my coworker is ruining her relationship with our boss

A reader writes:

About two years ago, I was promoted to an executive role in my company – I am a department of one. Six months ago, Lisa, a former peer, was promoted to head a department that I work closely with. Lisa moved from sales to operations and is handling it well, but is learning operations on the fly since that’s not her background.

The promotion required that Lisa spend much more time working with the company president, Jim, who can be quite challenging. Jim’s communication style is idiosyncratic, he frequently asks for and then ignores advice, and he’s generally distrustful and inclined to micromanagement. I spend a fair amount of time with Jim myself, and am usually irritated at the end of our interactions. Since her promotion, Lisa and I have vented to each other a fair bit at lunches and such, and I’ve always interpreted those conversations as a necessary safety valve to blow off steam.

However, I was recently in a meeting with both of them, and realized Lisa is actively making her interactions with Jim worse. A project that we are both working on will require her to handle a process differently than our normal procedures, and while Jim was explaining, she was rolling her eyes and making snarky asides about how he must think she’s not able to do her job. I was horrified and uncomfortable the entire time — as irritating as Jim can be, in this case he had a point and was trying to explain a process that will be new to Lisa since she’s new in role and it doesn’t come up frequently.

I don’t know what to do now. I kind of feel like I’ve endorsed this behavior by venting with her, but I never would have guessed that this is how she’s been acting with Jim. I’ve even defended her to other executives who have complained about how “emotional” she gets in meetings, which I read as coded misogyny (we’re the only two women on the exec team).

I feel like I owe Lisa some feedback about how she’s handling these meetings. Is this something I should bring up with her? I’m in no way her supervisor, and we don’t have an HR department. We both report to Jim and I know from past observation that he won’t have a direct conversation — he’ll just get fed up someday and fire her without warning. If I do try to talk to her about it, how do I frame that conversation without making it seem like I’m taking sides?

Think of it as being on her side! You see that she’s doing something that’s likely to hurt her and make her job harder, and you want her to do well. It’s not taking Jim’s side to point out to Lisa that her behavior is likely to harm her professionally. It’s more like being an honest broker who’s able to objectively see what’s going on and give her advice based on that vantage point.

I’d frame it this way: “Can I tell something I noticed the other day? I know you’ve been really frustrated by Jim and I get why, but when we were meeting with him about the X project, you were letting your frustration show pretty visibly. You rolled your eyes while he was talking, and you made a few snarky asides. I worry that if he sees you doing that, it could really hurt you professionally here! From what I’ve seen, Jim isn’t likely to talk to you about it directly, but it’s the kind of thing that could poison his relationship with you, to the point that it could endanger your job.”

See how she reacts to that. Depending on it goes, be ready to add something like this: “You know how sometimes when you’re really annoyed by someone, everything they do feels annoying, even if it wouldn’t bother you coming from someone else? I got the feeling that was happening in that meeting because, honestly, I thought what Jim was saying was pretty reasonable. I know he can be tough to work with sometimes, but I understood why he wanted to talk through that process. And I wondered if you’re at the point where you’re so frustrated by him that it’s coloring everything he says to you, even when he’s not being unreasonable.”

If Lisa gets defensive or refuses to consider what you’re saying, at that point I’d stop trying. It’s not your job to make her see this, and if it’s clear that the message is unwelcome, you probably should just leave it alone.

But however this goes, I’d back off from the venting you’ve both being doing to each other — because if other people begin seeing that Lisa is mishandling her relationship with Jim, you don’t want to be seen as her ally in that. (And sometimes that can come out in ways that you didn’t anticipate and aren’t okay with — like if she’s complaining to someone else and says that you totally agree with her.)

{ 82 comments… read them below }

  1. Esme Squalor*

    It definitely sounds like Jim has become a b*** eating crackers to Lisa. It’s tough when you work with someone difficult to know how to calibrate your reaction to them. I work with a project manager sometimes who can be difficult (for example, neglecting to brief team members on a project until the deadline is looming and then panicking and making her lack of preparation everyone else’s problem). I often catch myself internally fuming at her over extremely minor issues/errors/awkward moments that would be total non- issues with any other colleague, just because her working style makes my job difficult a lot of the time. After a point, it’s almost like I’m looking for reasons to validate my general irritation with her, and that can be a dangerous road to walk down.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      And it’s especially b-eating-crackers when other people have started to notice! I think the OP should also mention this to Lisa. I’ve been Lisa, and I second the opinion that you will be doing her a favor.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        Even b*** eating crackers types can have valid points. You can’t dismiss everything they’re saying to you, especially when the b*** eating crackers is explaining why the task they’re assigning has to be done a specific way.

        1. MJH*

          Of course, people understand that people who you’re at bitch-eating-crackers-level with have valid points. But the very definition of BEC means you don’t see the validity. If you do recognize their valid points, they’re not BEC with you anymore.

      2. Karen D*

        The OP will be doing Lisa a favor AND covering her own hide. Because part of this discussion has to be “look, I know we vent to each other but you do understand that Jim is our boss, right? I am not ready to ride down the hill screaming ‘Viva la revolución,’ and I don’t want you dragging me into any foolhardy fights you pick with him.”

        Back when I had Horrible Boss, I had one co-worker who was always venting to me and I kept things very clear between us – I was just as frustrated as he was, but I had NO INTEREST in being dragged into his low-level war against Horrible Boss. My desire was to get my work done and keep my head down, because I knew I was pretty dang vulnerable to being laid off.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          This. So much this. LW if the only take away you get from these comments is that you need to step back and assess your own situation, then it was worth writing in. People already noticed how she is. With the added bonus of being the only two women, you are going to be clumped together by people anyway. People like simplicity. Simplicity requires categories. You are category: “Woman.” Since you don’t actively hate each other, people will categorize you as (at least) co-worker friends.
          Now is a good time to review your venting with coworkers. It’s really not a good idea. And this is one of the reasons why.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          ” I am not ready to ride down the hill screaming ‘Viva la revolución,’

          Some upstanding citizen dented my car in the parking lot last weekend and didn’t leave a note, and my friend’s hermit crab died last night. I needed this.

          Also, today I learned the term “b**** eating crackers”.

      3. AW*

        Yes! This isn’t just hurting her relationship with Jim, it’s hurting her image with the other executives. Even if he never fires her, this is likely to factor into any future promotions or internal job opportunities.

    2. MJ*

      Glad you said this, B.E.C. was my first thought and make, it can create a huge blind spot for yourself if not monitored. I know that I happen to be someone’s B.E.C. at work and I try to mitigate that fact with this person but she’s just all claws all the time. It’s… annoying.

  2. Jaguar*

    A couple things pop out to me:

    1) Maybe Jim is fine with Lisa’s less guarded interactions? I know people like Jim and in some cases (not all), they actually prefer the more “emotional” responses than “professional” ones. You obviously know Jim, but it sounds like you’ve stuck strictly to professional interaction with him, so maybe this is fine? Definitely let Lisa know that he’ll just get fed up and fire people, though.

    2) You shouldn’t take any responsibility for how Lisa has been acting. Built into taking responsibility for it is that Lisa isn’t smart enough to compartmentalize that such that how you talk about Jim in private to her directly influences how she acts around Jim, which is pretty insulting and narcissistic. I think it’s healthier to think of it as Lisa just isn’t good at managing her reactions or chooses not to, regardless of your private conversations with her.

    1. fposte*

      I think even if Jim’s fine, though, she’s getting negative feedback about her behavior and her behavior has problems; it’s reasonable to point out the possible connection.

      1. Jaguar*

        Yeah, absolutely. Also, if she’s acting this with with other executives (it’s not clear if they’re complaining about how she acts in relation to Jim or if she acts like this with everyone), its further evidence that OP shouldn’t take responsibility for her behaviour. That’s how Lisa is, not how you made her.

        1. fposte*

          Totally agree. Pull back for your own sake on the venting, obviously, but Lisa made her own choices on this one.

          I think there might be a little bit of that AAM dilemma of “who’s the villain?” going on for the OP. Since Jim is a known annoyance, she was on Lisa’s side, but now that she’s seen Lisa in action she feels weird about having validated Lisa when it turned out she’s a bad actor herself.

          1. Jesca*

            Agreed. Lisa took it over the egde. That is not the OP’s fault, but it is a reason why I have personally just stopped complaining about my superiors with my coworkers. Never know when you will get someone like Lisa, and you never know how far someone like a Lisa will go.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, this. Bad feedback from others is not a good thing, and I think that in general this isn’t a good habit to get into, even if Jim handles it well.

    2. Malibu Stacey*

      It says in the letter: “I know from past observation that [Jim] won’t have a direct conversation — he’ll just get fed up someday and fire her without warning.”

      1. Jaguar*

        Right. It’s ambiguous if that means Jim will fire people for this type of behaviour or Jim will fire people capriciously for anything Jim doesn’t like. Obviously, if it’s the former, my first point doesn’t apply.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Obviously if it’s the former, the OP should have her own exit plan. This sounds like a fairly toxic place – like one that has grown to the point they *need* an HR department, but Jim doesn’t want one because they might make him rein in his Jim-ness.

  3. Lil Fidget*

    It’s so hard not to vent to coworkers when someone is being the Missing Stair. I do it myself and it feels sooo goood. But I do think it comes back to bite you and makes things worse in the end, so I try not to do it.

    1. MK*

      Generally, I think it’s a bad idea to acquire a regular venting buddy at work. Complain to someone unconnected with your workplace.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Haha but they don’t care! I used to do it specifically with colleagues so that I wasn’t bore friends and family with endless diatribes about work irritations. Now I just … sigh … drink more.

        1. MK*

          I do it with friends exactly because they don’t care, or more accurately, they care in a very limited sense. They care enough to listen to me for a time and commiserate up to a point, but they don’t let the venting get crazy or dominate all our interactions.

          1. Not a Real Giraffe*

            Tell me your magic trick for not letting it dominate all your interactions, please. I have one very good friend who is at BEC stage with her colleague, and I feel like every single time we talk, it’s so she can relay yet another story about this guy’s ineptitude. Like, I get it, this guy drives you crazy! But I don’t know him or work with him and maaaaan I am tired of talking about him.

            1. paul*

              I asked the same question on a Friday open thread and got some good responses. I settled on the blunt one and told my friend that while I get his work place has issues that it shouldn’t be the only thing he talks about. I also asked him if he was job hunting the next time he started complaining.

            2. nonymous*

              you can also set a time limit on it. So take turns venting until the drinks or appetizers arrive and then full stop. This can be enforced by mutual accord or you can make it your own rule. I was in a crafting circle for a while where we went around saying one crappy thing and one good thing that had happened in the week. Just one, so that everyone had a turn to vent and celebrate! – definitely a good exercise in gratitude some weeks :-) And then we went around a second time to describe the project we were working on that week, which was an obvious topic-changer. I think it’s healthier for the relationship if I support my friends and vice-versa through difficult stuff, but it’s also important to keep this kind of stuff in context.

              If someone is going through Major.Trauma. (think layoff/breakup level), sometimes I plan a short outing specifically to vent (emphasis on short!! like coffee right before another scheduled activity so there’s a clear exit time). Realistically, if a therapist session lasts 45- 60 min, there’s no reason why friends-therapy shouldn’t be about the same duration. Longer becomes indulgent and frequency is dictated by your friendship level. Having said all that, depending on how much a friend is wallowing (perfectly normal for BigIssues) the boundaries may be something that you enforce – like if the friend emotes every visit, space the get-toghethers out until she’s over the hump and try for activities that are distracting (skydiving works!).

            3. NDC*

              I don’t know if this came up in the responses that paul mentioned, but Captain Awkward has some great advice in her answer to her question number 143 (link in next comment).

          2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

            This. I’ve learned this. I get to complain about Jane and Bob to my friend. Here’s what they did this time: five minute rant. Friend replies with sympathy. Friend complains about her Bob and Jane. I sympathize. We move on.
            That’s the downside of venting to/with coworkers. Since there’s no end point, there’s no perspective about how unimportant these jerks are.

          3. Stranger than fiction*

            Yeah, but they didn’t understand the nuances of your specific workplace either, which is why it’s nearly impossible not to vent to the person sitting next to you or down the hall who understands what a tps report is or whatever.

    2. Koko*

      Yes, it can really end up fostering a sort of learned helplessness. Sometimes you really can’t do anything about a situation, and that sucks, and you want to vent about it. But then folks can get so used to just bitching that it becomes a habit and their go-to response to problems instead of, well, problem-solving. It just gradually makes unproductive complaining feel more and more normal over time.

      And when too many people are involved, it can create a serious cultural problem where an us vs him/them mentality starts to make even employees outside the conflict start to feel peer pressure to go along with the predominant negativity and you no longer have a critical mass of workers committed to success.

      1. Jesca*

        I agree. I would also add that when it comes to venting, you should never do it with anyone who you have yet to see in action. I would never ever vent to a Lisa, because Lisa’s don’t understand appropriate behaviors and see people agreeing with them as an assurance that they can act with contempt in every interaction. I do not want to be associated with that or have my name come up during one of their inappropriate responses to a situation. Yeah we are all bitch eating crackers about someone, but it is also something we all have to step back and check ourselves.

        I worked with a CEO like Jim. Jim’s are infuriating, but you have to check that.

      2. Queen of Cans & Jars*

        This, 100%. It’s like scratching at the poison ivy that’s currently covering my arm. Damn does it feel good, but it’s only making things worse. I was at the same point with my boss who SAIGTC, so I made a choice (with the help of my therapist!) to view it as temporary BS I have to deal with until I can escape to another job. Nothing about the situation has changed, but my frustration level with him has gone way down. Now I pretty much expect him to act like a complete idiot, and so it’s a pleasant surprise when he doesn’t.

        1. Really Curious*

          What is SAIGTC? I’m racking my brain and the interwebs, but I can’t find a useful definition anywhere.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      In this case, I don’t think Jim is a missing stair. He’s annoying/frustrating, but he’s not predatory.

      But I’m with MK—generally speaking, it’s better not to vent at work (totally ok to vent elsewhere). And I think OP would be doing Jane a favor to point out the interaction, because it’s really not ok to roll your eyes at people while they’re explaining something to you!

      1. Jesca*

        I mean just in general at work, it really is never productive to have a response of eye rolling and snark no matter how difficult the person you are working with is. It gets you nowhere, fosters anger, and makes you look like an ass. There are plenty of other options on disagreeing.

      2. Koko*

        I didn’t realize until I saw your comment that missing stair was specifically coined for that situation. I had, I guess from context, always understood its meaning as “someone who is a problem but everyone has learned to work around them instead of doing anything about it,” but not realized that it didn’t apply to all types of that situation. Fidget may have had the same idea?

        1. fposte*

          To me a Missing Stair is more serious than this, and it’s a problem that could be solved through firing or exclusion but people have actively or passively chosen to work around it instead, so it’s a whole system of dysfunction. It’s different from somebody just being known to be irritating.

          1. Turquoise Cow*

            Yeah I think a Missing Stair is more than an annoying person, it’s a person who is actively making someone else’s (in the group/workplace) life bad, and rather than saying “Stop!” the rest of the group excuses the behavior.

            In this case, it doesn’t sound like anyone is excusing Jim’s behavior (although maybe they wouldn’t put up with it if he wasn’t in charge), and he’s not doing anything specifically predatory, he’s just kind of annoying. OP even says he knows what he’s talking about in this instance, so he’s not a useless drain that shouldn’t be working there at all.

            1. RVA Cat*

              The Missing Stair is for predatory people, like Fergus the Pervus in yesterday’s letter.

              Jim sounds like a standard-issue JerkBoss, perhaps of the entreprenuerial subtype who starts his own business as a personal fiefdom.

        2. Myrin*

          I agree with fposte and think you have the right of it, Koko, it just doesn’t apply in this particular situation.

          I see the concept used most often with regards to sexual predators because the story Cliff Pervocracy, who invented it, used to introduce it featured the known rapist in his local kink community everyone danced around instead of shunning. However, he very specifically meant for it to include non-predatory behaviour as well – “this isn’t just about sex. Just about every workplace has that one person who doesn’t do their job, but everyone’s grown accustomed to picking up their slack” is something he actually says in that very article! That’s also the use I see most often here on AAM (which makes sense).

          1. Kyrielle*

            This. I do think, however, that the Missing Stair is both a serious issue that causes problems, *and* something that could be fixed. (Why do you keep stepping over that stair when you could *replace it*?) However, The Big Boss is often not something that can be fixed, even if his aggravating habits do rise to missing-stair level otherwise (which I’m not sure they do).

        3. Lil Fidget*

          Oh yes, apologies to Captain Awkward (I think?) if I misued the term. I understood it in the sense Koko described.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It’s ok! I didn’t mean to nitpick and set off a subconversation. I just meant to distinguish that while Jim is annoying, his annoying-ness isn’t systemic. But I’m also realizing from this conversation that a lot of folks use the phrase the way you and Koko described, and my view may be skewed because of how it’s used in my friend groups! I really appreciate you both clarifying, because it helped me realize I might be using it the wrong way.

      3. TootsNYC*

        If you go read the original blog post where that term was coined, the author very specifically said that the term can apply to a colleague who isn’t pulling their weight. He spends a bit of time on the “non-sexual predator” aspect of the term, actually.

        It’s not JUST about being predatory. It’s about a problem that everyone steps over instead of trying to fix it.

        I’ll quote him here:

        This isn’t just about sex. Just about every workplace has that one person who doesn’t do their job, but everyone’s grown accustomed to picking up their slack. A lot of social groups and families have that one person. The person whose tip you quietly add a couple bucks to. (Maybe more than a couple, after how they talked to the server.) The person you don’t bother arguing with when they get off on one of their rants. The person you try really, really hard not to make angry, because they’re perfectly nice so long as no one makes them angry.

        The blog is Pervocracy; a google search will get you the original.

        But I also don’t really think Jim is so much a missing stair. I don’t think that’s particularly at play here.

        1. Jaguar*

          It’s really interesting to see how this term plays out. The Wikipedia entry (which I’m using as an indicator for cultural adoption) describes it as being exclusively a term to refer to sexual predators, but obviously the metaphor itself has broader use (as the author describes). That seems to have a scary consequence: people see the term and derive its meaning to be someone others have learned to work around (a “Jim”), uses the term, and accidentally communicates to people that they’re a predator.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yeah, this is my understanding as well. I’ve read the original blog post, and I know it was meant broadly in that context. But since then, advocates have significantly narrowed the term to try to refer to systems of dysfunction—usually referring to sexual predators, but also to violent/toxic workplaces.

            1. Stardust*

              Okay, now this has me confused because I’m not seeing the difference/”narrowing down” you describe. It has always, i. e. in that specific original blog post, refered to systems of dysfunction, that’s not a later add-on. I think people are just saying that Jim in this particular case isn’t a missing stair, he just sounds like your run-of-the-mill irritating and not super competent boss.
              FWIW, I also don’t think a lot of people immediately and necessarily jump to “sexual predator” as soon as they read “missing stair”; I’m certainly coming across the broarder meaning much more often although that could obviously only have to do with the websites and communities I frequent.

              (I hope this is not derailing or nitpicky but if so, please ignore!)

              1. Jaguar*

                There seems to be two ways the term is understood: to describe anyone (or thing?) that people have accepted as a problem they have to work around and have given up on fixing, which would be how you would interpret the term based on the metaphor, and the “narrower” definition where it describes only sexual predators.

                1. Stardust*

                  Ah yes, I got that that’s what you meant in your original comment, sorry for the confusion!
                  My issue is more that I don’t understand PCBH’s “since then, advocates have significantly narrowed the term to try to refer to systems of dysfunction” because it has always refered to systems of dysfunction; after all, if you in any given group have someone “that people have accepted as a problem they have to work around and have given up on fixing”, that is a system of dysfunction! But I feel like I might just be misreading something and I don’t want to derail since it’s not actually the point of the LW’s question!

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Sorry for the confusion! The narrowing isn’t to systems of dysfunction by themselves—what I’ve seen is narrowing specifically to violence or abuse, whether that’s in the context of sexual predators, or in the context of places that are toxic in an emotionally/physically or otherwise abusive way. So something more intense or extreme than “run of the mill” dysfunction.

              2. TootsNYC*

                I also see people frequently use it as a broader term (often in terms of colleagues, or fellow members of a hobby/volunteer group; not as frequently in terms of family).

                I seldom actually see if in a “sexual predator” sense–or, certainly not overwhelmingly.

          2. TootsNYC*

            The Wikipedia entry (which I’m using as an indicator for cultural adoption) describes it as being exclusively a term to refer to sexual predators,

            At the moment when I checked it yesterday, it did NOT say “exclusively.”

            It said this:
            “Pervocracy intended the term to apply beyond sexually predatory behaviour to include, for example, underperforming colleagues who let others pick up their slack. However, since its coinage it has been used mostly by feminists in the context of sexual harassment and rape.[2]”

            There are people who have mistakenly lambasted people for using the term for non-sexual predators, but we should all push back against that every chance we get.

            1. Jaguar*

              Well, this is splitting hairs and I know Alison doesn’t want bickering about language in the comments, but it does actually say exclusively – it just doesn’t use the word. The language is, “Missing stair is a term used to describe a sexual predator who…” Absent of some qualifier like “often” or “typically,” it means exclusively.

              That said, really? Push back every chance we get? My life can go on fine if “missing stair” takes on an exclusively sexual predator definition. This seems like an awfully small hill to die on.

        2. Anna*

          I think a broader definition is a better one for this particular issue in the workplace, especially since predatory behavior tends to have all sorts of euphemisms already. Call it what it is, people.

          But you’re right, Jim doesn’t fall into the broader definition anyway. This is a different kind of issue.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            I just meant that OP sounds like she’s used to managing Jim’s behavior and it’s kind of sucky that now OP AND Lisa are going to be carefully handling Jim’s Jimishness. But without more context I don’t know what level of Jimishness we’re dealing with. But I’ll definitely be more careful using the term in future!

  4. Nea*

    if he sees you doing that, it could really hurt you professionally here!

    It’s going to hurt her professionally, period. I can’t imagine an office where eyerolling and snark during training would be considered appropriate, so I’d probably amend the script to be much more direct and along the lines of “If I saw it, Jim saw it, and that’s the kind of thing you could be fired for.”

    1. TootsNYC*

      It’s going to hurt her among her peers!!!

      Our OP was already made uncomfortable by seeing it. (I might mention that, in fact–kindly.)
      And she -likes- Nancy and shares some of her frustrations.

      Imagine how other people, who don’t work as closely with Jim, or who don’t find him as frustrating, are going to react?

      And in fact, they’re already talking about how she’s “too emotional,” and if this is a bit of what they’re seeing, they’re right!

      My reputation among my colleagues has gotten me interviews, and it may have gotten me jobs. It has shaped those crucial first interactions at a new job (“Glad to start working with you–Ben Shapiro said such nice things about you!”).

    2. Samata*

      I agree with you and Toots and was going to comment something the same. This is beyond her reaction to Jim.

      This is very far beyond acceptable professional behavior – and if she is willing to do it with her boss, who knows what she might do with peers. This is a long term career coaching moment.

  5. The Supreme Troll*

    OP, please follow the excellent points that Alison has made here and talk to Lisa (in a relaxed, comfortable setting if at all possible) and explain these things to her. And, yes, do try to distance yourself from Lisa, not only if she becomes defensive to this feedback, but also if she wants to keep venting with you and to you. Rumor mills and gossip spread fast, and you won’t be sure if Lisa won’t “pull you in as an ally” in her battles against Jim, so to speak.

    1. Specialk9*

      Exactly. Yes, say something to Lisa. But don’t ever vent with her again, and try to minimize being seen as very close at the office (regular scheduled coffee or lunch). This has just been revealed as a bad association for your reputation.

  6. The Supreme Troll*

    And I don’t know if it really is misogyny on the part of the other executives, it could simply be that they’re seeing Lisa take things way too personally from Jim (and would say the same thing if it was a man reacting to Jim the way Lisa is).

    More than likely, they are also well aware of Jim’s quirks and, through experience, know how to work around them.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        To be fair I know what OP means though, if I heard an all-male crew say the one other female executive was “sooo emotional!!” I’d probably think that was a fairly gendered comment and take it with a grain of salt. Having seen it for yourself, though I think you can say something to Lisa.

        1. fposte*

          I understand what the OP means too; I’m just saying that the complaint can be truly misogynist and Lisa *still* be out of line.

        2. nonymous*

          honestly, assuming that the male execs are responding to Lisa’s eye-rolling as “too emotional”, I still label it a gendered reaction. Lisa is clearly being unprofessional and should be labelled as such. Would they be calling eye-rolling behavior as “too emotional” if a guy was at fault?

          1. OhNo*

            Same. I don’t think “emotional” is the adjective I’d come up with for a man who was eyerolling at every other sentence. (“Jerk”, yes. “Emotional”, not so much.) In fact, I really wouldn’t classify any of the described reactions as “emotional”. IME, that term is usually reserved for either tears or loud voices.

            That leads me to suspect that while the execs have valid complaints about Lisa’s reactions, their perception of it is being filtered through a gendered lens. It’s not an either/or thing between the execs being misogynistic and Lisa having poor behavior. Both can be true.

            1. TootsNYC*

              Or, if not their perception, their word choice in talking about it.

              That doesn’t change the fact that it’s highly likely our OP made a mistake when she dismissed their comments as unfairly gendered.

    1. Kyrielle*

      I have the impression OP thought it was misogyny before, and maybe isn’t so sure now that OP has also seen Lisa in action.

    2. Specialk9*

      I took her statement as saying just that – oh, I thought that was classic unconscious sexism, but now I think they actually meant she’s acting like a putz.

  7. Argh!*

    Micromanagement is okay during a training period. If he’s always like that though, I sympathize with both of you.

    Can you & Lisa take the initiative and proactively prove your competence at the beginning of a meeting? Micromanagement is an anxiety thing – they aren’t sure if they can trust the other person and they go overboard making sure nothing will get out of their control.

    And yes, it is inherently insulting, but the people doing it are right to be insecure! They are crappy bosses!

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