screening for candidates who will be comfortable with our “boys club” culture, bringing a backpack to an interview, and more

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

1. Can I screen for candidates who won’t be uncomfortable with our “boys club” culture

I’m looking to add a new head to my department of one, most likely a recent college graduate. Being the first hiring process I will be responsible for (have assisted on a few previous interview processes with standardized questions), I’m not quite sure how to come up with questions to ensure a good cultural fit. The executive team I (and my future hire) support is a bit of a “boys club” with a decent amount of cursing and the occasional inappropriate joke made in smaller group settings. I know that some people aren’t comfortable around this type of environment (and I know this culture won’t change in the near future) so I want to make sure the person would be able to fit into this group. It would seem awkward to me to ask, “how do you feel about cursing and the occasional crude joke?” Is this a legitimate question to ask in an interview, if not do you have any other recommendations surrounding this train of thought?

Well … there’s a bigger issue here. I have no problem with cursing, even at work, but depending on the specifics of what you mean, crude jokes and being a “boys club” are potentially a problem from a legal standpoint — in terms of sexual harassment, discrimination, and hostile workplace — as well as a problem from an inclusiveness standpoint, if you’re interested in having a diverse office. I don’t have enough information about exactly what you mean by those descriptions, so it’s possible that it’s no big deal, but it’s also possible that you’re asking the wrong question here and should instead be asking, “How do we professionalize our workplace and not run afoul of harassment and discrimination laws?” (Although I realize you may not be in a position to change those things.)

It’s also important to make sure that “screening for cultural fit” doesn’t end up meaning “screening for people from similar demographic backgrounds,” which it may, even if you don’t intend it to.

But for the sake of argument, if I’m misinterpreting what you mean and we’re really just talking about profanity and such, just explain your culture in interviews: “We tend to curse a lot here and X and Y aren’t uncommon occurrences, and I want to warn you up-front so you’re not blindsided by it if you come on board.” That may feel a little awkward, but it’s a lot less awkward than someone starting the job, then discovering the culture and hating it.

2. Bringing a backpack to an interview

What do you think of taking a backpack to a job interview? I’m working odd hours at the moment and interviewing around them, and I recently had an interview where I couldn’t get home between that and my shift. I had quite a bit of stuff I needed to bring to work and I obviously needed a change of clothes — so I brought a backpack. I thought it wasn’t ideal but it’s not a huge competitive job so hopefully it would be fine. It seemed to be, as I was moved through to the next stage of hiring and they said they were very impressed by me, but just wondering if I got lucky? I’m female if that matters.

Depends on the job. For most jobs, it’s not going to be an issue (assuming that we’re talking about a normal-sized backpack and not a huge camping one or something). But for jobs in particularly conservative environments or where a lot of polish is expected, it could feel out of sync. So like everything with interviews, you’d want to factor in the culture of the office.

3. My parents are pressuring me to make a career move that doesn’t make sense

I’m a double major in International Studies and German with a minor in French at a Canadian university. I will be on exchange in Russia in the fall, and then returning to Canada for a final semester. I am, however, from the U.S. and a U.S. citizen, and my father has been a federal employee all his adult life. He has asked me at least once a week since mid-June if I’ve taken the Foreign Service test yet (no, I haven’t, the answer hasn’t changed as t’s only offered twice a year, and I don’t intend to) and it wasn’t helped by the fact that last week I was interviewed as a character reference for a friend to determine if she should be given security clearance for a DOD job. During that interview, they asked a bit about me, and the background checker’s eyes lit up when I mentioned my majors and minor. My mother largely supports me doing what I want, but is quick to say that you can’t get much better in a benefits package than what you get from the federal government.

However, there are a number of problems with this: I do not want to work for the U.S. federal government; I don’t actually want to stay in the U.S. and am looking into permanent residency in Canada; I have lived only 10 months of the last 36 in the U.S.; I am planning on applying for a master’s degree in Library Science; I have so many foreign contacts that my chances of every being hired in a relevant field to my BA in the U.S. would be ridiculously slim; and I would have to tell an enormous amount of lies to even be considered after an interview.

However, none of these issues seem to deter my parents. I’m sure they would like to see me stay in the same country as them and want to see me be successful and financially secure, but to me these seem to be rather insurmountable issues and nothing I’ve said to explain this seems to get through.

I’ve long learned to not take their job search advice (it is the definition of bad and outdated, my mother having held the same job for 22 years, and my father the same job for 10), but this goes beyond that and is also very annoying. HELP!

If none of that has convinced them, there’s nothing else you can say that would convince them either — which can actually be a very liberating realization if it frees you from feeling you have to keep trying. Some parents would be receptive to “I appreciate your input but have different plans, so can we table this topic indefinitely so I don’t feel like I constantly have to justify myself?” … especially if it came with a side of “this is getting in the way of the sort of close relationship I want to have with you.” Others wouldn’t be thwarted by that at all. If your parents are in the latter group, then your best bet is probably to deploy a bunch of bland, non-committal responses — “thanks, I’ll think about it,” “I’ll take that under consideration,” “I’ll factor that in,” etc.

Just keep in mind that your measure of success here can’t be “I convince my parents and they see things the way I do,” because that doesn’t sound like a realistic outcome, and you’ve got to proceed accordingly.

4. Entire unedited — and unflattering — survey results were sent to all employees

I work for a small college that does an annual survey for faculty and staff. This year’s survey results were just released and emailed to all college employees in their full glory, including comments. There were some very negative and unprofessional comments. My entire department was bashed for poor communication and being inefficient. Two of my coworkers were specifically called out by name in comments that called them negative and unprofessional with students. I’m embarrassed for them and in disbelief that our administrative team would release this data to the entire college.

My question is: is this normal? I would understand releasing the overall findings to the group, but to specifically include people by name in negative comments? I know one of my coworkers is devastated that the entire college saw these hurtful and unprofessional comments. I’ve never gone to HR for an issue before, but am strongly considering it now.

No, it’s not normal. Typically, identifying information like that is removed, at least for negative comments. Someone here blew it. It’s probably being addressed, but if you’re not confident about that, it’s totally reasonable to contact whoever has authority over the department that released the survey (and/or HR, if you prefer) and express your dismay.

5. Getting paid to attend board meetings

I am relatively new to working at a nonprofit and with a board. I’m wondering this about board members — when they attend events at our nonprofit (meetings, etc.), does their regular employer pay them for that time? I am considering joining a local board but am not sure if my employer will give me time off to attend board meetings. Just wondering what the normal practice is.

Serving on a board is typically a volunteer activity. So it’s not an automatic thing that an employer would pay you to attend meetings for another organization’s board — unless serving on the board is considered useful professional networking for your job, which it sometimes is. (And of course, it also depends on how senior you are, how your organization handles time off in general, etc.)

That said, if it’s the type of board that’s composed of regular (non-rich, non-super-powerful) people, meetings are often held in evenings for exactly this reason. (For boards composed of rich, super-powerful people, it tends not to matter.)

{ 634 comments… read them below }

    1. Chriama*

      Yup. Profanity is one thing, but crude jokes and a self-described “boy’s club?” I think your department is an EEOC complaint waiting to happen. I also think that screening for cultural fit is likely to get you a bunch of people of the same race and gender, and at a certain point that becomes illegal whether or not you meant it to be. If a polished woman and a laid back man with similar qualifications both get interviewed and you pick the man because you think he’s less likely to be offended by your work environment, that’s disparate impact and is illegal. Remember that it doesn’t need to be *intentional* sexism to run afoul of the law!

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It would depend on the specific details of the situation. It could certainly be discrimination. But “disparate impact” in particular usually refers to a practice that, regardless of intention, ends up having a disproportionate impact on people from X demographic group.

        1. Chriama*

          Sorry I wasn’t more clear. By “at some point” I meant that if this happens often – a woman and a man competing for a position and you pick the man because he’s less likely to be offended – then it becomes disparate. You’re writing off all your female candidates because you think they might be upset by your culture, and after a certain point it’s the culture that needs to change.

      1. LJL*

        However, in one job I had I was told that it was a “boy’s club” when I was interviewing (I was the only woman on the team and it really was not a big deal. There was some cursing (it was in IT and there is always cursing in IT) but it was a supportive collegial environment. I think that they were just hypersensitive. So it may not be an indicator of a concerning environment.

        1. Chinook*

          “There was some cursing (it was in IT and there is always cursing in IT) but it was a supportive collegial environment”

          Where I work right now is also much of a “boys club” even though we have an equal number of men and women at all levels up to director (and, as these women work their way up the ranks, that will equalize as well. It is just hard to find women with 25+ years experience in our field who want to leave the field and move to head office). And it is the best place I have ever worked. The rough edges mean we are more of a red-neck, small town culture with less polish and more blue collar, work hard, play hard ethos and I really wish there was a gender neutral way to express this because it really isn’t for everyone (in the same way that some commenters yesterday said they would hate to work in a place that requires “polish.”).

          Since we are also a multicultural office (think lots of 1st and 2nd generation Canadians from around the world), it has helped to explain to new employees how to interact with the field staff and to point out that they are being treated differently because they are new and inexperienced (which newbies are – most employees here are lifers) and need to prove themselves. It is not because they are female, speak English as a second language or that they aren’t white. If they lob the jokes back, are willing to get their hands dirty and can stand up for themselves verbally, then the will have proved their worth (which is truly the opposite of what some of them think a first year employee is expected to do) and be accepted.

          I have pointed out that I know it is nerve wracking the first time you stand up for yourself on something that is important to you or point out that a line is crossed, but they need to know that a)that is what it takes to be accepted by the group and b)the Company and other coworkers will have your back if there is uncomfortable retaliation (i.e. they put your safety at risk. Having someone decorate your office with bad 70’s rec room décor is considered perfectly acceptable). I had this conversation with an EIT last week and once I explained to her this cultural expectation, she smiled because it explained everything she had experienced and gave her a way to deal with it. I swear I could see the stress leave her shoulders as we talked.

          1. Roscoe*

            Yeah, I think the term “boys club” has a negative connotation to it, but doesn’t necessarily have to be negative. I don’t know what the gender neutral version of that would be, but it could be that OP is describing that. Hell, I might describe my office as a boys club atmosphere, but realistically we have equal men and women (possibly more women if I counted). But we are kind of vulgar and curse like crazy

            1. LW1*

              I would tend to agree with this, there are some departments whose management team is equally mixed (m/f) that interact in a similar manner as Roscoe described. It’s not only the men who make crude jokes, but it is a bit more departmentally broken out and the executive department does skew male.

              1. Roscoe*

                I agree that its the “traditional” way, but I think it has taken on a shorthand for something like “frat house” or “locker room” which are still somewhat gendered terms, however could equally apply to women’s behavior.

                1. Elizabeth*

                  If someone described their workplace as being like a “frat house” or a “locker room”, I’d run screaming just as hard as I would if they described it as a “boys club.”

              2. One of the Sarahs*

                I have to admit, I’m a bit weirded out that some commentators are taking “boys’ club” to mean swearing/crude jokes, and then saying “but everyone does it”, including the women, so obviously this isn’t something only male humans do.

                I’m also interested in the cultural differences, because to me in the UK, Boys’ Club has connotations of Old Boys’ Club, networking based on privilege etc, and I was wondering if USA people don’t have that connotation, so glad to see this comment, as it answers that Q for me!

                1. Turtle Candle*

                  I don’t know about others, but I’m from the USA, and yeah, “boys’ club” definitely has a connotation of “power rests with the men” to me. If it was just about, like, swearing and fart jokes, I’d expect a term more like “locker room” or something.

                2. Chinook*

                  I really wish I knew how to classify the atmosphere of an office that does things like try to convince each other that the new, fancy coffee machine is voice operated (and then warns everyone not to fall for that lie.) We joke and are relaxed but do realize there is a line and there is rarely an flack if you point out that someone crossed it (which can happen due to the various cultural backgrounds). We don’t insult each other’s intelligence and we like sharing our own lives and cultures but nobody is forced to do anything (and others will speak up on their behalf).

                3. Hrovitnir*

                  Yes, this is entirely and 100% how I read it and I would never think to use that phrase to describe “swear and make dirty jokes” (the latter of which covers a vast swathe of behaviours from innocuous to seriously toxic). I’ve never heard it used like that before and was a bit confused by the responses at first.

                  I’m from NZ so it might be a cultural difference?

      2. Temperance*

        I’m so much less offended by cursing than I am the phrase “boys club”. What that sounds like to me is that they discriminate against women (although they probably have a hot young receptionist or let women work as secretaries) for the higher-responsibility/visibility positions, so they can talk about their wangs or whatever.

        My office puts a lot of emphasis on cultural fit, but not in the “boys club” way, at all. We’re expected to work long hours, and if you have a weird personality or just don’t click with others … it’s going to be unpleasant for all. The only person I can think of that REALLY did not fit in (and was pretty much the first guy out the door when layoffs happened) was a white dude who was just really odd and a close-talker.

        1. LW1*

          Clarification, when I say “boys club”, it’s more along the lines of the types of jokes they make. We have a large number of females in management positions (roughly 50/50) but currently only one female executive. We are an industry that typically doesn’t draw as many women to work into in general so I feel our level of diversity in that sense is fine. One example of a crude joke actually came up last night while discussing an issue and one of the VP’s asked another about his new “thigh tickler” (goatee). I’m not a fan of the joke, but I can easily let that slide past my ears.

            1. Andrea*

              Well…you asked Alison how you can screen for people who are comfortable with those kinds of jokes, and then say that your team doesn’t tend to make them around women. That seems like a pretty clear pattern of sexism right there.

            2. Temperance*

              Okay, so you do realize that’s a problem, right? Men are bonding without women present; this is the sort of nefarious crap that leads to the OBC.

              When Jim and Sally are up for promotions, the man in charge is going to remember how much he enjoys working with Jim and talking about their dongs or whatever, and Jim is going to get ahead of Sally.

              1. LW1*

                The reason there wasn’t a woman present is due to the fact that the topic being discussed was over a very specific topic that a women currently doesn’t support directly (it’s a 1 person role)

                1. animaniactoo*

                  You’re backtracking here. Either they would have made the comment had a woman been present, or they only made it because no women happened to be present.

                  If it’s the latter, than the camaraderie and fellowship feelings that come out of being able to make those jokes are going to mean that some decisions are going to end up influenced by “we feel Jake is a friendlier face in this position, even though Alicia has a slightly better skill set” because that impression of “friendliness” is all centered around the friendlier moments they’ve had with Jake.

                  You have a problem, it’s a serious one. You may not be able to solve it, but you’ll be able to handle whatever you can do a lot better if you stop trying to undersell yourself on how serious it is.

                2. animaniactoo*

                  Alright – here are some evaluation tools you can use to tell how serious an issue this is:

                  1) Are some of the “worst” jokes made in front of women?
                  2) Is it fair game if a woman makes the same sort of joke?
                  3) If some of the inappropriate humor is based around sex, sexual practices, and sexual preferences, etc. – is the flavor of it always or primarily about what guys like about women or want to do to/with a woman?
                  4) Is there any sense whatsoever that women who talk about and enjoy sex and men’s bodies are “nasty” or a “dirty girl”?
                  5) If yes, is there any sense that men who talk similarly are the same, or do they have to be way out of norms before they start being referred to as a “dog” or a “perv”?
                  6) For jokes that aren’t sexual but are inappropriate in other ways – are women viewed as “colder” or “crueler” compared to other women and men in general if they make them or laugh at them?

                  Note, it doesn’t matter if it happens in smaller groups, it matters if it’s happening at all.

                3. One of the Sarahs*

                  to add to animaniactoo’s list

                  7) Are terms used to describe women used as a put-down in the office? eg “don’t be such a girl about it”/”he’s a pussy” etc
                  8) Are any of the jokes homophobic in nature, and/or is “gay” used as an insult in the office?

                4. M-C*

                  Excellent summary, animaniactoo.

                  I’d also like to warn LW1 to be sure to bring up the cultural question to -everyone- they interview. Because assuming only women would be offended is both sexist and inaccurate.

                5. Green*

                  Sex jokes have no place in a workplace. It doesn’t matter if women or men are making them.

                  I’d find them funny on AdultSwim but not from a colleague, and to screen for that is to screen inappropriately. Period.

              2. LBK*

                Your repeated assertion that “boy’s club” means sitting around talking about their wangs is cracking me up. Mostly because it’s not totally inaccurate.

                1. Catalin*

                  Do men seriously talk about their penises? If so, that should definitely only be done in the absence of women. We’re generally just not that interested.

                2. LBK*

                  I mean, I and most of my friends are gay men, so penises are definitely a topic of conversation but not necessarily our own.

                3. Temperance*

                  lol I occasionally do an impression of what I imagine straight dudes say when women aren’t around, and it’s mostly very rude things about their dongs. (Also, I’m 12 on the inside, so I use the word “dong” or “wang”.)

                4. Koko*

                  It also keeps bringing to mind the episode of South Park that aired on rerun last night, that spoofs Game of Thrones and has the chorus of men singing about their wieners.

            3. neverjaunty*

              LW1, you’re getting a lot of pushback here, which is understandtably not a lot of fun, but I encourage you to take a hard look at it rather than feeling defensive, because there are a lot of signals that there’s a bigger problem than ‘is our new hire going to be OK with F-bombs’.

              When your managers ‘cut back’ on crude jokes in the presence of women, when diversity in your workplace gets thin the higher up you go, when the atmosphere at the company is a ‘boys’ club’, then you have a problem, both because the company is legally at risk and because you’re going to be losing talent. Not just women, either; plenty of men don’t want to work in a boys’ club.

              1. Chinook*

                ” when diversity in your workplace gets thin the higher up you go…then you have a problem”

                This is a problematic red flag because a less diverse higher management team can easily only reflect that, in the past maybe 15 or 20 years there was an issue. It doesn’t mean there is one now. Frankly, I wouldn’t want someone running my type of company who doesn’t have a depth industry experience, and that can only come with time. If the pipeline (no pun intended) is filled with a diverse workforce, then the top leadership will reflect that when that diverse field near the end of their career.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  “The pipeline” has been the excuse for a lack of diversity in management and leadership positions forever. 15-20 years isn’t the end of a career in many fields, and 15-20 years ago wasn’t the Dark Ages. Also, it can’t possibly be an explanation for positions where 15-20 years of experience aren’t the norm.

                  And in some industries, to be perfectly blunt, “the pipeline” is a pretext used to shunt responsibility away from what the company is doing right now.

                2. bwahaaa*

                  +100 to neverjaunty’s comment. So tired of hearing “oh but the pipeline!” and then people practically making the “washing my hands of it/showing my hands are empty casino dealer” motion and going on about their day.

          1. disconnect*

            Holy cats, a VP made that joke around other people? Gross. Your proportion of female employees may match the industry in general, but you’re still discriminatory and not welcoming. You can do far better than this.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              Yeah, that would very much not fly in my workplace. We’re in a discipline that tends to have a lot of women but because of other things that we do, our workplace is very mixed, and the women who work here, specifically, do not strike me as overly sensitive. But that one would get you in some hot water (my immediate supervisor is a man and you would definitely get an earful from him about a comment like that). Really not classy.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s also not okay to assume that men are all fine with those comments. You could be creating a sexually hostile workplace for a man just as much as for a woman. These environments end up causing legal issues because people start assuming their audience is fine with their comments, even when people aren’t.

              1. Sfigato*

                I second this. I’m a straight guy and I don’t want my colleagues making sexist, racist, transphobic, or homophobic “jokes”. And I swear like a sailor and am often kind of inappropriate. Many of the people laughing at your jokes are cringing inside, FYI. It’s not a matter of being politically correct, it’s a matter of not being a jerk and making people who already put up with enough garbage in life feel like garbage.

                1. Marisol*

                  “it’s a matter of not being a jerk and making people who already put up with enough garbage in life feel like garbage.”

                  A sensitive & astute observation.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  also–some people just don’t like making allusions to oral sex, or sex in general. Even if it’s not directly referencing a sexist, racist, or other discriminatory practice.

                  Just making jokes or comments about sex in general is NOT comfortable for lots of people–not just women, actually. I’m pretty sure that most of the men that I know would be really uncomfortable with that “thigh tickler” crack. They don’t want to talk about sex at work.

              2. M-C*

                Totally agree with that. The non-drinking Mormon that was discussed last week would probably not be OK with all this, and many gay men wouldn’t enjoy being around a lot of jokes about women if they felt they couldn’t join in. I’m sure we could think of many other types of men who’d prefer something a bit more sedate.

                Likewise, I’m a woman and my vocabulary is much worse than most men I know (too much time in IT I guess :-)). The policing of what I say comes just as much from men as from women.

              3. Jennifer*

                Yeah, I was just hearing from a guy who works in a “boys club” industry who was gay and in the closet for 8 years because he was afraid of what would happen.

              4. TootsNYC*

                “It’s also not okay to assume that men are all fine with those comments.”

                This reminds me of a story I heard once about Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. There was a dinner of military officers, and one of them prefaced an off-color joke by saying, “I have a joke to tell, since there are no ladies in the room.”
                Grant interrupted him and said, “No, but there are gentlemen.”

                My DH wouldn’t be comfortable with that sort of joke at work. He doesn’t do “crude.” It’s really uncomfortable for him–but he wouldn’t think he was allowed to say anything, because if he said, “ew, gross, don’t joke like that,” the other guy would say, “hey, it’s a joke! Can’t you take a joke?”

            3. Zahra*

              And depending on the industry, matching the industry in general is not a glowing endorsement (tech and video game companies, anyone?)

          2. Catalin*

            Setting aside the various sidelines and returning to your question, how to warn/ask/sort people comfortable in a non-PC environment, I had a similar interview years ago. I was smack out of college and looking for an admin job while I was working on my masters. I interviewed at a certain elevator company’s office and the interviewer stated outright that technicians came through the office, they were rough around the edges and I would likely hear swearing and other impoliteness. Interviewer asked if I would be okay with that because they didn’t want someone who would be uncomfortable in that environment (read, easily offended).
            Be direct about the environment the person will be working in, be honest and answer questions honestly. Many interviewees don’t think to ask what kind of environment they’ll be working in (huge mistake) and many interviewers skip that part as well. DO NOT skip this part: not when you’re knowingly advertising for a role in a non-standard professional environment.

            1. Temperance*

              I interviewed at a place that worked with truck drivers to make office supply deliveries, and I was warned at the interview that they are very profane. It was fine. (I didn’t get the job, which was also incredibly fine. )

            2. Lemon Zinger*

              Oh, so well said! My first job out of college was in a very “fun” workplace with a lot of action and music. Unfortunately this was not the right environment for me, especially compounded with the fact that my superiors frequently swore and made off-color jokes. I was honestly shocked at the lack of professionalism, and lost my enthusiasm for the environment quickly.

              I wish I’d known about this beforehand. I never would have taken the job!

            3. Yup*

              No matter the warning, there’s something about this “disclaimer” that remains fundamentally, deeply problematic. These are its terms: “you’re okay with it and have a shot at the job, or you’re not, in which case, you don’t fit.”

              Here’s what it leaves out: “our sophomoric dong-jokes aren’t appropriate for any workplace and we shouldn’t be trying to ensure YOU fit with US, rather than US considering changing to be welcoming to all potential employees.”

              This isn’t about being a prim flower you can’t deal with swearing – how many people never swear at all? This is about a frat culture -type environment being accepted as a normative standard to which others must adapt — which is spurious reasoning and honestly, bullshit.

              With apologies for the frustration in my tone… but I just rage at the systemic issue being glossed over with a glib disclaimer.

          3. JMegan*

            Ooh, that’s really not okay. I mean, I guess it’s okay in your particular workplace, but it’s certainly well outside the norm of the workplaces that I have experienced.

            I will leave it to others to dissect the problem of whether this is really a culture that should be upheld, and take you at your word that it is. So in that case, you need to be very explicit (pun intended) in your interviews, and give specific examples of the types of swearing and jokes the candidates would be likely to encounter. If you’re uncomfortable saying “thigh tickler” in an interview, think how much more uncomfortable your new hire would be to hear it in the office. If you really can’t change the culture, then it’s important to be VERY clear about what people are likely to walk into when they work there.

            1. Cranston*

              I can’t decide if I’m more offended by the comment or the fact that someone grew a post-grunge goatee. I know 90s nostalgia is huge right now, but come on.

          4. STX*

            That’s not even a joke. It’s just gross. Why does any coworker think I want to hear about their sex life like that?

            I don’t know, you’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place here. I don’t think you should screen for candidates that can tolerate gross sexual references, because there’s no way to do that without encouraging a culture of gross sexual references. I think it’s really unfortunate that this becomes a gender thing, too, because I know there are guys who don’t want to hear about their coworkers “thigh ticklers” either, but they pretend just to get along.

            I would say hire the best candidate for the job, and let them figure out how to deal with unprofessional coworkers in their own way.

            1. Victoria Ford (USA)*

              Yes. This makes me crazy. We use “females” to denote animals (“And in the distance, a group of females approach the watering hole.”), not human women.

              1. LCL*

                I believe females vs women is another blue collar/white collar divide. I’m OK with it if the term male is used, also. I realize some hate it and see it as dehumanizing, and I would advise people not to speak that way because it will be seen as sexist.

                1. Temperance*

                  I think it’s fine if used as male/female, but it’s pretty gross when it’s men/females, or the word females used on its own. When that happens, it’s so often in a pretty rude context or as an insult.

                2. designbot*

                  I’ve pretty uniformly seen it as a “sees women as people”/”doesn’t see women as people” divide.

                3. Koko*

                  I’m OK with it as an adjective like OP used it above – “female employees.” I don’t like it as a noun, “females.” Kinda the same idea as “handicapped person” vs “cripple” or “undocumented immigrant” vs “illegal.” It’s disrespectful to reduce a person’s being to one adjective.

                4. Turtle Candle*

                  It is something that you sometimes see in a military or police context (as noted below, the “the suspect is a 27-year-old male” thing), but in that case, as you say, it is almost always used for both sexes. It’s a bigger red flag to me if you’re meeting “the guys” at the bar to chat with “some females,” you know?

              2. Mabel*

                This reminds me of an episode of ER, in which the English doctor (can’t remember the characters’ names) went back to the UK to work for a while. She referred to someone as a “white, 55-year-old male,” and the other doctors made fun of her, saying “a male what? a male human?” because “male” is actually an adjective, not a noun, and they don’t use it as a noun like we (U.S. Americans) tend to (at least on the medical T.V. shows).

            2. anonderella*

              I disagree with you, and I wish more people who brought this up would do so in a way that is more conducive to respectful argument – not all people believe this way. We’re talking about words, complex, emotion-charged signifiers that morph every time we use them. The experiences we gain by them only goes so far – to define our own understanding – then resounds off someone else’s, and if we’re lucky and attentive, gets reabsorbed as something new/stronger.

              But I disagree with you for two reasons : aesthetics and function.

              Aesthetics because, if I want to denote a gender difference, as when arguing about gender on this website for instance, I’m more likely to use female than lady/etc, because “Female-Coworker” sounds better than “Woman-Coworker.” Using the latter makes me feel like a cartoon caveman. I prefer it because, to me, it sounds better – and puts less emphasis on the historical means of distinguishing the genders. I think there is value in exposure to the former. (I honestly don’t think this is a different point than my next one – I’m just at a loss to explain why it sounds better to me, without using my next point.)

              And to continue that point, into function. To me, the words ‘woman’, ‘lady’, etc all are so emotionally-charged, almost ruined words (and I *love* words) because of their direct/indirect/historical association with social class/rank. The word ‘woman’ has a definite signifier behind it – age. A girl will not be referred to as a woman, because she isn’t old enough, or otherwise hasn’t achieved some level of maturity that points to that movement. Lady is even worse – ‘there’s a lady in the room’ makes my skin crawl. Chances are, someone saying that pointed at me does *not* know me at all, and it’s offensive to be looped into some ancient category. Not every utterance of ‘lady’ is said in the same connotation, but, having grown up in the Deep South, I’d heard that usage used enough that I can’t unhear it. In fact, I struggle to point to any usage of ‘lady’ that doesn’t inherently describe social/behavioral attributes absent in an equal descriptor for men. To me, it actually denotes ‘the opposite of gentleman’ – not in a biology-based meaning, like female/male, but in a social/psychological way, that says ‘one group *behaves* thusly, and the other, thusly.’

              Female holds none of that to me – it is a non-emotionally charged (to me!!), neutral descriptor – scientific, devoid of social scope and subjectivity (well nothing is, but it’s closer to being so than lady/etc (to me). It’s a beautiful, non-exclusive descriptor – as I believe anyone who wants to identify as being female should be able to do so. Any female can point to herself and say ‘female’ and recognize the wide, if not infinite scale/gradient of social possibilities on how to talk/act/think and still be understood as female within your community. I don’t think that every female can solidly point to themselves and say ‘woman’ because I think that meaning is entirely subjective by community and by individual; is any female, regardless of age/class/anything a ‘woman’, or only after you have proven certain accolades? All it takes to be a female (definitely my opinion, because I could care less about people’s sexual identities) is to call yourself one.

              Maybe I am off-base here, but is it possible that those who are uncomfortable with this usage of Female place a different (to myself) value on humanity, and differentiating your existence from other living organisms? That’s the only reasoning I come to when trying to understand how people could have an issue with the word Female – “What? I’m not an animal? Don’t refer to me by my sex organs/sexual function!!” Well, when I hear woman/lady – that’s exactly what comes to my mind, and I’m offended, but I’m not trying to change how people use their words when I recognize that it reflects their experiences – *that’s* offensive.

                1. Sarah in Boston*

                  I would say that on average, those of us who have a problem with it find it problematic when it’s used like this:
                  1) “Female” and “men” (vs. male). Why be inconsistent and use a more objectifying/scientific term only for women?
                  2) Female by as a noun and not as an adjective. Female what? Dog? Cat? Cow? It feels very dehumanizing. And like an object of study.

                2. Catty*

                  Female as an adjective is fine. Female/females as a noun is problematic.

                  For example: “My female colleague said X” is not an issue.
                  “The females in my office…” is odd, at best.

              1. Emac*

                Just want to point out for this part: “I’m more likely to use female than lady/etc, because “Female-Coworker” sounds better than “Woman-Coworker.”” In this case, you’re using female as an adjective, which is fine. Generally, the place where people object to the use of female instead of woman is when it’s used as a noun.

              2. Natalie*

                “Maybe I am off-base here, but is it possible that those who are uncomfortable with this usage of Female place a different (to myself) value on humanity, and differentiating your existence from other living organisms?”

                I certainly don’t think this is impossible, but it’s important to note that for me and for most other people (in my experience) this issue isn’t the word as much as it is a different standard for referring to males and females. That is, the people I hear say “females” nearly always say “men/man” rather than males. It’s that inconsistency that is the problem.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yes — if you are using “male” in the same contexts and frequency, then fine. I think it sounds weird (it sounds like cop talk to me), but sure, go for it. The issue is when it gets used as a noun by people who don’t do the same with “male” and it’s often done in a dehumanizing way. (Think of the guys who say things like “I was talking with some females” — they rarely if ever would say “I was chatting with some males.”)

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  @Alison–Cops use male/female, etc. as general identifiers, yes. When we studied report writing in my Police Procedure class, we had to use that terminology thus. We also had to describe things like, “The witness stated that the suspect wore a white metal wristwatch,” or “yellow metal chain,” because you can’t assume it was gold or silver, etc. You just have to put down what you or the witness/victim observed. It’s generally so formal that it sounds strange in everyday conversation.

                  I don’t think using it across the board is necessarily bad. But like you said, it has to apply to everyone.

                3. myswtghst*

                  Seconded. I have no issue with someone using female as an adjective (i.e. female coworker / male coworker) – it’s when people use it as a noun, and nearly always do so in conjunction with using man / men as the companion noun, that I take issue.

                4. Turtle Candle*

                  Yep. For myself, I have no problem with it adjectivally (“female coworker,” “male doctor,” etc.) or in contexts where you’d use it the same for both (“the suspect is a white male, about 5’7″, with brown hair and sunglasses”). It’s calling women “females” in contexts where you would never ever call men “males” that is an issue.

                5. Aunt Vixen*

                  @Elizabeth West – They refer to people as “males” and “females” in law enforcement especially when they don’t want to commit to the ages of the people they’re talking about. Case in point: after the Charleston shooting I became very annoyed that the papers kept saying the white shooter (of course they said “alleged shooter”) had killed six males and three females. (It might have been the other way around; I genuinely don’t remember.) E-mailed the reporter, even, to say come on, dude, these people were killed in a racially motivated hate crime, can you manage not to dehumanize them further?!, and he said he was using the language he’d got from the police department – where they weren’t yet ready to confirm that none of the victims was under 18. My own position was “Fine, then: six men and boys and three women and girls,” but I do get it. (I followed up by e-mailing the police department to holler at them about it.)

              3. Marisol*

                I am saddened to hear that you have a problem with the word “woman.” I agree that its meaning pertains to age, but I don’t think it’s meaning is terribly subjective. It means “adult female.” When to consider someone an “adult” may have some subjectivity attached to it, but not much–a reasonable reference point would be the legal age of majority–age 18, or possibly 21 if you want all legal rights to be conferred before applying the term. But I don’t think it has anything to do with having “proven certain accolades.” I’m not sure what you’re referring to–do you mean, having had sex? Or achieving some career goal or some kind of standing within the community? But regardless, if you’re an adult, and you have two x chromosomes, or if you subjectively feel yourself to be female and want to identify yourself as such (i.e. trans) then you are a woman. If you are not an adult, then you are a child, and if you are a female child, then you are girl.

                I am 43 and went to a women’s college. During my freshmen orientation, when I was 18, I was actually DIS-oriented to hear myself being referred to as a “woman.” As a teenager, I didn’t really see myself as an adult. But the orientation staff, most of whom were older college students, had been instructed to use that term, in an effort to help us see ourselves as empowered, as opposed to belittled, which grown women often are when people refer to them as “girls.”

                I still get called a “girl” on occasion and I make a point of letting the speaker know that I am, in fact, a woman. Sometimes when I hear men discuss the “girls” they have dated I ask them, “what do you mean, ‘girls’–are you a pedophile?…Oh, you mean you date WOMEN….”

                For me the meaning of the word woman is not ambiguous at all, and the only emotional charge it carries is positive. I think it’s really very simple.

                I would hazard a guess that the reason you think “woman coworker” sounds wrong when “female coworker” sounds right is that you speak proper English. “Woman” is a noun, not an adjective, and as such should not be used to modify other nouns, although it is sometimes used that way. “Female” by contrast, is an adjective, and is the correct term to use in the example you give.

              4. Mookie*

                The word “woman” is not “emotionally charged.” It’s a fact, like noting that the sky is blue.

          5. Naomi*

            “We are an industry that typically doesn’t draw as many women to work into in general so I feel our level of diversity in that sense is fine.”

            Well, maybe. It’s true that if there is a low percentage of women in your candidate pool, you’re not going to end up hiring as many women. But I’m concerned about why there aren’t as many women, because it could well be a sign that your industry has a problem with systemic sexism. Is this kind of “boys club” atmosphere common in your industry, and is it possible that otherwise qualified women are being put off by it? You can’t change your industry as a whole, but you can try to be aware that a level of coarseness you don’t see as a problem might be one for other people.

          6. irritable vowel*

            Yes, I think there are two possible impressions of the term “boys’ club” — one is the kind of locker-room atmosphere that it sounds like you’re describing, which is not welcoming to women specifically (and also to men who don’t like or want to participate in stereotypical locker-room talk), and one is the idea of an “old boys’ network,” which is more about getting hired because of who you know, where you went to school, etc. The latter is more likely to discriminate against people from other cultural/class backgrounds, but maybe not so explicitly against women.

          7. Chameleon*

            Okay, I have a bit of a different perspective from most of the commenters in that I don’t find the goatee quip offensive (it’s kind of funny to me, actually) (and I’m a woman).

            However, I find it extremely concerning that such jokes are not made around women. That right there is pretty much the definition of sexism–treating women differently than men, whether that’s from a negative view of women (they’re just stuck-up and humorless!) or from a “positive” one (they are delicate and refined!). If your jokes can’t be made in front of women, they shouldn’t be made at all. And regardless of audience, crude jokes should never be dehumanizing or overly sexualizing. For instance, I don’t find the goatee comment terrible because it’s referring to the wearer of the goatee engaging in sex, but doesn’t imply (for instance) that such an activity is the wearer’s primary purpose (which is not what most jokes about women are like, sadly).

            I honestly think you need to take a clear look at your culture and encourage some changes before you get in trouble. It is completely possible to be crude, profane, AND inclusive.

            1. Formica Dinette*

              I agree with you.

              I enjoy working in more laid back environments where swearing is OK, as is the occasional crude joke. At once AEC firm I particularly liked, it was probably 70/30 men/women, with women holding both leadership and technical roles more typically filled by men. We all dropped f-bombs, made inappropriate jokes, and had conversations about getting more women to join the field.

            2. myswtghst*

              However, I find it extremely concerning that such jokes are not made around women. That right there is pretty much the definition of sexism–treating women differently than men, whether that’s from a negative view of women (they’re just stuck-up and humorless!) or from a “positive” one (they are delicate and refined!).

              I think this is so important, and so easy to overlook. Sexism isn’t limited to treating women as “lesser”, it can be about treating them differently just because they are women.

              It is completely possible to be crude, profane, AND inclusive.

              And this I wholeheartedly agree with! I’d love to work somewhere profanity was okay (as long as it’s not in front of customers) and the occasional gross joke is totally normal, but I also want it to be a workplace which is inclusive and diverse, where those jokes aren’t sexist / racist / homophobic.

              1. Koko*

                That’s pretty much how my workplace is and it works well. Most of us use profanity freely, although for the most part most situations don’t call for it, it’s more used as an expression of something especially frustrating like, “can you believe these fucking people?” or “this fucking project, man…” or particularly exciting like, “fuck yeah, we won that prestigious award!”

                Honestly just comes down to consideration. The line you don’t cross is basically, you don’t tell a joke where the butt of the joke is a person or group of people, unless maybe it’s a public figure/group who is a sworn enemy of the organization, like Rick Santorum or ALEC. You don’t know who identifies as a member of what joke beyond general alignment with the organization’s mission values, so you just don’t make jokes at others’ expense.

                There’s plenty of room for profanity and the occasional gross joke/story without it depending on insulting anyone.

            3. Turtle Candle*

              I agree, and this is a really important point, IMHO. The “best” reason most people come up with for not telling these kinds of jokes around women is a kind of faux-chivalry that is in itself deeply inappropriate for the workplace; your coworker is not a delicate flower to be protected from coarse language, but a peer. I don’t think that sex jokes are appropriate at all for the vast majority of workplaces*, but if I found out that my male coworkers were telling one another not to swear in my presence, say, I’d be pissed off because the different treatment (however well-meant it might or might not be) in itself would be problematic to me, because it would set me apart as something “different” and isolate me from my peers. I’m not “a lady” at work, I’m a coworker.

              * – I initially wrote ‘any workplace,’ but then I remembered a friend who used to work at Babeland, a local adult store, and they made sex jokes in the backroom all the time, mostly because when you work all day surrounded by dildos and whatnot it’s kind of one of the ways to stay sane. But, that’s an edge case.

            4. Nerdling*

              I agree with you on most points (I mostly just don’t find the joke all that funny). I work in a boys’ club environment in both senses it’s been used here – dominated by (primarily white, cis-het) men from the bottom of the main power structure up to the very tip-top AND one in which off-color humor and crude language is common. There’s not a lot I can do about the first definition of it, other than stay here and kick ass as a woman, but I’ve come to the point where I work hard to change the second part of it. Not to include less crude language, necessarily (I’m probably the biggest swearer in our small office), but to push back against the gendered and otherwise offensive jokes. To call out the men who come in and make comments about “Pardon my language, young lady” or wink and nudge other men about some joke they can’t quite say in my presence. To question whether there’s even a need to call someone a bitch or a pussy or whatever when you can as easily call them a douchecanoe or a fucknoodle instead.

              Because the only way we’re going to change the fact that this is the former definition of a boys’ club is to change the latter to where it means we’re actually inclusive, just irreverent.

          8. LizM*

            That’s really gross and I’m struggling with why a qualified candidate should have to adapt to such an incredibly inappropriate environment, rather than the environment adapting to professional norms.

            It’s like a certain public figure who recently implied that women should just quit their job if they’re being harassed.

            For what it’s worth, I know lots of men who would be uncomfortable in that situation. If a comment is inappropriate around women, it’s inappropriate, period. Treating men and women differently (and you are treating them differently if certain topics are viewed as appropriate for one gender and not the other) is a problem.

            I understand the lw1 may not be in a position to change this culture, but I hope that reading through these comments will make him see how these working conditions are not appropriate.

      3. Beezus*

        “If a polished woman and a laid back man with similar qualifications both get interviewed and you pick the man because you think he’s less likely to be offended by your work environment, that’s disparate impact and is illegal.”

        Is it necessarily? Polished vs laid back are differentiating characteristics in that scenario, too. I don’t think it’s problematic from a discrimination standpoint if you’d also choose a laid back woman over a polished man. If the culture is laid back, it makes sense to screen for people who are a good personality fit. I don’t think ‘laid back’ or ‘polished’ are inherently gendered traits, as long as they’re not coded terms for gender.

        1. Roscoe*

          Yeah, I think there is a weird assumption that the woman is going to be “polished” and the guy laid back. Some of the most crass, vulgar people I know are women and would be the one’s making those type of jokes. So I don’t necessarily think its a disparate impact, just looking for a certain type of person. I also know some pretty straight laced guys who would hate it.

          1. Koko*

            Your comment brought to mind Bridget Everett, and also the way that some men who are completely comfortable with raunchy humor get the vapors at the sight of a packaged, unused tampon. I wonder how these men who love crude jokes in the workplace would feel about Bridget’s brand of humor – if it would still be all in good fun, or if it suddenly becomes too off-color when it’s from the point of view of a woman.

        2. Crude Tea Refinery*

          This is true, but it also sounds like polished vs. laid-back are being used here to mean “not okay with crude sexism” vs. “okay with crude sexism.”

          1. Roscoe*

            This goes back to the point that talking about sex isn’t necessarily sexist. As I said, some of my female friends say some pretty vulgar sexual things as well. About women and about men. So crude, yes, sexist, no

            1. Turtle Candle*

              One thing that I would note is that just because a woman says/does it, doesn’t mean it’s not sexist. I grew up with some appallingly sexist women, and their opinions didn’t cease to be sexist simply because they were said by women, nor would “but my sister says it too” fly with me as a reason to not find it upsetting. (In that case it was opinions about a woman’s “proper place” rather than sex jokes, but still.)

              1. Roscoe*

                Thats not what I mean necessarily. If I make a sexual joke and a woman makes a sexual joke, it doesn’t mean its sexist.

          2. Beezus*

            Agreed, but I think it’s okay to screen for that, too. You can work on changing that aspect of your company’s culture, but change takes time, and in the meantime you need to hire people and take care of business. I don’t see a problem with looking for people who can take vulgarity in stride without contributing to it, vs. people who would find it upsetting enough that it would affect their work.

            1. Green*

              Vulgarity (generally cursing, and even using sexualized curse words for non sexual purposes– f word as adjective vs verb) screening is fine. Screening for acceptance of sexually charged work environment (depending on what the threshold is in your state, which is lower in California than others) would not be OK.

        3. Green*

          If you are screening for people who will be OK with an overly sexualized environment that would itself be a violation of law, the screening is violative as well.

      1. pope suburban*

        Oh. Oh wow.

        Though I wish I could be surprised by that. While I don’t work in tech, I do work for a deeply dysfunctional small business, in which men are cut slack and women are belittled. And it was discovered, by the old owner during the sale and hand-over of the business, that male employees were going to one of two local strip clubs on their lunch breaks. He had the cell-phone tracking data to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, and he told the new owner– who allowed it! Working here has been oh so comfortable, for that and other reasons. Blech.

    2. Vee*

      I just came from an interview where the lawyer not only asked how I felt about cursing in the workplace, but started the interview by telling me he really couldn’t afford to give me set hours sometimes. As far as I’m concerned, a Lawyer talking about cursing in the workplace is a warning sign that he’s a temper tantruming toddler who never grew up. Why Law School doesn’t teach professionalism is beyond me. I lost interest in the interview the second he said he couldn’t guarantee hours, but it just got so much worse. Don’t swear at work, don’t throw temper tantrums, AND for the love of god, don’t hire people you can’t afford.

  1. Feotakahari*

    #1: I’ve mentioned before that my boss is racist. He often jokes about how everything is racist, the implication being that none of it’s really racist and people who complain about racism are just stupid whiners. If he ever got into trouble over racism, he would never think of it as being an issue on his part–to him, it would be an issue of whoever complained because they couldn’t take a joke.

    The phrase “boys’ club” worries me in this context, because it often connotes sexism, but is a relatively minimizing term that implies whatever’s going on isn’t all that bad. It’s possible the office in question is more hostile to female workers than the OP recognizes.

    1. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

      I think it’s a bigger red flag than not when “boy’s club” is the accurate description because it often describe an office culture that is sexist and intends to stay that way. Like you said, it’s a minimizing term to mean sexist without actually saying it. I think it’s similar to “locker room talk”.

      1. nofelix*

        I feel both those terms imply a specific type of bawdy sexist culture, and they’re useful to convey that. A culture of locker room talk will be sexist but not all sexist conversations are ‘locker room’. Similarly, you can have a sexist culture that’s not a ‘boys club’. Phrases like these also help people readily picture the culture, whereas ‘sexist’ is relatively sterile and academic. By all means call a duck a duck where necessary though.

        1. RVA Cat*

          And call a duck club a duck club….? ;) Though I guess there wouldn’t be one there if the ‘boys’ are all hetero.

          I was half expecting OP#1 to say their report recently complained about a possible job-switch with a dude that was really a demotion for her, oh yeah and it was going to be announced at a fancy dinner, but then she had to go a mention the EEOC….

      2. Isabel C.*

        Likewise, and I speak as someone who swears like a sailor and uses “that’s what she said” as punctuation, when left to my own devices. And a workplace like that would be great–but not one where I got hit on constantly, or where the crude jokes were less “…but you fuck one goat,” and more Japanese-golfer or whatever it was Vernon Dursley told.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I love that goat joke. My uncle told me that one and I laughed so hard I almost fell off my chair. I wouldn’t mind if someone told that at work, or used the F word, etc.

    2. Jeanne*

      I think when you’re part of the culture and enjoying the culture that it’s a lot harder to understand how outsiders will view things. It is most likely a lot worse than OP is describing just because of that bias. Asking during interviews if they are ok with cursing isn’t really going to cover it. It’s going to be really tough to hire fairly and still get someone who fits in. If you have the power to hire and not the power to make changes, you’re in a really tough situation.

      1. Anon Millennial*

        Jeanne – You hit the nail on the head. I work in a sexist environment and whenever someone reports a creepy comment the bosses laugh about it.

    3. MillersSpring*

      To me, “boys club” also conveys a level of camaraderie among the men–golf, dinners, trips–to which their female peers or direct reports are rarely invited. So when it’s time for promotions, extra responsibilities or cool projects, they tend to be given to the men.

      Also, even if you’re not the one excluded, it can feel impossible to advocate for yourself or complain about anything when your boss’ boss is buddies outside of work with your boss. Or the CEO, or the leader of HR. Also, when they develop these bonds with a woman’s male peers or even men who are junior to her in both experience and tenure at that organization.

      THAT is a boy’s club, even if no one is cursing or telling dirty jokes.

      1. Chinook*

        “To me, “boys club” also conveys a level of camaraderie among the men–golf, dinners, trips–to which their female peers or direct reports are rarely invited”

        I am seriously asking this – what word would you use to convey a level of camaraderie that goes across gender? A group that, during a conference, has no problem with some people going to karaoke, some going out drinking and others just calling it a night and there being no judgement? Where they are casual with each other without being overbearing? Where they do help direct reports become the colleagues they want them to be?

        1. Turtle Candle*

          “Casual,” maybe. Or I might not call it anything–if there’s no expectation, and it’s perfectly fine to go out drinking or go home, and it doesn’t split along gender lines, I’m not sure why I’d need to categorize it. I’d only feel the need to label my workplace culture if I was using it as a screening mechanism, and I don’t think I’d need to screen for “you can go out bar hopping with a group or you can call it a night at 6pm and order room service, it’s cool either way.” There’s nothing to warn for there.

          If I was using it as a selling point, though, I’d probably just use an adjective like “casusal” or–if I wanted to emphasize that you will have the opportunity to do karaoke, even if you don’t take it up–“friendly.”

          1. Willis*

            Casual and friendly work, or – “high level of camaraderie.” It doesn’t need to be some complicated catchphrase.

        2. Koko*

          I actually just hired someone to come on my team in an office like you describe. I told my hire things like, “We’re a fun office, we do a lot of happy hours in our department, there are some informal activity clubs.” or “We’re a really collaborative group, people are generally willing to help out because we all help each other.”

          I would say fun and collaborative are probably your best bet if you want to reduce it to just a couple of words.

      2. Zoe*

        Yup. As a tech worker I have seen lots of this. People talk about how the industry is traditionally male, and then make no attempt to make workplaces that welcome women, and then wonder why the industry is mostly male. Hmm. Is it the rampant culture of drinking that makes women feel they have to keep up – and by doing so defacto put themselves in positions that are unsafe, unlike their male coworkers? The lack of eye-contact with woman developers when speaking to a group, or the default assumption that they don’t know how to perform basic tasks? The sidelining of women into caretaking roles – do the minutes, grab the snacks on the way into the office, smooth over disagreements, organize the fun stuff – that takes away from the time they can spend on their assigned work? (Note, I think all that stuff is important work, just that men should be doing it too, and it should COUNT.)

        And it isn’t about women not being able to take a joke – these environments are often hostile for many subtle reasons. But jokes are the easiest to use as illustrations, and easiest to ‘blame’ women for not being cool about.

  2. Sherm*

    #4: Although the feedback was understandably devastating, I hope your focus isn’t entirely on the wrongness of the delivery but also whether some of the criticism, however ill-packaged, is a useful basis to make improvements.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      That’s a good point. While I definitely think whoever released that information in full was in the wrong, if what was said in the survey was true, then OP’s department’s main focus should be on how to change their behavior and image so as not to get raked over the coals again in the next survey (and of course, to improve relations with students).

      1. Myrin*

        I agree. The OP speaks of multiple comments saying two of the coworkers being negative and unhelpful so it might well be something that’s actually true and needs to be looked at. (It might not be true at all, of course, and “comments” could also be something like three out of one hundred but for some reason it didn’t feel like that from the letter, because it’s phrased like the coworkers’ negativity really was one of the takeaways from the survey, which suggests there were many complaints about it.)

        1. Izzy*

          Negative feedback addressed to an individual by name should just be shared privately with that individual though, not publicly.

          1. Myrin*

            Oh yes, absolutely. I hope my comment didn’t come across like I mean the opposite, because that’s definitely not the case.

    2. My 2 Cents*

      I wanted to echo exactly this. Your worry is that you think it was unprofessional for it to be released, but be thankful that you got to hear truthful feedback, even if it hurts. Please use this as a learning opportunity to fix your department, it’s not a coincidence that you got several pieces of negative feedback.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        How can the OP know if the feedback is truthful? I’ve worked on committees that respond to survey results, and I can vouch that the comments often reflect perceptions, but not always reality.

        I once saw a comment that was simply a vendor name in all caps, repeated until the character limit had run out. I could have sent that comment to the vendor, but why? There’s nothing real or constructive there? This is *precisely* why leadership typically keeps the comments private and anonimized and shares summaries only – to stay constructive without inviting aggression, defensiveness, and conflict.

        This is not a learning opportunity for the OP, but for the college. The ramifications of this will resonate for a long time, and that resentment WILL stay long after the dust settles.

    3. LQ*

      I totally agree. This was really poorly handled. Ideally there would have been some one on one meetings with the coworkers who had problems. And then some serious consideration about the group as a whole and what is happening with the entire team being bashed for poor communication.

      Sometimes groups are rated lower because they only give bad news. But then the leadership in that area should know why and how to work with that.

      If you aren’t one of those areas (and even if you are, bashed for poor communication is something you should find a way to ease if possible) then you really want to work at it.

      There may be other things happening, under staffed, not enough support, whatever. And that is a huge part of why it shouldn’t have been sent out org wide, but you can still learn from it.

    4. CMT*

      I agree, but I don’t think it’s impossible for LW4 to be concerned about both issues. They’re pretty different issues, too, and she’s only asked for advice on one of them.

    5. OP #4*

      Thanks to everyone for your feedback. I will take the things you say to heart. As a clarification, I was not directly attacked and my area of responsibility was not attacked. My department is huge. I also have no authority over anyone mentioned in the survey (this is why my concern was not for correcting behavior of those mentioned). As a follow up, I did contact HR who had no idea this was going on. They seemed to take it seriously and are following up with our leadership now. Thanks again for your advise!

      1. Observer*

        Good for you for taking some action. But the fact that HR had no idea this was happening sort of proves that there is an issue in that section of the department. Leadership in that section should have been all over HR the second the results hit their inboxes, yet it was left to you, who is relatively uninvolved, to bring it to them.

        The fact that this happened, is odd and so is the fact that it didn’t get to HR right away. I’m wondering if this is not a sign of greater organizational dysfunction.

    6. N.J.*

      The thing is though, it can be very hard to process criticism with an eye towards change and improvement when it is shared so harshly and (I would argue) unprofessionally. A related example from my own work experience. I was tasked with sending out a meeting appointment to internal attendees as well as external stakeholders and clients. I forgot to include the meeting agenda attachment. One of the clients on the meeting notice email list was VERY upset at this. Instead of pointing it out directly to me in an email or phone call or sending a followup to ask for the agenda, this client called my boss and said I wasn’t fit to even be a secretary, much less the position I had at the time. Instead of focusing on telling me that I forgot the agenda and an attendee was upset about this and that the mistake should be corrected immediately, with an apology if necessary and discussing ways to avoid the mistake in the future, my boss told me the client’s comment word for word, while not telling me who said this. So, yeah, I was aware of the mistake, but I also had to deal with the internal dialogue of “You are a worthless piece of sh*t! You idiot. You aren’t capable of this job, they don’t even respect you enough to point out a mistake in a professional manner, because you aren’t worth even that amount of respect.” I hadn’t made any errors or mistakes that I was aware of up to that point. You better believe I fixed it and I NEVER forgot another damn email attachment at that job, but the cost of not receiving constructively provided criticism was a spiral of self-doubt, the stress of being hyper vigilant about what other shortcomings I might have and just feeling like a worthless lump. Should my manager have told me I upset a client by not including the attachment? Absolutely. Should every jerky, rude, crappy detail of that discussion have been shared with me? Probably not.

      1. OhBehave*

        As I was reading your post, I thought the client had ‘responded to all’ with a diatribe. Thankfully no. That client is a jerk. I hope it made him feel like a big man to take you down a notch with that phone call. He probably demanded that you be told just what he said.
        Your boss should not be a manager. This could have totally demoralized you resulting in poor performance. Of course you always remember a stupid attachment! It’s like an electrical jolt will hit if you forget, and I forget sometimes too.

      2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        This a good example of the type of damage these unabridged comments can cause.

        Who knows how unhelpful the two colleagues are – perhaps the complainers have unreasonable expectations. You can’t just pass along feedback word for word.

        During a review, my leader showed me 13 comments people had submitted about me. 12 were glowing, and 1 was scathing. I could tell where that 1 comment came from and instead of paying attention to the other 12, I zeroed in one that 1 comment. Luckily, my leader set me straight when she saw what I was doing and how tentative I became from the feedback. She literally told me, “Fuck that comment. It’s an outlier and not reflective of your performance.” She then apologized for showing me the comment without following up.

        I’m fortunate I had a great leader who turned me around – while feedback may be a “gift”, it’s not a gift to be given lightly.

  3. Daisy*

    #2] I’d recommend carrying your extra clothes and such in a small, carry-on sized black suitcase to the interviews. You’ll look like Anh professional whose just come back from a business trip or about to take one. They don’t need to know that your “trip” was only to your home or the gym or whatever.

      1. Willis*

        Me too. It seems more out of place than a backpack or messenger bag. And if anyone did seem to notice the backpack, I feel like a quick explanation that you’re heading to work afterwards would be fine.

      2. Mela*

        Agreed. Once you enter the building, just carry the backpack by the top handle, instead of on your back. It would also help if it were a neutral color or fabric, but I think how you carry it is much more important.

        1. nofelix*

          Yes 100% carry it by the handle. This seems to be one of these unspoken things that relate to ‘polish’, as that other questioner asked about.

      3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I’ve brought luggage to an interviewith, but it was because I literally caught a cab from the interview to the airport and had told my interviewer about that beforehand.

      4. Joseph*

        Yeah. A backpack is something that many people carry on a regular basis – work supplies, the gym, even just out and about. A suitcase/luggage is something that people really only use when traveling. So seeing a suitcase is going to draw more red flags than a backpack.

        1. Kate M*

          I know a lot of people who use a small rolling suitcase in place of a briefcase, especially if they’re carrying a lot and it’s heavy. I wouldn’t look askance at either one, honestly, because I’m in a city and most people carry large purses/backpacks/rolling luggage with them because they don’t have cars. But people definitely don’t only use it for traveling.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Yes, but in a car-centric city, there’s a good chance you’ll be labeled “that one with the suitcase.” I can assure you, anyone walking into an interview with a rolling suitcase in my location, unless I knew they’d flown in for the interview, would be pinged as “potentially odd.” So you’ve got to know the norms in your area.

            1. Kate M*

              But if the candidate lives in a place where a car is not a necessity (which I assume since OP would probably have left the stuff in the car if possible), then it’s a place that has public transportation I’m guessing. Which means that there are plenty of people who bring stuff with them. I’m not talking about a large suitcase – I’m talking about a small rolling one that’s not much bigger than a briefcase. I wouldn’t ever think anyone was odd for bringing something like that. To me a backpack would read “younger and college-like” than a suitcase. But I wouldn’t care about either.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                We get bored.

                But seriously. Alison mentioned that a backpack would be fine as long as it wasn’t a huge camping backpack. So imagine someone *does* come to an interview with a huge camping backpack. Huge. Could hold a tent. Aren’t you going to wonder WTF is going on? Aren’t you going to refer to that person in the future as “that guy with the backpack?” That’s what would happen if you walked into an interview in my location with a rolling suitcase.

                Now, remember, I said this is a car-centric city. Obviously, if you’re in an area with few cars and most people use public transportation, the rolling suitcase isn’t going to stand out. And that’s why I said know the norms in your area.

                1. Green*

                  A small carry-on suitcase? I took those to job interviews all the time all over the country, and as far as I can tell nobody cared. I just asked the receptionist if there was somewhere I could leave it while interviewing.

              2. Blurgle*

                To be honest, I rarely if ever see 50% of the stuff that is said to make one minimally “polished”.

                Gah, that word makes me sick. It comes across as “already rich and far too big-citified for anyone around here”.

          2. ThatGirl*

            I see people here using small rolling briefcase-suitcase hybrids, because they don’t want to strain their shoulder with a laptop bag or similar. Depending on the size and style they can look professional.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yes, a lot of people at my job use them. The company provides plain black backpacks to us so we can carry our computers back and forth, but some people have back issues, etc. I did use a rolling bag when my shoulder was really bad.

              You can get very nice backpacks or messenger bags that hold a ton of stuff and look very professional.

    1. TheLazyB*

      I had an interview in London for my current job, a 3 hour train journey away. I had to take a mini suitcase, but i left it with reception. They were happy to look after it. I used to be based in a reception office and people quite often left luggage our office.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Yes, leaving a small suitcase with reception is totally okay. Even then, though, it makes a lot more sense if you actually traveled to that interview. Because if not, I’m just thinking you scheduled an interview for right when you got back from a trip (aren’t you tired?) or when you’re about to leave (what if the interview runs long?)

        1. Willis*

          Or if you said you’re going on a business trip and they start asking you about business travel in your current position and the real answer is none!

  4. Greg*

    there comes a time where you have to tell your parents to just drop a topic. every relationship is unique so this may not work for you but honestly if they are bringing it up every week and won’t listen to what you say then it’s time to stonewall them.

    Start with “I’m done discussing this” “I’ve made my decision” “I’m not talking about this.” strong hard stance, don’t give another option. Don’t make it a request, just flat out stonewall them. Then if they persist you escalate ignore the question, get up walk out, refuse to engage, hang up the phone, delete the email. Just don’t budge.

    I had to do this with my parents when they wouldn’t leave me alone about my weight I just had to. It wasn’t easy but now it’s almost never mentioned. It didn’t happen overnight and there was an argument but after they finally got it through their head to drop the topic.

    I’ve done the same with everyone around me, all the busybodies, all the well meaners, all the people who just can’t mind their business do not get any leeway into the conversation it becomes a brick wall. “you know if you did blah you’d probably lose weight” “it’s none of your business” “I’m just trying to help” “I don’t care it’s none of your business, drop it now” “but blah blah blah” “I said drop it.” *gets up and walks out*

    defending yourself just gives them something to argue against but utter refusal is not as easily countered.

    1. LJL*

      I was in a similar situation with my dad. The magic words for me were, “Thanks for letting me know.” It acknowledged that he wanted to help yet didn’t suggest that I was going to do what he said. Eventually he got to the point where he said “You’ll do what you want anyway,” to which I’d reply “that’s right.” In time he saw that my decisions were right for me. But it did take time. Hang in there, and remember that it comes from a place of love.

      1. Not really a newish lurker anymore...*

        Yeah, my dad shows love by advice giving. He wants to know he’s got a place in my life. So he brings things up, sometime repetitively. I don’t discuss, I just say “Thanks Dad” or “Interesting” or “good point.”

        But this is my Dad and me, not the OP. So I know it’s meant in a good way, from a place of love; even when it comes out in a critical way. My Dad is in his late 70s, he’s not going to change. I also try to remember that I’m not going to have him around forever either. That blunts MY edges in responding to him.

    2. SRB*

      I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of “Huh, I’ll think about that. So how about that sportsball team…”

      It pretty effectively shuts down further conversation on the topic. I then proceed to think for two seconds that their silly suggestion is not worth thinking about… and then go do whatever it was I was going to do anyways. :)

      +1 to Captain Awkward. That’s where I got that from. :)

    3. LW3*

      Thanks for the Captain Awkward suggestion.
      I think the other suggestions may work with my mom, who on the while is more of the I want you to be financially secure and I really want you to stay nearby end of the spectrum, but I really may need to start stonewalling my dad, who has worked for the Feds his entire adult life and can’t fathom other choices or not getting a job based on you bachelor’s degree. There’s every possibility that still won’t work, but I may need to try.
      I also want to clarify that I’m really not going for forcing them/convincing them to see things my way, rather at this point I just need the suggestions to stop, and for them to perhaps acknowledge that my reasons are real issues too.

      1. Anon here*

        As a federal employee and FS, I question some of the benefits long term since things keep getting cut. Also, you said you think they want you in the same country, but the foreign service would send you places they’d need to look up on a map. Just be honest with them, I guarantee it won’t be the only time in your life you need to stand your ground. If your heart isn’t set on the FS but you end up getting in, then you will not do well and make everyone who works with you unhappy too, and when we are overseas and away from family the last thing we need is a Debbie Downer.

      2. Marina*

        I think you need to tell your parents that you’re not interested in that direction, but you might want to take a look at the projected ( or lack thereof) job growth in Library Science.

    4. Lemon Zinger*

      Ah, this is so true.

      Telling my mom that my boyfriend and I were moving in together… that was NOT an easy conversation. But I didn’t want the issue to remain open for discussion so I cut it off at the head. It was hard for us both, but it was incredibly formative for me (as a young adult) to take a stand and assert myself.

      Side note: I LOVE being an adult. It’s still exciting to me that I can do whatever I want!

  5. Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: It’s not about how to make sure people are okay with your office culture. You need to change the office culture. Excessive swearing, boys club-ness, and inappropriate jokes are things to be screened OUT, not screened FOR. You’re going to end up screening out experienced, professional people who have the skills you need. Correct me if I’m wrong: if you’re a small business with no HR, what you’re trying to do is how small businesses become the weird niche environments that push your best employees out, to say nothing of people who don’t fit into the (insert eye-roll) boys club.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think the OP’s issue is likely that he’s not in a position where he can change it alone, and wants to make sure he’s not hiring people who will be miserable/uncomfortable there. That’s still potentially problematic for all the reasons I mentioned in the post, but I’m guessing that he’s not in a job where he’s well equipped to change the culture. (I could be wrong though, so hopefully he’ll weigh in here.)

      1. Yup*

        Alison, that’s probably true. But like Stellaaaaa, I’m concerned that OP doesn’t seem to find the culture especially problematic – the “occasional crude joke” description really minimizes an issue that could be better described as “inappropriate sexual content” or, more likely, statements that sexualize and denigrate women or others.

        S/he may not be in a position to substantively change the boys’ club mentality, but a first step would be recognizing just how problematic and exclusionary ensuring “fit” with the dudebros is.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          Yep. Lately I have little patience for people who aggressively maintain their “neutral” status in any controversial or difficult situation. Saying nothing is not a way to ensure that a bad thing stops happening. When you turn a blind eye to actions that actively harm other people, you are sending the message that this behavior is acceptable to you. While I would never encourage someone to jeopardize their job, I think OP1 needs to be told that the situation in their office is not okay and should not be preserved. I would encourage OP1 to log their 2 or 3 years and then try to move on to a job that isn’t going to permanently damage their professional reputation. Businesses that operate this way don’t stay around very long because they fail to hire anyone with professionalism and experience. Even if you can’t change this stuff, you need to know that it’s wrong in ways that can’t be mitigated or defended.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            But that last part isn’t really true — loads of long-time businesses have deeply entrenched boys clubs. That’s not great, but it’s true – and I don’t want the rest of your argument here to be dismissed because of the last part.

            1. Non-Prophet*

              Unfortunately, I think Alison is right that there are tons of successful, well-established businesses that still operate as boys’ clubs. I have a relative who works for a $10B+ employer that has an undeniably racist and sexist office culture. He is desperately trying to leave because it is such a bad environment. Unfortunately, the problematic attitudes are held by senior management too, so the chances of change are minimal. He tells me stories of things his coworkers say, and I am often surprised that there hasn’t been a major harassment lawsuit filed against the company. I’d like to think it’s only a matter of time before this starts to harm their business. But the cynical part of me suspects that they have a strong legal team that sweeps all complaints under the rug.

        2. Jen RO*

          “the “occasional crude joke” description really minimizes an issue that could be better described as “inappropriate sexual content” or, more likely, statements that sexualize and denigrate women or others” – I really don’t see how you could be so sure of this, seeing as OP didn’t mention anything about these aspects. It’s of course a possibility, but not a certainty.

          1. Stellaaaaa*

            Realistically, what other kinds of crude jokes are there? Are there any crude jokes that aren’t sexual, gendered, or racialized? That’s what makes them crude.

            1. A Dispatcher*

              We make horribly off color jokes about tragedies that would be super offensive to most people (very common in this field as well as ems and the medical field, etc as a coping mechanism). So I suppose LW could mean something like that. Doubt it though

              1. Parasitologist*

                Hahahaha… and when you work with the animals’ actual poop, the poop jokes are REALLY plentiful!

            2. Susan C.*

              Well, there’s also potty humor (which is still gross and inappropriate, but comparatively benign) – but I wouldn’t put any amount of money on that being the only thing going on.

            3. IndieGir*

              Poop jokes seconded. I worked in a department where if someone stopped off at the restroom on the way to a meeting, we all asked in unison if everything came out all right in the end. (Men and women included!). Of course, we knocked it off if there were non-departmental people attending.

            4. insert witty name here*

              Poop, farts and burps. I still remember being in a meeting and a coworker joking about his 7 year old daughter making fake fart noises during a funeral. He, and everyone else, found it hysterical.

              1. Kate M*

                Yeah but that seems more like a funny “kids do the darndest things” story, not really an off color joke.

            5. Temperance*

              I work with a lot of nonprofits. We don’t make racist, sexist, or sexual jokes … but the things we say would be upsetting/shocking to others. (As an example … way back when, one client stabbed another with a pen, and someone made a joke about prison tattoos. ) Gallows humor and all that.

          2. Yup*

            It was an inference based on the “boys’ club” description, and as Stellaaaa puts it, inappropriate typically = sexual, gendered, or racialized.
            Could I be wrong? Maybe. But I’m not convinced that running through all possible declensions makes a difference: there’s something coercive, to my mind, about being in an environment where the expectation is that whatever flavor of off-color the joke, you’re meant to be okay with it and find it funny.

    2. LadyMountaineer*

      There might not be much the OP can do. I work in an environment with a fair bit of “lockeroom talk” but if I participated in it I would be written up (just like many women before me.)

      OP are you *sure* you want to hire for diversity? It seems like setting someone up to fail.

      1. BeautifulVoid*

        If OP isn’t very high up the food chain, I’m afraid he might be in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. If he hires for cultural fit, as in someone who will fit in with the existing boys club, he’s helping perpetuate that kind of environment. If he hires based solely on qualifications, there’s a chance that person (male or female) will be set up to fail, as you say, if they’re uncomfortable with the office culture.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, exactly. There’s no great answer here, other than to work to change the culture, which is a massive undertaking at which you might fail (or be punished for) unless you’re at the very top.

          1. LadyMountaineer*

            This is probably fodder for another post entirely (or the Friday discussion–I love those) but when is it worthwhile to work with your employer to change things and when it it better to just leave? I work for a large government agency and I am completely bummed out that I won’t be able to fix this without being labeled as a troublemaker. I tried to ask for a pay equity analysis for myself and now two directors aren’t talking to me (I make 20k less than the male software devs.) I don’t want to burn this bridge and I don’t want to set up a hostile environment for the next woman who comes along. Is the answer really to just do the best thing for yourself at all times?

            1. neverjaunty*

              1) Talk to an attorney who specializes in employment law.
              2) With the assistance of #1, prepare your exit.

              It’s not about doing the best thing for yourself at all times. It’s about recognizing when you’re beating your head against a wall. You’re not going to be able to fix this by staying put. It’s possible that you might be able to take care of yourself and make things better for women who come after you by filing a lawsuit, arranging for a quiet settlement, or maybe just moving on – but you’re not obligated to have an underpaid, miserable working life in the hopes that you’ll make a tiny difference.

          2. neverjaunty*

            The lesser evil seems to be to warn people away. If the LW can’t change the culture, at least he can make sure talented people don’t waste their time at a bad job, and then the company can sink or swim based on its decision to prioritize dick jokes over a respectful culture.

            1. Roscoe*

              It may not necessarily be a bad job. And many people may be very happy there. You can have a very good job at a company that you don’t necessarily love

        2. LadyMountaineer*

          It’s not just set up to fail by being uncomfortable it is being set up to fail by doing anything at all.

          My current stategy includes showing up to work smiling everyday and saying “I’m sorry” anytime someone looks the least bit annoyed. It’s hard. I don’t recommend it.

          1. Jennifer*

            Me too on the strategy.

            I think in this case the “easiest” thing to do would be to continue to hire boys’ club members because anything else is likely to lead to explosions. It’s not right, but everything else can go even worse.

  6. Chriama*

    #4 – I think this was totally unprofessional and humiliating. And, it will likely make people hesitate to participate in these surveys in the future. However, I would encourage you to view it as a learning experience (while simultaneously following up to make sure it never happens again). As painful as it was to hear people’s unedited opinions of your department, how much of it was accurate? What can you take away from this and do differently? If everyone had a complaint about the department, there’s obviously work to be done. Don’t let the manner in which it was delivered prevent you from acting on valid feedback. And I would make this an exercise you do with the whole department.

    1. Jeanne*

      Right. You can certainly acknowledge that your staff feels hurt and attacked and that you were surprised the info was delivered this way. But in the end you need to change processes or attitudes or whatever to make improvements. Some time spent being truly honest will sort out the real complaints from any exaggerations.

  7. Tweety*

    #1 – ‘boys club’: seems to the type of environment that Flatulent Freddy would be part of, i.e. the co-worker who deliberately created a hostile, smelly environment because he wanted to get rid of a woman working there. He wanted it to be only a boys club, i.e. no women.

    1. Karo*

      I think I get what you’re saying, but just want to point out that having a bad person be a member of your group doesn’t automatically make it a bad group. Flatulent Freddy can also be a part of Hufflepuff House, but that doesn’t mean that Cedric Diggory is a bad person, or that Hufflepuffs are bad. In this case, it’s the impact (and potentially intent) of the boys club that’s a problem – it’s not like it would suddenly be a good group if Freddy quit.

  8. stevenz*

    I recently was relocated to a new team, and they swear like dockworkers. And they aren’t boys. After a few days one of them asked me very sincerely if I was offended by cursing and I astonished her to speechlessness when I said Yes, I am. I was so impressed that she asked; that had never happened before, so I really appreciated it. Of course, swearing is so widespread in any public setting now that it’s assumed that everyone is OK with it. But I’m not. I think it’s a mild form of violence.

    If I say something about the chairman people glare at me and I get branded a misogynist sexist pig for the rest of my life, but if I say the chair is a f—— ass—-, it’s considered cool and totally OK. In fact, I’m the one who is considered to be intolerant. (I’ve been told to grow up. Excuse me? Being crude is mature?) Sorry, I think that’s twisted. To me, the workplace should be a haven of professionalism, which includes basic decorum. It needn’t sound like the Dallas Cowboys locker room, unless the OP is participating in the NFL draft, or hiring miners.

    Anyway, after that conversation, she said “really?” I said “yes, really.” She was still pretty speechless and at a loss for what to do next and just sat there staring. Nothing changed, they still swear, and it still grates on me. OK, the world isn’t always the way we want it.

    But here’s the thing!!! If the OP says to an interviewee “oh, do you mind a little swearing?” and the candidate says Yes, what does that do to his chances at getting the job? Is. That. Fair?? What if he says No, afraid he he might jeopardize his chances at the job? Is. That. Fair?? Or, even more likely, he probably has *no idea* what the right answer is, but since it is a binary question he has to pick one, and there *is* a right answer, and he’s darned if he does and darned if he doesn’t.

    My suggestion: Keep in mind that there are some things that actually do offend people even though they don’t offend you, and swearing has been offensive to many people for a very long time and you shouldn’t assume that it’s totally OK now. Which group’s sensitivities should be accommodated and which can be ignored? And who are you to say? My bigger question is different from Alison’s and it is what level of tolerance of different sensitivities are you and your corporate culture willing to respect?

    I know I have been turned down for jobs because of my age, gender, and race. I hate that. But intellectually I understand that the need for gender and ethnic diversity throughout the workforce is important, so, OK. (The age thing, though. That’s another story.) However, if I were to find out that I was rejected for a job because my Yes or No answer to the swearing question was wrong, I would be incandescent with rage. I hope that has never happened to anyone, and I hope it never does.

    1. Blue Anne*

      I actually do think that’s fair.

      There are few roles where you’re hired solely for your skills. I mean, if you’ve been called in for an interview, they already think you probably have the skills they’re looking for, right? How many places hire solely on the strength of a resume or even skills test? Social/culture fit is important. Okay, obviously there’s a line – it sounds like the environment in #1 crosses the line into preserving a potentially toxic workplace, for example. But there are many work environments where people curse and it isn’t a problem.

      This is a social preference. I understand it. I do curse, but it bugs me when people just drop f-bombs with abandon. But that just makes it a culture fit issue. My ideal workplace? Colleagues are friendly but there’s no forced socializing, I’m trusted to be a responsible adult without a lot of scrutiny, it’s not an open-plan office, I can be out of the closet and – bonus points! – dye my hair pink.

      If I showed up to interviews with pink hair, I’d be expressing that preference and I’d expect places where it wasn’t okay to rule me out. If an interviewer said “We have a really close social culture, we’re like a family here with lots of barbecues and stuff. Do you think you’d enjoy that?” I’d answer a very loud “NO” and, again, expect to be ruled out, and thank God for that. Every workplace is different and everyone has their preferences. If you said “No, I’m not okay with cursing” when asked at an interview, sure, it might affect your chances of getting the job – but I’m confused as to why you’d be incandescent with rage? They would have just given you a big warning that you might not enjoy the environment and a chance to think about whether you really want in.

      So in terms of these connected questions you asked “Which group’s sensitivities should be accommodated and which can be ignored? And who are you to say?” Well… The interviewer and candidate really are the people to say, because each workplace suits a different group best.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        The problem is that some “cultures” are a breeding ground for EEOC violations. They historically have been used to exclude minorities and women. For example, thirty years ago women were excluded from many manufacturing jobs because of the “manly” culture of swearing like a sailor. Oh, honey, I just know you’d be uncomfortable here. And it would be true. But why should women have to put up with swearing to work in manufacturing? It isnt really a part of the job.
        So the culture wars are limited by what does or does not create a hostile work environment as defined by the Feds.
        Barbecues don’t create a hostile work environment. Cussing environments historically have done so and are therefore problematic.
        In short, history provides context on why some cultures are OK and others aren’t.

        1. MadGrad*

          Okay, but – I know a lot of women (and am one) who swear profusely given the opportunity and a lot of men who are uncomfortable with it. The issue with you’re you’re mentioning as I see it is a lot less “people swear here” and a lot more “awww, poor little lady, no way she could handle mean words”. I dislike the idea that swearing is an inherently manly thing women have to suffer and not just something that men have had more social leeway on for longer.

          (Of course, this is just considering swearing as neutral things like the f word or whatnot, not gendered or otherwise problematic words. That’s a whole other issue)

          1. Yup*

            That may be true now (I swear a fair bit myself), but Engineer Girl is correct to point that swearing, especially in public, has historically been gendered — that is, coded as highly unbecoming behavior for a woman, contrary to the proper genteel femininity a woman ought to exude. The context matters in terms of what passes as appropriate behavior, and for whom.

            Also, this case isn’t problematic because of cursing alone – the addition of crude jokes make it sound as if frat culture is somehow normative in that workplace. But no matter how infrequently those jokes may or may not be told, even once is too many.

          2. Natalie*

            There’s an additional layer of men who are comfortable with men swearing but don’t like swearing around women and/or hearing women swear. I’ve been on the receiving end of that a fair bit, as a woman who curses a lot.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think it’s true, though, that environments with lots of profanity are particularly problematic for women, even if historically they were. (For example, the most profane people I’ve ever worked with have all been women. That’s not hard data, obviously, but I think we should avoid associating women with being more offended by swear words.)

          1. MadGrad*

            I moved to the southern US from Quebec in middle school and I blew some little southern gentleman minds with my tendency towards “french”. I’m also still partial in social circles to a certain Heathers quote involving chainsaws. The idea that women don’t or shouldn’t swear as much as men tickles me.

            1. tink*

              I love that Heathers quote (and as an aside, if you haven’t listened to songs from the Heathers musical, you should look them up, because they work amazingly). :)

            2. Christopher Tracy*

              I’m also still partial in social circles to a certain Heathers quote involving chainsaws.

              That quote is one of my favorites from any movie ever.

            3. Kore*

              That quote is the best. I don’t swear in the workplace (just with friends) but I love that quote so much.

            4. Dynamic Beige*

              Yes, but you could have used Quebecois swear words and they would have never understood that. Maybe by the inflection or emotion, but not the words themselves. Because sometimes “cheese and rice” is just not enough.

          2. Jen RO*

            Thank you for this. In my (80% female) department it’s *by far* the women who swear the most, and I actually find it somewhat offensive when men apologize for swearing in front of me.

            I never thought of asking candidates if they mind swearing… but maybe I should, because ‘why the fuck is this fucking software crashing on me again’ and ‘if we’re not done by tomorrow, we’re screwed’ are regular occurrences in my work vocabulary. (Except even more creative, because Romanian has a larger range if swear words and combinations thereof.)

            1. Jen RO*

              (I’m replying to a comment in moderation so this might nest funny… I didn’t realize my f-bombs would trigger the filter, sorry!)

              I want to add that there is a big difference between swearing at things and swearing at people. The former has been fine in all places I’ve worked, the latter was a big problem and obviously unacceptable.

              1. Heather*

                there is a big difference between swearing at things and swearing at people

                I never thought of it before in specifically those terms, but now that you mentioned it, I think that’s my dividing line too.

              2. One of the Sarahs*

                My partner has an apprentice on her team, who’s never worked in an office environment before, and was having tons of complaints she swore, and was really upset that she felt she was being picked on about her language, when everyone else swore. My partner was explaining the difference between saying, eg, “I’m so f-ed off with today, anyone want a cuppa?” and being heard calling someone a “f-ing a-hole”, and I can see where the confusion comes in, but the at/about things/people difference is a really crucial one.

              3. Rana*

                That’s also my stance. Fck this printer! is fine; fck you! or you fcking idiot! isn’t, unless someone has done something objectively terrible (like telling a grieving colleague to just suck it up the day after the funeral).

                I also find myself uncomfortable about using the word “damn” in that fashion. Damn this computer! = okay; damn you = not okay.

                On the other hand, “he’s such an asshole” and “she’s such a jerk” don’t bother me at all, because they reflect (presumably) something the other person has control over, e.g., their behavior.

                1. Rana*

                  (btw, apologies, Alison! I’m sure your moderation duties have quadrupled on this post, just because of all the profanity, and I wasn’t sure which words were flagged automatically.)

              1. Jen RO*

                I would promise to share a few in the Friday thread, but I am on holiday so I’m not online as much as usual. I’ll try though! (But they are bad and some people will be offended, I’m sure. )

          3. Temperance*

            I work in a white-collar environment (attorney) and the women here are far, far more profane than any of the men. (Myself included.)

          4. Jinx*

            I’m a woman who curses like a sailor. :) My office culture does not involve profanity, but from my experiences in gaming culture I can tell you that there is a big difference between an environment where people swear and an environment where people make crude objectifying sexual comments about women. One does not necessarily equal the other.

            1. JMegan*

              Yes! Which lends even more strength to the argument that OP1 needs to be clear about the exact kind of swearing and crudeness that can be expected. Because there’s a whole range of possible reactions there.

              I’m totally comfortable with the occasional “f-word” or “s-word” in the office (even though I apparently can’t type them!), and will use them myself if it seems appropriate. I can tolerate fart/poop jokes, but will not make them myself; and I would absolutely be offended if I heard sexual jokes in the office.

              It’s not enough to just say”swearing and crude jokes,” because that could mean so many things to so many people.

              1. Kore*

                Exactly – I am very comfortable with swearing, but sexist/racist jokes are a hard no for me, and sexual jokes would make me uncomfortable in an office setting. I’d be cool with swearing in the office, but crude jokes probably not .

                1. Chinook*

                  This exactly! I have called out colleagues who have crossed the line into racist/sexist but everything else is fair game.

            2. One of the Sarahs*

              Yes, this! And same goes for other forms of discrimination, innit? So I will swear a lot in informal settings, but that doesn’t mean I’m OK with racist or homophobic language, or officeplace bullying and so on.

          5. BTownGirl*

            Truth! I’ve spent a lot of time on construction sites where all communication was basically done in f-bombs and I’ve found it quite comforting that, should things go awry, I don’t have to limit myself to “fiddlesticks!”

            1. Izzy*

              I worked in an environment where men dropped the F bomb and the MF bomb every other word. I found out the hard way that while those words are used so much in some circles that they’re practically meaningless, “dammit” is serious cursing. As in, union grievance, major drama. In my culture, that’s on the milder end of the spectrum. It worked out well, apologies and handshakes all around, but it was a learning experience.

              1. Not really a newish lurker anymore...*

                My mother rarely swears. We’re talking maybe a dozen times in the last 25 years. When Mom says “damn or damnit” everyone of her kids and grandkids in hearing distance jumps to do her bidding because clearly the world is close to ending.

                1. Phyllis B*

                  I’m like your mom. I didn’t grow up in a family that uses profanity. In fact, we were taught that profanity was a lazy way of expressing yourself. And TRIED to teach this to my children. (They just laugh at me.) Having said all that, I understand not everyone feels this way, and adults are free to express themselves in the way they like. The only line I draw is I will not listen to MF or GD. Also like your mom, I may swear d……it is usually my go to word. When I do use that, or one my other two or three choice words, they pay attention because they know it’s SERIOUS!!

              2. Rana*

                I’m like that. While I’m not particularly religious (nor Christian) condemning a person to eternal torment seems far more serious than calling someone out as a practitioner of sexual acts.

            2. neverjaunty*

              Although, honestly, in an an environment where people drop F-bombs like they were trying to unlock an achievement for it, using curses like “fiddlesticks!” or “dang it!” is a serious shocker.

              1. Phyllis B*

                My kids crack up when I say Fiddlesticks or Dagnab or dadgum stupid sapsucker. They’ll say “Whooooo , Mom. We’re gonna have to wash your mouth out with soap!!”

          6. Izzy*

            I was going to say that. I once worked in an all female area and they were much raunchier than the men. The guys in the front office “boys club” avoided our area, or else left blushing. Maybe we’re more polite in mixed company.

          7. Lily Rowan*

            In my first full-time office job, my boss (also a woman) and I swore quite a bit with each other. When we were hiring an assistant, one of the questions we asked was “What are you looking for in a boss?” or something like that. We were shocked when one of the applicants specifically said she didn’t want to work for anyone who swore! We realized it was not going to work out with her.

          8. ThursdaysGeek*

            And, as a woman who would prefer to not hear profanities, I have to keep that to myself, so I

            avoid associating women with being more offended by swear words.

            My husband doesn’t like swearing either, and he can speak up about it. But I don’t dare, or else I’ll look like a weak woman who needs to be protected from the bad words.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              This is a great point. You may hate swearing but not speak up about it because you don’t want to “other” yourself.
              Just because no ones complaining doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem.

      2. Callietwo*

        I agree with this.

        I’ve had a few jobs in my day- one was at a very large construction project as a field coordinator and at the very end of the interview, the project manager asked very sincerely if I would mind working around profanity. Something I never thought I would say in an interview but my response was “Shit, no!” And then he very gentlemanly escorted me to my car after the interview because the yard was still a construction project and I didn’t have safety gear yet. One of the best jobs I ever worked.

        I also worked at a car dealership. Oh, the EEOC violations there were rampant, starting with the girlie mags in my desk drawer on day one, and it went progressively worse from there, where the sexist, vulgar, racist, violent behavior put me in the hospital for stress (I needed the health insurance, oh the irony).

        But now I work in a human services agency and the ladies here swear worse than the men on that construction site, I can tell you that. Way worse!

      3. ModernHypatia*

        I had a really fascinating conversation with someone early last month who works in a library/museum that has an extensive collection of specimens of various kinds. When they hire someone to work there, they really need to find someone who is going to treat the items respectfully, but also find them cool and fascinating, not horribly gross or upsetting. (And she mentioned that before they started paying attention to this in specific, they hired a few people for whom it was really a problem, and who’d bluffed their way through the interview.)

        Her current method is to interview in her director’s office, and to mention part way through that the director has a number of somewhat odd hobbies, including keeping leeches as pets. The next comment is that they’re in the container on the shelf behind the interviewee. Apparently that’s a really effective method for figuring out who’s going to do well with their collection, and who isn’t. (Some people go “Oh, cool! I haven’t seen one up close before!” and some people jump and run.)

        That’s different than the OP#1’s issue, but if you take the issue of possible discrimination/etc. piece out, it gave me some interesting ideas for approaching specific setting interviews and volunteer work .

        1. Rana*

          Yeah, being upfront about the contours of the job and its culture that way seems really useful. I still remember – and have respect for – the interviewer I talked with when I was a college student interested in a job at the local video store. He noted that one of the responsibilities of the job was to rent out porn, and asked if I’d have a problem with it. I hadn’t realized I’d be expected to do that, and at that age was not in fact okay with that, and really appreciated the head’s up.

          (fwiw, I’d find the leech jar fascinating. Gross, but interesting.)

    2. Mags*

      “I know I have been turned down for jobs because of my age, gender, and race. I hate that. But intellectually I understand that the need for gender and ethnic diversity throughout the workforce is important, so, OK.”

      Perhaps I’m reading this incorrectly, but you’re saying you “know” you’ve been denied work in favor of others who can diversify the workplace? I hope that’s not what you mean.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        I don’t see how it’s wrong to admit that as long as you’re not hostile about it. The environment described in OP1’s email could be inferred to be very short on women. If the hiring team is smart, they’d try to hire a woman next. That means that men wouldn’t really be in consideration unless they had a wildly unique and useful skill set or well of experience. Seeking to diversify a workplace inherently means that you’re screening out white men. You can’t have it both ways if you want to diversify but also don’t want to admit that you’re not hiring white men.

        1. Blue Anne*

          The problem with that is the assumption that the woman who was hired in your scenario was less skilled. So what if it’s an environment low on women? The assumption that a male applicant was passed over because he was male, rather than because he was less skilled or not as good a fit, is really problematic.

          1. Blue Anne*

            I should say – last year I was working in a very, very large professional services firm. An industry leader. They are lacking in diversity at all levels and published modest targets for the percentage of women they want to see at different paygrades over the next ten years.

            Dudes went apeshit. Lots of muttering along the lines of “Might as well switch firms, no men getting promoted here for the next decade”. Which was bull! The closest I heard was department heads who put forward promotion lists with no females being questioned about it before they went through. There was NO shortage of highly skilled female professionals at that firm. But suddenly, all the promotions became… well, you know, this will get our office up to the target for that paygrade so obviously that’s why they promoted Sheila… who was a hardworking genius and excellent manager, as it happened.

            Anyway. Yeah. That kind of thinking really undermines women and minorities.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Right. Places that do a good job with diversity aren’t lowering the bar — they’re just getting more qualified people with diverse demographics into the pool and being more deliberate about guarding against bias in their selection process.

            1. Harper*

              Exactly. People tend to think it means “hiring less qualified people because we need to be more diverse”, but actually what was happening without those ideas in place was that they were overlooking qualified people because they were from the “wrong” demographic group.

              1. Turtle Candle*

                Yeah. The unfortunate fact is that the assumption behind a statement like “we’re hiring less qualified people to be more diverse” is that of course the women/non-white people/disabled people/whatever are less qualified. Otherwise you might just as easily say “now that we’re not limiting our leadership to white men, look at what a broader and stronger range of candidates we have!” It’s a bizarre case where the assumption is that a broader field makes things less competitive.

        2. Mags*

          “Seeking to diversify a workplace inherently means that you’re screening out white men. ”

          Nooo. Not at all! I really wish people would stop spreading these statements around. They are so very damaging and patronizing. It is unfortunately common for people to think they only lost out on a job (or scholarship, or college acceptance…) because the company wanted a POC/woman. Which is problematic for a few reasons. First of all, and most important to understand, it wasn’t their job to lose. It was up for grabs for any of the candidates to win. If you lost out on a job, it’s because you weren’t the best candidate. Suggesting that others have won a job because of their race or gender is condescending beyond words. This completely and entirely diminishes all of the hard work and accomplishments put forth by POC/women and paints them entirely as a diversity hire.

          Diversifying the workplace means taking a look at your hiring practices and/or work culture to see why you are attracting one demographic over all the others. It does not mean that you are allowed to take race or gender into consideration. For any reason.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes. This is a good place to note that it’s illegal to hire based on gender or race, even if it’s in order to get more diversity. You cannot legally choose to hire someone because of their gender or race, regardless of what that gender or race is.

            What you can and should do is find ways to expand your pool of qualified candidates … use evidence-based methods to evaluate candidates (so you’re not just hiring people you like or who you feel comfortable with) … actively work to combat bias in your process … and look at how to make your workplace more attractive to a more diverse group of people.

            1. Mreasy*

              Bingo. Recently my husband hired a new small team, and in his line of work (cultural media), diverse voices and experiences are crucial. So he hired with an eye toward inclusiveness. But one candidate (white, transgender) edged out another (Black, cismale) just barely, and they hired the former. But his company ended up creating another position so they could hire the edged-out candidate, because he was extremely talented, but also because his background, different to the rest of the team, would make their collaborative work better. And it’s clear this was a great choice. Obviously this isn’t always an option (creating a new position), but smart companies will look at the candidates they have, and work out how to create the best teams possible, recognizing that in all situations, diverse backgrounds lead to more perspectives when it comes to problem-solving, communication abilities, and most workplace-relevant skills and contributions.

            2. Anon For This*

              I will say this: Literally every hiring process I’ve been involved with has begun with the decision-maker saying that they wanted to hire a person of color for the role. They weren’t doing smart, strategic work to diversify their pool or critical, reflective work to understand why people of color might be less interested in those workplaces — they just wanted the staff to look more diverse.

              (I work in the nonprofit sector, and these hiring processes were all at very small organizations — budgets under $1,000,000, under 10 staff).

          2. aebhel*

            Yeah, statements like this sort of operate under the assumption that of course the white man was objectively the most qualified candidate; he only lost out on the job because they were trying to diversify the workplace. Like it’s inconceivable that a woman or a non-white person might actually have been more qualified.

          3. ThatGirl*

            I agree with all of this.

            Also, anecdotally, there are a few (rare) professions where being male can help – my husband is a licensed mental health counselor, a profession that tends to skew female, so while he’s still a white dude, having a man on the team can actually add to the diversity of it.

            1. Alex*

              It’s refreshing to hear this. It’s really rare to encounter this line of thinking in female dominated professions. There hasn’t been a very strong push to add males to female dominated professions like teaching and nursing. I thinks this partially explains the resentment among the affirmative action programs currently in place.

              1. neverjaunty*

                There probably hasn’t been a very strong push because those professions tend to be undercompensated and less respected particularly because they’ve been female-dominated – and when men do enter those professions, there is the ‘glass escalator’ where they disproportionately end up in management.

                1. Alex*

                  I will agree with these professions being under compensated 100 percent. I do want to add that if we are taking Allison’s line of reasoning for diversification-to expand the pool of more qualified candidates- then something like nursing and teaching would obviously benefit from the broader pool of candidates to select from. Unfortunately this has not been happening on any sort of broad scale. I don’t think it’s the concept of diversity in it of its self that is causing resentment, I think it is in part due to how inconsistently it is being called for.

                2. ThatGirl*

                  Yeah, I can’t speak to management for my husband – his bosses have all been women – but that may well be true on a larger scale. But it’s also true that these are not highly compensated positions.

                3. aebhel*

                  @Alex, as someone who works in a female-dominated profession (librarian), we rarely get male applicants, largely because it’s a career that’s generally undercompensated for the amount of education it requires (as is the case for most female-dominated fields). I think it’s disingenuous to act as though that’s an equivalent situation to traditionally male-dominated fields that can be quite hostile to women, though; men in female-dominated fields tend to be promoted faster and compensated better than their colleagues. It’s really not tit for tat.

              2. ThatGirl*

                Eh, I’m not sure I’d go that far – I wasn’t trying to make a point about affirmative action. But you do see men who teach end up as administrators, or male nurses getting flak, which shouldn’t happen. Nurses do a lot of hard work.

          4. Marzipan*

            Well, and also – although an individual person obviously can’t be ‘diverse’ – it’s perfectly possible to be a white man and also a member of an underrepresented group. Those with disabilities, for example.

        3. Willis*

          A company can work to get a diverse pool of applicants and then pick the most qualified candidate. It may mean less white males are hired, but it certainly doesn’t mean they lost those jobs just because of their gender or race.

          Also, to say you know you lost a position due to age, race, or gender implies you had some way of knowing you were otherwise the best candidate. Unless the hiring manager is giving you that feedback, how would you know that?

          1. Alex*

            ‘Also, to say you know you lost a position due to age, race, or gender implies you had some way of knowing you were otherwise the best candidate. Unless the hiring manager is giving you that feedback, how would you know that?”

            There really is no way of knowing that. I think it would be beneficial for the hiring process to be more transparent and for there to be more objective criteria to weigh candidates against. I have noticed that hiring can sometimes be unfairly influenced by how comfortable the interviewer feels about a candidate and the level of rapport that is established, rather than hard qualifications.

        4. neverjaunty*

          No, seeking to diversify a workplace means you’re trying to diversify the workplace. If that ends up “screening out white men” it’s because you changed a process that favored white men.

          Also, of course, it’s worth noting that plenty of underrepresented groups include white men.

          1. JessaB*

            Yes. But changing a process is not deliberately screening out white men. It’s making sure whatever thing in your process that only favoured them is removed.

            1. LBK*

              I think that’s what neverjaunty was saying – that if a result of changing your process is that it ends up bringing in fewer white men (effectively “screening out” more of them), that’s probably an indication that your process was favoring white men before. But you wouldn’t be screening them out because they’re white men, you’d be screening them because they aren’t in your top percentage of candidates, and by nature if your pool is more diverse as a whole, your top candidates are also likely to be more diverse.

              If you have 90 men and 10 women to start, odds are that 9 of your 10 best candidates will be men (not incorporating race here just to keep the math simple). If your pool starts out 50/50, you probably will “screen out” 4 more men than you did before, but that’s because you’re more likely to have highly qualified women among your pool if you have more women to begin with, so when you screen based on qualifications, more women will rise to the top.

              Interestingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly), there was a study my sister posted on FB recently that showed that you actually need *more* women than men in your hiring pool in order to actually end up hiring 50/50 men/women. I can’t remember the details but I believe it was something like when given 4 resumes, if 2 were from men and 2 were from women, one of the male candidates was selected the majority of the time, rather than it being split evenly like you would expect from having an evenly split hiring pool. It wasn’t until they shifted the makeup to 1 male resume/3 female resumes that they got a 50/50 hiring result.

              1. neverjaunty*

                Yes, exactly. It’s not “we need to hire some more black women!”, because frankly, that’s not diversity; that’s tokenism. It’s about removing barriers and biases that lead to seeing white guys as the ‘default’ employee with the best ‘culture fit’.

                1. LBK*

                  I think where people get confused is that trying to remove those barriers and biases does sometimes mean deliberately seeking out arenas where you can find more diverse candidates. If you’re just throwing up a post on Monster and only white men are applying, you may need to actively seek out more niche spaces to find candidates like a women’s conference or a specialized job board in order to flesh out your hiring pool.

                  The problem is that people look only at the last step and say “You’re reverse discriminating by actively looking for women/minorities!” and ignore that your initial base already includes a wealth of white men, and that those white men aren’t being dumped from the pool in favor of anyone. The pool is just being expanded.

                2. neverjaunty*

                  Yes. And also, people get confused because they’re mired in their own assumptions that the process they were already using was a ‘meritocracy’.

                  For example – lots of the big Silicon Valley companies give extra preference to resumes submitted by existing employees. This makes sense, right? After all, if somebody who already works for you vouches for Wakeen, why wouldn’t you want to look at Wakeen first instead of some random person? But most white people tend to have very few friends who aren’t white. And so in a company with a disproportionately white workforce, it’s white people giving a leg up to other white people.

                3. LBK*

                  Oh my GOD yes, the implication that things already are/ever were a pure meritocracy drives me crazy. The system *should* be a meritocracy. The problem is that it isn’t. That’s what we’re trying to fix, and part of fixing that means pushing some people through the systematic barriers and biases that currently exist. We can’t have a working meritocracy when institutional racism means some people will always have disproportionately low “merit”.

                4. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*

                  Eh… I could go on at length about how problematic meritocracy actually is – for one thing, that the children of wealthy/successful/influential parents will always have an advantage – but I’ll spare you that rant. (Also, Christopher Hayes’s “Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy” explained it several years ago a lot better than I could.) I *sort of* agree with you, but think a lack of deprivation and security for everyone is a better ideal than meritocracy.

        5. Xay*

          You’re only screening out white men if white men are considered a default qualified hire and any other demographic group is an exception. The point of diversity is that race and gender are not qualifications by themselves – for white men or anyone else.

        6. Jennifer M.*

          Umm, in my first management position, I pushed to hire a white man in order to increase diversity because everyone else in at that particular position in our department (though this wasn’t an issue for this position in other departments at same company) there was only one other man (the women were a mixture of races, ethnicities, and national origin).

          We had narrowed it down to two candidates, one man, one woman who had resumes that were eerily similar – BAs and MAs from schools of similar size and rank, same language skills (a plus but not requirement for our department), same amount and type of work experience – their most recent positions were competitors of each other. I actually liked the woman a bit more, but thought it was important to show that the work these associates were doing wasn’t “woman’s work” (an older executive once made an unfortunate comment about women being good at the associate position because the level of detail monitoring required was a skill that “women” possess).

          So we hired the man. Ended up with another opening about a month later and ultimately hired the woman instead.

        7. Cranston*

          This ignores the fact that, being a man, he already has more opportunities open to him than a woman of the same race.

      2. bwahaaa*

        ha ha. That’s exactly what they mean. Absolutely.

        As a woman of color who has been hurt in my career for things out of my control (my gender and ethnicity) – I’m playing a little tiny violin here. We have to work twice as hard to get half as much. You better believe if you think a woman and/or minority “took” your job that you are mistaken. And don’t worry, on the few exceptions where a company does promote/hire a woman and/or minority employee and it was a mistake given the other options, the mistake will get corrected. Right quick!

        Twice as hard. Half as much.

        1. seejay*

          The number of butthurt feelings from white men I see whenever I post about white privilege never fails to baffle me. It’s like a lot of them think that because they’re not reaping the benefits of this so-called privilege (because a PoC or woman “won” over them or they’re poor or struggling or unable to get a job) that the privilege doesn’t exist. They literally can’t see that they’re standing on the side of a hill built on the bones and backs of black slaves and gender wage gaps because in their exact particular case they’re not at the very tippy top and there’s some blacks and women above them.

          1. SimontheGreyWarden*

            My husband and I have had a lot of conversations about privilege. We are both white, and I grew up much poorer than he did and lived in a more ethnically and culturally diverse city while he lived in a smaller Midwestern town that was racially and culturally homogeneous. I work at a community college primarily among POCs or students with learning disabilities. My husband used to be of the mindset that since he had not personally benefitted from his privilege, that he didn’t have any. It took sitting him down and explaining that his mom having a doctoral degree, him attending a fairly exclusive school, and him having had the opportunity to study music as a potential career were examples of privilege. It had been his choice to not do work in school and to turn down the scholarship he could have gotten for his music, but the fact that he had the OPTION to turn it down was an example of privilege. It took a lot of reminding him that I wasn’t there to coddle to his hurt feelings when he believed he got passed over for a woman in his field (he went into a traditionally female-oriented program) before he actually began to internalize what I was telling him.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Well, and he was overlooking all the pieces of privilege that about things that don’t happen to him. He benefits from the absence of lots of things he probably doesn’t think about.

              1. LBK*

                Yeah, I think this is by far the most common way privilege presents itself and why it’s so hard for a lot of people to identify and acknowledge. It’s more more silent and passive than I think people imagine when they first hear about the concept.

                1. Turtle Candle*

                  Yes. It’s really hard to observe an absence. Like, when I walk into a store, the employees don’t assume I’m going to steal stuff–but that’s completely invisible to me in isolation. If I don’t expose myself to stories of people who are unfairly targeted and followed around the store, I may never know that other people do not have the privilege of not being considered to be automatically shoplifters. For a workplace example, my name reads as culturally ‘neutral’ to a lot of American employers. (No name is genuinely culturally neutral, of course, but some names are perceived to be ‘normal’ because of biases, and others aren’t.) It’s not so much that the employer is reading it consciously going, “Gosh, she sounds white! +10 points for her!” as that the person whose name reads as belonging to a specific culture is more likely to get an invisible, possibly even unconscious, negative in the resume-reader’s mind.

                  It is a type of privilege that is a lot harder to see, if you have it, than the kind of “my dad and your dad play golf so I got a job offer” overt privilege that most people think of when they hear the word. Which is why education on its existence is so important.

                2. LBK*

                  Yes, the points thing is exactly right. I think the problem is that when dissenters of the idea of privilege envision it, they view the idea of “privilege” as meaning that everyone starts at 0 and gets points added for being white, straight, male, etc. They don’t buy into it because they don’t see this visualization playing out in reality – there’s no observable cause and effect that benefits them for being in the majority.

                  What they don’t understand is that it’s really more like everyone starts at 100, and you lose points for each non-privileged group you fall into based on the hiring manager’s innate biases. So when they look at it and say “Hey, I started at 100 and I’m still at 100, so I didn’t gain anything by being straight/white/etc.!” they aren’t realizing that they’re still ahead of everyone who lost points.

              2. Elizabeth West*


                This is why it’s so hard to talk to some men about catcalling. They can’t comprehend why it’s so unnerving because it hasn’t happened to them.

                1. Turtle Candle*

                  And that horrible “It’s a compliment! I’d love it if someone yelled at me on the street to tell me I was sexy!”

                  Which is pretty ridiculous; it’s telling someone that they ought to change their feelings about a thing that is actually happening to them, based on your imagination of how you might feel if it hypothetically happened to you. It’s saying that a vast body of stated experience–that is to say, that women on average overwhelmingly dislike being catcalled–a vast body of facts is irrelevant because of your fantasy of how it might feel.

                  The funny thing is, most of the people who I hear making that argument loudly pride themselves on your rationality, which that is the opposite of.

                2. Jennifer*

                  Do a Google search for “An Old Lion or a Lover’s Lute Extended Cut”–there was a podcast interview with a catcaller and his cluelessness is breathtaking. Though by the time they do a followup, he says he’s stopped.

            2. seejay*

              Yeah, I get that because for some people if it doesn’t exactly effect them *directly* or if they’re in the middle of it, it’s very hard to see, but that’s why they have to listen when someone, especially those who grew up without a lot of opportunities, try to explain it to them.

              The guy I keep butting heads with about it is a standard white male who thinks that because he’s poor, unemployed and struggling that he doesn’t have privilege because having it means he should have all the benefits granted to him *because* he’s white and male and that it’s a load of balderdash used by PoC/women/etc to try to make him feel guilty (for being white/male). No matter how you word it, he doesn’t understand that being white and male doesn’t mean he gets all the benefits of white male privilege handed over to him on a silver platter and he’ll be rich/esteemed/whateverelse… there are plenty of poor redneck uneducated white males out there. Privilege just means society gives you a better playing field by nature of your colour/gender and there’s assumptions that go with it. Currently, there’s a higher likelihood a white person isn’t going to get shot “out of fear” when pulled over by the police, while black people are automatically going to have their minds jump to that fearful thought and I don’t blame them one bit for worrying about that. As a woman, I automatically side-eye every man I see when I’m walking home alone at night “just in case” whereas men don’t have to think like that. That… that is male privilege right there (which some men don’t get at all).

              I’m glad your husband was able to listen and understand! The more people that can see the issues, the better as a society we become, since we can work at breaking down the barriers and better empathize with others.

              1. neverjaunty*

                And that’s the difference between somebody who just didn’t know, and somebody who doesn’t want to know because it might make him feel bad.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  I think there’s not much benefit in making people feel bad for their privilege. Few people grow when they are defensive, nor do they feel generous or proactive.

                  It’s more important for people with privilege to recognize that other people don’t have those privileges, and then work on their own assumptions, and hopefully on trying to change others’ assumptions.

                  I sometimes wish that instead of saying “check your privilege” we said, “recognize your privilege.” (though yes, we do want people to check—i.e. pull back on—their sense of privilege. It’s just that it’s not that likely that they’ll respond well when they feel criticized. Especially because people like me didn’t ask to be born privileged)

                2. aebhel*


                  On the one hand, that’s true; on the other hand, it sort of puts the onus on the people who are struggling more to gently talk others through their privilege, which can be frustrating and exhausting–and also isn’t really fair. I don’t want to make people feel bad about their privilege, but I’m also not necessarily always in a position to prioritize their feelings. Most decent people feel bad when an unearned advantage they have is pointed out to them; that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be pointed out.

              2. Jaguar*

                I think a lot of the problem comes from people that feel like they are struggling, obviously, aren’t going to be receptive to discussions about all the benefits they enjoy. That’s especially true when people are getting that message from people they feel are better off than they are (i.e., an educated, successful minority woman telling less-educated and poorer white man about the struggles she’s encountered that he hasn’t). I often see this play out and I wonder what people expected to happen.

                I’ll also note, as a man who has been mugged and feels uncertain or scared around strange men late at night, the idea that men “don’t have to think like that” is false. Their fears might be different, but they’re still fears of an unwanted, potentially violent encounter.

                1. seejay*

                  Everyone’s experiences are different, yes, and while some women might not have experienced sexual harassment and thus not have concerns about strange men late at night, *most* women experience some form of sexual harassment at least once in their life because that’s how society is built up. Men being mugged is something that does happen but it’s not a common occurrence, hence the concept of privilege… “most men don’t have to worry about it, most women do”.

                  And yes, I can understand that a white man in a position that’s struggling isn’t going to be receptive, but I’m also not talking down to this particular person directly… I see him posting rants and scathing comments about how he’s the scapegoat for any racial tension/persecution that’s going on and then making snarky comments whenever others post about actual racial inequality issues are going on and just trying to say someone is dumb for some statement, not that it’s because of racism or privilege or whatever else that he doesn’t understand.

                  I get that each person’s experience does colour a particular incident, but when we’re talking about society as a whole, that’s where the concept of privilege and gender/racial disparity comes into play.

                2. Jaguar*

                  I understand the perspective you’re placing the discussion in, but you seemed to be complaining about how people react negatively to it, and that’s what I was addressing. I think it’s rare the person that can put holistic societal issues in a position of greater importance than things that are affecting them directly. To use a disenfranchised group to which I do belong, discussions of how poverty affect me directly significantly outweigh in terms of importance and relevance discussions of how poverty affects people on a broad, abstract, societal level (i.e., I can only talk about debt in an abstract sense because my experience of it is limited but I can talk about caste systems and social class passionately because I experience it almost every day and it carries significant emotional weight for me). So when you’re addressing people individually, as you are in a forum / comment area, it’s important to know an entitled group can (and often do) feel like they are struggling and are not going to respond well to discussions about the benefits they enjoy. This whole thread is about employment, an area that even people that are doing okay in often feel like they are struggling. A discussion about how a particular group struggles in ways they don’t can very easily sound like (if not outright be) a discussion of how their struggles aren’t real.

                  For strange men on the street, if you’re talking about catcalling or unwanted advances, you’re right, many men don’t have experience of that. However, men do have the experience of unwanted confrontation or violence, which I thought was what you meant since you specified “at night.” There’s a lot of noise surrounding the gender divide and being the victim of violence, but most of it says that more violence is committed against men than women in public places by strangers (obviously, much plays into this, like women being less likely to put themselves in those positions to begin with). So, to deny men their apprehension around strangers in public at night seems shortsighted to me – they may not have to deal with harassment, but they do worry about confrontation and violence, which is arguably worse.

                  By way of analogy, I’m a runner, and often when I’m passing people, they’ll see my shadow rapidly advancing on them and react with alarm (and I feel horrible about it every time, and often veer way out into the street as I pass people to avoid it). Women do tend to react more reliably with alarm, but I would say most men do as well.

                3. Alex*

                  @ seejay.
                  You stated “Men being mugged is something that does happen but it’s not a common occurrence, hence the concept of privilege” At what point would you consider this problem enough to be common enough to be valid concern? Especially when you take in to context the severity of consequences of getting mugged(i.e. loss of life). Even if something is not likely to happen, but the consequences associated with it happening are severe; then it is a valid concern. Not everyone worries about violence-man or woman- when they go out in to public, but if someone does then it is not unreasonable for them to do so. So it doesn’t make a lot of sense to invalidate Jaguar’s concern about being mugged especially since it has been something that poster has experienced.

              3. aebhel*

                Yeah, that’s the thing about privilege (and intersectionality, which has become a buzzword recently but is still a useful concept): being a white man doesn’t mean that you can’t have a hard time; it just means that you’re not having a hard time specifically because you’re white and male. You can still be poor, you can still be unemployed, you can still lack access to education, but all other things being equal, you’re generally better off than someone who isn’t white and/or male would be in the same situation.

        2. K.*

          +1 million, from a fellow woman of color. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve been told, to my face, that I only got this or that opportunity because I’m a black female. “You only got into those schools because you’re black!” And had close to all As at a competitive prep school, won academic awards, edited the paper, did (still do) volunteer work, sang, and played sports. I’ve earned each and every one of my opportunities, they have been hard fought, and I have lost plenty of opportunities to the boys club.

          My parents, who themselves are high achievers despite having even more doors closed to them due to the timing, taught me early that we have to be twice as good to get half as much. It’s never not been true, in my experience.

          1. Jubilance*

            When I was a chemistry major in undergrad, I was told by more than one White classmate, that I was only there because of affirmative action. No, I was there cause I’m intelligent and I love chemistry, and I had to work my ass off instead of relying on legacy admission or my parents making a donation to the school. I had to work 2 jobs during college, did 3 internships, numerous leadership positions, etc. But being Black and a woman just screams “affirmative action!” to some folks no matter how qualified I am.

            1. bwahaa*

              For Jubilance and K, if you haven’t already seen the AJ white fragility video it’s hilarious. And reminds me I need more snacks at work. *goes to find a donut*

              Just google AJ white fragility workplace training video.

        3. Blueismyfavorite*

          I don’t agree that women and minorities have to work twice as hard for half as much. That’s an exaggeration. Are things easier for white men? Sure. But women and minorities have a lot of great opportunities and don’t have to work twice as hard to get them nor are they rewarded with half as much. Exaggeration undercuts your argument and makes it easy for people to dismiss your valid point.

          I’m a woman, by the way.

          1. Christopher Tracy*

            If this were true, the gender wage gap wouldn’t be a thing and minority women in particular wouldn’t be even further behind than white women. They don’t need to exaggerate – they just live in reality.

            1. HRChick*

              Have you seen the differences in wages for women and POC? The difference in prosecution/jail sentences for POC? How many women/POC CEOs are there? Is it because most white men are more qualified? Or is it harder for some people to get up to that level?
              It’s hard for me to understand people who don’t see this!

              1. Christopher Tracy*

                People like to live with blinders on. They also typically have a worldview that says if something isn’t happening to them, then it’s clearly not happening to everyone else and anyone who says different is either lying or exaggerating for the lolz.

          2. Temperance*

            You are so off-base here. I’m a white woman who works in the legal field. I see the OBN hard at work, every day – and I’m at a firm that prioritizes diversity and celebrates inclusion. I’m sure others are way, way worse.

            I am regularly mistaken for a secretary, as a young-looking woman, and I’m sure even worse things are assumed of the WOC that I work with. I don’t have the opportunity to be buddy-buddy with the men who make things happen, even if they like and appreciate my work (which they do, I’m f’ing awesome at my job).

            1. Renee*

              I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been referred to as the paralegal to senior attorneys by male attorneys, “Esq.” in my signature line and all. When corrected by the senior (generally male) attorney, they would turn their embarrassment onto me, like I somehow tried to fool them with my womanness into assuming I wasn’t an attorney despite the title under my name on correspondence. “Why didn’t you tell me you were an attorney?” “Why did you assume I wasn’t one?”

              1. Serafina*

                Grrr, yep, I’ve seen that one play out towards me and many other women in the legal profession. Then there are also female paralegals who are NOT, in fact, “secretaries” and whose job it is NOT to get coffee, yet for some reason are constantly bombarded with assumptions by visiting men in offices.

                1. Renee*

                  Oh yeah. I saw that too. I’d also often have to clarify for those attorneys that I view paralegals as colleagues, so if they wanted to overreact like I was supposed to feel insulted by the designation, that wasn’t going to happen. I was a paralegal before I was an attorney, and I was a secretary before that.

          3. Mustache Cat*

            Anything that women of color say to speak out about the discrimination they face will be “undercut” by people who really want to pass over their claims. This will usually take place by nitpicking the manner in which they presented their statement, and not the content of the statement itself.

            1. Temperance*

              Because if high-achieving WOC say it, they’re clearly lying, because look how well they’re doing … and if WOC who aren’t high achievers say it, they’re just bitter and lazy.

            2. K.*

              Yep. When I commented, I thought “Someone is going to chime in to say we don’t have it that bad.” And what do you know? I’ve been here before. I’ve been black and female all my life. I’m talking about my lived experience, and somehow someone thinks they know it better than I do. It’s so frustrating.

              1. bwahaa*

                I hear you. You know what’s going on. You don’t live in some fake made up world.

                (It’s kinda like when a oldish child still believes in Santa. Awwww, cute but also sad.)

          4. JessaB*

            A White woman earns 78 cents on the dollar to a white man.
            A Black woman earns 64 cents.
            An Hispanic or Latina earns 54 cents.
            A Black Man earns 75 cents.

            so if you’re an Hispanic/Latina minority it’s pretty near twice as hard.

            note the statistics are from 2013. I don’t have anything more recent and am too lazy to Google-fu.

          5. bwahaa*

            I don’t agree with you.

            Numbers below back me up. White women have been huge beneficiaries of affirmative action policies in the office. Which I applaud, it helped my mom (a white woman) put food on the table when I was a kid. (I don’t see AA as a bad thing.) Keep on with your blinders on.

          6. LBK*

            The existence of some great opportunities doesn’t contradict the statistical averages that show women, particularly women of color, having less access to the kind of education and network that white men (again, on average) have access to. The plural of anecdote is not data.

              1. LBK*

                I can’t take credit for it – I’ve seen it all over the place (here, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). So feel free!

          7. SimontheGreyWarden*

            It is true for almost every single female student I have who is nonwhite or does not ‘read’ as white. There are a few who do not seem to have that same issue, and in my experience here it is because of some other factor – usually that they come from a financially secure background, or were adopted/raised in a traditionally white environment, or they are a recent immigrant with a different cultural expectation.

          8. Alton*

            I don’t think that minorities always have to work twice as hard, but I think it’s much more of a crapshoot whether you will be able to make a particular job work or not. The field is narrower. A white man might be able to take a job with a sexist or racist culture and ignore it if he really needs the job. A black woman might not even get in the door, or she might feel excluded.

            This is a major concern of mine. My current job is generally very supportive of LGBT people, so I don’t feel like being openly trans is a huge liability here. But if I need to find a new job, it could be a problem. A lot of the very out LGBT people I know work for social justice-related nonprofits, are academics, or are self-employed. Are there as many opportunities if you want to be a corporate lawyer? Probably not.

            1. Government Worker*

              Your particular example is funny to me, because in my experience fancy law firms are falling all over themselves to hire LGBT associates to boost their diversity ratings. Big corporate law firms can seem awfully similar, and each year data is published showing pay, diversity, and other factors for most of the big firms to help law students decide where to apply. I know of several big firms that have diversity committees/clubs/events, attended by attorneys of color and LGBT attorneys.

              To be fair, most of the LGBT BigLaw lawyers I know are lesbians or gay men and have relatively traditional gender presentation. And I don’t know what the ratio looks like at the partner level, which is often less diverse than the lower-level associates. Your larger point remains very true in many segments of the corporate world – I was the only semi-out LGBT person I knew at my first job out of college in the financial industry, in a company of over a thousand people.

              1. Alton*

                Presentation is where it gets tricky. I don’t pass as male, so at best, if someone doesn’t know how I identify, I look like a butch woman wearing men’s clothes. It’s not just explicit discrimination that’s an issue. A company can want diversity and try to hire diverse people, but if all the people who look like me are tacitly or explicitly expected to fit gendered norms when it comes to professional appearance, I’m not going to fit into that culture well. I feel like this is a big barrier between me and high-level employment in general. When you get into cultures that are very formal, people whose bodies and presentations don’t fit are going to stand out more.

              2. neverjaunty*

                That reaalllly varies by law firm, though. Some BigLaw firms are in fact very committed to diversity and make it a priority in how they do business, not just through window dressing. Lots, though, are all about the window dressing; sure they have a diversity committee and hire associates of every creed, color and orientation, but as you go up the ladder there’s a distinct oversupply of straight white dudes.

    3. MadGrad*

      I think your fundamental mistake here is the idea that you could answer that question “wrong”.

      It’s not about fair. There isn’t a right or wrong, it’s just not compatible. You don’t win a job or pass a job interview, you either fit in well with what you need from each other or you don’t. So really, you can and maybe should be screened out if a more casual offices setting is terribly unpleasant for you (I, for example, like a bit of swearing between coworkers -it signals I don’t have to be as “on” at all times and can relax a little). Not because you messed up, but because this wasn’t a test in school where you were owed a result you wanted so long as you got all the “correct” answers. Meanwhile, I might fit what they do like and therefore have a higher potential to enjoy myself and succeed in the company, and so it seems pretty fair to me that I’d be hired instead of you. So long as this doesn’t promote a culture that’s exclusionary due to anything other than personality (unlike the LW’s case seems to imply) and isn’t unhealthy, I don’t see why it’s an issue.

      (As an aside, too: calling someone an ass is always less offensive than making a sexist or racist comment. When you make a sexist or racist comment, it implies a whole lot more than one person being sucky. No matter how much you dislike swearing, I hope you can sincerely see the difference here.)

      1. aebhel*

        All of this. I wouldn’t be comfortable in an office where I was expected to dress up every day; some people aren’t comfortable with cursing. It’s all about cultural fit.

        Now, if you think that cursing is actually a moral evil (which a baffling number of people appear to), I can see how that might have an impact on your worldview, but the truth is, it’s possible to be thoroughly insulting to someone without saying anything you couldn’t say on network TV.

        1. Jinx*

          My in-laws are against swearing, and I could totally see my MIL saying curse words are violence. Ironically, she also told my (adult) husband that his grandfather would slap his face if he cursed in front of him. This is also the woman that scolded me for saying “pissed off” in front of a six-year old during a visit in which I didn’t drop a single swear word. Grr.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            The last time I visited my in-laws we got into the “swearing is violence and a sign of declining moral values and the downfall of civilization” and it almost got ugly when my husband and I tried to explain how the decline in discriminatory slurs might balance or negate the rise in acceptability of scatological or sexual terms. Now we’ve got another topic to avoid the next time we visit. Which might not be until after November 8th at this rate.

          2. Annie Moose*

            I once got talked to by a parent who attended the same church as my family, because I said “oh my goodness” in front of their six-year-old.


    4. A Dispatcher*

      So your post is actually a little confusing to me. You are filled with rage that during the interview process someone might ask about swearing, but are stuck at a job where that is the norm at that very question would have helped you self-select out from a job that is quite obviously a very bad fit/culture clash in that sense?

      1. Willis*

        Yup! And if the response is “well I don’t like the swearing, but I can still do my job fine,” then all you’d have to say in an interview is that swearing wouldn’t be a problem for you. I don’t think the point of the question was to necessarily find someone who’s going to join in the cursing, just someone that will still be able to function happily in the position knowing they’d be working with swearers. Plus, Alison’s suggested wording isn’t even a question – it’s more giving the interviewee the opportunity to speak up if that environment is a dealbreaker. (Obviously this is leaving out potential other issues related to the crude jokes.)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Plus, Alison’s suggested wording isn’t even a question – it’s more giving the interviewee the opportunity to speak up if that environment is a dealbreaker.

          Yes! I wanted to point that out too — that was intentional. You’re not demanding an answer; you’re letting them know information they might find useful in making their own decision.

      2. Jesmlet*

        This. It’s not like swearing is actually illegal so if you have a problem with it, just don’t work there. You can’t realistically expect everyone else to change their perfectly normal behavior because you feel uncomfortable. It would be better to know this information beforehand than get stuck in a situation where you feel unhappy.

        I love my laid back office culture. We have a small group that works together all the time and we’re friends/coworkers and I enjoy that aspect. We all swear regularly and no topic is really taboo (unless the big boss is in) and if that went away, I’d enjoy my job a lot less. I’m one of the people who wants to be friends with her coworkers and part of that to me involves being able to be myself and talk about whatever. If someone came in and was clearly uncomfortable with the laid back atmosphere, they probably wouldn’t get the job because they just aren’t a good fit personality wise. This has been a pretty consistent exercise throughout all our offices and it’s resulted in a company that’s 75% female so there are ways to do that and not bring in discrimination.

    5. LarsTheRealGirl*

      Wow there is a whole lot of anger here…a lot of it directed at women. Did you get labelled a misogynist pig because you said something that was clearly misogynist? I’m honestly picturing something about “ah it looks like she’s on the rag again…” which, YES, WAY worse than calling her an f’ing ass. WAY WORSE.

      As for the right/wrong answer….remember that you’re deciding whether or not you want to work there as well; it’s a two way street. The question of “does swearing bother you” isn’t so much that they’re looking for an answer, it’s that their disclosing something about their culture that you and they need to take into account in hiring practices. If I know that my work culture is a little more crude, and someone completely balks at that question, they do self select out. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

      I also don’t know how you’d “know” you were turned down because of those things. It’s more than likely that someone else was better, and that’s why you weren’t given an offer.

      1. Daisy Steiner*

        I think stevenz means he used the word “chairman” (instead, perhaps, of “chair” or “chairperson”) and felt unfairly jumped on because of it. (please correct me if I’m wrong, stevenz)

      2. Kate M*

        Yeah, that’s what I was going to point out. It’s certainly possible to be sexist/racist without cursing. Just because you don’t use curse words doesn’t mean you’re not being sexist, depending on what you said about the Chair. Whereas if you call people of any gender an asshole (which is a non-gendered term), then that’s not sexist. (Inappropriate maybe, depending on the context, but not sexist).

    6. Jl Huxley*

      A mild form of violence? Really? Unless it is in the context of physical or emotional abuse, swearing is not a form of violence. I respect that you are offended by the general culture of swearing, at work and in the world. But keep in mind you can actually alienate victims of abuse if you equate swearing at work to a form of violence.

      1. JessaB*

        I wish people would stop with the old “words don’t hurt people,” stuff. Words can be violence. Emotional abuse is violence. Words can incite violence as well. Now my opinion is not everyone’s. But I speak as a victim of both physical and emotional abuse and a survivor of rape, for those who cannot or are not safe to. Now there are levels of violence, anything from hateful words, to slapping someone, to beating them to death. But just because it’s not hitting someone does not mean it’s not violence.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          Emotional abuse is directed AT someone though. Me talking with friends and saying “last night was f*cking awesome!” does not constitute violence towards someone nearby who just doesn’t like swear words. That’s ridiculous.

          Words have power, absolutely. But saying ALL swearing is violent and abusive is ludicrous

      2. N.J.*

        It’s possible he is referring to this in the context of the emotional “damage” that words can cause. Emotional violence, if there is such a term. There is a lot of abuse that we as people can suffer and many forms of that aren’t physical violence. Yeah, he picked an odd word choice, but if he feels emotionally attacked when hearing swear words, he might just be expressing that feeling in the context of “violence.” Swearing can be an assault. I take issue with everything else he said, but I don’t know that equating swearing with violence delegitimizes how abuse victims feel nor do I think his word choice was aimed at abuse victims and survivors. He was describing how he feels when hearing profanity, the same way that some of us use other forms of comparison or hyperbole when we describe how we feel when someone assaults our psychological well being in various ways. Just taking a different view of that portion of his comments…

          1. N.J.*

            Thank you for the clarification. I think the argument would extend, though, that he thinks of swearing as emotional abuse, perhaps, since it is something that affects him so strongly. It’s a tenuous link, but is s possibility.

    7. BritCred*

      Fit is important and I found this out when we had a new factory manager a while back. On the factory floor it’s fine to tell crude jokes at loud volume and echoing laughter to follow. It becomes more problematic when you do the same in an office when I’m on the phone to an accounts department trying to chase up £500k we need in tomorrow or salaries aren’t getting paid and my contact pauses because they’ve heard it. Some snarling followed to suggest I was a little too “prissy” for this industry however I pointed out I do swear too often myself at times and my main problem was the lack of consideration that if you are standing less than a few steps from my phone you might well be heard by someone whose business culture is a lot less accepting of that.

      1. JessaB*

        Yes, part of being okay to be crude in a business environment is knowing WHERE it’s okay to be crude. And near an open phone line is not it, ever.

    8. LBK*

      Which group’s sensitivities should be accommodated and which can be ignored?

      I get the sense from this and the rest of your post that you’re equating people who don’t like swearing with people of a given race, gender, etc. Let me just be the first to say: heeeelllllll no. Someone’s “sensitivities” about not being treated differently because of their race or gender (immutable qualities of themselves that has been historically used to discriminate against them) are not in any way equivalent to your personal distaste for swearing being violated. Not even remotely comparable. There has been no historic oppression of people for not liking swearing and there is no data to suggest non-swearers are systemically or disproportionately discriminated against. There are not still large segments of the population who believe non-swearers should be denied basic rights, nor are there still people living today who lived when those rights were barred from them by law for not liking swearing.

      I can’t help but get the “straight white Christian males are the real oppressed people” vibe from your comment, and I’d advise you to thoroughly read and absorb the replies to your comment to the contrary.

      1. Yogi Josephina*

        THIS, 100%.

        “I lost my special treatment” =/= “I’m oppressed.” Not in ANY way, shape or form.

    9. Jennifer*

      I’m guessing that if your answer is, “yes, I’m really bothered by swearing and I don’t want to hear it,” yes, it would hurt your chances of getting the job. BUT at the same time, if you are genuinely Not Okay with hearing it, this probably isn’t the job you’re going to love and enjoy either. (I guess that is already the case.) If your answer is an honest “I’m not okay with that,” then both you and the interviewer should probably rule out this job for you.

      Or if you’re so desperate for work you need to put up with the swearing, then…well, lie, get the job, deal with it.

  9. DragoCucina (formerly Library Director)*

    #5 Generally if the organization isn’t related to your profession and you’re an hourly employee , than no, it’s non-paid time off. We have our board meetings at lunchtime. The board members throw in $5 toward a simple lunch.

    For our employees if they are members of the state library association and serve on committees or councils we pay for their time during the meeting. Most of our association meetings include a remote option so there’s no travel time.

  10. HannahS*

    #1, I’m also really concerned by the language you used, OP. I get the sense that you don’t exactly love the executive culture, but I think it’s much more problematic than you make it sound. A “bit of a boy’s club” is basically saying “sort of a no-women-allowed workplace.” That’s a really serious problem, and it’s not about cultural fit. If your knee-jerk reaction is to think that, well, of COURSE you’re not going to refuse to hire women! SOME women would be comfortable with it, as long as they were comfortable with a bit of swearing, and you know loads of women like that! And tons of women that think that raunchy jokes are hilarious! ….then the problem is indeed a lot bigger than you’ve made it sound. I know women like that too. But when those jokes are made at their place of employment? By the people in charge of their paycheck? And have to respond favourably to innuendos? It’s a lot less funny and a lot more harassed.

    1. A Dispatcher*

      “A “bit of a boy’s club” is basically saying “sort of a no-women-allowed workplace.” ”

      I work in a boys club atmosphere. We hire plenty of women (me being one). I’m not necessarily disagreeing with the rest of your post, but I just felt it was worth noting.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, it’s not literally “no women allowed.” It’s about a culture that’s male-dominated, particularly where power is concerned; where men benefit disproportionately from the way power is allocated and deployed; and that isn’t particularly inclusive.

    2. seejay*

      I can deal with “boys club” among my friends when I know where their comments are coming from and what they really think (in the case of friends that I truly and *really* know, not casual acquaintances that might actually be douchecanoes with hidden attitude problems).

      There’s no way I’m going to deal with “boys club” from my coworkers. That’s a whole other kettle of fish.

    3. Yup*

      Exactly what I tried to say above. This isn’t a case of “we want someone who can relax and be cool and laugh at funny jokes! No biggie!” What it is? A case of a workplace whose dudebro environment is inherently exclusionary, and whose culture should not willingly be perpetuated.

      Is there a manager with whom you could discuss the implications of hiring for the “fit” you currently seek?

    4. Isabel C.*

      Yep. As above, I’m one of those horrible violent people who swears all the time given my way. I also tell a lot of dirty jokes, use a lot of innuendo, and discuss my sex life in some detail with some friends. In the past, that’s included co-workers once we all knew each other well enough to get boundaries. (Slow Sunday mornings in the flower shop, we’d all be rehashing our Saturday nights while we cleaned, and it was…kind of amazing. Guys who order Diet Coke with a straw have, er, bad track records, apparently.) In theory, there’s nothing wrong with it.

      But one of the things that made this possible was that we were mostly women at the same job level, that men or bosses or bosses who were men did not really enter into the discussion, and that we all knew each other really well. A number of guys will try and slide general innuendo into personal, or to transition gossip/smacktalk/”technical comparisons” about a woman’s sex life into either creepy voyeurism or come-ons, and a woman old enough to be in the workforce has encountered a few of them. It comes off differently, and especially if the dude is senior or a boss…just no.

      1. Lissa*

        Yeah when I worked at a sandwich shop all four of us on the floor were women around the same age in LTRs, and we could get pretty shocking. Honestly if one had been a dude that would’ve been fine too, so long as we were all comfortable and on the same level. Way different situation than when the ownership changed and we got a creepy older dude boss who would make comments about sex positions to the staff, which included his teenage sons.

        1. Isabel C.*

          Euuuuw. Yeah. It’s a very different vibe when you think the person talking to you about your, er, preferences is using it as the thin end of a wedge, and a *very* different one when you think that and you depend on that person for your paycheck.

          My first full-time job out of college was one of those where I got the crude language/locker room/etc warning. I thought, sure, whatever, I can shoot the dick jokes back as well as the next guy…and then my boss didn’t wear pants. So.

            1. Isabel C.*

              Pretty much the last time I work in a home-based business, because…yeah. I don’t think he was actually trying to be sexual–he just clearly didn’t think of employees as human enough to put on pants for.

              And actually, that was the part of the job I had the least issue with–if he hadn’t had me working eighty hour weeks for 30K per year, handing out fliers for his condo, and generally adjusting my schedule around his ego and inability to focus on one task for five damn minutes, I could have put up with the tightie-whities. It does make for an interesting answer to the occasional “worst boss you’ve ever had” interview questions, though. :P

  11. Tinker*

    #3 — Sometimes, the perspective that a parent has on what decisions an adult child should make has to do with that they only resonate emotionally with part of the decision — depending on the situation, that the risk is something that is meaningful to them but the reward is not, or in this case the reverse. They can imagine an exciting and rewarding job, which is satisfying to them, but they are not the people who will actually have to tell the lies, deal with the messy background investigation, or even just do the everyday work of the job they’re dreaming about. So even if they know about these things intellectually, it’s easy for them to trivialize them — but they’re not actually trivial matters, as would probably be apparent to them if they were actually having the experience.

    1. Anna*

      Even simpler than that, it’s possible they just don’t quite know what a career path looks like outside of the thing they’re advocating for. I went through this cycle when majoring in a fine arts field (and then also wanting a career in a technical, not artistic aspect of that field) and my parents really wanted me to go into the management side of the arts field (because that was the only thing they could identify as being a “theater” job without being an actor/director). When I put my foot down and told them I was pursuing a career as a theater technician, I think they were convinced I was going to spend my time pushing a broom or loading trucks all day, and were less than enthused. I knew that there were options beyond “stereotypical stage hand” in the field and went out and did them. And that eventually transitioned back into a 9-5 salaried job and career path that they can easily explain to people. So despite your parents’ assumption that “majoring in international studies” is a one-way trip to State, just…follow through on your actual career path and they’ll get over it. And if not, well, at least you’re on a career path you want.

      1. EddieSherbert*


        My parent is in a very science-math-heavy field, and literally couldn’t imagine any of his kids finding a lucrative career outside those fields. And I mean, he was thinking engineering, IT, medical, that’s it. Like, I tossed around biology in a non-medical-plans way for a while and was shot down.

        And it wasn’t meant meanly, just a parent scared about his kid’s future and not aware of options for other degrees.

        (PS, doing very successfully in marketing at a great company!)

      2. LW3*

        I want to thank both Tinker and Anna in this: I’m sure for them it is more emotional (“What do you mean you don’t want to come back to the country permanently?!”) and to an extent it’s because they’ve both been public sector employees for the bette part of their lives and know what you’ll get working for the state/feds, but don’t have much of an idea outside of that. I suppose I’m just wishful that they could listen to the intellectual/rational bit more an realize that what they’re suggesting is a very big mess.
        I’m absolutely not taking the one-way trip to State/other government agency, so hopefully, someday they can get over it.

  12. Fiona the Lurker*

    FWIW, I’ve worked in a very foul-mouthed workplace which was also a high-stress environment; everyone from the senior partner on down used the worst possible language as a way of dealing with the pressures of the job. I’m more than happy to concede that it isn’t the ideal solution – and I can’t speak to the “boys club” culture the OP mentions – but there may be occasions when profanity has its uses as a way of dispelling tension.

    1. Harper*

      I think the thing is that with this particular letter is the inclusion of the “boy’s club” description. Does LW just mean the swearing? Because I think that’s less problematic and can be dealt with in the interview with Allison’s suggestion. The other implications of the “boy’s club” are more troubling, IMHO.

  13. LarsTheRealGirl*

    #3 – I think Allison’s answer was great – draw boundaries, redefine success. As an aside, having worked in the Gov. Services sector, I promise you that your number of foreign contacts is a) not actually a disqualifying factor and b) that you have nowhere near the number that plenty of other people living overseas maintaining clearance have. Hundreds.

    I know you have a bunch of other reasons for not wanting to join federal government work, but don’t exclude yourself because of your foreign contacts.

    1. Kate*

      Agreed! I remember at one clearance interview, I was asked if I have “foreign friends”.

      My response? “Umm.. All of them?”

    2. Tomato Frog*

      Thanks, my brain did a record scratch at that part. I know of a case where someone’s foreign connections were treated as a barrier to him working for the CIA (as he told the story) but I can think of tons of cases where such connections weren’t an issue at all.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Right — and the kind of connections one might have as a 22 year old aren’t likely to be an issue. She (probably) hasn’t been married, had many bosses, given or received loans, etc.

    3. Editrix*

      I’m actually not sure #3 is clear on what Foreign Service *is*. They mention “not wanting to stay in the U.S.” and “having foreign contacts” as being reasons that they wouldn’t want the job – is it possible the LW has knee-jerk written off the idea because their parents are so gung-ho and not actually looked into it? Because their reasons not to do it sound exactly like reasons they *should* do it, to me. I know quite a few people in various areas of Foreign Service, and not only do they love it, they all got into it for all of the reasons that the LW mentions both as things that they love and as reasons they don’t want to do it. This seems like possibly a situation with a well-traveled, well-educated young person who perhaps doesn’t know what they don’t know.

      1. LW3*

        I promise I know what the Foreign Service is, and for most people starting out it does mean sitting in DC for a while and for new hired they really do prefer that you have been in the US for more than just a few months of the last few years; I actually looked into it in some detail some time ago (and have a cousin sitting in that position right now). It’s also part of why I know there would have to be lying involved in my ever applying, and having been part of two other people’s background checks, I have at least some idea of what they would ask people about me.
        I haven’t been married, and while my number of US-based bosses certainly outnumbers my non-US ones, some of the my contacts, not friends, but people who for one reason or another I do keep in touch with could raise flags (members of Parliament and the Assemblée nationale, journalists—not in a writing letters to complain way, but in a schedule meetings/talks way, giving local Anglophone-relevant news to CBC Québec for broader coverage way).
        My biggest concern really isn’t foreign friends (which really is all of them), it’s that I would have to lie through my teeth on things like supporting the mission and values of the US abroad; having an enthusiasm for US government, etc. Could foreign friends/contacts ever be a clearance issue, I suppose, but it really wasn’t meant to be the focus for not wanting to go to State.

      2. Jane*

        No. You don’t try to join State because you have a romantic notion of working in foreign service as the only career path for people who dream of travel. You don’t join because random other people love their FS jobs– I’m sure you know plenty of people who love jobs you are not interested in doing. You join because you have a lifelong ambition to perform the particular work of the US State Department. An Intl Studies major and studying a few languages are not qualifications enough for the State Department nor are enjoying those things good reasons to invest the time, resources, and stress of the very particular careers at State. The LW has very specific career and life goals that would never fit into the limited FS career mold. The LW has clear political objections to the oaths of the office.

        It is bizarre to me all the comments suggesting that a desire to work abroad means the only and best option is the Foreign Service, when it is such a niche, limited career path: Competitive, stressful barriers to entry that usually assume a masters degree, work experience, foreign language competency, and an onerous test that may have nothing to do with the work you’ll actually perform. Role tracking with limited options for changing career paths, many of which plateau early (a large portion of State workers perform administrative services only). Limited choice in posting location. Frequent relocation. Extremely strict security rules (way more strict than many other foreign governments or other international organizations) that limit movement and interaction with local people and life in a large number of countries. Limited decision-making power and influence as your role is, like the military, to carry out US foreign policy as dictated by hierarchical superiors often dictated by interests outside of the country in which you work. Bosses are political appointees and not necessarily experts in technical or place-based knowledge. Career advancement is as political as it is based on skill or technical competency, if not more so. I could go on; there are plenty more reasons to not want to work for State than there are reasons to want to work there; that why, like many long-term commitment career paths, it only makes sense for those with that particular life goal to pursue it.

  14. Canadian*

    OP3, if your mum mentions a “benefits package” you could point out that Canada has a better standard of living, especially in terms of actual health care that doesn’t send cancer patients into bankruptcy.

    You’ll likely get a job with great benefits, but they won’t include being able to go to the doctor for free because that’s not a benefit. That’s something a country with common sense and human decency provides, whether through taxes or some other means.

    Perhaps your mum doesn’t realise that massive differences between Canada and the USA in terms of health care, education, politics, and gun violence. Don’t argue with her; let her know why you want to live in Canada permanently.

    1. seejay*

      Being Canadian but now living in the US for the past 8 years though, I’ll say this: there’s a con to the health care system and that’s the wait times. Unless you’re actually dying, don’t expect to get in for most procedures in reasonable amounts of time.

      In the US, I had my uterus blow up and try to kill me. It took a few weeks to get the condition under control and everything was ok but my doctor said that if it flared up again, we could consider some more extreme options. Fast forward a few months later, it flared up, she gave me options, I said “TAKE IT OUT” and two weeks later, I had surgery.

      Today, my mom (in Canada) finally got in to see a specialist for a dislocated toe after she’d been cleared by her cardiologist. She was flagged as “URGENT” because this has been impeding her ability to walk, causing chronic pain to the point of requiring cortisone shots every 2-3 weeks, and pretty much destroying all the cartilage in that toe and progressing to the others. It’s taken her 4 months from the time she was seen by the foot specialist to see the cardiologist, to get cleared, to get back into the foot specialist to talk about getting the surgery scheduled. She’s on the wait list for surgery… 10 to 12 months for urgent cases. If it wasn’t urgent, 18 months. That’s… URGENT??? Well, because she’s not actually “dying”, she apparently can hobble around for 10 months.

      Of course, my surgery cost me $7k out of pocket (thank you employment insurance, since the total cost was somewhere in the $80k range), hers won’t cost her anything, but if I had to manage my condition for 10 months while waiting on surgery, I probably would have lost my marbles.

      So yes, Canadian health care has perks, but having been in both systems, I know I *hated* the delays in seeing specialists and surgeries, unless you were literally dying.

      (most of the other perks of the country are true though, it’s a great country, I still love it, I’m just really wed to the particular city I’m currently in… if I can’t stay in this city, I’ll go back to Canada)

      1. Vendrus*

        I’m curious – what does healthcare insurance cost you? (ballpark figure, and only if you’re comfortable!)
        The thing about national healthcare is that it’s pretty much never the only option, whichever country you’re in. I can rely entirely on the NHS (since I’m in the UK), or I can get insurance (about £70 a month for full cover, pre-existing conditions covered after two years). There’s no out-of-pocket expenses, no co-pays (except about £7 for non-government-covered prescriptions like birth control).

        Honestly, it sounds to me like we have it better all round – a fallback NHS system that’s highly effective at emergency treatment and for people who can’t afford it, and a speedy private system with insurers that cover everything.

        Conversions: $9/$90 pm for prescriptions and insurance respectively.

        1. Murphy*

          Health care in Canada varies by province (it’s constitutionally provincial jurisdiction, not federal). In Alberta, there are no premiums for the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan which covers basics like hospital stays, doctor’s visits, x-rays, pre-natal care, etc.

          There are out of pocket expenses you can get supplemental insurance for (prescription drugs, dental, physio, massage therapy, etc.). My plan is $2,000/year (my portion) which includes extended coverage (so higher than normal medical and dental coverage) and covers me, my husband, and kid(s).

        2. seejay*

          So I had to go poke at a paystub to see… apologies, I’m not very good at figuring out how this works, so this is an estimate, I could be waaaay off, but adding up the deductions, I’m guessing at $250/month and that’s with dental and vision included. I have out of pocket expenses as well, such as the $150 yearly fee for my membership to the particular doctor’s clinic I go to (that’s a personal choice I made for the clinic I wanted), a $25-$50 copay per visit, my monthly chiro visits are about $30 each, and my prescriptions run me about $20/month I’d say (on average for my regular medications, this isn’t counting surprise medications).

          It sounds like a lot, but I’m glad I’m employed well enough that I *can* cover it. When I’ve had emergency crap that did cost me a lot, I had to get a line of credit to swing it over time because I couldn’t pay it down all at once, and the insurance didn’t cover other things (orthotics for foot pain: $500; mouth guard for dental problems, another $500). Then there was an emergency issue that landed me in the hospital and they sent a plastic surgeon in to assess the damage and told me to follow up with him. I didn’t think about it and made appointments after I got out of the hospital, only to find out after the first appointment that he wasn’t “in the policy” or whatever that term is (having an issue with word finding right now, side effect of a migraine medication I’m on, apologies). So I wound up having to pay for *that* appointment 100% of out of pocket before and cancelling any other appointments with him and finding a different doctor for therapy and damage assessment. So yeah, there’s a lot of back and forth and bullcrap that comes with it.

      2. Simms*

        As a recent immigrant to Canada though, I say I way prefer the Canadian system to the US one because I am on the low end of the income brackets. I wouldn’t have 7k for any surgery no matter how urgent or necessary and actually wouldn’t even have been able to afford to go to the doctor about the problem in the first place. In fact I actually have a huge list of health problems from spending 25 years in the American health care system that I am only finally able to do anything about because I moved to Canada (things like a twisted arm from a lazily set broken arm, a busted knee from a accident a few years ago etc.). From the low income perspective so what if there is wait times in Canada, at least I won’t die or become crippled with debt because of something outside my control.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Right. I’m always mystified by complaints about wait times (from my Canadian aunts and uncles). My wait time for a procedure I need is currently infinite, because my insurance won’t cover it and I can’t afford it. Sooooo…..

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yep, I had this problem with dental issues. I actually lost a tooth because I had no job, no money and no dental coverage and all the low-income places will do is pull it–they will not fill a cavity, etc. Lucky it’s on the side where you can’t see it, but it was the worst–I felt like a hillbilly methhead and I was so humiliated I actually wanted to die.

            When it started to hurt, and I called around and found no one would help me, I just kept slapping Anbesol on it until I got a job, but it was too late–it was completely unsalvageable and it broke and had to be removed. At least when I got this job I could start doing something about the gum issues from no dental care. I can’t afford an implant so I just have to live with the gap.

            Years with no coverage or poor coverage just hurts people.

        2. seejay*

          I totally understand and can sympathize. I actually *didn’t* have the money either, I had to get a bank loan to be able to pay the bills as they were coming in, I was just lucky I was able to get the loan and was able to pay it off. I know that not everyone is able to do that though. :( I had most of my major health problems under control when I immigrated to the US but I can’t imagine trying to get to the root of my migraine problems here versus when I was in Canada, at least when they first started and were at their worst.

          I get that the system doesn’t work for everyone and there’s no one-size-fits-all. I’m mostly speaking from my experience and after hearing a lot of the poo-poos from my family after the emergency crises I went through and the costs I had to deal with, along with the “don’t you wish you were back in Canada now eh eh eh?” then hearing my mom tell me that her “urgent” surgery isn’t going to happen for at least 10 months, I kind of had to do the “well I certainly didn’t have to wait 10 months when my urgent situation came up” stinkface.

          Of course this also goes back to the fact that they’ve been trying to drag me back over the border for 8 years. :|

      3. Christopher Tracy*

        Wow – had no idea about the wait times in Canada. This would be problematic for me since I only ever go to the doctor when something falls off or shuts down, so a ten month wait for anything would be way too long for me.

        1. MK*

          Or, you would change your attitude and schedule more regular doctors’ appointments, which won’t cost anything. The luxury to ignore your health till there is an emergency is not a pro of the lack of a universal health care system.

          1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

            True, but not everyone in Canada can access regular doctors’ appointments, either. Many areas are facing an extreme shortage of doctors. Where I live the waiting list to get on with a family doctor is between one and two years unless you’re willing to drive 2-3 hours to see one. There’s no walk-in clinics, either, it’s hospital emergency room, a long drive to a city to a walk in, or nothing. While I love that none of those things cost me anything, it can be stressful to wait for even a GP, let alone a specialist.

            1. hmm*

              Many rural areas of the U.S. have comparable doctor shortages (especially for specialists and mental health care providers). 10% of people in the U.S. have no health insurance at all and cannot be seen for preventive or non-emergent care unless they live in an area with free clinics. Many doctors do not accept Medicaid (insurance that in many states is only available to extremely poor parents and children, and that in many states still requires beneficiaries to pay premiums, co-payments and co-insurance).

          2. Aella*

            When the NHS began, appointments went right up as all the people who had been suffering in silence and poverty went to see a doctor.

            1. Christopher Tracy*

              Exactly, which like Former Diet Coke Addict stated above, would make getting in to see a GP an even longer wait. I know where I live now, I had to make an appointment with my GP for a routine physical six months in advance because she shortened her hours and so all of her patients had to scramble to get time. And that isn’t a rarity in my area, either.

              1. Murphy*

                I’m Canadian. I’m currently sick now. I went to the Doctor on Tuesday. Got in the same day I called. For my annual physicals, I call at the beginning of March and I have an appointment by mid-April.

                When I was in a car accident I was taken into surgery within 2 hours of getting to the hospital (and with my two surgeries and week stay in hospital I had a bill at the end of $40 for my crutches which my supplemental insurance paid).

                When my dad had a heart attack, same thing.

                When I dislocated my shoulder, I had a physio appointment the next day.

                When my mum fell down my stairs she has CT scan within a week.

                So yes, the wait-times can be long, but it’s the big boogey man people use to scare others away from publicly funded health care. Urgent needs are treated first. It’s how triage should work. Is it perfect? Hell no. Do some people wait too long? Sure. But for most people the security of being able to get health care without worrying about losing their homes or going bankrupt is worth it.

                Plus, it cost less.

                1. Chinook*

                  I lived in Quebec where they had doctors available for only 70% of the population. I also wait to the ER with kidney stones. Not only did I have no wait time for the initial consult (the nurse actually ran for the doctor!) but the follow-up a month later when I still had them (doctor gave them time to pass) included same day surgery. Even in places without doctors, urgent cases should always get to the top of the list (and those that don’t need to be report to the local health authority).

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  I had immediate care in July when I went to the hospital for the cat bite, and when they admitted me. And even with insurance, I’m going to be out a few thousand dollars. With all the uncertainty surrounding my job, my plan is to pay it off as fast as humanly possible.

          3. TL -*

            Um. I’m a generally healthy young person and I usually only go to the doctor when something falls off or shuts down because – as a generally healthy young person – those are the kinds of health problems that come up. It’s not a luxury of ignoring things.

            1. Christopher Tracy*

              Yeah, that comment assumes quite a bit – I have various chronic illnesses, so it makes no sense for me to run back and forth to the doctor when a) I already know what’s going on with me (for the most part) and b) I can’t afford to pay for all the visits out of pocket anyway (on a high deductible plan through my employer).

              1. TL -*

                Not sure which comment you’re referring to, but I just meant not everyone who does not regularly go to the doctor in the USA chooses that because of cost. Some of us just have no reason to go unless it’s urgent and urgency is not always caused by lack of preventive care.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  With the caveat that I’m setting aside all the very legitimate concerns about affordability and access to health care – you should still be seeing a doctor regularly even if nothing “comes up” or “falls off”. It’s maintenance and prevention.

                2. Christopher Tracy*

                  I was talking about MK’s comment which you seemed to be responding to. The “luxury” comment raised my hackles a bit as well and I had to back off.

                3. TL -*

                  @neverjaunty – there’s actually a lot of debate in the medical community about whether or not yearly physicals should be recommended and positive impact they actually have. I’m okay as I am :)

                4. Aurion*

                  @ neverjaunty

                  I’m not sure how it works in the States, but at least in my part of Canada they don’t do “yearly physicals”. The basic insurance by the province explicitly does not cover yearly medical exams without cause, and none of the extended insurance programs I’ve been on covered it either. Obviously if you have a concern the doctor will do all the testing required, but random yearly physicals just because is not a thing in my experience.

                  The older population tends to be an exception, because in their years a lot of problems start to come up, so they do get tested/examined for things “yearly”–but usually that’s a continuous monitoring of pre-existing problems (cholesterol, blood pressure, heart problems, what have you) or a new investigation into something that may have come up. But if you’re feeling 100% fine, you don’t get blood tests and exams just because.

          4. Rusty Shackelford*

            How does one schedule regular appointments to deal with a dislocated toe? Do you just schedule them annually and cancel if you don’t happen to have a dislocated toe when your time comes up? Or are you suggesting the regularly scheduled appointments would have prevented the dislocated toe?

            (Replace dislocated toe with strep throat or flu or lower back spasms or whatever else isn’t a medical emergency but does call for non-scheduled treatment.)

            1. Julie*

              I can only speak for my own experiences, but my GP is very good when it comes to urgent but non-emergency issues like strep / back spasms / whatever. You call the office and they give you a time to come in, usually within a day or two. There are also, at least here in the major city where I’m from, a lot of walk-in clinics that will treat people in this position, even if they don’t have a GP. The wait times can be several hours, but it can be done.

              For the “wait times can be up to 18 months!” sort of issues, you’re really talking about stuff for which you’ve already seen a GP, gotten a referral, and know approximately how urgent it is. I find that the system does a fairly good job of triaging and prioritizing the more-urgent cases, but the flip side is that the less-urgent cases can take a long time to be seen. (Need a chest x-ray because you might have pneumonia? You’ll probably get it within a day or two. Need some exploratory surgery because your knee is acting up but they’re not sure why? You might be waiting a while.)

              1. Natalie*

                This really doesn’t sound much different than the US – for non-urgent issues I’ve never gotten a same day appointment unless there’s been a cancellation. And urgent care, which sounds similar to the walk in clinics you described, always requires waiting some hours.

            2. seejay*

              In regards to my mom’s particular situation with the dislocated toe, she actually had some foot problems for awhile and while she’s actually pretty proactive in staying on top of her health issues and going to the doctor regularly, she *wasn’t* staying on top of this particular foot issue and kept ignoring foot pain and thinking this hinky toe that was moving out of place and being crooked was just funny and not that big of a deal. Eventually she brought it up with her doctor because it was causing her so much pain to walk on and he took one look and nearly shot her (figuratively) because she’d let this condition get so bad. That’s when he diagnosed her as it being actually dislocated and the cartilage being destroyed, etc.

              If she *had* gone to the doctor when her foot was hurting (like I did when I was having the arch in my foot hurting a lot, which was impeding riding my bike which is my primary form of transportation) she might’ve had it caught early on and it wouldn’t have dislocated. There were warning signs that something in her foot was wrong and she just powered through it and made excuses why she didn’t have time to go to the doctor about it (ie, she was being a cranky old lady about it).

        2. esra (also a Canadian)*

          The wait times are an extremely mixed bag. For many procedures you are in and out in a very timely manner, but those don’t exactly make the news, you know?

          1. Christopher Tracy*

            Hmmm….good point. I guess how good or bad something is really depends on your overall health. Prior to my chronic illnesses, I had no problem with US high deductible plans because I never got sick, so I didn’t use insurance anyway. That simply wouldn’t fly anymore.

            1. esra (also a Canadian)*

              Yea, I was talking to a fellow in the states who also had Crohn’s and had the terrible realization that I would’ve gone bankrupt over colonoscopies down there -_-

        3. memboard*

          We went in yesterday with a broken foot and were out by 2 in the afternoon. That’s more waiting than I would like but it’s also not as bad as I have seen it.

          In fairness once you are roped into the system with a conditions the service is reasonably good.

        4. seejay*

          A lot of it does depend on what’s wrong and where you are but yeah, the wait times can be dumb. I went into the ER for a migraine that had made my vision shut down. While I understand the triage system, I was in a *lot* of pain and couldn’t see at all. I was there for six hours before they got me into a room. By that time, my vision had cleared up and my migraine had gone away. I guess the ER worked in that sense? But I swore I was dying in the meantime.

          On the flipside, I went into the ER here in the US with an animal bite. It wasn’t gushing blood or anything but was pretty bad. I went in, was checked in 10 minutes later, in a room 15 minutes after that, saw a nurse, got a shot, had the wound cleaned, bandaged up, and fixed up and out in about 2 hours.

          Of course I was back 24 hours later and admitted for blood poisoning for three days, but that was afterwards. >>

      4. Julie*

        Just to chime in as another Canadian (from a major city in Quebec) on our healthcare system: Yes, the wait times are long. Even for the ER. Unless you’re having chest pains, trouble breathing, or are brought in on an ambulance, you’re probably going to wait at the ER for a long time before you see a doctor. 2-3 hours just for initial triage is not uncommon. Waits for non-urgent care can also be very long, on the order of months or even years, depending on what you need. I am very lucky that my GP is the sort who will make next-day appointments for “I’m not feeling well / something is wrong” appointments, but most specialists have months-long waiting lists.

        On the other hand, you don’t pay for medical or hospital care. Yes, it might have taken me 18 months to finally get a septoplasty, but I paid exactly $0 for the procedure. My husband paid $0 for his knee surgery. My aunt paid $0 after her heart attack, despite weeks in the hospital. As a woman of child-bearing age and child-wanting inclination, I can’t imagine being in the States right now. I can only imagine how much it would cost for prenatal and postnatal care, to say nothing of the labor and delivery itself. (Also, here in Quebec I get 52 weeks of paid maternity / parental leave. It’s hard to beat that.)

        On the other-other hand, not everything is free. Prescription drugs are not fully covered under the public plan here — it was actually one of the party platforms in last year’s election to get them covered. (Still no movement on that, though.) Dentists are not covered. Neither are eye exams, paramedical care like physiotherapy, certain medical items like crutches, etc. Blood tests can be done at public clinics (generally with long wait times) or paid for privately for lots of money (hundreds of dollars). A lot of larger companies will over private insurance to cover these various non-publicly-covered costs.

        Bottom line, I’d still rather be in Canada. At least here I’ve never heard of anyone going into bankruptcy because of medical bills. And while I dislike the wait times, at least I know that eventually I’ll be seen. If I were in the States, I wouldn’t have the money for a lot of the care I receive here as a matter of course. But the Canadian system is not perfect and we definitely have our flaws.

        1. ThatGirl*

          To be fair, wait times can be long at American ERs, too, if you’re not dying. We had to go to the ER for my husband to get a CT scan – he was having serious migraines out of the blue and they wanted to rule out any sort of brain trauma or tumor or anything. For a simple neuro check and CT we were there for 8 hours.

          1. neverjaunty*

            The one time we (fortunately, incorrectly) believed my husband was having a heart attack, I dropped him at the ER door, parked the car twenty feet away, and by the time I walked in he was already in a room and wired up to tests. I have never seen an ER move that fast in my entire life, and I have gone to ERs with major problems.

            We joke that anytime one of us needs medical care, tell them first that you’re a middle-aged dude with shortness of breath and chest pains, and once they admit you then you can tell them the real problem.

            1. blackcat*

              I’ve gone in with anaphylaxis, and things similarly move FAST. My perception may be a bit skewed because I was woozy from low oxygen, but I swear it was like 30 seconds before I was hooked up to all sorts of stuff and less than 2 minutes before I was shot up full of drugs. According to my husband, they stabilized me in less than 10 minutes (he followed the ambulance and similarly had to park). By the time that he reached me, I was sleeping peacefully with stable vitals due to ALL THE BENADRYL. I don’t remember much about that visit….

              On the other side of things, it took my mom & brother 16 hours to get seen when he broke his arm as a kid. When I broke my arm a few years later, my mom splinted the thing and took me to an orthopedist like a day and a half later. There weren’t any urgent care type places where I grew up, and she was able to plead with a doctor to fit me in. Her thought was it was that 36hrs vs 16hrs waiting isn’t that big of a difference and she’d rather deal with a kid in pain at home rather than sitting in uncomfortable ER chairs all night. Plus, I’m sure it was like $500 less. She wasn’t wrong, though. No ER was going to prioritize a kid with a swollen arm who isn’t even crying (I was cranky, but I think I was just born resistant to pain. Which is good, because I also have the gene that causes resistance to most anesthetics).

        2. the gold digger*

          Unless you’re having chest pains, trouble breathing, or are brought in on an ambulance, you’re probably going to wait at the ER for a long time before you see a doctor

          Yes. Emergency rooms are for emergencies. I used to work for an insurance company. We would not cover emergency room visits at the $50 co-pay level unless it was an emergency, like you were about to lose your life or a limb (or had lost consciousness or had chest pains – OK if they turn out to be indigestion because you can’t tell), or unless your doctor had told you to go there.

          I would tell people that if they had time to think, “I wonder if I should call my doctor about this,” they probably should. But if all you can think is, “I need to call 911!” then do it – either call an ambulance or go directly to the ER.

          People go to the ER for broken toes (not an emergency), for diaper rash, for earaches. Those things hurt but they are not emergencies.

          PS I was so ticked off when I fell off my bike on my way to work and neither the urgent care clinic nor my doctor’s office would treat me. They both said I had to go to the ER. I did not want to go to ER! This was not life-threatening. But they said I had to have a CT scan.

          I called my sister, who is a nurse practitioner, and she said, “Remember Natasha Richardson? Get the damn scan.”

          If I had been on my new job’s insurance, it would have cost me the $150 ER co-pay, but I was still on old job’s crummy crummy insurance with a $2,500 deductible.

          1. Jersey's Mom*

            Hey, I’d take that $2,500 deductible in a second! My company just came out with the “new improved” insurance plan for 2017 — my “Family Deductible” just went up to $4,000, and the “out of pocket maximum” is now $8,000.

          2. neverjaunty*

            Which is totally sensible – except for when “it wasn’t an emergency” is decided retroactively, like chest pains that turn out to be indigestion. Whoops, not paying for that, it wasn’t an emergency!

          3. Dot Warner*

            Exactly! If you get seen right away at the ER, it’s because you’re in danger of dying. If you have to wait a long time, it’s because you aren’t. I get that it sucks to wait, especially if you’re feeling miserable, but really, be grateful that you’re not in danger of death.

        3. Zahra*

          Depending on where you are in the “major city”, there are walkins that will give you an appointment for later in the day. Or, in Montreal at least and maybe other cities, there’s Bonjour Santé (which you can pay a nominal fee for) that will find you an appointment for the next day (but it might not be conveniently located). I’m in Maisonneuve and we’ve got a few walkin-call the night before clinics around. I got “lucky”: my pre-existing conditions meant that I got a family doctor within a year.

      5. E.R*

        The wait times can be a concern for sure, though it’s never happened to myself or my family (including elderly parents). We have to work on that, but I’ m not sure a system that has shorter wait times for some but leaves others out altogether (due to lack of money or insurance) is actually better. You’re speeding up the line by kicking people out of it, no? There is a real benefit to knowing your friends, family, employees and neighbours all have access to care. I also could not afford $7k for surgery and would have been left out of the health system entirely my first few years of work especially.

        1. Hrovitnir*

          This here is probably the most important point. Even if the private healthcare system was good for those who can afford it, it still wouldn’t be good with little to no access to healthcare if you can’t.

      6. Sarah*

        This whole conversation repeats so often, so I’m sure is not new, but I would like to say this: If I lived in the USA and had the same job/profession, I’d have really good health benefits through work. In 60 years when I need to get my hip replaced (or whatever) maybe I could book it in two weeks. Living in Canada, I’ll probably have to wait a year to get that hip replaced, because it’s not going to kill me. However, I’m more than willing to deal with that because I know that I’ll get good help right away if I really need it (burst appendix, heart attack, cancer, etc.), and so will my friends that are lower income than me and without benefits, as will the guy that sold me my coffee this morning. Scary socialism. Rant over :)

        1. TL -*

          Two-ish decades ago, a Canadian aunt of mine was diagnosed with cancer and given about 12 months to live – and an oncologist appointment in 18 months.
          Presumably Canada has worked out such kinks in the system since, but I do think that it’s fair to note both systems can have serious flaws.

          1. seejay*

            That’s the point I was trying to make, although I may have been kind of going about it roundabout. I’ve been in both systems now (although the Canadian one a lot longer than the US one) and I’ve seen the good and bad in both. I love the free (although that’s definitely a misnomer, it’s not free, it comes out through taxes) of the Canadian system, but the wait times can be really skewy as well as the shortages of doctors. On the flipside, the American system seems a lot faster and better staffed, but even with insurance can be costly.

            (I have experience living in small and large cities in Canada for 32 years, but only one large city in the US for 8 years).

      7. neverjaunty*

        These wait times sound exactly like wait times for American medical care. The difference here would be that your mother would have to hobble around for 10 months because the insurance company lost her paperwork, or hadn’t approved the procedure she needed, or her doctor’s office requested the wrong procedure and had to start all over again.

        1. TL -*

          I have never had to wait more than 6 weeks for anything – the only person I know who has had a 10 month waiting period was in a lawsuit and was choosing to leave off treatment until who could pay was settled. But once that was settled, it took about a month to get surgery.
          I don’t doubt people can and do wait that long but in my and my family’s experience in three different states, that’s not the norm.

          1. neverjaunty*

            My experience in Canada was a distinct lack of wait times. I don’t doubt the people who are experiencing them, though.

            My experience in the US is that your access to speedy medical care depends completely on how much your insurance company feels like screwing you around, and how competent your doctor’s office staff is.

      8. Hrovitnir*

        Those aren’t really comparable though, even though the fact that issues like your mothers are not really taken seriously enough is gross. I live (and was raised) in a country with public health care and you would absolutely get a hysterectomy efficiently in a situation like this.

        My USian friend was shocked at how efficient our A&E was compared to the US (California somewhere). So I’m dubious that the pay-through-the-nose system is actually more efficient on average, though individual cases will vary. (We also have the option of health insurance and private hospitals which *can* be more efficient and I strongly prefer that insurance companies don’t get to *own* healthcare.)

  15. Em Too*

    #4 – yeh, that shouldn’t happen. It’s unethical, if only coz there’s a high chance the people making the comments will be identifiable and the first thing pretty much *any* survey should say is ‘no identifying info will be shared publicly’. And our researchers would die on that hill every time.

    Next year, how many people will be giving the honest answer if it could cause offence?

  16. Joanna*

    #2: is there a library/recreation centre/transport hub or similar nearby where you’re able to rent lockers for a few hours you could put your backpack in?

  17. Alice*

    #3 – No advice on handling your parents, but I can tell you I love my career in academic libraries. If you focus on social sciences, sciences, medicine, or a functional specialty like research data management, it may be easier to get a job than in the humanities.
    I have a similar language background, and went through security clearance for a State Dept internship despite my dual citizenship. The internship was great but I’m much happier in this career.
    My only caveat is that I, and most of my best colleagues, worked in other fields before becoming a librarian. The transferable skills we developed help us do our jobs and also helped us get our jobs. Getting you MLIS is not a first-year-after-college-or-never kind of thing.
    Good luck!

  18. APike*

    Re: Q.1

    About 5 years ago, I had moved to a new town with my husband and was having a hard time finding a job because the economy was not great in this area. I went for an interview for a job (at a car dealership) I thought I could be good at, and at the interview the owner of the business offered me the job but told me I’d have to have a thick skin because the male employees make sexual comments about all the female employees and he wouldn’t tolerate having the women come crying to his office about it, as it was just part of the culture. I was on unemployment and was worried I would lose it if I turned the job down but I did it anyway. I would have always been disgusted by the place (and the owner!).

    I ended up getting offered an incredible job a week later!

    1. Myrin*

      Weird how he “wouldn’t tolerate having the women come crying to his office” but was entirely on board with tolerating the men making these comments in the first place. >:/

        1. Heather*

          Wow. I know you only said that to criticize people who say is seriously, and I still think reading it made my blood pressure go up a few points ;)

          1. Yup*

            Right, that’s exactly it — it’s coercive. You either find it “funny” (it’s not!), or YOU’RE the problem. It’s just gross. And sorry about your blood pressure… I feel the same, and am so disturbed by how many arguments I see here breaking down the exact flavour of joke / swearing broken down by gender / race / hair colour…

            None of that is the point. A workplace such as OP1 describes is exclusionary and inappropriate, not to mention highly unprofessional, and plenty of people would NOT choose to work in it.

    2. Temperance*

      LW1: Most places will have a coat closet that you can stash your bag in, so you won’t have to take it in to the interview. I have a briefcase that I use for this purpose, but I’ve seen many people bring backpacks/shoulder bags and then store them at reception.

      I work in a major city and most people use public transit to get around. This obviously may vary.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Obviously this is a misplaced comment, but when I started reading it I thought it was going to be a joke along the lines of how any woman working at a job like APike described could go into the coat closet to cry instead of bringing your whiny baby nonsense to the boss. Problem solved!

  19. Hannah*

    #3 the only thing I didn’t see mentioned was whether or not your parents are supporting you and would be paying for your MLS degree, which is not known for being lucrative. I think if you’re taking money from your parents then you have to take the conditions that come with it, which may mean having to listen to their constant nagging. It may mean actually having to follow through on the career path they’re willing to fund, or going without their support. You can’t take their money and then essentially tell them “it’s my life, butt out.” Since you’re in school in Canada this may totally not apply, but just a thought.

    1. Emac*

      I disagree. If the parents want to give money for a graduate degree, great. But as they’re all adults, it should be treated as any other loan between adults. If I loan a friend money, I don’t expect to be able to make comments on what they do with it (at least not and keep those friends).

      1. TL -*

        If the strings are said upfront, I don’t see any problems with it. And even if they aren’t, once you know money comes with strings from somebody, that should factor into accepting a loan.

    1. Jennifer M.*

      The OP is saying that if she told the truth about her foreign contacts (I believe the security clearance form asks for contact information for all foreign nationals to “whom you are bound by affection” – though once you get to the interview stage they clarify it to foreign nationals you would let stay in your home for a visit as opposed to someone you are just Facebook friends with) or her views on X, Y, and Z, and so forth she would not advance to the next level of the Foreign Service Officer hiring process.

      Drug use can also be an issue – though if you are for example 35 and admit that in college you smoked weed but haven’t done it since your early 20s (assuming this is true) it is not going to disqualify you.

      And you never want to lie in these questionnaires and interviews – because once you lie, you can be blackmailed about it. If you let it all hang out during the clearance process, you are more blackmail-proof.

    2. BRR*

      Someone who works for the government can probably answer better than me but my husband was interviewed when he was a roommate of someone who got an offer or pending over from the government. I’m not sure to what extent vetting happens for applicants but there might just be a lot of questionable (as defined by the government) connections.

  20. 123456789101112 do do do*

    As a federal librarian, I have to say ——- it’s not for everyone. Make your own path and do what makes you happy. This is a parental relationship management question, not a career question.

  21. Julie*

    #5: I’ve worked for a number of small-ish nonprofits that had volunteer Boards of Management. In general, your big time commitment isn’t going to be the Board meetings themselves. Most organizations that I’ve been part of have them anywhere from once a month to once a quarter, usually in the evenings and outside of normal work hours. Maybe once every year or two you might have a “retreat” on a weekend to discuss larger strategy goals and long-term planning.

    What will actually take up more of your time — especially if you take an officer role — will be the actual leadership / management of the organization. Handling emails from other members of the organization and other Board members, discussing policy, dealing with situations that come up, and so forth. How much of this you’ll have to deal with will very much depend on the organization. It might be just an occasional email, or it might be a near-constant stream of discussions, especially if the organization is going through big changes, growth, or crises. It’s best to ask the other Board members what to expect.

    One more thing I should note: a lot of places actually have a policy whereby Board members are expected to donate a certain amount of money to the organization. You might want to double-check with the other Board members whether this is the case at your nonprofit.

    1. Pearl*

      +1 I also work for a small org with a volunteer Board. The meetings take up, max, one evening a month. What demands time is when people sign up for specific projects. (Not that they then always fulfill this time, but in theory…) No one is paid by their workplaces to be here, even the people whose work is in the same field.

      “It’s best to ask the other Board members what to expect” – YES. And also the administration staff if there is any. Ask them what support they’re used to receiving from the position or what questions they’re used to fielding to the position. I feel bad for our current building/facilities person. I don’t think anyone warned him about the sheer amount of STUFF that he’d be asked to do.

      Get not just a description of what the last person in the position did but what the goals are for the position for the next term. When our new building person came on they were like, “oh, he’s a computer guy, the VP of building is now also a tech support position.” I do not think they mentioned this expectation to him beforehand. Obviously this is dysfunctional and not ideal, but the fact is that a lot of boards are going to have a measure of dysfunction and you want to find that out first.

      And yes, everyone on our Board is expected to donate. They’re actually expected, this year, to donate to our Annual Fund and our construction fundraising.

      1. zora.dee*

        For very small/grassroots nonprofits, often the Board Members are not expected to donate themselves, because they usually have Board Members who are newer in their careers/don’t make as much money. An alternative is to have a Board fundraising plan where they bundle small donations from friends/help do donor outreach, etc.

        Just to point out that is not universal, so if you don’t make a lot of money, don’t let that discourage you from seeking out board positions. There are other ways to help with the fundraising of an org if you don’t have extra cash yourself.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Typically though a board shouldn’t be involved in the day to day running of the organization — they should leave that to the ED and only be involved in governance and big strategic direction stuff. Small orgs do often do what you’re describing, but that’s not actually how it’s supposed to work.

      1. Julie*

        I appreciate that point, but I’ve mostly been involved in small organizations (2-6 employees) where the Board does tend to take a very active role in the organization. I’m sure that in larger organizations, that amount of hands-on involvement decreases as you have more staff who can do the day-to-day operations, but at the places I’ve been, the Boards tend to be quite active. (At one of my previous organizations, for example, the treasurer acted as our de facto accountant.)

        At the organization I’m part of now, the Executive Committee (consisting of the officers of the Board) is very active in a lot of the decisions, while the rest of the Board tends to have a somewhat smaller time commitment.

  22. ExceptionToTheRule*

    OP1 – I hire entry level people for jobs in an extremely stressful environment that can include periodic yelling, people being disrespectful, swearing, and the type of off-color humor that A Dispatcher refers to above (among other things). My method of screening for fit on that is to ask about how the applicant handles stress, to discuss why there might be yelling and how they react to it, are they comfortable telling people who are above them in the power structure what to do, etc. I use those questions to evaluate fit on my end, but on the applicants’s end one of two things tends to be true: they’ve never worked in the field, they’re enamored with it, but they really don’t have any idea what it’s like so the questions are of no use to them in thinking about culture; or they’ve worked in the field before and they know they can deal with it.

    1. Jaydee*

      I think there are also workplaces where the ability to put up with swearing, people being disrespectful, etc. comes not from coworkers but from customers/clients. I think it’s absolutely legitimate to screen for the ability and willingness to handle that because a lot of that will be outside of your control and you need to be able to respond appropriately (whether that means listening through the swears and yelling to understand what the customer is really trying to say or explaining that if this type of language continues you will hang up the phone).

  23. LTR*


    I carry a backpack to work (professional government office) every day and pretend I’m just like Josh Lyman. I’m pretty sure I had it with me during my interview, too. Like Alison said, assuming it’s not a hiking-across-Europe type of pack it should be fine.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      Josh was exactly who I was thinking of when this came up. He always made it look professional. I also see a lot of attorneys in my building in suits carrying backpacks (basic black).

    2. Cranston*

      I feel like this is pretty accepted in cities where people take public transit because there’s really no way around it.

  24. Kaitlyn*

    RE #2 — I was actually just wondering about the whole ‘bringing bags into an interview’. I had 2 interviews, back-to-back in 2 days, out of town. I took the bus in, and so I had a large handbag and my backpack. I was lucky because there were storage lockers at the bus terminal that I was able to use, but I had wondered beforehand what the etiquette surrounding baggage (of the literal, not emotional variety) in an interview might be. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind for next time!

  25. jhhj*

    Is the inappropriate joke black or crude humour, or is it sexist/racist/homophobic/etc? I might join in on black humour and roll my eyes at crude humour, but I would look for a place that didn’t think sexism was funny. Similarly, is swearing just saying fuck a lot, or is it using sexual, racist, homophobic, etc slurs? You can have a casual workplace where swearing happens and inappropriate jokes are made that is doing this because it’s what people like, or you can have one that is doing this as a not-so-veiled way of keeping different people out.

  26. YetAnotherAlison*

    OP#4, I work in Institutional Research (we’re the ones who usually conduct these surveys and write the reports) and I always redact names but leave all other comments as they were written. Sometimes that means departments get called out on things directly. I also don’t tend to post results like these on our website for the public to see, but to share with the community (the people who took the survey) is very normal.

      1. YetAnotherAlison*

        Yup, that’s what I said. It’s weird and unprofessional that they did that. I can only guess whoever put the results together didn’t actually read the comments, because I don’t know anyone who would think that was okay.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          I used to do institutional research, so my guess is that this was not conducted by an outside firm. I’m picturing someone or some team in the administration putting together the survey and then running a stock report from whatever survey platform they used, which typically dumps all of the verbatims into separate sections or an appendix. If it were a large survey, the section(s) was probably pretty long, so they may have just skimmed it or decided not to read it at all. Also, the output from some platforms makes it difficult to edit individual comments in the reports, so they might have just decided not to bother with it.

          This actually was often part of the reason my old company was hired to conduct these surveys by new clients. They thought they could do it themselves, and underestimated the amount of work it would be to actually conduct the survey and get meaningful results. They also had sometimes had issues like what the OP is describing and wanted to avoid them in the future.

  27. Mae*

    Ha. # 1. I know the industry exactly. I bet there’s a keg and a pool table in the office, too. Oh, and an inspiration board with buzz words. Wonder if that makes up for late-night RFP’s… In any event, I would not flat-out ask if candidate is comfortable with cursing, etc. And you might have done yourself a disservice by even mentioning the phrase, “boys club.” Here’s the thing: if cursing happens, it will happen. It sounds as though you are trying to weight whether a candidate is comfortable with it as a major factor for your decision. That in and of itself is wrong. How to proceed? If it gets to interview number 2, have it be a group setting to gauge their sense of culture, maybe.

    1. Mae*

      Clarification. *You might be doing* yourself a bit of disservice if you mention the phrase, “boys club.”

    2. Judy*

      I think you are vastly underestimating the types of small companies that could be like that. I assumed small manufacturing company, car dealership, or machine shop.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Yup. I actually had thought finance or legal, based on the experiences I and some of my friends have had.

      2. Mae*

        The scenario just rang deja-vu. This was my life for 8 years. Marketing. But yes, could be any that you mentioned as well.

  28. Erika*

    #1 – at the interview for the job I had longest before the one I hold now, my future boss sat me down and asked how I felt about working with a bunch of assholes. Best interview question I ever had, because it told me not just about the people I ended up supervising (some of them), but also the general culture of the workplace. It was dysfunctional in many ways and there was a lot that could have been improved, but at least I was able to go into that job with my eyes open.

  29. HRChick*

    LW1: I worked for a government contracting job. In the midst of my employment, my job changed and I ended up working at a secure compound.
    I didn’t care about the swearing.
    I honestly thought I could handles the blatant sexism. But, I couldn’t. After a while, the “crude jokes” and naked-women calendars and sexists memes printed out and taped to the walls got to me. It wasn’t because I felt threatened – it’s because I felt completely devalued as a human being. Constantly.
    So, even if you try to screen out during the interview, there’s no promise that down the road, this boys-club will not become unbearable.

    1. LW1*

      Nothing like that in our work environment, and that level of harassment definitely wouldn’t be tolerated here.

      1. Lefty*

        But would a candidate or new hire KNOW that? Would they TRUST that? Would they feel like there was recourse if they ever feel like it crossed the line from crude humor to harassment? I don’t think so…

        I imagine myself as a new hire. I’ve been asked in an interview if swearing/crudeness bothers me, so I feel forewarned when it happens. I am excited about this company and this job really fits what I want in my career, so I accept it- I can curse with the best of them anyway! In the first week, I am fine with the cursing… but hearing a coworker make a sexually lewd joke gets laughs from everyone including the VP. I’m uncomfortable because it’s obvious that I’m the only one NOT laughing and remember- it’s been implied in the interview that this is normal… I believe this won’t change… I feel like I can’t ask for it to change because I was told in the interview and I should just deal with it. Soon, a coworker makes a lewd joke and it’s directed at me- or at women who look like me, maybe. I feel like I can’t complain because I knew at the interview that this is part of the culture here. Even one instance of someone feeling like this should be enough for it to be questioned, but I feel like I can’t complain about it because I knew before they hired me! So the jokes continue, I feel completely raw and vulnerable at each one. I can’t trust my boss with this- he’s in on the jokes. I can’t go to someone higher- even the VP is enjoying this. I will be the killjoy, the whiner, the PC police, the “girl”, the one who ruined the fun… all because this is the way it was before I interviewed here and I should have known.

      2. HRChick*

        But being marginalized by the “boys club” and subjected to gender-biased language can have the same affect.

  30. ButFirstCoffee*

    #3 As a recent graduate who is also an only child, I understand your pain. Your parents love you and want to “help” but truthfully they don’t always see the whole picture. I am dealing with similar pushback, although I am only wanting to move elsewhere in the country. Just remember that your career is important and you should do what’s right for you, while still respecting your parents in the way you go about it. Good luck.

  31. Rusty Shackelford*

    For #2, if this were a frequent thing, I’d find a nice large messenger bag. That seems a lot more professional than a backpack. (But I live in a location where backpacks are mostly carried by students… that may not be the case where you are.)

  32. Anon Always*

    OP #1…I would encourage you to consider making adjustments to the workplace culture now. I realize that you may not be in a position to completely change the culture, but I suspect if it’s a small organization that you have influence over your boss. Because the environment you describe sounds like long-term it won’t work, and if you are a rapidly growing company I suspect that you may struggle with turnover. I don’t mind cursing, but, crude jokes really make me uncomfortable. And if crude jokes were being shared regularly, I probably wouldn’t stay in an organization long-term.

  33. Xay*

    OP #3
    I am 37 years old, I have made steady progress on my career path for the last 12 years and my mother still questions my decisions and pushes me to make different ones (most recently, my decision to join a non-profit instead of seeking a permanent fed government position). Remember that your parents have good intentions but ultimately you get to make your own decisions. Thank them for the suggestion, but follow your path. Good luck!

    1. ginger ale for all*

      I am 50. My mother still tries to run my life and her little sister’s who is in her 70’s. You were born with two ears, let what they say run in one and out the other.

  34. slackr*

    I wonder how this issue translates to my job. I work a second part time job as a bartender. It’s a private club so the clientele is almost exclusively male and older. When working with a female bartender I let the normal male talk with a decent dose of profanity go, but at times when someone is on a loud cursing rant, or loudly telling the story of 1980 shore leave in Thailand, I have stepped in before and said, “Gentlemen, there is a lady here.” They usually get embarrassed (they are more than courteous to the female bartenders) and stop. Is it sexist of me to call them out? I have also been told, that they pay their membership dues to have male bonding space, so they can do what they want, to which I replied that none of that matters if a female employee feels harassed in the workplace…

    1. Hana*

      A better person to ask these questions of would be the person you intend for your actions to benefit: the female bartenders you work with.

      1. Natalie*

        Yep. And ask them individually, assuming there’s more than one. They may very well have different preferences, or appreciate your backup but hate your wording.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yes, please ask her. Personally, I would be just as offended by you assuming I couldn’t handle the language or the subject matter. Maybe even more so.

      1. Lady ears (and a foul mouth)*

        Yeah, there’s nothing about a loud cursing rant or raunchy tales of shore leave in Thailand that I think I couldn’t handle. I would be more offended by the assumption that my lady ears shouldn’t be subjected to that sort of thing. In fact, I think among older men there’s enough of the assumption that lady ears shouldn’t be subjected to that sort of thing, so a willingness to have these rants and raunchy stories in the presence of lady ears is almost…open-minded?…of them. And, quite frankly, it probably means they are in a good mood and they’ve had enough to drink that they are tipping WELL, which I’m sure benefits everyone working that night. :-)

      2. Maxwell Edison*

        Same here. I find the assumption that I’m going to clutch my pearls and faint over some bad language (trust me, I’ve said it all) or raunchy stories (I’d be storing them away in my brain for use in a novel) very annoying. If you said, “There is a lady here,” my response would be, “Is there?”

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          When this has been directed to me as the only woman in the conversation, I’m fond of looking over both my shoulders and then tiptoeing to look over the shoulders of the person who said it.

          Passive-aggressive, I know, but others pick up on it and start laughing and I feel much better.

    3. Office Plant*

      I think this is a very individual thing. Some people, probably including some of your clientele, believe that certain things shouldn’t be discussed in the presence of other genders. And there is a lot of variety in what people consider harassment, or uncomfortable conversations.

      I tend to be pretty thick skinned and indifferent unless something is directed at me or involves something clearly wrong or illegal. But I know that can be kind of a gray area too.

      You’re in a unique situation because it’s a private club. I would bring it up with your manager or with other women who bartend at private clubs. It is kind of weird that they’re paying for an all male space, but they have women working there. You’d think that if they wanted to have a boys only conversation, they could take their drinks to another room or request that the bar be staffed by men on certain nights.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        It is kind of weird that they’re paying for an all male space, but they have women working there.

        Someone’s gotta look pretty and make the sammiches.

    4. anonderella*

      OOOOH – not sure why, but when I initially read through your comment, I thought you were saying that you, a female bartender, felt somehow sexist for calling out male clientele’s ‘crass’ jokes/comments/stories, as they’d paid to be part of a membership/club where this is tolerated/encouraged behavior.

      Yes, I would feel condescended to (by you, more than the clientele), especially if you’re using the exact verbage “Gentlemen, there is a lady here.” I would have Kill Bill sirens going off, my mind-voice would be echoing the word “Lady? LADY?? *evil hiss* ….lady!!!!”, and it would take more than a few wash-overs of consciously trying to let it go for the sake of common peace. (keep in mind that where I grew up, the Z-snap was a form of social Kamehameha – my hometown is big on calling folks out, and I’ve had to work hard on reigning that in.)

      To me, the problem is that you’re assuming the female bartender needs your help. Even the crass clientele isn’t doing that – true, they should be the kind of upright citizens who wouldn’t make those jokes in the first place, but those aren’t your monkeys. In fact, those monkeys are providing your paycheck, so you’re also right that you can’t shame them off the island, survivor-style. That’s why the absolute best answer to this is to ask how your female coworkers feel, how they feel about you ‘sticking up’ for them, if they want you to continue (on an individual basis), and if there’s anything they’d rather you say/behave to shut it down. Because the complicated answer to it is that they might not care, and they might have taken the crass behavior into account before they signed up for the job. You shouldn’t make decisions for them about their comfort level – though I commend your aim to harm/offend the least amount of people in your workplace.
      I absolutely echo the other responders who suggest asking your coworkers how they feel, because my entire point rests on my reaction being my opinion and my feelings.

      Lastly, based on you thinking about this at all, I think you’re probably a pretty alright person, and I really appreciate you opening yourself to that question and the various answers you might receive. *high five*

    5. N.J.*

      Your intentions are good and I would encourage you to keep calling them out. I would caution, though, that using the strategy that there is a lady present may solve on set of sexist behavior (the members saying crude things) but encourages another type of sexist behavior and thinking (namely that women are delicate flowers or “ladies” and therefore our fragile sensibilities can’t possibly handle such vulgar talk). You risk alien taint your female coworkers if you solve one set of sexist behavior by using another set of sexist ideals and standards.

      1. slackr*

        OK thanks for the advice. I probably was being overly protective of the frail ladies (joke). I will say that the female bartender’s response whenever this has come up has been one thanks, a small smile or a shrug. Since I am not really in a position to be asking coworkers about their feelings, from now on I will probably just let it go and if the talk offends someone, she (or he) can speak out on their own.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          A supportive thing to say to any other bartender, man or woman, is “You know, if the raunchy talk bothers you, it’s okay to say something.”

        2. Hana*

          I think if you’ve been in the position to confront customers about their speech and actions, you may be more able to ask coworkers about their feelings than you think!

        3. Mags*

          Ooh, yeah, coming from me or my friends that response would be indicative of thinking you’d been really patronizing and fairly obnoxious but well intentioned. Which means we wouldn’t want to slap you down from trying to help, but would certainly be hoping you’d take the unenthusiastic response as a hint.
          If you think the clientele is getting too crude, tell them that’s how you feel, don’t bring the bartenders into it.

        4. N.J.*

          You are doing something carry admirable and important by pointing out your patrons’ sexist talk. Please don’t be discouraged from standing up for your coworkers, just sharing a possible backfire of the approach. Also, I hate auto correct with the fire of a thousand suns…I typed “alienate” in my first comment and it came out as “alien taint.”

        5. Rusty Shackelford*

          It would also bother me because *I* want to be the one who decides how much of a pill I’m willing to be. Mr. Shackelford, bless his everlovin’ heart, will sometimes do the thing where he says “Can you please stop doing X, because Rusty hates it” and I’ve been patiently putting up with X because I don’t want to be That Person, and then he went and made me That Person. And I know he was just trying to look out for me because he knows I hate X, but it still negates my choice to not be The Person Who Makes a Big Deal About X.

    6. neverjaunty*

      It is sexist, but honestly if it makes those jerks shut their pie-holes I can’t get too worked up about it.

      1. N.J.*

        That’s true. It’s just a personal sticking point of mine…shutting down one set of bad behavior with a set of assumptions that could cause another set of bad behavior isn’t ideal. In an ideal world, the fact that the patrons’ stories are denigrating to women or sexist or whatever they are would be pointed out on a the basis that saying sexist things is wrong and vile, not that saying sexist things is wrong and vile only when a woman is around to hear the customers. But yes, he is taking the first step to even speak up about all this and I don’t want to discourage a guy from trying to help. It just touches on some very “icky” ideas, for lack of a better word, about certain things being ok to say if those you could potentially hurt aren’t around, when I would argue that certain things are wrong to say, period.

    7. STX*

      I do think it’s sexist because you may have male bartenders who are uncomfortable, but just have to put up with it because they are men. And the female bartenders may not care about some raunchy stories but do care that their gender is being highlighted as something that makes them different from everyone else, which can be a very uncomfortable experience.

      I work in a male-dominated environment, and personally I prefer to draw my own boundaries vs. having a boss highlight the fact that my presence is unusual and everyone should behave differently around me. But I know some of my female coworkers would rather have a friendly guy intervene than do it themselves. It’s all down to individual preference.

      If you didn’t have a female bartender working that shift, would you just let them rant or loudly tell a raunchy story? Could you perhaps have a more blanket rule about keeping conversation quiet as to not disturb other members?

    8. MeridaAnn*

      I am a woman, and I don’t like being around excessive cursing, but those two statements are not connected to each other. When I’m at work, I don’t like people cursing because it is unprofessional and distracting (I’m in a government office job), not because I have *delicate lady ears*. But I’ve learned to live with it (and I’ll be looking for a new job soon-ish anyway) and will just shut the door or put on headphones when it gets to be too distracting for me. It bothers me more than the actual cursing when people apologize by saying, “Oh, I forgot there was a lady here.” (And it’s always visitors to the office who say that – ones who know nothing about me or my preferences.)

      If you hear something that is wildly inappropriate (not the cursing, but something actually sexist or lewd), could you try something like “Whoa now, that’s a bit much, don’t you think?” or something similar. I know the dynamics are a bit complex, given that you’re in customer service and the setting you’ve described, but if you could find a gentle way to point out that they’ve crossed a line without implying that your “lady” coworker is hampering their fun, that would be a lot better.

      And don’t save this for just when that specific coworker is there – you never know who among your customers or other coworkers might be feeling uncomfortable from the crude talk but doesn’t feel like they can speak up because they’re men, so they’re just expected to go along with it.

    9. jax*

      This isn’t exactly the same situation, but it has it’s parallels. I worked in a jail library. I understood that it was part of the job that the inmates would have conversations that I might feel are inappropriate. When they had sexual conversations I would not engage in them/with them. But they weren’t talking to me so I shelved or stepped out of the library (we had return carts right outside the door) if I started to get uncomfortable. Now, if they turned the sexual talk towards me, however, I shut it down immediately and expected the guards to back me up. One time the guard engaged in the sexual conversation with the inmates which I felt was over the line (one of the inmates’ last name was Head-you can guess where the conversation went.) Luckily my supervisor and the jail commander agreed with me and that guard was taken off library duty. So to bring it around-if the men are just telling smutty stories around and women happen to be around, I would leave it up to the woman to either 1. tell the clientele to knock it off, or 2. tell you they’re uncomfortable. If the smutty stories make you feel uncomfortable I would say to speak up but don’t say it’s because there are women around.

  35. JP*

    OP #3 – I don’t understand your aversion to taking the FSO test. As an FSO you’re likely going to be living abroad and your foreign contacts won’t disqualify you from doing that. You can take your MLS courses online while you enjoy the great benefits associated with government work. Just my two cents though.

    Librarian that has interned at DoS

    1. Abigael*

      Yeah, I had the same response to that question. I agree with Alison that it should be up to the OP to decide her career path, and not her parents. But I wonder if the OP really understands what FSOs do. She sounds like she’s interested in living abroad, and working as an FSO is actually an excellent way to get experience living in a different country.

      Also, I think the OP might be underestimating the competitiveness of getting hired as a FSO. She seems to think she would skate through because of her majors, but I know plenty of people with similar degree and career backgrounds who did not make it through the hiring process. If she wanted to make her parents happy, she could apply for the job (the application is free) while simultaneously pursuing the other opportunities she’s interested in. The FSO hiring process can take anywhere from 1-3 years, so she could continue working towards her other goals while keeping the door open to the FSO option. Again, I agree it should be up to the OP and not the parents, but from my own experience, sometimes it’s easier to compromise with parents than continually reject their advice.

      1. Anon Always*

        Only about 2% of people who apply and sit for the FSO exam end up being hired. It’s highly competitive. So there is a very good chance that the OP wouldn’t even get hired.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Well, that’s one way to shut the parents up.

          “I took the test and I didn’t get a job and now I’m depressed about it! I don’t ever want to talk about it again!!!!” (stomps into bedroom, slams door)

          1. Jane*

            Also I wasted a lot of time and energy and test-taking angst with no intention of taking a job if offered as a “compromise” my parents!

            Opportunity costs, people.

      2. LW3*

        I swear I know what FSOs do, and am very much aware that very few people ever get past the Foreign Service exam; I did not even go into the major with a hope of joining the foreign service (perhaps it’s my parents who are underestimating the competitiveness since they are the ones advocating said career path).
        International studies is incredibly broad and an increasingly popular study path; I am under no delusion that I could ever skate through based on my majors. My languages are not exactly in demand languages, so that wouldn’t help (plus you can only test with one). The FSO hiring process tends to take more than three years, and you must resit the exam every two years.
        I am not generally interested in living abroad, I am interested in one specific country, and in fact on specific province within said country in which I have already been living for the better part of three years. I have no interest in issuing passports, visa, dealing with registering foreign births to US citizens, or having to attend events with large numbers of people.
        FSOs have to be able to say they approve of/support/like the government they are serving; I couldn’t honestly say that.
        Then there is the matter of sitting the exam. Yes it is free, but it is only offered in a few places twice a year, and I am absolutely not traveling hundreds of kilometres to take an incredibly stressful exam, for a job I don’t want, and that even if I did want said job would likely not be offered before having to take the exam again.

      3. Jane*

        There’s like a million different ways “to get experience living in another country” so why would you pursue one that involves an onerous exam and hiring process to do work you don’t want to do with limited choice on where you do it as an extension of a foreign policy you don’t fully support? Working for State is a very specific career path– and a difficult one for which most people take years to prepare– that only makes sense for people who specifically want to do those things. It’s not a “live abroad” catch-all safety net; if you just want to dabble in another country, teach English, do Peace Corps, be an au pair, or go through a normal hiring process for any number of companies with offices abroad or for foreign companies. Only work for State if that’s the career you want.

  36. A Nonny Nonny*

    for LW#1: I was once asked in an interview “What’s your favorite curse word/phrase?”. Now, the context of the job posting and the interview to that point established that this was a laid back environment, and I thought this question was great because it was an indicator that people might curse, and a good measure for how comfortable I might be with it. So if I responded with “Oh, gee willikers”, they’d know that there may not be a culture fit, or to follow up with what I’d be Ok with hearing from others. If I went on a 90 second tirade of every foul word I could think of, then that would have demonstrated another kind of non-fit for the culture- because I might abuse the “laid back” environment.

    It’s not a question for everyone, and again the context of the job posting and the interview to that point did a LOT to frame up that question. BUT, in that situation and for that company/environment, it was really good way to learn about the candidate and also tell a little about the culture.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Yet another reason to miss Robin Williams…he had the best answer to that question. His favorite (curse) word and least favorite word were very different terms for the same body part.

      2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        Am I the only one who prepares my answers for my eventual interview?

        Even though I have nothing to do with the Actor’s Studio? I just wanna see the stack of cards Lipton would have for me.

    1. Isabel C.*

      Ooh, nice!

      One of the things that made me really want a job at AwesomePlace was that their employee mission video included the phrases “don’t be an asshole” and “get shit done.” Because this is 2016 and I am not applying for a job at a convent, so.

  37. (Another) B*

    I don’t understand the backpack thing. If you want to look professional why wouldn’t you bring an oversized tote? It works just as well as a backpack and it looks better.
    I know people will disagree with me but backpacks are for school – not for the workplace.

    1. Julie*

      I use a backpack because it distributes the weight more evenly on my back and also lets me be hands-free. (I have narrow shoulders, so totes / purses / whatever tend to fall down onto my elbow or wrist unless I’m holding them.) I’ve never had a problem, but as others have said, it’s somewhat industry-specific.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        I would absolutely use a backpack for most situations, but for an interview, I agree that a fancy oversize tote seems more appropriate (YMMV of course – we attorneys tend to be a somewhat more formal bunch). I’ve actually had to do this before as I take public transit in a city where Winter Is A Thing so changing out of my boots can be a necessity. Link of an example similar to what I use to follow.

    2. seejay*

      I carry a bike messenger bag because I ride a bike. Like, an over-the-shoulder, full on, almost backpack style bike messenger bag. I carry my change of clothes, laptop, and other necessary work things in it. I work in tech but most people confuse me for an actual bike messenger since I wear the full gear (including shoes) and we have a pretty heavy messenger and hipster culture here. Most people commuting to work actually wear their work clothes, but I hate doing that since I find it dangerous (more likely to get caught in gears, wheels, etc, and I don’t ride a typical “commute” bike), and in a crash scenario or even just tipping over I don’t want my good work clothes to get torn, or even get bike grease on them. Plus my office clothes are more restrictive. Nevermind I can’t even use the pedals anymore with normal shoes, I have to be clipped in or my thighs get mad.

      So yeah, I pretty much carry a backpack style bag around during the week, at least when I’m riding a bike.

    3. another IT manager*

      When I used a messenger-type bag, I had persistent shoulder, hip, and knee pain. When I switched to a backpack (worn on both shoulders with the hip strap like the nerd I am), all the pain went away. One strap bags are for light, one-off trips now.

      I’d rather look unprofessional with my backpack than be in pain, sorry.

  38. Office Plant*

    #3 – Never take career advice from your parents! (Or anyone, unless it’s someone in your field who you admire and even then, take it as just one person’s opinion.) You’ll regret it. Firmly tell them what your plans are and if they get persistent, thank them for their advice and change the subject. If money is a factor and they start using that for leverage, distance yourself from them financially.

    A lot of people go through this. Standing up to your parents is tough, but in the long run, you’ll make choices you’ll be happier with and they’ll come to respect you for it.

  39. voyager1*

    OP1 A “boys club” can mean a lot of things. If guys are just acting like a bunch frat boys with a pool table and nerf gun wars that is one thing, but if they are telling really innapproriate jokes that could get you sued, that is another. Sounds like you are in the sued area of the spectrum.

  40. voyager1*

    OP4: I have seen this exact thing happen in my career, but in that case the HR team forgot to take out the names of coworkers who got called out. It caused a lot of issues for a long time. Sorry this happened.

  41. M from NY*

    #3 While it’s entirely possible that your parents are off base, the reasoning you’re giving for not wanting to apply makes it appear that you’re not fully understanding the options available. Working for the foreign service would not limit you to working in the US. With your language background you have a lot of options that it appears that you’re not even aware of. You can very well be assigned anywhere in the world. You can have a few years under your belt then if it still pulls you go back to school for masters.

    Your parents may be wrong with approach but given the recruiters response to your background you owe it to yourself to see what career opportunities are available. Don’t shut them down because you want to prove your parents wrong. From what you’ve written I don’t think you realize how much of a commodity your application truly would be. Turn it down because the career options are not what you want not because your parents suggested you apply. [If you are better able to articulate the reasons you don’t want to apply your parents may not like your decision but they’ll eventually respect it. Right now your reasons sound like excuses and that you’re afraid to apply.]

    1. LW3*

      The vast majority of FSO postings begin with some period of time in the US, generally DC.
      International studies is incredibly broad and an increasingly popular study path which many people undertake for the purpose of joining the foreign service or going on to get an international MBA. My languages are not exactly in demand languages (State even provides a list), so that wouldn’t help (plus you can only test with one). The FSO hiring process tends to take more than three years, and you must resit the exam every two years.
      I have no interest in issuing passports, visa, dealing with registering foreign births to US citizens, or having to attend events with large numbers of people.
      FSOs have to be able to say they approve of/support/like the government they are serving; I couldn’t honestly say that.
      Then there is the matter of sitting the exam. Yes it is free, but it is only offered in a few places twice a year, and I am absolutely not traveling hundreds of kilometres to take an incredibly stressful exam, for a job I don’t want, and that even if I did want said job would likely not be offered before having to take the exam again.
      The person in question was not a recruiter, they were a person conducting a background check for a different person, but for the field that person is entering, background checks tend to require a cursory check of the people they are talking to as well.
      I am also not interested in being sent to whatever country needs a new FSO at the time where my language background might fit (or might not resulting in more time in DC beforehand at the FSLI to learn a new language).

      1. Jane*

        I am really sorry you are getting such ignorant push-back, LW3. If someone was like “My mom wants me to be a kindergarten teacher because I got a phd and want to be a university professor” commenters would not be chiding you for not at least trying to get your elementary teaching certificate– because they are obviously two very different career paths, even if they both share a common element!

        Commentariat! There are a lot of ways to work outside your home country. Like, as many ways as there are to work within. International Studies students work in government, UN, NGOs, translation, universities, businesses, tech, and so many others that I cannot even type a fake-exhaustive list. You sound ignorant when you push the LW to do something they don’t want to do as if the State Dept is their only option to achieve the stated aim of working abroad. Stop calling the LW ignorant.

  42. I'm Not Phyllis*

    OP 5, it’s worth noting that NFP boards often have a policy of not compensating its members. They will reimburse for travel and meals, of course, if it’s required, but you won’t be given any other compensation. It varies according to what kind of board you’re on, but I know in my (not-for-profit) sector it’s not a thing that happens, and depending on your position and your company’s relationship with where you are serving on the board, having your employer pay you for the time spent in board meetings may be seen as a conflict.

  43. Office Plant*

    #1 – I was thinking, “Cursing and crude jokes! I would fit in there,” until I got to “boys club,” which made me think, “Oh, this is someone who makes assumptions about people’s senses of humor based on what they look like. That sucks.”

    It’s hard to tell what this person means. I mean, if it’s just cursing, making off color jokes, and maybe stuff like Nerf guns, that’s cool. But why call it a “boys club”? Why not frame it more neutrally? I mean, anyone can be comfortable or uncomfortable with cursing and crude jokes . . . unless the jokes target a specific group of people. In which case you would have a serious problem.

    So, yeah, depending on what the OP is talking about, it’s either No Big Deal and they should stop worrying about it or they need to work on having a friendlier, more inclusive workplace.

    If the former, there are plenty of ways to screen. Maybe mention it upfront as Allison suggested, then invite the candidate to hang out for a little while, have some beers and play video games, so you can see if it’s a good fit.

  44. Clever Name*

    I work in an environment where people tend to swear a lot and there is a fair amount of crude (mostly immature potty-type) humor. But it’s not a boys’ club. By far. The owner of my company is a woman, half the leadership team are women, and more than half of the managers and technical staff are women. We’ve been working on toning down that aspect of our culture as the company grows, since the owner recognized that it’s not welcoming to everyone. People for the most part behave themselves in meetings, but I have a coworker (who is actually my boss’ boss) who is the king of juvenile humor, and I adore working with him. We always end up giggling over something stupid when I go to talk to him (I’m a woman). So it is possible for a place with juvenile humor and swearing to be a positive place to work, but the “boys’ club” part is very concerning. I’d keep your eyes open during the interview. How many women work there? Are the vast majority men? What about leadership?

  45. Lora*

    1. I am often the only woman in an entire department and I have worked with oil riggers, who are impressive in their range of crudity. The way it’s been put to me is, “are you OK with being the only woman in the department?” Sometimes they try to assure me that they will hire more women, whether they actually do or not. Sometimes they don’t. The meaning is clear: we will continue to be a frat house, and you will just have to decide if you can deal with it or not.

    In my particular industry, I would be mostly unemployed if I was NOT OK with that sort of environment, and I like eating. So I tolerate a lot more sexist shenanigans than women in traditionally women-dominated careers like nursing or teaching. My personal line is more about invading my personal space and being personally disrespectful. Like, a guy asking my opinion about his (gross) facial hair choices wouldn’t be offensive to me, but I’d probably reply with something snarky about how we all make mistakes and what’s important is that we learn from them. I get labeled a bitch / ice princess. I’m OK with that. A lot of people would not be. A lot of people cannot even imagine the level of grossness I have experienced hourly in some jobs.

    The key is really, can I get my job done, do my colleagues listen to me and take me seriously, do they think I am smart / good at what I do, do they value what I do. If they do all that then I can live with the occasional boob joke, because I’d rather get recognized and promoted and get good recommendations from colleagues for future jobs than not, even if the former means listening to dudes talking about their Weiners a lot and the latter means people being consistently polite. But that is a choice that I made, not one that other people made for me. And that is important – that I am respected enough as an adult human being to make my own decisions.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      So I tolerate a lot more sexist shenanigans than women in traditionally women-dominated careers like nursing or teaching.

      I think this is a key point for the OP #1 to consider, since he (assuming OP #1 is a he, but I could be wrong) seems to think there isn’t sexism since they have 50/50 women in the company. The women are there, but they may just be putting up with the environment, because it’s a paycheck.

      1. Temperance*

        The women are also not equal to the men – only a single high-ranking exec is a woman, which is pretty awful.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Which (as I’m sure y’all know) is very common at companies that have a “culture fit” problem – women don’t get promoted and they don’t stick around long enough that they might get promoted.

          1. Temperance*

            Or if they do, the very qualities that led them to stay around end up working against them. I wish I could remember the famous case where the woman filed suit against Price Waterhouse for sex discrimination; they declined to promote her even though her achievements were on par with or even better than those of her male peers because she was considered “brusque” and unfeminine.

    2. neverjaunty*

      You also may be in the exceptionally rare position where the work environment does not actually have an effect on your promotions and career success – who cares if a rigger calls you an ice princess, your boss respects you, kind of thing. As I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, that’s not the norm.

      I find it interesting how rarely those kind of dudes can take what they’re dishing out, btw….

      1. Lora*

        Exactly! I know it’s not the norm, that’s why I am glad when people are up front about it in interviews. You don’t usually get such clear warnings of what you’re getting into. If I’m interviewing with Nice Guy Ned, Joking Jon, Benevolent Bran, Respectful Rickon, Reasonable Robb and Jerkface Joffrey, and Nice Guy Ned assures me that I won’t have to deal directly with Jerkface Joffrey very often even though he is the CEO, but the environment can get a little bloody, then it’s up to me to decide if I am OK with that. If I’m interviewing with Terrible Tywin, Jackass Jaime, Troublesome Tyrion, Loser Lancel, Misogynist Mountain and Jackass Joffrey, and they simply ask about my technical skills with a spear in a civil and polite tone, that is not useful information for me.

  46. Underemployed Erin*

    LW3, I had a friend of a coworker taking the foreign service exam. It seemed like the test was difficult and most people fail it the first time anyway. Foreign Service employees are working for the Department of State and not the Department of Defense, and their security requirements are different in some way that I do not understand. My impression was that a lot of foreign service officers are working in consulates and embassies overseas and are not in the US.

    1. Hillary*

      Yes. I have a very similar background to LW3, and I thought I wanted to be an FSO when I was at undergrad. Interned at State, the whole nine yards. I passed the written test twice before I found a path that suited me better. I didn’t meet the cutoff on the oral exam the first time, I passed the second time but scored too low to be called. About 10% pass the written exam, about 10% of those pass the oral exam, and less than a quarter of those are offered jobs. It works out to somewhere around 0.25% of those who take the written exam. In retrospect, I think their hiring process is seeking people with a lot more life experience than I had at 22. I had the brains but nowhere enough common sense. I could probably get through fine ten years later but have zero interest in it.

      If you don’t love it, State’s not the place to be.

  47. Pix*


    The advice comes from a place of love, but I think your parents might be suffering under the same thing my parents were: They didn’t see me as myself, an adult human being with preferences and goals different than their own. Stand it out. Pick a script if you want to (I recommend Cap Awkward as well for those), stick to what you want to, but accept that it really does come from a place of caring, even if that care is ignorant.

    If it helps, ten years past the college question and they’ve stopped prodding at me; I have my MLIS, I’m a teen librarian in a public library, and I am so completely, stupidly happy doing it that they’ve accepted it, even if they don’t understand why it makes me happy. As long as I’m happy, they’re content.

    If it helps, think of it as a language barrier. You’re both saying the same things, but in different languages– and they might not ever match up, but the meaning behind it is care.

  48. 2 Cents*

    #1 Not touching the “boys’ club” aspect, but the swearing part of it. I work at an ad agency. “F-bomb Friday” is a thing in ad life because problems always seem to happen on a Friday, and by then, you’re just exhausted and want the weekend to come. We describe the office atmosphere and culture to interviewees (summer cookouts at lunch each week, dog-friendly office, monthly drinks cart) and mention that, on occasion, F-bomb Friday happens, just so they know.

  49. One of the Sarahs*

    I’m really feeling for poor LW3, who, on asking for advice about parents trying to push her into a career, is getting a load of advice from sections of the commentariat that’s basically “but you *should* think about the Federal Government as a career”! How about we give her the benefit of the doubt that when she says she doesn’t want to work for the US Federal Government, that she’s coming from a place of having thought it through seriously, and isn’t just knee-jerking about her parents?

    1. Lefty*

      I totally agree! (Even as someone who has taken the FSOT a couple of times and works for a different part of the federal government…) LW3 is clearly not looking for more advice of the “should” kind. I think Alison’s suggested scripts are on-point for what LW3 wanted.

    2. Turtle Candle*

      Yes! Thank you. It doesn’t really matter all that much why she doesn’t want to do it (and based on the comment upthread about having to lie about her opinion on foreign policy, it looks like one of those reasons may be personal ethics, which are inherently personal), she doesn’t want to do it. “But maybe you should want to do it!” is not especially useful. (And she’s an adult, and doesn’t have to justify this to anyone, least of all a bunch of strangers on the Internet. I mean, there are a lot of jobs that I could do that I do not choose to; if I was asking for help setting boundaries on that, I would not consider it especially useful to be asked, “But have you really considered that you might like coal mining?”

    3. LW3*

      Yes! Alison really did provide a very useful answer for me, hough I have been looking through the comments on the hope of finding other suggestions (that aren’t but you should sit the FSO exam) just in case/as a broader spectrum of advice.
      I really and truly have thought long and hard about the issue, this is not a knee-jerk reaction (this is more of a “I am very much fed up with this; I know I was eligible to sit the exam two years ago based on age” reaction). My own ethics are a huge part of the decision, and compromising those in favour a a job that would in the long run cause me mental pain doesn’t seem like a great idea.

    4. De Minimis*

      As a former fed I want to say the benefits are actually not that great. They just aren’t terrible.

      It takes a certain type to be happy as a federal employee, and if someone doesn’t think it’s for them that should be good enough. Honestly I think most fed jobs would be a drag for a younger person.

  50. nsfw - or is it?*

    Re: #1 —
    My last employer was a well-known mall retailer that, among shot glasses and t-shirts, is a go-to destination for funny/crude items, bachelorette swag, and adult intimate apparel/toys/etc.

    I worked in the corporate office and was a recruiter – something that I always told EVERY candidate, no matter the position, is “As I’m sure you’re aware Store Name sells a lot of items that are more adult in nature – it’s not uncommon to walk into a conference room and see something with a curse word on it left behind, or be walking by the photo studio to see a model in tiny pieces of clothing, or by a desk covered with triple-x merchandise, no matter the position. Obviously we still do not allow sexual harassment, but these items are par for the course. Is this an environment you’d be comfortable working around?”

    98% of the time, they’d say yes (I’m guessing they new what they were getting in to), but for that 2%, it was a good warning.

    Also, one time I had to wipe lube off a conference table (it had spilled during a vendor demo).

  51. 2 Cents*

    #3 Your opportunities sound amazing. I’ve been twice and loved both times. My group did a self-guided, very unofficial day tour of the architecture in St. Petersburg subway stations (and I’d love to do the same in Moscow), a “hunting for Stalin statues” day (political science majors), and a bunch of the cathedrals in St. Petersburg. Also loved the tour of the Kremlin and getting in to Lenin’s Tomb (I had to pay a “tour guide” a few bucks to get me in, since the rules surrounding the viewings are myriad and were beyond my comprehension.).

  52. LANA*

    OP1: I felt compelled to reply to this because I worked at a place where the two main full-time staff members (myself being one of them) have rather terrible senses of humor (think the TV shows Archer, Always Sunny, etc and the comedians Anthony Jeselnik and Bill Burr) and are both huge potty mouths. To look at either of us you would not necessarily think this, and of course, we kept it clean while around customers and people within our organization but outside our office that we were not close to. My direct supervisor was a man and I am a woman. When we hired we tried to get a sense of their personalities/sense of humor by asking them things like their favorite TV shows/movies/books etc. I think it really helped. And by the way, most of the ones that fit right in with us were women.

  53. memboard*

    LW3: I am going to guess McGill University in Montréal. Depending on where you live you either have to practice french daily or not at all. Either way it’s hard to guess your level of proficiency. Know that french is hard so a minor sounds like a lot but it might not be as much as you think. This you will only know when you are facing using it in the work place.

    I`ve also checked with my Library friends and the job market for Librarians isn’t particularly active at the moment. So you might be pigeon holed by the Masters in Library (or end up not using it). It`s up to you to judge if the payback is worth the investment.

    Remember, your parents love you and want 1) your happiness 2) you to avoid poverty (see #1, while money doesn’t buy happiness, lack of it attracts misery).

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      As I said upthread, please can we give the OP the benefit of the doubt, and that she’s making her choices based on having thought about these issues? There’s nothing in the letter to suggest that she is making her choices on a whim, or that she’s not proficient in the languages she’s studying etc.

      1. M from NY*

        As I said before the OP needs to articulate her reasoning better. If a bunch of neutral strangers are not seeing her point then her overprotective parents won’t either. Supporting a poster doesn’t mean telling them they are right. Sometimes it means pointing out tools to better support their position. If the OP has done all of that work then she needs to better structure her reasoning so her parents will respect her decision. Pointing that out isn’t being against her.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Actually, everyone who argues with her reasoning is doing exactly what her parents are doing, which isn’t helpful at all. Other than perhaps giving her practice in ignoring their advice.

        2. Turtle Candle*

          Well, I mean–no, she doesn’t. We don’t have to be convinced. Her parents don’t have to be convinced. Her reason can boil down to simply “I don’t wanna” and as an adult, that’s her decision to make. There are a lot of careers that I could pursue that I don’t wanna; the important point for the LW is to know that she doesn’t need to justify it, because she’s a grown-up who gets to pick her own career, not how to justify it better (to us or them).

          1. Tomato Frog*

            Yeah, this comment thread is a great case study in why she shouldn’t give reasons, to her parents or anyone else.

          2. sometimeswhy*

            This. A million times.

            She doesn’t need our, or her parents’, or a very clever dolphin’s permission to not want to.

            1. Mookie*

              Disagree about the dolphin. On the one hand, condescending dolphin thinking it knows better; on the flipside, you get to talk to a dolphin and learn the secrets of the universe before it takes all its fish and leaves. OP, consider the dolphin option.

        3. neverjaunty*

          “I agree with your parents! Convince me different!” is not actually giving the OP tools to better support her position. It’s just telling the OP her parents are right and she’s wrong.

        4. One of the Sarahs*

          I’m sorry, but no, she doesn’t need “to articulate her reasoning better” – we should take her at her word for it, just as we take LWs words that they don’t want to babysit their boss’ kid, work in an open-plan office, move from employees to freelance, move to that office on the other side of town etc etc etc. I can’t imagine what the site would look like if everyone had to provide a 9 point justification before they could ask for advice (esp as I see more people accepting OP’s letter at face value – I’m just seriously annoyed with the vocal minority who want to tell her “maybe you might like coal mining” (as someone put it upthread) and this post, that’s telling her she’s not as good at languages as she thinks, and she probably hasn’t looked into the Masters degree she thinks she wants)

        5. seejay*

          She has no reason to articulate her reasoning to a bunch of neutral strangers and if anything, her overprotective parents would know *more* about her background and reasoning than the random people on the internet.

          She wrote an advice letter with some basic questions and an outline, she’s not defending her thesis.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yes. And every comment she’s made in reply to other comments totally sounds like she knows what she’s talking about. She knows what she does NOT want to do. And that is this job her parents are trying to push on her.

    2. LW3*

      Oui, l’Université McGill au Montréal (qui est une institution anglophone), aussi l’Université de Montréal. Ma mineure est Français langue seconde à l’Université Bishop’s en Sherbrooke, Québec. Pour cette mineur j’étudie aussi à l’Université de Sherbrooke, qui est une institution francophone.

      1. Jane*

        Tu n’as pas besoin de te justifier devant ces ballons de l’air chaud qui connaissent l’une grande université québécoise connue aux états-unis. Je t’assure que les amis bibliothécaire de memboard ne connais pas la situation d’emplois de tout Canada. Mais fait attention parce que si tu tapes trop de français tu permettras que memboard puisse hasarder ton niveau de maîtrise du langue (mais c’est un peu étonnant qu’il n’était pas capable de le trouver de ton lettre complètement en anglais).

    3. Marisol*

      I majored in Spanish and French. I didn’t find French hard at all. What’s hard to you may not be hard to other people.

  54. another Courtney*

    OP3. I know this is going to sound negative, but stop worrying about what your dad/parents want for you. It’s not going to be easy and it won’t necessarily get any easier. My dad works for the federal government and has pressured me ever since I got out of college to do the same. You just have to be kind, yet firm about your decisions and let it go. I could go on and on, as I was in a very similar situation. I wish you the best of luck! Your plans sound amazing and no matter what situations occur, you’re following your wishes and dreams, and those are what really matter.

  55. Thumper*

    #3 – I totally feel you on this. I posted in a recent Friday open thread about a similar situation. I’ve been working at the same full time job for 3 years while I finished my bachelor’s degree, and after I graduated decided to stay on the job for another year to save up for an apartment in a larger city that has jobs in the field I studied. This past summer, I officially resigned from the job so I could have free reign to go to interviews and apartment hunt (the job has crazy hours and calling out for any reason except being literally dead was unacceptable), and my parents subsequently lost their minds. Two months later, and still want me to email my old boss and tell her I’ve changed my mind, which is likely the worst thing I could do for myself, my boss, and the poor schmuck they hired to replace me.

    You really just have to chalk it up to them believing their option is the best for you, but not having all the details and/or not seeing it from your perspective. Once you get settled into your plans, and they see you’re doing okay, they should back off a bit. Funnily enough, my parents did this exact same thing to me before when I changed majors in college. Once they saw I was a lot more skilled at the thing I switched to than the thing I was initially studying, they started supporting me a lot more.

    If not, then nothing was going to change their minds anyway, so you have to let it go in one ear and out the other.

  56. Kriss*

    When as hired for the job I currently have, as the interview was winding down I was told by the interviewer: I’m going to be honest with you, many times you may be the only woman on the jobsite & they’re not used to having women around & men being men, well sometimes the language can get a little rough. If you’re offended by the “f” word then this isn’t the job for you.

    my response: hmm, do you know the expression “swears like a sailor”? well it should be swears like a car salesman. I sold cars for 3 years & never heard a sailor use language like they did. as long as the swearing isn’t directed at me, I’m fine.

    I’ve been with them for 12 years, we now have more female employees (engineers, millwrights, carpenters, welders. laborers, & pipefitters) & I’ve still never heard anyone swear as badly as those car salesmen.

      1. Kriss*

        I thought about it at the time but decided to pass.

        I have dropped a well place f-bomb a couple of times to make the guys feel a little more comfortable. (someone lets out a string of swear words & then realizes I’m in the room & looks at me funny & I say something like, “dude, sounds like you’re having a f-ed up day.”)

  57. LizM*

    When I was in law school, I interviewed for an internship at a small criminal defense firm. The interview went okay, it was professional enough although I can’t say I clicked with the interviewers. Then they started asking exactly with OP1 is asking – “we need someone who won’t get offended, sometimes we tell off-color jokes.” I said that I have a sense of humor and don’t generally get offended, and even if I do, I generally give people the benefit of the doubt. He kept pushing, “No, I mean, the jokes are really crude, we just want to make sure our intern is cool with that.” I finally asked, “Are you asking if I’m the type of person that would file a sexual harassment complaint?”

    Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. I know a couple other women who weren’t hired, either. The man they ended up hiring was a creep, and had a terrible work ethic, I heard a rumor that one of his mistakes actually cost the firm a lot of money. (It was a small school, so I knew most of the people I was competing against for internships). I went on to work in another office that dealt with a lot of gallows humor. It’s not unusual in the legal field, and it’s not limited to men.

    If your “culture” is screening out qualified, diverse applicants, you’re potentially doing yourself and your customers or clients a huge disservice. I would be really careful describing your environment as a “boys club.” If it’s just off-color humor and swearing, there’s no reason a woman doesn’t also find that funny. It’s not about being a boys club, it’s about your office having a particular sense of humor.

    But if it’s veering into sexual harassment or hostile work environment, to the point that women flat out don’t feel comfortable or that you’re screening out women because they don’t “get” you, you’re missing out on a lot of qualified candidates, and you’re potentially violating the law.

    I like the idea of asking a candidate about the last thing they read for fun, or their favorite movie or TV show, or what they do for fun. This gives you a glimpse into their personality. But I’d also suggest not finding someone who fits your culture, but also considering whether you could hire someone who may bring a different point of view.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      The man they ended up hiring was a creep, and had a terrible work ethic, I heard a rumor that one of his mistakes actually cost the firm a lot of money.

      A little off-topic, but this is one of the things that annoys me about people denying there’s a gender wage gap and using the argument “If women were cheaper, wouldn’t we just hire only women and save money?” Uh, people don’t always hire what’s in their company’s best interests…

  58. Bibliovore*

    Librarianship can encompass all kinds of work from medical to legal to special collections to public service to teaching to education in a diversity of settings including “government positions.” Facility in languages, people-skills, logic as well as subject specialties all inform the work and job opportunities. Money and job security are not the top benefits with some exceptions. I second getting work experience before entering library school as well as not going into enormous debt to complete the degree.

  59. Norman*

    “I appreciate your input but have different plans, so can we table this topic indefinitely”

    Fine, but make sure everybody understands you’re using “table” in the American sense, not the every-other-English-speaking-country sense.

  60. Marisol*

    LW3 – One suggestion I haven’t heard here, or on any other advice site, about anything, ever, is *not responding at all* when someone gives you grief. This isn’t always possible–for example, if you’re speaking with your boss–but if it’s a friend or family member? Or someone you don’t need to placate? In that case, who says you have to give a response? It’s not like there’s a law on the books that says “anytime someone asks an inappropriate question or makes an inappropriate statement you MUST respond with a succinct phrase precisely calibrated to the intention, relationship, and emotional intensity of the speaker, while also taking into account your needs and the overall situation…etc.” You actually are not obligated to do anything in response to someone speaking.

    I have been stopped in my tracks by someone simply looking at me blankly, and that’s because, *that’s how everyone reacts to someone looking at them blankly!!* I feel like I’m giving away a trade secret here. Seriously, the next time one of your parents bugs you, just don’t respond. Don’t give them an angry look or storm off. It’s not a confrontational thing. Just stay there, turn your head toward them as if you are waiting for them to finish their sentence (even if they are finished talking) with a totally neutral look on your face. If you can keep a poker face, again, not being confrontational, just neutral, they will drop the subject or possibly even reverse their position. The worst that could happen is they could ask, “did you hear me?” and then you give a blank look to that.

    It is NOT passive-aggressive, by the way. I say this in anticipation of someone accusing me of that. It is an indirect way of maintaining your boundaries. Someone transgresses, and you choose not to respond.

  61. The Strand*

    #4 – It’s not classy, but alas, it is “normal” at some schools.

    The balance is that almost everyone who works in a school has experienced over the top complaints by students and don’t take the comments at face value.

    1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      But it doesn’t sound like these were from students – this was an employee survey, therefore they were comments from colleagues.

  62. Tyrion*

    As a sidenote to #1, reading over the comments from the linked “cursing” post was like a time warp to the 1950s! Who are those people??

Comments are closed.