updates: the drinking parties, the personalized rejections complaint, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are six updates from past letter-writers.

1. Senior employee is inviting junior staff to her house for drinking parties (#2 at the link)

I have a happy update! I did talk to the employee, more than once actually, about letting personal stories interrupt work. She was having a hard time with her divorce and I was happy to be able to offer her EAP. It was a rough 6 months or so, but she was (and continues to be) a high performer and I thought it was worth it to stick it out and coach her. The coaching paid off, she settled down with the story telling, and I believe the drinking aspect of the parties settled down as well. I’m not 100% sure, and I don’t have a good way of finding out, so I’m leaving it alone because work is flowing well, my staff gets along, and there haven’t been complaints. I notice that conversations don’t stop when I come into the break room or walk around where most of the staff works (the way our office is set up means I come around a corner and could easily stumble into a conversation someone might not want me to hear) so I’m taking that as a good sign. It seems like at the height of the drinking parties there could be some weird quietness when I entered the room.

I’ve had other managerial challenges in the time since I wrote my letter with other employees or situations and I’ve always turned to your website first to look for solutions. I so appreciate you!

2. I sent an email about my coworker’s embarrassing moment and it ended up on Twitter (#3 at the link)

I couldn’t take the guilt, so I got up the nerve to tell Jane about my email and what happened. After shaking her head in disbelief, she forgave me, and we laughed about it. She has a marvelous attitude: “I was SO embarrassed, but it was also one of the most horribly funny things that ever happened. I know it’s an entertaining story!”

She was amused that people called her a hero. “It could have happened to anyone. I just felt like everyone in the room was rooting for me to survive this hilarious humiliation. And I did.”

3. Personalized rejection letters are crushing my spirit

Since I wrote to you about rejections, I thought I should send an update with something positive!

At the time of writing, I was nearing the end of a nine-month (paid) internship at an independent press. A few weeks after you published my letter I had an interview with a big media company in SF. I was a finalist for the position but didn’t get the job so my manager suggested that I apply for positions with our distributor.

Long story short, I did and just today I accepted a job offer! I got full benefits, a salary above what I asked for and it’s super close to where my internship was so I won’t even have to change my commute! This is my first full time job since graduating college and I’m so excited to begin my career in publishing!

Side note: I was surprised (well not that surprised) by the number of comments from your readers echoing that publishing is a passion job, that the field is small and that perhaps I should just find an alternative.

I think that this is a case where maybe more context was needed: I’m a Black woman in my 20s. I’ve known from age ten that I wanted to work in publishing and I also knew that it would be incredibly difficult to break into an industry that has historically been closed to me.

Even so, I was determined to try and once it became obvious that I was going to keep going at it, giving up and finding an alternative became less of an option for me. There are people who NEED to see me succeed at this because they need to know it’s possible for themselves. When I wrote to you, I felt like I was working twice as hard for half as much (if you’re familiar with the expression) and while I had personal reasons for being upset about them, I do appreciate your perspective.

4. How to ask for something when you’ve already been told no (#5 at the link)

I’m writing with a positive update: I’m currently sitting in my own office!

Sorry to say I did not use your good advice — the leader who had previously given me the hierarchy-based answer got a new job and left the organization. Their replacement almost immediately brought up (without my mentioning it) it was silly I was in a cubicle and that I need a quiet space closer to my supervisor.

So this kind of magically resolved itself! It’s nice to work under someone who shares my belief that it’s more important to use office space to help us be good at our jobs than to emphasize rank.

5. Interviewer asked what brings me pain, my favorite color, and other inanities

It’s not a particularly epic update, but apparently I passed whatever psychological test they gave me and I got a call back. I opted not to answer the phone and pursued something else, and today I got an offer for a great job with a much less creepy vibe. Your interview preparation guide definitely helped, and I’d like to personally thank whoever asked you the “good vs great candidate” question because I’m pretty sure that’s what got me the second interview.

6. Our new coworker is obsessed with age and says we’re all old

Thank you for answering my question! The day came for training Simon, and he did NOT ask me how old I was. He was surprisingly attentive and took me seriously during the training, and didn’t ask me anything personal.

A couple of days later, we had to meet again so I could observe him doing the tasks we’d trained on as part of his certification process. About halfway into the test I was watching him do, he said “I bet you’re a BOOK person. Are you a BOOK person? You’re a BOOK person and not a movie person, aren’t you?” I purposely looked a little confused and said, calmly and slowly, “I read books. And I watch movies. Like anyone?” And he said “I KNEW it. You’re totally a BOOK person. So, I’m going to see (some movie title I don’t remember) this weekend…” I didn’t feel what he said was so out of bounds that I needed to lecture him about it; it honestly just seemed more oblivious and awkward than offensive.

Other than that comment, our conversation for the rest of the training and since then has been normal (and he’s also been doing a good job with his work). So I didn’t get to use the specific suggestions you and your readers gave about being called “old,” but I felt they prepared me to respond the the weird “book person” thing. Based on that and a few other things coworkers have told me he’s said, I think he might just be really self-centered and not realize that making pronouncements about what kind of people we are (old people! book people!) is not the best way to segue into something he wants to tell us about himself. I really appreciated the suggestions and support from you and your readers…clearly I wasn’t the only person that thought this was really weird!

{ 94 comments… read them below }

  1. Talia*

    #5– People talk all the time about how useful the good versus great question is, and I’m glad it’s so useful for people, but every time I have ever asked it in an interview I have gotten a *completely confused* reaction from the interviewer, followed by a lot of hemming and hawing, followed by something vague like “…being creative and a team player?” This is several different interviews at several different places.

    1. TheMonkey*

      Same. I’ve used it a couple times and never gotten an overly positive response. I’m glad I’m not the only one!

      1. De Minimis*

        Same here. I no longer attempt to use it. I’ve always gotten the same reaction too…confusion, and I think it’s actually hurt me in a few interviews because so many have found it off-putting for whatever reason.

        I will sometimes ask how someone can go “above and beyond” in the position, and that seems to work better, but I don’t ask that one too much anymore either. I usually just stick to how they would define success in the position.

    2. Marny*

      I’ve used it twice, both times with positive reactions. In one, I could literally see my interviewers’ eyes light up, and it was really helpful to me to hear how they answered it since it gave me a better idea of whether the job would be a good fit for me too.

    3. OhNo*

      I’ve also used it a couple times, and so far every interviewer has been very pleased that I’ve asked. However, I’ve never gotten an actually useful response, just the kind of general thing you mentioned. It seems most of the interviewers I’ve met with so far don’t have a good idea what excelling at the position would look like, which is unfortunate.

      1. AnnaBananna*

        “It seems most of the interviewers I’ve met with so far don’t have a good idea what excelling at the position would look like, which is unfortunate.”

        I think this results from folks who shouldn’t be interviewing – even when they’re a hiring manager. Because if I found out that my boss didn’t know what it looked like for me to kick ass in my job? How could they possibly evaluate my performance accurately?

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          I think that’s good information, though, especially if you are interviewing with your possible manager. If they can’t tell you what will make you excellent in their eyes, that could mean that down the road you could e in a situation where you really don’t know why you aren’t doing as well as you want to- because the manager can’t effectively put their expectations into words.

          It wouldn’t be a make or break question for me, but if that came along with other vague answers it would start ot raise a flag.

    4. Grace*

      I used it and briefly regretted it because it got turned round on me (“Knowing what you do about the role, what do you think?”) but they also said they’d never heard it before and the two interviewers discussed it between themselves for a couple of minutes, since they handle different aspects of the role and were coming up with different answers.

      Overall, I think it did help me, but it did also help that it was my first full-time job out of university and I needed all the help I could get with looking mature and self-reflective. If I’d been doing similar roles before, I think it wouldn’t have helped much.

    5. Teyra*

      I think it depends on the context, a bit?

      My go-to (also taken from askamanager) has been ‘What’s the most challenging aspect of this job?’ I’ve had several compliments on what a good/interesting question it was, and very helpful and in-depth answers. But I’ve also said it in a scenario where, in retrospect, the most difficult aspect of the job was really obvious, and asking made me look like I hadn’t been paying attention.

      My big issue with that question is how to follow it up. When the interviewers explain a challenging aspect that hadn’t come up before, I’m never sure whether to talk about why I’d be able to deal with the challenge, and run the risk of looking like I was asking fake questions to try and sell myself some more, or just thank them and move on, and run the risk of leaving them thinking I’m not capable of dealing with the challenges in question.

      1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        I ask a near-identical question, “What’s the hardest aspect of the job?”, but I add an additional “and how do you deal with it?”. That way there’s a positive spin, AND I get valuable insight for both parts. That insight can be helpful to determine office culture in a way that just asking about it directly might not reveal.

        Just as an example: when I was interviewing for jobs last year, directly out of law school, several people (all immigration lawyers) got suddenly horribly solemn when I asked that question and didn’t have a good response to the second clause, because Everything In Immigration Sucks Right Now. One of them wasn’t even something like refugee law, their main source of work was business and employment visas. But they were so depressed that I wondered if it was a good place to work, especially since they didn’t seem to have a good way of coping. Compare with my current office, where we deal with horrific things on the regular, but it’s dealt with by a generous EAP and leave time as well as people that mostly support each other.

        If someone were to jokingly be like “oh, we deal with it by drinking!” or something else red-flaggy when I ask the second half of the question, that’s good information for me to have.

    6. drop the box*

      As an interviewer I’ve prepared an answer to this question, but the first time I got it I had no idea how to answer it. I’ve been fortunate to have great colleagues, I guess? And each has been great in their own way?

      And truthfully, for my field at least (higher ed), I’m not sure why the question is considered to be so great. I mean, it’s fine, but it’s never been a game changer for any candidate.

      1. Amy Sly*

        Well, while I haven’t had the chance to ask the magic question, the biggest thing I hope to accomplish with it is to look like someone who is interested in becoming a great employee. Oh, sure, I’d love to get a solid answer from the interviewer, but I’m often in the quandary of answering the “Do you have any questions for us?” part of the interview. By that point in the interview process, I’ve generally done enough research that I don’t need to ask basic questions, and I’ve tried to steer my answers to prompt the information I need. And I really don’t want to end the conversation, even in a polite paraphrase, on “So how long should I wait without hearing from you before assuming you’re ghosting me?”

    7. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I’ve also gotten that response a few times, and I tend to consider it indicative of an environment where the metrics that take you from “meets expectations” to “exceeds expectations” are probably not clear — which is something I consider a pretty severe downside in a job.

      The way I’ve generally phrased it is this: “When you think about someone who does perfectly fine at this job but isn’t anything special, versus someone who really shines at this job, what are the major differences between the two?” And if necessary, I also push for clarifying factors depending on the job functions — if I get the sense that the interviewer doesn’t understand the question, versus not having a clear sense of what separates okay from great, I qualify the question by offering specific possibilities for what “great” might look like and listening for what the interviewer jumps at. Things like going outside the strict parameters of the job and doing extra work, or doing what they’re asked to do in a really high-quality way, or blowing past established goals for performance, relationship deepening, etc.

      1. Yup yup*

        I agree. It’s not that this question will be universally successful – it’s that it’ll flag hiring managers who haven’t put any thought into what a truly excellent teapot maker looks like. Those tend to be jobs where you never know what is expected of you, you don’t get raises or promotions, and sometimes you end up in a spot where nobody really knows what you’re supposed to be doing. The interview is a two way street, and I’m interviewing them to see if they have their shit together as a team/department/organization.

    8. Tau*

      TBH, I don’t use it because I think at my level in my career it would come off as a red flag that I need to ask.

    9. Mel_05*

      I’ve used it a few times, along with other AAM advised questions. One manager was delighted and the other ones were clearly uncomfortable/confused.

      But, none of them had useful answers and the delighted one turned out to be horrible. There was no way to find out what she wanted.

      I’m currently working for one who was confused and it’s easier to find out what he’s looking for.

    10. baby yoda*

      I asked it, and the person said something like “we try not to foster a sense of competition in this office”….the problem may have been in the way I phrased the question, but just another anecdote that the question can indeed backfire.

    11. Brett*

      I actually use a reverse golden question as an interviewer now:
      “Thinking about your past year at , what have you been able to achieve in your role that someone else in the same role would not have been able to achieve?” I don’t really use the good vs great, but it seems to really get people to talk about their strengths and how they can differentiate themselves.

    12. AnonAtty*

      I asked the question during an interview for a summer associate position at a BigLaw firm not too long after Alison posted about it and the interviewer complained about how many students asked the question! All those law students must have googled their way to Askamanager, lol! I don’t think it’s a negative in and of itself, but I think that the other commenters provided good examples of when it might come off poorly.

    13. Anne Elliot*

      I had a candidate ask me this recently and if we all had a ATM Secret Handshake I would have leaned across the table and given him one.

    14. Stephen!*

      Yeah, I’ve asked it two different interviews, and both times the answer was “experience”, which only highlighted my shortcomings! (Both jobs offered training but would prefer to hire experienced people when possible.) I’m glad it’s helped some, but like so many other things in life, it’s not a one size fits all.

    15. Filosofickle*

      I can see where some interviewers might be thrown by this question, and some might love it. I tend to agree that poor responses to it may point to a culture that doesn’t observe or measure performance well.

      My own solution has been to ask about the previous person in the position (if there was one), in more concrete terms. I ask something to the effect of: What can I learn from this person? What made them awesome in the role, and what could have done better? It doesn’t have the exact same spirit as Alison’s, but it has always given me useful info about what is important to them and sometimes reveals red flags. It’s a less challenging question and it’s always been received well by interviewers.

    16. Persephone Underground*

      I’ve used it, but I think it’s important that I kept as close as possible to Alison’s original phrasing about “thinking about people who have held this position or similar ones before” so it’s not abstract, but a grounded, almost behavioral interview question. When I put it that way I got some really good answers- things like taking ownership (in more words) and being proactive in the work. I think if it turns abstract it would probably be a more confusing buzz-wordy sounding question. Not saying that others didn’t, but the framing may be important, and also maybe delivering the question itself in a longer, slower form like that might help people have more time to think about it fully.

  2. Properlike*

    #3 – You’re right. We *do* need you in publishing. I’m one who would’ve cautioned you, but this context is everything. Congratulations on your job! I’m rooting for you!

    1. Persephone Underground*

      Also to #3 I’ve been there (in another field) and I’m so happy to hear you’re making headway!
      When I heard I’d inspired my husband’s young cousin to look into my field it felt amazing! I hope you get to have an experience like that too- just seeing you in publishing will probably inspire others, but it’s even better when you’re lucky enough to know about it.

      (Longer story if you’re interested, since it seems odd to be so vague, but don’t want to derail: She’s a young black woman and I’m another woman in software development. Apparently hearing me talk about how creative and interesting I was finding web development at a few family events has inspired her to consider cybersecurity as a career! My husband is also in that field so I can’t take all the credit but she told her mom that seeing me do it made her think about trying it for the first time. It does matter to see people like ourselves doing something.)

  3. Jennifer*

    #3 I’m so happy for you! I’m glad you didn’t give up on your dream. You have a voice that is sorely needed in that industry.

  4. KWu*

    I’m really glad to hear to positive outcome for #3, and I agree that we need her voice in the industry! Hopefully this doesn’t come across as concern trolling, but I did want to point out that just because you are needed does not mean you have to fulfill that need at great personal sacrifice. Sometimes I ask myself, “would the average man feel this obligation?” Don’t let your own passion for something lead into a situation of being exploited for it.

    1. MissGirl*

      As someone who left the industry, I know there’s a lot of focus on the noble profession of publishing. I felt guilt for seeing it as a career and not a calling. As long as this works for you, awesome. But if there’s a time where it stops working for you, don’t stay out of obligation.

      The industry is shrinking and changing. That’s not something you can fix or control.

    2. Avasarala*

      Agreed. Your voice is sorely needed OP, but also don’t feel the need to sacrifice yourself and your well-being for The Cause.

  5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #6 – ah yes. The bucketer. There are people who desperately need to put people into buckets and categories so that they know how to deal with them, according to some bizarre mental model they’ve constructed about humanity.

    1. Cookie Captain*

      Oh man, there is 0% chance I would be able to resist the temptation to mess with him.
      “I love watching movies but only while simultaneously reading books. I can see in the dark.”
      “No movies, no books. I only take in information in the form of clickbait listicles.”
      “I do not understand. Do you think I’m made of books? Sweetie, people are only ever made of meat.”

      1. Jaydee*

        In a strange ‘alien’ voice: “How did you know? Was it the hair? The hands? Chief Librarian Zignorf told me my disguise was excellent, but I knew I would be discovered by one of you clever humans. Yes, it is true that I am a book person from the planet Bibliotica. Please tell no one of this. I am only here in search of literature from your planet to take back to my own so we can amass the greatest library in the universe.”

      2. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

        “No movies, no books. I only take in information in the form of clickbait listicles.”
        I am ded.

        1. Phoenix Wright*

          Now I imagine a Cracked article: “6 ways in which people absorb information (that aren’t books or movies)”.

      3. Jon Lapak*

        This left me laughing and all I can think about now is the short story “They’re Made Out of Meat”, which is both very funny and very sad.

    2. Sophie Hatter*

      I like this term and I know someone who exactly fits it. It makes it very difficult to have any meaningful conversation with them.

    3. your favorite person*

      OMG this is 100% one of my friends. He’s always constructing weird things about me that aren’t true. He once told my husband he thinks I’m conservative (I’m not) I like country music (I don’t) and I’m into horoscopes (what? no). I really think that because I’m from a small town, he wants me to be a ‘small town country girl’ in his head and that is NOT me. I moved and live in cities for a reason, thankyouverymuch.

      1. Sophie Hatter*

        Yes, the person I know like this is always making generalizations about people based on regional stereotypes that only hold somewhat true. It’s very difficult to convince them out of it.

      2. Veronica*

        I have a lot of useful things to say here.
        People like this are IME raised by others like this. They’re trained to block out what’s real and live in a land of assumptions and stereotypes.
        This prevents them from making real connections with anyone. I believe that’s why this started – people who are afraid to connect and have close relationships, but were forced by society to marry and have children anyway, and this was passed down through generations.

        This habit of blocking out real connections and relying on stereotypes is toxic, and it is one of the factors destroying our country. Conservatives refusing to see the humanity in others and stereotyping instead.

        But all my posts have been blocked for more than a week now. It’s clear my thoughts aren’t welcome here even though they are (usually) on topic and would help others.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Your posts haven’t been blocked, but you are going through moderation before they’re released because of some not-okay comments about gay people that I had to remove a few weeks ago. Typically I will take people off moderation after some time goes by without further problems.

      3. That would be a good band name*

        My ex-sister-in-law did this! She was from a big city and had never had much experience living anywhere else. She had some very set ideas about what people from small towns were like and could not accept that we weren’t all the same.

    4. thebluecastle*

      This describes a former friend of mine so well. I’ve never thought of it in those terms but that’s exactly it. Its so incredibly frustrating to have another human being decide for you (and tell you) what you think and who you are based on their own ideas *eye roll*

    5. Catsaber*

      One of my husband’s friends is like this, and he even puts himself into buckets. Every few years he’ll have an identity crisis because he’ll do something or his tastes will change, and it totally throws him out of his current bucket, and it’s just chaos for him. But instead of just accepting the fact that humans are multi-facted and can evolve over time, he keeps trying to put himself into a bucket. It’s exhausting! (exhausting for me because me and Mr. Catsaber tend to be the recipients of his feelingsdumps)

    6. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      I don’t know if I’d be able from either snarkily telling him to embrace the healing power of “and” or quoting Walt Whitman at him. “I am large, I contain multitudes.”

    7. Quinalla*

      I’ve seen people who have this tendency, I always found it related to folks who like to live dramatically, and most kids are this way when little too until they learn that not everything is love/hate. My 6-year-old daughter will still ask me “Do you love squash or hate it?” and expects no middle answer of “I like it.” or “I will eat it, but it isn’t what I pick to make/order.” For dramatic adults, things that happen are either “THE BEST!!!!” or “OMG FAILURE” and there seems no in between where things were just fine or ok or not great, but livable. Also heavily related to one of the geek social fallacies by Captain Awkward.

      I like the bucketer though, I may start using that :)

    8. small pig*

      there is some irony in the fact that you indulge in this simply by creating the term ‘bucketer’

  6. Clorinda*

    Old people!
    Book people!
    Old book people!
    Now you know the pattern, you can have fun with it, even if only internally (because it IS a little bit funny).

    1. Myrin*

      Now here’s the question: Are “old book people” people who like old books or old people who like books?

      1. Platypus Enthusiast*

        I was (amateur move, I know), but I’m very glad I moved a bunch of books to a different part of my desk, which were previously sitting in the danger zone- I am definitely a book person.

    2. Chronic Overthinker*

      Old People!
      Book People!
      Book People!
      Old People, Fire!

      Oh wait, that’s a Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck reference. XD

  7. I'm A Little Teapot*

    #6 – “I have no idea where you got that/why you’re stuck on that, but it’s weird. Cut it out” or similar. Just because he’s self absorbed doesn’t mean you have to put up with it.

  8. Elizabeth Proctor*

    I’m glad Jane took it well. Given how she handled the fart incident, I’m not surprised she took this in stride.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      Jane is terrific and just from the original letter and this update, I would love to work with her.

  9. BridgeNerdess*

    #3 – You are so right in that representation is hugely important! I’m glad you found a job and I wish you all the success in the world. We need you.

    1. Christina*

      I agree. People do need you to succeed, not just for representation because you will bring a perspective that’s going to bring new writers, new books, new ideas out into the world. We need it now more than ever. Best of luck as you keep going!

    2. AGD*

      Couldn’t agree more. I’m in an academic field that really needs more BIPOC voices and for lots of reasons. Those hired before there’s a critical mass have a harder time of it, but throw open so many doors. Thrilled to hear this update!

    1. Jessica*

      Thereby demonstrating that you are a Book Person and a Blog Comments Person, and a total winner at both!

  10. Minnesota*

    Just a shout out for offering EAP resources. In my 30+ years of employment, I have used EAP resources a number of times personally and found them amazingly useful. I tell those stories to people in my org all the time and encourage folks to use EAP resources that are available to them and their families. Thought I should post a public service announcement here with that same advice: use EAP resources that are available to you!!

  11. The Office Kid*

    I always suspected that #6 was feeling some of it in the opposite direction and was just trying to get away from people teasing him about his own age. I started interning at engineering firms when I was 19, 2 years into college but 1 year away from finishing my bachelors. I caught *a lot* of flack from the other engineers who meant well but did not come across great, especially when I was used to getting those kind of jokes my entire life. (Think people calling me “the office kid”, making jokes about my generation (Z) being lazy but then telling me that I wasn’t one of them, repeatedly making comments about how I couldn’t join for happy hour, etc.) I snapped a couple of times and made an emphasis on how great it was to still be young which I now realize would have been annoying after time but OP #6 I’m sure by modeling professional conversation he was able to get a break and reset.

    1. ampersand*

      When I was in my late 20s (so it’s not like I was super young), a coworker (who was about 20 years my senior) commented relentlessly about my age—among other things, she called me a baby and said I was still in diapers. It was not funny. I tried for a very long time to get her to stop with the comments. She wouldn’t. One time after she started in with the baby comments yet again, I snapped that she was going to die before me (based on her age). To be clear, she wasn’t that old! I wasn’t that young! She stopped with the age comments after that. Like many things I did in my 20s, I would not handle this the same way now. But at the time, it worked.

      1. Maria Lopez*

        As an old person myself, I know this to be true. You will be out of diapers when she is going back in them.

  12. Jeannalola*

    I was hired by my boss’s boss, since he was unavailable for the interview. I was on-site with him for training, and at one point, he looked at me (in front of others, ) and said “how old are you?”. I was flabbergasted! I’m not ashamed of my age (late 60’s and working in tech) so I blurted out my age. He responded with “you’re older than my mother!”. I guess then he thought that he had to add something (!?!?) so he said “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing, cause you look great.”. Nothing I needed to hear from my boss. To this day I regret not calling him out on this, but it was my second week on the job, and I’m a female in my 60’s in tech and need a job, so there you go.

    1. Quinalla*

      Ugh, that’s awful :/ Sorry you had to go through that. Don’t feel bad about not calling him out, I know when I get gender biased BS from people (woman engineer here, so yeah…) it is sometimes so out there or out of the blue or I am just not in the mood to deal with it that I don’t always call it out either because of shock or exhaustion. Hopefully he felt like a jerk, but no surety there!

    2. AnonAtty*

      Woof. On the (not really) bright side, you’ve got witnesses to start an age discrimination complaint if that ever becomes an issue. Given how many older employees are just “phased out” in a manner that can’t prove wrongfulness, you might just want to keep a note of who all saw that in case you’ll need it.

    3. Maria Lopez*

      If it makes you feel better, he knew immediately that he made a big blunder, which is why he (unsuccessfully) tried to cover it up with the next statement. If he has a sense of humor and you see him often in the workplace, next time you see him you could say, “Hello, son. How are you today?”

  13. What day is today?*

    Removed. Please don’t armchair diagnose people here. From the commenting rules: “We can’t diagnose based on anecdotes on the internet, these statements often stigmatize people with those diagnoses, and it’s generally not useful to focus on disorders rather than practical advice for dealing with the person in question.”

  14. Caliente*

    #3 from one black woman to another – CONGRATULATIONS!! I am SO happy for you, and yes, you are sorely needed!!
    I don’ t think anyone should ever give up on their dreams, even if those dreams have to take a less front and center position from time to time. I feel like black people are uniquely positioned to push forward and achieve their dreams – sometimes we have to put up with ridiculous BS from people just for being who we are ON A DAILY BASIS. If we can deal with that we can deal with anything.

  15. OrigCassandra*

    OP1, my divorce became final early this year. I just wanted to drop you a word of thanks for being kind to your employee who was going through it. It’s a whole-life-upending experience for lots of folks, and it can be exquisitely hard to keep that from bleeding through at work. (I tried. I didn’t entirely succeed, despite being pretty good at compartmentalizing.)

    So thank you. I am sure it meant the world to your employee.

  16. Observer*

    #3 – I’m so glad that you’re in a good place now.

    But, I just want to say that while publishing IS a hard industry to get into by all accounts, and Alison’s perspective is on the mark, I also think that you are unfortunately correct that there was a real element of working twice as hard for half as much. Not because you need me to confirm it’s true but just because sometimes it’s nice know know that others are seeing the same thing you are.

    1. AGD*

      I am white and IN AWE of how much more my Black colleagues have to do. In terms of attracting notice, in terms of mentoring large numbers of Black/BIPOC folks in the next generation, and in terms of deflecting racism and other nonsense.

  17. Shadowbelle*

    I have always found the “I beg your pardon?” with raised eyebrow (or eyebrows, if you can’t manage just the one) to be extremely effective. If the comment is repeated, the same response is repeated, but pronounced as, “I BEG your pardon?” with a touch of hauteur. They get it eventually.

    Miss Manners espouses this technique.

  18. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

    #6 “Are you a fool or an asshole? I’m going to say you’re a fool. Yeah, totally. I knew you were a fool.”

    1. Anonnnnn*

      It’s not a “problem” as in something you might be reprimanded on, but it’s a problem in that you’re assuming a lot from very little information and kind of deciding for them (whether you meant it as a compliment or not). It’s not like you’re “not allowed” to do it, it… just doesn’t make you look very smart. And if you ARE intending it as a compliment, then does that mean you are insulting people who like movies? What if it turns out they like movies?

  19. Chronic Overthinker*

    #5 At a hosted work event people were joking about odd questions they were asked on interviews. Someone was asked:”What is your spirit animal and why?” Those questions are so odd and have no real relevance to a job description.

    1. Rebecca1*

      I got asked that at an interview! I called the interviewer out on its being a racist question (not in exactly so many words, but he had just gone on a big spiel about radical candor, so). He said “ok, fair,” and reworded the question to “what’s an animal you identify with and why”.

      I said ants, because they are good at teamwork. I think I might have gotten an offer there, if I hadn’t taken another offer elsewhere before they finished their process.

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