updates: the racist memes, the flowers, and the tai chi

Here are three updates from people who had their letters answered here in the past.

1. My boss is sending everyone at my office racist memes (first update here)

You all will be pleased to hear that the branch manager in this story “retired early” less than a year after this incident. I do not think that the retirement was entirely voluntary. The CEO has since replaced him with a younger, African-American man who is FANTASTIC at his job. He’s doing a ton to update our organizational communications across the board, and I’d especially pleased to see that he’s making a concerted (and well-received) effort to promote minority voices within our organization.

Years later, I’m still thankful for the encouragement I received to speak up about this.

Oh, and one more thing – those two supervisors of mine who told me not to speak up? Yeah, they are gone too. I don’t think that this incident alone has anything to do with their departure, but it was one small episode that was indicative of their entire approach to management. The CEO has really cleaned house, removing ineffective leaders like these, and it’s great.

I am no longer employed by this organization, but a few years after I left (for unrelated, family reasons) my spouse was hired as the branch’s director of operations. So I still have a handle on what’s going on, and I’m delighted with how it all worked out.

2. Sending flowers on someone’s first day of work

I have an update!

Arya (the junior staffer who organized Sansa’s gift bouquet) can be a bit prickly, so I opted against voicing my concerns. I joined in the group gift without objection. The next day, Arya updated us that she had purchased a bouquet of flowers, plus a congratulations balloon (!!!!!!) to be delivered to Sansa’s new workplace on her first day. I nearly melted from secondhand embarrassment just thinking about receiving balloons from old coworkers on my first day of a new job (a C-suite job, no less!), but at this point, it was too late to say anything, and everyone else seemed to be very excited about this gift idea.

Sansa started her new job today and just sent us all an email thanking us for the beautiful bouquet. She didn’t mention the balloon, but I really hope it didn’t make a weird scene on her first day!

Thanks so much for your thoughtful response to my question! I hope it at least helps future offices from sending balloons to co-workers’ future offices when they’re thinking about parting gifts ;)

3. My employer requires us all to do tai chi in the office

The CEO just circulated the Tai Chi instructor’s online survey, ostensibly assessing our “employee wellness program” (which is tai chi and more tai chi) and it is just awful. “Do you suffer from any of the following ailments?” followed by a list of 22 (!!) conditions. “Rate your health on a scale of 0 to 10.” “How healthy is your diet?” and “How often do you eat fast food?”

These were followed by eight strange work-related questions, including satisfaction with “the culture of the workplace,” rating the trust levels between leadership and employees and our coworkers willingness to accept change.

Oh, the temptation…

{ 129 comments… read them below }

    1. SunnyD

      I’d be inclined to ask what the HIPAA, GDPR, and CCPA protections are for that very sensitive private medical data, including the email servers, data centers, tape data backups…

      1. TM

        HIPAA wouldn’t apply, as it’s unlikely a Tai Chi instructor is considered an actual medical practitioner. HIPAA doesn’t protect a certain type of data, it protects data held by certain types of organizations.

        HIPAA only protects electronic medical data that is possessed by insurers, medical practitioners, claims clearinghouses, and business partners that are contracted by one of those three types of groups. As perhaps a more surprising example, health data that would be collected or stored by an app like Apple Health Record is not protected by HIPAA at all. As soon as you authorize the data to leave your doctor’s facility it’s no longer considered protected health information.

      1. SunnyD

        You know in the South, bless your heart means something between f@$# you and you miserable cur, right?

        1. Not a Morning Person

          No. It often means exactly what it says. It is not an automatic insult. Southerner here. It can be an insult, but not typically as rude as an obscenity, more like, you poor misguided and ignorant outsider.

    1. CC

      My mom (from the midwest) says “Bless your heart” a fair amount and always means it. So everyone be careful when typing that phrase!

      1. Dragoning

        I’m not…sure that’s common in the Midwest. I’m Midwest born-and-bred and have never heard anyone say it unless they’re from the south or intentionally putting on the accent.

        1. RUKiddingMe

          My great-grandmother who made a concerted effort to rid herself of her southern Kentucky accent would pull it out from time to time…delivered with a perfect “I was born and raised on the KY/TN state line” accent.

          If you didn’t know she was from there you’d never know except for that and if you got her *really* pissed off. In that case not only did she regain full Appalachian Girl ™ status but also knew words I’ve never heard before or since…

          1. Amethyst Anne

            I know the accent you are talking about! I live and work in the area. The further south to the border you go the thicker the accent.

          2. TardyTardis

            My father-in-law went into an Irish brogue just seconds before the nuclear missiles were going to be launched–it was basically the Last Chance Warning to whomever was in trouble. It did not happen often, and was memorable enough when it did. (and each time was actually a fairly reasonable response to Drastic Provocation).

        2. VictorianCowgirl

          We say it all the time and mean it (Western US).
          I was and still am taken aback by the sarcastic, snarky and nasty usage of it in the South.

          1. Stephanie

            I lived in Atlanta 20 years ago and unless things have changed, I think people may over-interpret how mean and snarky “bless your/their heart” is. The true deep Southerners I knew who used it used it more to mean that they might think Edna was a little flaky or had some quirks but wasn’t a bad person. They wouldn’t have used it for someone they were really aggravated with.

            1. Artemesia

              To me the classic is the little kid with poop running down his legs for ‘bless his heart.’ In other words there is the hint of both sympathy and that the target of it is pathetic in some way — could be northerner who is clueless, or an incompetent employee, but the implication if of being pathetic in some way.

              1. Close Bracket

                Sometimes. “Oh you made that yourself? Oh, bless your heart.” Sometimes meaning, “A for effort” but also sometimes meaning, “you are too kind to have made that” or “good god, that’s an amazing thing you made.”

            2. Sleepless

              I’ve lived in Georgia all of my life, and until about 15 years ago “bless your heart” was a sincere expression of sympathy. It became some sort of Internet joke in recent years.

              1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

                My mom & aunt grew up in Texas in the 1930s (my grandma in the same tiny town in the teens & 20s), and they ALL could use “Bless their heart” in the snarky Southern way to devastating effect. Heard it all the time while I was growing up (in the 70s/80s—and in SoCal, where they had relocated to in the 40s)
                I can’t describe how delighted I was when I found out that this wasn’t just a “my mom’s family” thing, but an entire regional/cultural thing.

            3. it's me

              They definitely do over-interpret it. If every time someone says it to you, it’s meant as a “fuck you,” that says more about you than about the South ;)

            4. it's me

              It is definitely being over-interpreted as such. If every time you hear it it’s meant as a “f*** you,” that says more about you than about the South ;)
              But it’s kind of fascinating (if a little aggravating) that people from outside the South insisting that it means “f*** you” is causing its usage to change somewhat.

      2. ECHM

        I am from the midwest and use it as well, but usually when speaking and you can tell it is spoken out of true gratitude.

      3. TeapotDetective

        I think it’s all tonal – “Bless your heart” in a sweet sincere tone, accompanied by a smile – genuine expression of gratitude.
        “Bless your heart” with The Eyebrow and generous dollop of sarcasm – barely-veiled suggestion to go sit on the nearest cactus and spin.

  1. Lance

    ‘Rate your health’? What would a scale of 0 to 10 even entail? And why is there even a 0 there? That implies to me that you’re probably dead, in which case you wouldn’t exactly be answering this questionnaire anyway. And as for me… high metabolism, I get around fine, but my lungs have never been great, and my foot and knees have some minor issues, so I’d be… I don’t know where on the scale.

    I don’t know what exactly your CEO is trying to accomplish here (outside getting everyone into Tai Chi; I suppose that may in fact be their only intended accomplishment), but I don’t see it being effectual. I’d absolutely say whatever came to mind on those work-related questions, because really, why not?

    1. Jessen

      I’d like to rate myself as a 0. I actually died a while ago, but I learned to possess and reanimate my corpse. It’s kind of falling apart though, so I will need to find a new body soon.

      1. Booksalot

        Workplaces still discriminating against the differently pulse-abled, SMH. Like, it’s great that you have a salad bar, but can we talk about the complete lack of necromancy in your EAP?

        1. Jessen

          I mean, we could at least accommodate all dietary needs by adding blood soup to the cafeteria. I’ll also require an office with no windows, or at least very heavy blackout curtains.

          1. HR Stoolie

            That’s reads as a reasonable accommodation but still necessary to start the ADA discussion.

      2. AKchic

        Body Shops are so mislabeled, but trying to force a false advertising suit against them has been problematic for me. I get laughed out of attorney’s offices, and the courts won’t even hear my complaint.
        All I’d like is new body parts for my failed and failing ones, is that too much to ask? It’s not like I got a warranty from my manufacturer. I swear they were shoddy craftsmen who didn’t know what they were doing. Who gave them a permit to build humans, anyway? Hmph. At least I’m a limited edition, right?

      3. Elmer Litzinger, spy

        You laugh but at my job they had a wellness day where you could get a free mini health exam. The examiners were actual RNs. The one doing mine could not find my pulse. At all. An RN who clearly does this for a living. She put down random numbers for my pulse. I have high blood pressure!

        Ever since then I have declared myself as being “clinically dead”.

    2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

      I’d be soooooooo tempted to give myself a 0 in all categories and check ALL the boxes of ailments.

      1. AnnaBananna

        Except that since we know this is coming from CEO, and I doubt he knows how to anonymize the survey, he will 100% know who said what when he looks at the distribution and/or the data page (SurveyMonkey and Qualtrics).

        But I totally agree with the intent!! :)

    3. Lora

      Someone sent me a list of animal ratings, where the animals were reviewed and given 4/5 stars or whatever. This quiz reminds me of that.

      Skin was rated 2/5 stars. While it does an excellent job of Containing Organs and Lipstick Display, three stars were deducted for Itching, Pimples and Causing Moral Weakness.
      Feet: Don’t let Feet fool you! You may think they are just as good as wheels but they are NOT. Feet are a plague of bunions, ingrown toenails, hammertoes and blisters. Meanwhile, wheels can reach speeds of > 100 miles per hour with no ill effects. 1/5 stars for Inefficiency.
      Liver: For centuries, the liver has been a repository for alcohol, drugs and has suffered the effects of the owner’s Sin. The Liver tolerates abuse and is a source of Regeneration from Turpitude. 5/5 stars for Patience and Heroism.

      1. katelyn

        There’s a podcast called “the anthropocene reviewed” that reviews the human experience on a 5 star scale. From smallpox (1/5) to Mario cart (5/5). Your comment strongly reminded me of that :)

        1. The New Wanderer

          Okay, I need to find that now! No surprise I also love reading bizarro Amazon reviews

    4. CoveredInBees

      I also worry that the boss might be the type where anything less than 10/10 is cause for concern because there’s room for improvement. Blegh. As someone who has constructed surveys professionally, I’ve had to explain this to my own bosses.

      1. SusanIvanova

        Goodhart’s law: “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

  2. CatCat

    #3, Oh, the temptation…

    I fully support you on giving in to the temptation! Though I will grumpily admit it is probably wiser not to.

    1. designbot

      I fully support a protest rating. Say you have every disease, or no diseases at all. Indicate in another answer that your medical information is protected by law and you cannot compel me to disclose it. Rate the culture of the office at 0.

      1. Public Sector Manager

        You gotta go with the fake list from the health care episode of the US Office:

        Mad Cow Disease, Ebola, Spontaneous Dental Hydroplosion, Leprosy, Flesh-Eating Bacteria, Hot Dog Fingers, Government Created Nanorobot Infection

      2. mcr-red

        I had to take 7 days off of work, and they wanted a doctor’s note and for me to use Family Leave, which included the doctor filling out a form that wanted all sorts of medical information about me, and he FLIPPED. I told him write whatever you want, including, “None of your F-ing business” for all I cared. He instead wrote the barest amount of information, in the most illegible writing I’ve ever seen.

        1. HR Stoolie

          Can’t blame your Dr. for not wanting to do that but unfortunately for your company to stay in compliance FMLA is a federal mandate.
          It’s very common for employees and their medical providers to feel FMLA is a great burden but ultimately it’s in best interest to follow since it’s purpose is to protect the their job.

          1. Jessen

            It’s pretty common for offices to ask for significantly more information for FMLA than is actually legally required though. Typically they’re only allowed to ask whether the employee has a condition, when it started, how long they’ll be out of work, and a few other things. They’re not allowed to ask for details about the employee’s condition or treatment. A lot of workplaces try anyway though.

            1. mcr-red

              The form had all of that, but it did read to me (and apparently to my doctor) that they wanted to know about how he was treating me, and more than necessary about my condition – which I wanted to write “YOU DID THIS TO ME.”

          2. Zombeyonce

            I assumed that the form was different from the FMLA forms the doctor has probably seen a thousand times and asked for way more information than they usually do. Yes, forms like this have to be completed but one of HIPAA’s tenets is only to give the amount of information needed and no more.

          3. Observer

            Please. No one is claiming that FMLA is a burden on the doctor. The doctor flipped because the employer was (illegal, by the way) asking for information that they did not need for this purpose.

          4. mcr-red

            It was for 7 DAYS. I could understand if I was off for a month or something, but a work week and 2 days? And I have an abundance of sick days. They also acted like they really wanted me to take my vacation days first, instead of the insane amount of sick days I have, and I fought them over that, and made sure I marked them down as sick.

            BTW, the thing I was being treated for? Extreme panic and anxiety attacks – CAUSED BY WORK.

            1. Close Bracket

              Were they trying to get you to take unpaid leave instead of your sick days? Do sick days expire at the end of the year?

              1. SunnyD

                They don’t have to pay for sick days if you leave, do they? Some organizations are so awful.

              2. mcr-red

                No, I still had vacation days, so still had paid leave. They just wanted me to take vacation days first and then sick days. I was like, “I had to bring in a DOCTOR’S NOTE over this, I’m using SICK days.”

                And no, our sick days never expire. Hence the absurd amount I technically have coming to me.

      3. Bilateralrope

        Dont forget to run your disease list through some machine translation a few times.

        Or maybe find a random disease generator online to list diseases that dont exist.

  3. pleaset

    There are ways to rate one’s health as long as the scale is thought out well and defined to users. That said, the question is invasive in a work context.

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House

      Yes, but “thought out well and defined to users” is incompatible with “free 10 questions on SurveyMonkey.”

    2. Beth

      I feel pretty confident saying that “online survey from tai-chi instructor forced on workplace by CEO” is not a situation that’s compatible with “thought out well”. The entire situation is a bad idea; there’s no way to do a good survey based on that foundation.

  4. The Man, Becky Lynch

    “A C-Suite Job, no less!”

    Actually, you tend to get away with a lot of cringeworthy stuff when you’re up the ladder, so there’s that!

    1. WellRed

      Agreed. This would have been much more awkward sent to someone working much further down the ladder, who might not have even had a place to put the arrangement.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        I was thinking of the emotional/showy side more than the practical side but that too of course. What if they had been starting in an office that hot desks =(

        I don’t want to enter the room like it’s a runway when I’m starting out in a new place unless I’m already going to be some kind of top dog, you know? I guess that’s my naturally shy until I warm up side though, I want to wade before I swim on in. So I’m not entering rooms fresh off the streets throwing confetti and blowing nose makers to introduce myself!

    2. Jamie

      Agreed. It’s much less cringeworthy that she likely had an office to put it in.

      I say likely because I have worked in an open plan that, due to philosophical reasons, not even the president had their own office. C-suite was no suite – they had desks right next to everyone else.

      Not a set up I’d recommend – but it’s out there.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        That’s what the startup I almost worked for was set up like. NGL it was one of the reasons I chose the other offer I had on the table! A friend of mine is about a level below executive and has the same open concept, no offices in that area.

        I’m also used to sharing my office with an executive. There are certainly some different setups out there for sure, not just standardized idea of a building of people in their offices working away.

    3. MagicUnicorn

      The C-suite fact is very relevant here, and I actually think it makes the whole thing far less weird. In my office, flowers from the new lower-level employee’s former coworkers would be…not a good look, while flowers from the new executive’s former office would be seen as a very magnanimous gesture from the other workplace.

    4. always in email jail

      I came to say the same thing, I think a C-Suite job makes it a bit less cringeworthy. While I’d think it was odd, if a new executive came into a job and their old employees sent them flowers, I would think it was a good sign that her old team liked her! Also much easier to brush off with a surprised “Oh goodness! My old team sent me flowers for my first day! I need to go send them a thank you email, how thoughtful and unexpected!” and place them in your office.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        That’s where I landed on it as well. I would be all “Oh, that’s a cute gesture” since it comes with that feeling of “Her past employees liked her and she is seemingly approachable if you go to this kind of public show of affection.” kind of message.

        Honestly they may have just been put in her office upon delivery so that whenever she finally got in there, they were just there like ‘Hey, you got flowers’. Not a big show or like they were left waiting at the front desk in that “who dis?” fashion.

    5. Mel

      Yeah, my last two (somewhat dysfunctional) work places would have loved it if this happened on the C-Suite level. They would feel like it confirmed how great this person was.

  5. MuseumChick

    #3, give into he temptations!

    Seriously, as someone who is VERY private about medical information, I would either A) Push back on this stating that it is invasive and I will not participate. Or, B) Answer them in such away that my feelings towards the survey are very clear. For example, check yes on all 22 conditions, Rating my health as “Between -10 and +20 depending on time of year and current state of (insert favorite sports team). How healthy is my diet? I don’t diet. I have a *lifestyle*.

  6. Jennifer

    Here’s hoping the balloon flew away. I wish I could have seen Sansa’s expression when she saw the flowers.

    1. Crystal

      She probably smiled because it was a nice gesture and flowers tend to make people happy.

      1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before

        That was certainly not MY reaction when an ex I’d dumped sent me flowers at work….

        1. AgathaFan

          I think context is important and that Crystal is thinking about this specific situation.

  7. I haven’t had my coffee yet

    #2 I don’t think you should be keeping quiet just because this person can be prickly – sometimes in life we have to leave people to their feelings.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      It’s not about “her feelings may be hurt”, if someone says someone is prickly, it’s more likely that she will lash out and in turn find a way to hurt the OP in probably a minor way but it’s still a burden for the OP to choose to take on or not when she has warning she’s touchy.

      I agree with this POV when you’re talking about someone who is easy to cry or just turtle inside themselves and pout but not if it may mean negative reaction that may in turn make the OP’s life uncomfortable in return.

    2. Jennifer

      It’s a pick your battles thing. I probably would have just declined to contribute and left it at that.

    3. Little Pig

      Mm I agree. It’s not very hard to disagree about sending a gift, and it could have saved Sansa a good bit of embarrassment. Maybe a tiny bit selfish…

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        So tell me, what do you do then when this kind of push back gets you labeled as “not a team player” and “uncaring” along with other not so great descriptions, that usually mean that you’re suddenly not being invited to lunch or involved in other office things because you’re deemed too sour to be included?

        There are consequences beyond “other people managing their feelings” involved with pushing back on anything and it needs to be weighed and risks accessed. To just have the constant “Go against the grain! Just do it!” mentality really stunts people in the end, this is a way to damage your network over something extremely low stakes.

        And we’re all assuming the woman was embarrassed. Yet she sent an email to everyone, she probably didn’t care. A lot of people aren’t as fragile as we paint them to be. That’s why they have big loud annoying birthday and other celebrations in public spots.

        1. Little Pig

          It’s all in how you phrase it, I think. You could definitely stand up and announce, “This is a terrible idea, Arya, and I want no part of it,” and then, yeah, you might start to get a bad rep. But you could also get excited, “Oh flowers, lovely! She’ll love that!” and then add, “Ohh, but first days are so busy already – how about if we send them to her house the day before, instead?” Then you’re agreeing with Arya, validating her plan, and also redirecting this particular impulse. You catch more flies with honey – I highly doubt this conversation would get you labelled “uncaring” or disinvited from any lunches.

          Having influence isn’t all about going against the grain and causing trouble. Soft approaches are hugely effective.

          As to whether Sansa was embarrassed after all, I agree with you, who knows? But LW has personal knowledge of the situation and wrote in because she thought it might not be well-received, so I’m inclined to trust her assessment.

        2. Vicky Austin

          Just because she sent an email doesn’t mean she wasn’t embarrassed, though. Maybe she just sent the email to be polite.

  8. Chocoholic

    I missed the flower question when it was originally asked. It made me remember my first day at a new job after moving to a new state, and my mother sent flowers and they beat me to the office that day. I had instructions to show up at like 10 or something and they were waiting for me on the reception desk when I walked in the door. It was kind of sweet and funny. Hasn’t happened since though. Thank goodness!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Awwww moms!

      This is what parents used to do for birthdays or other special occasions in our school. My uncle sent me flowers for my graduation through the school. So that made me nostalgic.

      That’s the real thing with deliveries, you just never know when they’re going to show up in reality. They say “Deliver between 10-12pm” and then then they go “oh this office area opens at 9, lol screw 10 nonsense” when dispatching.

    2. Always late.

      Looking back at my older jobs, having a bouquet with a balloon would be ridiculously aggravating. Sometimes I’ve shadowed my boss around, and have not even had a desk yet. Its sitcom-worthy thinking of someone carrying a bouquet or a vase around with a balloon trailing around.

      1. SunnyD

        Oh lord me too! Touring the whole building, other new people trying not to stare visibly as they bumped overhead…

  9. Rivakonneva

    LW#3–

    Give in to temptation! Show the survey no mercy! Go learn about the power of the dark side, and have cookies! ;)

  10. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

    #3 reminds me of a former employer who made us rank our morale and the morale of the person next to us in a group meeting. He briefly looked at the slips and threw a massive tantrum. It was horrific. I was less than honest and rated my morale a 3 out of 10. It was actually a negative number.

    1. Can't Sit Still

      Oh, that reminds me! When those voter button clickers were new, we had a town hall and we had to agree/disagree with with various statements. The managing partner had an epic tantrum over the results, which was that morale was in the toilet, everyone thought they were underpaid and a majority were looking for a new job. We all quickly checked to make sure the clickers had been randomly assigned and then we passed them around the room, so we didn’t turn in the same one we received when we walked in. (Picture several hundred people playing hot potato/musical chairs.)

      The managing partner was so furious about it, he never asked us to express our opinion on anything ever again.

      1. Flash Bristow

        That’s actually quite funny.

        Underlyingly sad, but amusing in how it played out. Apologies for sniggering – it must have been a pain to work in those circumstances.

        Silly boss! Don’t ask if you don’t wanna know – or if you don’t have a plan to deal with whatever the results throw at you! As you said, they won’t be doing that again!

      2. Close Bracket

        furious at the results or furious at the way you shuffled your clickers? Or both?

    2. The New Wanderer

      Were you supposed to guess the morale of the person next to you, or ask? I guess it doesn’t matter and neither actually makes sense, that’s just ridiculous to begin with! However, I would have gone with guessing – “Hmm, smiling and nodding, morale must be >5; doesn’t have that glassy-eyed look but not super into it, morale must be between 0 and 5; staring mournfully at the floor clearly counting the seconds til lunch, morale <0"

      To be honest, if you are at the point of asking, you already know and *still* don't want the real answer.

    3. Doctor Schmoctor

      We have this annual employee survey, with questions about how ethical your boss is, how excited you are about working for the company, etc. And a few months later, when they have processed all that data, they tell us how wrong we are. Wonderful

      1. Tan

        Snap! I once (unfortunately) worked in a minor team of a large corporate entity. We were once emailed an employment survey told to print and put it in a post box (so that we knew all responses were anonymous) and they had some summer students enter everything into a massive database. As you can guess we never did get to see the results of what was a rather comprehensive survey. In the end of year meeting we did get a lecture from the CEO (note: it was an annual thing at the company that the CEO would go round to all sites to see to all the workers in person and deliver the results) about how many people don’t realise how good they’ve got it, complete with some spurious slides containing data /consultant papers to back up his arguments that workers are the worst people to ask about their working conditions. The kicker was after his speech he refused to take questions (which was not the norm), practically ran out of the building and insisted he needed to get to the airport (a quick online search showed, due to the next location, he spent over 4 hours in the airport waiting for a short flight).

  11. Beth

    Culture of the workplace: needs less tai chi, more yogurt

    Trust levels between leadership and employees: no data, cannot locate any trust to measure

    Co-workers’ willingness to accept change: depends on whether they’re trying to change a 5 or a 20

    1. L.S. Cooper

      I think this workplace’s culture needs a heavy-duty round of antibiotics, and THEN some yogurt.

  12. DataQueen

    #2 – So when i first read this story i thought this was so weird. BUT, apparently it’s a common thing –

    I had dinner the other day with an old coworker – i started a new job in April – and thanked her for a lovely business card holder she had bought for me and sent to my home. She then told me that she had pushed for that, because the boss wanted to send me flowers at the office on my first day! I showed her the first letter on this subject and told her i would have been MORTIFIED, and she was so happy she’d spoken up. I told her to tell Boss that this is never a good idea!

  13. Observer

    #3 – I am reminded of an old story about a pair of Communists who are all excited about the regime in the USSR. But they’ve heard some rumors… On of them decides that he’s going to move there anyway because communism. SO they agree that emigrant will write to his buddy and let him know what the real deal is. But, in case the rumors about repression are true, they also agree that if the letter is true he’ll write in black ink and if it’s a lie he’ll write in blue.

    Some time later the guy gets a letter singing the praises of the Soviet state. And it’s in black ink! Then he gets to the end. “oh, by the way, you can’t get blue ink here.”

    1. The Wall Of Creativity

      Enter the logician…

      Actually that means the USSR is fine. Everything in the letter is true. You can’t get blue ink over there but, even if you could, he’d have written in black.

      Because if the writer is lying, then he’s lying about there not being any blue ink. So there is blue ink, so he chose not to use blue ink, so he’s telling the truth, which contradicts where we started from.

      1. Willow

        That assumes that it’s actually the case that everything written in black ink is true and that everything written in blue ink is false. But the evidence suggests that’s not the case and the man is unable to carry out his original plan.

        1. The Wall Of Creativity

          Yeah. Logic is only as good as the underlying assumptions.

          Award yourself a point for understanding my argument and not arguing about how I got from my assumptions to the deduction.

  14. Database Developer Dude

    LW3 reminds me of what I’m about to go through this weekend for Battle Assembly. A command climate survey that they SAY is anonymous, yet also say will be aggregated by race, sex, and rank. Trouble is, the only time I see a black, male, warrant officer in my unit is when I look in the mirror. Yeah, not taking this survey.

    1. Coder von Frankenstein

      Yeah, that’s pretty iffy. *If* the aggregation is being done properly, they will hide groups smaller than a certain size, for this exact reason. But doing the aggregation properly is not a simple exercise – you have to prevent indirectly calculating the scores too, which is hard and can leave your data set looking like Swiss cheese if you’re trying to slice it too fine.

      This is not easy to explain to higher-ups who want to see the survey results and don’t understand why they can’t have it broken out just so.

    2. dealing with dragons

      ha! this was my problem getting my college degree – ok yeah let’s do this “anonymous” survey about the professor that grabs demographics of the only female in the room. lol no

    3. Jadelyn

      I have a similar issue – I’m part of a small team (6 people), so when our annual climate survey is conducted, theoretically anonymous but aggregated by tenure and location…I know when everyone started. It’s not hard to triangulate who said what. Even if I skip the tenure/location questions, if others answer them, process of elimination still makes it easy for someone else to figure out my responses from the results.

  15. Nanc

    Dang, I would be so tempted to answer the health questions with answers that are technically true if you squint really hard.
    “Rate your health on a scale of 0 to 10.” Pie to the tenth digit.
    “How healthy is your diet?” As funky as my chicken and as loose as my goose.
    “How often do you eat fast food?” Whenever I can catch it without breaking into an actual run.

    OP1, I’m so glad your former employer dealt with the issue. Hopefully the folks who were booted learned something in the process.

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people

      I used to choose pi as my number when playing “guess a number between one and ten” with upper elementary or middle school students when I needed to kill time. It usually takes them several minutes to get there, but they get really excited when they do and feel very clever. It’s even more fun if you pull the same thing again with the square root of 2 a week or so later, but that only works with the middle school students because the elementary ones probably haven’t done enough with square roots yet. I suppose if I were ever trapped in an elevator with an Algebra 2 class I could try it with e, but I’d probably be too busy trying to get the ceiling tiles open so I could escape so never mind.

  16. SunnyD

    Oh lord me too! Touring the whole building, other new people trying not to stare visibly as they bumped overhead…

  17. Person of Interest

    Until I re-read the original letter I had forgotten this is a nonprofit. You said that no one was willing to push back against the CEO – have you or your teammates considered reporting the use of company time/funds for tai-chi to the Board of Directors? They may have more standing to do something, and your anonymity should be protected by whistleblower law (if in the U.S.).

  18. Bookworm

    #1: So glad it worked out for the better and the CEO was willing to do the work to rebuild. Kudos and thanks for the update!

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