updates: the mandatory feelings chart, the anonymous sexism report, 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 four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My boss trying to find out who wrote an anonymous sexism report

First, I’d like to thank the many kind commenters who reassured me that it is not my duty as The Female to teach my boss how to properly respond to reports of sexism. In the end, the comments about how a well meaning but bumbling man could actually make things worse for me were pretty convincing… And I chose not to say anything. As far as I know, nothing ever came of his email.

Not long after, I had a career planning meeting with grand-boss. I said that my goal was to be an executive one day, and his response was “well, not to point out the obvious, but you’re a girl in this industry and the company has a big equality initiative, so there’s no way that wouldn’t happen for you. Now, I think an X role [effectively a demotion] for the next two years would be a better learning opportunity for you.” That was… The nail in the coffin.

I wish I could say I gathered up my courage to rage quit on the spot and run out of his office yelling about girl power… But student loans and the job prospects in my state being what they were, a more strategic approach was required.

I posted for jobs outside of my business unit, and got one that was a big promotion, both in title and pay. Better still, my new grand-boss is a woman who believes strongly in sponsorship of other women. She’s given me many wonderful opportunities for high-level exposure, including helping me learn to craft messages in a way that comes across as competent but not… The other words strong women are often described as.

Part of me feels like a sell-out for sticking with this company, but it also feels like nothing will change if no one stays and fights the good fight. I can only hope that one day I get to go back to my original business unit as the big boss, and make some real big changes in the way they approach diversity.

2. My office has a mandatory feelings chart

Firstly, a big thanks for your great answer and to all the commenters for their amazing ideas for how to sabotage or destroy the feelings chart. The creativity and humour was a source of much joy during a stressful time at work.

The publication of the letter coincided with experiencing some things in my personal life of an emotional intensity that would melt any feelings chart they were taken near. As a result, I decided it was best to avoid drama as much as possible at work so moved my sticker into the okay box and left it there. With no-one putting their stickers in negative boxes very often, the singling people out to explain their feelings largely stopped.

Even with that mostly stopped, I decided recently I probably mention my concerns to my manager as we were still being requested to update our sticker placement. I explained in our monthly one on one meeting that while I understood that the chart probably had good intentions, it was uncomfortable to have to state our feelings and that it could be particularly unhelpful for people experiencing depression and anxiety. The manager seemed surprised that anyone objected and said that the chart was a mandatory part of the productivity practices certification our team has been working for so would have to stay. I am completely baffled as to how this fits into any productivity program, let alone why it would be a non-negotiable component but I suspect arguing this one any further is futile.

3. Who should I ask to nominate me for an industry award? (#5 at the link)

I did end up asking my boss if she would consider nominating me for the award. At first, she told me she had to think about it, which had me surprised and worried. She eventually emailed me to tell me she had to decline even though she holds me in high regard and thinks I am excellent at what I do (her words).

This apparent contradiction was bewildering to me, so I met with her in person to clarify. I explained that it wasn’t the award I was concerned about, but her view of my performance. My boss told me that she had only ever nominated one person for an award in her entire career, and that particular person had been extraordinary. She fully acknowledged that I do great work and that there are no concerns with my performance. After some discussion, I was able to see how she differentiates “high regard” and “excellent” from “exceptional.” Side note: it is rumoured that people at other companies have quiet agreements to nominate each other for these industry awards so that every person ends up winning at least once, and my boss wants to make it clear that she does not condone that.

All in all, it was a bit disappointing, even though I suppose this was like only achieving “Exceeds Expectations” instead of “Outstanding.” (Is my inner Hermione Granger showing?) However, I can certainly see where my boss is coming from, and I now have a better frame of reference for striving to be exceptional.

4. Our strongest job candidate talked non-stop

We ended up widening our search, and found a candidate with industry experience, a good resume, and interviewed well. We were very excited! His performance was strong initially, but rapidly declined around the 4-month mark – emails and phone calls going unanswered, texting/constant social media on his phone, arriving later and later, and refusing to follow some standard office procedures.

He continued to express that he did want to stay with the company, and he’d work on the problems My manager is known for giving people many, many chances, and she really didn’t want to go through the rehire and training process.

He then abruptly quit three weeks ago with no notice period. My last day before maternity leave is this Friday!

We later found out that he’d told one of the other temps that he was only planning on staying until after the Christmas bonus (!!!). It’s a niche industry, and we have every intention of being open about our poor experience, so…. good luck?

We pulled a superstar junior customer service temp we brought on a few months earlier that showed promise, and I’m happy to report she’s doing a fantastic job so far. She’s nowhere near ready to handle the full desk on her own, but with support from other coworkers and some meticulous instruction documents I’ve cobbled together, I think she’ll do fine.

An unexpected resolution!

{ 154 comments… read them below }

  1. Feelings chart user*

    I’m the feelings chart OP. Since the update I sent in, the use of the feelings board further faded out and it eventually it disappeared during a rearrangement of the displays. I think the manager who created it is genuinely a nice, well meaning guy, but just maybe didn’t think this one through enough before implementing.

    1. Shocked Pikachu*

      Oh, good. I get that some of these ideas come from nice place, but wow. That seemed so bizarre.

    2. BadWolf*

      The feelings chart wasn’t a stand-in for Agile Mood Marbles, was it? We recently had to take some additional Agile training and using mood marbles was mocked quite a bit.

      1. Shocked Pikachu*

        So I had no idea such thing as agile mood marbles existed so I went and googled…. wow. There is also a thing called Team Mood Indicator for managers to keep track their team mood. Everyday employees received email which asks them to indicate their mood. I don’t know, if I get email from my manager every day asking me what my mood is, on day three going forward my answer would be “greatly annoyed”.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          As long as the only mood it cares about is “how do you feel about how well we’re making progress towards our goals”, fine.

          But so much of Agile seems like an attempt to quantify the unquantifiable so that upper management can have some nice tickboxes to tick in lieu of actually being aware of what’s going on with their team.

          1. Observer*

            Yes, this could make sense if it’s kept to that very specific context. What was happening in the OP’s office was bonkers, though.

      2. Coder von Frankenstein*

        Just looked those up. As with so many “Agile” practices, it appears to contain a kernel of good idea, with its original context stripped away and replaced by a thick layer of cluelessness and a dusting of management fad.

        1. Observer*

          Exactly this.

          There are contexts where the “mood marbles”, used PROPERLY could make sense. But that doesn’t apply here.

          1. Windchime*

            Yes. Agile is just a way to put more overhead onto a team so that management can feel like they are managing (in my experience).

            On my old team where they tried to do Agile, we had to rank on paper how we were feeling. That progressed into going around the room and saying our “feelings rank”. We all quickly learned to say that we were either a 3 or 4 out of 5, so that we wouldn’t be grilled about why we were feeling bad about the work. The whole thing sucked.

      3. Agile Anon*

        We are about to embark on our 3rd agile conversion (each a different kind of agile) since the beginning of this year. I should probably look up the mood marbles. I’m starting to get the feeling that agile methodologies my employer’s version of Pokemon, and that we won’t rest until we catch them all, so the marbles are likely in our future.

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          The description of mood marbles as pokemon and having to catch them all elicited a sympathetic chuckle from me!

          Frankly, the whole mood tracking thing (and I admit to not having any experience with anything like this) sounds kind of like that to me–i.e., a perpetual and ultimately unattainable quest. Good luck to you with catching those elusive pokemon!

      4. Richard Hershberger*

        I just looked up Agile Mood Marbles and found this:

        “For example, a red marble indicates that help is needed, a yellow one shows that the person is working on something tricky but could still finish the task on time, and a green marble shows that everything is good.”

        Under other circumstances I would suspect satire. As it is, these seem to translate into inefficient and vague ways to say “I need help,” “I am working,” and “I have finished what I was working on.” Take out the “mood” language and this is not an entirely ridiculous concept, if dealing with people with poor communication skills.

        1. MuchNope*

          I need colors for ‘leave me alone’ ‘I am working, why aren’t you?’ and ‘I’d be done by now if other people did their jobs adequately’.

          1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

            I could’ve done with this with my former boss. They’d all be the same colour and boil down to “I’d be getting my work done if you didn’t keep interrupting me every 15 minutes while I’m clearly concentrating and/or counting something to ask me what I’m up to.”

            I give that woman far too much of my headspace – I wonder what colour marble that would be…

            1. SusanIvanova*

              “Yes, I look a bit cross when you interrupt me for our mandatory one-on-ones – because you *interrupted me* for a meeting where it’s obvious you don’t even know what I’m working on.”

            2. Hell Job Survivor*

              This was one of my former bosses, but replace very fifteen minutes with every five minutes and the interruptions were about projects/software/basic information she should already know the answers to…
              Pretty sure my marble would’ve needed to be red and the size of a globe so I could’ve launched it at her head.
              She also still takes up way too much of my headspace two years later.

        2. PeanutButter*

          Interesting! I’m currently in an interdisciplinary MS program, and the first four weeks were a coding bootcamp, since the program draws students from varying academic disciplines and many have limited/no coding experience. The instructor gave us pink/yellow/green post-it notes, and we were to put them on our laptops, so green meant, “following along, things are going well,” yellow meant, “having some trouble keeping up but still making progress” and pink was “things are going completely haywire and I can’t continue with the lesson without immediate assistance.” The TAs would watch for the post-its changing and triage helping students with pink post its, then the students with yellow post its, and that way if a student figured out their problem on their own changing back to the green post-it indicated that they didn’t need help any more. Also if suddenly a large majority of the class switched to pink post-its it indicated to the instructor that something went wrong and she needed to go over the concept/command again. It worked great in the teaching environment but I honestly have no idea how something like that would translate effectively to a working one.

          1. just a random teacher*

            This is also a reasonably common tactic in k-12 classrooms (I’ve seen it done with cups, flags, or a flip chart). It works well for figuring out who needs help as you’re trying to get to different students or groups. It’s definitely about comprehension rather than mood in those cases, though. (There are also students who have various charts for mood or behavior regulation, but I’d be extremely surprised to see that level of management in an office environment.)

          2. pleaset aka cheap rolls*

            “It worked great in the teaching environment but I honestly have no idea how something like that would translate effectively to a working one.”

            It can be a way for managers or coworkers to see who needs help, without the workers needing to articulate their status at all times.

            These methods can work if a place is healthy – if there is a lot of fear in a workplace, or workers are pushed to overshare emotionally – then yeah, it can be dangerous. Both if it’s purpose is understood, it’s shorthand for communications.

            We used a similar system in my job and some people were liek “OMG, my project is red, I can’t say that” but our leadership and staff emphasized that in our system red meant “needs help to succeed” and that it’s essential to get that out in the open.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          That’s not mood, though. That’s more about a person’s current status or state.

          I can be humming right along on my work and still be in a bad mood.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Sure, but the marketable alliteration is at least haft the point and the dudes reworking the Agile system to justify selling a new version got all tuckered out before they thought of “Status Stones,” obviously.

        4. Ann O.*

          I Googled, and it makes much more sense now. I can see this being a useful tool as long as it’s clear that it’s work/task focused. But like so many useful tools, it can only be useful if the person implementing it understands its purpose and can explain the purpose to the team very well.

          I’ve never done mood marbles per se, but I’ve had to use a stoplight system on status reports. I loved the idea conceptually EXCEPT that my manager never paid attention to it. At which point, it came to feel like busy work. It was also an early warning sign that my manager talked a good game but was horrible and ineffectual.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            Now I want a stoplight for my office. Red for “Don’t interrupt me unless the building is on fire.” Yellow for “If you need to ask me something, fine, but make it quick.” And green for “Now’s a good time to chat.”

        5. Observer*

          This is not thrilling, but it’s totally not the same thing as what was going on in the OP’s office, if I’m reading the material properly.

          The idea is that if people are remote you don’t get the advantage of walking through the office and seeing how people are working. So the mood marble is intended to provide those clues to the manager. Also, the marbles are specific to how things are going with their particular project / task, not overall “mood”. So it could be somewhat useful information.

        6. arachnophilia*

          Hmm, I stumbled into doing a version of this with my team (without knowing I was doing A Known Thing). Since we’re often on different campuses (academia) or working from home, we have a brief morning checkin via Skype chat (we would be using Slack if that had been an option when I started doing this almost a decade ago), where we say what projects we have on our plate, a brief outline of our schedule for the day (I’ll be in meetings from 2-5, so expect a delay in answering!), and any help that we need, or if we have time to help someone else. I’ve found that works well, and I’ve worked hard to create a culture where asking for help is something we all do, no matter our job titles, and everyone is encouraged to be honest about their workload and what they’re able to accomplish while maintaining an actual work-life balance.

          That said, most of the time, no one asks for help in the group chat, but will approach others on the team, including me, if they have a specific thing they’re struggling with, which I’m totally okay with.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      So it wasn’t a certification requirement after all, huh? Who would’ve thunk!

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        When I read the bit about it being a certification requirement, I assumed that meant it was *related* to a certification requirement. Like, for certification, you have to get staff feedback to make sure they understand what they’re working on and have all the necessary tools to accomplish their tasks. And a well meaning bumbler read that requirement and went “I know what we’ll do!”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I was always told my mood was irrelevant, be productive anyway.

        This is a great example of companies trying to measure something but they have no idea what it is.

    4. ShwaMan*

      Yup, either this manager didn’t understand their Agile training, or made up the “certification requirement” bit out of whole cloth.

      1. OP1*

        My general observation of all these iterations – TPS, lean, agile, whatever… Is that the founding principles are super solid. But they fundamentally require people to be good managers who *communicate, collaborate, and listen* and since everyone knows engineers can’t do that, instead companies bastardize them by introducing all these “regulation” “tools” and “accreditations” to try to force the issue.

        One of my favorite people, Dr Feinman, has a speech on “cargo cult science” and I always think of it that way. Basically, they are EXECUTING the motions so perfectly, they don’t understand what secret sauce could possibly be missing that’s preventing success. Except the secret sauce is where the actual hard stuff lies – respect for people, good leadership, reasonable expectations, communication, empathy…

        1. Mongrel*

          I think there’s also a soupçon of “I don’t know how to manage properly” or “I don’t understand the technical details” so adding unnecessary check boxes\steps shows they’re doing something

    5. madhatter360*

      This whole thing with the feelings chart makes me think about a Studio C sketch where someone implements a feelings chart at work. It’s called “How Are You Feeling” if anyone wants to find it.

    6. Laowai Gaijin*

      Seems to me it worked perfectly. People were expressing negative emotions, and now they’re not anymore. Obviously, that’s progress. Raises all around, managers!

  2. Shocked Pikachu*

    I just slapped some stickers on a chart and I feel so productive. In all fairness, it’s the only thing I have done so far today… but hey, it counts, right ?

    Anyways, OP#2, if there is no way around it, I would just get some generic smiley faces stickers and every day slapped on one. I mean, I don’t know, do they really expect grown people to announce their feelings with a sticker ? On a chart ? My kids had chart like that in preschool. And it’s a part of productivity certification process ? Honestly, this both terrifies and amuses me.

    1. Shocked Pikachu*

      Well, I see your update above me, so never mind :)
      Glad it kinda slowly dissolved into oblivion :)

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      For Christmas, I gave my daughter (in grad school) a sheet of stickers of hedgehogs wearing adorable tiny hats. I can see these improving anyone’s productivity.

      1. Shocked Pikachu*

        I would take hedgehog stickers in a heartbeat. And I am willing to slap them everywhere in my house. I love stickies and use them in my planner a lot. But to use them in work, to show off my mood ? Nah.

        1. Anonny*

          I have Pusheen stickers, but so far I’ve only used one. They’re so cute that they need to be placed carefully.

      2. Fikly*

        I reward myself for going to bed on time with a sticker of a panda on a chart. But I’m doing it to myself, in private.

        Also, I am a sucker for cute stickers!

  3. BadWolf*

    You still win OP1.

    Someone asks GrandBoss why you left. What’s his answer going to be? I told her she wouldn’t be promoted so she got a promotion elsewhere? He can’t admit that. Or “I don’t know” which makes him look silly. I offered her “lower job” and she decided to get “higher job.” He looks silly.

    Someone asks GrandBoss why he doesn’t have more women. “Well, I was going to maybe promote OP1 after she worked on LowerJob for another couple of years, but she got scooped up by NewGrandBoss for HigherJob.” GrandBoss looks foolish for not proactively promoting you.

    Is it perfect? Nope. But the best revenge is a life well lived.

    1. Observer*

      Yes. The guy tried to punish you for having the temerity to aspiring to executive rank, and also tried to insure that you would always feel like you don’t really deserve it, if some misguided “liberal social justice warrior” forced your promotion on the poor company in the name of “diversity”.

      Instead? You are out from under him, you got a promotion and you got it in circumstances that even he can’t expect you to construe as a “pity” hir in the name of “diversity”.

    2. OrigCassandra*

      Also, OP1, I am super-impressed that you recognized grandboss’s offer for what it was.

      Maybe it’s obvious at your shop, I suppose? But I once mistook an offer like that for something real, and a bit like you, I wish I’d thrown it back in their lying faces.

      1. OP1*

        Well, I was a team lead, and he wanted me to move to an “assistant” role he was trying to sell as the assistant of a “bigger better” project, so it was pretty obviously lol.

        1. Mookie*

          Also, you’re Token Girl in an industry that he believes is falling all over itself to prove its Inclusivity. His proof? A demotion on a high-profile project! Everyone can see you breastily assisting people! How diverse! Girl power!

          What an ass. Kudos to you for moving on and moving up.

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            Ugh I had a boss who was really big on the Human Zoo aspect of working. It was awful. “My staff should be visible so people can see them working!”

  4. Observer*

    #2 – Is your boss generally honest with you? I find his claim that the sticker chart is a mandatory part f any sort of productivity certification to be HIGHLY questionable. Your further update that the chart seems to have disappears supports my idea. So why would he say that?

    1. Feelings chart user*

      The productivity system as a whole got less and less focus over time so he likely was telling the truth

        1. Feelings chart user*

          Lots of boards full of metrics, overly complicated jargon to describe how those metrics changed and an assortment of accreditation levels named after metals

          1. OP1*

            Oh jeez, sounds like the accreditation my company Burned With Fire years ago, that still has people so passionately spun up that they refuse to use the words *lean* or *continuous improvement* – because that’s what the bastardized accreditation system claimed to be based on. Shudders. Run away!

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I would just shunt it to my spam folder in the expectation that I soon would not have to look at this daily minor annoyance.

    2. LQ*

      This sounds to me like someone who didn’t question the idea at all. Got it from a training where they said that this was absolutely critical to the success of you getting whatever certified and he just scribbled notes and never bothered to think about it. Then OP questions and pushes back and then he goes out and looks, and sure enough, not at all ACTUALLY required, just claimed to be critical by the trainer. I’ve heard trainers who claimed a really wide range of things were “mandatory” that weren’t at all. Then there’s the difference between critical for success and mandatory for certification. And if you either as the learner or as the trainer don’t draw that line clearly then it’s really easy to dance all over it.

      Now that OP has pushed back and boss questioned it they just quietly slid it down the priority chain. But this is absolutely something I could see someone doing, then getting called on it, digging into it, then backing off on.

  5. Venus*

    OP1 please do not feel like a sell-out for staying! Sexism is so prevalent that you won’t magically make things better by moving to a different company. You might be lucky elsewhere, yet staying and finding a strong mentor is such a good choice. Be proud of your progress and decisions!

    1. Bizarro Me*

      This! Rage quitting may feel good at the moment, but you were smart and rational enough to know it was not the right move. Landing a higher-level position in a new area is an absolute win.

    2. Uranus Wars*

      this this thisthisthis THIS! I think finding an amazing mentor at the same company is an amazing opportunity for you! I am happy you found a new position and are away from old boss! Happy New Year!

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Yes, the outcome is actually better this way. When OP is ready to move on (or up), she will be in a much stronger position to do it.

      1. Artemesia*

        And her presence at a higher level in the organization is a constant affront to the sexist boss who planned to reward her for her ambition with a demotion.

      2. Pebbles*

        And she’ll be able to use new grand-boss who is actually supportive of women in leadership positions as a reference! So a total win for the OP!

        1. OP1*

          Yes, she already wrote me a great reference for grad school!

          Thanks so much for the support everyone. Guess life isn’t always so black and white.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Right. If you are driving to work and there is a fallen tree in your path, you swing out around the tree and continue on. (IRL, hopefully call 911.) Just because you went out around the tree does not mean the tree won and you lost. (Just want to point out that the tree is still laying in the road.)

            My wise friend used to talk about picking battles. First and foremost keep ourselves safe and secure. This can mean, physically, financially or psychologically. Next, and this can be a bit confusing, not all battles are ours to fight AND not all battles need to be fought TODAY. Last, too many times these things come back around later, maybe in a slightly different costume but sometimes we get a second chance at righting old wrongs. If this goes this way, it can take years or even decades to play out.

            My initial reaction was to be disappointed in myself. I felt that I should not let a wrong go unchecked. I thought that I had failed to live up to my own expectations for me. So my wise friend really helped me sort how much responsibility I should actually carry.

            My last tidbit of thought. We can’t interfere with other people’s learning experiences. You had one heck of a learning experience here. Your old boss has yet to go through his learning experience. He has shown you that it will take a number of people to tell him. It’s okay to let other people wear him down, OP. It’s really okay.

    4. The New Wanderer*

      Definitely don’t feel like a sell out! I went back to the company where I was laid off (as one of a disproportionate number of women in our office) and I was concerned at first what it would look like. Long story short, I now have a role I love with a supportive (and female!) manager, and I routinely have my former grand boss call on me for my now suddenly valuable subject matter expertise.

      Hopefully you’ll get the chance to flaunt your finally-recognized capabilities in his face soon enough (and internally roll your eyes at the inevitable “I knew you had it in you”).

  6. voyager1*

    LW1: The whole “being a girl…” sentence is really problematic.

    Glad you followed your gut to get the better role.

    1. Zona the Great*

      Oh this made me insane. I would have responded with, “Good thing I’m not a girl” and let him figure out how to respond. What an ass-sombrero.

  7. Shadowbelle*

    I — what?

    “…you’re a girl in this industry and the company has a big equality initiative, so there’s no way that wouldn’t happen for you. Now, I think an X role [effectively a demotion] for the next two years would be a better learning opportunity for you. …”

    As I translate it, he was saying, “of course you will get a promotion. Because you are a woman and the company is trying to eliminate gender disparity. But I don’t want you to get promoted, so I’m going to demote you instead.”

    Did I understand that correctly?

    1. Wednesday of this week*

      My understanding was that he thought she wouldn’t notice that it was a demotion. So the message was more like, “Because you’re a woman, you will certainly be promoted under this new initiative. In the meantime, here’s a great opportunity to position you for it!”–where she was supposed to smile and thank him rather than recognize it as a demotion. It fits in with the condescension of his first statement.

      1. OrigCassandra*

        Yep. My read too, because I have been there and done that and I still feel like a nimrod for buying the crap they were selling.

      2. OP1*

        Yes, exactly. When my initial reaction was horror instead of gratefulness, he actually told me “Im going to schedule a follow up for 2 weeks, and when we meet again I want you to come back and tell me which of these two (demotion) options you’re excited for and have the passion to stay in for the next two years.”
        It’s an open secret that if you’re not promoted every year, you’re on the layoff short list, so…

          1. OP1*

            When he sent out the follow up meeting invite (a month later, not two weeks) I declined and wrote back “I’m pending an interview in another business unit and I want to see if that pans out first.”
            SO GLAD that gamble paid off haha.

            When I later told him that I’d accepted the other job, he “joked” that I wasn’t allowed to go.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          It’s an open secret that if you’re not promoted every year, you’re on the layoff short list

          What the heck kind of a workplace is that? I’d be living under a bridge now if that was the policy anywhere I worked, because I’d have lost my job years ago under it. Took me ten years, a lot of begging, and several job changes just to get some variation of “senior” in front of my job title. Regardless, isn’t there a limited number of times one can get promoted before they hit the ceiling? How does this work – does one person, eventually, get to CEO level and the rest get laid off because they couldn’t be promoted any higher? and then the following year, the CEO gets the axe too because they did not get a promotion up from their CEO level? What an interesting policy.

    2. OP1*

      Op1 here.
      I interpreted it as “you don’t need my support to get to that level, because there’s this ‘unfair’ initiative going on right now where females get promoted no matter what. So I’m not going to waste my limited management roles on you, when there are men who need my help more.” Maybe that would have been clearer if I could elaborate on the role I asked for vs the one he offered.

      The other fantastic part of the conversation was when he implied the management role I had previously was just a game of dress up
      I said “but I already did (management role)” and he tried to explain that actually I didn’t really, that role doesn’t count because oldboss was famous for giving people “conflated” job titles. When he literally hadn’t even worked for the company at the time I held the management role and quite frankly had no idea what he was talking about.

      1. Jennifer*

        “You don’t need my support to get to that level, because there’s this ‘unfair’ initiative going on right now where females get promoted no matter what. So I’m not going to waste my limited management roles on you, when there are men who need my help more.”

        That’s how I read it.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          That’s how I read it too. After 30 years in a male-dominated industry, I guess I’m now a natural at deciphering this kind of talk.

      2. Aiani*

        OP1 I really understand. I remember early on in my work place where I am now, my then boss telling me how they were going to promote me because they needed more women in higher positions. Then I worked in an office where men tried to tell me to make them coffee even though it had nothing to do with my job.

        What I realized later on is that I am awesome at my job, I didn’t get it because I’m a woman. I got it because I rock. You rock too! Screw these people who try to explain your well deserved promotion as being something you got because of your gender. You got it because you are great, in spite of the people who would hold you back because of gender. Good on you for catching that nonsense early on.

        1. Drew*

          “Sure thing. One lump of arsenic or two?”

          “Ha ha, that’s very–”

          “I’m not kidding. If you don’t want arsenic in your coffee, make it yourself.”

      3. Observer*

        That sounds exactly right. Because OF COURSE every time a woman gets promoted it’s at the expense of some guy who totally deserved it more than any woman on the planet. /sarc

        1. Alternative Person*

          Won’t someone think of the men that won’t get the promotion?

          (From what I’ve read, the only people negatively affected by equality initiatives are mediocre men.)

        2. DireRaven*

          Hey, hey.

          Men have families to support.

          Women are just working for a little extra pin money and to have something to do during the day when the kids are in school or until they decide to have children. Their husbands are actually supporting them, so they can an will quit at anytime.


      4. Mookie*

        This is a great translation. They think combating, at best, one-fifth of the unjustifiable myriad biases working against women, the systemic lack of opportunities for upward mobility in many industries, means the Meritocracy is over and the ball-busting, pantsuit-wearing quota wars have begin. Boys and white folk, the meritocracy never existed. There’s just more and less intentionally hamstrung competition for you to wrangle with.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      What I heard was, “I think you are too stupid to understand that I am giving you a line of sh!t.”
      And when I heard that I know that is my exit song.

  8. Justin*

    I was hoping he was foolishly and poorly saying, “you’re a woman, and this industry is messed up, so I’m going to promote you in x time, and understand that there are challenges but I am fully behind you.”

    But no, no.

    (Note: it reminds me of Logan saying “well that’s how the system is” and Shiv saying, well, it’s your system.)

    Glad you are getting more support from your new position. And, no, as you well know, there is workplace free of marginalization, so hopefully the additional support feels affirming, as that’s often all we can hope for. Kudos.

  9. Falling Diphthong*

    The chart was a mandatory part of the productivity practices certification.

    While knowing nothing whatsoever about this certification, I am going to assert that it is not an impressive thing.

    1. Kendra*

      I’d be curious to know what certification they were going for that required this (mostly so that I’d know never to take it seriously).

    2. Shadowbelle*

      “productivity practices certification”

      Betcha ten bucks they invented that “certification” just for the occasion.

    1. Fikly*

      Yes, perfect candidates do not exist. I will choose a candidate who has skills that take a long time to train but lacks skills that take a short time to train over the opposite every time.

      And soft skills are hard to train!

  10. Bizarro Me*

    “…it is rumoured that people at other companies have quiet agreements to nominate each other for these industry awards so that every person ends up winning at least once, and my boss wants to make it clear that she does not condone that.”

    If this is the case, then the boss’s logic doesn’t track with me. Does your boss somehow think that the industry award will be more meaningful if someone they nominated won vs. every other person who wins? In my mind, this really isn’t about the boss’s standards for the award but the organizers of the award. It may be time for you to network heavily in your field to find someone else who may be more inclined to nominate you.

    (I say this as a person who has a hard time distinguishing between “performs as expected” and “above average”. Because I know this about myself (and perhaps set my baseline level of expectation too high at times) I try not to penalize anyone solely based on my expectations and/or overly rigid review of criteria.

    1. Elise*

      From my experience (in my industry at least), all of these awards are given based on an organization’s PR department knowing how to write nominations so I don’t place much stock in them. I don’t know how I’d feel about one of my staff asking me to nominate them though. I would (and have) nominated people of my own volition so asking me would just feel off, unless it was for a scholarship or grant opportunity.

      But, I’m not a huge fan of the response the OP got from their boss. I’ve had bosses before who basically said they never give consistently exceeds except for rock stars (and they’ve only ever had one or two of those), and I don’t think it’s motivating in the least. Quite the opposite. Oh, you’re great, but this person I supervised before, they were AMAZING. I would at least give some information about what can be done to achieve that status.

      1. Fikly*

        This reminds me of the running joke (except it kind of wasn’t) about my high school’s English department, which was that they wouldn’t give an A to Shakespeare.

      2. LQ*

        It sounds like boss did give some information about what could be done to achieve that status. OP mentioned that they can see the differentiation, which means you can aim for it. Maybe I’m alone, but I’d kind of rather have a boss who could give a clear line of what it takes to really be a consistently exceeds rockstar. That appeals to me a lot. Even if it means that most of the time I might not be meeting that line and I’d like to be. Assuming that boss was willing/able to work hard for promotions/raises that would go to someone of my skills/accomplishments, even if other bosses had a lot of grade inflation on their team. (That can be really hard to do at a lot of places.)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, I am not a big fan of this new boss yet. But, if I worked for her I might enjoy taking up the challenge of what it takes to be a superstar. I don’t mind a boss with high standards IF the boss’ standards are both clear and consistent. Don’t be vague. And don’t keep moving the target.
          OP, this could turn into something rewarding for you.

        2. Arts Akimbo*

          I can understand that. To me, though, it would say “Your best will never be good enough for me, and you will thus never get the industry recognition you deserve here, so go ahead and start job hunting for a place that actually appreciates you.”

          1. Alternative Person*

            I might not interpret it that far, and I understand not wanting to feed into the industry award game, but the bar of ‘rockstar’ performance seems really unfair to me if industry recognition is a requirement/deserved within that particular context.

    2. Alice's Rabbit*

      Personally, I would never nominate someone who asked me to do so. That’s basically just nominating yourself, which the system clearly doesn’t allow or OP wouldn’t have this issue in the first place.
      It’s one thing to mention that the award is a thing and the manager is supposed to nominate someone; it’s quite another to ask to be nominated.

  11. What’s with Today, today?*

    I was surprised by Alison’s original answer to #3. I’ve nominated people for an annual industry award several times, and would be shocked and turned off if someone came and asked me to nominate them.

    1. ASW*

      I was thinking the same thing. Usually the people who most deserve the awards are the ones who care the least about winning an award. I would find it very odd if someone asked me to nominate them and it would cause me to question their judgment and priorities.

      1. OrigCassandra*

        Context and norms matter, I think. I’m an educator, so I get asked to nominate students and graduates for stuff on the regular, and unless the person has made my (quite short, thankfully) Do Not Help This Utter Waste of Space With Anything Ever list, I’ll generally do it. It’s also crystal-clear in my workplace that we help one another (if we are not for one another, who will be for us?), and in the professions I train for, there is a similar ethic (though it is sometimes honored more in the breach, because nothing is perfect).

        But I have no trouble believing that other contexts have different norms.

        1. Middle School Teacher*

          I think there’s a difference between being asked by, like, your boss to nominate a student (which has happened to me, and which I have done) and being asked by the student themselves for the nomination (which has also happened to me, and which I have not done).

    2. Fikly*

      I’m wondering if this falls a bit under the women tend to be more reluctant to self-promote thing?

      I feel like a man would be more likely to ask to be nominated than a woman, and perhaps the advice came from a place of wanting to equalize that?

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        I don’t care who is asking, man or woman, it’s completely gauche. The whole point of a nomination process is for people to suggest employees who they respect, not those who think they’re all that.

        1. bleh*

          Except that people tend to nominate friends or people who are just like them. Another fun phenomenon (in academia) is people will nominate those who have won other awards… based on the bare fact of having those awards, not on performance or any new information. One person becomes “the right answer” based on very little. It’s a racket Opening up the process might interrupt that sort of thing.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            While yes, some folks have lousy criteria for deciding who to nominate, you could say the same thing about the award committee, and just opening up the ballot to everyone isn’t going to solve it.

    3. Lady Jay*

      So much of this is industry specific, though. Not only would it be 100% normal to ask somebody else to nominate you, in my industry, it’s also normal to nominate yourself.

      (For the record, I like this, as I think asking for nominations makes awards more transparent and a (little) more equitable. Otherwise, the “popular kids” get nominated every time.)

      1. Jule*

        I agree. Plus, when there’s a potential financial upside to such recognition, it feels grody to say that “the right kind of people” would never dare ask.

        1. What’s with Today, today?*

          It’s just not done in my industry. Awards would come at the state industry convention, and you only get recognized for work that has a major impact on your community. If the awards committee feels no submittal is especially worthy, they won’t give an award that year at all, so asking to be nominated just seems very presumptuous. YMMV.

      2. Jessen*

        I can definitely see the advantage in making sure people with less “showy” roles get a chance. I was very happy when my team at work got an award, because we’re the kind of IT support role that’s often not noticed unless something’s gone belly-up.

    4. Nephron*

      I might not ask to be nominated myself, but if there was an industry award and I realized we never nominated anyone for it, I would ask about it.

  12. Mary*

    >> well, not to point out the obvious, but you’re a girl in this industry and the company has a big equality initiative, so there’s no way that wouldn’t happen for you


    Anecdata: when I’ve talked to male students going into female-dominated sectors (primary teaching, nursing), they’ve straight-up states this: “I know there’s a shortage of men in this sector so I assume I’ll be able to do pretty well.” No female student or graduate in construction, engineering, IT etc has *ever* said the same thing.

    1. CatMintCat*

      As a female primary teacher, I can say they’re right. The Penis Factor is very strong in getting jobs initially, and in achieving promotion. Currently 60% of Principal and above roles in my school system are held by men, in a workforce that is close to 90% female.

      1. Drew*

        I knew I left teaching too soon. I’d be rolling in fat principal money right now!

        (This is sarcasm. I left teaching too LATE because I burned out at least two years before I quit to switch careers, and I probably ruined my subject — let’s call it Teapot Turning for Llama Groomers — for several students who otherwise might have excelled. Regrets, I have a few.)

    2. J.B.*

      Because we don’t do well. There are all kinds of moving goalposts. I knew well that the Evangelical men would get the promotions.

    3. AnonyNurse*

      There’s actual data. Men are wildly over represented in nursing leadership. It’s insane to watch the one guy working the floor vs the several in management.

      They also get steered into the ‘harder’ nursing roles, at times to their detriment. I precepted a male nursing student who was being groomed for ICU/ER work, even though that’s not what he wanted.

  13. Jennifer*

    #1 You aren’t a sell-out. We all need to put food on the table. Sounds like you’ve done well for yourself, and as you said, if everyone with a brain leaves, nothing changes.

  14. Artemesia*

    Re the industry award. You need not adopt your boss’s stringent view of these awards. Since it will probably help your resume moving forward, find someone in another organization to trade nominations with — no one will ever care or know the details, but you will have the award when you are applying for jobs that advance you. There are no points for being the voice of purity in the awards business. And take this as a sign that this boss is not ultimately on your side as you seek advancement so maybe scanning the environment for opportunities a bit earlier than you might have(she isn’t your enemy, but she is clearly not thrilled with the idea of moving you forward).

    1. Feotakahari*

      If this award is so common, I’m not sure how it would qualify as “moving forward.” I mean, what’s the point of putting it on a resume if all the other resumes have it too?

      1. Indoor Cat*

        It’s more that being the only one without the award puts you at a disadvantage. If someone looks at your resume, and all the other candidates with however many year’s experience have won the award (or at least been nominated) then you end up looking like a particularly poor candidate even if the truth is your boss has a higher standard for nomination than the other candidate’s boss.

    2. RC Rascal*

      I agree with this; I don’t feel good about the boss response. It feels like a politically sophisticated way to say “I don’t really like you.”

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        To me, it sounds more like the boss is offended by OP asking for a nomination. I know I find it offensive.

        1. Indoor Cat*

          That strikes me as an odd thing to take offense to. I mean, I can see declining the request if you disagree. But I can’t see how someone valuing their own contribution to the field enough to make the case that they ought to be nominated is offensive.

          Many minorities are undervalued for the same work as majority people. By pointing out concrete things they’ve done that are exceptional, they can fight the bias that can lead to their work being overlooked.

          I don’t see anything threatening or damaging to morale about that kind of confidence, even if I ultimately disagree with the assessment in an individual case.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            It comes across as arrogant and self-important. As if I needed them to tell me who to nominate.
            Sorry, but people like OP are exactly the reason why you’re not allowed to nominate yourself for these sorts of awards. Otherwise, everyone would just nominate themselves, instead of those they honestly respect.

            1. Indoor Cat*

              I dunno. Maybe this is a cultural difference. Requesting a nomination doesn’t strike me as arrogant or self-important in and of itself, although I could see it becoming an additional reason for annoyance if someone is already arrogant. Although, in that case, it would still be the tone-deaf-ness of the person’s self-assessment, not having a positive self-assessment itself, that would be annoying.

              I can definitely believe that in some company cultures– or heck, cultures in general– humility is highly valued and self-promotion re: award nominations is automatically considered arrogant. It’s just definitely on the opposite end of the spectrum here where I work / live.

  15. MuchNope*

    I need colors for ‘leave me alone’ ‘I am working, why aren’t you?’ and ‘I’d be done by now if other people did their jobs adequately’.

  16. Business, Man*

    #1 – Your boss’s comments really struck home to a recent experience I had. We’ve set up a whole new division, with a whole new set of directors, of which every. single. one. is a man (20 people around the US!). There’s one open spot, for which they are aggressively pursuing a woman because they realize how bad it looks. So my old manager told me that “it’s a great time to be a woman in this company.”
    …facepalm. Or maybe it’s not as evidenced by the fact that you have yet to hire a single woman for the role?

  17. Pinkie Pie Works Hard*

    For poster #3, I have to disagree with Alison’s original advice (a rarity!). Always talk to your PR folks — this is something that they’re well-versed in (likely better than any internal manager), and it’s very much part of their jobs to get external recognition for the company and its employees. They’re quite good at knowing how to pull together the application materials together in a manner that will likely maximize your chances for winning. Unless you’re in a niche industry where PR submitted materials will be disqualified, I’d always go w/ PR in the future.

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