OP #5 – I know you’re just trying to help, but if someone mentioned my layoff on LinkedIn, I’d be pissed. I’m the only one I want controlling the narrative of why I’m no longer with my previous company, not one of my former colleagues. And people don’t need to know that at the application/job search stage of the game.

    1. Bleu*

      Yes, there’s something almost passive agressive about posting on LinkedIn *as a recommendation* that someone else was laid off, and having it be the very first sentence. Hopefully the friend has the ability to not approve it before it is blasted to all contacts or even made globally public, at a time when that friend most needs support.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        I think she’s just trying to make clear that the person wasn’t fired. I agree that she shouldn’t do it though.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Right, I think that’s what the Op is intending, but why/how/when someone left their job doesn’t need to be on a recommendation whatsoever.

        2. OP #5*

          You’re right, the intention was to make it clear that the person wasn’t fired and that they weren’t a job-hopper (since in at least one case it was a short stay). It’s good to have all of this input on what it would look like to someone else, thank you all!

    2. CAA*

      The linked in user chooses which recommendations show up on her profile, so if someone says something you don’t want to be public, you don’t have to be pissed at them, just don’t select that recommendation to show up on your profile.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I don’t use LinkedIn, but if I did, regardless of that feature, I’d still be pissed that someone thought that would be appropriate to post in the first place.

        1. Erin*

          Eh, I’m on the fence. Even if they thought it was inappropriate or weird hopefully the good intentions behind it would be clear.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Yeah, I think it comes from good intentions – wanting others to know the person wasn’t fired for cause. But still. Don’t.

        2. Collie*

          The person receiving the recommendation has the ability to approve or deny recommendations prior to the content being added to their page. I think they can also request the person who wrote it to make changes. I don’t necessarily think it’s a good idea to include that info, anyway, but it is an important piece of context, IMO.

    3. Steve*

      LinkedIn recommendations will stick around a long time, well past this current job search. So mentioning a temporary situation like a layoff is not appropriate. Instead focus on the the timeless qualities of the former coworker.

    4. Middle Name Jane*

      OP #5 – I know you’re just trying to help, but if someone mentioned my layoff on LinkedIn, I’d be pissed. I’m the only one I want controlling the narrative of why I’m no longer with my previous company, not one of my former colleagues. And people don’t need to know that at the application/job search stage of the game.

      This. My company downsized during the last recession, and I was part of a group that was laid off. Even though I was not let go for performance reasons, that doesn’t mean I want my layoff splashed all over LinkedIn. If someone did this to me, I wouldn’t allow it to go on my profile.

  2. Mookie*

    I differ from Alison in that I don’t think LW’s employee is trying to be “funny,” exactly, and I have nothing productive to add, but that I’d be tempted to doff a cap / fedora / trilby in his direction whenever possible, explain that moving forward your preferred personal pronoun is “[My] Liege,” and introduce him to peers as one of your latest (but, sadly, heretofore neither most pleasing nor generous) toyboys.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      When I saw the word manageress I had a vision of a whip. Oof.
      I do like the “my liege” comment and recommend that she call her employee en evil minion.

      1. Artemesia*

        This guy is not ‘being funny’ — it is a corrosive sexist thing that should have been nipped in the bud.

        1. Erin*

          Really? Corrosive and sexist? That seems harsh. I agree with Alison he probably deserves the benefit of the doubt. Admittedly with everyone being offended by everything today, I think I tend to err on the side of letting go what we can let go, and not assume the worst with people’s intentions.

          But also, I don’t get the impression from the OP that she’s horrifically offended. Her question was more framed as, “I’d prefer him not to call me this, but have no issues with his performance – is this normal and I should let it drop, or can I say something?”

          1. Daisy Steiner*

            People aren’t more offended than they used to be; they’re just more empowered to say so.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            To be clear, I do agree that it’s sexist and has a corrosive effect. But I also think it’s possible that he doesn’t understand that and thinks he’s joking around. (I don’t think it’s about being offended by everything, but being more aware of things like the power of language and slights that used to be ignored or considered the status quo.)

            1. TootsNYC*

              I think both are very possible. And approaching it as though he’s just being funny is the most productive way to go, especially at first.

              But I have to tell you, I’d be alert to any other signs of disrespect for my authority. This is a belittling sort of thing, and it could be aimed at the LW specifically (using sexist language as the tool), or it could be aimed at any woman manager.

              I wouldn’t assume it on the LW’s behalf, but if it were me, I’d be a little more sensitive to any inappropriate pushback from this guy.

              1. Nom d'pixel*

                I would be alert for signs of disrespect not only toward me, but toward the other women in the office. For example, is he suggesting that his peers make coffee or take notes for him?

            2. Anna*

              It kind of reminds me of Bart Simpson referring to the female mail carrier as a femaleman portmanteau. I think he’s attempting to be humorous and missing that it is offensive.

            3. KWB*

              Yes, I think that it is the kind of joking around that springs from the unconscious–kernels of truth and such. Honestly, were I the “manageress,” I would be inclined to say something like, “I need you to stop calling me “manageress.” I know you don’t realize it, but it is the kind of thing that can make you come across as if you are uncomfortable working for a female manager, which I know you wouldn’t want! Just call me Gengulpha like everyone else!”

              But I get bristly about statements like “this makes it too much about my gender” (paraphrased) when it is really, “this makes it too much about your feelings about my gender.” /nitpick!

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                Yes, that could be an awesome tactic – “it makes you seem like…” might make him less defensive (or be harder to argue with)

            4. EmmaUK*

              This used to be common language in the UK, I don’t know about the US. We also used to use blond for men and blonde for women.

              I think some people probably use outdated language in an innocent, non-joking manner just because it is what they are used to.

              1. S0phieChotek*

                That is interesting to learn this used to be common in U.K.
                I was just reading something historical that referred to the “Conductorette” (for Conductor) and “Janitress” (for Janitor)

              2. Merry and Bright*

                Yes and mostly (as I remember) mostly for the female manager of a shop. But I have hardly heard it since childhood (1970s/early 80s).

                I also remember “bus conductress” from the same era. But it is a long time since buses in most areas have had male or female conductors anyway.

                1. Gecko*

                  I was the female manager of a shop about 10 years ago and heard it fairly frequently. As an American living in the UK, it sounded very strange to my ears.

                2. AB*

                  It was still common in Yorkshire in the early 2000’s when I worked there. It was VERY weird to my Canadian sensibilities.

              3. Mephyle*

                As far as I knew, blond and blonde are still the right way to spell the word for a man and woman (respectively) with yellow hair. I don’t think there’s anything sexist about it, it’s just a grammar/spelling thing.

                1. Ms. Didymus*

                  I bristle anytime, in the English language, when you have to spell something different for men and women.

              4. Mephyle*

                On the other hand, lots of people still use the word ‘actress’ but they are out of date; ‘actor’ is considered to be the word for any professional who acts, whatever their gender.

              5. One of the Sarahs*

                I’m interested in this because UK and have never heard “manageress” used ever – I was assuming it was an Americanism. But I’m just turned 40, so maybe it’s before my working time?

                1. Blossom*

                  I’m in my late 20s and in the UK. I have heard a woman 20yrs my senior refer to herself as a small shop’s “manageress”, semi-jokingly (as she was not actually in charge), but the word itself is known, if old-fashioned. I’d never expect to hear it in an office, but I wouldn’t be amazed to hear an older person use it in the context of a shop, cafe or other small, customer-facing establishment.

                2. Melissa*

                  I mostly know it as a word that was used in Are You Being Served? They referred to the head of Grace Brothers’ cafeteria as “the manageress.” So it was common enough to be understood by a British audience in the 1970s–before your working time.

          3. Artemesia*

            It is corrosive because it undercuts the authority of the manager. Diminutives and cute phrases put women in their place. It is in the same big basket with ‘smile babe, things can’t be that bad.’ I have seen a program billed as for ‘leaderettes’ — because women can’t be leaders? CAlling someone an actress or waitress doesn’t have the same impact although those usages are declining because they are so well established. Called a woman a ‘doctoress’ or ‘docterette’ or a manager a ‘manageress’ unless the person speaks Italian or some other gendered language and is genuinely trying to make the English translation is a put down. He may think it is adorable, but it is a put down. If funny, it is funny once, not as the way to continually refer to the boss. Ain’t she cute to think she can manage?

            It would be different if this were a commonly used word falling out of usage. But it isn’t. He made it up to diminish her role. What other interpretation exactly is there? (again assuming this is an English speaker)

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Yep, this kind of thing reflects the speaker’s attitude and also serves to make that attitude clear to the listener. It’s how in the past, female lawyers were called “lady lawyers”–because to them the term “lawyer,” by itself, clearly could only apply to men. (I sometimes still here older male lawyers using that term, and I immediately know how they feel about me being in “their” profession).

          4. Recruiter*

            I think it is very corrosive and sexist. I work with a mid-level manager that felt the need to address me as “Dear” when he spoke to me (as in, “Do you know what form is used for Teapot Designs, Dear?”). He’s not my husband or my mother, so I nipped that behavior in the bud right away. Addressing me as “Dear” is demeaning, especially since he is an older male and I’m a female. I can commiserate with the OP, since it seems like her employee is gearing this title as a reference to her gender.

      2. A fly on the wall*

        It’s worth questioning if this person maybe has a limited vocabulary or understanding of noun conjugation in English.

        If you learned waiter/waitress, master/mistress as the standard (and don’t realize most English nouns don’t do that), then it might be an understandable mistake.

        I’d try a gentle correction first, then a sack of bricks if an effort isn’t made to correct it.

        1. Susan C*

          Except that these are almost literally the only words this rule applies to (arguably hostess and stewardess, but those are on their way out) – and by the time all these have made it into your vocabulary, you’ve also collected a couple dozen (very conservatively estimating) counter examples. By the time you come near the fluency required for surviving in a primarily English speaking workplace? My disbelief is not suspended.

          1. StudentPilot*

            It does happen though – I work with a lot of French speakers who are very fluent, but still try to make a feminine version of ‘director’ in English because they have one in French (directrice).

            1. Sunshine*

              I’ve seen (fairly recently) a resume from an applicant who referred to herself as “directress” in a previous job. Strange, indeed, but apparently not unheard of.

              1. A Bug!*

                That kind of thing makes me laugh a little bit in my head because the person is going to conspicuous lengths to be correct, but the feminine form of “director” is “directrix.” It’s how I feel when someone uses “whom” incorrectly – I barely even notice when “who” is used where “whom” is correct, but “whom” in place of “who” sticks out like a sore thumb and often reads as “this person thinks they’re smarter than they are.” Basically, if you’re going to buck colloquial usage in favour of “correctness,” well, you’d better be sure you’re correct.

                (For anyone interested who might not know: -rix is generally the feminine form of the suffix -or, so dominator/dominatrix, executor/executrix, deareditor/deareditrix. In most uses the feminine form is functionally obsolete and the masculine version is considered unisex, but I still run across “executrix” pretty regularly. “Directrix” is certainly obsolete and if anyone were to insist on using that form to me, I would hold the balance of their communications to extremely high standards.)

                1. Hornswoggler*

                  We have a telly programme in the UK called the Great British Sewing Bee. The contestants are called ‘sewers’, pronounced sow-ers, but it looks like ‘sewers’ as in conduits for waste. My sister argued that they should be called Seamstresses (pronounced semp-stresses), since that was the default word for one who sews.

                2. Blossom*

                  In Latin, yes. But a word like “actress” shows the equivalent, time-honoured English form. I imagine there is a link between the two, as the root of act/actor is Latin. However, English is not less correct than Latin; I would say quite the opposite, in an English-speaking country.

                3. Brisvegan*

                  Hornswoggler, I’m guessing your sister hasn’t read much Terry Pratchett. His bestselling Discworld books included frequent references to the Ankh-Morpork Seamstresses Guild. The euphemistic ‘Seamstresses’ were sex workers. (Generally, after the first few books, the ‘seamstresses’ were depicted as savvy and decent people, especially in the later books.)

                  If your sister is bothered by sewers, I imagine this isage may bother her too.

                4. Kit*

                  Hornswoggler, historically men who sewed were tailors and women were seamstresses, but it wasn’t the same job. Seamstresses did unskilled (and lower-paid, and less prestigious) work, while tailors got the glory, cash, and name recognition. Many women sewers wouldn’t like to be called seamstresses as it devalues their work, and tailors these days are usually thought of as sewers who mainly do alterations. Sewer is the best we’ve got. Sewist makes it sound like they’re prejudiced against sewing.

              2. Artemesia*

                Yes I did make an exception for people who are coming out of speaking a gendered language and trying to translate. They should still be corrected here but I wouldn’t question their motives in using it initially. No American native speaker would use this term which is not in common use, which this subordinate obviously just made up, except as a put down or at very best a lame joke by someone too focused on the indignity of working for a woman.

            2. Deareditor*

              I edit a journal in a decidedly male-dominated profession. Most of my letters start ‘Dear editor’, ‘Sir’ is common (most people writing to the editor will know I am a woman, but it doesn’t stop them, ), I can’t decide how I feel about ‘Madam’, which is correct but feels a bit… odd.

              I did get one letter addressed to ‘The editrix’, which seems to imply more black leather than my role usually involves.

              1. Nico M*

                I hereby declare that “sir” is unisex and im going to persist using it that way until the rest of the world catches up.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Please don’t do that. That’s like using “he” when you really mean “he or she” because men are presumed to be the default. (And even if you don’t mean it that way, many of the women you are addressing will assume you do.)

                  There’s no need to address letters to “sir” or “madam” in modern day America. “Dear editor,” “dear hiring manager,” “dear Jane” — those all work just fine. Gender doesn’t need to come into it.

                2. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Ironically, I have declared that “ma’am” is unisex and I will persist in using it that way until the rest of the world catches up. Good day to you, ma’am.

              2. Sarahnova*

                I think that’s become sort of a matter of tradition, though, rather than a wilful ignoring of the fact that you’re a woman? Like, don’t get me wrong, it is still sexist, but they’re following the convention/tradition for addressing a letter to the editor rather than ignoring your gender.

                1. Deareditor*

                  Well, yes, it is a matter of tradition. For these purposes, it doesn’t matter if I’m a man, a woman, or a little furry thing from the planet Zog – why make the assumption, when there’s a perfectly acceptable equivalent in ‘Dear Editor?’

                2. Sarahnova*

                  (Can’t nest comments further.)

                  Just to make it clear, I agree that it’s sexist and should stop. I don’t really understand why human psychology has this quirk whereby “But it’s TRADITIONAL!” is so important to people.

                  Excuse me while I enjoy the visual of small furry you answering your letters. “Dear Editzog”?

              3. Faith*

                I remember my college professor complaining that she and her husband would get letters addressed to “Dr. and Mrs. Soandso”. Except she was the one with the PhD. It’s like some people cannot wrap their brain around the fact that women can be in the position of authority.

                1. Jinx*

                  Mail names are just a pain in general. After three years I have finally trained my in-laws to stop sending mail to Mrs *Husband’sFullName*, because that drives me nuts.

                2. Artemesia*

                  I remember early in my career being in a group and being introduced as Dr. Smith (a colleague without a doctorate) and Ms. Artemesia (me with doctorate.) Used to piss me off. I don’t mind Ms. in fact for PhDs using Dr. is pretentious and they tend not to do it at prestigious universities. But if they are going to use it, at least be aware that it is earned and not issued with the dick.

                  No excuse for the Dr. and Mrs. when for two docs, The doctors is available.

                  At least by keeping my own name I didn’t have to live with Mrs. Wakeen Smith although occasionally he got called Mr. Artemesia. We could live with any of that so long as it was unknowing. I only pushed back when people used these ‘traditions’ as a put down. (in the south I not infrequently had old timey males say ‘oh is that Missuss or Missss when I would use Ms. i.e. have you attained the one achievement we value in women (to be fair we didn’t wear rings in those days) and my response to that was always ‘Oh you can just use Dr.’ (leaving the ‘you glassbowl’ unvoiced))

                3. Elizabeth West*

                  Mailing lists are weird sometimes. My parents got a letter once from a vendor they chatted with at a buying show (they used to own a Hallmark store). The place was called something like Avenue Card and Gift Shop. The letter was addressed thus:

                  Avenue Card and Gift Shop
                  1000 Sort of Main Street
                  Smalltown, MO 66666

                  Dear Mrs Shop:

                  At least they assumed the woman was in charge that time!

              4. Girasol*

                I find “Madam” awkward too, since it’s both the feminine equivalent of “Sir” but also used to refer to the operator of a whorehouse. English is such a minefield with respect to gender.

                1. Noah*

                  Agreed. It is probably not right, but the only thing I can think of when I hear Madam used is a brothel.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  It also brings Disney villains to mind for me–in my formative years, the only people I ever saw called Madam were Madam Mim and Madame Medusa. When I see Madam, I always momentarily picture someone with a really caricaturey “hag” face, cackling, which is probably not what is intended!

                3. Artemesia*

                  Foreigners who have learned English will sometimes use ‘lady’ as the French use ‘Madam’ — which makes you feel like you are in an old Jerry Lewis film. Where Madam is correct as in ‘Madam, would you like coffee’. Lady used that way is just, well ‘Hey laydeeeez’ from Jerry Lewis.

                4. Elizabeth West*

                  I always hear a snooty British salesclerk when someone says Madam. As in, “I am sorry, Madam; Harrods does not carry Snickers in its food hall.”*

                  *Disclaimer: it might; I’ve never been in there. :)

            3. Hellanon*

              When I worked in Italy my title was “professoressa” or “dottoressa” both of which are fun to say. I drew the line at “Madame” though.

          2. LQ*

            I have a coworker who refers to herself as a web mistress. She is not the only person I’ve seen do this. (And no we do not work in ANY kind of dungeon.)

            1. Ultraviolet*

              Yeah, this is pretty common in some circles and it was the first thing I thought of when reading this letter. Also, I’ve read a fair number of essays in various fandoms where people used the word “authoress” to describe themselves and writers they admired. (Incidentally, my spellchecker objects to “fandoms” but not “authoress.”) If I were in OP’s position I’d try to assume this guy had a background where women used -ess to describe themselves and he thought he was doing a good thing by using it too. But as Toots NYC said upthread, I would also be hyper alert to signs of disrespect from him.

        2. Engineer Woman*

          I agree. Rather than assume it is a joke, I would take this employee aside and let him know that the term “manager” includes/covers both sexes and that the preference is to be addressed as “manager” and NOT “manageress”.

      3. Afiendishthingy*

        Yup, sounded dominatrix-like to me also. Ugh.

        We had an issue recently with a male employee (native Spanish speaker) repeatedly calling his supervisor (also a native Spanish speaker) “mi reina,” my queen. When he greeted her with “Hola reina” in front of me and a client, I just said pointedly “it’s Maria!” Maria is usually very good at being firm and direct with people but for whatever reason couldn’t tell this dude he was driving her nuts. I think we’d already talked to the employee about boundaries with the client. It’s awkward to bring up but the longer it goes on without comment the more awkward it gets. I’d be especially concerned in OP’s case that the guy is doing it in emails – totally undercuts OP to others (her superiors?). I would guess that yes, the employee does just think it’s funny, but it’s still sexist and inappropriate.

        1. Lindrine*

          Agreed. Tell him to cut it out. You are the manager. If you start joking around with him about it it will only cement the idea in his head it is ok.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Well, she’s the guy’s manager — she has the authority to just handle this on her own. Involving HR would actually undermine her authority.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Yeah I just meant she has it in writing should he continue to do it after being talked to.

      4. Alston*

        Yeah my boss briefly tried calling my coworker and I Teapot Mistresses (not actuallyteapots, real word makes it sound much worse), we told him that sounded like we were dominatrixes and we did not appreciate it. It took a while to break him of that habbit– for a while he’d say “this is Alston and Alston ‘s coworker, they don’t want me to call them Teapot Misstresses because they think it’s sexist.” And we’d just stare him down while the other person stood there awkwardly.

        1. AnonInSC*

          So nice of him to so clearly let everyone know he’s not that bright, has no social graces and likely sexist. At least that’s what I would be thinking if I was the other person standing there.

        2. Clewgarnet*

          When I worked as a webmaster, the sysadmin originally made my email address webmistress@whatever. I had to get my manager involved to get him to change it – and even then, he kept the webmistress adress as a redirect to the webmaster one.

          Nowadays, I wouldn’t stand for it but I was very young and non-confrontational back then.

          OP, I’d give him one chilly-but-polite warning, then come down like a ton of bricks.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Years ago, when dinosaurs walked the earth, I had a Yahoo!Groups account for an RPG I was running. I had something in my profile about “gamemistress.” The sheer amount of emails I got from randos wanting me to whip them! I think some guys just searched on “mistress” and emailed everybody they could find. I imagine webmistress would elicit some of the same.

            1. Hellanon*

              Back in the geocities days I used to see people referred to as “listmom” – an artifact of listservs, I suspect.

          2. Artemesia*

            I’ll bet you first got the ‘but Miss, Mrs. Ms. all come from the original ‘mistress” as if archaic usage trumps being the 21st century. I think Justin Trudeau’s response is the perfect one to any of this. When asked why half his cabinet were women, he looked quizzical and said ‘because it is 2016.’ That answer ought to serve most of these situations.

        3. Afiendishthingy*

          Good on you for not backing down in the face of “feminists have no sense of humor” sexism.

    2. Marzipan*

      I also don’t necessarily think he’s trying to be funny. There are some words for employment where we do tend to use gender-specific variants (eg actor/actress*); and, although it’s not super-common, the word manageress does exist in use (heck, I just Swyped it on here!), so it’s not like he’s just shoving an ‘ess’ on the end to make ‘engineeress’ or whatever (in which circumstance I’d definitely agree he was intending to either be funny or belittle).

      So, while I agree with #2 wanting him to stop doing it – it draws attention to her gender, which is wholly irrelevant, and clearly she wants it to stop – I wouldn’t necessarily assume he’s trying to be funny, unless something about the context or his personality suggests otherwise. For that reason I’d go with wording more like “Bob, I’ve noticed you referring to me as your manageress in emails – it’s putting an unnecessary focus on gender, so moving forward please use manager instead.” I just feel like, if he’s not actually meaning it as a joke, approaching it as though it is may make for an awkward communication, whereas just telling him to stop doing it works either way.

      (*On the actor/actress thing, the Guardian newspaper’s style guide requires writers to use the word ‘actor’ irrespective of gender – so, “the actor Anne Hathaway” or whoever – and, although I think it’s admirable that they’re thinking about gender and language so carefully, a little bit of me is sad, because I like being a woman and I quite like that there are words that reflect it. I get that on some level that reinforces the idea of maleness being the default and femaleness being an outlier, but I still think I’d rather be described as an actress than an actor. Fortunately for us all, however, I’m not one; so the Guardian aren’t likely to be interviewing me anytime soon…)

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I think the problem is that the female version implies “less than”. It has become archaic in usage.

        1. Mookie*

          The actress/or thing in particular is cumbersome, because there’s only ever one real application where such distinction matters*, and that’s for industry and critics’ awards because it’s been arbitrarily decreed that they shouldn’t compete with one another (the implication often being that men would win out every time, so women need their pink ribbons, too, which fails to identify the source of that inequality, the underrepresentation of women in nearly all aspects of theatre, film, and television).

          *apart from discussing gender and sex, themselves

          1. TootsNYC*

            well, part of why men would win every time is that the biggest roles were for men.
            So they were accurate.

      2. Afiendishthingy*

        Wow. I had no idea “manageress” was an actual word. How very demeaning, not to mention cumbersome. Is it 3 syllables or 4? (Manager-ess or manage-ress?)

          1. Afiendishthingy*

            Reminds me of 30 Rock-

            Liz Lemon: Don’t you mean “businesswoman?”
            Jack Donaghy: No. I don’t think that’s a word.

          2. Bend & Snap*

            Or “girl boss,” which I see in a pop culture context, and it’s not cute or empowering. It was actually an InStyle headline awhile ago and I wanted to vomit.

        1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

          I actually thought it was one of those “was a word a long time ago, but since disappeared.” Like aviatrix or fishwife or something. But Wikipedia has informed me it was the title of a UK television show as late as 1989!

          1. Tia*

            It’s very UK in the 1950s – the classic example would be a shop manageress. Was the 1980s show set in the past because that might make more sense? It certainly isn’t a term anyone here would use today and I’m not sure it would have been used for one of the (very rare/non-existent) female white collar managers even then.

            1. Tia*

              I’ve just looked at the wiki of the TV show and it looks like even though it was modern, the raging sexism towards the woman in question was a major part of the plot which may explain the title.

            2. fposte*

              I was hearing it in the UK from live humans in the mid-1980s, but they weren’t the most progressive of humans.

              1. Merry and Bright*

                Sadly, this is a country where newspaper headline writers still randomly call women “wife” or “mother” when their marital or parental status has nothing at all to do with the story; and even if it did it would be patronising. Deep Sigh.

                1. RKB*

                  Oh, this is common everywhere. There was just an article last week about a judge who was found dead… Who used to be a stripper. I believe the headline is “ex-stripper found dead”

                  BUT SHE WAS A JUDGE.

        2. Artemesia*

          I doubt this subordinate knows ‘manageress’ as an actual word. Lady boss, yes. But in a long career and long life I have never heard the word used. I doubt the little twerp using it has either.

      3. Chinook*

        “So, while I agree with #2 wanting him to stop doing it – it draws attention to her gender, which is wholly irrelevant, and clearly she wants it to stop – I wouldn’t necessarily assume he’s trying to be funny, unless something about the context or his personality suggests otherwise.”

        I tend to agree that the employee for #2 is not trying to make a joke but a point. My mother, who was never outspoken for gender rights, explained that a job title doesn’t change in an org chart just because there is someone of a different gender holding that title whenever anyone tried to address her as “Chairwoman of the Board.” As a result, every one after her were also addressed as “Chairman” regardless of gender and didn’t bat an eye. (For the record, she also refused to be called a piece of furniture, which is why she refused the title of “Chair” when it was offered as a gender neutral option).

        1. starsaphire*

          Are you my long-lost sibling?!

          My mom did the exact same thing. She was the first woman to hold the chair of a political committee in our county. Half the males tried to call her “Madam Chairwoman” and half the women tried to call her “The Chair” and she finally stood up and said, “I am the chairman, not a piece of furniture and not a madam!”

          Seriously, this was my mom to a T. I love that we have the exact same story! :)

          1. Chinook*

            Nope, cuz my mother would have replied to being called “madam” by speaking French (she is Franco Albertan) and when she got confused looks, would apologize because she thought they were switching languages because that is the only time she is ever referred to as “madame.”

        2. Artemesia*

          I am a big fan of chair. It is one of many position which doesn’t require a gender appendage (hmm that sounds dirty).

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        It’s funny, though, nobody ever says Saleswoman. Part of my job is setting up new accounts and creating logins for our SAAS solution. When the client sends over their list of people that are to use the system, I can’t tell you how many times there’s a list of men and women and under title they’re all Salesman. It irks me so much, I actually take the time to change it to Salesperson before I send the client’s list of logins back.

      5. Sophie*

        It might be because I’m from the UK and have worked in the Pub industry, but I didn’t bat an eyelid at a ‘Manageress’ – I remember any pubs I went into always seem to have an older married couple running it, who always introduced themselves and the Manager and Manageress.

        I wouldn’t immediately think that the employee is being rude or doing it on purpose, but I do think it’s outdated, especially when Manager works exactly the same. I would just tell the employee you would prefer him to refer to you as his Manager instead.

        I might even ask him why he says manageress, over manager – he might not have a reason in particular other than “I’ve always done it” where you can say you ‘will need him to refer to you as manager going forward’

        1. TheBeetsMotel*

          I worked for a retail establishment in the UK in my youth that had a strong customer base of middle-aged and elderly women. I would see handwritten letters addressed to “The Manageress” a lot and this was part of the context clues as to the likely age of the writer.

          “Manageress” wasn’t being used here as sexist term, but it did jump out as jarringly archaic. Even if the employee’s actions aren’t sexist, they’re horribly out-of-touch.

              1. TheBeetsMotel*

                See, as an employee, I wouldn’t have dreamed of calling her my “manageress”. It would’ve been old-fashioned and super weird. I can’t speak to hospitality-based businesses in the UK (proprietess, etc. ) but in retail – just hope. Never.

      6. OhNo*

        As an aside, I find it fascinating that news organizations are limiting the use of the term “actress”. Way back when I was in middle/high school, the drama teacher gave us a big lecture about the use of the word “actor” versus “actress”. Paraphrased, it was something like: “An actress is a woman who is limited to playing women roles. An actor can play any role. Which would you rather be?”

        Who knows, perhaps the next big feminism-inspired language change will be the reclamation of gendered titles like “actress” and “editrix” and “manageress”. (Although, personally, I’d still skip on using “manageress”, but that word just sounds clunky and awkward.)

      7. Barney Stinson*

        I like the wording here, with this exception: drop the ” it’s putting an unnecessary focus on gender, so” part.

        The manager doesn’t have to explain why here, and it invites argument. “But I wasn’t trying to do that, I was trying to be precise!” and the like. Don’t need it.

        My experience with people like this is that ostensibly they’re just trying to be smart alecky, but there’s an undercurrent that I’ve never liked. YMMV. Kill this practice; kill it with fire.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Eh, I think, absent other issues, assuming that he meant to be funny and/or meant nothing deep is the right way to start off.

      I recently had a spirited family dinner conversation with my husband and two adult sons (who were given life by and raised by a somewhat strong, feminist woman ) where they could not 100% grok that feminine modifiers to titles were not a positive thing. We were out to dinner and it started off with one of my sons referring to the server as a “waitress”. From there, we went down the rabbit hole and…

      They didn’t know that female actors refer to themselves as “actors” and not “actresses”.

      I’m like what do you live on this planet? Are you 84 instead of 24?

      Better to assume no ill intent and use pleasant, educational opportunities when they arise.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        They didn’t know that female actors refer to themselves as “actors” and not “actresses”.

        I’m a woman and an actor, and I refer to myself both ways (actor or actress). Being a black woman in theater (and in life in general), I have bigger issues to worry about than whether someone puts an “es” at the end of my title, especially when said title is still widely used, even by other women (not all female actors are against it).

        The problem with the guy in the letter is that nobody uses the word “manageress” (I had to look it up to see if it was even a word!), and so by constantly doing it in the workplace, he’s othering his boss and potentially undermining her in the process.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          Sure and I did, because it was a family conversation (and they were trapped with me at the dinner table in a restaurant), go into the layers involved.

          1) why needing a feminizing modifier overall is problematic (long speech on the context) and
          2) the key being listening to how someone refers to themselves and following their lead

          How this was news to grown men raised by me, I can’t say. I guess since they never called me Parentess it didn’t come up.

          Anyway, I’m willing to give Manageress dude a “probably thought he was funny, now cut it out” pass.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            How this was news to grown men raised by me, I can’t say. I guess since they never called me Parentess it didn’t come up.

            Lol, well it sounds like they know now so that’s a good thing.

          2. Aunt Vixen*

            Man, remember when the story about how a boy and his father are brought to the emergency room and the doctor says “I can’t operate on this boy; he’s my son” was a total brain teaser?

            And now we live in a world where “lady doctor,” which used to get approximately equal emphasis on both words (i.e., it was simply a two-word phrase) and mean “doctor who is a woman,” instead gets heavier emphasis on “lady” (i.e., it is a phrasal compound) and means “gynecologist whose own gender is not specified.”

            1. NJ Anon*

              Reminds me of college sports teams who refer to female athletes the “lady” teapots. So glad my alma mater ditched that eons ago. Just rubs me the wrong way.

              1. Kelly L.*

                My high school women’s teams were the Lady Warriors (with caricatured Native Americans, for bonus racism with your sexism!). I guess I should be glad they weren’t the Warriorettes.

                1. Doriana Gray*

                  Did we go to the same high school?! Because that was the name of the women’s teams at my school, too (complete with the mascots).

                2. Murphy*

                  At my grad school university the men’s teams are the Golden Bears and the women’s the Pandas. Always pissed me off (but at least the logo for the Pandas isn’t a cute cuddly panda, it’s a fierce one, so that’s something).

                3. Chinook*

                  “I guess I should be glad they weren’t the Warriorettes.”

                  Atleast they didn’t call you “Squaws,” which some in the white culture think actually means “female Native American” but more correctly refers to a particular body part in the language of the tribe doing the translating to English at the time.

                4. Episkey*

                  Mine was the Lady Rams. It always set my teeth on edge…there is *no such thing* as a Lady Ram. I guess the “Ewes” didn’t sound fierce enough.

                5. HumbleOnion*

                  My high school team was the Mustangs. Which is a male horse. The girls teams? The Lady Mustangs. It’s sad and hilarious at the same time.

                6. Turanga Leela*

                  I’ve always seen the “-ettes” as the cheerleaders. So the boys’ team is the Trojans, the girls’ team is the Lady Trojans, and the cheerleaders are the Trojanettes.
                  I really did appreciate that my high school ditched the “Lady” prefix for the girls’ teams.

                7. Rusty Shackelford*

                  @HumbleOnion A Mustang is a breed/type of horse, not a gender. There are both male and female Mustangs.

                8. Elizabeth West*

                  The women’s basketball team here that has a big following is called the Lady Bears. But I live in Backwardville in the heart of the Women Should Be in the Kitchen Belt.

                  Even worse–long long ago, in the 1970s, my high school had a bunch of female students who apparently had campaigned to start their own football team–I don’t remember much about it because I was pretty young and it was the high school kids. But the school called the activity–are you ready for this–POWDER PUFF FOOTBALL.

                  It’s in the yearbook that way!


              2. Rusty Shackelford*

                Reminds me of college sports teams who refer to female athletes the “lady” teapots. So glad my alma mater ditched that eons ago. Just rubs me the wrong way.

                That’s why I love my alma mater’s mascot(s). Cowboys, Cowgirls. It works. ;-) I can’t think of any others that would work that way, but I’m sure someone will correct me.

              3. Chinook*

                “Reminds me of college sports teams who refer to female athletes the “lady” teapots.”

                My alma mater tried to be fluffy about their female sports. The men’s teams are Golden Bears and the women’s teams are the Pandas. Then again, I was part of a group of women that played intramurals out of a men’s dorm and called ourselves “Babes” and enjoyed watching the discomfort of our more liberal classmates as they had to call us that at the annual awards ceremony (we always won for participation), so maybe I am not the best judge of what should fly?

              4. Kelly L.*

                I remember a novel where the female Rams were the Ewe Lambs. It got roundly mocked throughout the story.

              5. Lucky*

                How’d you like to play for the University of Washington and be called a Husky Lady?*

                (Usually it’s “Lady Husky” but sometimes this.)

              6. Ada Lovelace*

                Ahh lady mascots are the worse. My high school mascot was the bulldog. All female teams were lady bulldogs. We are heckled constantly because the b**** and its Spanish equivalent were used as synonyms. It really helped when parents are calling it out too.
                When time came to name our new female JROTC drill team, we refused to be lady bulldogs. We went for Daughters of Liberty, which as a NYC team post 9-11 got us a lot of praise and condolences.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              And now we live in a world where “lady doctor,” which used to get approximately equal emphasis on both words (i.e., it was simply a two-word phrase) and mean “doctor who is a woman,” instead gets heavier emphasis on “lady” (i.e., it is a phrasal compound) and means “gynecologist whose own gender is not specified.”

              I had a female gynecologist whose license plate was LADY DR or LADY DOC or something along those lines. I thought it was pretty clever.

            3. Turanga Leela*

              I was just thinking recently about how that “brain teaser” doesn’t work anymore.

            4. Artemesia*

              Time for my timeless anecdote from that plane trip in my youth. The old guy next to me on the plane noting my briefcase and suit asked ‘are you one of those career girls.’ I said, ‘Yes, yes I am. Are you a career boy?’ You should have seen the look on his face.

      2. Girasol*

        I was wondering the same, if the speaker was using sexist language, not in a willful and demeaning way but in a well meaning but ignorant way. Even as a woman and rather a feminist I’ve soaked up a certain amount of sexism from the culture. I discover it in my thoughts and wonder, “How did that get there?” It’s got to be tougher for guys. It’s probably not fair to assume the fellow had evil intent.

      3. TootsNYC*

        one of the most feminist women’s magazines around has “actress” as preferred in its style guide.

    4. jhhj*

      I don’t think for a second this guy was being accidentally sexist, I am convinced it was just plausible deniability (UNLESS this guy’s first language isn’t English). Of course you have to treat it like it was not deliberately sexist when you ask him to stop (the first time), but he’s now used up all the benefit of the doubt.

    5. Koko*

      Honestly because it’s not even a real word, there’s a good chance I’d think this was a person who can’t spell the plural word “managers” and is throwing extra e’s and s’s in there. I’m not sure I would even realize they were using a feminine suffix.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Except he’s not using it as a plural. At least not according to the example given.

        1. Koko*

          But in my experience mismatched verb tense/subject-verb agreement/etc are more common than the word “manageress.” I’ve never seen that word before but I get emails from questionably literate people with some regularity. “I’ve copied my manageress here,” with only one person copied makes me think you can’t spell AND you forgot at least one of your managers.

      2. Anna*

        Except it is a “real” word and was used in the UK until not too long ago. “Not a real word” isn’t a great argument because if it’s used one time that can be referenced, it is real, just not common usage.

        1. Koko*

          Ah, I wasn’t aware that it was a real word in the UK. I’ve never heard it used in all my 30-some-odd years here!

    6. Elizabeth West*


      It’s possible he thinks that’s the correct term. I have run into people who are so amazingly archaic that I end up feeling like I’ve stepped into a period drama.

  3. MillersSpring*

    LW1, I have had this problem. This is what worked for me (YMMV): Start to decline meetings for which you are not expected to be an integral participant. Ask the organizers to let you know if you have any action items or ask if you can meet with them briefly (10 minutes) at another time to discuss the project. Book three- and four- hour blocks on your calendar when you focus on just work. Your new answer for non-mandatory invites: “Sorry, I have several projects to tackle.”

    1. Artemesia*

      This. ‘I can’t take this meeting because I have a deadline; how can I get a quick summary of action items. ‘

    2. V*

      Blocking off hours on my calendar and assigning them to specific projects has definitely helped me; ymmv depending on how meetings are scheduled in your office.

      1. K.*

        Me too, as well as putting the instant-messaging system on “do not disturb” for that time. At my old job, meetings were out of control (and often useless), and I never would have gotten anything done if I hadn’t taken some time back. I’d also tell my boss, “I really need to focus on the teapot report, so I blocked off time from 1-4 to do that” or whatever.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Yes, I have friends that even block off times with made-up stuff. People still schedule over it sometimes, but I don’t know anyone that is 100% required to be at 100% of their meetings, otherwise they’d all be working 14-16 hour days, and that’s not sustainable.

      3. chocoholic*

        Many meeting-heavy organizations I have worked in have tried to stay away from Fridays and sometimes Mondays for scheduling meetings. Its not perfect, but it does help to have 1 or 2 days that people try not to schedule too much.

    3. Rat Racer*

      Totally agree with MillersSpring – but wondering if your manager has asked you to attend a bunch of meetings early in your tenure (where your presence would normally be optional) because she wants you to start building relationships with other teams, and become acquainted with issues and projects tangentially related to your main line of work. If that’s the case, this may be temporary.

      Does the friend who told you to work 3-4 hours at home at night work for your company? Is that her actual experience or her hypothesis/recommendation on how to navigate your job?

      I do think it’s normal in a new job to have a lot of front-loaded meetings, although 8 hours back to back is extreme. I personally would start to glaze over after hour number 3.

      1. OP*

        Hi — and thanks everyone for your great comments! I appreciate the suggestions here.

        My friend with the advice was actually a former employee, though not of the team I am on, and it’s valid to suggest that she might have a completely different perspective.

        I do glaze over after meeting #3 as well!

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Oof, the fact that the friend worked for that company puts her advice in a different light. I hope she still isn’t right and that she simply didn’t realize she could question meeting attendance, and not that the company culture truly contains an expectation that one will “collaborate” 9-5 and then do work after hours.

          I’d still talk to my boss about it if I were in your shoes, in hopes that your friend is wrong.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Yes, because, as someone close to me once pointed out, if you’re working 12+ hours a day, you’re probably not getting paid enough once you factor in your hourly rate on that number of hours. Most people’s salaries are calculated off a 40 hour average.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I would definitely check with your manager then–it’s possible as Rat Racer suggested that she wanted you to get acquainted with the teams and processes. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t want you working off the clock.

          I can’t imagine that many meetings–gah I get tired after an hour.

    4. Meg*

      Yes-this will depend on your workplace, but at my workplace it is often efficient to put things on your calendar. People will often check your calendar for availability before sending meeting invitations. If you have a blank space on the calendar it means you are available for meetings. If your workplace works like mine, try setting aside blocks of time for work and you will get less (not no) meeting requests during your scheduled work time.

      1. the gold digger*

        People will often check your calendar for availability before sending meeting invitations.

        The people who don’t do this – I just don’t get it. Or the people who email me to ask when I can meet. My terse answer is always, “My. Calendar. Is. Current.”

        1. Doriana Gray*

          This just happened to me this morning. A meeting with a vendor was set for a time right before I have another nearly two hour meeting scheduled for, and I’m like, can you please excuse me from this? My calendar was blocked off during this entire time for a reason. Ugh!

        2. J.B.*

          Well, it depends on the person. I love those who keep their calendars up to date! Unfortunately there are many who have a completely blank calendar and then after accepting a meeting request need to go back and ask to change the time. Le sigh.

          1. Rat Racer*

            Or, people who mark their entire calendars as busy so that no one will book into them without checking/negotiating first. Although, just like setting IM permanently to “Do not disturb” I totally feel that temptation…

        3. AdAgencyChick*

          OMG PREACH.

          “But this is the only time I can get everyone together.” No you can’t, not if you’re counting me in “everyone”!

        4. Koko*

          I went through this just last week.

          “When are you available?”
          sigh to myself. check my own calendar.
          “I’m clear all afternoon on Monday.”
          “Great, I’m about to send a meeting request for 2pm if that’s OK?”
          sigh to myself a bit louder. wonder if this person understands how outlook calendars work at all.
          “Sure, go ahead.”

        5. Jinx*

          Urgh, I had this happen this morning. My calendar was clear for 10 AM when I arrived. Coworker A schedules a meeting for 10 – 10:30, okay. Then at *10:02* Coworker B schedules a meeting for 10 – 10:30!! Then he pings me to ask why I’m not there!! Garzlefragr. >_<

        6. Tia*

          I do this with my manager because I have one or two meetings a month and she has one or two meetings a day. If she has 3 hours free on Tuesday, she may well be hoping to complete urgent paperwork in that slot and would much rather see me Friday morning. I see letting her set the meeting time as a courtesy that recognises both her higher status (meetings should be convenient for her if possible) and our different working patterns. I checked with her after I’d asked her to set a meeting a couple of times and she said she preferred it that way.

        7. Turtle Candle*

          On the flip side, I used to work with a woman who had the unenviable task of trying to schedule meetings between engineers at our company, who never, ever, ever kept their calendars up to date (because generally they actually did have very few meetings, so it never felt like a priority to them). I admit that even though I do keep mine up to date, I could hardly fault the poor woman for double-checking before going through the trouble of finding a meeting time/room only to be told by three separate people, “oh actually I have a thing then.”

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            There’s a special place in hell for people who don’t keep their electronic calendars up to date!

        8. Bowserkitty*

          I swear nobody here at NewJob knows how to use Scheduling Assistant in Outlook. (=_=) And one of my biggest peeves is a secretary who will just show up for random meetings with me and then get mad when I look surprised.

        9. V*

          My favorite is when management sends a meeting invite at the last minute, and then I have or reschedule my existing meetings.

        10. newreader*

          Or the people who get offended when you decline a meeting request if they propose a meeting during the only available half-hour during a 12 hour day. I once had a coworker whine when I declined because “your calendar showed you were available.” Since I had meetings scheduled on the calendar for 11.5 hours and this half hour was during the traditional lunch time, silly me I thought it might be nice to actually take a short break that day. Our culture was such that meeting generally weren’t scheduled during lunch time, this coworker just liked to be difficult.

    5. AdAgencyChick*

      I do this a lot, too. (Overscheduling = story of my life!) However, since OP1 is new to this company, I’d definitely speak to the boss first before declining meetings on my own, just to make sure boss and I are on the same page about which meetings are essential and which can safely be declined. The boss may have insight on certain meetings that sound important but really aren’t, and vice versa.

      Depending on OP1’s comfort level with her boss, she can approach this conversation as either “I just wanted to let you know I’m having trouble both attending all the meetings I’m asked to and getting my work done, so I’m going to start declining X, Y, and Z meetings. Does that sound okay?” or a more deferential “I’m finding that I’m scheduled for six or more hours of meetings a day, which makes it hard to get A, B, and C done. Is it okay to start declining some meetings?”

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Ah, yes. If Op is relatively new, it may take a while to figure out which meetings are most important and when. Some maybe they can skip every other, once they’re on top of all the projects and have understanding which meetings have more relevance to her role and which are somewhat waste of time.

        I just remembered one of my favorite some-ecards: “We will continue having meetings until we find out why no work is getting done”

        1. JaneB*

          It’s a version of the old saw “beatings will continue until morale improves”

          “Meetings will continue until morale improves” actually sounds at least as bad…

    6. Jillociraptor*

      This is smart, and I’d also add making sure that you’re communicating regularly and clearly about the stuff you’re working on that other people need to know about. If your workplace values collaboration and openness, there are many other ways to model that than just showing up at meetings.

  4. babblemouth*

    For #1: That’s a classic problem. Try blocking out 2 hours daily in your calendar for “desk work” – it’s a meeting with yourself essentially. You can also call it “meeting prep” to display the fact that you are a team player. When someone then tries to book you in a meeting at that time, you can legitimately say you’re already booked.
    And do talk it through with your manager. Meeting overload is a well-known problem in many companies, and there are ways to solve it while keeping the whole collaboration process working fine – for instance, asking if a meeting is FYI-only, or how many items on the agenda require your participation.
    At Ex-Job, after the situation got very bad and everyone was overworked, a rule was set in place that anyone could skip a meeting that didn’t provide a detailed agenda ahead of time. That really changed things.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      Meeting culture at my current company is over the top, even sometimes for the individual contributors. I was so happy when in my former division our weekly meetings were cancelled because most of the stuff talked about in them didn’t have anything to do with me, and that was an hour of so of my life I could get back to take care of things that were time-sensitive and actually important.

    2. RVA Cat*

      Could some of these meetings be a conference call instead? While nobody likes those either, at least you could take them at your desk while doing your actual work. If there are already remote colleagues dialing in it would make even more sense.

    3. Koko*

      I book it in my calendar as “tentative” so that if someone is really trying to get a big group of people together and scheduling is hard, they’ll usually email me asking if I can skip/move whatever the tentative item on my calendar is. Then I can say sure and drag the block to a different free spot in the day. (If there’s nowhere else left to drag it too I usually say I can’t move or skip it.)

    4. Argh!*

      Yes, if you use Microsoft Outlook, people will look for meeting times that don’t conflict with anybody’s schedule. It could work.

  5. Violet Fox*

    For LW 5, I would leave that off Linkdin because it’s sharing information that other people might want private. That being said, I don’t put a lot of stock in Linkdin recommendations anyways, especially not after someone who used to work where I do recommended/endorsed (I tend to forget the exact language) me for a bunch of skills that I don’t really have, and would have had no way of seeing if I had any of these skills or not because of the way our jobs intersected. It was…. weird.

    1. Kyrielle*

      For skills it was ‘endorsed’ – recommendations are a whole different thing, where they have to write in their own words what you did well. As Alison noted, they’ll be taken with heavy grains of salt; not only do you and everyone else see them, but in fact you choose whether or not to display them, so they’ll never be anything but the positives.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        This really bums me out. I always knew the endorsements don’t carry much weight, but for recommendations, the person really has to take the time out of their busy life to write something nice about you. Like when you ask a former teacher, pastor or boss to write a letter of recommendation.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Those don’t carry much weight either :)

          In general, I’d skip the letters of recommendation in any form, unless you’re in academia or another industry that requires them.

    2. Zahra*

      Actually, the few times I asked someone if they would like to write a recommendation on my profile, they asked me to give them the text. :(

  6. hbc*

    OP2: I’d be so tempted to start calling him my “employino” or something, but unfortunately, English doesn’t really have masculine suffixes so the message is obscured. Maybe “employeeman”? (Or maybe his actual title allows something better. Mangineer? Manalyst?) Like previous discussions about “dear” and “girls”, sometimes people don’t get it until you reflect it right back at them.

    Anyway, of course the best thing to do is go with “Can you just use ‘manager’ to refer to me? Thanks.” Then you can have fun with the reminders, provided he’s making an honest attempt to cut it out.

    1. hermit crab*

      OK, I’m cracking up a little at “manalyst.” I may have to find a way to work that word into my life.

        1. HappyHedgie*

          Ugh! I hate that term. Had to stop going to my local Yoga studio when they renamed the class I went to as Broga. I am not a bro. I am a woman and had been doing quite well in the class for the last 10 weeks but, all of a sudden its only for bros. No thanks!

    2. AnotherFed*

      Vassal? Bondsman? Jeeves? Squire?

      I also keep flashing to the M’lady dude, so I probably would have cracked up the first time and told him to go LARP outside of work but not here.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      Or just tack “male” onto his job title. Male engineer, male analyst, etc. Since apparently it’s important information. ;-)

      1. Simonthegrey*

        This is my favorite. It rhymes, and it has that same condescending feeling that manageress does to me.

  7. AnotherFed*

    #4 – Make sure Jill knows you have her back, even if she doesn’t feel comfortable saying no to the director. It is probably a bit late for Jill to separate professional and private life on her social media (unless the director is just randomly asking anyone to do this without even being connected on any social media sites), but I would still offer to refer her to some tips on keeping those separate.

    And finally, if Jill is too intimidated, or the director is doing this to other people, too, you need to speak up. Keep it friendly, and use Alison’s script, but don’t let this keep happening – part of your job as a manager is to keep as much crazy as you can away from your direct reports so that they can get work done.

  8. Cupcake Girl*

    OP2: the only time I’ve heard the word manageress was from former colleagues that are British. I once worked with a team that was mostly from the UK (5 Brits, 1 Scot and 3 Canadians) and they were the only ones to use that term.

    Perhaps this word usage is due to cultural differences? Either way, I would ask the person to stop using it, but it’s not necessarily coming from a place of making you seem “less than”.

    1. Tia*

      But even in the UK it hasn’t been used for 30/40 years and certainly my impression is that for some time before that it applied to blue collar/retail. The TV programme in ’89 was making a play on ‘football manager’ which is the title of the job and it looks like the sexism against the woman in question was a big part of the plot.

      1. Min*

        My first boss when I moved to the UK (10 years ago) would introduce herself to clients as the proprietress. It was so irritatingly Victorian.

        1. Simonthegrey*

          For my small business, my partner and I often call ourselves proprietresses…we make and sell victorian-theme jewelry, though, so it makes sense with our characters and costumes.

  9. KT*

    I don’t think the person in #2 is trying to be funny; perhaps he thinks he’s being cognizant of gender? (for instance, a male coworker was once corrected because he would refer to a group as “you guys”…afterwards he over-corrected by always saying “ladies and gentleman” which was worse).

    I think just saying “Manager is the preferred term” would suffice.

    1. Erin*

      Yeah, I think it’s entirely possible he’s actually trying to be politically correct by acknowledging the gender.

      Personally I couldn’t imagine getting worked up or annoyed over “you guys” or “manageress”. I’d probably laugh about it with husband/friends later. “You guys, I’m a manageress!!” Also, it appears to be an actual, real word.

      But obviously it bugs the OP. Just something quick and simple to shut that down like you suggested KT should do it. Not a big deal. :)

      1. Artemesia*

        Not a chance he thinks this is ‘politically correct’. Not in the US. It is clearly pejorative in this culture.

        1. Erin*

          Well, who knows? We don’t have enough context to know his intentions for sure – no other info was given other than OP is otherwise happy with his performance. I don’t think we need to assume the worst. Or, for argument’s sake if we were assuming the worst, OP still shouldn’t approach it that way.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yeah, I think it’s entirely possible he’s actually trying to be politically correct by acknowledging the gender

        Actually, that’s kind of the opposite of how it works. It’s considered more politically correct (ugh, I hate that term) to NOT highlight the gender. Because the more enlightened view is that if you’re the manager, it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, so there’s absolutely no need to point it out, unless you’re asking where the bathroom is.

        1. Zahra*

          I really think it depends on your culture. In France, they tend to side on the “use the masculine form as much as you can” side, whereas in Quebec, we’re on the “use the gender appropriate (or neutral) form as much as you can”.

          As a Quebecker, my thought on it is, if you only use the masculine form, the masculine becomes the neutral/unisex/default form. Using the feminine form makes it mainstream and a normal way of addressing people. A little bit like Alison does when she refers to managers of unknown gender as “she”. It resets your mental image of a manager to someone of either sex.

          In French, manager (gestionnaire) is neutral, so it wouldn’t come up. But we did have a lot of conversations about “president” (président/présidente), “prime minister” (premier/première ministre) and assorted political terms when comparing French and Quebecker naming conventions.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Using the feminine form makes it mainstream and a normal way of addressing people. A little bit like Alison does when she refers to managers of unknown gender as “she”. It resets your mental image of a manager to someone of either sex.

            I’d accept that as a possibility if he refers to every manager as a manageress. But we have no reason to think that’s what he’s doing.

    2. Sarahnova*

      I’ve always thought as “you guys” as being gender-neutral anyway (although I’m not in the US, so the only time I’d tend to use “guy” at all is in this context. Other than on November 5th).

        1. Ang*

          Same in my region. Though, being from the South, we usually just say “ya’ll” or “all ya’ll”. It works.

          1. Artemesia*

            You’all is the perfect plural equivalent of you guys.

            You is still the singular even in the south.

      1. Erin*

        You guys is not specifically gender neutral but some people use it that way. The singular form is not gender neutral. “Can I get a guy over here to pick this up?” Using the word will offend some people. Great alternatives: person, people, team, all, y’all, everyone, etc.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Yeah, “you guys” is one of those where it really depends (IME) both on your region and your generation; some people see it as self-evidently gender-neutral and are confused that it’s even a question, and other people see it as self-evidently a case of ‘using the male as the default’ and thus meriting pushback. (And further complicated that even in places where the vocative use of it–‘hey guys,’ ‘you guys,’ etc.–is treated as gender neutral, other uses are not. In my area you might very well say ‘hey guys’ to a group even entirely of women, but you would not refer to them as ‘the guys’ or ‘those guys’ or ‘a group of guys.’)

          Even though I do instinctively read it as gender-neutral, these days I only use it with people I know are cool with it, for that very reason. (I, er, address my group at work with ‘hey party people!’ but I realize that is also not exactly universally-usable….)

          1. Erin*

            But at the end of the day, it’s not gender neutral. Just because people use a word wrong doesn’t mean it’s ok. By choosing to use guys/guy you will offend people (not you in particular, Turtle Candle since you use it sparingly, but everyone who reads this and thinks it doesn’t matter). It’s especially fraught if you aren’t cis gendered and have even more emotional energy tied into gendered words.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              The term has been in use for over 40 years. People use it without thinking . People will think you are fragile PC if you push back on it. There are so many larger issues to push back on.

            2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              Yeah, I will stand by “guys” being gender neutral until my dying breath. We’ve had this conversation here before and some of us from some areas of the country will never recognize this as an issue.

              “Guys” was gender neutral way back in say, 1966, when I had to wear dresses to school because boys could wear pants but girls had to wear dresses. Guys does not equal boys/men in our region and it never has, you guys.

            3. fposte*

              But you’re arguing for prescriptivism, a challenging position in its own right, without citing an authority, so who are you saying is deciding what’s “right”? If you’re going to argue from etymology, that’s a ton of English that’s departed from its source you’d have to let go.

              And I would stay far away from “You people,” which has had a very bad connotation over the political years.

            4. Turtle Candle*

              Yeah, see, this is exactly what I meant! Every time it comes up, there’s like thirty people going “where I live it is unquestionably gender neutral and has been my entire life” and another thirty people going “no it unquestionably is not” and I have never seen anyone on either side be convinced. People in both positions think that they are not only firmly but self-evidently right and it never goes anywhere but on for a hundred intractable comments of “but you’re wrong,” “no, you’re wrong.”

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’m a sample size of one who has been convinced! I’ve always lived in regions where “you guys” was gender neutral and have used it that way. But I think that it only feels gender neutral to those of us in those regions, in the same way that “congressmen” used to feel gender neutral (which was because it hadn’t been sufficiently challenged). I’m convinced because I would say “you guys” to a group of women or “those guys” about a group of women, but not “that guy” about one woman … which makes me think the “you guys” usage is just so ingrained that we’re not seeing it clearly. (Because I can’t think of any other word that’s gender-neutral in the plural but not in the singular.)

                I still use it sometimes in casual conversation because I’m so used to it, but I don’t use it in writing anymore, thanks to y’all. (I use “y’all” instead.)

                1. CEMgr*

                  You are right Alison…..the fact that the singular is clearly masculine is a giveaway. I’ve switched to “folks”. “Will you folks be done soon?” etc.

              2. Engineer Girl*

                My argument is that there are bigger issues to look at, such as the default assumption that a women is incompetent until proven otherwise Vs a man is competent until proven otherwise.
                When you start correcting people over these micro things you have the potential to lose allies on the big stuff. Sure, discuss it if it becomes available but don’t get all nit-picky.

                1. Writelhd*

                  I agree to a point, but “guys” does the same thing as using “he” when you don’t know gender, reinforces a default person as male unless otherwise differentiated, which I don’t think is a small problem. “Guys” does it more subtly than “he,” though, at least.

        2. Ad Astra*

          Yeah, “You guys” is not really gender neutral, but people use it that way because we tend to see male terms as default, unisex terms, while female terms have a certain…. otherness. No one ever says “Hey, gals” when addressing a mixed group. The same way we’ll use “men’s” or “unisex” interchangeably to describe a T-shirt, but we almost never ask a man to choose from a selection of women’s T-shirts.

          Most days, this well-meaning speech is perfectly fine. Occasionally, it really annoys me.

          1. fposte*

            Though I’d hope people wouldn’t use “gals” at all, any more than they’d use “girls.”

      2. jhhj*

        Interestingly, though people say they see “you guys” as gender neutral, studies show that actually we think of it as a male term that can be used for all-female groups in a few very specific instances. Essentially, only when actually talking to the group — while at your Women Who Make Teapots group you can say “You guys, what do we want for lunch?” but you can’t, while talking about the group later, say “The guys at the Women Who Make Teapots group had a great idea for teapots made out of wool.” This has subtle effects on usage and interpretation.

        tl;dr guys is still gender marked overall.

        1. Heather*

          Where I live, the “you” is the difference. “Guys” alone means men, “the guys” means men, but “you guys” means “you people to whom I am speaking right now.” I have no idea why this is the case, but it is.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Interesting, and true in my area as well, although I never thought about it until now.

          2. Valeriane*

            I think fposte is right that it’s direct address that makes the difference, because I can also say, “Hey, guys,” without the “you” to a group of women.

    3. Jo*

      I think maybe you had the same read as me? I thought that rather than trying to be funny, this employee is recognizing that some people will assume his manager is a man, and he wants to nip it in the bud. He could be trying to say, “I’m copying in my manager, who is a woman, so please don’t make sexist assumptions and refer to my manager as ‘he/him’ in your reply all.”

      I’m not saying this is definitely what’s going on, but it’s one possible motive that is neither malicious nor an inappropriate attempt at humor, nor even the result of ingrained sexism on the employee’s part. He could be trying to work against the ingrained sexism of others.

      But the manager still gets to say, “cut it out.”

  10. Erin*

    #5 – That’s so great you want to help these folks out, but I have to jump on the anti- LinkedIn recommendations bandwagon. I think they’re kind of stupid, to put it bluntly, or silly at best. And I agree with the notion that if these people want others to know they were laid off or not that should be at their discretion.

    I would honestly just email them all separately and let them know you’re happy to help out during their transition. Offer to be a reference, write a letter of recommendation, or otherwise tell them to let you know if there’s anything else you can do.

    Bonus: Keep an eye out for job postings and networking events they might be interested in, and send them their way.

    Just basically convey how much you enjoyed working with them, offer assistance, and keep in touch.

    1. OP #5*

      Offer to be a reference, write a letter of recommendation, or otherwise tell them to let you know if there’s anything else you can do.

      I’m doing that too for some of them! One thing I like about LinkedIn is that I was able to email most of them through LI on the night after the layoff to say “it was great to work with you, we will miss you”. Before LI I wouldn’t have been able to do that since I didn’t have most of their personal email addresses (no reason to) and I don’t connect to coworkers on Facebook.

      1. Erin*

        That makes sense about not having their email addresses and having LinkedIn be the go to in that situation.

        Also, I see Alison noted above that letters of recommendation are typically only used in academia, so maybe stick to being a reference depending on your field. :)

        1. OP #5*

          Erin, I meant I’m offering to be a reference and otherwise offering to be of use (and sending along job postings, etc). I actually totally missed the phrase about a letter of recommendation part even though it’s right there in what I quoted–I blame being distracted by these upheavals at work! :-)

  11. the_scientist*

    For LW #1, I work in a meeting-heavy culture and it’s common and expected here for managers to decline non-essential invitations. Sometimes they will mark themselves as “tentative” so Outlook will keep the meeting in their calendar and they don’t forget it’s happening, but if they don’t need to attend and/or can send a delegate, they don’t go. Unless your new place of employment is exceedingly unreasonable, I can’t see anyone having a problem with you delegating someone to attend in your place or declining non-essential meetings. Also keep in mind as others have mentioned, that you may be asked to attend a lot of meetings now, when you’ve just started, because they are a helpful way to meet people across the organization- the meeting craziness might calm down once you’ve gotten settled (or it might pick up; it’s pretty common for my manager to be triple-booked!).

    I think it’s also reasonable to push back politely about the content of meetings- asking to see the agenda, asking (politely) why your presence is needed/what the purpose of the meeting is (i.e. do they want to pick your brain, or do you need to be there for decision-making purposes). Meeting just for the sake of meeting is a waste of everyone’s time.

  12. Bwmn*

    LW3 – in addition to AAM’s brilliant “bound by feelings of awkwardness” – I also think it’s a good indicator just to realize that you and your mentor are applying for the same positions and all of the potential caginess that may bring up.

    I have a friend who got into the same field that I did, and while I wouldn’t consider myself her mentor – I do acknowledge that I’ve given her job leads and she’s come to me for assorted professional advice (separate from how we are as friends). At the moment, we’ve pursued jobs in different parts of the country and thematic areas – but I could see a point where we could potentially be applying for the same job and what kinds of feelings those might bring up for me. Feelings that while I have been in the field somewhat longer and bring amazing XYZ, also worry that because she’s focused more on ABC for certain jobs she could be more qualified than me.

    I like to believe in this situation, I would gracefully acknowledge why she’d be the better candidate – but I acknowledge the possibility some pettiness might be there. And that I’d be embarrassed by that.

    1. OP#3*

      That is a good point. I had not considered that he might be applying at all, let alone that we might be interested in the same jobs (which in this case, would be a lateral move for him).

  13. Temperance*

    Re #5: My husband did hiring as part of his last job, and I will never, ever forget going through resumes with him and seeing the 10-pager that was 2 pages of actual resume and then 8 pages of Linked In recommendations from jobs he had dating back to 1996.

    He was not interviewed. Linked In recs are generally garbage.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Someone…put his LI recs on his resume?

      Urgh. I consider them valuable – the ones I have get me a certain amount of recruiter attention and make me interesting *to people trawling LinkedIn* – but they do not go on my resume. They do not go anywhere on my resume. They have no value or place there. (My LinkedIn address *does*, in case anyone wants to look, but that takes a single line in the header and no one is obligated to look at any particular part.)

    2. Katie the Fed*

      My husband and I bond over ridiculous resumes way more than we should. He’ll call and tell me he has a batch of them and I’m as excited as Christmas morning!

      1. OwnedByTheCat*

        Hah, me too. My fiance recently said “you hiring has taught me more than anything about what to do – and NOT to do – when I’m interviewing. You just can’t make up the shit people send in!

  14. Kyrielle*

    OP#5 – I disagree marginally with Alison here, in that I’ve found recommendations to be quite useful. Yes, they don’t have the same weight as a candid reference (that you’re not privy to) that says the same things, but my personal impression is that they can be good at getting the attention of recruiters or making hiring managers take a second look at you at the resume stage, before they’ve talked to you.

    That said, I agree with her about not mentioning the layoffs. Just leading in with a generic X is a very talented Y, or something about how they’d be an asset to any company, or the like, is going to work just as well or maybe better.

    1. OP #5*

      Thanks, Kyrielle! That’s what I plan to do now–in addition to having already emailed them to say “we’ll miss you” and offering to be a reference for the ones for whom that would be relevant.

      1. Kyrielle*

        (Also? They’re an incredible confidence boost to receive, at least for some of us, and I suspect anyone who’s been laid off could use the boost.)

    2. TootsNYC*

      I know that I would pay attention to a LinkedIn recommendation; not huge, but it could be the difference between calling someone or not calling them.

      1. OP #5*

        TootsNYC, that’s good to know! I know I like seeing them when I’m thinking about hiring, but part of the point of writing in to Alison is to find out what other people think. (Not seeing recommendations on a profile doesn’t worry me–I think I only have one myself, and that one is from coming up on a decade ago–but it is nice to see that someone thought the person was worth taking the time to say a few words about.)

  15. cataloger*

    #2 – I recently read some old meeting minutes which referred to somebody as a “janitress”.

  16. Adding esses*

    #2 Since adding “ess” is what offends, do exactly the same to him… employess… accountess… jerkess… because, of course, you *know* he knows better than to genderize a job title in today’s workplace, so you are joining him in his quaint game of adding “ess” to everthingess.

    1. LQ*

      This reeks of calling a man who isn’t holding to traditional manly man standards feminine things (bitch, p*ssy, girl etc). To me it says, “yes, you are right, the feminine is wrong and bad, watch me show you how wrong and bad the feminine is.” Just tell him to knock it off. It isn’t the “ess” that “offends” it is the assumption that the feminine is lesser than the masculine and must be called out.

  17. Katie the Fed*

    For some reason, “manageress” annoys me far more than being called “bosslady,” which I have been and I don’t mind terribly (maybe because the person using it was just generally funny and goofy and also always treated me with a great deal of respect). But he also never referred to me as it in the third person, more like “hey bosslady, do you mind if I come in late tomorrow?”

    “Manageress” is super weird though.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I’ll point out that he also called male bosses “bossman.” He was just a goofball.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        I work with someone who does that now! And it only works coming from him….it would be weird from anyone else.

    2. Sarahnova*

      Yeah, I could live with “bosslady”. I’m not sure why. Possibly because I feel the emphasis is squarely on the “boss” part, and possibly just because it’s not the unnecessary feminisation of a perfectly gender-neutral word.

    3. KTB*

      Bosslady and bossman remind me of stories I’ve read about Andre the Giant, who apparently called everyone “Boss,” or some variation. Andre the Giant is also probably the only person in history from whom those titles would be totally endearing.

    4. Writelhd*

      It’s interesting how “boss lady” feels fine and even playfully endearing, (albiet informal, so inappropriate for the context of “I’m copying my manager on this email”) but “lady boss” is quite undermining…the first word carries the emphasis, and emphasizing the gender is unnecessary and strange, but emphasizing the boss part in that informal manner caries some undertones of respect.

  18. fluffy*

    When I was running the streetcar (museum,) my title was “motorette.” I sorta treasured the historical resonance, because it was used in the 1940s, when the motormen were off at war, and women took over the system.

  19. PeachTea*

    #2, my biggest question is why is he not just using your name? Is he addressing emails “Dear Manageress?” I don’t think I’ve ever referred to my managers as anything but their name in any correspondence.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      He’s not addressing her as “manageress;” he’s referring to her in the third person, according to the example. I don’t think using her name is necessarily appropriate – if I were emailing someone outside my organization, I’d be more likely to say “I’ve copied my manager” than to say “I’ve copied Fergus.”

  20. kac*

    Re #1: I think the key is to talk about the situation as if you are looking for a solution, rather than just pointing out a problem. i.e. “I’m struggling with this and would love your help figuring out how I should navigate it” VS “This is a problem and you need to fix it.”

  21. Abby*

    #2: I’m a little disappointed that the employee didn’t at least try to use the much punnier “womanager.” I don’t know what it is, but for some reason adding the “-ess” at the end of nouns sounds creepy and oddly…biological?

  22. Catabodua*

    For the problem with too many meetings. I notice that you say you are new to the organization. I’m wondering if it’s a culture of too many meetings or if your boss is having you invited to too many things thinking he’s helping you get up to speed on all of the various projects that are running.

    1. Artemesia*

      I’d approach it this way. ‘I have appreciated getting up to speed about the culture and projects here by attending all these meetings, but I need to prioritize to get the work done too. I’d like to prioritize the X Y and Z meetings and attend the A B and C meetings only if I am specifically needed to report on something so I can get the Teapot design project and the Teapot storage strategy plan completed on schedule.’

  23. TootsNYC*

    for Jill, who’s being asked to endorse the director of her company, I’d suggest she say:

    “It probably wouldn’t be credible if I endorsed you anyway, because people might think I only did it because you were pressuring me. It might backfire. I’d rather just stay out of it.”

    1. ScarletInTheLibrary*

      Sadly I have had directors respond that people won’t figure it out or expect it. Basically the thought is that the employees can better speak about the candidates strengths, and it’s a red flag if a candidate doesn’t have an employee endorse them. Kinda like how a national politician is considered a failure if they don’t win or carry their home state.

  24. Argh!*

    Re: too many meetings. Can you delegate to someone you supervise, or ask someone for notes? After a little while you should be able to figure out which ones don’t really require your input. It’s always good to be in the loop, though, so sending a surrogate could work if that’s the true reason you’ve been invited.

  25. OP#3*

    Thank you Alison, this is a really useful perspective and I agree it was awkward but not malicious.

  26. Kapers*

    Picky point, but: it’s not at all clear to me that “manageress” guy means it as a joke, and I would never couch a request to be referred to by my correct title by acknowledging it’s humor or an attempt at it. (Especially in writing, if you do this in email.)

    And even if he means no disrespect, it’s disrespectful nonetheless. If it’s a joke, it’s a sexist one. If it’s a misguided attempt to be overly formal in an old-fashioned way, it’s still sexist. If he’s trying to get a rise out of you or if he gets a kick out of the idea of a female manager…still sexist. No need to assume the worst or rake him over the coals, of course, but I bristle as a woman when I’m told to soften things to the degree where I have to basically tell a man he’s being funny when he’s not.

    What’s wrong with a polite, to-the-point, no-biggie “please just call me ‘manager,’ I don’t like to be called ‘manageress’?”

    1. Phoebe*

      I agree with you. I think Alison’s response gives it too much attention. I think there’s a good possibility he’s trying to provoke a response, so give him as little as possible.

  27. OP- LW1*

    Thanks, everyone, for your great ideas! I would have responded sooner, but I had meetings all day…
    I love the suggestion of blocking off work time in Outlook! I think that is a great way for me to carve out a few hours a day to focus on work. It’s a new culture for me, and I want to do my best.

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