update: my office wants us to celebrate by wearing pink and blue by gender

Remember the letter-writer whose office wanted to celebrate Nurses Week by ordering their nurse to wear pink and blue by gender and to bake things? Here’s the update.

Thank you so much, from the bottom of my apparently not-so-Lone Cranky Feminist heart, for all of the thoughtful and encouraging feedback from you and the AAM community. I felt nervous about taking action, but then I pictured an ARMY of Lone Cranky Feminists (of all genders, wearing mostly purple and periwinkle scrubs!) behind me to cheer me on. I tried talking to the people on the planning committee, but didn’t get much traction. Most of them thought wearing pink & blue was bizarre/offensive but also didn’t plan to join in or to complain. Everyone wore whatever they usually wore, and very few people showed up in pink or blue. I rocked out in purple or white for most of the week.

I forwarded the hurl-worthy emails to the diversity chief (in my experience, HR has not been helpful with many workplace issues) for some action. She was horrified and promised to take action. Unfortunately that meant she forwarded my email, with my name and contact info, directly to the Nursing Department, i.e. all of my immediate supervisors. UGH. Diversity Chief called me to apologize profusely for inadvertently naming me as the whistleblower, and then we ranted for awhile about why women and also transgender, nonbinary and LGTBQ+ people often prefer to seek health care services elsewhere, because of outdated and offensive mindsets illustrated by these “pink and blue” emails. I doubt the Nursing Department (including my immediate supervisors) wrote or sent out the offensive emails, but they were also on the distro list and never bothered to say anything. The offensive emails vanished without a word of explanation or apology, replaced by more generic Nurses Week emails.

Best of all, the bake-off was a total flop! Reader Gumby suggested that about 5% participation would be needed to have enough goodies for all. There are about 600 nurses employed here, plus maybe another 50-60 manager types, and only 4 people submitted baked goods. Epic fail! There was a very strict rule that ONLY homemade baked goods would be allowed, and that coupled with the audacity of demanding that nurses cater their own party, sunk their vile plans. The Nurses Week planning committee was so incensed that they refused to declare a winner or distribute any prizes, even though the few nurses who participated did put thoughtful effort into their goodies. There was also a “poster presentation” contest that I refused to participate in, on the grounds that it was fun for the fifth grade science fair but not appropriate for working professionals. Please note that doctors, pharmacists, physical therapists, social workers etc (among other hard-working and awesome health care professionals also employed here) do NOT host poster contests, but it is a routine and highly-encouraged “opportunity” in nursing. ICK.

Reader Batgirl wrote “Does anyone feel like this is more about celebrating the hospital management than the nurses? Like: show your dedication and be decorative and festive so we can point out what an amazing workplace we have created?” The official schedule of events ran for hours on most days. I guess all the administrators and managers were able to attend the splendid festivities, but most of the nurses were not allowed to go. Because, work. My supervisor dreamed up a scavenger hunt with clues all over the hospital campus, but again, most people did not have time to participate because, again, work. If the prizes were anything good (like movie tickets or time off) I would have made an effort, but as the prizes were tchotchkes and a badly-photocopied award certificate, I decided I would stick with seeing patients in the clinic.

I personally did get a lot of love and positive affirmations from my fellow nurses and other staff members, like the doctors and medical service assistants working “in the trenches” with us. That meant more to me than any stupid party planning committee ideas. There is always next year, and hopefully someone with a mindset from this century will head up the Nurses Week committee. Definitely not me though, too much work to do!

{ 163 comments… read them below }

  1. Clorinda*

    What kind of mind thinks up Nurses Week activities that are impossible for the nurses themselves to enjoy?
    I mean, my school is having a potluck end-of-year faculty lunch, so we have to provide the food ourselves, but at least we get to eat it!

    1. Why isn't it Friday?*

      Exactly. Whoever thought up all these ideas seems pretty clueless, but at least they fell flat!

      1. valentine*

        I’m surprised they punished the four (4!) bakers. These people sound like the type who think they’re impossibly generous and the nurses need to show more gratitude. Gross.

        I do love when silence=success, though, as with the disappearing emails.

        1. Vicky Austin*

          Yeah, those 4 people went into a lot of time and effort all for nothing. I hope at least their baked goods were eaten!

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Apparently the same group that thought it made sense to kick off a celebration by forcing people to perform their (binary only) gender through stereotypical color coding. This whole thing was so obscene and handled so poorly. I’m proud of OP but still shaking my head so hard at the employer.

    3. CommanderBanana*

      This, sadly, happens a lot – workplace decides to have “fun” activity to “combat burnout” and everyone is too busy to attend.

      Also, WTF, Diversity Chief. Forwarding an email like that without removing identifying info is such a stupid, junior league mistake.

      1. Autumnheart*

        I was just thinking that. If this is the kind of rookie move that HR does when it’s about raising a question about inclusion, what the heck happens when someone wants to report a genuinely sensitive and confidential issue? Diversity Chief better get some confidentiality lessons right quick, because the next time they “accidentally” reveal a whistleblower’s identity will look like a pattern, not like an honest mistake.

        1. Massmatt*

          The Diversity Chief fell down BADLY on this, OMG forwarding the email of complaint to the whistleblower’s managers is absolutely idiotic. Total fail.

          It sounds as though this organization has a LOT of problems. Why aren’t the actual nurses having some say in what festivities etc they would like vs: having clueless managers plan fun for themselves? If there is no way to get someone to listen to the need for reform I would seriously think about moving on.

      2. enlyghten*

        Agreed on both points. “Mandatory Fun”, in my experience, is often bad for morale. Not to mention that it often pushes work on to the next shift who would have had to come in early for their shift to participate in the festivities anyway.

        It was a minor miracle that there was no retaliation mentioned after she was thrown under the bus.

    4. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Millions of years ago, there was a Miss Manners question that asked exactly that.

      An admin asked about the employee “appreciation” week perk she got: an invite to a fancy restaurant she can’t afford that was across town and she’d have to pay for her lunch. Not clear if management was attending too. Her lunch break was an hour, and the travel time to and from swanky restaurant was an hour. The perk? She got an extra half hour for lunch.

      Aside from the extra 30 minutes, I’m still not clear what the extra perk was here.

      Miss Manners advice? Don’t complain. Be grateful. But do not, under any circumstances, go because this was not a lunch invite. No response or participation is required. Management should get the picture when no one goes.

      1. Daisy*

        ‘No response required’ is really what I was thinking when I read this letter. It didn’t really sound like all this nonsense was worth the energy and thought OP gave it. Everyone else just ignored it and got on with their days, message sent.

        1. Czhorat*

          I’m glad that OP is fighting the good fight. There is gendered nonsense here which really needs to be addressed and an overall lack of professionalism in the treatment of the nurses.

          If you aren’t planning on leaving, it’s good to strive to make your workplace better.

          1. Daisy*

            I’m not saying OP was *wrong*, it just seems like using a hammer to crack a walnut in this case. OP already knew people weren’t planning to do it, and there were no consequences for not doing it. There are plenty of letters here where someone opts out of this sort of thing and faces negative repercussions, and that’s a good time to push back hard. Prior to that though, I think ignoring is a perfectly good way to make the workplace knock it off with this sort of rubbish.

            1. LCFA OP*

              Not gonna lie — I enjoy rocking the boat sometimes. The management here is punitive and parochial, and I enjoy pushing back when I can.

            2. Agatha31*

              Yeah, “don’t talk about it” is a super traditional line of thought that has been used for ages to keep traditional bullshit/secrets in place and people outside the “norm” IN their place. So though OP had no obligation to fight, I am super cheering that they did. Also, OP only brought out the hammer when smaller implements failed, so…

        2. Alton*

          Eh, I don’t think a lot of thought was “required,” but as a trans person and a feminist, I appreciate it when people care enough to point out things that are unnecessarily gendered in ways that may be uncomfortable and exclusive. I don’t feel I’d have the same privilege as a lot of people to do things like wear what I’m most comfortable in during the “pink and blue scrubs” without it standing out or being a “statement.”

          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            Absolutely agree! Those who can speak up without fearing for their job, their social capital, or whatever else they might fear SHOULD speak up, if they choose. (I feel like we all have a societal responsibility to speak up when we see exclusion and oppression, but I recognize that not everyone feels that way.

            My son is trans and when he or I speak up about something, it is often mischaracterized as being “part of our agenda” (or maybe it’s correctly characterized? I do have an agenda, after all). If someone cis speaks up, it promotes inclusion and allyship in a different way.

            Note: these are just my thoughts. I know that allyship is viewed differently by different people, and many think we shouldn’t speak for a group or an individual. These are just my opinions and what works for me).

        3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          No response is required but one is optional! So that’s why the OP is absolutely right to stand up and say “this is not inclusive behavior” when it came to the pink/blue nonsense.

          If it was just the ridiculous bake off thing, then whatever, that’s easily ignored and point taken that only a couple people participated!

        4. Michaela Westen*

          My MO is if I feel inspired/motivated to speak up, I do. Apparently OP did too. :)

    5. Allornone*

      I know. From what I understand, nurses have one of the most demanding jobs out there, with virtually no time to have even a break. Why would they think they’d any fo that would be a good idea? (I don’t even get me started on the gendering…)

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        There was an old episode of M*A*S*H that reinforced gender stereotypes in nursing. The Army brought female nurses in as officers, while male nurses were brought in as enlisted. The reenlistment counselor caught some hands from the male nurse when he tried to get him to reenlist.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Um…. I didn’t know the expression and googled it and…I think that slang has taken on new meanings different from what you’re intending.

          1. ZB*

            It means to fight someone… can be used in a hyperbolic way to mean to argue with/be mad at someone. Seems to me like that fits with the tone of the comment/intended meaning?

        2. Pebbles*

          There was another episode where Scully comes to visit Hot Lips and they get into an argument about how he was demoted, he doesn’t like officers, she’s an officer, and he says that’s “just an honorary thing so she can boss other nurses around”. She’s not really an officer like a man is an officer. She notes that the oak leaves are gold, not pink for girls and blue for boys, and then throws him out.

          Later she tries to apologize to Scully and gets Klinger to make her a pink, frilly dress so she can try to look like the type of woman Scully wants, but then he starts making demands of her (like making him scrambled eggs with sausage, but she doesn’t like sausage, so he tells her she can make one for him and one for her). She realizes that they aren’t ever going to be the type of people the other one wants them to be and they end up parting.

    6. Glitsy Gus*

      Yeah, I have had busy, shift type jobs and often times the “employee appreciation” type thing do last most of the day with the thought being that if it’s going all day, most people will be able to have five minutes to pop in and get a treat or whatever at some point during the day, but there aren’t time consuming things like treasure hunts or poster contests, more like “the cupcake trays will be out from 10a-6pm, come by when you can!”

    7. Aphrodite*

      The same kind of mind that thinks Classified Employees Week at the college is celebrated by some cheap ice cream sandwiches and breakfast burritos handed out by the managers (instead of, say something everyone wants like more paid time off or a bonus).

    8. Agatha31*

      The same kind of mind that still thinks in terms of “pink is for girls, blue is for boys” in 2019 (the color designation was popular for A BLIP IN TIME starting around the 40s). A mind that is blind to other people because it has spent a lifetime staying firmly ensconced safe and snug as far up its own ass as it can crawl.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        I fully support smashing that particular binary (and most others while we’re at it) but the pink/blue thing is still very much a Thing. I bought decorations for a baby shower this week and it was impressively hard to find things that weren’t PINK-ITS-A-GIRL or BLUE-ITS-A-BOY.

        1. Tango Foxtrot*

          My baby’s car seat is green and blue, and most of her clothes are gender neutral. When people say, “What’s his name?” and I say, “This is [very feminine name],” people often get defensive and ask why she’s in a “boy seat”. It’s defimitely still a thing.

        2. Mayor of Llamatown*

          My sister in law put her newborn baby girl in a onesie with zoo animals, pink sweatpants, and a blue headband. Someone at a store said, “I can’t tell, is that a boy or a girl?”

          I’m currently expecting and we aren’t finding out the gender. Most everyone we tell has been extremely supportive of that decision. It is hard to find gender neutral things that aren’t just gray.

          1. Mari M*

            Friends of mine are also not finding out the gender. They ended up going with a science theme in whatever colors they happened to come in, with the exception of pastels! Their reasoning was “we are having a wizard, and wizardry is just science we don’t understand yet”.

    9. GeoffreyB*

      My wife used to work helpdesk at a telco. They organised a party for the staff, during business hours… so the people who worked night/graveyard shift missed out, and a lot of the day shift crew still had to cover the phones. Top work there.

      Then there was the time somebody organized a cultural diversity lunch thing in the middle of the Ramadan fast.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Yeah, I was second shift at a call center once and they had done the “staff appreciation” party for the call center during first shift. There were leftovers in one of the conference rooms, but they were several hours old by the time we got to them. Like…gee, thanks guys.

      2. TinLizi*

        I worked at a school that did teacher appreciation day right. The PTA paid for food to be catered to the teachers’ lounge and you could help yourself at any time. It’s a bit easier at schools though since everyone has lunch at the same time.

    10. Paperdill*

      I have to come to expect it as just what happens in nursing, tbh. Every “fun staff activity” my workplaces have ever had have always been significantly underrepresented by ground level nursing staff. Just this week my building held a “welcome afternoon tea” for my team which has been temporarily relocated. A great time was had by all the staff on the building, including my supervisions and managers, with the exception of my team who where still working. Passing everyone on the way out, that evening, we had “we had afternoon tea for you! How come you weren’t there?”, “Because, Karen, our managers still gave us a full case load today and we did not have time. But thanks for leaving us the half eaten, going a bit stale and icky food out “as a treat for us”. It was great having to clean up and chuck out your left overs from our so-called party. Have a good weekend”.
      No, really, I’m not bitter….

    11. Cherries on top*

      Buy nursing is a calling. They’re probably just greatful that they get to spend their special week caring for others. Management should respect their humbleness and participate in their place. Just to bad some were to lazy to provide baked goods.


  2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’m glad we can at least all rejoice in the fact that their obnoxious, offensive and boring AF ideas fell so flat. I’m all about dancing in the ashes of people’s bad ideas ;)

    Also thankful that your fellow medical professionals give you the love and appreciation you deserve, ‘ef the administration!

    Thank you for being a voice to speak up, it’s not an easy decision and it stinks that you were outed as the whistleblower but it seems like not much came of that outing, thank goodness. Hopefully next year they fix their shi*t and learned a thing or two.

    1. Kit*

      Omg yes. I don’t even mind pink but no one is telling me what colour to wear based on my lady parts.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m suddenly thinking of the phrase “lady garden” (courtesy of Crazy Aunt Purl and TheBloggess) and wish I’d thought about it earlier to suggest garden themed prints. It’s that sort of a snarky day.

  3. SaffyTaffy*

    Researchers of all kinds (and all medical students) do poster presentations of research, so just so you know, that’s likely where they got the idea.

    1. Brett*

      I found it interesting that this is apparently something medical professionals do not do.
      I’m at a conference right now with a huge poster contest between hundreds of biological sciences professionals (as well as people from a bunch of other STEAM professions).

      1. Slartibartfast*

        If you were manning a booth at a conference, sure, but not in your regular work place. We had a science fair like set up for the yearly recertification on cpr, AED, operating a fire extinguisher and such, but that’s kind of a mini conference. We had a “men who cook” contest, that was bad enough.

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          Every research institute I’ve worked in has occasions during the year where people do poster presentations in their regular workplace. There are definitely few people who make the poster for this event, but if you haven’t been to a conference then you might do.

        2. Brett*

          These were not booths. And we also do these 2-3 times a quarter in our regular workplaces too. Demonstrating our work in progress to our coworkers is a pretty important work function.

      2. R*

        Medical professionals definitely do this – I work at a healthcare organization that has an annual poster session, and it is common at many conferences. It’s not clear to me that the OP was referring to the traditional academic research type of poster presentation though

      3. boo bot*

        I read the comment about other medical professionals not hosting poster contests as meaning, at her hospital they’re not asked to do this kind of poster as a workplace motivational activity.

        1. Rebelx*

          Absolutely. I read that comment as “our workplace does not organize poster presentation competitions for other health-professionals here.” Definitely not “presenting research in poster-form is not something other health-professionals ever do.”

          As others have said, initially I also imagined these to be “Happy Nurses Week!” type posters, and I took the “science fair” comment to be a reference to the activity as infantilizing, since science fairs are generally activities for school children. Looking back I see that it says “presentation” so maybe there was a science/health/research aspect to it. Even if that is the case, I think the perception of the activity depends a lot on the type of nurses that work there. Are a significant portion of them studying, teaching, have a second job that is research-oriented, and/or regularly presenting at conferences?

          If so, then sure, I can see how maybe it could be seen as an opportunity to showcase your research work to your colleagues, or to practice and get feedback on your presentation. If this were the case, perhaps they didn’t make clear what the purpose was or who the intended participants were.

          But if there’s not a lot of people who already have some kind of research in progress –or, regardless, they just thought this would be something fun people would want to participate in– what did they expect people to present?? What kind of project could be pulled together from nothing in the span of a few weeks that’s representative of a professional, adult nurse and _not_ going to feel like something a middle schooler made? And realistically, how many people would find it enjoyable to quickly put together a half-way decent research project, _in your free time_?

      4. Nesprin*

        This is something that researchers do- present your ongoing work in poster format. Kind of like a practice paper, but up on a wall for you to discuss with other folks. If you are not a researcher, or a research focused medical person (aka a nurse) this is not a thing.

      5. Ann*

        My husband is a nurse-turned-nursing-administrator, and he has created posters many times through out his career.

      6. Jasnah*

        Used to staff/run medical conferences and my nightmares are filled with poster presentations.

      7. Perpal*

        Med professionals / MDs absolutely do posters and presentations. I guess it depends on the setting? We don’t really do posters for random workstuff, we do it for conferences as part of research (sort of a smaller/lighter version of a full paper or talk). There might be exceptions; I do see some of the nursing posters up in our halls but they looked sort of research or QI oriented (ie, CLABSI rates, foley bundles, etc), even if some went nuts with glitter (which is OK if that’s your thing why not?)

    2. Annette*

      Hm, I had the same initial thought, but it doesn’t sound like those kinds of posters. I walk through a hospital almost daily on our campus, and there are display cases with very school teacher type posters in them that rotate. Not at all scientific type poster session posters.

      1. Eukomos*

        OP referred to them as reminding her of “science fair” posters, though. Science fair posters tend to resemble real conference posters pretty strongly, motivational posters wouldn’t give that kind of vibe. I can see feeling uncomfortable having to mock up something you’re not proud of because you’re not paid to research all day and it feels like a bad imitation of serious conference work, but frankly I never feel like I’ve done enough on my presentation at conferences anyway so that’s an authentic part of the research experience.

    3. cryptid*

      It doesn’t sound like research posters, it sounds like “motivational” “I love working here!” content was the desired outcome. Even if the topics were health related, there’s no research in making an informational poster about the flu for working nurses. Research posters are a way of presenting the results of, well, research the person has done. Wildly different.

      1. Jerry*

        From where did you get that impression? The letter writer compared it to a science fair. Poster presentations on research is common and well appreciated activity in STEM. The nursing week planning seems poorly done and weak, and it seems like management lost some credibility with the gendering move and some of the umbrage is bleeding into everything they do. In her first email the letter writer *specificially* asked for appreciation of her knowledge and expertise.

      2. LCFA OP*

        I would describe the topics as informational for patients and/or staff, and none documented any recent research projects by the presenters. More health related, and less rigorous science. There is very little opportunity or encouragement for research on the local clinic level.

    4. Spreadsheets and Books*

      Yes, my husband is a resident and has already presented numerous posters at conferences. Definitely a common thing for medical professionals.

    5. Eukomos*

      Yeah, nothing wrong with posters. Science fairs do them in imitation of real scientific conferences, not the other way around. Picking out a winner is kind of weird but conferences do have various kinds of awards, so it’s not totally bizarre.

    6. Liane*

      1) How about we all take OP at her word, in update and comment below, that this is not typical for the professionals at her workplace and these weren’t the kind of posters done done by GROWNUP researchers and doctors but kids.
      2) Adults who do posters for scientific conferences are given/ self-schedule Work Time to do them.
      I have a science background and used to judge state science fair

      1. Brett*

        Well, I was taking her at her word, which is why I thought it was an interesting revelation.

        That said, I think the response is not to refuse to do posters and feed into their workplace trend of not poster presentations, but rather to press the idea of doing professional research-driven posters. (They don’t have to be original research, they could be centered around academic reviews or executive summaries of the latest developments and research.) Even if that is not how this particular “contest” is focused, submitting some posters that are built that way could shift the contest quickly.

    7. Vicky Austin*

      Research, sure. But who comes up with an idea to do a poster contest for adults for FUN on top of all the work they already have to do?

  4. CatCat*

    The Nurses Week planning committee was so incensed that they refused to declare a winner or distribute any prizes…


    That’s a nice F you to the people who did participate.

    1. Kyrielle*

      They’re mad about low participation…so they took it out on the people who did participate.

      Um. Wow. Well, that’s probably four people who won’t participate in the future….

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      But also, since they’re so awful it’s also laughable. I imagine it going a bit like this:

      “Oh we had a poor turnout, to really say ef-you to the four that participated, we’re going to refuse to handout these dollar store prizes we picked up for this! You take that!”

      1. Massmatt*

        I think I would use Alison’s technique of looking at these goings on as a documentary on workplace dysfunction and enjoy the show. While looking for another job.

  5. animaniactoo*

    Thanks for the update! As my BIL once said about something he was trying to do: The planning committee’s plan had all the success it deserved.

    Good luck for next year. Fingers crossed for people with brains.

  6. hiptobesquared*

    It is so frustrating that the events FOR YOU required you to do more work i.e. baking and the poster contest – or were unable to be attended by you – i.e. the scavenger hunt.

    It might be worth discussing with your diversity head as it seems you have a good relationship with them, even casually, that this is asinine.

  7. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

    WOW, all of this sounds like something you’d see on The Office

    1. Jadelyn*

      Right? Like, you couldn’t script a better arc about unappreciative management and token gestures everyone hates if you tried.

  8. shwerve*

    I’m so irritated at the petulance of the committee that they refused to award prizes for the few nurses who contributed to the bake-off. What a slap in the face!

  9. Lobsterman*

    Sounds like a lot of admin with time on their hands trying to justify their jobs

  10. Mavis*

    Yeah, the ROI on these types of „appreciation“ is pretty low. Nurses deserve so much more than that!

    I worked seasonally for a tax prep place in the mid-aughts. It’s a well known company that is franchised. Overall, I liked working there but our franchise head was a bit of a micromanager and had strange ideas of how to motivate a somewhat transient staff. „Just get out of our way so we can do our work“ wasn’t an option, apparently.

    Instead, we got weekly „mood lifters“, such as a New Year‘s Eve party hat that said „Hat’s Off To You For Working Hard!“ Nothing we got way remotely useful. Most people shrugged it off as a nice/cute gesture but all I could think about was the time and effort it took to do, not to mention the money it cost, for it all to just go in the garbage.

    Even considering Oriental Trading Company‘s rock bottom prices, I’m guessing they could have scrapped it all and just given everyone a $5 gift card midway through tax season and still come out ahead financially.

    1. CoveredInBees*

      I worked for a government agency that loved to give out lapel pins. Nobody wore them. A majority of the agency didn’t wear lapels to begin with and if those who had wore them, the poor jackets would be sagging under the weight. Also, most of the pins were nearly identical unless you looked at them really closely. I can only imagine what they cost.

      1. Armchair Analyst*

        My most recent company gave out pins. I think it was a cultural fraternity/sorority or church thing, and then they adopted it for the company.
        I picked my pin up out of the box the first time – and the pin part fell off the stem. I didn’t think it was worth mentioning to the management.

  11. A Tired Queer*

    This is such a great update! I hate to say “I’m glad this flopped”, but I’m really glad to hear that it didn’t really take off! Hopefully in the future there will be more people in your corner pushing back with you.

  12. Edith*

    Wait, they were having a baking contest intended to feed the entire group and thought 5% participation would suffice? To vote everyone would need to try several things, right? For there to be enough for each person to sample just 3 or 4 entries at 5% participation would require each entrant to bring enough to feed 60-80 people. That’s insane.

  13. Phoenix Programmer*

    This has been my experience on every employee engagement committee ever!

    Them: whyyyyy don’t people participate in this nice thing for them!

    Me: well work. Maybe we can block off everyone’s schedule for that two hours and and get each deparent to cover patients while we…

    Them: oh o we can’t impact productivity.

    Me: ok no one is going to come

    Them: but whhyyyyyy

    1. mcr-red*

      Same thing in our office. Let’s do a potluck lunch where employees bring in a dish or pay $5 to contribute to drinks/a meat and cheese tray! Let’s have the employees decorate their office doors for a holiday (we will give them $10 for stuff for the doors) and we will buy donuts for the best one!

      I’ll just cook my own meal for myself or take my $5 and buy McDonald’s. Why can’t we just all be given donuts? Why is our “celebrations” more work for us to do in our off-time?

      1. Bryce*

        One stand-up line about Christmas gifts has served me well in thinking about these sorts of things.
        “Oh you can return it if you don’t like it.”
        “Thanks, you’ve gifted me… an errand.”

      2. Kat in VA*

        Then there’s the fun part where my husband comes home and says, “We’re having a potluck at my work…” and then looks blankly at me.

        When I was a stay-at-home mom, I’d heave a heavy sigh and make what we lovingly refer to as White Trash Payday Bars™ that are a huge hit (because, in their own right, they’re damned good).

        (the recipe, in case anyone wants it – they are stupid good and people love them, obvi not acceptable for peanut allergies: https://www.ladybehindthecurtain.com/homemade-payday-bars/ )

        Now that I’m working, on average, 60 hour weeks and am gone from the house 12 hours a day because of work+commute? I ask him what he’s gonna pick up from Whole Foods for the potluck.

    2. AudreyParker*

      Yep. I had to tell a boss he couldn’t legislate fun — he just couldn’t understand why people weren’t showing up for various events I was being asked to set up during the work day when people were super busy. Just couldn’t understand why, with the culture & deadlines that had been established, very few would see it as “yay, fun time off during the work day” instead of “great, now I have to either work 3 hours late to make up for that event I didn’t ask for or just not take advantage of my ‘reward’.” Possibly #1 reason I hated being an admin, always stuck in the middle on this stuff, throwing money out the window.

  14. Observer*

    I love the fact that the planning committee threw a very public temper tantrum.

    On a practical note, their reaction is going to make it much harder to frame your disgust as a “you” problem, when the planners act like sulky children.

  15. ICUAdmin*

    I’m so happy that you pushed back! This is so weird and gross. Got a good chuckle out of the Planning Cmte’s childish reaction to their bake off failure.

    One point I would push back on is that poster presentations are actually really really common in the medical field at all levels, including MDs. I have supported any number of doctors here prepare posters to give at large, nationally recognized conferences. I don’t think that part is as patronizing as it may seem. But I’m 1000% with you on the rest.




    1. LCFA OP*

      Thank you to all for the feedback and clarification on the legit scientific merit of poster presentations! I have friends at the CDC who submit research findings to national conferences as poster presentations, now that I think about it. In my workplace, only nurses do these presentations and the subject matter is not especially rigorous. For example, two of the recent poster presentations were about the benefits of proper colonoscopy prep (with pictures!!!!!!! lol) and also how checking your blood pressure at home benefits your health. To me, these posters seemed more like “Look what our nurses are up to!” and less like “Check out our local research project, with statistically-significant findings!”

      And of course I generally mistrust and dislike the evil management, and don’t really want to play any of their mandatory fun games. But I totally appreciate your clarification.

      1. everybody's sarah nowadays*

        It seems like the difference between models I made for presentations in architecture school vs. the dioramas the students collaborated on on the TV show “Community”.

      2. only acting normal*

        Either type of poster still comes with extra *work* attached to producing it.
        My management (STEAM organisation) announce internal poster sessions with only a few days notice all the time! Sure I’ll drop all my customer work to do that – how will that affect the productivity stats they’ll be moaning about next week?

      3. Brett*

        The interesting thing is that I could see both of those poster topics being professionally presented and well-researched with academic reviews of new developments in the field. (Conveying the message of “our nurses stay up to date on the latest advances in their field.”)

    2. Queen of the File*

      Second thanks from me. I was picturing more of a “JoIn ThE sCaVenGeR hUnT!!!” type of poster contest. The kind of poster you would put up on billboards to advertise an event.

  16. I edit everything*

    OP, while I’m sorry this wasn’t a resounding victory for the Lone Cranky Feminist Army, I have to say, I love how you wrote this.

    1. Clorinda*

      It rather looks like the LCFA took them down through passive resistance, which is fine.

    2. nutella fitzgerald*

      Me too!! I found myself cheering at “sunk their vile plans”!!! FIGHT THE PATRIARCHY!!!!

  17. Elizabeth*

    The stupid thing is that there are lots of easy, good ideas that would work for appreciation for the nurses

    – Have coffee and muffins catered. Or have coffee catered and get staff (not the nurses) to bring in baked goods (can be bought) and supplement with bought by the company food
    – Have a pot luck where staff (not nurses) bring in an item (can be bought). It’s easy to do a potluck that doesn’t require cooking. Buns, lunch meats, cheese, veggie platters, dips, salads. There’s probably more I haven’t thought of.
    – 50/50 draw for either just the portion of the money with the other half going to charity or the portion could be for an afternoon off with the money going to offset it and the other half going to charity
    – Draws for things like movie tickets, restaurant gift cards, etc. Each nurse gets one entry.
    – Posters showing appreciation put up

    And that’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure with more thought there could be a ton more. Unless you give people paid time off they aren’t going to do scavenger hunts. And people don’t have time to bake. Let them bring in bought stuff.

    1. vampire physicist*

      Yeah, I’m not a nurse but I do work in a hospital and most of the various appreciation weeks have a basic catered breakfast/lunch (coffee and bagels, salad and sandwiches and chips, something pretty simple) and like, a banner somewhere near the hospital entrance. It’s free food and visible appreciation, it requires no extra effort on behalf of the people being appreciated, and it’s during work hours (in fact, iirc for shift workers like nurses they do attempt to do both a breakfast and a lunch or evening snack, and they do it on at least two days, so that people don’t miss it due to a late shift or it falling on their day off).

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Where I work they give a free lunch for each shift: One at lunchtime, one in the evening for 2nd shift, and one in the middle of the night for 3rd shift.
        IMHO if an employer wants to show appreciation they shouldn’t expect any employees to spend time or money. Have the treats catered, or managers pick them up and bring them in.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          P.S. – then if any individual staff or physicians or managers want to show *further* appreciation by bringing in treats, they can – but it shouldn’t be solicited by the employer.

    2. mbg*

      Nurses make a lot more money than staff. Why would you expect staff to be happy to spend their personal time and money to make food for the nurses who’re making probably double or more their salary? This is promulgating gifting up.

      1. CMart*

        I’m assuming “staff” in Elizabeth’s comment refers to “literally anyone but the nurses”. Surgeons. Radiologists. Anesthesiologists. Therapy dog handlers. Billing department. IT help desk. And sure, also the lower paid staff.

        I know in some fields “staff” has a very specific connotation but my impression was that Elizabeth was using it as a catch-all for “other people who work there”.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          My issue with the suggestion is that staff may not have any more time to bake and/or swing by the store than the nurses do. If the employer wants to show appreciation, the employer should take care of the gesture and not ask employees to do more work outside of work.

          1. Jasnah*

            How should the employer do it though? With the help of…other staff? Maybe even admin staff, whose job it might be to set these things up?

            I don’t think it’s ridiculous to suggest that anyone other than the nurses should contribute to celebrate Nurse’s Week.
            The nurses can help celebrate other weeks.

            1. WS*

              If they give those other staff time in their workday to organise it as part of their jobs, yes, that’s great, and a common task for admins. If they’re expecting other staff to bring baked goods and potluck food paid for out of their own pocket, then no.

      2. Rn- refreshments and narcotics*

        Yeah I’m a nurse and while attending physicians make more than I do, the residents don’t. They are the doctors I work with every day and they are working 80 hours + a week, 28 hour shifts. I wouldn’t expect them to make food for us. Medicine is really staff vs administration these days. Doctors are our valued colleagues not our bosses. They put up with the same crap from administrators.

  18. Janet*

    Have been burned by the forward-a-forwarded-email thing before. A workaround that is useful is to open a new email, and make the problematic email an attachment. In the body of the new email you can write whatever you’d like.

    Since they have to open the problematic email to read it, it is much more likely that they will forward it rather than the email from you. Of course, the sender will know that someone on the recipient list forwarded the email, but they will be unable to determine the specific person.

    1. BadWolf*

      Or, the person forwards the email but doesn’t keep attachments and now all the recipients know that the complainer complained about something, but they don’t know what it is.

      1. Jen*

        I learned this very valuable lesson from one of my first managers. Who I thought was a great manager….until I had an issue with someone from another department that was impacting my job. I wrote him an email about the problem and what kind of solutions I thought there should be and complained a bit about the person. I naively assumed that he would then write a different email to the other manager. Instead, he forwarded my original email! I was horrified and now the only things that I will put in writing are things that I am ok with anybody reading, including the subject of the email.

  19. Phony Genius*

    – Reader Batgirl wrote “Does anyone feel like this is more about celebrating the hospital management than the nurses? Like: show your dedication and be decorative and festive so we can point out what an amazing workplace we have created?”

    I know a certain country on a certain Asian peninsula that does events like this to please their “dear leader.”

    1. Sarah M*

      I think I worked at this company while in college. This was the same place with a GM who required all employees to attend PSI Seminar training (yes, the cult) for – if memory serves – four 12-hour days in a row. The “training” consists of putting groups of people into a windowless room and making everyone scream at each other. Now that I’m a lawyer, I just look back at those special times and SMDH.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      I think that kind of thing is pretty common – pressuring employees to perform how happy happy HAPPY they are to higher-ups, investors, or customers.

  20. Lynn Marie*

    Wow, learning something today. I’d missed the thing about posters on the original post and was just marveling at the insanity of asking grown-up professionals to engage in a poster contest, when lo and behold, apparently, posters are an ongoing thing that a certain set of grown-up professionals do all the time as a matter of course.
    So what are the mechanics of creating state-of-the-art posters in 2019? With magic markers still? And cutting pictures out of magazines? Or do you just blow up & printout Powerpoint slides? Genuinely curious!

    1. SL #2*

      I work in a healthcare-adjacent field and we’re doing a poster session/contest at our annual conference. My coworker and I created a PPT slide template for teams to fill out; it’s only 1 slide and already formatted to be “plug-and-play” for the teams. I’ll just send submissions off to our professional printing company and they’ll print it out onto a foamcore board for us. Pricey, but we have a sponsorship agreement with a local funder to cover all the costs and prizes for the contest.

    2. Eukomos*

      I don’t have to make them in my field, but in my occasional brush with poster presentations it seems to be mostly printing out what you would have put on your powerpoint or in a brief version of your paper, cut out and stuck to a piece of poster board. It’s nice if you can have a big graph of your data to put in the middle. They’re not works of art, that’s for sure.

    3. Flower*

      It’s a powerpoint slide, usually, generally not in standard shape. Typically tends toward roughly 3 ft by 5 ft, but lots of possible variation. For science: You have a section for introduction/scientific background/definitions, an overview of methods, your results, usually with publication quality figures, some form of summary, and conclusions/future directions. Acknowledgements of funding/contributors not listed as authors and citations are useful but not always present due to space.

      You can print it out on glossy paper or on canvas (the former is a bit cheaper at my university’s library). They get pinned up in halls and there’s a time you’re there to answer questions or walk people through your research. You get to share your work, give ideas to others, and get useful feedback on your work/suggestions of toher considerations. Poster presentations at conferences belong on an academic CV.

    4. Lora*

      Oh jeez. Well, in Big Pharma, there’s usually a Marketing department and you send them the content in some sort of Word template, and tell them which conference it’s going to, and they coordinate the formatting and have it professionally printed in large format. They want it to be consistent with all their branding standards and communications and whatnot, put the logos in the right place. They send you an electronic copy to review to make sure they spelled it all right, everything is how you want. Then you send the electronic version to Legal to make sure you’re not publishing IP they prefer to patent or whatever, though it’s best to pre-check with them so they aren’t surprised at the final version. Then you have the admin send it to the printing company for you. The printing company prints it out poster size and calls you a couple of weeks later to tell you to come get it, they put it in a big rolled up plastic holder thing so you can take it on the plane. When you get to the conference they normally have rows of corkboards and thumbtacks for you to tack it up, and hopefully a folding chair so you aren’t standing the whole time, and the conference organizers will email you or tell you at registration which corkboard is yours when you sign in to collect your conference badge and swag.

      Then at your assigned Poster Session, you stand by the poster for like three hours answering mostly boring but occasionally good questions, plus some snarky ones from grad students and postdocs who imagine that they are a lot cleverer than they actually are. I mean, we’re talking about tiny little detailed things that are nearly indecipherable to anyone outside of an extremely specific sub-sub-sub-sub-field, because if it was more important than that you’d publish it in a high impact journal. Stuff like, “Obscure Kinase ABCD phosphorylates Weird Signaling Protein XYZ in NF-kB Signal Propagation Only When Co-Signaled by Trimerized Tolloid-Like Receptor 24580672056y Through The N-Terminal Whocaresamine-Whatchacallamine-Modifiedamine Sequence”.

      1. TheMonkey*

        I have never read a better description of the scientific poster session ever. Thanks for this.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        As a non-physician, I tend to skip the cellular detail and go straight to the discussion. :)

    5. LCFA OP*

      The other descriptions of poster presentations sound very professional and academic. The ones at my workplace, while definitely completed with effort and heart, are much less formal: XXL poster boards in bright colors, paragraphs literally cut and pasted with glue sticks onto the poster board, some related clip art or photos, a catchy title, etc.

  21. MatKnifeNinja*

    Oh nursing….don’t ever change.

    We had nonsense like the above circa 1982.

    OP, glad you were able to say thing.

    The pink/blue thing would be so much my old work place.

  22. Radiant Peach*

    What exactly was the “poster presentation” contest? Was it work-related? Poster fairs are quite common in other fields and in mine it is encouraged and almost expected of serious professionals to present posters at conferences.

  23. GreenDoor*

    My mom’s a nurse for a large healthcare conglomorate. When they do Nurses’s Week, they have three options – a Zoo DAy for your whole family on a Sunday with free food and passes, a mid-morning brunch option with an entertainer of some kind, and an evening dinner banquet and cocktail social at a fancy hotel. Employee chooses which one and each are held on different days/shifts so everyone has a chance to participate. That’s a much better way to do something like this! Even a small clinic should do something after hours so no one has pressure to leave a patient sitting while they participate.

  24. Works in IT*

    On an unrelated note, knowing that I am not the only person who uses the word “tchotchke” in everyday speech makes me very happy. Thank you OP!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Having formally sold them, I can promise you that it’s used a lot more often than you’d think! I hear it all the time now and no longer sell such things, lol.

  25. Batgirl*

    I am truly fangirling over being quoted! It’s even better to hear such a satisfying example of stupidity flopping under it’s own weight. Of course the nurses were never going to bake!
    Shame about the paltry treatment towards the few who did though…. Hopefully they enjoy baking for it’s own sake.

    1. louise*

      That was the part that got me! The four people who did bake whether because they truly love to, or were trying to be team players and didn’t realize it’s okay to opt out of stupid (and man, I really hope no one took time or funds for something they didn’t want to do but felt obligated to) were then PUNISHED by childish sulkers who deemed there efforts too puny. So tone deaf.

  26. Lucy*


    It’s rare for me to read AAM content to my spouse but today he got every word. We are now both in need of medical attention, having cringed ourselves inside-out.

    Just imagine outing the whistle-blower, though. Gives me chills…

  27. Queen Mab*

    My workplace also does that extremely frustrating thing, where they schedule “appreciation” events for staff, at times when staff can’t attend!! Definitely just ends up looking like admin patting themselves on the back for work they didn’t do, and don’t even understand. >:[

    1. J Kate*

      This is why we vary times for appreciation and open it to off-duty staff. We’re in healthcare so it’s a lot of non traditional hours but we do events at different times and announce them beforehand so people can choose whether the want to attend.

  28. Admin Amber*

    Aside from the poor ideas from management, these things are often scheduled during heavy work flow times which add more stress for the attendees. Do you attend to show you are a “team-player” or do you get your work done to avoid later chaos?

    1. Exhausted Educator is Exhausted*

      OMG yes, this is so frustrating. If they really appreciated our work, they would have a clue that the middle of the month when we are flipping swamped is NOT the time to schedule an “appreciation” event.

  29. Sarah*

    Oh gracious. My daughter was in the NICU during Nurses Week and the hospital bought a slew of food trucks to the parking lot for 18 hours for them to get free food. They had options for every food preference/allergy, and they let people pick up multiple meals if not every nurse could make it down to grab their own food. Big hit from what I heard. That’s a reasonable perk. No potlucks or freaking poster contests!

  30. The Ineffable Plan*

    The only thing my workplace did for Nurse’s Week was give all of the nurses a plant. I think it’s called Rocktrumpet. No idea if it can grow in my area.
    Oh, and a $5 Dunkin Donuts gift card.

  31. ..Kat..*

    For nurses’ week, my manager gave each of her nurse employees a short but personal note. The note thanked us for all we do and she made it personal by giving each nurse a compliment about something that they do especially well.

  32. CountryLass*

    Curious as to why ‘ladies’ was seen as objectionable? I prefer being called a lady to being called a woman tbh, but maybe I’m being a bit old-fashioned there…

    1. Lucy*

      Briefly, “ladies” is equivalent to “gentlemen”, not “men”. If your email wouldn’t (and in this case didn’t) say “gentlemen” then it shouldn’t say “ladies”. It’s similar to saying “men” and “girls” when you’re only talking about adults. Above all make sure your terms are parallel – “lads and lasses” “ladies and gentlemen” “hens and stags” etc etc.

      Buried in the original comments you might have seen “Ah yes, the “two” genders: men, and ~*☆*~Ladies~*☆*~” by the percipient nêhiyaw ayahkwêw.

      People sometimes use the word “ladies” mistakenly thinking it’s politer than “women”. “Women” isn’t a dirty word. It might be appropriate to use “ladies” or “girls” (not meaning literal children) if you’re chummily addressing an all-female crowd e.g. on an email arranging a bachelorette and when the writer is also a woman, but probably not in a professional context.

      The additional connotations of using “ladies” or “girls” (expectations of performative femininity or other gendered behaviour? pinkification? infantilising? minimising?) mean they may not be what you actually intend, but particularly in work contexts.

    2. Liane*

      Even Judith “Miss Manners” Martin has been declaring for decades that the terms “ladies” and “gentlemen” are properly used socially and not in the work world.

    3. Jadelyn*

      In my experience, “lady” and its various derivatives (ladylike, ladies) has been used to control and suppress, rather than as a sign of respect. My dad used to scold me for all kinds of things because I wasn’t being “ladylike” – if he didn’t like my outfit, or I expressed a political opinion too forcefully, or any swearing at all. It was always “That’s not the way a lady behaves/talks/dresses/etc”. This went on until the day when I was well into my twenties and he said that to me about I don’t even remember what anymore, and I snapped back “I’m fine with that, since I’m not a lady. I’m a woman.”

      So that’s my experience, but in a work context, when I’ve seen it used, it’s often an older man saying it to a group of female subordinates, and it’s very definitely minimizing and infantilizing. It’s just really not a good term to use at work, it carries a lot of baggage.

    4. Dahlia*

      I’m not a “lady” and I don’t cared to be called one. And you do not know if everyone in a group you’re talking to identifies as a woman/female at all, which means you are almost inevitably misgendering someone using the term.

    5. Taco Town*

      The term “lady” vs. “woman” has several connotations based on its history. In the past, pre-1920ish, a “lady” was different than a “woman” in that a lady was of a higher social class and thus worthy of more respect and honor. A “woman” was someone of a lower class without the dignity and refinement of a “lady”. How one referred to a female person mattered and said something about their character and kept up a rigidly-defined class structure.

      As noted above, this is archaic and has long been decried as inappropriate for use in the workplace. Such distinctions are no longer socially necessary or acceptable, and they especially are unnecessary in the workplace. Women are women.

  33. Cat mom*

    In my field (archives and digital librarianship) poster sessions are quite popular at conferences. If yours were the message-y 5th grade kind, I totally agree, but my field uses them to give a very quick and almost informal overview of an idea, a technique, an innovation, or a breakthrough to a standing audience for about 10 minutes. It’s a great fit for busy folks and short attention spans, which seems especially true of medical people. It also forces a speaker to be extremely clear about her point!

    In any case, congratulations on blowing up the gendered absurdities!

Comments are closed.