my coworkers treat me like I’m not very smart

A reader writes:

This question is inspired by the question in your recent post about coworkers attacking people over grammar. I had a really emotional response to the post and wanted to ask you this.

How do you learn to manage in a job where everyone thinks you are stupid and/or uneducated? I know those characteristics are different, but in my job they are very closely interlinked. I’m the only person on staff with just one, lower class degree. Most people have two or three. I was surprised in the interview process when I was asked repeatedly why I chose this school and this degree — 15 years into my career and nobody has ever cared. I was told that I nearly didn’t get the job due to poor academic performance and they pay people with degrees more money automatically. This isn’t academia or an industry where you need certain qualifications, but they won’t interview anyone without a strong academic performance, even at the expense of a solid work history.

Background — this is a new industry for me and I was hired as an outsider to bring my skills into the business. I am doing this, but I obviously don’t know a lot about the day to day detail of this industry (I understood I didn’t have to).

I’m a manager and in management meetings they will sometimes stop to explain something really obvious (think, “Jane, tea pots often contain tea”) but then casually use Latin phrases that I have to try to google on my laptop to understand the context.

I’ve never pretended to be academically gifted but I do have a set of skills other people here don’t have, hence my hire. I’m scared to speak up in meetings in case people laugh at me (which they have done previously) and if I ask for help or explanation I get an eye roll and a snide comment.

Any rudeness or cruelty is written off as a side effect of being smart. “Oh, Natasha is so clever, sometimes she gets frustrated, that’s all.” I want to scream — I’m smart too! But while you were studying I was working! Since when were clever people exempt from being kind?

Working here has increased the chip on my shoulder from my upbringing and I hate the idea that people think I’m stupid. In case that sounds paranoid, it’s not — other managers treat me like you’d treat a very young child — or at least you would if you were abusive. Screaming at me for nearly an hour because I asked a question, cutting me out of anything that requires deep thought and relegating me to basically shuffling numbers.

I can’t leave this job for another six months at least so tell me, how do I not let this ruin my self-esteem?

These are not kind or sensible or well-adjusted people, and so their assessment of you is not one to put any stock in, just like you would not put much stock in what Martin Shkreli or a Real Housewife thought of you.

What you’re describing is beyond simple rudeness. Talking to you like a young child? Laughing at you in meetings? Rolling their eyes and making snide comments when you ask questions? Then blaming it on you for frustrating clever Natasha?


You are not the problem here. You are a normal person who has somehow stumbled into a horde of jackasses.

It doesn’t even matter if your questions were bad/silly/obvious ones, or if what you said in a meeting wasn’t especially sharp. No reasonable, mature, mildly decent person, no matter how smart, responds the way these people are responding — and so that is definitive proof that this is about them, not about you. (And really, people — even smart people — ask bad/silly/obvious questions and say not-especially-sharp things all the time. That’s what humans do. Mildly decent people do not respond with mockery.)

For whatever remaining period of time you have to stay there, the healthiest thing you can do is to marvel at this weird micro-society you’ve been temporarily transplanted into. If you were spending a few months in a foreign culture with baffling, unfamiliar customs, you wouldn’t take those cultural differences personally, right? And they might even be fascinating to observe? That’s what you want here — along with a very vigorous job search to hasten your exit.

Typically with a tough situation like this one, I might suggest that you at least try to address it with someone there (maybe the person who hired you and wanted to bring outside skills in), to see if there’s any way to reach a better understanding and get some changes made. But I just think these people are cruel, and it sounds like it’s so deeply entrenched in the culture that there’s not a lot of hope of changing it. If I’m reading the letter wrong and it’s only a couple of people, or only one department that you don’t have to deal with often, then there could be value in doing that. But if this is just The Way It Is there, get out get out get out.

{ 635 comments… read them below }

    1. CandyCorn*

      And yet, the bragging just goes on and on and on. It’s so unhelpful to OP and makes me embarrassed for all the commenters. I wish most of this comment thread would be deleted.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I posted this after most of it had happened (that’s why I posted it). The only way to move a comment to the top is to change the timestamp, which is why it may look like this was the earliest comment, but it was not.

  1. KimberlyR*

    Just chiming in to say that I am a Very Smart Person who is considered Gifted. I do not have any degrees (because I dropped out of college, not because I couldn’t pass). And I am nice. And I sometimes say stupid things or ask basic questions. Because thats how decent people act, whether they are Very Smart People or dumber than a box of rocks. Please DO NOT assume that you are dumber or less capable just because of these jackasses. But you are better than them in one way-you aren’t an asshole.

    1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Chiming in as well to say that I have all my Smart Doggie pedigree papers and am accredited by every Smart Doggie accrediting agency our society has. You know what people do who are actually smart? They communicate effectively. If they can’t tell what you do and don’t understand… if they are too dumb to know what they don’t know about your area of expertise… if they use big words (probably wrong) instead of clearly getting their meaning across – they are not actually smart.

      Don’t for a second think that you are working with geniuses. These are not smart people. These are evil bees.

      You are in a swarm of evil bees, and you’ve been badly stung.

      1. Em Dash*

        Oh man, “swarm of evil bees” is such a good descriptor for a bad job. Especially this one.

        So sorry you’re having to deal with this, OP. I hope that knowing it’s them and not you can give some measure of comfort while you complete your remaining months on the job.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Card-carrying Smart Doggie, thirding this. This is not how smart people interact, especially if they are at work where they are supposedly gathered together to get work done and to generate income for the company.

        I haven’t seen anything like this since my freshman year of college – I went to one of the Big Name Schools in my home country, and my classes were evenly split between smart kids from regular small-town high schools, like myself, and Big City kids who had all gone to Special Gifted-Kid schools in Big City, where they had already studied most of our first-year college curriculum. We’d ask them questions and they would say “oh, it’s elementary”; and generally treat us like we were small children who’d accidentally wandered into a college classroom. But they were 17-18. By the end of college, they all became adults and learned to treat other people like adults. Are OP’s coworkers seventeen?

        This is Super Not Normal.

      3. CrueltyIsntSmart*

        Agreed! As a Mensa member, I can say with 100% certainty that Gary Larson didn’t make up that Far Side comic about the School for the Gifted; it’s every other day for me!

        1. Camellia*

          Is that the one of the student standing outside a door and pushing, while the door is plainly marked “Pull”?

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            My high school (public residential for Smart Doggies) had multiple people print that out, white out the name and put ours in, then copy / share over and over.

            I think at least one prominent alum (PhD in particle physics, last I checked) had the GL mug with that modification.

          2. Ophelia*

            My 6th grade teacher had this on the paper towel holder over the sink, and I think about it ALL THE TIME.

        2. voluptuousfire*

          I mutter “it’s the Midvale School for the Gifted” to myself every time I attempt to push a door when it’s meant to be pulled open. :)

        3. pushmi pullyu*

          Fun off-topic fact! Doors with pull handles that are meant to be pushed are called Norman Doors, named after the design expert Don Norman who described and criticised them.

      4. Canadian*

        “You know what people do who are actually smart? They communicate effectively.”A hundred times this.

        Anyone who is actually intelligent knows that there are many different ways of being smart & instead would be reaching out to figure out what they can learn from you, because I guarantee that you are more knowledgeable than them in some areas. I’m sorry that you have to deal with such rotten people.

        I had some medical issues & started forgetting my vocabulary. All those nice big fancy words I used to revel in & the knowledge from my fancy degrees? Lost, or at least located somewhere in my brain that I can’t access right now. My ego took such a slap & I realized how prideful I was about the whole nonsense.

        All this to say, don’t let these people make you feel small. Best wishes, OP.

        1. myswtghst*

          “Anyone who is actually intelligent knows that there are many different ways of being smart”

          This is so important. OP’s coworkers might be book smart, or academically gifted, but they are severely lacking in emotional intelligence.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            One of the smartest, most intelligent people I ever knew was my dad with his massive 9th grade education. He had to quit school to help his mom make a living. He went into the army when he was 17, married my mom, had me, then my sister, and always made a decent living.

            He may not have been book smart he knew all kinds of other stuff, had a lot of good advice (ex: ‘kids DO that, relax’ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯), practical common sense, etc., etc., etc. Although for “only a 9th grade education” he really knew a lot of ‘academic’ type stuff as well.

            A couple of my favorites:

            1. “Never marry a guy who won’t iron his own clothes (as he was ironing a shirt), cook, or calls taking care of his own kids ‘babysitting.’ c.1971

            2. “If you want a degree then don’t let anything stop you from going to school. Why work breaking your back for next to minimum wage when you can break your back for more money? No matter what, they can never take away what you have already learned.”

        2. John*

          I had the bad luck to work on a team with colleagues who each had at least a masters degree, and a couple with PhD’s. I had spent four years in college, having left before fulfilling my degree requirements due to financial constraints and a job offer that I couldn’t refuse. I spent the next fifteen years building my career with the work I was capable of producing, and the wisdom I picked up along the way.

          Nothing like having more than a couple of your new co-workers cut you off, mid conversation, when they find out you don’t have a degree, and marvel at how you managed to get hired. They also seemed surprised that I was able to keep up with them in conversations, and understood all of their references. Yes, it is entirely possible to read the same texts you have to read in college by checking out the same books from a public library, or downloading research for free online.

          1. Jaz*

            I have a couple of BS degrees and a couple of Master’s. My husband has a vocational AS. Intellectually, we are equals, because experience is at least as good a teacher as the classroom when it comes to critical thinking.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              I have two bachelor’s, two master’s and a Phd. Husband has one master’s. I speak one language well, a second language passable, and a third really, really, really poorly, but at least people have so far been polite enough not to laugh in my face. Husband speaks seven (!!!) languages fluently and a couple of others kind of average…well passably if he doesn’t have to get too deep into conversation. I dare anyone to compare us.

              1. WakeUp!*

                I really hope by saying “two bachelors” you are just puffing up a double major (ditto the second masters…by any chance was it the one you were automatically awarded before finishing the doctorate?).

                1. RUKidding*

                  I’m not puffing up anything. I did it the hard way.

                  All separate programs done at separate times and a couple of different schools.

                  I didnt have any family who had gone beyond 10th grade and way back in the dark ages when it all began there was a lot more “figure it out” from universities than there is now, so precious little help in coordinating the “I want to do it ALL” thing.

                  Sooo I did a bachelors and then about a year later I did another. Sure, in retrospect, and if I’d had the knowledge I do now I would have done a double major, but no one ever told me that was something I could do.

                  I got one masters from one school and the second one from another school.

                  Got into the PhD program at my original school a few years later at the suggestion of a friend/former professor.

                  It’s ok. I know a woman who makes a career out of getting masters after masters. She’s like 800 years old and always in some “new” masters program. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        3. AemiliaJane*

          And also! Anyone who is both smart and an even vaguely decent person will want to help you understand whatever they’re talking about, not belittle or punish you for not knowing (Even pedigree puppies didn’t know things once! They sometimes forget this).
          Knowledge isn’t a zero-sum game, unless your sense of self rests on being some kind of trivia dragon and hoarding it all for yourself.
          This isn’t about intelligence, or education. This is about them being assholes.

        4. Archaeopteryx*

          Exactly. Smart people whose gifts actually matter are curious about the world around them, which involves asking lots of questions. These people sound performatively intelligent, more interested in seeming smart than in expanding themselves. Someone should inform them that Dr. House is not a good role model for how actual smart people act.

          And digressing into Latin just to show off (and not to actually add nuance to what you’re saying) always makes people look like a child.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Or like a pretentious ass. Hey I took Latin. Three years of it. Nowhere to use it really, other than a lab..or if I was an ass I guess I could try to make people with “lesser degrees” feel bad that they don’t have minimal ability to understand/use a dead language.

            Aaannnddd if they are only using Latin “phrases” … well that doesn’t mean anything really. “E pluribus unum” anyone? Being able to throw out a phrase here or a word there doesn’t mean they actually understand Latin.

        5. Quoth the Raven*

          “[. . .] reaching out to figure out what they can learn from you”

          This is so true. There’s always something to learn from everyone, no matter how small or life changing that something may be. That’s how you grow as a person and someone claiming to be smart but ignoring this is not really all that smart after all.

        6. Edith*

          Theres a differece between intelligent and smart. It’s also very true that your vocabulary greatly inpacts how bright you’re precived. And your coworkers sounds like assholes.

      5. AMT*

        I went to One Of Those Schools and I can say that the smartest people I knew there were also (a) some of the nicest, and (b) just as prone to goofiness and mistake-making as anyone else, maybe even more so because they didn’t care about looking dumb.

        1. Jaz*

          This is a great point. Often, the ones who feel the need to base their lives and social interactions around how Very Smart they are do so out of profound insecurity.

        2. Ada*

          Yep. The absent-minded professor archetype doesn’t exist solely in fiction. Some examples: the time my husband (whose specialty is science, so I know he can measure) misread “2 cups” as “2 QUARTS” when making a pack of teriyaki noodles and ended up with impromptu soup. Or the time I was up so late working on a math assignment I got double vision and misread my professor’s diploma and was SOOOO confused as to why he was teaching math when he had a Doctorate of Philosophy in Philosophy. Decent people, regardless of intelligence, will laugh WITH you at stupid things like that. And decently intelligent people will understand that no one is a master of EVERYTHING, so it wouldn’t even cross their mind to look down on you for not knowing something they know, because chances are you know things they don’t and you can both benefit from your combined knowledge. I mean, that’s why companies employ more than one kind of worker, right?

      6. some peasant*

        Late, but seconding this. I would much, much, much rather work with someone– especially be MANAGED by someone– who has a wealth of “soft skills” and can communicate without hurting people. The way they are reacting to a peer who needs some basic intro to bring them up to speed is really indicative of how they’d treat someone who isn’t in a place to fight back.

        No one who is truly smart goes around looking for ways to make others feel stupid.

        1. Jadelyn*

          “No one who is truly smart goes around looking for ways to make others feel stupid.”

          Unfortunately I fear the trope of the Brilliant Jerk (BBC Sherlock, MCU Tony Stark, House, etc.) has gotten so entrenched that people are now getting the relationship backward, thinking you must be smart if you’re a jerk, when really…you’re just a jerk.

      7. Jadelyn*

        I heard a great comment not too long ago about academic writing and impenetrable phrasing: “If you can’t explain your topic in a way that people can understand without doing sentence diagrams with a thesaurus handy, maybe it’s not that everyone is too stupid to understand, maybe you’re just a bad writer.”

        Confusing your audience is not exactly a mark of success.

        1. Lucy*

          Related: “if you can’t explain it to a five-year-old, you don’t really understand it.”

          Which is not an excuse to talk to LW as though she is a literal child, but rather than fancy words and (probably misused) Latin ain’t really fooling anyone.

          1. aebhel*

            Yeah–I mean, there are topics that are complex enough that sometimes you can’t explain them in-depth to a layman (at least not quickly), but in that case, it’s not because the person in question is hopelessly stupid, it’s because that particular topic is outside their area of expertise. We all have things that are outside our area of expertise; it’s just that this particular breed of Look At Me And How Smart I Am person tends to treat everything outside their area of expertise as useless.

            As evidenced by the LW’s situation. They were brought in because they have a skill set that, presumably, these other Very Smart people don’t have, and it’s being completely devalued by their colleagues.

        2. DreamingInPurple*

          I had a prof once who had an article posted outside his door that I wish I could find again – it was from an academic magazine, and the subject was the importance of writing clearly and concisely. They used the analogy of not making your readers hunt for the pearls in the oyster that is your writing, which I’ve thought about many times since

          I’m in a field where people often trot out their $5 words for descriptions that don’t need them, because they’re trying to make their writing look more formal and impressive. An advisor of mine who I very much admire always told me that one of the most important skills once you get out into the “real world” is actually to be able to explain what you’re doing to someone who is clever and paying attention but has no background knowledge of your field. It’s definitely the skill I have had occasion to use the most!

      8. RUKiddingMe*

        It’s an entire hive of evil bees…maybe even a mega-hive (I don’t know if that’s actually a thing).

        OP listen to Alison and the really smart, multiple degreed people here. Being smart or academically “gifted” doesn’t make one a good person. Yep I’m smart, I have multiple advanced degrees including a PhD and wold probably beat up most of your colleagues in a “my degree(s) is/are bigger than your degree(s)” showdown.

        You know what? BFD…I know a whole lot about a few very specific things, not everything about everything. It’s the same with anyone who ever wrote a Master’s thesis; they know one specific part of one specific subject very, very, well. That doesn’t mean they know the correct pronunciation for ‘pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis’ (yes, it’s a real word), how to bone a duck, or apparently in the case of your coworkers…how to be a decent human being.

        They are pretentious snobs and the sooner you get out of that toxic (yep, toxic) job, the better.

    2. Busy*

      I am quite literally in this situation. Just replace degree dependent on hiring with product knowledge dependent. When I was hired, it was known my skill set wasn’t for product knowledge, though I do like to learn it. The company I work for though is above and beyond about over valuing this, though. He hype up XXXX combined years of product knowledge in their marketing tools, etc. The issue is that their customer market expectations have now caught up with the rest of the world, and customers expect basic things that management systems produce. But trying to explain to “product knowledge” competent people that their systems, processes, and even their software are not established to run any kind of meaningful report even on actual finance is impossible.

      They will talk over me, condescend to me, push me out of meetings that directly impact my role. All that crap. I have been dealing with it for 2 years so not to look like a job hopper, but I LITERALLY CANNOT DO MY JOB. It is impossible not to have this affect your sense of self. I have gone through dark days. Because the main thing about lacking any type of management system is the total absence of ANY kind management. Managers do not know how to manage their people here. They don’t even know what that means – so they micromanage it all. Yet I get threatened with my job (that I cannot do) and am treated pretty disrespectfully by all.

      For whatever reason, it just recently clicked in my head that I don’t care if they fire me, but I will be damned if I am going down with my mouth shut. And they are so dysfunctional, that my interruptions and rudely forcing issues have actually worked! The downside now is to always keep in the back of my mind that this is not appropriate behavior at normal places and to not get use to this technique.

      My only advice to OP is get out if you can – because if your role is to bring in something new, these are not the type of people who react well to new ideas. If you are stuck (like me), then start mimicking their dysfunction back to them. It is how they communicate, function, and see the world. Anything outside of that narrow scope just doesn’t exist to these buttweasals.

      1. sofar*

        I feel for you, as I was once in this situation. One of my first jobs out of school. I remember being in a panic because I thought ALL jobs were like this and that maybe I was, in fact, really stupid and unable to function in the work world.

        Tons of mockery of literally everything I said. Much gaslighting if I tried to point out that, maybe, just MAYBE, it wasn’t appropriate to throw a filing folder on my desk with such force that it would scatter everything, while yelling at me. Or that, you know, perhaps, it wasn’t realistic to expect me to respond to an email in five minutes if I was on my lunch break (this was in the days before smartphones). I was also frequently blamed for missing meetings that I was never invited to, or pushed out of meetings I should have attended (yet expected to know what happened during them).

        The most vindicating thing ever was running into my replacement years later and commiserating about the twilight-zone-like experience of working for that company.

        I always feel vindicated reading these threads, but also saddened by how many toxic companies there are and how many toxic coworkers manage to have successful careers.

        Good luck “doing your time” and then getting out.

    3. Pennalynn Lott*

      Yep. I’m a member of Mensa and will have a Master’s in Accounting in May, plus two [very difficult] industry certifications, and I would *never* make fun of a co-worker for asking a question. And if I was frustrated with someone and it showed, I would immediately apologize and do some serious introspection to make sure it never happened again.

      I just started a new internship a couple of weeks ago and — boy howdy — I am asking a TON of “dumb” questions, any number of which could be responded to with, “Didn’t they teach you that in school?” But it would never occur to my coworkers or managers to say something that condescending because they are good people.

      OP’s coworkers are, indeed, simply cruel.

      1. Chinookwind*

        “I would *never* make fun of a co-worker for asking a question. And if I was frustrated with someone and it showed, I would immediately apologize and do some serious introspection to make sure it never happened again.”

        Remember – smart/wise people ask questions to get smarter because they know that they don’t/can’t know everything. Dumb/stupid people never asked questions and remain dumb/stupid. The only kind that are worse are the dumb/stupid people who think they are smart and are not aware of what they don’t know

      2. MissMia*

        “I would *never* make fun of a co-worker for asking a question. And if I was frustrated with someone and it showed, I would immediately apologize and do some serious introspection to make sure it never happened again. ”

        I always tell my front end that I’d rather them ask then not and end up doing something that will get them fired. Retail is so fickle and the Policies and Procedures are always changing, but a lot of it stays the same. It might not be the same as working in a white collar professional job, but I do tell them it is better to ask. And I have a new cashier who used to be a manager at a big box discount store. I respect her knowledge, she is more than qualified to do my job, or even our ASM’s job. She doesn’t have a college degree but she has the experience.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          And adding when I train people, I tell them to let me know if they are already familiar with a particular process or task. And I get the task into their hands as quickly as possible, because that is a way to show respect for their abilities.

    4. emmelemm*

      Chiming in to also say that I went to an Ivy League school (many years ago now) and I am no dumber or smarter than the average person, really, at this point, many years into my (relatively unambitious, because that’s just how I am) career. Not to mention that, boy, when I was at school, you’d be surprised how many dumb sh*ts there were.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        “What do you call someone who was ranked the last in medical school after they graduate?”

        Answer, doctor.

        That’s my favorite thing to say to people who try to sell me the “but they graduated from Big Name School!” kind of nonsense.

        Also I saw some wicked shade thrown at someone being done dirty by Harvard business school on Shark Tank a couple weeks ago.

        1. RKMK*

          “Answer, doctor.” YUP. It’s almost impossible to get kicked out of a lot of grad programs – esp. professional ones like MBA, MD, LLB. You can even try to quit and they’ll talk you out of it because it looks bad at their completion/graduation rate that they use for marketing and recruitment.

      2. GreenDoor*

        Truth! I have a vegetable soup of letters after my name. All that means is that I went to some schools and completed a few courses of study. I work in public education with lots of PhD’s and MAs and MSs and we often say there’s a lot of “smart dummies” around here.

        I’m curious what happens when one of the OP’s “smart” or “clever” co-workers asks a silly question or doesn’t understand. Do they get the same level of ridicule….or are they given grace that the OP is not. If it’s the latter, that’s more proof that you work with a bunch of bullies.

        1. Stellaluna*

          I don’t want to nitpick, but I think it kind of hilariously illustrates your point.. I think you mean to say “alphabet soup” ;)

          1. willow*

            aaaahhhhhahahahahaha, QED! (See what I did there? I threw not just a Latin phrase, but an acronym of a Latin phrase!)

      3. Not unambitious*

        “Not to mention that, boy, when I was at [Ivy League] school, you’d be surprised how many dumb sh*ts there were.”

        As they say, your mileage may vary. I also went to an Ivy League school. You find outliers everywhere, but the vast majority of my classmates are amazing, impressive people. (I also took some classes at my local state university when in high school and the first summer in college, and they were not as rigorous.) The experience was absolutely worth it in terms of effort and money, and I encourage almost any high school student admitted to a top-tier university to go.

        Ivy League and similar universities (Stanford, MIT, UChicago, etc.) do not admit people merely because they are smart, however. They are also looking for people who will become future leaders in their fields. We do not have a Chinese “gaokao”-like exam here in the US that determines where you go to university, and this is why. And you do see a disproportionate number of these universities’ graduates in leadership positions.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          You can also get a phenomenal, leadership-full education at a non-“top tier” school.

          1. RKMK*

            Or, not even in a school, necessarily. Some leaders come by it quite naturally, from life experience or personal aptitude, and don’t have the resources to go to school.

        2. anon for this*

          These institutions also take many children of alums and just plain wealthy people.

          When I interviewed at Harvard Medical school, at the group interview I was blown away — one person had started and run a charity, another had a successful company, another had spent a significant amount of time overseas working on HIV prevention, another was a concert pianist who had toured the world, etc, and so forth. I knew I was not getting in. I was only a boring midwestern flatlander with amazing MCAT scores.

          However, I realized much later that all of these amazing feats of leadership were based on exceptional privilege. It’s quite likely that these individuals’ parents contributed significantly to each of these situations — possibly just plain starting and running both the company and the charity while letting their child take the credit (just like the kids back in grade schools who had the best dioramas — they had a LOT of help from their moms). I couldn’t afford to go overseas at any point — I had to work. It’s true that I could never be a concert pianist. However, my friends who grew up to do that well in classical music had parents who spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars on their lessons, travel, camps, etc — money my parents didn’t have.

          Sometimes “excellence” is really just another way to display wealth.

          1. Not unambitious*

            “However, I realized much later that all of these amazing feats of leadership were based on exceptional privilege. It’s quite likely that these individuals’ parents contributed significantly to each of these situations — possibly just plain starting and running both the company and the charity while letting their child take the credit.”

            With due respect, you have absolutely no way of knowing that. Believe it or not, not everyone who starts a charity is doing on their parents’ dime.

            What about Malala, who started her charity to promote girls’ education in Pakistan? Maybe you think she started her charity on her parents’ dime, that her parents really launched and ran the charity and let her take the credit, etc.? Maybe you think promoting girls’ education in Pakistan is the same as creating a grade school diorama?

            I used to do alumni interviewing for my school (unfortunately had to stop for various reasons), but I met quite a few candidates from less privileged backgrounds who availed themselves of leadership opportunities. One is a a very prominent anti-gentrification activist in a nearby city today! There are also plenty of ways to launch organizations that do not involve overseas travel.

            High MCAT and other standardized scores are important, but they are not the sole criteria for admissions, and nor should they be.

            1. C Baker*

              They’re speaking of people they personally know – I’m sure they have a reasonably good guess as to which of them did their own dioramas and which got some help and which did NONE of it.

              1. Not unamibitious*

                “They’re speaking of people they personally know”

                Understanding that there’s a big universe out there, and that the experiences of people who you personally know are not necessarily typical of everyone everywhere, is a sign of intellectual maturity. I think it’s reasonable to ask a candidate for admission to Harvard Medical School to step outside her bubble. Seriously, there were no clubs or organizations at her undergraduate institution that she could get involved with at a leadership level?

                The good news is that admission to all mainstream medical schools in the US is highly competitive, unlike (say) law or business schools. This really is one area where the likes of Harvard are not necessarily that much far ahead of other medical schools.

    5. Ellex*

      Your first three sentences describe me exactly. I dropped out of college because…well, events outside of my control conspired against me. I made an attempt to return to college and a different set of events put the kibosh on that. By the time returning to college again seemed like a possibility, I’d been in the workforce for a while and it didn’t seem worth the time, effort, and especially the money. No one has treated me as stupid or somehow less for not finishing college – in fact, until they find out otherwise, people tend to think that I not only have a Bachelors, but that I have a much more advanced post-graduate degree common to the industry I work in.

      More than that, I commonly hear from those with said post-graduate degree that it really didn’t prepare them for being in the workforce, and that while they don’t regret the degree per se, they sure do wish that they weren’t still paying off student loans.

      I often like to say that while there are many things you can change about yourself, the impression other people have of you is one of the hardest.

      1. Chinookwind*

        ” I dropped out of college because…well, events outside of my control conspired against me.”

        Exactly. Having a university degree means you had the time and resources to attend school as well as a certain level of intellect and drive. If I hadn’t received a last minute scholarship (that someone else turned down) in my final year, I would have had to drop out and been in the same boat as DH – 3 courses short of a completed education.

    6. HS Teacher*

      Some people equate education with intelligence, and they’re wrong. Degrees show that you can study something and prove you learned it. Most people are capable of doing this. Whether not people have higher education more often, sadly, comes down to money and their parents’ educational background.

      I have a coworker who loves to brag about how many degrees she has. She has three more than I do, and I have a few myself. However, she is working the same job for me for less pay (I am higher on the ladder.) It’s such a strange thing to brag about. She’s an eternal student who keeps taking classes because she doesn’t want to pay back her student loans. I don’t know that it makes her smarter than I, who will have paid off my last one within three years.

      I am writing all of this just to say, don’t worry about what your idiot coworkers think. They’re living proof that education is not indicative of intelligence.

      1. Lucille2*

        I had a coworker who used to brag about his HS SAT score and how well he did in school. This coming from a person well into his 30s still hanging onto that nugget of brilliance he had in his youth. My response to him was, “I was a very average and unimpressive student, and yet here we are, in the same job with the same salary.” Same coworker was later fired from that job because of his incompetence.

        1. Snarkastic*

          That’s a brilliant response.

          Clearly, your co-worker is very insecure and I am sympathetic to that. However, if this was a constant thing, I would go crazy and lose all patience.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          The worst employee I ever had was an Ivy League graduate who got a perfect score on one section of the SAT, both of which came up in ever meeting I had about his incredibly poor performance – the poor lawyers really could not understand how someone so academically outstanding couldn’t do basic tasks. I mean, seriously, y’all, I don’t care if he got an 800 on the math section of the SAT five years ago, he can’t follow basic instructions for your projects.

          (I have also had very good employees from the Ivy League (no clue about any of their SAT scores, thankfully), but I have never found a straight line between prestige of undergraduate school and higher job performance.)

      2. Tau*

        Yeah, this one of the things for me – a degree costs time, effort and money. Sometimes, it’s a worthwhile investment given your career. Other times, it’s not – or you think it is but then your career changes under you. To some extent, having loads of degrees in a job that doesn’t require them signals, to me, poor planning, odd priorities, or some manner of unfortunate circumstances.

        And I’m totally counting myself in that! I do not need all the degrees I have to do the job I do. I don’t regret them precisely, but if I’d known at the start what I do now I would definitely have made different choices there. I could be so much farther in my career than I am, have earned so much more money (and paid so much more into my pension scheme), if I hadn’t waffled about in academia. The goal-oriented route of getting the minimum education you need and then launching straight into your career and learning on the job strikes me as a much smarter way of going about things, really.

      3. Not unambitious*

        “She’s an eternal student who keeps taking classes because she doesn’t want to pay back her student loans. ”

        Or perhaps she enjoys the intellectual enrichment that comes from taking classes. I would have hoped a teacher could appreciate that.

    7. NW Mossy*

      My experience has been that those who are truly Very anything tend to wear it lightly because they know they don’t need to prove their smarts, wealth, beauty, humor, compassion, etc. to anyone else. It’s those who are more uncertain inside that turn any discussion of it into a battle.

      1. KTB*

        Can confirm. I worked for orthopaedic surgeons shortly after college and the most awful doc in the practice was an MD/PhD sports med who was a total ass to everyone who worked for him. He sucked up like nobody’s business, and punched down. Ironically, the other MD/PhD in the practice was the nicest, smartest, most humble doc EVER. Of course, his specialty was ortho oncology, so he likely had actual life perspective, unlike Dr. Jockstrap.

    8. Anononynony*

      Another Very Smart Person here, who went through gifted education from fifth grade on and did International Baccalaureate in high school, with 4 college degrees thus far and plans to apply for a PhD this fall. I say and do embarrassingly stupid things on the regular. And you know what everyone can do? Be kind. Be kind without being patronizing, without assuming that someone else’s academic achievements give their words more or less weight, without being cruel.

      If people choose not to be kind, it has nothing to do with how smart they are. It has everything to do with how cruel and arrogant they are.

    9. Aveline*

      Yep. When I was in law school, it was not infrequent that classmates would talk about there LSATs and other markers of intelligence such as “undergrad at Harvard” or “I also got into NYU Law” I kept silent. I had a top 1% LSAT and was recruited by multiple Ivies multiple times.

      This is not to humblebrag. Those things aren’t a marker that I’m better than anyone. They also don’t make me smarter. Test scores and grades are both coded to cultural competency and “insider ness” as much as they are to brains. And where you go to school or what schools recruit you has a lot more to do with demographics than with brains. The reason the Ivies wanted me wasn’t just the test scores. It was that they had scholarships that should go to a very small percentage of the population. One I happened to fit into perfectly.

      Finally, one of the smartest, best persons I have ever known had a 5th grade education. I also know a few Nobel prize winners. None of them act like they are better. I’ve even had conversations where they sought out my opinion b/c I was more knowledgeable on the issue at hand.

      Anyone who thinks that a marker of intelligence like a test score is definitive or where one went to school is definitive of either smarts or social worth is overestimating themselves on both markers.

      1. Aveline*

        “insider ness”

        See for all those brains and fancy education, I can’t type properly when in a hurry.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I thought my father was a smart person. He got through high school by the skin on his teeth. He grades were poor. Long story short he went on to get a number of US patents.
        BUT. He did not hear well so he knew he did not enunciate correctly. He avoided larger words. When people met him they thought he was an old man who wasn’t that smart.

        My father had two strong intelligences. One was he could see things in his head. If you described a part of your car, he had an image in his head of what you were talking about and he could follow along in great detail. The other way he was smart is that he could talk about VERY complex topics in simple terms. Back to he did not hear well so he avoided words that he might mispronounce. He blew people away with the insights that he had to what they were saying.

        Some people skated right by my father saying, “What a poor old man.” Other people said, “I have to call [NSNR’s Dad] because I have to find out what he thinks about this difficult situation I have.”
        OP, you are surrounded by the former group, the ones who skate right by. These are a group of people that routinely miss how much of a resource other people are. It takes time but that approach to life WILL bite them in the end. Our ability to talk things over with each other IS a quality of life issue.

        One of the coping tools you can consider is telling yourself, “No person is an island.” The Know-It-Alls don’t know everything and what they don’t know CAN unravel them in the long haul. Maybe on an easier day you can muster, “I feel sorry for these people, I will never have the difficulties in life they will have.”

        Truly smart people do not think they are that smart. They are painfully aware of what they do not know.

      1. vitaminless*

        I gotta say, coming to this thread and having all of the first comments be stories about how smart people are is totally off-putting. If I googled this issue and came upon this page I would find it discouraging, and worth an eye-roll or two.

      2. CheeseNurse*

        But they’re so humble about it, Mike C. Because as well as being smart, they’re kind, excellent communicators with high EQs.

          1. Log Lady*

            You’re totally right; blatant bragging disguised by Typing Like This™ to make it seem less overt. People can’t help themselves it seems!

            1. CandyCorn*

              The twee capitalization!? Ugh. UGH. Seriously these people are the literal worst. Like, worse than the OP’s coworkers.

    10. Former Help Desk Peon*

      I’m generally considered very smart with some impressive academic accomplishments…and I once asked a coworker “Do we spring forward or fall back this weekend?” referring to the time change. She was very kind and only laughed a little.

      Some Very Smart People can be very lacking in other areas (sounds like op’s coworkers lack empathy! and kindness! and manners!), for me it’s often things others consider common sense :-/

    11. Annette*

      These comments tick me off. LW has a real problem and needs advice. Not to hear about everyone’s SAT scores and degrees. Save it.

    12. Cass*

      I love how nearly everyone replying in this thread also began their comment with “I’m also a card carrying smart person but…”

      Weird flex but OK.

      1. Annette*

        Yes. Where is the advice? LW knows people with degrees can be kind. Her co-workers aren’t. Speak to the question please.

        1. smoke tree*

          I think it helps illustrate the temptation of intellectual oneupmanship that this office seems to have absorbed to an alarming degree. But at the same time, I think intelligence is a total red flag here. I’m sure the LW and her coworkers are all intelligent people, but they’re treating her horribly regardless. Contrary to what her boss believes, intelligence isn’t a substitute for basic decency and professionalism.

    13. Kathleen_A*

      I have a friend who got a master’s *that he had no actual use for* after it became clear to him that this was the only way for him to work effectively with all the masters and doctorates he had to deal with at the university where he worked. He knew faaaaaaar more about his particular area of expertise – media relations – than any of these masters and doctorates, mind you, but he got the extra degree anyway, just to placate them. They’d get all twitchy at the mere thought of a mere BS telling them stuff.
      He drew the line at getting a totally unnecessary doctorate, though.
      But anyway, there are places where one’s degree(s) are at least as important as one’s experience. I’ve never heard of a place as obnoxious about it as the OP’s workplace though. What a bunch of smug, snotty jerks. It’s as though they’re from a movie, Mean Girls Get Their Doctorates.

    14. Nessun*

      Same here! I get where OP is coming from – degrees lend this idea of smarts where it may not apply, and I’ve met those who can be very clique-y about having one – and I get what KimberlyR is saying 100% because I did the same thing – Very Smart, considered Gifted, and bailed on a degree (because I hated it). I’ve learned to revel in my abilities, the ones I learned on the job and worked hard at in the workplace, and when someone asks why I didn’t finish Uni or don’t have a degree I am honest and happy: “I hated what I was studying, I wasn’t going to waste the money when I didn’t want to follow that career path, and I love what I do now and I’m great at it.” That’s all that matters in the end. Screw those who think degrees are the be-all and end-all; do good work, do it well, enjoy what you do.

    15. Bunny*

      I am very smart person, gifted verbally, who flunked math and science courses and was not diagnosed with significant learning disabilities until I was 40.

      I have a more storied career than most of the people I know with a degree.

      If someone is leaning on a piece of paper and not using it to build, they hav3 a problem. You sound great.

    16. Michaela Westen*

      I’m smart and gifted also, and I also didn’t finish a degree. I’m too smart to bust my butt, my health and my bank account to get degrees people like your colleagues will never appreciate anyway.

    17. Rust1783*

      I just have to slide in here and mention how many people I know with really impressive degrees from really impressive schools who are also really, really dumb, or socially awkward to the point that you don’t understand how they function. Academia does weird things to you. There’s a blogger at the Chronicle of Higher Ed who I love who once said something like, “academia socializes people to make really bad decisions and to think it’s all normal.”

  2. Robin Sparkles*

    Wow just reading this is upsetting. I wish I knew what company this was so as to never give it my business. I am sorry OP – nothing to add more to what Alison said except to repeat- get out!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Agreed. We have had a few LWs with awful companies and I wished I knew the name so I could take my business elsewhere and encourage my friends to take their business elsewhere.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Super upsetting. These people aren’t horrible because they’re “smart.” Being “smart” is not a license to behave like a garbage human. They are horrible because this is a place that fosters, implements, and models toxic dysfunction. No one should yell at anyone in the workplace, let alone upbraid OP for an hour. No one should excuse being horrid to someone because they’re “frustrated” because they’re soooooo smart or clever.

      Something that helps me, OP, is to pretend that there’s an egg-shaped force-field all around me, and when people are horrid, I pretend they’re monkeys flinging poop. Instead of the poop hitting me, it hits the force-field and slides away. So I would do my best to understand that you’re competent and valuable, pretend you’re Teflon and don’t let their bad behavior stick on you, and make ample use of blank stares when they behave horrifically. I would also consider saying, “Why on earth would you say [x]?” and “Why do you think [Y] is appropriate?”, but I am more combative. If your goal is to get by, I think it’s ok to duck and let the bullshit slide by. I’m so sorry you’re in this position and that your current employer is a terrible place.

  3. Admin by Day Roller Derby by Night*

    I don’t have great advice. I just want to say, OP, that I’m sorry that you’re going through this. You do NOT deserve to be treated that way, no matter where you went to school or for how long–who does that? Ugh I am so mad on your behalf. Do not let them make you think less of yourself.

    1. SigneL*

      I don’t have any great advice either, but wanted to say I’m deeply sorry you’re working for such horrible people. I hope your next job is worthy of you.

    2. Sam.*

      I really feel for OP here. My last job was at an elite, fancy pants university, surrounded by incredibly intelligent people. Occasionally, someone would find out that I was entirely public-school educated (gasp) or that I didn’t finish my PhD (which wasn’t even needed for the job…) Most of them didn’t care, but enough were mildly judgy that I started to feel pretty defensive about it. But even with the judgy ones, there was nowhere near the amount of jerkishness that OP is experiencing. I really can’t even imagine how awful that must be. I agree with Alison that there’s no choice but to get out. In the meantime, though, I’d probably spend a LOT of time internally rolling my eyes and trying to make nice with the people who seem most down-to-earth. The other thing I’d focus on is the people who are most dependent on your work (and also not jerks). If you’re really helpful to them, odds are you’ll start to make allies, which should help. Good luck, OP.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        These superficial people exist and we will bump into them. My family member had a boss who LIED and told a bully in another department that Family Member graduated from Big College. The boss did this to get Bully to leave my family member alone. Family Member graduated from an average college with average grades. Bully did not need to know that.

  4. KimberlyR*

    ALSO (sorry for double commenting but I am fired up about this!) multiple degrees does not equal higher level of intelligence. It sometimes just means that the individual had the time and money to pursue those degrees. I guarantee there are many people of higher than average intelligence without a degree because they couldn’t afford to go to college.

      1. kittymommy*

        And I’m wondering if our LW works with a few of them! In the field I have one of my degrees, Latin is actually studied (as are some other languages), no one in the field actually uses it in conversation, or really ever, unless it’s looking at original texts and translating.

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          Seriously. I know people with graduate degrees in Classical and Medieval Latin. They do not drop punch Latin epigrams into conversation.

          I bet these are lawyers. It sounds like law.

          1. bluephone*

            I’ve honestly just run into an issue at my local skating rink, with a member who bullies everyone (to the point of physical intimidation) and, when approached by the board about her behavior, fired back with “BUT I’M A LAWYER!!!” and they backed down. Now I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know of any legal precedents that said you can’t ever tell someone to stop being an abusive [bleep]hole but I guess this skater is soooo good at lawyering that no one at the rink can ever reprimand her, ever!
            Needless to say, I will not be renewing my membership at this rink and my opinion of all lawyers as a whole has gone down a bit.

          2. Traffic_Spiral*

            Yeah, but pretty much all lawyers have to have a law degree – so the dick-measuring is done by where you got the degree.

          1. Sarah M*

            Or management consulting. This attitude was pervasive amongst the consulting staff at the MBB I once worked for as an admin. I learned how to deal with work bullies on that job. It was Very Satisfying.

            1. Sarah M*

              PS: your co-workers are a*******, OP. This kind of attitude and behavior is ridiculous. The best people (think the smartest) were never like this. It was invariably the people who actually knew the least that were the biggest jerks.

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              I was going mgmt consulting bcs of the ‘skills’ need – ie, someone who knows Python / Ruby or other technical data analysis skill.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            Mine, too! I had NO idea that I didn’t go to a “good school” or was stupid until I started working in legal! So, so snobby about school brand, grade-point average, etc., and the only thing that will overcome it is a huge book of business. I had an attorney stop working with me once because he thought I went to University of Pretentiousness instead of my actual alma mater, Pretentiousness State U.

            I think only Big 4 consulting and the finance industry rival legal.

            1. Tigger*

              I can second this comment for the legal field! Heck the obsession with “good schools” runs so deep that I was let go from a receptionist position at a firm because I went to the “wrong” private high school in the area.

              Ps. My cousins went to the University of Pretentiousness (graduated from the Wallaby school) and I went to Pretentiousness State U. They visited almost every weekend and enjoyed the campus and environment more but they wanted that Wallaby degree so they didn’t transfer. I think they kinda regret it.

              1. bluephone*

                It’s even a recurring joke on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend with Rebecca constantly shoehorning in that she went to Harvard Law and everyone else calling her out on it

          1. Jess the Kat*

            +1. Love it! I agree. Seriously, though. I would be crushed if I had to encounter this on a job.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          I was wondering about that. I’ve never seen or heard of anyone using Latin in conversation. Spanish, all the time, French or Italian occasionally, but Latin? Why?

      2. Liane*

        Yes. OP, I don’t have any advice. However, these people remind me of very rude versions of what my dad* called “educated fools,” which he defined as “people with a lot of college but can’t wipe themselves without having written instructions.”

        *WWII vet, very well-read, a little college, owned a successful business.

    1. Banana*

      This!! Also, OP is completely right that being in the working world for longer gives you a completely different (and just as, if not more! important) set of skills. People who think like this make me crazy!

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I agree — degrees aren’t everything.
      The most brilliant businessman I’ve met in my life didn’t get past 8th grade because he went to work to support his mom & siblings. By the time he retired, he was on the board of directors for multiple Fortune 500 companies.

    3. Never*

      Or just don’t want to. The reason to get a PhD is to become a professor and/or do academic research, not to prove that you’re “smart enough.”

      1. Justin*

        There are other reasons (or else I should stop), but yes, performance/proof is not a great motivator. Indeed, extrinsic motivation will not get you all the way there.

      2. Clay on my apron*

        Or to avoid leaving the academic world for a company where your value may be less, because of your lack of practical skills, or the lack of experience applying them to real world situations. Never mind the difference in culture and norms.

        I think that can be quite a difficult transition to make.

        I interviewed someone a few years ago who wanted to move from academic to corporate. He lectured in a field that was very relevant to our work, he seemed pleasant, smart, knowledgeable, a little socially awkward.

        We decided not to hire him because we would have had to create a research specific role for him.

        His practical design skills which were more relevant for the role, were at a very junior level although he thought he was pretty good.

        He was more qualified on paper then the team who interviewed him but would have needed a lot of coaching to perform adequately in the role.

      3. aebhel*

        Yeah. I could have gotten a PhD in my field if I… wanted to spend the next five years of my life doing that while working two lousy jobs to support myself, only to end up with a degree that would be useless outside of academia since most public libraries are not looking for people with PhD’s in library science. Instead, I did a Master’s from a cheap state school and got a job I liked.

        1. Pommette!*

          I got 80% of the way through a PhD in my field before realizing that it would probably be useless (even in academia – the job market was terrible at the time, and many of my peers wound up permanently trapped in temporary sessional roles), and that I couldn’t handle another year of constant work and loneliness unless there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Deciding to quit after having investing so much time and energy was not easy. I still wish that I had something to show for all that work, but life is short and a year of lonely misery isn’t nothing.

          People’s reactions were interesting. Some wanted to know how I felt about my decision. Was I happier? Did I ever miss doing work that I had loved? And some concluded that I was stupid, after all, and not worth their time.

          One of the few worthwhile things I gained from the experience was a healthy disregard for educational qualifications. I’ve met plenty of smart lawyers, doctors, and PhDs, who learned a lot from their education and are happier and better people for it, but also plenty of smart people with limited formal education who found other ways to learn and engage with the world… and plenty of incurious fools, both educated and not.

    4. So long and thanks for all the fish*

      Yes. I’m ABD on my PhD and the stupidity around here is slightly astounding (and I’m not exempting myself from that! Sometimes thinking at a high level about one subject means you have no mental space left for, say, arithmetic.) And I had a lot of super, super smart friends in college and high school who didn’t go further because they didn’t want to. And that’s just the world- everyone has different priorities, and they’re not related to intelligence.

      1. DJ*

        I just finished my PhD. I have said to my husband on more than one occasion that it is amazing how dumb some smart people are.

    5. Canonical23*

      You’re 100% right. Some of the dumbest people I ever knew graduated with me during a master’s program. One of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with barely finished high school because of family illnesses that they had to assist with.

      1. TW*

        Yep. I work as a technical writer, and my mentor never finished college. He was able to get a first gig without it, so he did. He’s since written something like 30 technical manuals and is a highly-paid expert in the field. Also he’s a great guy to work for and incredibly kind, which are VASTLY more important than the diplomas he doesn’t have.

        1. J.E.*

          I wish there were more people like your mentor around. Sadly, it’s harder now because while your mentor was able to get their first gig without a degree, that’s often not the case these days. Degree creep has happened to such an extent that you often need a degree to be file clerk.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Yes, I noticed it in the early-mid 2000’s. Employers were requiring degrees for jobs that hadn’t needed them before, and degrees aren’t needed to do the work… I think it was a combination of incompetence, they didn’t know how to do a real candidate evaluation, and discrimination, trying to weed out people who didn’t have the resources to get a degree. :p
            I got my job because I’ve been working in my field since the 90’s. There weren’t any degrees in it when I started. Now one of the expensive colleges is advertising degree programs. Blah.

    6. Ellex*

      One of the absolute dumbest people I’ve ever met in my life had 2 Master’s and was working on a third. One was MBA and the other two weren’t super easy fields, either. She was good at school…that’s about all I can say she was good at.

      1. BronzeFire*

        Yup. I once had a coworker who spoke three languages, had two masters degrees, and she’d get mad when I’d gently point out to her that she had put several nonfiction books in the fiction section and vice versa. As a smart person, and having worked with many smart and not so smart people, I’ve started deliberately choosing kindness more often (in my actions and those with whom I surround myself). OP, enjoy the show and save up stories for when you’re among decent humans again.

      2. Justin*

        My coworker – with my same job title, though I’m our project lead – tells me all the time about her MBA that somehow doesn’t help her reach competence.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        My husband was fond of saying that having a degree only proves you know how to pass a test. It does not mean you can actually do something. He got his BS and had no interest in going further.

    7. Overeducated*

      Or sheer stubbornness! I went to a fully funded graduate program, so it was like a low-paying job with benefits. I maintain that some of the smartest people I knew across multiple departments were the ones who left before completing PhDs, because they were smart and flexible enough to see and walk through other doors. The computer science department had one of the highest rates of attrition, because people were getting job offers that paid better than the research jobs they’d get after finishing the PhD, or starting their own companies. Those of us who stayed…well, I’m not sure it actually reflects well on our intelligence.

    8. Bulbasaur*

      But, there are also people for whom one of the reasons to pursue an advanced degree is because they think it will prove they are smarter than everyone else. And once they have invested a lot of time, money and effort into that idea, it can be remarkably hard to budge, no matter how little it is supported by actual experience.

      They may even, for example, band together with a group of like-minded people in a company that includes the idea as one of the fundamental elements of its culture, then bring in a few token less-educated people so that they can spend all day tormenting them to feel superior. To take a purely hypothetical example.

      I like Alison’s advice, and I would add that it might also be useful to have someone to vent to about this and give you a reality check, just to make sure you don’t end up devaluing yourself due to repeated exposure to this kind of thing. Someone that can listen sympathetically to your work stories and commiserate with you about how nuts they all are could be a big help. If you can find a way to make them funny it could even be enjoyable for them as well.

    9. Double A*

      Isn’t this the entire moral of the Scarecrow’s quest?

      “Back where I come from we have universities, seats of great learning– where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts — and with no more brains than you have…. But! They have one thing you haven’t got! A diploma!”

    10. Just Play A Doctor On TV*

      Truth. Only 38% of black students complete their masters program compared to 62-63% for white and asian students, so I’d be pretty amazed if this workplace had much in the way of diversity.

    11. Cascadia*

      Yes! And they had the privilege to even go to college. If you think about the sheer force of will and luck and circumstance it takes to rise out of situations of extreme poverty it has little to do with intelligence. And if you have all the privilege and money and luck due to the circumstances of your birth, you better believe you’re going to get into college, no matter what your IQ, if that is a desired outcome.

  5. Introvert girl*

    Next time the’re telling you that teapots contain tea, just answer: “I have no idea why you’re telling me this. Are there really people in this company that assume teapots contain coffee?”. Don’t het angry when they make these kind of comments, just look them in the face and say: “This is a very odd thing to say”. And yes, treat them as if you were an antropologist.

    1. 1.0*

      +1 for “what an odd thing to say”.

      For me, I always think of clever cutting remarks after the fact and then beat myself up for not being quick enough on the uptake; a go-to stock phrase can be a really powerful tool for making yourself feel in control and for returning awkwardness to sender. Practice saying it at home until you can sound entirely neutral, if you can.

      1. OP*

        Oh, I would love to but last time it happened I was so surprised I said “uhhh thanks?” in my least professional tone and got reamed for “not accepting help” later. Then it was brought up as an example of how I don’t ask for help (?!).

          1. valentine*

            OP, if you think you need to stay for a year to avoid looking like a job-hopper, that’s a myth. Even if it weren’t, abuse is a stellar reason to press the eject button.

            1. Celeste*

              TRUTH. In effect the job was not as described, and as such was a bad fit. You can say you left because you wanted work more in line with your skills. No need to say that the job turned out to be for a chew toy!

          2. Chinookwind*

            Ditto. Your coworkers and managers are looking for a bullying target and zeroed in on you. Start looking for another job before this place warps you.

          3. Game of Drones*

            I think this is the best advice.

            OP, your colleagues had the wherewithal to get credentials. But they have failed at being human beings.

            BTW, the smartest people I know are college dropouts. Then there’s Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs…

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          Evil bees! Gah! These people just want to bully someone. And listen – nothing about you caused you to be the one singled out. It was just luck of the draw. You didn’t cause it. There is nothing wrong with you.

          Take comfort in the fact that they all probably have six figures of student debt. And are jerks.

          1. RVA Cat*

            These people are so Chaotic Evil that it’s possible they deliberately hired the OP as a bullying target – and somehow they are shocked, shocked! the chew-toy position has such high turnover….

            Also, who has so much free time in their job they can waste an hour yelling at anybody?!

        2. TeapotDetective*

          Yikes. Your job isn’t just full of bees, it’s full of freaking wasps. Get out as soon as you can.
          I’m sorry you’re going through this. You are not the problem and you deserve better.

        3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          Oh good lord OP… this place sounds like a nightmare.

          Honestly, I’m an “Ok.. you ticked the degree box… good for you, now show me what you can do and get results” The people you work with sound like jackasses. (hmm apparently I’m having a blunt day). I’d say get out of this place as soon as you can. You’re never going to be happy there.

        4. Symplicite*

          Oh, OP, you have my sympathies. What a situation to be in.

          One way that you may get around getting reamed out by your comments to their pointless “helpfulness” is to turn it around. Something like:
          “Thank you for pointing that out to me. To help me learn in the future, can you give me some pointers/cues that I can use in this instance? I don’t want to bother you with this task/inquiry/whatever.”

          This plays right into their ego and stupidity in thinking that you’re dumb as a rock (you’re not!), and it shows them that you’re “eager to learn/accept help”.

          You’re not going to change them into thinking that you’re a smart, capable, person. What you can do is kill them with kindness at their own game.

          Just a thought.

        5. Catleesi*

          OP – these people are unreasonable and irredeemable a-holes. They are bullies, and the only thing you should take away from these interactions is a sense of relief that you are a better person. I’m sorry that circumstances are preventing you from being able to look for a new position right now, but I hope you find something as soon as you are able. You are doing nothing wrong, and deserve so much better.

        6. MM*

          Yeah, unless it’s some kind of life or death thing (I don’t know, you’re moving cross country in six months so there’s no time to get something else between now and then), don’t put in those six months. It’s not worth it.

        7. Not So NewReader*

          This people are a massive fail at Kindness 101.

          OP, I am spitting nails here on your behalf.
          Work does not have to be this hard, OP. It just doesn’t.

    2. Midlife Tattoos*

      Or, “Sorry, I am not seeing what’s funny about my question.” And then just stay silent

      Or, “Sorry, did you roll your eyes at me? ” And then just say silent

      Hand all that awkwardness back.

      1. Midlife Tattoos*

        And the ‘sorry’ is there to put a legit confused spin on it. Like, ‘sorry, did I misunderstand or are you a complete asshole for reals?”

    3. SeluciaMD*

      I love this suggestion! Give it back to them OP, but with a level of class and integrity they clearly lack.

    4. sofar*

      All this! Plus, one thing I’ve learned in responding to man-splainers may work here, too. When they tell you something obvious, say, “Correct!”

      Them: “Teapots contain tea.”
      You: “Correct!”

      Them: “OK let me show you how to do this thing you have already demonstrated you know how to do. OK, the first step is XYX.”
      You: “Correct!”

      Doesn’t work for mean comments, but that’s where “what an odd thing to say” comes in.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        “Of course” also works if you need to shake things up a bit :)

        Alternate variations can include:
        “That’s what I’ve always found”
        “Typically, yes”
        “huh, you say that like you’ve run into people that aren’t aware of that”

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          Extra points for pronouncing ‘Obviously’ in a completely deadpan, withering fashion, like Alan Rickman as Snape.

      2. raktajino*

        Oooh, I like this. I’m envisioning it playing out like you’re in fact helping THEM: Yup, good job, now what’s your next step?

        1. As Close As Breakfast*

          I like this, too! I’m totally using it and aiming for a ‘Correct!’ that obviously implies I’m congratulating them on getting something I definitely-absolutely-positively-already-knew right.

        2. Tau*

          I like this turn-around a lot, although OP’s colleagues sound so blatantly malicious that I don’t think any of it will go over well (OP: if you can, run like the wind).

  6. AdAgencyChick*

    This is horrible.

    I once had a job where my boss believed in me despite my lack of an advanced degree, but then she quit and was replaced by someone who really looked down on me for it. I would joke about having a degree from the School of Hard Knocks — after all, I had more than 10 years of experience by the time I worked for her — but she wasn’t having it.

    OP, does your boss at least support you? Is she the person who hired you? If yes, then presumably she hired you because she believes your expertise gained by experience is as valuable, if not more so, than whatever expertise the snobs have. Do you have a relationship with your boss yet where you can ask her to help you with this? If I hired someone to bring an outsider’s perspective and I found out that person were being bullied the way you are, I’d be livid and would be speaking either directly to the offenders or to their managers to get them to cut it out.

    Of course, even if your boss supports you, the two of you together may not be able to change a deep-seated culture of snobbery, in which case Alison’s advice 1000% applies.

    I have to wonder whether these people are treating you as they are because they’re afraid that your hiring represents a change the organization wants to make toward rewarding work experience over advanced degrees.

    1. OP*

      Sadly no, my boss is the owner and this attitude has come from him and trickled down the company. I genuinely don’t know why he hired me. I brought up a number of examples, like being screamed at for an hour on the phone or seeing people roll their eyes when I spoke and he said feedback was helpful (?!) and I should take it on board. And don’t take it personally because they’re just




      The junior staff are lovely, but this attitude is entrenched in the management team.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        Well. It’s helpful in that you can learn something from it, I guess. But that “something” you learn is that you’re working with awful people, sadly. Don’t be afraid to be seen as a job-hopper. It’s more important to get out fast, while you still have your self-esteem intact. I left an abusive workforce (actually got fired, thankfully — it was terrible at the time, but I was so, so grateful to be out of there once I got over the shock), and I do think it’s had a significant impact on my behavior & expectations at my current job (although I’m glad to say I’m getting better). It’ll be harder to trust your teammates & your boss at your next job after so much time getting ground into the floor at this one.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          Not saying quit on the spot, obviously, but ramp that job search up to 100 if at all possible! It’s too easy to talk about looking for work and not really do it, or not really do it with devotion. Especially when you’re exhausted by your daily job. I know this probably doesn’t tell you much that you don’t already know — I wish we could do more for you… Please do your best to detach & endure & get out!

        2. Sandman*

          I agree (and had a similar experience to ChimericalOne years ago as well). I have a handful of shorter gigs on my resume because of circumstances that aren’t all that interesting, and after maybe three it seemed like it raised eyebrows but didn’t make life or getting hired impossible. Unless you have a significant string of shorter-term jobs, this is worth leaving quickly – and honestly, given how lasting the emotional effects of being treated so poorly can be, it might be worth putting in the rearview mirror even if you do have a history of leaving places quickly.

        3. Michaela Westen*

          I had a job working for an abusive person during the recession. I stayed for five years. What got me through was good supportive colleagues.
          OP, is there anyone in your office who is supportive? Maybe some of the staff? If so, see if they can help you through.
          Another thing that helped me was doing my favorite social events and hobbies. Having something fun to look forward to makes a huge difference!
          During my last year with the bad boss my remaining colleague left, and the boss tried to make me quit. I had been looking for a job for 3 years, but it was coming out of the recession.
          She laid me off (thank God!) when I was on the verge of quitting without a job lined up.
          Hmm… If OP makes honest responses to these monsters, maybe they’ll decide she’s not working out and let her go?

      2. cookies*

        Wow. What a bunch of forks.

        I have a total of 5 years of college and no degree, and no one has ever held it over my head like this. I’m so sorry you’re having to go through this! Good luck getting out!

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I feel bad for the junior staff, tbh. What is it like to be managed by a swarm of bees? I can only imagine!

      4. Princess Loopy*

        The management team sounds like a bunch of people who are really, really pissed that no one cares what your SAT scores were after you graduate from high school (if they even cared before then). People like this are No Fun at Parties, and apparently they’re miserable to work with as well.

        I hope you get out soon with your self esteem intact, OP.

        A Person Who Has the Advanced Degrees Your Coworkers Revere for No Reason but Doesn’t Use Them in Her Job but Is Still Paying for Them Anyway and Sincerely Wishes She Could Use That Money for Something Else Each Month so Maybe Probably YOU Are the Smart One ;)

        1. Chinookwind*

          Cosigned by an overqualified serial office worker who happens to like a slower pace of work and enjoys figuring out the exact moment any new boss figures out how educated and experienced she really is and then panics that she will leave because she is bored and underpaid for her education (but not the position).

          True, there are times when I have wanted to hang my university degree behind the reception desk to stop the condescension, but I just remind myself that I get to see what type of people these educated idiots really are.

      5. AKchic*

        Personally, they have taught you that they are snobs. They may be papered, but they can take those fancy papers and wipe their backsides for all the good it does them.
        Truly intelligent people don’t alienate others and flaunt their “smarts” like it’s something that makes them better than others. There are a variety of different intelligences out there, and they are exhibiting none.

        I have no degrees. I have no higher education at all. I am a high school (freshman) drop-out with a GED and a few vocational classes under my belt and a whole lot of extra-curricular reading in my free time.
        To look and hear me, you would not guess it. I hold my own in meetings, run my own non-profit, volunteer at other non-profits, work with many different organizations and still work a day job. Not bad for the uneducated underachiever from a poor, working class family.

        Brush up that resume and start looking around. You may find something so much better.

      6. Drew*

        How smart can they be if they’ll willing to run off a talented, eager employee just to win a dissertation-measuring contest?

        1. Shoes on My Cat*

          Dissertation measuring contest!!! Snort laugh!! I have a friend going for her PhD and I’m working this into our next conversation

      7. Wherehouse Politics*

        Screaming doesn’t sound like a typical characteristic of someone so, so smart and educated . Sounds like a toddler who doesn’t know how to effectively communicate, is emotionally immature ( which is right on normal for a toddler ) and lashes out. I can’t imagine screaming for an hour imparts much useful information. Most screaming rants may have a small germ of facts, but most of it is just verbal shit flinging ( literal monkey behavior when angry and frustrated).

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Coping tool: OP, remember screaming is a way of saying, “I don’t know how to handle this situation because it is beyond the scope of my abilities.”
          You see a screaming person then you are looking at someone who believes they are in a situation beyond their abilities.

      8. Jules the 3rd*

        Evil Bees. Run. Think really hard about the reasons why you can’t leave for 6mo, and see if there’s any option that will let you leave anyway. If it’s the fear of job-hopping, 1) that only kicks in after the 2nd (or 3rd) short term job and 2) there’s ways to address that in interviews, like ‘I didn’t understand the emphasis CurrentJob placed on formal educational background, so I didn’t understand the cultural mismatch before taking the job. Having been there a few months, I now see I am not a good cultural fit. Can you tell me more about how your company [does some managerial thing that could be a result of this emphasis, like ‘assesses skills’]? ‘

        Find something Good Enough fast, stay for a couple of years, then do a long careful search and find something Great you can be at for 4 – 5 years. The Great job probably won’t even ask about EvilBees.

      9. LibraryMan*

        They are *not* smart. They are attempting to virtue-signal, and in the process, revealing just how little virtue they have.

        Please remain who you are. The world already has enough of *them*.

      10. TootsNYC*

        I think it would be OK to say, “Smart people can still use their manners.”

        I love the idea from Busy upstream about not caring if they fire you.

        If you can get to that mind-set (and sending out resumés and restarting that job search immediately can help), then just start getting snippy back.

        Maybe yell back.
        When someone starts to yell, yell back: “Don’t you raise your voice at me!”
        And maybe even say, once or twice, “I don’t care about your fucking degree–you can be polite at work.”

        Practice some of THOSE phrases. And maybe tell your boss, “People are rude here–maybe you’ve never worked anywhere normal, but this is out of line, and I’m not going to take it anymore. I don’t care how smart they are–I’m smart too, and smart people can still have some manners. I’ll start using mine again once they’ve gotten their act together.”
        Maybe throw in a “goddamn” in front of “manners,” if you think it’ll make you look a lot less nice.

        Because the whole “pushing back on a bully can make them stop” is a real thing. It’s not an accident that the world is full of stories of people who punched the bully and suddenly he didn’t bother them anymore.

        I’ve personally done it verbally–gone on a direct attack in self-defense–and had it make people back down or dial it back.

        There’s also the superior chuckle and the amused smile. Practice this one too.

        And restart that job hunt!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          “I don’t care about your fn degree, when I can see you absolutely failed kindness when you were in kindergarten and never fixed that.” /snark. Do not actually say this.

          1. Pebbles*

            A little less confrontational, but still snarky and gets the point across is to say offhandedly, “Ya know, it’s okay to be smart AND kind.”

        2. aebhel*

          I wouldn’t yell back. I would say it very coldly and unapologetically. And if they keep yelling, just hang up the phone or walk away. Warn them once, and then do it. You do not need to be treated like this.

          And yes, please, start job-hunting IMMEDIATELY.

        3. boop the first*

          I agree. Bullies prefer easy prey. That’s why they don’t bully each OTHER. Each one of them probably went through this until they realized that it’s easier if they mimic the bully because bullies can’t mess with equals. Just watch out that OP doesn’t go too far in the wrong direction. Don’t bite coworkers, I guess.

      11. NotAnotherManager!*

        I wish I had a more positive take, but I see no other option to job searching as quickly as you can. You owe these people no loyalty, and they are the problem, not you.

        Please, please do not let these loons take out a hit on your self-esteem. They are the problem, not you. I hope they never want to work anywhere other than where they are now because even my snobby law firm would not be okay with the treatment you are describing – everyone here plays a valuable role in client service, and eye rolling, screaming, or ridiculing people would be a fairly unpleasant meeting with HR or, for a higher-level attorney, the managing partner or e-board. People do not want to work for assholes (clients don’t like working with assholes either), and they need those people to provide top-tier service to clients.

      12. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Flip the script.
        “OP, we are discussing teapots. They are what our clients use for tea.”
        “Yes, teapots are used for tea. I’m pretty clear on that. So, is there another use for them that I don’t know about? Is there something else that can be used for tea?”
        “No, I wanted to make sure you understood.”
        “I understand the purpose of our product.”
        “Well, it seems…”
        don’t say a damn word. let them fizzle out.
        and finish with, “so, again, teapots are for tea.”

        1. I Write the Things*

          I like this one, if you keep it light, because I’m always partial to killing them with kindness.

          For example, I have a friend with a PhD who teaches in her (at times high stress) subject and previously worked in the field. For a long time, at least once a semester she’d expect knowledge or unprompted action from her students because, after a lifetime doing her job, whatever she expected seemed basic and obvious to her. But if those expectations weren’t met during a high stress time, she would get snappish or even angry. When I was working with her on one of these projects (I sometimes contract with the University in a specific role) and she was frustrated like that, I found I could diffuse the situation by just jumping in and saying, “Okay, what do you need me to do right now?” I didn’t have to be a jerk about it, and the calm offer of help made her realize that she WAS being a jerk and reminded her that not everyone does this stuff on autopilot. She would apologize and explain what she needed in a calmer way. I accidently stumbled on that solution early on, and on the rare occasion she gets frustrated these days it still works every time.

          Hey Karma’s strategy feels similar to me in that you are asking what they need from you – in this case, what they need you to know – and your reasonableness only highlights their lack of it. And asking those questions makes it much harder for your boss to say that you aren’t accepting or asking for help.

          1. I Write the Things*

            Just wanted to add, I’m all about shifting the problem back onto the person who is trying to put it on you. In this case, you’re making their assumptions about relative intelligence make THEM look stupid for assuming – which I think we can all agree it’s a much better representation of the truth in this case.

        2. Blergl*

          I just realized that I do that instinctively when someone starts either:
          1. Explaining the very basics of something i am asking about when i want nuance.
          2. Starts explaining the wrong thing entirely because they started making their sentences to answer me right after I started talking.

      13. Properlike*

        “I’m so glad you find feedback important. Here’s mine.”

        OP, I’m thinking back to many work bullies like this. In each case, when I’d Finally had enough and clearly drew a boundary by saying, “No, you will not treat me like this” (a fact, not a request), every time they backed down. Of course, you have to be ready to walk. But I never had to, though should have, and got better/less a-hole treatment from the bully and a lot of respect from other people. Draw your line. Sounds like you’ve got nothing to lose with these people. And remember Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

        1. Lilysparrow*

          I have used the phrase, “I will not be spoken to this way” on more than one bully boss.

          Haven’t been fired yet. It didn’t make the job good, but each time it did achieve a noticeable reduction in assholery, enough to tolerate riding it out till something better came along.

      14. Annette*

        Toxic leaders create toxic environments. You are the only one new enough to have common sense. Very sad situation.

      15. jb*

        Some of the dumbest people I’ve ever worked with had the fanciest advanced level degrees from the fanciest schools. They also, I’m sure not coincidentally, were usually the rudest, the least self-aware, and the most likely to go out of their way to make other people feel stupid. No one who really knows their stuff should find it eye-rollingly difficult to explain what their talking about in a manner that makes sense to reasonably intelligent colleagues.

        To your boss who suggested that laughing is a form of feedback: feedback is only helpful if it is communicated effectively. Laughing is not feedback. Screaming is not feedback. Is it worth approaching him again to point out that this kind of feedback is not constructive and will not help you improve?

        You are smart enough for this. You’re a good communicator and you sound like a good colleague. Those are important skills to bring to the office.

        1. Not unambitious*

          “Some of the dumbest people I’ve ever worked with had the fanciest advanced level degrees from the fanciest schools.”

          And some of the smartest people I’ve worked with also have degrees from leading schools.

          Being smart or well-credentialed does not justify being a jerk. OP’s colleagues are indeed being jerks. None of that makes your anti-intellectualism OK.

          1. MonkeySeeMonkeyDo*

            You know, all the intellectual prowess in the world won’t help you out nearly as much as learning how to read the room.

            Just a thought!

            1. Constanze*

              Right… cause humans cured polio, understood evolution or quantum theory and wrote The Divine Comedy by reading the room…

            2. Not unambitious*

              Perish the thought that leaning some history or anthropology or cognitive science might help you to learn how to read a room.

              1. RKMK*

                Perish the thought that a lot of people who don’t study those fields are just as equipped (or better-equipped) to do that IRL than the people who do.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            Literally nothing in their comment was anti-intellectual. It was anti-dumb-people-who-think-they-are-super-smart.

            1. jb*

              Certainly not intended to be anti-intellectual. Appreciate your comment.

              I’ve worked with plenty of great, smart people who went to fancy schools and got fancy degrees. I was referring specifically to those who wield their education like a cudgel to appear superior, and look silly in the process.

          3. RKMK*

            Not unambitious, you seem to be taking some of these comments very personally. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. If the problem is that you’re afraid the shoe might actually fit, it might be in your best interest to understand how you might be treating and/or coming across to people.

      16. RVA Cat*

        Ugh. By no means all company owners are little tin gods, but this one fits that profile. He’s even got cultists!

      17. ... cats and dogs*

        Please look for a new job! I think it is ok to say the job was not what you were expecting or how it was represented or something like that. Don’t bad mouth them but I think it’s ok to say the managerial role is not as upper level as you were expecting so you are not doing what you believed you would be doing. It’s all true!

      18. Sacred Ground*

        I’d like to reiterate what others have said: you do NOT have to stay there. One short stint at a job doesn’t make you a job hopper, multiple sequential short stints does. Start looking NOW and leave as soon as you get another offer. And on your way out, tell them exactly why you’re leaving, because of the constant disrespect and abuse. Give no notice, they’ve earned that.

        Don’t even worry about a reference from them. The way they’re treating you now, do you suppose they’ll suddenly start singing your praises as a reference?

      19. C Baker*

        I don’t know how you resist the urge to laugh in his face and go “Oh, honey, you don’t really expect me to believe that, do you?”

  7. iglwif*

    Wow, OP.

    At the beginning of your letter, I was sympathetic: I too have worked mostly in contexts where most people have more degrees than I do (I have a BA and never went back to school after that because you know what’s really great? Earning money doing a job you like), and my family is another such context. I was thinking, “Man, OP, I’ve been there! Don’t let impostor syndrome grind you down–you’re not less smart just cos you have fewer letters after your name!”

    And then I kept reading, and my reaction changed from sympathy to FLAMES. FLAMES ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE.

    These are HORRIBLE PEOPLE. (And I have a hard time believing this is a productive workplace, too.) Having to work with them is going to keep on being horrible. I believe you when you say you can’t leave for 6 months but I also really truly believe that the best thing you can do for your mental health and future success is to start job searching immediately.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      It’s especially horrible because the OP is still fairly new to both the company and the industry. It’s normal to have questions about both!

  8. Observer*

    OP, the first thing you need to realize is that these people are NOT anywhere near as smart as they think they are. In fact, I’d say that their culture and behavior is MASSIVELY stupid. And anyone who spends time there and then moves on to a different place is going to be in for a massive shock.

    When you get an eye-roll or snide remark instead of an answer can you reply in an icy talking to a naughty child tone “Could you please answer the question so we can actually get work done?” And when someone starts in on you, can you either cut in and interrupt them or just walk out?

    And any time you start wondering about yourself because of these folks, ask yourself how smart could someone be if they think that spending an hour berating someone for an hour is a good use of time. In other words, these people have neither the decency nor the sense to make their opinion of you at all meaningful.

    And lots of luck in finding a better job with decent people!

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I agree, at this point it sounds to me like OP has so little to lose (she is already determined to leave as soon as possible, and it sounds like relations are barely civil as is) that I think she should give herself permission to be extremely direct. “Are you seriously laughing at a legitimate question being raised in a meeting?” “I’m sorry, why are you talking to me like that?” “Please let me finish my point before you interject.” “Natasha is being very rude and I don’t think being clever has anything to do with it.” I doubt you’ll snap them out of it, but at least you’ll feel like you set boundaries and stood up for yourself.

      1. SeluciaMD*

        This times a million. If people are going to behave like this they’ve surrendered any claim they had to the high ground or to a level of pleasant interaction I’d say you’d normally work to achieve with co-workers. They are mother forking shirtballs and deserve none of your respect or consideration.

        Channel your inner CJ Cregg – corralling an unruly press corps, smacking down Taylor Reid, managing an arrogant Secretary of Defense – take your pick. YOU CAN DO THIS. I think I speak for everyone in the AAM commentariat when I say we all support you!!!

    2. BRR*

      I was coming to say something along the lines of your first paragraph. These people sound like they have huge, and underserved, egos. In my experience, people who try to constantly tell you how smart they are aren’t the smartest people in the room. It’s the people who don’t try and force it down your throat because they let their intelligence speak for itself (and typically don’t treat education or knowledge like a pissing contest).

      At times, it might be helpful to remind that you’re a subject matter expert in X, not Y. (I might also flex that muscle from time to time if you can to remind them that they don’t know everything).

      1. Charamei*

        I believe there’s a Discworld quote to the effect of, “Granny Weatherwax was the cleverest witch in Lancre. Except possibly Nanny Ogg, but if so, Nanny Ogg was too clever to let on.”

    3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      “That is not an appropriate way to speak to me.”

      I picked that phrase up from an elementary school teacher, and it has the same effect on adults that it has on third graders.

    4. DaffyDuck*

      I have met a large number of very smart people in my life (mostly academia and medicine, plus – I’m old). The smartest people I know are kind and also have excellent people skills. These traits are usually much more efficient over the long term.
      Most degrees require enough money to go to school and decent work ethic but are lousy at teaching problem-solving skills (yes, I’m looking at folks with research degrees!) and don’t at all measure collaborative ability. Some people are just jackasses, they tend to herd together so they don’t get called out on their actions.
      I suggest you start looking for another job ASAP, and if they ask why you are leaving (doubtful) let them know their culture stinks.

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      Yeah, with the yelling, maybe stand up and “Wow, you seem so upset. I’ll check back in with you for the answer when you’ve calmed down.”
      (walk away, do some work and some self-care)
      Check back 1hr or so later.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Exactly. I am fortunate that I’ve only been really screamed at once in my professional career (for something someone else did!), and this was exactly what I told the yeller, except I told him he could come and find me when he was ready to discuss the issue in a calmer tone. Which he did rather sheepishly and with a sincere apology about 15 minutes later.

      2. aebhel*

        Yep. Make them feel awkward about behaving this way, not powerful. Screaming at someone who cowers and apologizes is a power trip; screaming at someone who looks at you like you just took a dump on the conference table is considerably less satisfying.

    6. TootsNYC*

      an icy talking to a naughty child tone

      I’d like to share a phrase that often helps me feel stronger in slightly confrontational situations like this:

      Channel your inner daycare worker.

      Think about a really good daycare worker, and what mindset they are in.

      The daycare worker expects bad behavior from the children, and doesn’t take it personally.
      They recognize this bad behavior as being developmentally appropriate, and caused completely by the fears, worries, and inner turmoil of the children. Or by their lack of skill in communication.
      The daycare worker never allows the child’s misbehavior to derail them from their sense of being the adult.

      (Now, your boss doesn’t seem to actually want to give you any authority, but think of your own sense of confidence as inviolate)

  9. Cassandra*

    Sometimes a thing that happens with Certified Smart People ™ is that they get very, very threatened whenever someone who doesn’t have an analogous Smartness Certification ™ to theirs is also smart. Such people resort to scorn and dismissiveness to maintain their self-perceived difference in Smartness Status. This situation smells like that.

    OP, if I’m right, you’re not getting this static from them because you’re not smart, but because you clearly ARE. Regardless, these people are horrendous and your best recourse is a new job.

    1. Introvert girl*

      This. They know you are smart and they feel threatened. Which means they themselves are not smart.

    2. irene adler*

      And OP has accomplishments- a career and skill set and proven ability to survive out there in the real world. If one day all were dropped into a strange city and expected to survive, OP would be the only one to make it. On some level, they might realize this.

      I work with folks with advanced degrees, Ph.Ds and the like. They are not like this. In fact, the ones here are a little less “worldly” because they spent so much time in the books (and the lab) and not out in the real world, working for a living. We all have our talents and abilities; no one is above another because of the number of degrees one holds.

      These folks are clowns.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Yeah, I’ve been around a lot of smart people, including large numbers of Certified Smart People TM, and this is more my experience.

        OP’s problem is that one toxic person has been collecting toxic people (and training toxic people), the “Smart!” thing is just the excuse.

    3. Dagny*

      Rather, they aren’t quite as smart as they would like to be, and are taking it out on the OP. I’ve known some extraordinarily talented people, and they are too busy killing it to treat people like dirt.

      Dunning-Kruger. It’s a thing.

      1. Cassandra*

        Slightly (only slightly) more charitably, they can be the sort of person who thinks that smartness in one area automatically means smartness in all areas, and they don’t like the realization that they don’t in fact know everything about everything, even though they think they’re supposed to.

        I’ve met people like this, and wow, they can be sad sacks. But they are also quite commonly flagrantly abusive to those who threaten their illusions of omniscience, and there’s no excuse for that.

        1. Dagny*

          My own bias is from an experience that repeats itself rather frequently. I am critical of a lot of the ways higher ed operates these days, and that criticism comes from my own experiences in higher ed.

          Whenever I discuss problems with American higher ed, elite admissions, etc., with people who do not know my background, it is inevitable that the people who are the most condescending are the ones who have gone to a mediocre school and obtained a nondescript degree. They look down on anyone who hasn’t been to college or gotten a degree, largely because they know that they are separated more by credentials than anything else.

          Maybe I hang with a very self-selected group (a real possibility), but most everyone I know who is really at the top has a good deal of humility, largely from having spent time with people with deep expertise in areas they themselves lack.

    4. JanetM*

      Many years ago I read an essay on the difference between Happy Smart Kids and Unhappy Smart Kids. It was along the lines of (heavily paraphrased from memory):

      Happy Smart Kids conversation
      Person 1: “I just learned this cool fact about Lithuania!”
      Person 2: “I never knew that! I know this other cool fact about Poland.”
      Person 3: “My great-grandmother was Lithuanian and she used to make the best cookies ever.”
      Person 1: “My grandmother wasn’t much of a baker, but she made the most amazing holiday meals.”

      Unhappy Smart Kid conversation
      “I bet I’m the smartest person in the room! We should all take this trivia quiz to see who’s the smartest! What do you mean I’m not the smartest? You must have cheated!”

      1. Wherehouse Politics*

        Yes, one of my many varied jobs over the decades was an afterschool art program. One of the brightest and talented students put more of her mental energy into ranking classmates, finding innovative ways to say cutting and discouraging comments to them, and trying to maintain some invisible crown of Most Talented Artist, than actually making art. I felt bad for her, especially as you can guess didn’t have a happy home life.
        I gave her time, attention, guidance and materials when she wasn’t acting like an ass, but banned her from the class ( on a day to day basis) when she started in her nasty alpha brat games. I knew enough sick, swollen inflammatory egos in adults in the college and beyond in the art scenes that enable disfunctional toxicity and I wasn’t going to let that start in my classroom.

    5. Phoenix Programmer*

      this. And it also sounds like maybe Opie was brought in as a change agent? But then wasn’t given any authority or backing to implement the changes. Kind of the worst of both worlds.

    6. Djuna*

      This times a hundred.
      I bet they all include every single certification they have in their email signatures too. When I see an alphabet soup email signature being used at work it tends to be an indication that the sender is deeply insecure and flinging initials at people so they can look smart. OP seems to have landed in the dream environment for that type, which is a nightmare for just about anyone else.
      They are not smart, OP. They are jackasses who would (as others have pointed out) get brought into line in any healthy work environment. Get gone as soon as you can, and bring your good self to a place that deserves you.

    7. Clay on my apron*

      These Certified Smarties are probably threatened that Someone Different has been brought in. That would have been preceded by management’s realisation that the existing SCs lack the competencies that the company needed. SCs are no longer top dog and who knows, even more of these interlopers might be brought in. Etc. Bunch of self absorbed losers.

  10. Human Sloth*

    OP, bless your heart.
    If you are leaving after the six months, I would start calling the behaviors and comments out. High education does not always = good manners. I liked your comment/question “Since when were clever people exempt from being kind?” They may have 3 degrees, but they missed etiquette school.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’d suggest turning the comment around a little bit though, for effect: “Clever people can still be kind. Natasha was not behaving professionally.”

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        “Clever people can still find ways to communicate well” might be better than ‘kind’. I don’t get the impression that ‘kind’ is going to be high on the priority list, or an effective shaming tool. Stick to the professional impact without emotional impact, unfortunately.

        1. Sacred Ground*

          Or even “Being clever isn’t the same thing as being professional. Treating coworkers with courtesy and respect is the bare minimum of professionalism. For all her cleverness, it’s surprising she doesn’t know that.”

    2. iglwif*

      Yeah, this idea that if you possess some kind of Certificate of Acceptable Smartness(tm) you’re exempt from basic norms of politeness and professionalism is SO WEIRD.

      In this case it’s not even about being kind (although I personally think kindness is undervalued and should be encouraged in general), it’s about acting like adults. I have been thinking about this letter since I first read it and the more I think about it the less I understand how anyone is getting anything done in this environment! How do you accomplish anything if nobody can ask questions for fear of being mocked? What kinds of business decisions are being made by people who think it’s reasonable to yell at someone for an hour??

  11. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

    My previous church employer put a LOT of stock in advanced degrees, and they did look down on those who did not have any. I was told by one associate pastor that when he obtained his degree after working there for some time, it did make a difference in how he was treated. However, to those with lesser education, they didn’t overtly treat us badly… though they did treat us badly for other reasons.

    The people you work with are just too full of themselves.

  12. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

    OP, why do you “have to stay there”? Did you sign a contract or something? They may have some weird notion that you “owe” them because they gave you a job. If this is the case, then you don’t “owe” them anything.

      1. Augusta Sugarbean*

        (Mr.) Cajun2core didn’t say “you should just leave”, he asked for clarification. We’ve seen plenty of people here who feel guilt about quitting and think they maybe “can’t” leave, or think their managers can refuse to accept their resignation, or have the wrong information in some other way. This whole website is about getting other people’s perspectives. It’s especially important to get a reality check when things are as dire as they are here.

    1. OP*

      I have to stay for serious financial issues, plus my last job only lasted 8 months. You’re right, I don’t owe them anything but leaving now would cripple me and my family.

      1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

        I am very sorry to hear that. I can fully understand why you can’t leave until you have something else lined up and why you don’t want to leave so quickly even if you had a job lined up because you would look like a job-hopper.

      2. Alexis Rose*

        Could you start applying for other jobs so you’re not leaving with no salary? I don’t think that anyone would fault you for leaving a toxic work environment.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          I agree, I’m really concerned by some of what you’re saying in the comments about your boss, and it might be the best thing to be aggressively looking, if it’s the money that’s keeping you from leaving. Being let go is probably worse than job hopping.

          1. OP*

            I’m worried too, if I am fired, I am basically done. I’m applying for jobs but ideally, I’d be able to manage myself and my reactions in a way that allows me to a) not want to die and b) gets me to a year.

            1. Sloan Kittering*

              I don’t want to discourage you, but it’s not like getting through one year (without a strong reference, presumably) is a lot better …

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              One of my mother’s favorite sayings is, “Consider the source.”, and it’s good advice. If the source is some insecure jackass who can’t stand the idea that someone else may be just as smart as she is, their opinion isn’t worth much.

              Illegitimi non carborundum

            3. tangerineRose*

              I’m no expert, but I think a little job hopping would look better than getting fired. I hope you find a great job soon!

              These people are snobs and jerks. Also, they clearly aren’t smart enough to recognize that you were hired for a reason, you’re useful to the company, and you’ll leave a hole when you leave.

        2. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

          That is a good plan but they OP may (justifiably) be worried about looking like a job-hopper if (s)he leaves too soon.

          1. CatCat*

            I think that may be true, but why take yourself out of the running for opportunities that are out there just because some places may not give an interview?

            OP applies for a job A, hiring manager A decides not to interview because OP looks job hoppy. OP is in no worse position than she is now.

            OP applies for job B, hiring manager B decides OP has skills the company could use and calls for an interview. OP is in no worse position than she is now and has a real opportunity to improve her position sooner rather than later.

          2. smoke tree*

            I think the damage that a horrible job like this can do is more dangerous than the possibility of looking like a job-hopper. I’d be aggressively searching.

          3. Judy Johnsen*

            I think you are justified in leaving if it’s a hostile work environment. It is tough, but so is this.

        3. TootsNYC*

          at the very least, start looking now.
          For one thing, you were just looking–re-activate those contacts.
          For another, the act of looking will make you feel much more hopeful.
          And last, maybe you’ll be able to find something that will start right after that 6-month deadline you’ve given yourself.

          Also remember: you are 15 years in to your career. You don’t need to worry about looking like a job hopper. Heck you can leave this job off your resumé! You can frame it as a temporary assignment to the people you’re interviewing with.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            Also TBH last time I got a new job it took me forever so if you start looking with six months to go, you may have stayed a year anyway by the time you’re getting offers (or is that just me …)

            1. TootsNYC*

              no, it was me last time. Layoffs are looming where I am, and I’m thinking I’ll get tagged, and I need to be looking, but it took SO LONG last time, it’s a really demoralizing thing to ponder.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Excellent advice here, OP.
            Start looking now before you feel the hope inside you dying.

            1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

              Agreed. At first I was thinking that the OP should stick it out but after reading the comments, maybe a little job-hopping may not be that bad.

      3. Natalie*

        I’m a huge proponent of “you can always leave”, so I’m speaking with that bias, but I think it would be good for you to job search a little bit even if you’re confident that you can’t accept any new job for the next six months.

        I recently left a job that wasn’t as toxic as yours, but was not a good environment and was getting into my head in a bad way. I had also started there after another short stint and was worried about looking job hoppy. I ended up being there for a year before I found a new job but I was actively looking the entire time. I was being incredibly choosy about my next position, and turned down or withdrew from multiple opportunities because they weren’t right.

        Not being in a desperate hurry helped me assess the offers I was getting more objectively. Getting interviews, having good interview experiences, and getting offers shored up my self confidence. And overall, it was easier to feel detached from the crappy environment (until I put my notice in an heard everyone’s complaining for a month. But that’s neither here nor there.)

        You don’t know what’s out there and what it could do for you, until you look.

      4. Phoenix Programmer*

        Just so you know. 6 months will still look job hoppy. You may be better off job searching now and leaving this job completely off your resume as I doubt you will get a good reference.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          I think we’ve all mass over generalized the “never job hop” rule. If a job is making you miserable, job search. You may be able to find something, and if you’re able to secure an offer, well clearly job hopping didn’t hurt you too much. Staying in a miserable job for two-plus years may be worse (and it’s not like one year makes it okay, really). Plus you may be able to make equal money or a ton more . In a case like this, where people are being openly disrespectful and the situation seems to be unravelling, I really don’t think it can hurt to look!

      5. Dagny*

        You’re going to have to practise these phrases until they become automatic.

        If someone yells at you, condescends to you, etc.: “The way you are behaving right now is completely unprofessional. We can resume this conversation when you have collected yourself.”

        “Jane, I am aware that teapots hold tea. What I am not aware of is why you are wasting our meeting time with elementary information when my question was regarding “X”. If you do not have an answer for me at this time, please get that information to me by COB today.”

        “I was brought in here because Acme needs my skills in Y. I would suggest to you that the best thing for Acme is to let me do my job.”

        A final thought: if they really needed someone in your area, it’s possible that it’s a chronically underperforming functional group, and your team members are used to solving these problems on their own (despite not knowing anything about it). You’ll need to assert your right to manage these problems.

      6. Observer*

        So there is no legal or contractual reason for you to stay.

        In that case, is there any other reason you can’t start looking for a new job? Keep in mind that your work history extends beyond you last short job. So, you’re not really into job hopper territory yet.

      7. Quandong*

        OP I’m so sorry you are working with these nasty people. You don’t deserve to be treated in this appalling way.

        My suggestion is to seek support so you can keep perspective and not start to believe there’s something wrong with you or how you’re working.

        If you have access to counselling through an Employee Assistance Progam, please consider using it.
        If not, Captain Awkward has several posts about how to access no-or-low-cost mental health care.
        Best wishes for getting through this ordeal.

  13. RKMK*

    Hi, just chiming in as someone who worked for a “prestigious” university in a number of faculties for over a decade: there is often little-to-no correlation between number of degrees and intelligence, and certainly not between degrees and basic common sense, decency, or interpersonal skills.

    1. RKMK*

      Oh, and in my first job there, I was bullied for not having money or nice clothes by the vipers in that one department. It didn’t matter that I’d just graduated and the position’s job title and salary had been aggressively low-balled to get rid of an existing employee in a re-org. I had some real PTSD from that position – it was my first “real” job, and I had no idea why I’d been targeted like that. For years I read about workplace bullying and aside from concluding that some people just never grow out of high school, others attack (consciously or unconsciously) competent people on the team because they’re an ego or career threat.

      Just get out of there ASAP, OP, and document whatever you can, I’m not sure what your workplace harassment legislation is where you are, but look into it.

    2. Not unambitious*

      “Hi, just chiming in as someone who worked for a ‘prestigious’ university in a number of faculties for over a decade: there is often little-to-no correlation between number of degrees and intelligence”

      Firstly, let me say that I am sorry that your colleagues at some of those jobs treated you unkindly. I agree that all workplaces should ideally treat employees from all backgrounds with dignity.

      Second, however, I do want to ask what your basis is for saying the above. I’ve heard it in several places in this thread. The plural of “anecdote” is not data. Have you actually done a study that comes citations, patents, IQ scores, or whatever other measure of “intelligence” you chose, and then determined that there is no scientific correlation between that and number of degrees?

      If not, may I respectfully suggest that you, too, are being unkind and unfair to people who have put in the time to earn those degrees.

      1. aebhel*

        This is the most weirdly defensive response I could imagine to a pretty unobjectionable statement. People who put in time to earn advanced degrees are people who put in time to earn advanced degrees, and they deserve acknowledgement for their hard work. There’s no reason to assume that they’re more intelligent than people who haven’t. What they often are, given the way higher education functions in the U.S., is a lot more privileged.

      2. RKMK*

        I say that because I frequently dealt with grad students and faculty who frequently displayed, at turns, a complete lack of common sense, decency, or interpersonal skills, or indeed, “intelligence” beyond their subject matter. It is, of course, anecdata, though it was more of a personal longitudinal cross-disciplinary study where I would frequently overestimate the baseline expectations of all of these qualities and frequently get surprised otherwise. I would note that in my last field, medicine, there actually is frequent study of the matter of bullying and workplace harassment from doctors upon their support staff, for example.

        I am, by nature, an egalitarian, polite human being who treats all people with respect by default. It is because of that that I notice when others appear completely unable to do the same.

        1. Lager not bitter*

          It seems from your comments that you are the administrative person at some department in a university and that you are important as the nobel prize winning tenured professor who is also department chair. Thus your repeated insistence that “life experience is as important as school!” That is not how things work of course. Of course we should all treat each other with respect but that does not mean that life experience renders schooling invalid. You chose to work in a job in which you deal with graduate students. You cannot get a job in a teapot factory and then complain about how much you hate tea.

      3. Me*

        Ditto the weirdly defensiveness.

        As someone who has actually studied this for her background in Sociology there are actually lots of scientific studies out there. Education (not intelligence) is directly linked to socioeconomic status. Both coming and going. That is to say, not being poor is closely correlated to educational achievement, and having educational achievement helps with not being poor.

        No one is suggested there aren’t intelligent people with degrees. What they are very clearly saying is having a degree doesn’t necessarily mean you are the smartest person on earth and not having a degree doesn’t mean you’re an idiot deserving of derision.

        Further more there are oodles of educational studies on how the mass education system generally is pretty ok for reach the masses, but leaves a lot of people out who struggle to learn from the methods used.

        There are multiple kinds of intelligence. Who gets to decide that the only form of intelligence that matters is the kind that might result in a degree? A degree is a measure of having been able to afford and education and ability do the work necessary to achieve it. It may require a type of intelligence to achieve said degree as well.

    3. cncx*

      the most boneheaded no common sense idiot i have ever met in my life went to one of the best prep schools in the US, undergrad from an ivy, grad from another ivy. i’m so glad i learned young that there is no correlation at all, usually people like that just happen to have family money

      1. RKMK*

        yep! for example, there were a statistically significant amount of medical students in my program who were, weirdly enough, not just the children of doctors, but children of doctors in that very same university, and department! it was strange how that all worked out.

  14. Mobuy*

    “Since when were clever people exempt from being kind?”

    Must get my embroidery floss and a new pillow. Well said, OP.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Or even, given that this is an a work context, “Since when were clever people exempt from being professional?”

    2. Kaaaaaren*

      Unfortunately, I don’t think an appeal to kindness is going to be compelling to the OP’s boss or any of her coworkers. They know they’re being unkind — that is the point. Maybe instead: “Since when are clever people exempt from acting professionally toward colleagues?” or something to do with professionalism. Not that they seem to care very much about professional norms, either, but…

    3. Archaeopteryx*

      Excellently put indeed. Having high intelligence but using it to ego-preen and put others down is like having a beautifully melodic speaking voice and using it to say racist garbage.

      Once you’re an adult, your abilities matter a whole lot less than what kind of person you make yourself into. They’ve made themselves into a bunch of donkeys.

  15. Imogene*

    Dear OP,
    I’ve never commented before but your letter moved me to do so. If it helps at all, I’m sending you a force field of kindness to help you get through the next six months. These people sound wretched. I’ve been lucky to work with all sorts of people in my multiple “careers” (many different survival jobs while trying also to work as an artist), some of them very educated, some of them without advanced degrees and “world-smart.” The common denominator among good people is that they are kind, polite, and solicitous, no matter what, if any, letters follow their name. They look out for someone who’s from outside the industry and do their best to bring her into the fold, to make her feel comfortable.
    The coworkers you describe are jerks. Nobody — even somebody with a classics degree — drops random Latin quotes in a meeting unless they are trying very, very hard to “look smart.” These people seem insecure, petty, and graceless. I hope you can move on to something better as soon as possible — in the meantime, put on the force field, and know lots of people are sending you support and good vibes.

    1. Drew*

      Nobody — even somebody with a classics degree — drops random Latin quotes in a meeting unless they are trying very, very hard to “look smart.”

      I have actually taught Latin and I can confirm — we didn’t sit around quoting Latin at each other and I certainly don’t do it now that I have another job.

    2. Data Analyst*

      I did ctrl+f “latin” because I assumed someone else would have said it and yes, here you are, exactly this! If multiple people are regularly peppering their speech with Latin…they are insecure and pretentious. I took one year of Latin in high school, and I work somewhere where one particular Latin word (alumnus and all its forms) is used a lot. And it is often misused. And even then I don’t say anything, because I’m not in a position of proofreading official communication, so it would just be for the sake of my own ego to show that I know something, and possibly to make another person feel bad. So, long story short, just wanted to chime in with more validation to OP that the Latin thing is really out of the norm.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I had a prof who called Latin phrases “Cocktail party BS”. The sole purpose of knowing a Latin phrase was to show other people how smart you are, this is what the prof said.

      I remember listening to this and thinking, if I end up with people like this around me then I need new peeps.

      1. Jessica*

        In all fairness, OP didn’t give examples of this, and it might not have been lengthy quotes, but just words or phrases of Latin origin that these people are peppering their speech with. Some are not uncommon—e.g., “et cetera” is Latin (and so is e.g.). I can imagine a conversation between someone who’s sort of on one end of the normal spectrum in terms of using conventional Latin terms, and someone else who through no fault of their own is unfamiliar with many of them.
        Of course that would be no excuse for what a nasty bunch of creeps these coworkers are in general.

  16. Former Expat*

    *big hugs* I’ve been adjacent to a lot of folks in the fancy degree category throughout my career and life. IME, the relationship between a person’s degree and their intelligence is, uh, loose at best. My guess is that these folks are being a jerk to you because they are insecure. It could even be that they are intimidated by the fact that you have gotten a seat at the table despite having less education. They probably should be intimidated by you :)

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      I’m guessing they’re stuck with student loan debt for the rest of their lives and could be envious of the OP’s financial freedom.

  17. Antilles*

    Can I push back on the “co-workers are smart” assumption in this letter? Because holy heck am I going to. Based on their actions as described, I think the people at this job are fairly dumb, actually. Let’s pull a few phrases from the OP:
    1.) “they won’t interview anyone without a strong academic performance, even at the expense of a solid work history.”
    Reasonable people know that something like 90% of what you learn comes after you hang the diploma on the wall.
    2.) “casually use Latin phrases that I have to try to google on my laptop to understand the context”
    This is not a thing that truly intelligent people do. People who are truly knowledgeable about a subject usually find a way to express the concept in a way that makes sense to a complete layman.
    3.) “if I ask for help or explanation I get an eye roll and a snide comment.”
    The stupidest person in any room is the one who thinks asking for help or information is a weakness.
    4.) “Screaming at me for nearly an hour because I asked a question”
    This sounds like a really dumb use of people’s time and energy.

    1. CaliCali*

      Highly agreed. This sounds like some sort of Overly Educated Commiseration Society where they circle-jerk each other for being highly intelligent without showing any actual evidence of said intelligence.

      1. Need a Beach*

        It sounds like the people who want you to know they’re in Mensa. The smartest people I know don’t give a rat’s ass about keeping score.

        1. Postess With The Mostest*

          CaliCali, you are officially responsible for me trying to hold back a massive giggle, resulting in a snort, in my Very Quiet office. Thanks a lot :-P

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Agreed with all of this!

      I don’t judge someone’s intelligence by what degrees they have (or what letters are after their name). I do get frustrated by people who completely lack common sense and say things like “the confederate flag isn’t racist” (an actual thing a coworker said once). Those are very, very different things.

    3. kittymommy*

      All of this so much. I’m just going to sit in the camp that these people are not smart. They are pretending to be smart (or have collectively deluded themselves into thinking they are) and any outside challenge to this belief has resulted in them acting like a***holes.

      And having a degree is not equal to strong academic performance. Knowing actual grades *might*, but how would one even get college grades that far from graduation?? (And as has been mentioned, good grades also does not equal smart or capable of critical thought/intelligence.)

      1. Antilles*

        And as has been mentioned, good grades also does not equal smart or capable of critical thought/intelligence.
        In the American education system, good grades are primarily indicative of one particular skill: The ability to memorize and regurgitate information taught to you. Even so-called critical thinking questions like “Analyze and explain the primary causes of the Revolutionary War” are usually more along the lines of remembering what the professor told you HE thought the primary causes were and finding a way to spout that back to him.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          ALL of this. I got great scores on my SAT and GRE. Not because I’m smarter than other people, but because I’m good at standardized tests. It says nothing at all about my mental capacity, except for maybe that I have a memory that likes to hold on to things.

          1. TootsNYC*

            When I graduated from college, I wanted there to be a job taking standardized tests for a living, because I was REALLY good at it!

      2. Yvette*

        “And having a degree is not equal to strong academic performance.” True and reminds me of the old joke:
        Q: What do you call the person who graduated last from med school?
        A: Doctor

    4. WellRed*

      “casually use Latin phrases”
      This reminds of how some newly minted college grads often use words like, oh, hegemony or diaspora or discuss Kantian philosophy in a way you don’t typically do in the working world.

          1. Pebbles*

            Yay Red Green Show!

            There’s no problem so bad that it can’t be solved by a couple rolls of duct tape!

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Heh, I know a guy who didn’t pass his English course screening essay (to determine which class level he was eligible for) because he threw in every $5 word he knew. His vocabulary was amazing and he absolutely knew the correct usage etc, but was graded down for not being able to express an idea clearly and concisely. Jamming your ‘smarts’ in someone’s face is about the least effective way to convince them you’re truly smart.

        Cleverness is not an excuse for rudeness. “Wow, I would think a clever person would know how important interpersonal skills are. Huh.”

        Degrees =/= value as a person or employee. Anyone who believes this is overcompensating for something. Any organization that encourages this belief deserves the ‘quality’ of employee they’ll be left with when all the decent people leave.

        OP, I know you can’t get out yet, but please know it is not you and the odds are very very good that your next job will not be filled with this level of dysfunction.

      2. Sandman*

        This. I have a great vocabulary, and it took being married to a really smart guy who doesn’t to break me of the habit of throwing words like this around. I love words and think they’re fun, but communicating effectively is a higher priority – and honestly, learning how to communicate hard concepts using simple, non-jargony words is a pretty serious skill. That apparently your colleagues don’t have.

      3. WakeUp!*

        Diaspora? That word is used constantly in Jewish communities for what are obvious reasons to most. Many other ethnic communities in the U.S. use it too although it’s most associated with Jews for many people. Interesting example.

      4. Not unambitious*

        I am not a newly-minted college grad. The word “diaspora” is in my vocabulary.

        To be sure, good writing is not a word salad of dozens SAT vocabulary words. However, that is absolutely not the same as celebrating those with a poor vocabulary. Sometimes using “le mot juste” (oooo, French) really does win a debate.

        And believe it or not, some people do like to discuss philosophy, or read academic books, even if they’re not in academia. It’s OK that it’s not your cup of tea, but kindly do not apply your preferences to everyone.

        I will again condemn those who treat colleagues unkindly or condescendingly. No one deserves that, including OP.

        But this is the fourth or fifth time in this thread that I’ve read comments opining that “all the people I’ve met with advanced degrees are really stupid” or idealizing something like having a poor vocabulary. This is nothing more than anti-intellectualism, an appeal to the gallery, and I’m calling people out on it.

      5. Pommette!*

        But hegemony and diaspora are genuinely useful and interesting concepts! And they aren’t terms for which there are good lay-language equivalents. (Plus, diaspora is a lay language term in many diaspora communities).

        Using those terms in a way that assumes that everyone else has the same educational background you do is boorish and will make for boring and one-sided conversations. But people who are good communicators can use the words in ways that don’t exclude others, and don’t come across as pedantic. I’ve learned a lot from friends and colleagues who studied in other fields, and I’m grateful for it.
        If the tools you picked up in school help you understand the world better, you should keep on using them after you graduate.

    5. iglwif*

      +1 to ALL OF THIS.

      And, you know, I loved school and I loved university but holy heck did I ever have to learn new habits to succeed at work. You can never assume that “strong academic performance” will translate into “strong professional performance”, and in fact I’d bet that quite often–depending on the academic culture the person’s coming from–it’s the opposite.

  18. A PhD is just a glorified attendance award*

    Wow, OP, your co-workers are a bunch of pretentious asses. Most people I work with have advanced degrees (as do I), but it only ever gets mentioned when people higher up need to brag about how educated our workforce is. How you perform is the much bigger thing. And we don’t treat people in the organization who don’t have advanced degrees (or any degrees) as if they’re stupid–because that’s just ridiculous. And unnecessarily mean.

    1. Not unambitious*

      Um, no, a PhD is not just a “glorified attendance award,” particularly a PhD from a well-regarded program. It requires an original scholarly contribution to your field.

      Your comment is debasing and unkind to people who really have put in the time and effort to earn — yes, earn — a PhD. (I’m not one of them, although I’m considering going back for one mid-career.)

      1. partingxshot*

        Hey, you seem to be getting pretty defensive about this, to the point where you’re misinterpreting comments all up and down the thread. Nothing I’ve seen here has seemed anti-intellectual, and many of the people posting indicate that they themselves have advanced degrees (see above).

        I would recommend stepping back and looking at the context of this conversation. No one is saying that advanced degrees are a stupid mistake (with the possible exception of some lighthearted comments by the degree-holders themselves). The consensus is instead that specialty in one particular academic field doesn’t automatically mean functioning well in the workplace, nor does it legitimize treating others poorly. That’s it.

          1. Copenhagen*

            Yeah, where I’m from a PhD is at least three years of full time work PLUS attending classes and conferences. That does not mean, that people with PhDs are Super Mega Smart In All Aspects Of Life, but I think we should aknowledge that it’s takes a bit more than just… Being there.

  19. Not Really a Waitress*

    I would ask if you work with my sisters. I am the dumb one because I “only have ” a masters. They struggled to find tenure track teaching jobs in their field. I, on the other hand, was a college instructor for a few years before going back into private sector and got paid way more because of ny field. I have also been brought into orgs specifically because I was not an insider. Sometimes you have to point that out.

  20. DCompliance*

    Going forward, I guess there was some red flags before you were hired. They told they almost didn’t hire you “due to poor academic performance and they pay people with degrees more money automatically”? That would give me some pause. Just something to look out for in the future.

    1. OP*

      I wasn’t told I nearly wasn’t hired until after I started and the recruitment techniques were explained to me, sadly.

      1. Sam Sepiol*

        Well that’s an abusive tactic right there. I am so sorry you’re dealing with this. Look after yourself as best you can and get all the support you can while you’re dealing with these horrible people. The open threads on Fridays are good for sanity checks…

        1. Sacred Ground*

          Abusive, indeed. It’s exactly what abusers do, try to convince you that you’re lucky to be with them at all, that they’re doing you a favor just keeping you around, or that nobody else would have you.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            Just to add, any employer who tries to tell you that you’re lucky to be employed by them is telling you their intent to demean and devalue you.

      2. Jasnah*

        OP I really feel for you. I was in a similar situation where I felt so dumb, like everyone knew something I didn’t, like I was being held to a standard that I couldn’t meet and nobody looked at what I brought to the table instead.

        I tried to be useful in every way I could, but every attempt to succeed just left me feeling so inadequate. I felt like I could do nothing right.

        One thing I didn’t try that you could, is to ask your boss or whoever has the most power in this situation, “Why did you hire me? What is it you want me to accomplish here?” They may have low expectations of you, but they surely want you to get SOMETHING done. “In order to do that, I need X”–whether that’s to be treated with respect and professionalism, or clearer instructions, or whatever you want to ask for. Then you can revisit it when something comes up, saying, “This is the kind of thing that is keeping me from delivering what you need from me.”

        I doubt this will change their minds because they are so awful that this is beyond prejudice and into outright rudeness. My treatment was a lot colder and subtler than yours–they’re being horrid to your face! So I think the one thing you should focus on is not to internalize their treatment like I did. I had horrible self esteem afterwards and it made job hunting (and life) difficult–so please focus your self care on boosting your sense of accomplishment.

        You said somewhere you’ve been there for 8 months? It may take a month or 2 to find a job, so definitely start searching now and maybe you can leave at exactly month 12. Plus you said in the post you are 15 years into your career, so unless you have a very spotty history I think you have a solid enough track record to pull this off. Get out of there, I’m rooting for you!

  21. Myrin*

    OP, rest assured that I want to smack these people over the head with a bag full of whoopie cushions for their horrible, immature, bullying, ungraceful behaviour! They are terrible and we all believe in you! I know there’s not much accomplished by saying “don’t let it get to you”, so I’m suggesting one way to not let it get to you is to, whenever you’re in doubt about your own capabilities, come back to this comment section and look at all the people rooting for you and being appalled by these jerkfaces!

    (On a sidenote, I was wondering how it’s possible that apparently every single person in this company is this same kind of manner-less as well as conceited. And then I realised that they’ve probably simply scared every other normal person away and now they’re just simmering in a bowl of their own smugness and “intelligence”. Bah!)

  22. Totally Minnie*

    It sounds like your workplace has bought into the “clever asshole” stereotype to a massive degree. They fully believe that because Sherlock and Sheldon and Dr. House are smart, they shouldn’t be bothered with things like kindness or manners. Being a decent human being would take up too much of their valuable brain real estate.

    They are 10,000% incorrect. You are a smart person with life experience that could be making your workplace’s productivity better, and they are choosing to ignore that because they are wankers. They do not deserve you. When your contract at this job runs out, you should walk straight out those doors and never look back, like an action hero walking away from an explosion.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      It is unfortunate that as a society we kind of buy into the “brilliant jerk” trope. ‘He’s an asshole, but he gets results!!’ I see it a lot on TV. Usually it’s a white male trope (although arguably Temperance Brennan from Bones is a female variant). Like most things on TV (coworkers who are one big family! Professional dress standards for attractive women!) it does not play well in real life. I think it has more to do with people’s sublimated desire to be jerks, and is basically wish fulfillment.

      1. somebody blonde*

        Actually, I think it reflects the kind of work environment that people in Hollywood are used to. Hollywood has some of the most dysfunctional work dynamics out there, so it’s not surprising that writers and directors imagine offices everywhere to be like Hollywood.

      2. Shad*

        And Brennan got better about it as the series went on! The “lesson” when the brilliant asshole was a woman was that brilliance buys you entrance, but you still have to learn some minimum in order to maintain working relationships. Which is still skewed towards giving the asshole a shot, with bonus implicit gendered assumptions.

    2. "Smart" But Socially Clueless*

      There’s a kissing cousin with the “clever asshole,” and it’s an idea I sort of grew up with. My sister and I both got incredibly high marks in school, but our social skills were terrible. No one — and I mean NO ONE — cared. We were told we’d be very successful because we were “smart.” We were given zero preparation for how to do things like, you know, interact with other human beings.

      We weren’t given carte blanche to be jerks, but poor social skills still weren’t considered a priority. And it didn’t hold a candle to how “smart” we were, which was the most important thing.

      Turns out? My sister and I are *autistic.* Not diagnosed until age 30 and years of suffering. Because we were “smart,” so nothing was wrong in society’s eyes.

      What’s more, there’s this subculture of people who really do think that if you’re “smart” you don’t HAVE to be kind, courteous, etc. People get told from an early age sometimes that “smart” is all that matters, or is the most important thing. It’s sort of this Cold War culture remnant, where Uncle Sam needs more bombs so if you have book smarts you’re set for life and a patriot and boy do we need more people like you in the workforce!

      But people who think like that are shooting themselves in the foot. Take it from someone who struggles deeply with socials skills: they are ESSENTIAL. I’d say they’re the most important skills anyone can ever have.

  23. OtterB*

    I work in a not-for-profit related to graduate education and as a result work a lot with people with Ph.D.s. I have one myself, and I include it in my email sig line (OtterB, Ph.D.) because it occasionally affects the credibility I have with people I request information from. BUT the people to whom it makes a difference are a small percentage of the people I deal with. Most people I engage with recognize the value of what I do (which does not require a PhD), are interested in people with different areas of knowledge than their own, and are happy to learn without needing to put others down.

    Just to say, your experience would not be normal even for a niche whose focus is on academic degrees. It should be much less so anywhere else. (It’s not completely unheard of. My husband was once dropped out of the running for a research position because his undergraduate GPA was under 3.0, despite the fact that the degree was earned 30 years before, and he’d earned a master’s degree and been awarded several patents in the meantime, plus a track record of relevant work. But.)

    I agree with Alison that one way to address it would be to talk to the person who wanted to bring in your outside knowledge and skills. If there’s someone who seems more welcoming, you might also try talking to them. But the way you are being treated goes well beyond “I don’t see why your contribution is relevant” and into entrenched dysfunction.

  24. Anne Elliot*

    This is actually a simple problem that is completely unrelated to the relative intelligence/education of the OP’er and his/her coworkers. The problem is that these people are assholes. The evidence? “People laugh at me.” “If I ask for help or explanation I get an eye roll and a snide comment.” “Any rudeness or cruelty is written off as a side effect of being smart.” “Other managers treat me like you’d treat a very young child.” They “scream at me for nearly an hour because I asked a question.” OP’er, please remember that there is nothing about being smart that makes you mean. (There’s nothing about being stupid that makes you mean, either.) These are mean people and even if you want to take a true that they would treat you better if you were smarter — well, that’s just another indicator of how terrible they are, that they would be cruel to people they believed less intelligent than they.

    So my suggestion to maintaining your self-esteem is to realize, and to remind yourself, that their awful behavior is not actually related to, much less attributable to, how intelligent you may or may not be. They’re just assholes. Get out when you can. Sorry you’re going through this.

  25. Four lights*

    OP, your coworkers sound awful and rude. Hopefully you can keep these comments to boost your spirits over the next few months.

  26. Lady Phoenix*

    oh look, a bunch of jackholes who think “logic and intelligence” means “heartless robot douchebag with no since of empathy.” Do they also call people who cry or have a sudden enotional outburst “irrational”, “crazy”, “hostile”, or—especially towards women—“hysterical”?

    …. This place needs heaping helping of dragon fire.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Also, I betcha they say “screaming and emotions are for weak people and c*cks…. except for us, it just means we’re passionate.”

      …. Someone please send this place dragonfire and a plague of zombies.

      1. NerdyLibraryClerk*

        Thirding the dragons. Evil bees though OP’s coworkers may be, they are also crunchy and taste good with ketchup.

    2. Phx Acct, now with dragons*

      Fourthing the dragons. Maybe if enough of us believe in it, it will happen.

      OP, these people are jerks. I don’t know you, and you don’t know me, but I support you. Their bad behavior is not a reflection on you, or your intelligence.

      Enjoy your anthropological study. You’ll have great stories to tell.

  27. Cat Fan*

    “Since when were clever people exempt from being kind?”

    I wonder what harm there would be in actually saying this out loud there.

  28. Snark*

    You are also allowed to stand up for yourself with people like this.

    “Oh, Natasha is so clever, sometimes she gets frustrated, that’s all!”
    “Yes, and I am getting frustrated with being repeatedly disrespected, so Natasha, please be both clever and civil.”

    “It is fascinating that you think it okay to roll your eyes at a coworker.”

    *Latin phrase*
    “In English, please, for those of us brought into this role for our outside perspective.”

    “Jane, teapots…contain tea.”
    “Yes, that’s perfectly obvious. Moving on,”

    1. Snark*

      *Screaming at me for nearly an hour because I asked a question*

      “You never have the right to treat me like this, for any reason.” *Walk the hell away*

      1. WellRed*

        Totally! Letter writer, please walk away when this happens. “I’ll wait till you calm down.” “I can see this isn’t the right time.” Those phrases suck, maybe someone has a better suggestions.

        1. Snark*

          I actually like them, delivered deadpan. “Ah, I can see this is not a good time to discuss this with you.” *moonwalk out*

        2. Bagpuss*

          Actually, “I’ll wait until you are calmer ” is pretty good response.
          Years ago I had a truly toxic boss, who did scream at people, and I said something along those lines to him the first time he did it to me. Not out of any quick thinking , just out of genuine shock, and it worked. He stopped screaming and never did it to me again.
          In his case, I think he wanted me to yell back at him, and then I would have been in the wrong, but I think also the very calm response just threw him off balance.

      2. Amber Rose*

        I’d be using the treat them like children strategy right back. “I don’t appreciate being spoken to like that. I will come back later.” In the best school teacher voice I could manage, the one that’s slow and really well enunciated.

      3. cwhfstl*

        For the yelling–take deep breath and state calmly: “We are not having a productive conversation at this time. We can pick this issue up later when you’ve had time to reflect so we may be productive.” and hang up. I’d avoid “calm down” as it seems to always have the opposite effect on jerks.

      4. TootsNYC*

        Or, “You’ve been yelling for five minutes. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go >insert work task here<."

        Bonus points if that's a sort of important or urgent work task.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’m the kind of sarcastic bitch who would respond to the “teapots contain tea” with a wide-eyed expression and say “really? they do? but I thought they contained coffee or hot chocolate.”

  29. Midlife Tattoos*

    This is sort of tangentially related, but I once got the whole Mr. Darcy speech from someone who really wanted to date me but was worried about what their highly-educated family would think about me because I never finished college. I called bullshit on that.

    You should call bullshit, too. Having a degree doesn’t mean you’re a better person than someone who doesn’t. Some of us didn’t have the privilege and are damned successful anyway.

    1. Namast'ay in Bed*

      Wow what a jerk. I hope you took a leaf out of Elizabeth Bennet’s book in your response, no one can tell someone to shove it quite like she can.

      My fiance didn’t finish college either and is higher up in an industry where that isn’t unusual – practical experience trumps degrees – and he says that some of the worst hires come from the best schools, they tend to have a lot less common sense and practical knowledge.

      This isn’t to say that going to a good school (or school at all) means you don’t have common sense or anything like that, it’s just that school is a completely separate world and the skills learned there don’t make you automatically successful in a corporate environment. Heck, I feel like a majority of my degree-based knowledge is long obsolete, most of my useful knowledge has come from experience.

      To make a very long story short, your coworkers suck OP. I’d start job-hunting if you can. If not, I hope you can see a therapist to get you through the next six months.

    2. Marthooh*

      Madame, you must allow me to tell you how ardently I envy you the experience of calling bullshit on Mr. Darcy.

  30. Snarkus Aurelius*

    When I lived in a major U.S. city, I needed a tow truck. The guy was great! When he handed me forms to sign, I got confused and asked him about a section. He himmed and hawed. I got frustrated with him because I thought I was asking a basic question.

    He finally turned away and said, “I don’t read so well.”

    Turns out the guy was born and raised there. Never needed a map. The forms were standard so he knew where to sign every time. Coworkers and boss knew so they helped him from time to time.

    I said, “I don’t tow cars well so I need you right now.”

    My point in telling you this is that everyone brings something to the table. Everyone. If your office doesn’t appreciate who they hired, then go somewhere else. I don’t care how long you’ve been there.

    1. DaffyDuck*

      Yup, and my advanced degrees are no help at all when my car won’t start. I thank my lucky stars for nice tow truck drivers, plumbers, and good carpenters.

    2. WellRed*

      I am a smart person who googled “Why is my microwave sparking” yesterday. According to google there are several potential fixes. NONE of which I understood or would have felt safe trying. I need the person who can fix that, not the person with the fancy degree who tells me there are fixes but then can’t do them.

  31. Admin Amber*

    I work in an academic culture and have observed terrible behavioral problems with many of the faculty who have fancy degrees. I truly believe that many of these folks could not hack it outside of their bubble of BS. Keep your face to the sun like a sunflower. You are not the problem.

  32. WellRed*

    It’s too late now, but when the interview process involves a lot of harping on one thing, in this case, the school and degree, I’d take it as a red flag that they are overly focused on that and if you don’t have it, you’re not gonna be a good fit.
    also, these people are asses.

  33. ThursdaysGeek*

    I think it’s time to repeat my definitions of intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom.

    Intelligence is how big your gas tank is. Knowledge is how much gas you put in the tank. Wisdom is the mileage you get. If you have a big gas tank and it’s filled with gas, but you get lousy mileage, you aren’t as well off as someone with a smaller tank that is filled up who gets good mileage. Also, when people are buying a car, they never care how big the tank is – they care about the mileage.

    OP, your co-workers may have big tanks, and they may have plenty of gas, but they are getting lousy mileage.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Awesome analogy.

      I spend a lot of timing eye-rolling my supervisor, who regularly points out that our team, as people who are required to have Masters degrees for our position, are so obviously superior to (and must be the role models for) our colleagues who are equally hard-working and qualified for the positions that they do.

      Supervisor loves a good analogy. Maybe I’ll use this one on him.

  34. LCL*

    Hi OP.
    I hope you realize they are the evil ones here, not you. I’m posting these questions so we can all help with your strategy since you are trying to go 6 more months. Leaving would be the best thing for you but if you are determined to stay…

    How big is this company?
    What is the position in the organization of the person who screamed at you? What would happen if you left and said ‘I will talk to you when we both are calmer.’ This is not a we problem, but saying it like this sometimes works.

    Do you think this rot is company wide, or are just your work group? Even modern enlightened corporations will see small orgs become isolated then toxic.

    Try asking some of your coworkers about the past history of the company. Asking this really open ended question may get you some useful information.

    Keep us posted. They are bad people.

    1. Observer*

      This reminds me of the Make Me Smart podcast – their tag line is “No one is as smart a all of us”. No qualifiers.

      And, they actually answer questions from real kids on occasion.

  35. Starfox*

    I imagine my obnoxious coworkers as silly characters from tv or movies & mentally repeat whatever dumb thing they just said to me in that voice/style so that it’s funny instead of grating. Play the anthropologist & narrate this weird culture of rudeness to yourself as John Cleese or somebody so you’re just giggling at them all day.

  36. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    These people and company is Trash, yes with a capital T. You’ve fallen into a snob vortex.

    My best friends have multiple degrees and even the couple who have higher positions within their companies come to me for advice. I advise our well educated CEO and I have zero degrees, only my years of experience. You’re surrounded by people who bought into the hype of “brand names” and that you can judge a person by how well they do academically. Bless their rotten hearts.

  37. Sara M*

    In my family, we all have some form of extended degree and most people have two or three.

    There is a very clear negative correlation in my family. The more degrees you have, the less common sense.

    (Not applicable to all people! Just making an observation about one highly educated family.)

  38. My Cabbages!*

    OP, I work in a field where the standard is to have a PhD. But you know the people who get the most respect from all of us scientists? The lab techs and admins who have a Bachelor’s at best. Because they are the ones who know how to do all the annoying but absolutely critical tasks that allow the rest of us to do our jobs. (Having trouble with a cell line? Need to prep 50 mice for an experiment? Not sure when the next grant deadline is due?)

    Anyone who treats the less-educated staff not only earns the anger and disdain of the rest of the scientists, they also don’t end up with the support they need to get their work done. It ends badly for snobs.

    That is to say, these people may be educated, but they are not so smart.

    1. irene adler*

      I work in the lab, and everyone knows the techs take care of business!
      And there’s no “I’m better than you are” stuff at all.

  39. Amy*

    Get out. Get out. Get out. (Said as a person who can accidentally throw out a Latin phrase. These people are monsters.)

    But in the meantime, practice throwing shade. There are lots of good suggestions above. Also keep reminding yourself that you have actual knowledge that they lack. And you were not raised by wolves.

    And next time an employer tells you they value past school performance over current value added to the company, run.

      1. Amy*

        And I believe her. But the second it is an option, run. Any improvement based on better coping or shaming the offenders does not alter the underlying dynamic.

  40. CatCat*

    You can have the last word here, though these people suck and they aren’t going to change. So it may not be worth the effort.

    Laughing, eye rolling, snide comments: “Stop being rude.” If they continue to laugh or make more snide or sarcastic comments. “Stop being rude.”

    If someone is *screaming* at you, oh hell no! “You’re being very rude and I won’t be spoken to that way.” And then walk away. Because no. Hell no.

  41. Stephanie F*

    I’ve worked as support staff at multiple universities, so I run into faculty and students all the time who assume that I’m less educated or less intelligent then they are because I’m in this position instead of a teaching one (I hate teaching and am bad at it, even though I’m passionate about education, so I enable others to teach).

    The most egregious was a grad student I was working with once who didn’t believe me when I told him the pronunciation of an Italian word* until I mentioned I took Italian as part of the foreign-language requirement for my masters’ degree, at which point he said “OHH! You’re EDUCATED!” and then took my word for it.


    * He’d wondered aloud how it was pronounced–I didn’t correct him unwillingly or anything.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I dated a college professor whose entire social life revolved around his college town and his college’s faculty. He did not like any of my friends and groups, so for two years, that was my life too. I had flashbacks for years after the relationship ended. His colleagues would ask me what I do for a living, and I’d freeze in terror, because from past interactions, I already knew how they’d react (“oh, that’s cute.”)

      Towards the end of it, I was terrified of the parties that he either hosted, or took me to as his plus one. That crowd would show no mercy to anyone who’d be caught without a PhD. That was my only close interaction with the academia; really hope it’s not typical, and has something to do with the fact that they were all trapped in their small town with nowhere else to go.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Ugh, I dated a Tech Guy who had a Big Important Tech Job for almost a year, and it sucked. He was fine, but all of his free time was spent with his coworkers, and literally ALL they could talk about was insider baseball from their Big Important Tech Jobs. It was boring and rude and it’s definitely part of why I broke up with him, because spending multiple evenings a week and big chunks of the weekend listening to Important Coders rehash stuff from the workweek was boring AF.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          That’s ironic, because I *am* a coder, which apparently is looked down upon in at least the part of academia that my ex was in. I learned to tell them “I’m in software development” instead of “I’m a programmer”, but it didn’t help. The chats they had were actually really interesting! (except when they gossiped about students, blech.)

          It was a humbling experience though, because I’m pretty sure I’d either done that to other people before, or looked the other way when my colleagues or friends did it. Finding myself on the receiving end of intellectual snobbery for the first time in my adult life was eye-opening, and hopefully helped me be a better person going forward.

    2. Doodle*

      LOL. When I was working on my PhD I worked as a secretary in an academic department. I still have a good laugh about the undergrads who’d come in needing a big favor (rec letter due soon, getting into a closed class, etc) from one of the profs, drop the paperwork and my desk, and snottily tell me to give it to Dr. Z immediately. No please, no thank you. What I wanted to say: hey bozo, I have more education than you do right now, I’m certainly smarter than you, and by the way, I’m the person in charge of Dr. Z’s calendar. Instead, I smiled sweetly and stuck the paperwork at the bottom of the stack. I did give it to Dr. Z, but you can be sure that the very disorganized and forgetful Dr. Z did not get an reminders from me about Snot-Kid’s Important Papers.

      1. Karyn*

        Many years ago, my ex worked in the admissions office for a third-tier law school. Her LSAT scores were pretty good, but she decided she didn’t want to be a lawyer. One of her big satisfactions when one of the jerk students was jerky to her was saying to herself, “My LSAT scores were higher than yours, bozo.”

        One of the jerk students jerkily asked her to handle his internship application to a Big Five accounting firm. She declined to tell him that it wasn’t spelled ‘Arthur Anderson’.

  42. I Work on a Hellmouth*

    These are horrible, hurtful snobs and I am enraged on your behalf. I totally get how going to work every day must be truly hurtful and beyond upsetting, and I wish I could give each of those jerks a kick for you.

    Every time someone is an asshat, please just take a deep breath and remind yourself that these people really don’t matter and that you’re leaving this place as soon as you can, anyway. Maybe jot down the most ludicrous and over-the-top acts or snobbery or abusiveness when they happen so 1) you can remind yourself that this behavior is TOTALLY ABNORMAL, and 2) you can mine it for comedic reenactments when you are out with friends and trying to convey how you’ve stumbled into some sort of Mike Judge workplace comedy. And just keep reminding yourself that these people are nothing but a few pieces of paper and a jumble of jank attitudes.

  43. Alexis Rose*

    I’m gleefully picturing any of these narcissistic noodles getting a job in a different organization and IMMEDIATELY being shut down for being so out of line. Picturing the *does not compute* look on their faces would give me fuel to keep dealing with them.

    SERIOUSLY, this is an absolutely abhorrent culture to have and they’re probably skewing young hires views of what is “normal” for a workplace in a dangerous direction. I have a favourite armchair psychology theory that a lot of the crazy ass coworkers and bosses that we encounter were indoctrinated to be that way by toxic/dysfunctional workplaces early in their careers that they normalized.

    Additionally, “intellectual discrimination” is a real thing, and a lot of these people don’t realize that their education is often because of their privilege (money, usually) and NOT their intellect. When I worked at a university in an admin assistant type role, I was looked down on or barely even acknowledged by the professors until they found out that I had a master’s degree. Then it was all “oh let me help you get a job in your field! have you considered a PhD?” No, Professor McDouchebag, you acknowledged the office plant more often than me before you deemed me to be WORTHY of you, so I’m not going to accept anything from you and instead am going to use my newfound visibility to fight back on this.”

    1. TootsNYC*

      they’re probably skewing young hires views of what is “normal” for a workplace in a dangerous direction.

      If you’re stuck there, then maybe this can be one of the things that gets you through the day–that you are modeling professional and polite behavior for the junior staff.

    2. Also an admin in academia*

      Yeah, it’s really irksome when faculty realize I’m smarter than them and start giving me the whole “you deserve better than this!” line. And “have you ever considered going to grad school?” (Thought of it, went, flamed out—thanks, chronic mental illness.) I just look at these people with ill-concealed wonder. If you’ve reached middle age or beyond and are only now getting hints that our society is not the purest of meritocracies, you are… not very discerning.

  44. Turtlewings*

    OP, even if you *actually were* an objectively stupid person, this behavior would still be rude and mean-spirited. You are a convenient target for their meanness, that is all. You’re the seagull that has a red string around his leg, so all the other seagulls attack him solely because he stands out. Please just know that no matter how you acted, they would do this because they enjoy it, and not because you’ve done a darn thing to deserve it. It’s not possible to deserve this kind of treatment.

  45. CastIrony*

    I think this would be a good time to just walk out. I don’t know what I’d tell other interviewers about why, though. Perhaps they can leave it off!

  46. Jana*

    OP, the attitudes and behaviors of your coworkers has absolutely nothing to do with your intelligence (or even their perception of your intelligence, really), but it has everything to do with their lack of maturity, empathy, and self-awareness. This sounds like a group of very insecure people who have seized on touting their educational pedigrees as a method of boosting their own confidence levels. If they weren’t picking on others about education, they’d find something else. Part of getting through the next 6 months without letting this atmosphere have a severe negative effect on your confidence is to always keep in mind that this is not about you, it’s about them.

  47. LKW*

    My family is filled with super smart PhDs. They are patient and kind and spend hours helping people who don’t have the experience or knowledge they do become more comfortable with technology or complicated things. Case in point, I have an uncle who teaches graduate level math, his students are PhD candidates. He also teaches freshman math because he can bring the concepts down to the right level.

    The truly intelligent don’t walk around like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. They recognize that experience and knowledge come from many different places.

    Your co-workers are jerks.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, the humor of that character (and similar ones) is that his behavior is so bizarre and inappropriate!

      2. Anne Elliot*

        And understandably, to keep the sitcom going, they totally disregard the fact that if a person treated others IRL the way Sheldon treats people on BBT, that person would have zero friends.

  48. Anon attorney*

    I have three degrees including a PhD and I’m working on #4. I would never behave like this towards any colleague regardless of their educational background. They’re just rude and have no class. I hope you’re making an escape plan. In the meantime, I hope you’ll feel empowered by this discussion to call them out on their behavior. Remember you bring value to the company – that’s why you were hired – you are worthwhile and important and don’t feel you have to tolerate this BS from people who clearly didn’t learn how to behave when they were doing all that studying.

  49. 867-5309*

    OP, I can speak Norwegian, which is not a common language. Would you like me to give you some phrases to say back to these jackals?

  50. blink14*

    I’m in academia, and I’ve actually found for the most part, my “lack” of a master’s or PhD isn’t an “issue” for people (I do have an undergrad degree from a highly regarded university).

    My co-worker has multiple master’s degrees and a PhD, and talks down to me constantly. It is SUPER annoying and they are one of the dumbest common sense people I’ve ever met in my life. I on the other hand have a more balanced intellect – I’m book smart but also very street/common sense smart. Everyone’s skills and what they bring to the table is different, and that’s a good thing.

    Your co-workers are jerks. And it sounds like this type of behavior is perpetuating from top down. I would suggest you start looking elsewhere and try to ignore them in the meantime (obviously easier said than done).

  51. Miss Petty and Vindictive*

    As someone with five years of high-school Latin and a most excellent teacher who enjoyed sharing entirely inappropriate phrases with his classes, I can offer a quote to any Latin phrases they throw at you: “Futue te ipsum et caballum tuum” – pronounced “foo-two-eh tay ip-some et ka-ba-lum two-um”
    This is by Henry Beard. He has a few other great insults on his wikiquote page, or in his books. It is pretty quick to weed out people who actually understand Latin versus people who just memorise quotes to confuse people.

      1. Miss Petty and Vindictive*

        Mwahaha I shall spread chaotic Latin through the internet and it will be grand!

  52. almost empty nester*

    Clearly none of this “horde of jackasses” would be able to pass or possibly even complete a basic class in manners. It’s not you, it’s them. Google “Julia Sugarbaker rants” and imagine some of her most well-delivered zingers directed at this gaggle of idiots. I’m enraged for you! Get out as fast as you can, and hold your head up high!

  53. Need a Beach*

    Anecdata to make you feel better, LW: the absolute best teacher I know is someone in my social group who almost failed out of college due to an undiagnosed learning disability. He got help and pulled his grades up, but just barely missed graduating with a 3.0, which is the bare minimum GPA many school districts will consider for applicants. He has almost 20 years of experience in a variety of districts, has won regional and national awards, and still gets auto-rejected from jobs because he didn’t meet that arbitrary cut-off.

    When he does get hired, it’s in a school that cares about the realities of learning, rather than creating an assembly line of cookie cutter test-takers. Like him, your career experience is a sorting hat for pointless elitism. Use it to its full benefit, and GTFO.

  54. Chinookwind*

    Man, this could have been my DH when he started out as a cop. My jaw dropped when, at a social gathering where we were playing Cranium (and h and I were kicking their butts), one of the other cops couldn’t believe that I could “spell so good.” When I asked why, they responded, in not so many words, that I obviously wasn’t educated like them since my husband didn’t graduate college.

    At that time, it was known that DH was hired under a program that saw military and other high level work experience as equal to university experience as it brought in a different type of practical knowledge that was/is lacking in policing. He was one of two “uneducated” recruits in his class – the other was a journeyman welder.

    I just stared back and said that you don’t earn an English B.Ed. with a minor in English as a Second Language without being able to spell and that the uneducated college dropout had spent the last two years in military intelligence, becoming an expert on whatever he was tasked to study.

    OP, that was when I was reminded that earning a university degree neither makes you wise or polite. Ignore them and take pleasure at exceeding their very low expectations. Their opinion of you says way more about them than it does about you.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Wait. Roll back…they assumed YOUR HUSBAND’S education had a dang thing to do with YOUR education?

      Classy folks. I’m reminded of my toxic beast of a boss who degraded warehouse workers because they worked in warehouses…despite being the jerkwad who needed to hire said warehouse workers. Then was floored his previously well trusted second in command (meeeee) is partnered up with the “help”. But I’m such a math and business wizard, how does it even work?!

      Nope nope nope.

    2. TootsNYC*

      What’s really funny is that my kids knew as much about grammar and spelling as I do when they finished their fourth-grade English unit. And I’m a professional copyeditor.

      Being a good speller is all about paying attention and retaining minutia. Ditto grammar.

  55. Perfectly Particular*

    Hi OP – I’m trying to think of a way that you could possibly salvage this situation. Since you were brought in specifically for the skills you have, there is clearly someone in the organization who wants you to be there, and quite possibly, who thinks you have leadership potential beyond your current management level.

    The people you are working with are jerks, and no professionals should be acting the way they are. However, since you were brought directly into management, I am wondering if some of them have had their eye on your job for quite a while and are infuriated that someone less educated than they are was just given the role without having to work their way up through the organization. This would explain this kind of simmering anger that sometimes boils over. This works for the other managers too – if they had to work in teapot design for 10 years before they became teapot managers, they may feel undervalued now that someone else can just come in and jump into that role.

    So if any of that makes sense, how could you fix it? You can’t change people directly, you can only change your interactions with them and reactions to them. I would start with your boss. Let her know your perception of how you are being treated, and ask what she makes of it. Then, try connecting with your colleagues more on a 1:1 basis. Learn about them and their families, talk about your background, describe what piqued your interest in this company, industry, etc. It is much harder to be mean to someone when you know them on a personal level. I also really love the language that someone used above of “I am a subject matter expert in X, but not Y”. I use this a lot in my career, as I am not strong in a skill set that is typical for someone in my role, but have really strong skills in other areas that are lacking in this company.

    I wish you the best of luck. Bullies suck.

  56. sfigato*

    I have multiple advanced degrees and sometimes feel like a total dumb dumb. also, my multiple advanced degrees are useless in a lot of areas – they don’t teach relationship building, how to lead a meeting, etc. I rub elbows with a lot of people with PhDs, and while they are generally brilliant in some areas, they are often average-to-lacking in others. I tend to see it as building a role-playing character – if you use all your points in Intelligence, than maybe you won’t have enough points left over to beef up your Charisma or Agility or How to Not Be Totally Awkward categories.

    The upside is that being self-righteous smarmy jerks sounds like a pretty miserable way to be, so at least you are not them. jump ship as soon as you are able.

  57. BatmansRobyn*

    I’m a very educated, pretty not-dumb person. Someone once told me (when I was an adult who had already graduated college) that trees in Indiana are symmetrical because the wind actually blows in circles like mini-tornadoes. I believed this to be true for literal years. Education has absolutely no bearing on intelligence, and neither of the two have any relationship to common sense.

    1. Urdnot Bakara*

      I am also a relatively smart person who has believed some totally ridiculous things! Mostly this is in the form of people say something humorous/sarcastic to me and I don’t know they’re joking or exaggerating, but everyone else does.

      Side note–this is hilarious. I’m really curious as to why someone would make up something like this! *Are* treas in Indiana unnaturally symmetrical or something?

      1. BatmansRobyn*

        Probably not ALL trees but we were driving down a highway and I remarked on how symmetrical and picturesque the trees along the road were and that’s what I was told! I was like “Oh, yeah, that makes perfect sense.”

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          As a person living in Indiana, I am very, very entertained by this, and really would like having little tornadoes shaping our trees.

          I think what happened to you was that you happened to have a particular species of tree that is more likely to have symmetry planted along a road (rather than a very asymmetrical, often odd-shaped species of tree). Like a tall pine vs. a craggy oak.

    2. Anonymeece*

      I am an overly educated not-dumb person, and I still don’t remember my multiplication tables!

      We all have different skills, and some of the dumbest people I’ve met are smart people: they either know everything about their degree in microscopic detail, to the exclusion of everything else, or they have zero common sense.

      I would rather have someone on my team who has valid work experience, does the job, and works well with coworkers, than someone who has a degree and puts everyone down because of it.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’m an accountant and don’t have the multiplication tables memorized. I also can’t do mental math after 2+2 essentially. However I’ll do long division by hand if I’m without a calculator without a fuss.

        I also can’t get the exact order right but I’m a treasure chest of presidents and fun facts about them. I only memorize things that want to stick in my mind I’ve learned.

      2. Jasnah*

        I have a bachelor’s degree and can barely add/subtract. Sometimes I mess up when counting things. But I try to be a kind person.

  58. Arctic*

    I know this isn’t a helpful comment. But I’m seeing red. This is so utterly unacceptable. Nobody deserves to be treated this way. And a degree doesn’t make one better than others.

    Diversity of background and experience makes any organization better. Even when there are those fields where a certain degree is required non-degree holders can have invaluable insight in other ways (lawyers often have things brought to their attention by paralegals or legal assistants, doctors can rely heavily on hospital staff and not just nursing staff etc.) On some level they understand this since you were brought on for your experience. These people are incredibly stupid.

  59. StaceyIzMe*

    I can’t help wondering if some “ism” dynamics might be in play? Elitism? Check. Classism? Maybe. Gendered or age based responses? Race based? Regional chauvinism (“damn yankee” or “ignorant southerner”, “flyover country” or whatever. I’m sorry you’re going through this. It sounds AWFUL! But you may also be triggered due to prior experiences. Maybe a check in with a therapist, coach or an understanding friend could help- if there are some of these aggravating factors in play.

  60. ArtK*

    Ick. These people are the idiots in this scenario.

    I recall a job interview where I was pointedly (and repeatedly) asked why I didn’t have a PhD. They emphasized that everybody there had PhDs. At the time, I had a BS. This was for a software engineering job. Although they were doing some slightly advanced work, it was nothing that required a background in research. These were printer drivers, not some cutting edge technology. It was just the company culture. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. I’m not sure I would have taken it if they had offered — they put far too much emphasis on something relatively trivial. I’ve met plenty of PhDs who were absolute morons at developing software, so it’s neither a necessary, nor a sufficient criterion.

  61. Lucille2*

    OP, like you, I come from a working class background, worked my way through college to earn my bachelor’s at a state university. Nothing prestigious, but coming from my background, it was a big deal to me. Never pursued any advanced degrees and worked my way up from entry level. I now work among many who have advanced degrees from impressive universities and have done many impressive things in their careers. And none of them treat me the way your coworkers treat you. Never have. We all bring something to the table and respect each other’s opinions and varied skills. Your coworkers are assholes. Find an exit strategy before they break your spirit.

  62. Master Bean Counter*

    OP in this day and age people can have problem with people over just about anything.
    You are in a den of bullying crap throwers. What I would do is start deflecting. Learn how to just push the crap aside as if it doesn’t matter and get what you need out of the conversation. If someone is just screaming at you it’s okay to say, “If your purpose is to let me know you are unhappy, I got that. Can you tell me what it is you need from me?”
    If they are explaining something simple to you, “I got that. Thanks.” Flat tone.
    If they are just talking over your head, ‘I get that you have more knowledge than me in this area. But the way you are explaining things right now isn’t helping me understand.” or a simple, “I’m sorry that’s not helping me understand.”
    Basically, react in a calm and controlled manor. Always keep your eye on the goal of the interaction. If they throw crap into the middle, push it aside an soldier on. If they are going to do nothing but pull crap you have every right to say, ‘I’m sorry I came here to accomplish X, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen right now. I’ll be back at Y time to talk about X.”

  63. Common Welsh Green*

    I’ve been in the same situation, with the same background, and Alison’s advice is excellent. Get it right out of your head that anything these people say has to do with you. It’s only to do with them and the kind of people they’ve chosen to be. When someone says something rude and unkind, try to look at them with a combination of amusement and great pity, like you’d regard an exhibit in a petting zoo, and make sure they see it. Then go right on with what you were saying or doing, as though the only sound you heard was the braying of jackasses. Good luck on your job search!

  64. Dobermom*

    The next time they casually drop some Latin, you should pull out my favorite “Latin” phrase: Semper Ubi Sub Ubi (which incorrectly translates to: Always Wear Underwear)

  65. Sorceress17*

    I think LW wrote her own response with “Since when does being smart excuse unkindness?” It’s not easy to do, but I would suggest responding matter-of-factly to their a**hat comments with “That was an unkind thing to say/reaction.” The thing with people who behave this way is they actually do care what people think about them, so they are trying to establish their dominance first. If you just say “Okay. I would still like an answer to my question, please.” or the comment about being unkind, they may stop their horsesh!t.

  66. cwhfstl*

    I am so sorry your coworkers are jerks. There is no excuse for it at all, intelligence and degrees be damned.

    Honestly, my approach would be to make it as uncomfortable for them as I can. Because they deserve it and they assume you will take it. Someone says something rude/snarky? “I can’t imagine why you think that was appropriate to say to me.” Pause and stare. Or just a good ole nasty side eye stare with complete silence works wonders too. Defense because someone is too “clever” to be a decent human? “Funny, I would think you’d/she’d be smart enough to figure out politeness/social niceties/decent behavior.” and give a puzzled look. Stating stupid obvious things too you? “Well bless your heart. (maximal snark intonation” or “I’m not stupid, but thanks. Can we move on now?”

    I hope you escape to nicer coworkers soon.

  67. Justin*

    Hello, overeducated person here, currently midway through 19th grade. My classmates are sometimes very kind, sometimes very smart, sometimes gobsmackingly ignorant.

    I went to one of the fanciest colleges around. And the same thing was true there. And in every other fancy school.

    Talk to whomever hired you to see if you can get some support, or go above them and do the same thing. Keep going all the way up like Fat Joe until someone has your back, publicly, and otherwise GTFO if you can (I know you just got there, etc etc not feasible).

    It’s not really useful having a whole bunch of facts in your head if you can’t communicate. Frankly they’re probably jealous you’re successful and didn’t have to do it their (or, my) way.

  68. Red Sky*

    Ugh, these people are assholes and I guarantee you some of them are not nearly as smart as they think they are otherwise they’d know they’re seriously lacking in emotional intelligence. In the words of Jordan Peele, Get Out!!!

    1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      Probably some of them know they aren’t as smart as they’re “supposed” to be, and cover for that perceived failing with defensive nastiness.

  69. Database Developer Dude*

    Having a degree doesn’t make the person, it’s the person that makes the credential. Someone can have all the formal education in the world, and still be an unconscionable jackass because of the way they treat people.

    ….and I say that having earned nine college degrees… doesn’t make me better or smarter, just shows I can follow through on a task to completion at an acceptable level of quality.

  70. somebody blonde*

    I personally have an almost bulletproof sense of self-esteem, so this advice may not be possible to implement. But I think the way to deal with this is to own your own ignorance and laugh in their faces when they have a ridiculous reaction. Ie when they explain something super basic to you, “Wow, I can’t believe you thought I didn’t know that already!” In an overly jovial voice, this will make them feel a bit dumb. This is what you are going for. When they use a Latin phrase, just ask what it means- “Sorry, I never took Latin- what does habeas corpus mean?” If they roll your eyes at you, call them out immediately: “Wow Jane, I didn’t realize people over the age of 15 rolled their eyes at people to their face!” The goal here is to name every ridiculous reaction they have as if it’s the funniest thing in the world that you work with people with the emotional maturity of teenagers. Meanwhile, try to get out as soon as possible, these people are idiots.

    1. LQ*

      Overly jovial is a hard thing to pull off but I’m a pretty big fan of it. I had a block of time last year where people were treating me this way and I charged in with a THIS IS ALL FUN AND FUNNY! kind of attitude. (Don’t get me wrong it was excruciating and there were a few days crying in my office after everyone had gone home, meanwhile I’m trying to google enough to understand the things that the “Smart” guys were too “Smart” to explain to me.) I settled into the inside jokes and smart bingo after a few months, which was less stressful for me as a strategy. It’s the kick up your feet and don’t bother saying it out loud version of it overly jovial.

      (For the OP this may help a little…about a year later most of the folks involved have come around and at least no longer behave the way nearly as much (and not just to me but in general which is nice). There’s a lot less explaining that tea comes in teapots and a lot less talking about teapots with the jargoniest jargon they could jar. I like to think I made it less fun for them, but I hope I helped them grow to see that there is a world in which you don’t have to attack others to make yourself feel less bad.)

  71. animaniactoo*

    OP, this is a crash course in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).

    You have an overall problem. It plays itself out in many many many ways. You cannot change their behavior. You CAN change yours to adapt to the situation you’re in. Please note: Make careful note of what you’re doing and make sure you are sticking within limits that you are comfortable with, because at the end of this, you don’t want to be a person you don’t like.

    Start out with recording and gameplanning.

    Recording is: Which situations keep repeating themselves.

    Gameplanning is: What can I say or do differently than what I’ve been doing the next time this situation occurs?

    For example: “Natasha is just so clever, she gets frustrated sometimes.”
    Current response: (I’m assuming it’s something like an attempt at a poker face or seeking sympathy and understanding).

    These are people who operate on logic and excuses and condescension – I’m willing to bet that they actually condescend to each other or about each other all the time and you aren’t seeing it or taking it the same way because you have the added element that they’re cutting you out of meetings and stuff.*

    So – new response: “So that makes it okay for her to act like a teenager?” [with a raised eyebrow and massive skepticism on your face]. (and if you really want to drive a point home: “So that makes it okay for her to act like a teenager? Pardon me – in your language: So that excuses her from the norms of human interaction?”

    Example: “Teapots often contain tea.”
    Current response: (I assume it’s either “Got it” or nothing)

    New response: [smile/raised eyebrow/whatever but calmly and WITH CONFIDENCE] “Pardon me – I wanted to address this since it’s happened a few times. I do need to be brought up to speed on industry specific things, but I’m all good with the self-evident ones. If I have any questions, I’ll be sure to ask. Thanks!”

    Example: Manager is screaming in your face for asking a question
    Current response: (I assume it’s basically trying not to fall apart)

    New response: [Calmly, with as much dignity as possible] “Perhaps we should continue this at another time.” or “Excuse me, I don’t deserve to be treated this way. I asked a question. If you can’t answer it without yelling at me, maybe I should speak with HR.”


    Now the goal of all of this is not that every interaction will turn out wonderfully. But the change in your response will force them to react to a different version of you. And the more in charge of that version of you that you are, the harder it will be for them to rattle you or condescend to you unchecked. The more successful interactions you have, the better your chance of changing the overall impression of you will be.

    Other things to think about – what I outlined above are primary responses. If you can get to a therapist to help with this, great. But if not, find your most levelheaded friend and ask them to work on it with you. Because you’re also going to need to think about what you *expect* their response to your changed response to be. You’re going to need secondary and tertiary gameplans based on what the best response you can imagine is and what the worst you can imagine is. Note that you’re not trying to convince them all in one shot. You’re simply standing firm in the moment. You don’t need to get them to agree with you in the moment. You need to be able to *call them out* in the moment and see how it changes the dynamic.

    Also think about how you phrase things. You bring a different skillset, absolutely – but it’s pretty clear that you may need to codeswitch with your language to speak *their* language for them to “get it”. And you can do that somewhat pointedly at points (like the above Natasha response), but most of the time… you just want to start to salt it in. Above all, your goal is to present a calm demeanor with confidence that side-eyes any implication that you has no brains or you are somehow worth less than they are because they got 3 degrees while you got 1 + Life Experience.

    Will it work? Unknown. But it’s likely your best shot for addressing the mass dysfunction and their response to you.

    *Note on this: “Pardon me, but I was brought on board because I bring experience and knowledge to this that most people here don’t have. I understand that it can be frustrating helping me get up to speed, but leaving me out of the meeting guarantees that I’ll never get up to speed and it guarantees that I can’t apply what experience and knowledge I do have to the project/issue/etc. How can we make sure I’m included in these meetings going forward?” (or something to this effect. these are the points you want to make, you can tailor the language to what makes sense for your personality/company).

    Good luck. And please note that this is only about surviving the next 6 months and making them tolerable. Even if you manage to get their respect, you don’t want to work at a company that so obviously snubs educating newer employees about unknown areas and excuses bad behavior if tied to “intelligence” (in their opinion).

    1. animaniactoo*

      Also meant to say: Don’t worry if you didn’t say what you meant to say the first time or even the second time. It will come. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it, and the easier it will be for you to find a “good” response on the fly. That’s the cognitive behavioral part – changing your behavior until your brain automatically sees/reaches for a different “better” response than what you have right now.

  72. Dee-Nice*

    Motion to declare “Clever Natasha” the new stock name for people a bit too high on their own supply?

    e.g.: “I understand Excel macros perfectly well. Don’t be such a Clever Natasha.”
    “I got backed into a corner by the punch bowl listening to a Clever Natasha tell me about how he went to boarding school with the crown prince of New Somewherestonia.”

  73. Anonymeece*

    I wish you could quote Elwood P. Dowd here, ““In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.”

    Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to fly. I do work in academia, and while not to this level – I minored in Latin, and even I find casually throwing out Latin phrases to be pretentious as all get out – I do see some of this, and I am so sorry that you are going through this. This is not normal. Do not let these people get to you. Remind yourself of all your great qualities, and also remember that, at least in my experience, people who do this stuff often think that being a jerk makes them ~smarter~.

    These people are rude, and I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with them.

  74. Gandalf the Nude*

    “In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.” _Elwood P. Dowd, Harvey

    I don’t really have any advice that hasn’t been given already, but that line always makes me feel better when someone tries to act smarter than me, and maybe it will help you too, OP.

  75. Rachael*

    I’m sorry that you have to deal with this on such a large scale. I have a coworker who thought that I only had my PMP (Project Management Professional) certification and was haughty to me. One day she mentioned something about her masters (she had a masters in being a pastor) and how I wouldn’t understand because I didn’t go to college. I spoke up and said that I graduated with a bachelors. Her surprise was comical. “Why didn’t you tell me?”.

    My answer?

    “Why would I tell you? Why would I tell anyone? Who cares if I’m doing my job?” LOL

    From then on she treated me with more respect, but I didn’t care. Who wants respect from people like that?

    Because they are all over your office and in management you might just have to move on and cut your losses. They will never change unless you get that advanced degree …..but you shouldn’t have to do that.

    1. TootsNYC*

      she may have gotten a degree in theology, but she clearly didn’t pay any attention during the classes on pastoral duties!

    2. Anon for this one*

      Just an FYI. This is a super insulting comment to a number of the regular commenters and readers here who have Masters in Theology. The woman was being a total jerk and you might not agree with their religion or beliefs but calling it a degree in Invisible Sky daddy when many spent 3 or more years studying their asses off in academically rigorous courses that you probably have never looked into is demeaning and unnecessary. In fact it makes you way more the people being talked about in this letter who look down on people who don’t see the world the same way they do rather than supportive of the poster. There were tons of other ways you could have chosen to word a similar answer of support, just like tootsNYC did that doesn’t include an implicit insult to many others.

    3. WoolAnon*

      Sorry, but that’s a little rude on your part. Not saying that it was in any way acceptable for her to be disdainful of someone for lacking (or not) higher education.

  76. Novocastriart*

    I am seconding all those that commented variations on the idea that those with significant, numerous degrees are often bestowed this advantage by virtue of birth, or a doggedness to achieve said degrees. This doesn’t often equate to a higher intellect (just look at the Australian tertiary education system that is being propped up – or ruined, depending on who you ask – by educators forced by administrators to pass the thousands of upfront fee paying students who don’t always have the best academic track record).

    But what I actually came here to say is, your colleagues are awful. It’s not normal to treat people with different experience (life, education, whatever) like they don’t matter. I have an intimate knowledge of working in environments where a different skillset is entirely *why* you are important to the team. My department are all trade qualified, with 15 – 35 years experience. I have no trade, no degree and 3 years experience in this role. We’re all employed to do the same thing (fire protection systems estimating).
    I am given opportunities to learn, opportunities to teach (because my skills are seen as valuable too) – and enough support, encouragement and salary to indicate the arrangement works for me, the team and the company as a whole. which is how a team *should* work, right? We all have our own strengths/skills, and try to share them when necessary.
    You are valuable. The hiring manager/team/HR showed this when they chose to hire you, what do you think they think of your situation?

    1. Not unambitious*

      “those with significant, numerous degrees are often bestowed this advantage by virtue of birth, or a doggedness to achieve said degrees.”

      And “doggedness” is a negative trait because?

      1. partway through*

        You’ve misread the comment. Novocastriart is saying that “doggedness” is more important to degree completion than sheer intellect. Nothing about doggedness being a negative.

      2. DreamingInPurple*

        It’s not necessarily a negative trait, but it also has nothing to do with the type of “intelligence” the folks in OP’s office are trying to project.

      3. Novocastriart*

        apologies for the confusion. absolutely not a negative trait – I used doggedness because, despite circumstances, different people can achieve different things based on temperament (and other factors) I used the wording you have quoted to indicate only that there is more than one reason anybody does (or does not do) anything. hope that clarifies.

  77. MaraEmerald*

    As a pretty smart person, I spent a lot of years doing this sort of thing to other people. I’d be rude and condescend when asked simple questions. I’d obfuscate on purpose. I’d tell anyone who’d listen about my IQ, my ACT score, my GPA. It took me until my mid 20’s to realize that I was doing all this because I was massively insecure. My stepdad was the same type, and I eventually learned to respond to his bragging and condescending with “Yes, you’re very smart. Moving on.”

    I’m saying this so that you know that the problem isn’t you. It’s them and their hangups. Maybe their home lives are going badly. Maybe they’re feeling frustrated the world didn’t give them everything they thought they deserved. Maybe they’re just trying to climb the stupid “smartness” pecking order. Maybe they’re just glad you’re the scapegoat and not them. But it’s definitely got nothing to do with you.

  78. Camellia*

    OP, you are being subjected to verbal, mental, and emotional abuse, so while you are biding your time until you can leave, please seek out some resources to learn about this type of abuse and gather some tools to help you survive it and not take too much of it with you.

    Does your company have an EAP? They can be a good resource. Captain Awkward also has some good stuff. Perhaps other commenters can recommend other info sources.

  79. RGB*

    OP I don’t have a degree… I hated school, I was bored out of my mind, and when I left I knew I didn’t want to go on and do further study and be so bored I’d drop out or fail (with the added insult of large student debt). Instead, I floated around a bit, trying my hand at entry level positions until I found out what I was really good at.

    By the time I was 25 I was negotiating myself a six-figure salary ….and thinking this is all a big joke and someone is going to find out how uneducated and stupid I am, and feeling very anxious about the whole thing.

    Over time I understood that employers were buying my specific skillset which happened to be in demand in the city I lived in and a lack of education didn’t make me less great at what I was doing.

    Many people assumed I had a degree (they still do) and education isn’t something that’s talked about in a competitive or even interesting way once you’re over 27 or so in my industry. People are more interested in what you can do right now.

    Now I’m in my mid thirties – I’ve managed teams (hated it), worked in big corporates (also hated it), and at highly regarded Universities (ick) and I know some of my academic coworkers would have felt the same as yours, if they realized my lack of University education… but at the end of the day, I know I am employed to achieve specific outcomes, and that’s what I focus on whenever I get in my own way, or the few times other people have treated me like your jerk colleagues are treating you.

    There is no way to reason with or change the perspective of people stuck in the mindset of your colleagues (they are too invested in their weird education hierarchy to ever entertain the thought that they’re wrong about what makes someone intelligent or good at their role) so I hope for your mental health and wellbeing you find a way to get out of your job environment sooner rather than later.

  80. Mockingjay*

    I wonder how long this company will be in business if they value degrees and ‘intellect’ so much over actual skills and extensive experience. All the Latin vocabulary in the world won’t save them when they can’t figure out something simple like how to pay the office light bill, because OP and all the other sensible people have quit.

  81. Overeducated*

    OP, these people and your entire office culture sound terrible. I’m sorry. If you have to stick around for a while, do what one of my coworkers says: “get your money, get your training, and get out.” Take advantage of any opportunities this job provides, try to maintain your network outside of your immediate office (if only to maintain your sanity and be around other people who respect you and lift you up), and start searching as soon as you think is reasonable.

    Also…if you work with anyone outside your team, I hope you get a chance show them all up by getting opportunities they don’t just for being a decent human being. That would be satisfying.

  82. Mk*

    LW please go somewhere that values you. You sound smart, aware, kind, and communicative!

    My favorite uncle never finished college and he is the smartest and most “accomplished” (whatever that means) of anyone in my family. Many people in my family have multiple degrees, but they are all kind. Anyway, this uncle is one of the top people at a Forbes 10 company and has done very well for himself (although he loves to give unsolicited advice to us, ha). He did say he has had some issues not having a degree, like how every time he received a promotion he was asked why he never finished college, even 30+ years later. I have other friends who didn’t receive any secondary education and are either happily self employed or a company that values them.
    So please, find an organization that values you for you and the skill set you bring. There are companies out there and any would be lucky to have you.

  83. mark132*

    I work as a software developer, and at least in this industry. I don’t think there is a great correlation between degree and ability to program. Some of the best programmers I work with don’t have Computer Science degrees. I’ve got an engineering degree, but I personally think that some of these code camps you can attend seem like they could be great for training excellent software developers. I was encouraging my youngest to consider a local one offered by a school affiliated with the state. I think it would be a great opportunity for her. (She decided to so something different.) In 8 months she would be IMO a trained junior developer. No four year or extra degrees.

    1. Anne Elliot*

      This is what my brother does, and he attended the “party til you drop out” program at university. (One semester, an invitation to leave, and then a stint on a fishing boat.) Brother makes a better living with his coding experience and no degree, than I do with my advanced degree and liberal arts-ish job. I’ve never seen much correlation between job performance and pounds of education.

  84. Sleepytime Tea*

    Maybe a little late to the party, but I empathize with this a lot and hope the OP reads this. I got my degree in English and work as an analyst. I am DAMN GOOD at what I do. I worked in finance at one point and was surrounded by people with degrees in finance, econ, business, etc. There were times when people made truly shitty remarks to me about my degree and it was hard to keep it from being demoralizing. I pride myself in the fact that if I don’t know something, I will without hesitation ask a question so that I understand. That meant asking questions about things these people learned in school that I just didn’t know because I didn’t know them yet. (Someone referenced “COGS” in a meeting once and I asked what that was. They looked at me and snottily said “um… Cost of Goods Sold” with an eyebrow raised like I was an idiot.)

    The thing is, you will never have to tell me more than once. I will learn. I am smart and your “better” degree does not make you more intelligent, more experienced, or even better at this job than I am. In fact, I was the top performer in that group and responsible for training the same people who looked down on me (that was interesting, to say the least).

    I think one of the things that helped curb some people acting like assholes was simply my level of confidence. I did not sound apologetic when I asked a question. I didn’t defer to them just because they had a “better” degree. And in fact when someone made a disparaging comment about my degree, I was more than happy to explain to them how it actually has benefited me greatly in this job. I am naturally talented with numbers and such, and the finance part of things came to me quite easily. I had an entirely different, well developed skill set than most of my peers. It made me more well rounded and I was frequently tapped for high profile projects because I was not only good with the numbers, but I could communicate with people well and explain a very technical analysis to someone who was not technical (like the C-suite).

    When someone decided to act like an ass (verbatim: oh, she graduated magna cum laude but you know, her degree was ONLY in English) I admit it could sting, but I know my skills and value. By acting confidently about that, a good chunk of those people did eventually ease up and then stop acting that way towards me altogether. Don’t be or sound apologetic. You bring something valuable to the table – an alternate point of view that no one else has with whatever fancy training or education they have. You have to own it. People will start responding to that.

    And when people say something like “oh, teapots frequently contain tea,” you smile, say “well… of course they do” and smile with a “was there something else you wanted to add to that?” look on your face. And if they tell you that someone being cruel has to do with them being smart, don’t let that slide. Say “yes, Natasha is very clever, however I don’t see that as a reason to to say xyz” or “I agree, Natasha is very intelligent, but I’m pretty sure that not all intelligent people think that doing abc is acceptable behavior.”

    I am not at all saying it is your responsibility to train people on how to be decent. And it may not work for many or even all of them. But I will say that letting it slide is more demoralizing than at least knowing that you have at least stood up for yourself in some capacity, however small.

    1. T*

      Yes THIS. I have had people make fun of my art degree, including crappy boyfriends who likened it to a clown college certificate. I graduated right before 9/11 and everything tanked. I had job offers yanked, and entire floors of people in creative jobs were let go at prospective companies. It sucked, but I now have a long job history and my experience goes at the top of my resume because that’s what matters most in my industry. The exes who made fun of me ended up living at home off their parents.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I work at a place that is overly fond of using acronyms for everything. It’s impossible for a new person to know or understand them all, and some are so company-specific you can’t even Google them.

  85. gr8celife*

    OP. Can’t fix other badly behaved people. Here is how I dealt with similar situations in the past. I decided what I thought I could do that would be best for company. AND I did it. Already knew I wasn’t making friends, and didn’t plan on staying. I chose my work and behaviors based on my integrity and doing my job. Oddly enough I got promoted. I was shocked. It wasn’t easy and it does build character. Just looking at a person who is rude without responding, then state the point. IE we need to get the right tea for right tea pot, which in your opinion is that tea? What does the company need you to do? Do that, well, rinse and repeat.

    1. Marthooh*

      This is the best answer I’ve read so far. I would only add, if it doesn’t build character, if it feels more like it’s leaching your soul away, get out.

  86. T*

    I don’t understand why people get so hung up on degrees. I have a BA in art, and everyone I work with was a math or analytics major in college. My boss is the only one who knows I don’t have a math degree, but it doesn’t matter because I do my job just as well as them. How well you do your job and your people skills will get you much farther than multiple degrees (unless it’s academia which is a different beast). These people will hopefully make for a good story some day. Personally I would get out now, no amount of misery is worth staying there, sorry OP.

  87. AngryOwl*

    I am so sorry for this crappy situation, OP. As Alison said: **it is not you**. I am a liberal arts person and have been in tech my whole career. I have run into people like this often, though not a company full of them (ugh). Do your best to not take it personally, and maybe find a fun hobby or something to distract you for the next several months?

    Good luck! I hope you find an awesome new job full of people who aren’t complete Deatheaters.

  88. PB*

    Your coworkers make me mad.

    Degrees and intelligence are not the same thing. Holding advanced degrees and being good at your job are also not the same thing. Preferring to hire people with more or higher level degrees is so short sighted to me, and I say this as someone with two master’s degrees!

    They are jerks. You sound smart and kind, and don’t deserve the way they’re treating you.

  89. LQ*

    I have said to other people I work with who consider themselves Very Smart and others Not So Smart, “If you’re really that smart you can figure out how to communicate well with someone who isn’t as smart as you, or you’re really not that smart at all.” Actually clever people can figure it out. Only jerks communicate in a way as to intentionally exclude, belittle, and generally jerk it up.

    Oddly I’d likely behave in this job a little like I would with the grammar jerks from earlier. Make things up and then scoff when the coworkers don’t know them. (If I was really dedicated I’d totally see if I could get words added to urban dictionary, or better yet use those words very casually. I may also be a dragon….beware my words of wisdom.) Cope by coming back here regularly and reminding yourself how very very full of bees these people are and how Very Smart folks do not behave like this.

    Also personal inside jokes. They’ve gotten me through a lot. You know how sometimes there are inside jokes with groups of people. You can do that with one person too. In your head SMRT bingo. Word of the day, when someone says it you get coffee. Whatever.

    These people suck and are jerks.

    1. LQ*

      (Also I worked for a while with a guy who knew a lot of Latin, he’d taken it in school, and was very smart. He was winding down his career so he kind of slacked at the work part. But he’d frequently use Latin phrases with me because he knew I’d think it was cool to learn, or he’d find a new word and share it, or have some obscure reference to some obscure book. He only did this with me and privately. Not in front of others to intentionally exclude someone. )

  90. Ra94*

    From OP writing about having a ‘lower class degree’, it sounds like they may be British- I wonder if there’s an element of class snobbery going on, too? (Not that that doesn’t exist in the US, but Britain has some very particular markers like accent and going to ‘the right school’ that some people fixate on.)

  91. Quickbeam*

    I recently read “Educated by Tara Westover and it reminded me of OP’s situation. Most of us have little control over the Life Lottery we get re: opportunity. I just finished doing my PhD brother-in-law’s taxes with my BSN in nursing. As he said: “A PhD and post-doc in Medieval History did not prepare me for tax law!”.

    We’re all stupid about something. The real trick is to be kind to one another when that vulnerability is exposed.

  92. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

    In my experience, smart people don’t have to announce they are smart or brag about pieces of paper. And they sure as heck make fun of another person in an effort to demonstrate their smarts.

    I’m sorry for the OP, and I hope they move on, because until there is new leadership that type of nastiness will continue.

  93. Rez123*

    This passed me off. I’ve come across several university degree snobs in my life. From different countries and different disciplines. It pisses me off so bad. My favorite moment is when a guy at a dinner table said “since we are all academically educated”. Me and one other at the table didn’t have masters and it was clearly a point to be made about us. I’m not gonna lie, I did make a bit when I found out that he dropped out and never even finished his masters or bachelors.

    Anyways, these types of people suck. I’ve learned that degrees mean nothing when it comes to people. The older I get, the more I appreciate people who are nice, socially aware, good conversationalist Nd interested in variety of subjects.

  94. Jennifer Juniper*

    Tell them the Dunning-Krueger effect says hi. In other words, those assholes aren’t as smart as they think.

  95. Susana*

    I was friends with some folks overseas years back (though we were all American). And one was this really talented and street-smart photographer. Another was a photographer who imagined herself as an artiste but really didn’t have the eye – or the courage – of friend One. So Friend Two mentions in this humble-brag way about being in “G and T” in school. And Friend One says – “Gin and Tonic?” Yeah, he was my favorite (and my go-to photog when I got a magazine assignment).

  96. Kate R*

    So, your coworkers are definitely garbage people, but since you have to stick it out 6 more months, can you invest some time in your relationships outside of work? If you have a partner, friends, or family that you enjoy spending time with, can you try to make more of an effort to do that? I know personally, when I don’t have a lot going on outside of work, and work is going less than well, it seems like EVERYTHING IS AWFUL. So if you can try to balance some of the awfulness with the love and support of people who care about you, it may make the next 6 months bearable. And also, make a game plan for getting out as soon as you can. You can know that they are jerks, and you can know that their behavior is more of a reflection on them than you, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt. The best thing will be to finally leave this place as soon as you can.

    1. TootsNYC*


      Self-care for your confidence.

      Be around people who love you.

      Tackle some sort of new project, or read some new books.

      Sign up for any sort of class–wine tasting, bread making, Introduction to Astrophysics on GreatCoursesPlus.

      Get your kid to teach you how to play some video game on Steam, and practice getting as high a score on the same levle as you ca.

      Anything that gives you the opportunity to see your brain learn.

      Pick a project at home–clean out the garage, or repaint the hallway. Something that lets you see physical, tangible effectiveness in the world.

      We’re all so rooting for you!

      1. triplehiccup*

        All great suggestions. I’d like to add, as an option, helping out other people – even something as simple as checking in on a friend going through a hard time.

  97. LadeeDa*

    This is insane. These people are bad people. If they are so super smart why aren’t they better communicators? Really smart people, don’t have to tell people how smart they are (“very stable genius”)
    I have reached an age and a level in my career where I am much more direct about BS like this than I was even 5 years ago. I put the behavior/situation on them. If I didn’t do anything wrong, but they are behaving like I did – that is THEM, not me. So I ask them questions. If someone were to laugh at me for asking a question I would ask, very directly, neutral face (do not look scared/sad/upset) “Can you explain why that question is funny?”
    If someone rolled their eyes at me, I would ask “I noticed my comment/question/idea sparked a strong response from you, can you explain what your thoughts are?”
    If you have 1:1s with your manager I would ask her “I noticed that when I ask questions or bring an idea to the table I am mocked/dismissed. Can you help me to understand why?” (do not ask what you did wrong!! Because you didn’t do anything wrong!)

    I know it doesn’t help to hear this is about them and not you, it IS about them. But it sucks for you. My hope is you don’t let it damage your self-confidence, and that you are able to get out of there soon.

    Good Luck!

  98. Fiddlesticks*

    I have a double master’s degree and my IQ has been tested in the 140s. That being said, there is absolutely NOTHING about simply being “intelligent” or “educated” that guarantees you are an effective worker, a good manager, or a decent human being. I have no time for people who talk about their education or intelligence as though it entitles them to some type of automatic respect or deference, or as though it makes them superior to other people. OP, you have indeed fallen into a horde of jackasses. In the stale old phrase – it’s not you, it’s definitely them.

    Thank you, Alison, for another pithy line I intend to use as often as possible. :)

  99. RB*

    I am reminded of the Latin quote from the Handmaid’s Tale. I hope someone didn’t already mention it: Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, or don’t let the bastards grind you down.

  100. Mirea*


    This is an abusive situation, as LW so aptly pointed out. This a mob made up of people who have decided to weaponize their degrees against “outsiders”. They’re just carrying diplomas and certificates instead of torches and pitchforks. They are self-important douches with a clannish bent and you would do well to plan exit strategy before it all starts to feel normal or worse, deserved. And, if feasible, tell them outright “I will not be spoken to that way.”

  101. Yikes Dude*

    So, the thing that really strikes me as odd about the letter is that this is not how smart people behave. This is how stupid people behave. I am not trying to make the LW feel better and I actually don’t really care about the minutia of other people’s self-esteem (I find it typically has more to do with someone’s past trauma than any present factors anyway). But all of this behavior? It is much more likely to be found in the Trump organization than any top tier STEM industry organization. I think the LW might have it all wrong. The problem isn’t that they think she’s dumb, but really could be that she’s stumbled into a silo for 5th-tier talent that has created an echo chamber of delusion. They probably avoided hiring from in the industry because they didn’t want their bubble popped. It’s far more common than you think, particularly in the privately owned small-to-midsize category.

    1. Mrs. Fenris*

      Right? I have worked for years with very, very smart people. This…just isn’t something they do. They welcome questions. They can explain extremely complex things in a way that makes sense without talking down to other people. I’ve never heard anybody bust out Latin phrases to show off unless they were young, insecure jerks. And they absolutely don’t look down on people who have a “less advanced” degree. These people have just developed a weird culture. I wonder how it got started. That’s just strange.

  102. Maya Elena*

    Sounds like the bosses are terrible and won’t change.

    But I will say that a lot of collossally bad ideas that look good on paper came from people long on education and short on experience, with clever theory that ignores nature and reality – often at great financial and human cost.

    Not a thing to bring up, but a thing to keep in the back of one’s mind in the face of your co-workers’ self-satisfied smugness over their degrees.

  103. Oranges*

    My 2 cents as a Smart Person (TM) who has a co-worker who’s… not quick on the uptake:

    She frustrates me sometimes. It’s work. I frustrate others sometimes (hello ADD + meetings). You know what I do?
    1) I answer her questions, nicely.
    2) If she’s been asking me a ton of questions that day and I need to get things done I’ll shunt her off to someone else.
    3) If I need to vent about it I’ll vent to outsiders (aka friends and family) stressing the positive things about her whilst venting so I don’t go into BEC territory.

    What I don’t do:
    ANY OF THE THINGS YOUR CO-WORKERS ARE DOING! Because I learned not to do that crap in KINDERGARTEN!

    1. somebody blonde*

      This is a completely valid point as well- I’ve had coworkers who clearly weren’t as smart as me, sometimes to the point of major frustration on my part. I was always, always civil to them and tried very hard not to let on that I thought they were not so smart because that’s what nice people do. To the extent that I’ve ever let my frustration show with one of these people, it’s not because they didn’t understand in the first place but because they either ask the same questions over and over without retaining the information or get the right answer from me and go off and do the wrong thing anyway. At that point, the problem is that I feel like they’re wasting my time and it doesn’t really matter why they’re doing it.

  104. Hiring Mgr*

    I’m considered very smart and/or intelligent by traditional academic standards ( I scored a 1090 on my SATs a few decades ago and have a Bachelors degree–not bragging just stating the facts) , but I learned years ago that none of that matters when you’re also incredibly good looking and charismatic. /s

  105. American Ninja Worrier*

    OP, I am so sorry that these people’s particular form of outrageous rudeness intersects with a topic you already feel sensitive about. In addition to all of Alison’s advice about not putting stock in these people’s opinions, could you spend more time doing something that makes you feel smart and competent? Maybe that’s reading, maybe it’s teaching yoga, maybe you’re an expert gardener or a gifted artist–whatever you know you do well, dedicate more time to that. I think it will help protect your self-esteem while you endure this.

    These people suck, obviously, but they’re also fools. They recognized that you have specific skills they need, yet they continue to devalue them. This will almost certainly play out in other ways that make their jobs harder and their business less effective.

  106. Anonym*

    When the casual Latin insertions came up, I immediately flashed to the old MTV Matrix parody with Will Ferrell as The Architect: (Relevant part starts around minute 7.)

    You might remind yourself of this when they start up. The challenge then becomes not laughing in their smug, insecure faces. “ERGO! VIS A VIS! CONCORDANTLY!”

    Best of luck, OP. Come back and read this thread for a reality check when they’re getting to you.

  107. Caryn Z*

    Oh my goodness, these people are arrogant and awful. Like someone else commented, they are overlooking valuable skills that have nothing to do with formal education. I’m sorry. If it is AT ALL possible try to think, it’s not me, it’s them.

  108. Ingalls*

    You’re 15 years into a career, you were brought into this job because of your skill set, and these co-workers are measuring your intelligence and competence as lacking because you don’t have the degree they have?

    I have a degree, and my mind is boggled that these co-workers think that a degree is the only thing that counts.

    I can only assume that this is the first job for the co-workers after graduating with their illustrious degrees.

  109. Birch*

    You don’t know what you don’t know. These people are not as smart as you think they are, they are insecure. Really intelligent people usually get less braggy as they realise how much they don’t know, and they don’t make fun of people who are trying to learn. OP, you have a much more perceptive and intelligent perspective than they do! Not to mention, book smarts are only one way to measure “intelligence,” which….. really, how important is that to you? I’m one of these “”intelligent” people and I would SO MUCH rather someone said I was kind than smart.

  110. CynicallySweet*

    As a commenter who is not super crazy smart and doesn’t have a while bunch of degrees (loads of work exp tho) is like to confidently say you work with with a bunch of dddiiiiicccclkkksssss. I’ve met those that you speak of, I’ve worked with them and I’ve out lasted almost every single one at my current Co. I can’t imagine working with an entire company if them. Someone once told me that the way they treat you had more to do with their own insecurity, if that helps. But yeah I wouldn’t stick around if u were you. The more solid the job history the faster you should run!

  111. Phil*

    I think Alison’s advice is so great: just treat it like an anthropological field trip. Hey, it really is a foreign culture.

    1. Phil*

      And this is only partially tongue in cheek. An air of bemused detachment will get you through many situations like this quite happily.

  112. Seville Orange*

    I have a Ph.D. and…all I can say is that these people are full of evil bees. They are so insecure in their own abilities they’ve made this one attribute nobody can do anything about now into the one and only measure of quality (one where, HUGE SURPRISE, they just happen to come out on top). But, of course, if somehow tomorrow you *poof* obtained these credentials, they’d make up some other reason to put you down. Whee.

  113. Nessun*

    Hi OP, first – my sympathy and let me join the chorus: your coworkers are assholes. I’ve got nothing to add to how to deal with assholes; so many people here have given you a lot of great options. I will say this: in the midst of all of their smarts, including those of your boss, you’ve been hired to do a job. Obviously with all they know, these guys can’t/aren’t/won’t do your job – and so you are NECESSARY and therefore IMPORTANT. Keep in mind, they chose you to do the job (never mind their dumb comments about near-miss hiring, they hired you), and you’ve got a skill set they needed. You have ideas, perspective, and skills they don’t! Those are great things to have – and every day you can make it through working in the strange and cruel land of Smarter-than-You-Jerkwads, you will have even more perspective and skills to bring to rock your next job. Keep your head up – you have made it this far, you are strong enough to make it a little longer, and when your situation lets you move on, you will have some amazing stories about how you saved a bunch of elitist clichés by being great at what you do, and you will have even more marketable skills in navigating people to get the job done. You’ve got this, I believe you can do it, and screw your horrible horrible coworkers!

  114. Mrs. Fenris*

    Right? I have worked for years with very, very smart people. This…just isn’t something they do. They welcome questions. They can explain extremely complex things in a way that makes sense without talking down to other people. I’ve never heard anybody bust out Latin phrases to show off unless they were young, insecure jerks. And they absolutely don’t look down on people who have a “less advanced” degree. These people have just developed a weird culture. I wonder how it got started. That’s just strange.

    1. pleaset*

      The people the OP works with may or may not be objectively “smart” if there is such a thing. But they’re certainly insecure.

  115. CM*

    LOL at Alison’s request for everyone not to start by saying how smart they are, followed by several dozen comments by people proving that they are officially Smart.

    As a woman who has worked almost exclusively in male-dominated places, I was just thinking today how different it feels at my current company, where people listen to me and value my input, than at previous companies where I couldn’t actually prove with unassailable evidence that people were being dismissive, but I always felt like I was being ignored and dismissed. The only thing that really helped me was reaching out to people and online communities where I was reassured that other people had similar experiences, that I wasn’t just being too sensitive, and that I wasn’t being treated fairly. If I were the OP, I think I would come back and reread this thread on a weekly basis until I could get out of there.

    Also, completely ignoring the condescending remarks as if you didn’t even hear them can be effective. And if someone does something really blatant like laugh at you, put on a stony face and call them out. Say something in a flat tone like, “That’s not appropriate,” or “I don’t appreciate being spoken to like that.”

  116. Cat wrangler*

    To OP, this is not how normal, nice people behave. Having a degree or diploma just means that someone had time and financial resources to get through. It doesn’t make them better or more clever than you. If Nastasha throws a strop because ‘she’s frustrated’ maybe she needs to enrol in kindergarten or put herself in time out until she can control herself, especially if she’s bragging how clever she is. Letters after your name don’t give a free pass for bad behaviour. It’s not normal, it’s abusive and a toxic environment to be in and I wish that I had more advice to give. Just remember that it’s not you – it’s them.

  117. MeMeMe*

    IME, being smart is like being tall — funny how the really tall people never seem to need to tell anyone they’re tall, but the guy who’s 5’10” claiming to be 6’2″ will talk your ear off about it.

  118. Catherine from Canada*

    “You are a normal person who has somehow stumbled into a horde of jackasses.”
    Except I read it as jackals.
    So, jackass jackals.

  119. Dust Bunny*

    I’m smart in the way pretty much everyone who is recognized as smart, is smart. So, smart enough but nothing outstanding. My coworker is . . . not a high-concept person (I just spent 15 minutes trying to explain to her how to balance out her time sheet this week because she clocked in two minutes later than usual this morning, and our timesheet program has this stupid system where it gives you percentages of hours instead of minutes. So she’s 0.o3 hours behind).

    She is, however, thorough, hardworking, conscientious, reliable, and completely honest, and we rely heavily on her to do a lot of things. She’s also a really nice person and always pleasant to have around.

    The problem here isn’t you, it’s that you have awful, awful, coworkers.

  120. Catherine from Canada*

    And I used to tell my kids, “smart isn’t an IQ number, or a degree, or good grades. Smart is making the most of what you’ve been given, stupid is wasting it.”
    You can have an IQ of 75 and be smart, you can have an IQ of 135 and be stupid.
    These people are stupid.

  121. Indie*

    This isn’t how smart or academic people behave though. I promise you. This is defensiveness and overcompensating. This how people behave when they scraped some qualifications with a lot of private tutors and makeup tests, or got mama and papa to donate a wing to the university. They are terrified someone is going to forget about that little piece of paper because they have naught else.

    It’s also how some gifted academics behave when they realise there isn’t a professor to tell them what to do and that an essay is of limited use in the real world. It sends a certain type of person nutso, and they take it out on people with actual workplace skills (especially retail and wait staff) because they had to buy into the pressure that only worthless people have those jobs or have no degree. Yet they see these people tackling situations that are beyond them. How very dare they.

    Just one or two of these people is like adinga toxic stew to the watercooler. You are not dealing with one or two. You are dealing with an academic jerk off circle who needed someone to do the actual work while they jerked off. But they changed their minds because you are a walking cognitive dissonance, shattering the illusion of the whole party.

    I’d collect stories? My fave story of this kind of ilk is someone who genuinely believed that all cleaners were lazy in school. It was great fun asking him about people who were not privileged, or going through trauma or people who need a job while they go to school. It was like talkmg to a baby.

  122. Looking looking*

    Ugh. This is similar to where I am now, I feel looked down because my degree and registration is from overseas. My assignments are nonsense unintellectual stuff, hence my name.
    I’m like hey, I was a better manager than y’all are back home lol

  123. Jaid*

    Several things:

    Wikipedia states that Koreans will use teapots for serving wine. Chocolate teapots can be made thick enough to actually use. I use hot water from my tea pot to loosen lids off of jars, it saves my wrists. Teapots aren’t just for tea.

    You may not have a degree, but as the commercial playing on the local news radio puts it, you’re a “Grad of Life”. Those jerks are lucky to see a real professional at work, it may be their only chance.

  124. sange*

    Hi, OP! I work in an environment that sounds very similar to what you are describing. I’m one of the people with the degrees and the casual foreign phrases – although I hope I am kinder! – but whenever we have hired wonderful people with external and highly valued experience, they have shared similar frustrations. For what it’s worth, I work in a very nuanced artistic field. Honestly, here is what worked for my colleagues and what I do when I don’t understand my esoteric colleagues – Google is your friend, flatter when you ask questions (You’re such an expert on 15th century Norwegian teapots, could you tell me more about XYZ), brush up your own external jargon that they don’t know (petty, but it works – when our CMO starts talking about outbounding and cross-messaging and SEO, he earns cred because we recognize he is an expert and we know nothing)… like AG says….pretend you are studying abroad in a different culture. Or even a different time period.

    What is really important though, is 1) please don’t express the “I was working while you were studying” mantra and 2) Keep any snide remarks about ridiculous latin phrases and pomposity to yourself, or save them for home…

    Good luck!

    1. TootsNYC*

      I did once start working at a place where the office admin, who had a lot of practical power and a lot of influence, was really snotty to me.
      I realized quickly that how I reacted was going to shape the entirety of my working there.

      I sucked up like the most obvious brown-noser you have ever seen!

      Flattery, forced friendliness every day, etc.
      I went on a cynical and calculated campaign to make her think that she was my friend, that I so admired her, etc.

      It worked–and then I didn’t have to do it anymore. And she also relaxed and became less prickly and annoying.

      1. TootsNYC*

        so, maybe cynically look around and pick one person that you think can be the most influential.

        Then go on a calculated campaign to make her (or him, but probably a her) your ally.

        Bring her coffee some mornings, or save her a cookie if you bake over the weekend; always ask how her weekend was, completely with follow-up questions as though you’re interested in her reactions to the movie she saw. Don’t bother telling her anything about you; you don’t care about being balanced here.

        Treat her the way Seventeen magazine told me I should treat boys who I wanted to date: Encourage them to talk about themselves, and pretend you’re genuinely interested.

        Deliberately refuse to rise to the bait. (I did this with my jerky big brother the year I realized he was about to graduate from high school, we’d never live together again, and our only memories of being siblings was going to be the picking on and the frustration.)
        Always let a snarky comment go, and immediately say something nice, even if it’s a non sequitur.

        Also know this: If you ask someone FOR a favor, they are more likely to consider you positively. So maybe ask Natasha to be your industry encyclopedia, and grit your teeth at the petty stuff (“Oh, I did know that, but thanks for explaining this other part!” >smile<) until she gets past the transition.

        Be cynical, be calculated, USE them quite selfishly.

    2. LQ*

      This is interesting. I don’t know that I’d recommend leaning into your own jargon. It may work if OP is really top of the heap in whatever. It definitely didn’t work for me. People knew that my boss knew more about the thing I was working on (he’s been here 25 years and built the thing…I can’t catch up in a long weekend) so my expertise in that was not a shiny star. If OP really is a top tier expert and can prove it, that may work. But if someone else knows someone else who is more of an expert or who has more experience (even if that other person doesn’t really) it may come back to bite you.
      If you know you can win in your own house, go ahead and invite them in, Home Alone it up, but if you aren’t 100% sure, don’t invite them into your home.

      1. sange*

        +1 for that home alone reference! My colleagues definitely back off when they no longer feel like they are the expert, so that’s how I’ve won a number of battles over the years. Like being out in the wild, you need to assert dominance in your territory. Sad but true.

  125. ShwaMan*

    OP, you are getting gaslit by insecure foolish entitled snobby people. Allison is right – you are spending your time looking at snarling alien animals in an exotic zoo – don’t let the snarling kill your confidence.

    Other than trying to internalize all of it, I agree with other commenters – get out as soon as you practically can.

    I scanned the comments for the additional context you provided. It sounds like the owner is the source of the bad culture that developed. *If* you feel you need to be there a while and want to try to improve things a little: look for opportunities to talk directly to the owner, and think about what he cares about that you are capable of helping to improve. (I’m guessing he doesn’t care much about feelings, but he must be in business for a reason.) And explain to him that people being unhelpful and nasty to you is preventing better outcomes in the areas he cares about. And ask him what he can suggest for you to do to make the interactions with the aliens more productive.

    Of course, this may not work. Only other thing I can think of is if he’s all hot-to-trot about Very Educated Brainiacs, try to find a book or seminar from someone he might admire that would explain why his approach and work culture are hurting his results.

    Good luck, and don’t let the clowns beat you down.

  126. J*

    Op, these people aren’t smart. Smart people k now how to interact with other humans, at least in some basic way. They happen to know a lot about your industry and they’ve decided that makes them gods and they are dead wrong. They’re just arrogant assholes and that’s all they ever will be.

  127. Von_Sass*

    Im a big fan of pointing out when someone is being an ass. “did you just roll your eyes at me?”

    “Golly it’s lucky I was hired to *note specific skill set* and dont need to know Latin, but just for funsies can you explain *latiny thing* to me anyway?

    I feel like a Golly or Gee Whiz said with confidence and while looking someone in the eye gets the point across. Also, practice raising one eyebrow.

    Don’t let them live in your head. they aren’t paying rent.

  128. Eukomos*

    Ugh, I’m sorry you have to put up with this OP, academia has some toxic cultural conventions and you seem to have run into a place with all of them. And the combo of academics and non-academics can exaggerate the problem. One thing that jumped out at me is that internal response you have, “while you were studying I was working,” which I think gets at a lot of the problem. Academics and non-academics frequently don’t understand what the other group does with their time. As you’ve noticed, your coworkers are wildly undervaluing how much you learned during those years of work because you didn’t get a big shiny credential at the end, and at the same time you’re undervaluing the work they did while they were “studying,” which by the time you’re a PhD student looks pretty indistinguishable from working (we teach, work in labs, research and publish, all the things other workers do). Undervaluing each others’ hard work and learning doesn’t exactly lay the groundwork for a friendly and supportive working environment.

    And since academics are also taught that keeping a high place in the workplace hierarchy is critical to getting any respect or resources, and that keeping that position means looking like you know everything, we develop some godawful habits that make ourselves and anyone else we have to work with miserable. We spend our lives convinced we know way less than we should, and overdoing the effort to make other people think we know everything. This is a toxic mix with the stereotype that academics are arrogant (which is true, we’re just also deeply insecure). Plenty of people manage to overcome these unhealthy patterns from academia, but it looks like you’ve run into a whole collection who haven’t.

    You can take advantage of their bad habits; if you talk a lot about your area of expertise, especially parts of it that they respect, academics will often mentally categorize you as “smart” and lay off. Avoid asking questions in crowds, remember them and ask one person who is not too much of a jerk later (this is what we do). Don’t do things that might threaten their public image as smart, as that will make them react defensively, so like when they’re obviously pretending they understand your area of expertise and don’t, go along with it and let them save face. And do get the hell out of there when you can, these are the habits of thought that lead to grad students having many the rate of depression that the general public does, you don’t need that!

  129. EmilyAnn*

    I was with Allison’s answer until the underhanded dig at the Real Housewives. There have been over 100 and one of the latest works in biotech so she’s probably pretty smart. There was no reason to compare 100 women from multiple cities to a convicted criminal. Way to stereotype.

  130. Tony*

    OP, rather than focusing on the fact that your colleague behaviour is demeaning, I would just treat it as rude: if you saw people treating someone else with such behaviour, I am sure you would be outraged by the rudeness.

    I think this is how you should see it and then you can act according.

  131. BSc and BEng*

    Hey LW, if you’re still reading comments, I just started a new job in a similar situation. I’m surrounded by specialists with PhDs and technical staff with 30+ years experience and I was hired for my outside experience and fresh ideas. Despite having a double degree, I’m well and truly outclassed. However, everyone I work with has been treating me very politely, patiently explaining concepts they work with every day with kindness and enthusiasm. If I indicate I already know something, they move on without a comment. Sometimes very stupid things slip out of my mouth, but we laugh, then we move on. THAT’S how mature adults deal with this kind of situation.

    Trust me, it’s NOT you, it’s THEM.

  132. Can Man*

    Just know that there are Smart™ people who do appreciate non-traditional expressions of intelligence and knowledge. For one example, see author Isaac Asimov and his article “What is Intelligence Anyway?”

  133. Gumby*

    OP, it’s these particular people – they are jerks and you are fine.

    I have a single undergraduate degree. I work primarily with people who have Ph.Ds in a subject in which I got the single lowest grade in my college career. (I mean, sure, there are lots of subjects I didn’t even take which I would probably have done worse at but still.) Not a single one has ever, EVER, treated me like that. My co-workers *thank me* when I do absolutely basic parts of my job. They have been, to a person, unfailingly polite.

    It is NOT you. It is them.

    Remind yourself often that the fault lies with them. Remind yourself of the new skills that you bring that they do not have. Remind yourself that they may have formal education but you are infinitely better at tact, diplomacy, and common decency.

  134. Cathie from Canada*

    I used to work as an administrator at a research medical-doctoral university, and I myself have only an undergraduate degree. I worked with some extremely brilliant and highly-credentialed people — theoretical physicists, mathematicians, nuclear scientists, internationally recognized scholars and researchers, brilliant writers and artists. It could be quite intimidating at times. But the best of these people were usually also the most humble, and the most respectful of people like me who had other types of expertise. The one who were egotistical or dismissive of my own ability were usually lacking in some area and trying to cover it up by being offensive. They didn’t last long nor did they get very far in their careers.

    1. Anoncorporate*

      I have been fortunate to both know and work with very intelligent and skilled people, and they are the last people to go out of their way to try and show off how smart they are, their degree, etc. It’s the dumb, insecure people who do that.

  135. mf*

    These people are horrible. I hope you get out of this place as soon as possible. These would be the script I’d use, but then, I have NO patience for people who are unapologetically mean.

    -Wow. I guess they didn’t teach manners in your PhD program.
    -Clever people are also capable of being kind. I think Natasha is smart enough to know that.
    -Yes, I actually knew that tea pots contain tea. I’m also aware that the sky is blue. Anyway, back to the topic of discussion…
    -For when they scream at you: Fergus, you seem awfully *emotional* right now. Maybe we should discuss this later when you can approach this logically.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      “Clever people are also capable of being kind. I think Natasha is smart enough to know that.” I love this! Though I’d probably insert a bit of shade by changing it to “I *hope* Natasha is smart enough to know this.” But I’m just petty like that.

  136. Wired Wolf*

    I’m dealing with a supervisor right now who thinks I’m “slow”…I have the longest tenure of anyone in my department (I was literally the first person hired for the department when the store was still under construction). I’m on the spectrum, and this vaguely-condescending treatment brings back some bad school memories.

    I’m the type of person who sees/finds something that needs to be done and does it. Under the store’s first department manager, I was given the freedom and ability to crosstrain myself in almost every aspect of our department and have the most complete product knowledge of anyone. This supervisor has only been here since November, and came from a “command and control” style of management which is alien to our team. Under previous managers, I/we had a good deal of autonomy (very small crew so the manager trusted us to work independently), I had been acting as a de facto supervisor and was in line for the actual supervisor role until the Retail manager decided that I “need to focus more”.

    This supervisor thinks that I need to be told exactly what to do and in what order, and will tend to later give me completely conflicting instructions (and then harass me for “abandoning” the first task). It almost feels as if she’s trying to “prove” that I’m not focused.

  137. Meißner Porcelain Teapot*

    OP, my advice to you would be to quit RIGHT NOW. Type up your resignation, walk up to your boss tomorrow, pack your things, and get out of there while you can.

    Now, you say that you need to stay for at least another six months. There are only four reasons I can think of why you would be hestitant to quit RIGHT NOW:

    1) You’re afraid you’ll look like a quitter/job hopper: You are not. As a matter of fact, the sooner you cut your losses, the better. As a matter of fact, you have the perfect excuse for getting out of this mess early: “I wanted to try working outside of my usual comfort zone for a while, but ultimately decided that industry X was not for me and I’d much rather return to doing Y.”

    2) You are afraid they will torpedo your future job search: These people are never, ever, ever, ever going to give you a good reference. Ever. They are treating you like dirt now. What makes you think that they will treat you any better when future employers call? Get out now, leave this job off your resume, and don’t look back.

    3) Money is tight and you’re afraid you won’t find another job in time: This might have been the case in post-recession 2009, but that was ten years ago. Will you be able to find the perfect job right away if you quit now? No. But almost anything is better than remaining in a toxic environment such as this one, which will slowly warp your sense of self and reality.

    4) You are bound by an actual, written contract, which specifies that you must hand in six months of notice to leave: Terribly unlikely, potentially illegal (I have been all over and I can’t think of a single country that allows for demanding that much notice). Also, contracts can be breached. Won’t look pleasant within the industry this bee central company is located in, but unless you’re planning to look for more work in this field in the future, I’d really say don’t worry about it.

    Whatever the reason is, if you do decide to stay–and I strongly encourage you NOT to–here are some basic things that I would suggest:

    1) Answer any and all nasty behavior towards you with “What a rude way to treat a co-worker.” Be a broken record. Make it boring for them to try and bully you, because that’s exactly what this is. It is bullying. Do not argue with them. Do not try to reason with them. Reason’s are for reasonable people. Do not feed the trolls. Your only response will be “What a rude way to treat a co-worker.”

    2) Make sure your work-life-boundaries are firmly in place. You arrive no minute earlier than your shift begins and you leave no minute later than your shift ends. Unless you are in a job where 24/7 availability is absolutely necessary (such as emergency services), you are NOT reachable by phone or email or carrier mail or pigeon while you are off the clock. Make sure to make that boundary stick.

    3) Every day, once you are off the clock, do something nice for yourself for at least half an hour. Eat some of your favorite food. Watch an episode of your favorite show. Take a hot, scented bath. Whatever makes you happy.

    4) If you can afford therapy, find yourself a therapist who will let you cry/vent for at least an hour a week without judging you. Do not do this with friends or family instead, because it will most likely sour those relationships. Or at least, if you do, make sure you rotate your emotional support buddies.

    5) Speaking of friends and family, actively try to spend more time with people who actually appreciate you.

    6) The moment you are out of there, leave a scathing glass door review.

    Good luck, OP. You do not deserve this.

  138. chickaletta*

    Smart has never equated with kindness or emotional intelligence. If it was, the history of the world would be very different.

  139. Anoncorporate*

    I’m going to reiterate something you said in your letter: You were hired because you have a unique set of indisposable skills that many candidates didn’t have, and they NEEDED you to close a skills/knowledge gap in the company.

    I bet that these people are REALLY insecure and are trying to compensate for it by treating you the way they do. They might even to some extent resent that you “caught up” to them without putting in the number years of school in. And don’t even get me started on the elitism of it all.

    While it’s not to the same extent, some middle managers at my company talk to junior employees in a very condescending manner (like, they will correct or try to add on to everything we say, no matter what, to showcase their seniority.) It’s really annoying, and I can’t imagine how I would deal with your coworkers.

    1. Anoncorporate*

      Also, I’m probably preaching to the choir but just want to add…like yes completing school is hard and is an accomplishment, but it doesn’t like, make you superhuman. People who are born geniuses will be geniuses whether they go to school or not. Some people are under the false impression they can buy their way into geniushood just by getting a bunch of degrees.

  140. AmethystMoon*

    Can you do any kind of volunteering outside of work, if you don’t already do so? If you can, that would probably a. help you feel a sense of accomplishment and b. perhaps lead to a networking connection.

  141. MissDisplaced*

    I’m so sorry for you OP. I deal daily with a situation that is a bit different, isn’t quite as horrid, but is still very relatable in feeling. Like you, I was “brought in” to provide some specific skills. And there is a lot of being blocked, and having my hard work negated or changed (but not by my msnager). It is demeaning and discouraging. I often feel like I’m being held back from truly adding value and growing myself and the business. I keep trying different tacks, but nothing has really worked.

  142. Iris*

    I spent a lot of time in a toxic workplace where eye rolling by superiors was common and yelling less so but also happened. The most talented and professional employees were often the ones who got the most in trouble and subjected to the eye rolling etc. and were probably threatening to the managers. But no one was throwing phrases in Latin around, I think that is so funny unless you work in law or medicine? OP, keep your chin up. Don’t show any reaction, seeing you flustered and uncomfortable is what some people thrive on. I just found this website recently and I’m addicted. It is so amazing and such an amazing community!!

  143. Iris*

    Yes, the laughing at meetings, picking on people at meetings and mocking. It’s just signs of a toxic workplace and management refusing to address things or maybe they’re the ones who feel the need to pick on you. If you weren’t there they would pick on someone else or the new person even if they have a fancy degree from a fancy school. It has nothing to do with you or you may be threatening to them.

  144. Jenny*

    I have been treated this way at a job before. It was customer service and just a college gig, but it still upsets me to think about nonetheless. I guess you can’t do what I did, which was quit without notice. But I will say, no matter these peoples’ level of education at your job, these people are very inept in how to act socially. I have an advanced degree and tbh I often worry about seeming like I think I am better than coworkers due to it and my license. Because of that, I don’t mention it often, or if I do for some reason, I just say it matter of factly ( ie “I have to do this bc of my license.”

    I say this because not all of us are assholes and I think there may be some weird culture ther. Leave when you can!

  145. ... cats and dogs*

    Please look for a new job! I think it is ok to say the job was not what you were expecting or how it was represented or something like that. Don’t bad mouth them but I think it’s ok to say the managerial role is not as upper level as you were expecting so you are not doing what you believed you would be doing. It’s all true!

  146. Shoes on My Cat*

    Oh OP, your letter made me see so much red!! These people are a+ jerks. I work for two genius-level, multi papered women and they pretty much use those brains to figure out how to help their staff maximize our brains & educations (I too only have 1 paper). And when I say genius-level, I’m not kidding! I grew up with one of those and his name is on the patent for a certain interplanetary ATV that’s still going strong. And he also did not act like the people you mention above! He, then my bosses, taught me that the more a person behaves like you described above, the less smart they really are. It’s smokescreen for a lack of the depth of understanding required to parse out the primary concepts to the layperson and then translating those concepts to laypersons terms. Getting multiple papers doesn’t *prove* smarts!!! Being able to disseminate information appropriately to the audience demonstrates a deep and thorough understanding of the topic which allows the flexibility of thought required to explain to all levels of people on a professional spectrum. People like the Jackass Horde (thanks Alison!) can only show off their ‘repeat by rote’ learning and I’m sure get defensive when you ask for more information to get a better understanding BECAUSE THEY CAN’T AND YOUR QUESTIONS ARE EXPOSING THAT LACK! Your letter was well thought out, clear to follow and absorb. You are fine!!!! Honestly, I think that ANY outsider, regardless of papers, etc. would be experiencing the same “shutting out” behavior. You were brought in from the outside because Jackass Horde, with all their papers, couldn’t meet a need for the company. You showed them up from the day you were interviewed because you had the potential to fix things where they had FAILED. If someone else came along with 6 papers, Jackass Horde would mock their freckles. So own that you kicked their asses once just by getting hired. And again every time you fix or upgrade anything. Every time they snub you, consider how many bruises you left/are leaving on their egos by being you & kicking ass. And then go work on your job search so you can leave them!!! Use Alison’s advice and try to let that chip on your shoulder shrink. I saw nothing in your letter, perspective, ability to get hired through a rigorous process and doing it into a different industry! to validate that chip. It sure seems like you have made good use/leverage of the opportunities you created for yourself. That’s pretty awesome!

  147. Missy Oh*

    OP, that sounds like a dreadful situation. I had an experience working with very negative coworkers once (though not in any way on this level), and what helped me was getting active outside of work, in professional associations and online forums. It was a relief to be treated with respect and as a professional, and the networking opportunities also didn’t hurt when it came time to move on. If something like this is available to you, it might a good antidote to the atrocious attitudes of your coworkers.

  148. Marvelousmith*

    Not sure if this would work, but what about responding to them with a very polite (but not too-sweet fake) question about why they’re rolling their eyes? Sort of a mix between “be curious not furious” and pointing out their crappy behavior.

    Of course, this requires you to be good at acting polite when you’re actually pissed off. I’m not sure how long I could keep that going.

    1. Marvelousmith*

      Alternatively: when they break out the Latin, pick up some phrases in Klingon so you can spit it back at them.

  149. Argh!*

    LW, it sounds like your role is to support those other managers, otherwise you’d be the one having to explain things to your colleagues. You could try interrupting one of the patronizing lectures with “No offense, but when I don’t understand something I’ll ask. We can save time if you just assume I don’t need an explanation unless I ask for one.” Framing it as time saving might get through to them…. might.

    Until I got to the part of your letter about the yelling, I thought your colleagues were just somewhat misguided. The stuff in private would probably depend on the specific people involved. You could try saying “I don’t hold it against you that you don’t have a background in [thing you were hired for], and I’d appreciate the same consideration.” This is the kind of thing that would haunt me in my next job and make it hard to trust others.

    I have encountered jerks in meetings, too. In my case, the IT department has a jerk who will rattle off acronyms that he knows we don’t know. I will be the only one in meetings who asks what these things mean, and I do worry that it hurts my reputation. I complained to my boss about having something obvious explained to me, and she didn’t think it was a big deal. But at least I stood up for myself and asked her to support me.

    re: Latin — you could study up on the Latin lingo of that field. (medicine? law?) If the terms are really part of the vocabulary of the field, it’s worth getting to know them if you plan to put this job on your resume. People in the future may also expect you to know those words, and having mastered that specialized vocabulary would be a win for your self-esteem.

    The person who hired you saw something in you, so don’t doubt yourself! That person probably also realized the organization was being harmed by a lack of diversity of background & by a hive-mind. It might be worth discussing the situation with that person. If you’re planning to leave within a year anyway, that relationship is the one that really needs tending.

    Please update us!

  150. Lars*

    OP, for the laughing thing – this phrase came to me when at my work, we had a guest speaker who I, in my capacity as the operations liaison, set up his technology and got him ready for training. He treated me very much like a wind-up toy or a Playboy Bunny (ick). But he made the mistake of condescendingly telling a partner that I “really am on the ball!”

    The partners response was “she isn’t here for your amusement.”

    Just keep pushing that. “I am not here for your amusement.”

  151. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    Your coworkers are a bunch of jerks, showing off and pumping up their egos at your expense. A STEM subject PhD once told me, getting a doctorate can be more a matter of tenacity and persistence than intelligence. If it took genius to get an advanced degree, there’d be damn few people with advanced degrees.

    Education DOES matter, it’s not nothing to get it and X years of experience does not always equate to it. But if these people were as great as they think they are, they wouldn’t be treating you like this and they’d recognize and respect you and what you bring to the table.

    I’ve worked in academia and encountered very little of this actually. There was definitely a hierarchy and a sense of position and status, but not this kind of childish power-tripping. Most people at all levels were too busy working.

    I’ve also worked in a business that can be top-heavy with PhDs who love to pull trivia out of a hat and act astounded when “the little people” don’t know it while taking for granted that they don’t so they can act like hotshots.

    It sucks to be treated that way at work. Remember you’re there because they need you. And it’s possible you aren’t the only one there in that boat. I don’t know which way your sense of humor turns, but I’d love it if the reply to “Teapots often contain tea” were “Really, Sansa? What kind of tea? Do they all brew equally well in teapots? Does the color of the teapot make a difference in brewing times?”
    or “Thanks for the tip, Fergus. Hold on everyone, I need to write that down. How do you spell ‘tea’?”

    I get you about the challenging upbringing. But you stayed on track and got your degree; sadly, a lot of people give up.

    I don’t know if any of this helped, but I’m in your corner.

  152. Elmer Litzinger, spy*

    There is no reason you can’t spout Latin back. May I suggest Catullus’s 16th poem?

  153. SAS*

    Oh OP this letter cuts deep. I’m dealing with the same type of behaviour on a MUCH smaller scale and it still hurts so much and is really affecting my confidence and love for my work. Sending all my best to just hang in there for as long as you can.

    My strategy has been to divide and conquer. When the bullies are mocking you in a group situation, engage as little as possible. However, in 1-1 situations with your manager or colleagues, I would make comments that acknowledge the shitty treatment you’re receiving. Be really breezy like it’s all brushed off your shoulder “oh yeah, I can see Evilla is very smart, she’s great at [process], I mean, she’s a bit behind on communication skills like when [she talks to people like they’re toddlers; can’t answer my questions directly and waffles about basic information] but that stuff just comes with experience.”

    In the 1-1 convos I very much go with the tone of “I’m not judging this [terrible] person, they’ll get there in the end, bless them” type of thing.

    For the eye rolling, which I haaaaate, I’ve said (1-1 is always key!) “I don’t think Evilla is having a good week, poor thing, I saw her rolling her eyes when I [asked/did such and such], she must be feeling pretty overwhelmed/have a lot of stuff going on at the moment.”

    For me, I feel better that I’ve commented on it to multiple people so they can’t continue to act in so-called ignorance that I’m too obtuse to notice. Some of the less evil ones might stop at this at least. Good luck OP.

  154. londonedit*

    Ugh, what a horrible situation. It doesn’t matter how many degrees these people have, the fact is they’re just awful.

    I’m wondering why they even know your education history anyway? Did the boss tell them? I work with a team of people, and I wouldn’t really have a clue what qualifications they all have. People sometimes mention ‘when I was at uni’ in general conversation, and I assume everyone here has a degree because it’s usually required in our industry, but the detail of people’s academic achievement isn’t something that a) is routinely discussed or b) makes any difference whatsoever.

    I’m in my late 30s and am at the tail end of the generation for whom a single degree is very, very usual. In the UK, when I was at university, people would usually only go on to do a Master’s if they were looking at a career that would specifically require one, or if they wanted to go into academia or pursue a PhD in the future. The vast majority of people graduated with their BA or BSc and went out to get a job. Since then, as more and more people have gone to university and having a BA/BSc has become the norm (not to mention the effects of the 2008 financial crisis on job availability) more people have carried on to get a Master’s in an attempt to make them stand out from the crowd, so it’s now more usual to have one. But I wouldn’t have a clue whether any of my colleagues have an MA or a PhD or whatever. And I’ve certainly never been treated any differently because I ‘only’ have a BA.

    These people have created their own little cliquey ‘smart club’ and they get a kick out of excluding you from it. They are total arseholes and it’s their problem, not yours.

  155. Asenath*

    Since it’s not practical for you to leave the job immediately, there have been many good suggestions about responding to rudeness in the moment, which is when it often should be addressed. I particularly like saying something about giving the person time to cool down and walking away (or turning away, depending on whether you are in their space or they are in yours) if they are shouting at you. Sometimes people are either intimidated by shouting, or lured into responding in kind. Neither is really a good way to respond, in my opinion.

    Don’t let them decide who you are or how smart you are, especially based on your background. Many of my friends were the first in their families to attend university; some were the first to graduate from high school as well. There was a serious point behind one story we told, the one about the first year university student who went to his small remote hometown and told his grandparents about all the new ideas he had learned and why the old people were so ignorant. A few years later, the same student realized that his uneducated relatives had a lot of common sense, understanding of human nature, great moral qualities (like kindness and honesty) and many very useful and salable skills including the ability to learn quickly. That’s a lesson your co-workers haven’t learned; that degrees aren’t the only measure of a person, and are far from the most important one. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

  156. jk*

    Ugh I’m so sorry that you have to go through this OP. The people are your company need to get over themselves.

    I’ve experienced this feeling before. Neither of my parents went to university. I did and just got my master’s but it took me a while to get here. Now… I’ve never considered myself to be academically smart but I’m good at what I do.

    I went to sixth form college (basically 2 year high school before university) in the UK and many of my classmates were Cambridge and Oxford material. I felt like a complete idiot… but I knew I wasn’t deep down. The teachers treated me differently to their ‘star’ students. But I knew that we were all smart, just smart in different ways.

    You were hired for a reason. You have a skill set that they do not have. They would not be able to do your job. Perhaps say something about your role and roll your eyes and laugh at THEM when they have no answer. In one of my old roles I had to laugh out loud at the VP of marketing because she asked me if I knew how to… search for images and create a PowerPoint… I’d been in my role for 1 year (doing those things already) and previously had been employed for about 10 at that time. I was like.. “Umm… yes. Is this a trick question?”

    Anyway, supposedly smart people do stupid things. And, many lack common sense and emotional intelligence. You’re superior to them, just in different ways!

  157. Lee*

    Do you feel comfortable pushing back? I would love to see you roll YOUR eyes at them when they start to explain the obvious to you or use Latin (!) in a work setting. I know its easier for me to say this as an outsider looking in, but you would be perfectly justified in talking frankly and directly to them and tell them to cut the ****. And definitely walk away from anyone who screams at you. I find that bully’s (b/c that’s what they are) back down when you get more in their face.

  158. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

    Unless I missed something (perfectly possible!) – is there a reason why you can’t just get out get out get out?

    Leaving that aside, Snark posted something in a thread earlier this week that stuck with me – I believe the phrase was “Weirdos In The Mist”. That’s your approach. These people are a different species – a pathetic, jerkass species that could be studied, preferably from afar, but you’ve unfortunately stumbled across their encampment. (Ok, I’ve killed that metaphor now). Every time they are patronising, raise an eyebrow in mild confusion that someone so apparently human could say something so obviously alien.

    The other thing, since these people are apparently incapable of it, is be kind to yourself. Don’t spend your time and energy dwelling on these lizard people in human suits. If it’s for a few more months, start setting aside some cash to reward yourself at the end of the trial by fire by doing something you truly enjoy. And at some point this experience will evolve into a humorous “I can’t believe I worked with these twerps” story.

  159. Estraven*

    I am the (ostensibly) underqualified colleague in this scenario. I have been in my team for 13 years and in that time, the hiring process has moved towards folk with Masters and PhDs in related areas (Public Policy, Medical Ethics, Philosophy). I have a basic BA in History. But my colleagues are kind and collaborative and I know that I bring something to our discussions – mainly by boiling things down to their basics. My manager laughs at me (kindly) when there has been a very intense and detailed discussion and I go ‘Oh right, so that means XYZ then’. ‘Oh yeah’. That’s my superpower, and why I am valued by my team. Not for my academic credentials.

  160. Oaktree*

    My partner barely graduated high school, failed out of multiple college programs, and couldn’t hack it in university. I have a master’s degree. I work in a profession and he’s in the trades. He clearly has more practical skills and intelligence than I do- I think we’re both equally smart, but he’s just so much better at the things that make you successful in life as opposed to the white collar office or the classroom. Some things are just more important than a degree. Mine helped me get a foot in the door because it was a prerequisite for the field I went into, but that’s all it did for me really.

    These people are total assholes, and I hope you can white-knuckle your way through until you get out. And not that “intelligence”, however defined, is the most important quality a person can have – as we’ve seen, it’s really important to be kind and sensible as well – you sound very intelligent to me. The people you have the misfortune of working with are unbelievable jerks, and while their attitude may serve them well in the bizarro-world microcosm of this Hell Office, I guarantee you they’re alienating people right left and centre outside in the real world. Hang in there, OP. And get yourself a latte today or something. Sounds like you deserve one.

  161. it_guy*

    I’m late chiming, but I couldn’t help it.

    Education is no indicator of intelligence. A degree is just an indicator of how well you do on tests. (I have a BS with 2 majors so I can speak on this). One of the smartest people I know was my father who never graduated high school but that didn’t stop him one bit from exploring the universe around him.

    The only stupid people are the clueless clods who think an education is all that matters.

  162. Jack Be Nimble*

    So much sympathy for the OP. A lot of my coworkers genuinely believe that the only “good” education comes from elite, private universities. There are times when I want to ask “okay, if you’re so smart, why did you spend $25,000 a semester on an undergraduate degree?”

  163. Anony-Mouse*

    Hi OP,

    I am just here to say that I was in your exact situation 6 months ago, and completely understand how disheartening, cruel, and emotionally (and physically) draining it can be! A huge part of my situation was created because it was a top down occurrence, with the owner being a Human Garbage Person and the rest of his small team following suit and/or falling in line out of fear of losing their jobs. Consequently I was eye-rolled, doors slammed, silent treatment, huge sighing, called stupid, nasty, sarcastic “comments” put on my documents in lieu of actual, you know, revisions, screamed at, etc. Everyone there acted like a beaten/abused spouse, with colleagues giving each other side-ways looks as the boss came in the door, and the mood of the office changing when he arrived and left. As an outsider (who is mentally well-adjusted) all of this was just bananas to me.

    But I immediately started thinking “What am I doing to make these people treat me so awfully? I must really be stupid.”

    I had moved my entire life and family 100 miles, away from their homes and friends and schools, for THIS NONSENSE. To say I felt blue was an understatement. Every day I did not cry in the car on the way home I counted as a “good day”.

    What I want to say is, please, please do not let fear control you, please get out! There WILL be another job that will love to have you on their team, and you will get back to a team where people aren’t terrible, awful, no good, very bad excuses for humans, and it will be better than you ever thought and you will wonder why you wasted another precious day of your life subjecting yourself to these maniacs. You can do this! Start looking today and make it your new job to look for a place where your mental and physical health are not put in jeopardy, life is too too short to spend it with individuals like that, and money is always there to be made. I am not a wealthy person, just a regular working-class single income family struggling paycheck-to-paycheck.

    I quit 2 months in and the best thing I ever did was tell that vile piece of worm food what I thought of him and his way of treating people.All done at the pinnacle of professionalism, because you know, I’m a good communicator like that. ;-)

    1. Emily*

      Glad to hear that you got out of your horrible situation relatively quickly! Hopefully OP can find a better workplace, too.

  164. incompetemp's colleague*

    I don’t have any advice for you, but I do want to say you’re definitely not the odd one in this situation. Seems these people boasting about their smarts are hugely lacking in the emotional intelligence category, which is just as important – and arguably MORE important. Doesn’t matter how many Latin phrases you can shout from memory, if you’re a jerk, you can only get so far. There’s so much value in being a well-rounded, KIND person. You sound well-rounded to me. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you’re less than awesome.

    Hang in there! I really hope you find a better place for you in the near future.

  165. wittyrepartee*

    For comparison, I work in a place where we employ and work closely with people with everything from and MD or PhD to people with high school diplomas. We do not do things like what you’re describing. My education is much less fancy than some of the people I work with (even given similar degrees, I’m not from the Ivies), and NO ONE has talked down to me because of it. As is right.

    Get out, and get out as fast as you can.

  166. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    When the apocalypse comes all of your co-workers are going to be eaten by wolves on the first day.

  167. MaureenC*

    OP, they’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.

    I’m quoting The Great Gatsby because a) I think there are similarities between your situation and Jay Gatsby’s and b) because the novel is named after Gatsby, not dipshit-with-a-Yale-degree Tom Buchanan. Also because c) I would totally read a novel that was a thinly-veiled portrait of your workplace (think “The Devil Wears Prada”). (Please consult an employment law attorney before sending the novel to agents just to make sure it won’t violate your nondisclosure agreement or something.)

    It’s cool that your co-workers have advanced degrees. It’s cool that some of them know Latin (if they’re quoting Latin phrases that haven’t become part of the vocabulary of the industry, like Law Latin), and I guess they’re trying to make use of it somehow in the absence of anyone speaking it. (Okay, that last bit was insincere.)

    I do like using the “bless your heart” attitude towards these folks if possible. I also like the idea of looking for a different job. Be kind to the junior staff, because they’ll probably move your work to the head of the line (or at least before Natasha’s) and because they probably hate your boss and co-workers just as much, if not more, than you–but I would be careful about what you say about your colleagues to them. If there’s anyone in management who’s not a complete tosser, be carefully kind in a similar way.

    So, yeah, I see your options as 1. Get out 2. Game of Thrones this 3. Take notes for later (legal) revenge.

  168. Sunshine*

    I’m getting flashbacks to the “Me and most of my colleagues were smart and dedicated enough to get a masters,” poster, except that was a 28 year old who was fired for her cliquey behaviour, realised she was wrong and did a lot of work on herself. Not a whole company.

    My advice is work on your CV, get networking, volunteer, make sure to socialise, maybe get therapy. Basically spend time with kind and sane adults.

  169. Liz*

    OP, I’ve worked in an environment like this before, and it is really hard to believe that “they’re the problem” when there are SO MANY of “them” and just one of you. I can empathize, and I’m sorry you’re going through this.

    When I joined my current company, I felt like I was on an alien planet for at least 4-6 months. One piece of advice I got that was really helpful: someone there recognizes the value of bringing in fresh perspectives to break up the groupthink that is happening — that’s why they hired you. Find them, and ask them for help connecting to others like them. Make them your allies. Ask them for help figuring out how to navigate this crazy culture, at least for the time you’re there. Use those allies to help you build new connections and find moments to help you shine. I did this and ultimately decided to stay because I found enough allies that I felt we could influence and change the culture, but that doesn’t always happen.

    Good luck, OP. Remember that when someone tells you something about yourself, you can choose not to believe them.

  170. RatherBeSleeping*

    Ahhh, letter writer, I hope that you are being very kind to yourself in the absence of kind coworkers! I’m sure this has been said, but to echo Alison’s point: I have met many people with prestigious degrees who ask questions that I, personally, would consider common knowledge. Smartness is subjective, but I personally don’t think much about the intelligence of people who think there’s only one way to be smart.

  171. MaureenC*

    Also, I just realized: There are so many parallels between your boss/coworkers and the co-worker in “my coworker won’t stop talking about how rich she is” (January 10, 2019; in the Ask the Readers category) except that you’ve landed in the Bizarro World where bragging is the norm.

  172. Jan*

    Sorry you’re going through this. It’s easy to say “don’t let it get to you”, but when you’re a nice person, interactions like this hurt. I can see how lonely it must be. Horrible.

    But the main thing to remember is – you are a nice person. They think they’re superior because of their education, but you’re better than them in the ways that matter, which includes the fact that you would never dream of treating anybody the way these bastards are treating you. Be proud!

    Also, there’s a great quote from the main character in Rob Grant’s novel “Colony” where he faces a similar situation which might be worth you adapting: “All right. You’ve all had your juvenile fun. You’ve pinned me to the table with contempt, like some craven crawling insect and prodded and poked me while I wriggle and squirm. But before you take the brilliantly studied and well informed decision to hurl me to whatever nasty wolves you have snarling on their leashes, just let me say this: no one here is better than me. None of you. I may not be the brightest guy on board. I may not crack impenetrable so-called ‘jokes’ in dead Mediterranean languages, for you all to pat yourselves on your smug, well read backs and take dismal satisfaction in being repositories of deeply useless knowledge. But I am not deserving of your assumed superior contempt. Nor do I accept your right to pass judgment on my ultimate value as a human being. You are not better than me. None of you. Not one of you is actually any better a person than I am.”

    Good luck whatever you decide to do. Don’t let the bastards define who you are!

  173. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

    “[T]hey won’t interview anyone without a strong academic performance, even at the expense of a solid work history.”
    This is how you end up with an office full of highly educated assholes who don’t work well with others.
    Then, when you bring on a skilled new hire to fill an important niche, the office of assholes bullies her and she quits for a better job.
    Start your job search now if you haven’t already, and run away from rhis horror show!

  174. Aerin*

    I do in-house tech support. I get some *astonishingly* stupid questions from users sometimes. But part of what I’m paid for is to never ever let them know that I’ve been floored by a question I haven’t been asked since 1997, to just adapt my explanations and instructions to their skill level and help them understand as much as they need to.

    One of my roles is to assist other agents who are running into problems they can’t solve. And again, sometimes they’ll bring up things that we would absolutely expect them to know or be able to figure out on their own. I guarantee that anyone who openly belittled the agent in that scenario would get immediately taken off that duty and disciplined. Even if we genuinely need to convey a message of “This is something you should know by now,” the solution is to look at more training or beefing up our reference materials, not to roll our eyes and make the agent feel like an idiot.

    Even if you were genuinely unqualified and in way over your head (not that you are, but if you were), it would still not be okay for them to treat you this way, not even close. Your best bet is to disconnect emotionally, because this is about them and not about you, and try to get out as soon as you can. There can be immense satisfaction in remaining calm and aloof when someone is trying to push your buttons.

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