my manager calls me a “diversity hire,” text-speak at work, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My manager refers to me as a diversity hire

I’m a new, junior hire for a small team that is predominantly white and male. I just got an email from my boss asking a member of the team to add my name and picture to a proposal — that, as far as I’m aware, I am not working on — to add more diversity to the team.

This isn’t the first time he’s referred to me as a diversity hire in some way — although I don’t know how having the most junior member on your team not be white or male really helps that much — but it’s beginning to bother me and to make me feel like other people are underestimating me because it’s implied I was just hired because of my race and gender.

I don’t know how or what to say about it! I’ve been hearing this my whole life. I’ve only gotten that scholarship because I was “diverse,” I’ve only gotten that internship because I was “diverse” … I feel like I’ve begun to internalize it and would love any advice.

I’m sorry, this is really crappy.

How to proceed depends a lot on the environment you’re in and your own sense of what options are safe for you to use. But ideally you’d ask your boss directly, “Is that a project I’d be working on?” … and if the answer is no, then say, “I’d of course be happy to add my info to any proposal I’d be working on, but otherwise wouldn’t feel comfortable being listed.”

And — again ideally — you could consider saying to your boss at some point, “When you refer to me as a diversity hire, it sounds like you didn’t hire me based on merit. I’m assuming I’m here because of my qualifications, so can I ask you not to use that term?” If you want, you could add, “I’m concerned it will undermine me with people who hear it.” One would think she would have thought of that on her own, but she apparently hasn’t.

(And while this isn’t the worst of the issues here, let’s note for the record that an individual person is not diverse! A group can be diverse. A person is a person. They are using it as a proxy for “someone who is not what we think of as the default — i.e., not a cis, straight, able-bodied white man,” and that is not what it means.)

2. Text-speak at work

A number of years ago, my manager (who happens to be the organizational leader) started using shorthands like “k,” “kk,” “ty,” “tnx,” and a number of others in chats and texts. I personally find them to be somewhat abrupt, and especially in the context of delivering/presenting important work I’ve put a ton of effort into, a “ty” and nothing else is really discouraging. My workplace is fully remote (even before Covid), so sometimes a “k” or a “tnx” is all I hear in a day. This was “kk” until the usage of these terms started getting picked up by my coworkers. Now, we seem to correspond in these 2-3 letter increments constantly, although I personally avoid ever using them.

Would it be appropriate to ask, politely, that we use full words and sentences to thank each other or express understanding/agreement? I am guessing the best route is to continue displaying the language I prefer, but the prevalence is discouraging me more than I initially imagined it would. Is there anything one person can do to change the tide on an issue like this, or am I completely overblowing the meaning of these little conversational shortcuts?

It’s interesting how “OK!” can read differently than “k,” isn’t it? It’s just one more letter and a punctuation mark, but the second sounds much more abrupt than the first.

That said, you probably don’t have the standing to do anything about it. You workplace culture is that people use these abbreviations, stemming from the top, and it’s likely to look a little off to make a big deal about it. The better bet is to try to see them truly as abbreviations — to read “ty” or “tnx” no differently than you would read “thank you,” etc. Think of abbreviations that feel more normal to you, like ASAP, and put these in that category. What’s most important is what you know people mean to convey, and if your colleagues aren’t generally brusque people, don’t assign brusqueness to their abbreviations.

What I would think more about, though, is this: “sometimes a ‘k’ or a ‘tnx’ is all I hear in a day.” Is there any chance you need more communication with colleagues than you’re currently getting, and this is bothering you more because it’s in that context? If so, can you try to find more opportunites to truly talk with people and see if that helps? (Since you’re remote, you could consider setting up a Slack channel or similar for people to talk in.)

3. Candidate didn’t do the work her resume says she did

I’m on a recruitment panel to recruit for a job in another team in my department. One candidate has submitted a cover letter responding to our selection criteria with examples of how she has met the criteria in the past. I know one example, is, at the very least, highly exaggerated, as it was a project actually led by my team. She describes leading consultation with various departments, when I know she didn’t.

HR has said that it’s up to us how we want to proceed, and that people do overstate their experience. Under our recruitment procedures, if information is found that adversely impacts on selection, we have to give a right of reply. Or we could exclude that example from our assessment, which would still put her in the pool of candidates progressing to interview as she scored highly otherwise.

Since she otherwise scored highly, I’d move her to an interview and ask her about it directly at that point. See what she says.

Sometimes people get terrible advice to inflate things on their resumes. If she just puffed it up a little bit and handles it well when you ask her about it, I wouldn’t reject her based on that alone — but it would be a strike against her that I’d consider as part of the total picture. But if this was more than mild puffery — if she claimed to do things she had no part in — I don’t see how you can comfortably move forward with her … because of concerns about her integrity, obviously, but also because how will you know if you can trust other parts of her self-reported experience and accomplishments?

4. Boss wants to do something nice — can we ask for money?

I work for a small company. We have had a very good quarter and my boss/owner wants to take us out to celebrate and suggested an outing outside of work. While it is a very nice gesture, no one really wants to go or has the time. We have agreed that a lunch or brunch would be nice, but the owner would like to do more. Is there a way to politely ask for a monetary gift/bonus instead of an outing? Is it extremely rude to suggest lunch/brunch and money?

Well, she’s asking! If she had suggested lunch to celebrate the quarter and you countered with “Nah, just give us money,” that could indeed be rude. But in this case, she wants to do lunch/brunch plus more, and she’s wondering what that “more” could be. You could say it this way: “The lunch or brunch would be great. But since you’re asking what else we’d like, is there any chance of bonuses, even small ones? That would always be hugely appreciated.”

However, a touchy boss may still look askance at this (especially if to her “celebrate” means “we spend quality time together”), so you have to know the person you’re dealing with.

5. Did candidate give me a fake reference?

Something happened a couple years ago that I’d like your perspective on. I got into grad school and was helping my company hire and train my replacement since I was able to give five months’ notice. I conducted the phone screens and first interviews and my boss, the director of HR, conducted the second interviews. We agreed on our first choice applicant, and my boss asked me to conduct the reference check.

We used a candidate management system that asked for references up front, so I called the number this applicant had listed for their most recent job with a city government in a neighboring state. After a few rings, a guy who was obviously at a loud sporting event picked up, didn’t understand me, and hung up on me. I figured that she had listed her former boss’s cell number and I caught him at a bad time, so I googled the local government office to find the office number, planning to call and leave a message.

The weird thing is, another guy picked up, affirmed that HE was the person I was looking for and then gave a glowing review. I thought it was weird but we moved forward with the candidate and she started training shortly thereafter. About two weeks after she started training with me, she quit suddenly via email.

We were working in sports and entertainment at a seasonal property — turnover is common, but not nearly as common in the administrative function we were hiring for. I’ve just never been able to shake the weirdness with the reference. Who was the person at the first number? Did she provide a fake number to give a good review? Why would she bother if her actual employer would give her as good a reference as he did? Did I do something wrong in the vetting process — undervalue the reference weirdness?

It’s impossible to say. Everything could have been totally above board and she still could have quit two weeks in. It’s a little weird that the person who answered at the general number for a government office just happened to be the person you were looking for, but it’s not impossible. I don’t see any real reason to assume something was wrong. You did your due diligence by calling the direct number, and at a certain point if someone is determined to deceive you, there’s not a ton you can do.

In general, I always like to call general switchboard numbers when I can and ask for the reference I want to reach, rather than calling cell numbers, just to ensure I’m really getting the person I think I’m getting. It’s harder to do that these days when so many people use their personal cell phones for their work numbers, but in general, the more you can go through official channels to reach a person, the more confident you can be that they are who they say they are.

{ 334 comments… read them below }

  1. Ominous Adversary*

    LW #1 – run. You work for a boss who in 2020 feels comfortable openly referring to you as a “diversity hire”. He looks at teams that are predominantly white and male and instead of asking why, he thinks it’s appropriate to fake “diversity”.

    Imagine how bigoted he must be to act this way and how much that is going to impact your job.

    1. Batgirl*

      It’s an unbelievably depressing situation to be in. I’d feel compelled to just be awkward and say things like: “diverse in the sense of….?” Or “I’m sure there are other engineers besides me” or “I don’t think it helps if the only woman or POC is the only person out of the loop and silent at this meeting” …
      But I know I’m being naive and she’ll probably trigger a bunch of fragility which won’t help. I think I would be job hunting in her shoes and being pretty open that she’s looking for somewhere she’s not “the diversity hire”.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      Acknowledging that I’m coming at this from the perspective a white person, so I could be way off base — I’m curious about other thoughts on this.

      While I think “run” makes a lot of sense, depending on the industry/area OP is in, it might not be so easy to find a better alternative without making other sacrifices. To be very clear, I don’t think that OP (or anyone) should have to put up with this. It’s unacceptable. But I also know people who have chosen to endure some of this in exchange for opportunities they may not otherwise have access to.

      I guess I’m thinking that, realistically, for a lot of industries, there’s not going to be a company where there are no racially insensitive/bigoted/misogynistic/etc. people in power. And in those cases, I think “run and find a better option” might become demoralizing. And as difficult as it is for us to offer workable alternatives to ‘run’, I see the worth in brainstorming and sharing those.

      Definitely open to hearing from commentors telling me I’m off-base with this!

      (And FWIW, in my expeirence as a women, it sometimes felt like there was an echo of: “Don’t try to change the places you’re at, just go somewhere better. Nowhere better? That’s just the industry, try something else if you don’t want to put up with it.” I think this messaging could be especially strong if there was ONE or two prominent companies that were progressive, but also very difficult to break into it. I’m not suggesting that’s what Ominous is saying, but I feel like I have seen that ‘helpful’ messaging co-opted by people who just want the status quo.)

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I guess I’m thinking that, realistically, for a lot of industries, there’s not going to be a company where there are no racially insensitive/bigoted/misogynistic/etc. people in power.

        True, but she absolutely can find companies where this shit isn’t said out loud.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I’m not sure that’s an actual alternative. I mean it is, but it’s not, really. It’s a superficial and meaningless one.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Ugh, hit submit too fast: The problem is that the attitude is still there and will hold her back just as much, so . . . ?

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              The reality is that many companies are run by bigots or have bigots in middle management – that’s just the truth. Depending on OP’s industry, she could be job searching for a long time trying to find that magical unicorn of a place where this isn’t the case, which in and of itself will hold her back in her career. Will she experience the glass ceiling if she works at a company where people are quietly bigoted? Yes, probably – but at least she won’t have to deal with the daily microaggressions that will surely break down her spirit and her confidence, thus ensuring that she won’t have the will to fight or at least take her skills elsewhere once she’s learned all she can where she is.

              I’m a black woman – if I ran from every job where shady, lowkey racist shit was happening, I would be unemployed. My current employer is great, but I’m under no illusions that some of the people I work with, maybe even my direct management, may in fact harbor racist ideas about me and people who look like me. If they do, they’re smart enough not to say it out loud or overtly act upon it, so I go about my business.

            2. Observer*

              No, not as much. For two reasons.

              1. When you keep on hearing that kind of garbage it just saps your energy.

              2. Needing to keep opinions like this in check doesn’t ELIMINATE bad behavior, but it does tend to temper it. Not enough, in many cases, but still better than nothing.

          2. hbc*

            In my experience, there is a meaningful difference between “Says the bad stuff in mixed company,” “Says the bad stuff at home but knows better than to say it in mixed company,” and “Doesn’t say anything but has some bad thoughts.” None of these are great, but the guy who knows it’s bad to label someone a diversity hire is more likely to, say, put you on the project so he can have a better picture rather than basically announcing to the team that you’re a prop.

            1. Quill*

              Yeah, we’re triaging the awful here. People who say the quiet part out loud have fewer brakes about how they treat you. People who say their bigoted shit but know better than to do it in public have some standards for how they treat you because they know other people don’t approve. People who have internalized bigoted shit that they don’t say have slightly more standards than that… but are also convinced that they already treat you equally / as well as you deserve.

            2. Littorally*

              This, emphatically this.

              The guy who is perfectly willing to say the bad stuff in mixed company is much more likely to promote the bad stuff as a cultural norm in the office.

              1. Mel_05*

                Yes – and to be miffed by the people who don’t want it to be a cultural norm.

                The other type has already committed to acting like they aren’t racist misogynists.
                Which isn’t enough, but it helps.

              2. Artemesia*

                This. My Georgia born and bred FIL was deeply racist, moved north in the 50s when racial unrest was growing where he was. He raised 7 children who are not racists and I never in all the time I knew him heard him use a racial slur or go off on a racist diatribe. He once told my husband that he had grown up racist, that it was just what he had always known, but that he was proud not to have passed that on to his children. He died watching FOX news — certainly his attitudes at heart had not changed BUT he treated people with courtesy and he didn’t as far as I know act on his racism. There are levels of evil here. Probably most white people including me have some racist attitudes; choosing to behave decently and being sensitive to one’s own failings is going to contribute to a better environment for minorities in the workplace than being open about those views. Hypocrisy is not always a sin.

                1. MarsJenkar*

                  The usual definition of hypocrisy is “do as I say, not as I do”, which is often considered a bad thing, especially if the disconnect between words and actions is not acknowledged. However, it’s generally more palatable when framed as “don’t make the mistakes I have”, which at least acknowledges the disconnect and gives others a reason to choose the words over the actions.

                  It’s rather sad your father-in-law couldn’t get past his own racism, but from what I can tell, he at least realized on some level that it was a failing of his and did what he could to minimize the damage caused by it…which is more than can be said for a lot of people with similar views.

                2. Caliente*

                  Hypocrisy may not be a sin but it makes a person…a hypocrite. When has that ever been anything good.
                  You comment reminds me of white coworkers who can’t understand why I’ll never hang out when them- it’s because you’re not hiding your hypocrisy well. We see you. You fool no one.

                3. Observer*

                  but it makes a person…a hypocrite. When has that ever been anything good.

                  When it leads to better behavior.

                  There are different types of hypocrisy. And I think that at least in the US, we’ve forgotten that. For societies to function we NEED some hypocrisy / “lack of authenticity” – Not everyone is going to like each other. Not everyone is always going to agree with things they need to do. Not everyone is going to admire everything about even people they like. Being “inauthentic” in these situations (as well as in myriad others) is EXACTLY the right thing to do. People who are always completely and totally honest are extremely hard to deal with, under the best of circumstances.

                  At work I would much rather deal with a bigot who know they can’t get away with treating me in line with their bigotry than the bigot who lets their bigotry show.

                4. Marthooh*

                  As Oscar Wilde said, “Hypocrisy is the tribute Vice pays to Virtue.” And that’s much better than “At least he’s being honest about it!”

                5. Mystery Bookworm*


                  Good point – and while I have no idea if this has been shown specifically in regards to bigotry, I know that in other areas of life, this sort of hypocrisy (acting kinder than you feel) has been shown to lead to actual change over the long-term.

                  So someone might venture out into the world with terrible beliefs their parents instilled in them, but the culture they’re in forces them to pretend differently, over time there is a chance this behaviour (and the world’s response) will prove false their original beliefs.

      2. Ominous Adversary*

        This is the job equivalent of “Yes, he cheats on you and calls you names, but at least he doesn’t hit you, and all men have problems, so don’t think you’re going to find someone better if you leave him.”

        Yes, some industries have endemic problems. But even in those industries, some workplaces and bosses are far worse than others. We’re not talking about a boss who occasionally says something clueless. This is a company where the boss feels perfectly comfortable openly calling the OP a “diversity hire” and using her to pretend that the company hires people who aren’t just like him. That is NOT a place where the OP is going to have opportunities. And it’s already poisoning her sense of self-worth.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          The difference here is, a woman can survive without a man.
          Most of us can’t survive without a job.
          OP needs to look realistically at her options… in her industry, is there a good chance she could find a better work culture if she looked? And proceed accordingly.

          1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            I don’t know if you’re someone who’s ever been at risk of being called a “diversity hire”, but if you’re not, let me tell you that OP can’t realistically expect her *career* to survive at the kind of place that openly calls someone a “diversity hire”. They’re very likely to use whatever makes her “diverse” to assassinate her character and worse, will be completely open about it. Junior employees don’t come back from that all that easily.

        2. Mystery Bookworm*

          Ok, yeah, I see what you’re saying here. I think Quill’s comment about “we’re triaging the awful here” makes a lot of sense.

      3. Observer*

        There is a difference between a company “where there are no racially insensitive/bigoted/misogynistic/etc. people in power” and a company where bigotry is part of the actual policy and stated out in the open.

        While it’s all good and fine to say that the OP should stick around to change the company, the odds of her being able to do that at this point are pretty slim or even worse. It’s a lot to ask under any circumstances. In a place like this, with the problem so entrenched, and in her position as the newest, most junior and most disregarded staff member, it’s a really unfair burden.

        It sounds like the OP has spent a LOT of time in environments like this, and it’s wearing her down. No wonder! At this point, she deserves some respite – to be in an environment where she is actually judged by her behavior an accomplishments NOT by her race and gender. ”

        Martin Luther King jr Had it right when he looked for a world where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character“. He was talking about color, but it’s true of gender, too. And at this point, the OP is MORE than entitled to find a place that will treat her this way.

    3. LB*

      I feel like “run” is easier to say than do in the time of Covid. Why should they leave when it’s not them with the problem, it’s their manager that needs to change their attitudes and behaviour?

      1. Luke*

        While it’s true the OP is not the problem, she doesn’t have the resources to fix this. She cannot force her manager to abandon their racist viewpoint. We have enough evidence to conclude anything she does at that firm under that manager will be viewed through a racist lens. If she attempts to involve HR, there’s a non-zero risk of bigots higher in the company who will react even worse to an a official inquiry.
        The only tool she has is to leave- and you are correct about covid-19 impacting this .

    4. TechWorker*

      I agree that openly referring to someone as a ‘diversity hire’ is a loaded and extremely offensive phrase. But – I’m not sure the OP wrote the title and they don’t actually say that? They say ‘he’s referred to me as a diversity hire in some way’ which could mean ‘he’s referenced the fact I’m not white/male in a way that makes me uncomfortable’, not ‘he openly says I’m a diversity hire’. I don’t think it changes the advice but I would say those things are different levels of bad/recoverable! Apologies OP if I’ve misread and you do mean he literally uses the phrase ‘diversity hire’.

      1. GrungyBunny*

        Yes, that’s what I was wondering. There’s a huge difference between the headline – OP actually being called a “diversity hire” – and what’s being described in the actual text.

        1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

          I disagree.

          OP actually used the phrase “diversity hire” when referencing remarks that Idiot Boss has made, and is being added to a proposal to “add more diversity”, not because of skillset or experience.

          I don’t see a huge difference here at all, between the headline and the content of the text.

          And Idiot Boss is either so clueless that he doesn’t know it’s offensive, or he’s so cruel that he doesn’t care, since he is quite open about the whole thing.

          1. Infrequent_Commenter*

            In the context of the example, it wouldn’t make sense to use the phrase “diversity hire” and the OP didn’t reference it in the example. “Let’s use Jane on this proposal because she adds diversity” is a hekuva lot different than “let’s put our diversity hire on this proposal”.

            That said, it is likely true that “diversity” played a role in the hire. Both social pressure and legal requirements are forcing companies to make hiring decisions and do marketing based heavily on race and gender. That’s neither the OP’s not the company’s fault. The OP’s sensitivity is understandable, but something they probably need to deal with on their own.

            1. Paperwhite*

              Both social pressure and legal requirements are forcing companies to make hiring decisions and do marketing based heavily on race and gender.

              True, but not in the way commonly implied/understood.

              What people usually believe the above means, and what LW#1 feels rightly insulted by the assumption of, is that the above requires recruiting and hiring POC, women, disabled people, etc who are unqualified and incapable, because previously the people hired were qualified, capable, and coincidentally White male, able-bodied, etc.

              What the above means in practice is that the hiring pool has been expanded to include not just qualified and capable White men (as well as unqualified and incapable ones, but whatnot) but also qualified and capable disabled people, women, POC who were previously all assumed to be unqualifed and incapable by virtue of not being able-bodied, White, and male. The result of the [wilful] misunderstanding of this practice is that people who are qualified, capable, but not able-bodied, White, and male are assumed to be unqualified, incapable, and just present for ‘diversity’.

              Also, far from dealing with this “on their own”, LW #1 can very much use the solidarity of other people who face this, which starts with telling LW#1 that it’s not just them and that such solidarity exists. LW#1, if you made it to my comment, that’s my message to you. This isn’t just you and you’re not alone. There are people and associations out there to give you fellow feeling and advice and support.

              1. HR quotas on diversity*

                It shouldn’t be this way, but sometimes HR applies it this way. I work for a very large, established, liberal company (that is still having trouble with “diversity”). I interviewed some people for a new role, and rated a person, who happened to be a woman POC, fairly low. I got called back from HR asking me to rate that person higher, because they needed to meet quotas. I refused. I think “diversity hires” are insulting to the person, and bad for business. But if HR is telling interviewers to do this, I guess some comply. Maybe some managers then feel like they need to use the ‘diversity’ value to their advantage to make up what they can’t in actually productivity. I’m definitely not supporting OP’s manager, but if there are company-lead ‘diversity quotas” can we really prevent this kind of thing from happening? And please don’t attack me in the comments (you can disagree if you want to, but I’m not evil for asking this). I am myself “diverse”. I think that isn’t why I am where I am, but I guess I can never be sure.

                1. Paperwhite*

                  We can’t prevent someone from making the (manifestly and fractally stupid) decision to act as if an attempt to diversify one’s workplace means “find the first POC/woman/other underrepresented person, no matter how unqualified, and put them in the job.” Rules are only as good as the people who apply them, and some people are stupid, lazy, venal, or believe in malicious compliance (as in “everyone KNOWS underrepresented people are actually stupid and able-bodied White men are overrepresented entirely due to inherent superiority, so if I hire an unqualified underrepresented person everyone will see the general rule from this example and realize there’s no point to hiring underrepresented people after all and will get rid of the stupid diversity initiative”)

                  However, it’s really stupid to treat a diversity initiative in such a reductionist way, for several reasons, including: 1) it is actually possible to find underrepresented people who are qualified and capable of doing whatever job. [For the Devil’s Advocates: this is not a challenge] 2) giving an unqualified person a job for the “sake of diversity” does all underrepresented people an insulting disservice by treating us all as interchangable 3) giving an unqualified person a job does the company a disservice for obvious reasons.

                  So I have a question for you. You cited this WOC who scored low as your proof that diversity initiatives don’t work. If she had instead been the best candidate, would she alone have been sufficient proof of their success?

              2. Infrequent_Commenter*

                While it was certainly true in the past that hiring was pro-white male biased, the assumption that an unbiased process could produce the desired makeup simply by expanding the applicant pool, though widely held, is inaccurate. The pool of applicants and job openings is negative sum for minorities, and that presents an inescapable catch-22 for both the employers and employees.

            2. Ominous Adversary*

              Correction: both social pressure and legal requirements are forcing companies to stop giving white men preference in hiring and retention.

              Also, the OP’s “sensitivity”? Wow.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes, thank you. And to clarify, legal requirements are that employers cannot consider race/gender in hiring decisions. It’s illegal to factor those into hiring decisions.

                1. Infrequent_Commenter*

                  Apologies; the “legal requirements” tend to be on the other side of the company, such as government contracts required to be awarded in some percentage to minority owned businesses/ employee makeup. For employees (including government) this still presents a catch-22 in desiring diversity while forbidding explicitly using race/gender identity in hiring decisions.

            3. AKchic*

              I have a feeling that “diversity” may not have played a real role in OP’s hiring (if OP was hired by someone other than the manager who keeps calling her the “diversity hire”), but he perceives her hiring as a diversity hire because it automatically wasn’t the choice he would have made specifically because of her race and gender and he is openly yet codedly saying that every time he calls her the diversity hire, or asks her to put her name on something for diversity’s sake without contributing to it. He is openly signaling that he doesn’t actually respect her, her skillset, her talent, or her work and she is merely checking off boxes for points.
              I would almost be willing to bet hard money that any project he asks her to put her name on in the name of “diversity” has a woman and/or person of color on the receiving end of that project. If the project isn’t going to a group comprised entirely of cishet Caucasian men, OP will be asked to contribute her name for the same of faux diversity. That is her contribution to the project in that manager’s mind: Connecting with the non-white male audience.

              It would be worthwhile to document the frequency of this manager’s comments, when he says them, who he says it around, and when asked to “contribute” to group projects, the make-up of the receiving side.

              1. lemon*

                Yes, thank you. Definitely sounds more likely to me that boss is sour about someone other than a white cishet dude being hired, and feels the need to constantly remind the OP about it.

            4. JustaTech*


              It’s not about “sensitivity”. It’s about how being referred to as the “diversity hire” is an insidious phrase that will worm its way into your mind and color and corrupt how you see yourself, your abilities and your skills. It is the voice that says “you will never, ever, be good enough no matter what you do, because of some immutable trait”.

              Several years ago a teacher friend and I were representing our small, exclusive, technical college at a college fair. A mother came up to us (without her student) and started asking a lot of very specific questions about how her son could get into this college. We were explaining about IB versus AP and what kind of high schools we had gone to when the woman said “no offense, but you only got in because you’re girls.”

              1) Yeah, I am offended. 2) I am a grown woman, not a girl. 3) That’s not true, and I am so tired of people telling me that 15 years after I was accepted.

              Even if you think a person was accepted to a school or job only because they meet some kind of “diversity” profile and not because they are capable, no one gets to *stay* because they’re a “diversity hire”. No one passes a class on “diversity”.

              It is exhausting to constantly have to defend your intelligence and abilities to basically everyone.

              1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

                It is exhausting to constantly have to defend your intelligence and abilities to basically everyone.

                Yes. It’s strange that people don’t realize this, or that being in a position where you have to defend your intelligence and abilities to do things befitting either makes you seem like the problem. Or maybe they do realize these things and just want us to bow down to people who assume that we’re not good enough, I can’t tell anymore.

            5. kt*

              “Oh, it’s not your fault you were hired because of your race/ethnicity and gender; society and nonexistent legal requirements made your company do it. Stop being so sensitive and don’t talk to anyone about it.”

              Wow, the voice of the patriarchy speaks! ;) Whether you mean it that way or not, infrequent_commenter, thank you very much for giving a clear version of the messaging that keeps women and people of color down in the workplace! Well done.

            6. Observer*

              Wait, the OP’s boss said to PRETEND that she’s on a project do PRETEND that the team is “diverse” and SHE is being “over sensitive”?!

              What a perfect example of kind of garbage people have to deal with when they try to call out bigotry.

        2. kt*

          Yeah, lying about you being on a project so they can have a ‘diverse’ face on it is… self-explanatorily supporting the view that the boss sees OP that way.

          Do you not see how lying and putting someone’s face on a proposal who isn’t actually working on it *solely because of their color* is indicative of this boss seeing OP as a ‘diversity hire’?

          1. TechWorker*

            I think putting OPs face on a proposal they didn’t work on is offensive to her, the company is saying ‘we’re worried mostly about the appearance of not being diverse’ rather than ‘let’s get to the point where our teams are diverse enough that we don’t have to lie about it’. I *totally* see why this is upsetting and offensive and racist, and definitely didn’t mean to imply otherwise!

            I still think if the boss had said to her face ‘you are a diversity hire’ that is *worse* – that’s saying ‘we only hired you because of your race/gender’ and implies OP doesn’t deserve the job. Putting OPs face on something they didn’t work on is offensive, but not as offensive.

      2. Anne of Mean Gables*

        They’re adding her name and photograph to a proposal for a project she is not actually meaningfully part of for “diversity” – they may not have actually said the words “Jane, our diversity hire” but I do not understand how what they are doing is meaningfully different. And to take OP at her word (which I’m inclined to), this is not the first time something along those lines has happened at this workplace.

        1. Infrequent_Commenter*

          The difference is when you reference the proposal you are stating the OP adds “diversity” to the proposal and nothing more. The term “diversity hire” on the other hand would be saying the OP adds nothing but “diversity” to the company – that its the primary or even only reason they were hired. It’s 10% vs 90% in its implication.

          1. kt*

            This is a truly disingenuous reading — so far from reality that it seems you’re setting up a straw man to fail.

            You are saying that a real “diversity hire” is hired solely for their color or gender rather than their skills, and since the OP has skills, by definition can’t be a diversity hire, and so their concern about being treated in a discriminatory manner by the boss is unwarranted. Fake news! that’s three unsupported assumptions or mischaracterizations in a row!

            1. Infrequent_Commenter*

              If you don’t like my criteria, then provide your own that makes more sense. I’ve seen people’s names put on proposals because they are located in satellite offices (local to the client) even though work will be done out of a different office. It doesn’t imply their location was used to justify their hiring despite lack of qualification. The tem “diversity hire” does imply that.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I was wondering the same thing. There is clearly an issue here and the boss definitely seems problematic, but I am not sure from the letter where exactly things are falling on a scale of bad behavior. From the title I was expecting that he was actually saying to the OP outright that they were a “diversity hire,” but it seems more like OP feels like they are being *treated* as a diversity hire. Now, that may be a distinction without a difference! But to me it seemed like it might be a difference between a boss openly saying “I don’t think you’re really qualified for this job” versus a situation where he really did hire her for her qualifications but then after she started figured “hey, let’s really play up this diversity angle since we’ve got a bad track record there.”

        Again, both situations are not okay. But I think the former would certainly be worse than the second. I guess it’s mostly unclear to me whether the boss is hostile and malicious or just stupid and clueless. The second situation seems more salvageable to me, where some conversations like Alison laid out might actually help.

    5. Mookie*

      It’s also a fundamental (perhaps deliberate?) misreading of how “diversity“ recruitment programs and policies work when they work well, why they exist, and what substantive value they bring to fields and workplaces both. This behavior, which is common, is egregious to the extent that it damns the prospect of balancing out the practice and legacy of white male affirmative action, which is also not inherently meritorious and frequently reflects only an unjust system that limits access to the quality education, desirable skills, prestigious prior employment, and professional circles to only a privileged minority who reap outsized benefits as a result, with rare exceptions.

      In situations like these, “diversity hires”—a very obviously dehumanizing term—tend towards being exceptional anyway, which makes it all the more unfair to them that they are dismissed as merely an accessory, a peripheral team member, to their unmarked peers, whose hiring process was anything but purely objective, given that no purely objective exercise in hiring can ever exist.

      This is particularly terrible because, sure, maybe the LW has experienced insight into recruitment and would be a valuable addition to this team; that nobody even bothered asking them before perfunctorily adding them without permission or notice says this exercise is doomed to fail, was set up to fail, at least under this management. This is enraging. I’m sorry LW.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        In situations like these, “diversity hires”—a very obviously dehumanizing term—tend towards being exceptional anyway

        This bears repeating.

        1. PersephoneUnderground*

          Yes- my husband has noted that the women he works with in our heavily-male field (Software Engineering) tend to be really great at their jobs. He attributes it to the same thing you did, that a woman has to be better than a man to get the same job.

      2. Infrequent_Commenter*

        [Quote]In situations like these, “diversity hires”—a very obviously dehumanizing term—tend towards being exceptional anyway, which makes it all the more unfair to them that they are dismissed as merely an accessory, a peripheral team member, to their unmarked peers, whose hiring process was anything but purely objective, given that no purely objective exercise in hiring can ever exist.[/quote]
        The problem is that in place of objectivity, “diversity” replaces one racial bias with another. And while its true that many minorities react by working harder to overcome the assumption that they are less qualified, overall/on average it isn’t possible to achieve the arbitrary “diversity” mix using objective criteria. So it becomes a requirement that one’s identity characteristics have to be a heavy factor in the hiring process.

        1. Paperwhite*

          overall/on average it isn’t possible to achieve the arbitrary “diversity” mix using objective criteria

          This statement seems to rest on the assumption that people who are not White, male (because these issues affect women), able-bodied (again for disabled people), successfully closeted or straight (again for queer people) and so on are by nature less capable and qualified than White male straight able-bodied people. Is there any other possible reason the above statement could be true?

        2. Ominous Adversary*

          Please stop with the scare quotes around diversity. It’s really detracting from your pretense of objectivity.

        3. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

          “The problem is that in place of objectivity, “diversity” replaces one racial bias with another”

          Let’s play devil’s advocate here for a minute. White men have benefitted from hiring bias for decades. If hiring managers developed an unconscious bias for black women candidates, would that be “unfair” to white men? And if it was unfair, what’s wrong with someone else benefitting from the imbalance for a change?

          In any case, I am sorry, but your statement is completely wrong. I’ve heard this argument many times and it’s really nonsense.

          Hiring for diversity is intentional, it’s a strategy. A manager who has a team of white women in their 20s, and decides to build a more diverse team, does not unknowingly develop a bias towards older black men, and discover too late that they a team of 45 year old black men.

          Conscious hiring for diversity is the _opposite_ of the type of hiring that happens when we allow our (usually unconscious) biases to drive the process.

        4. Observer*

          That’s actually not how this works. If you are hiring and TREATING PEOPLE in a reasonably non-discriminatory fashion, then your workforce (at least in a larger company) should somewhat reflect the makeup of the population. So, if your business is in an area where 15% of the population is Black and 30% is Latinx, and you have a workforce of of 1,500 people you should have something in the range of 225 Black people and 450 Latinx people in your workforce. And it’s reasonable to expect that they should be distributed throughout the company, not just in a few lower paid support type roles.

        5. nom de plume*

          Good grief, you are all up and down this thread suggesting that diversity hiring means tokenistic hiring of random, unqualified people just to tick a box. It’s a total misrepresentation, it’s simplistic, and it’s incredibly bigoted.

          You’re a thread away from crying “reverse racism,” so stop while you’re still vaguely ahead.

    6. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      “I can’t be racist! I have black friends!”
      OP1, start job searching quietly and leave when you get a job offer for a place that doesn’t hire you to fit a quota.

    7. Junior Assistant Peon*

      The college I attended does diversity like the LW’s company. A bunch of rich white suburban preppie kids, plus the correct percentage of black students to claim good “diversity.”

      1. Artemesia*

        I worked at a place sort of like that, but one of their programs decades ago was to recruit a cohort of minority students from an inner city and provide a supportive infrastructure for them to adjust to the very selective high powered university they were recruited to. The group had a name, met regularly, had access to support services and the older cohorts mentored the new group each year. The argument was that making it an overt thing with supports would make it much more possible for bright but disadvantaged minority students to succeed rather than just recruiting individually and letting them sink or swim. Diversity recruitment, sure. Success for those students in a not necessarily automatically easy environment to negotiate, also, sure. Sometimes you have to be open about bringing about change. Most businesses will not become diverse automatically; being intentional can make it happen. And of course talking about the virtues of diversity and not labeling people as ‘diversity hires’ is a slightly tricky line to negotiate. I would be judging the guy differently if he actually called someone a diversity hire in work settings or if he encouraged work teams or projects to pay attention to diversity when formulating new groups and putting together proposals. In the early days of my career I was often the ‘diversity’ on a program presentation or proposal as a woman; I realize that is far less burdensome and stigmatizing as being the minority element of diversity.

        1. Observer*

          I think there is a difference between what you are talking about – where there is recognition of a problem and a real attempt to redress it – and just randomly admitting a few members of the “correct” minority du jour for appearances sake, with no attempt to actually support them.

          It’s like the workplaces that can’t seem to understand whhyyyyyy they can’t seem to keep women (choose your marginalized group) without ever looking at the fact that they don’t treat women reasonably.

        2. Junior Assistant Peon*

          My college had a well-meaning “bridge program” like the one you described. The unintended consequence was that the black students’ friend group had already gelled before the other freshmen arrived on campus, so they tended to keep to themselves and not make friends with the rest of their classmates. My high school had way more interracial cafeteria tables, friendships, and dating than my college did.

      2. kt*

        A college I worked at did that, too: rich white kids paid the $, and kids of color brought up the test scores! (It was a really dramatic difference in average SAT…)

        1. Artemesia*

          I find that surprising since it is pretty easy to recruit rich white kids with very high test scores who also pay the$. It is fairly difficult to find large numbers of AA kids with high test scores. The program I referenced earlier recruited solid minority kids from under privileged backgrounds and looked at lots of indicators that they could be successful besides test scores including forming strong bonds with counselors in inner city schools to identify potential stars. BUT these kids had markedly lower test scores than the norm overall of this selective school. Most of them, with support did well — some of them did very very well. They improved the institution by their participation but they definitely were not bringing up the test scores. SATs etc are pretty good predictors of success for privileged people, particularly privileged Asian and White people; they are less useful for people who grew up in environments where they had fewer of the experiences that develop the knowledge and skills tested.

    8. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’d gently disagree with the ‘run’ bit, given the state of the economy pretty much everywhere right now.

      But, I’d push back about being included as some kind of ‘token’ by any manager. At one place I was hired it was pretty much 99.9% straight white guys in their 20s, able bodied, gym obsessed, wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d started a ‘lads, lads, lads’ chant kind of thing…you get the picture. Very bro. And one of the first things they wanted me to do was get in a public video of all of them to ‘prove we’re diverse’

      I had just hit 40. Disabled, fat, not seen the inside of a gym in 20 years, half Spanish (olive skinned), queer (though they didn’t believe that given I’m married to a straight guy) and female. And even before I’d settled into the job they wanted me as a kinda figurehead? It didn’t feel right, and given that I hate being photographed or videotaped anyway I declined.

      Didn’t stay long there though. Didn’t run, but made plans to look elsewhere. The feeling that I’d been hired not for abilities but to make up some kind of ‘hey, we’re not discriminating!’ number never really left me. To this day I still have that worry hanging over me, though I’ve learnt a lot from this site how to tone down job worries better.

      I recall asking them if they’d have asked any other brand new starter to star in a corporate video/put their name on something immediately and they were pretty honest in saying no. They didn’t get why I was offended at being treated differently. Probably still don’t. Not kept up with that particular software firm.

    9. Jules the 3rd*

      I prefer Alison’s advice of “don’t run, leverage it”.

      OP: Seriously, leverage this. Find high-profile projects you like, or whose project lead you like and trust, and ask to be added to them. If it’s high enough profile that they want the appearance of diversity, it may be a boost to your career to actually work on it.

      1. Ominous Adversary*

        Except this boss has already made it clear that he’s happy to slap the LW’s name on projects without actually having her work on them.

        Leveraging may help the OP in the short term. In the long term it isn’t a solution to a workplace like this.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          When Jerk Boss (JB) slaps her name on, don’t argue with him. Just look at the ones where he’s done that, pick the one that’s best, and ask to actually work on it.

          If JB’s going to try to use OP for JB / the company’s benefit, OP can use that to get on their preferred projects, which will both offset the irritation at JB’s microaggression and (hopefully) lead to better reviews / raises / promotions. It’s the middle-term (vs short or long term) solution that may pay off for OP if the industry overall is the problem.

          Being a token sucks, but this is how you play it to your advantage. (See: Sen Scott’s committee assignments… He’s not on Finance by accident)

      2. kt*

        If you want to try this approach, go for it & make sure you’ve got some support in your corner both inside & outside the company.

        For outside, I recommend reading/listening to stuff by Minda Harts (The Memo and her #SECURETHESEAT podcast) and Laura Huang (Edge, a book). There’s someone else whose name is escaping me….. Both of these author/speakers have thought-provoking and inspiring advice no matter what your color.

        1. kt*

          For instance, Minda Harts has Sarah Morgan on her podcast in the episode called “The Warning Signs” about toxic work environments. It’s an interesting conversation about toxic work environments, workplace PTSD, keeping yourself healthy & together while you’re in it and as you get out, etc.

      3. Kate*

        Agreed, but watch closely how well this is working. I was hired in a company where, after I was hired, my coworkers insisted that I had been a “diversity hire.” (I had been unaware of this, and my hiring manager never admitted it in so many words, but I believe it was true.) I was left out of key meetings and then jeered for not being aware of information shared with everyone else. I was included in unimportant meetings but told not to speak because I was a “diversity candidate” who should be “included” (air quotes and all) but I was not supposed to bother the people who do the real work. Every time I almost accomplished something, my assignment was cancelled or given to someone else. When there were disagreements, my boss pacified both sides without ever quite standing up for me or moving me to other work. Although I couldn’t seem to get any traction on the job, though, I got a glowing performance evaluation with the chief praise being that “everyone says you are nice.” So while it would be good to do as Alison suggests, to go for good assignments and prove that you’re not a “diversity hire” but a capable person, if you find yourself falling down the token employee rabbit hole, don’t hesitate to get out.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Absolutely. Once you hit that glass ceiling, you should be prepared to roll out (so keep your resume up-to-date, OP).

    10. Scott M.*

      on #2 – I’ve only recently realized that this is a “thing”. I don’t really understand how ‘k’ or ‘thx’ comes off as abrupt. I actually take it a being polite – where the other person is really busy and is pausing to send a quick response, rather than just checking your message and not letting you know they got it.

    11. Schatzi*

      I’m confused… Are you implying that LW’s employer is “faking diversity” by hiring a poc woman rather than a similarly qualified male candidate?

      Is it better to hire based entirely on merit, without regard to an individual’s race and gender?

      1. 'Tis Me*

        If the two candidates are equally qualified and both capable of doing a great job, but one of them is a cis white straight male, as are the vast majority of your employees, and the other one is not and would add more diversity to your workplace, the second one actually has more to bring to the workplace for a few reasons:

        1) They are more likely to have had different experiences and therefore may have different ideas and opinions and increase the creativity of your company.
        2) Assuming your company is representative of the industry, they are likely to have been more determined, worked harder and performed better to gain the same experiences and qualifications.
        3) Having industries reflect the general population makes sense assuming that this is who you serve, and this happens one hire at a time.
        4) Given the biases observed in hiring in general, there is actually a very good chance that if you are assessing these candidates as equal, in reality, the second candidate is superior. That thing where a white man with a criminal record is more likely to be hired than a Black man with a degree and all…

    12. jojo*

      I think a talk with HR would be in order to start. While it may feel disrespectful to be refered to as a diversity, only by putting out that they hire “others”, can they hope to attract “others”. But i do see and ubderstand this persons point of view. I am a female in a male dominated industry. Displaying “us” attracts others “us”.

  2. Can't Remember My Old Nick*

    ” let’s note for the record that an individual person is not diverse!”

    Thank you for noting this. I keep trying to explain to well-meaning colleagues that I am not “a neurodiverse individual” but they don’t seem to get it.

    1. allathian*

      Oh dear. They’re probably conflating neurodivergent and diverse out of ignorance, but it’s astounding that they don’t get it. Next time, perhaps you could say something like “I’m a neurodivergent individual, yes, and that makes our team neurodiverse, but could you please stop calling me neurodiverse?” since your colleagues are well-meaning.

      “Diverse” means varied, but for some people, “divergent” has very negative connotations, although it’s really the opposite of “typical” and refers to a variance from the norm rather than a value judgement of good or bad. There’s no doubt that neurodivergent people face a lot of challenges in an environment that’s designed for neurotypical people, so it’s possible that some people avoid using a word like divergent that for them has negative connotations to avoid the impression of placing a negative value judgement on neurodivergent people in general and you as an individual in particular. Does this sound like a plausible explanation?

      1. Wisteria*

        No, that does not sound possible. I am sure your intentions are good, but your rationalization sounds terrible. As a thought experiment, let’s apply your reasoning to other populations who are a variation from the norm or from what is typical. For the sake of argument, let us say that “the norm/typical” refers to the majority and “divergent” refers to the minority.

        Homosexual people make up approximately 10% of the population. Asexual people make up approximately 1% of the population. Are heterosexual people therefore the norm/typical and homosexual and asexual people there for orientation divergent?

        In the United States, non-Hispanic Anglos (white people) constitute 70+% of the population,African Americans are about 13% of the population (non-Hispanic African-Americans, that is), and native Americans approximately 1% of the population. Are African Americans and Native Americans therefore ethnically divergent?

        I will let you come up with your own thought experiments to further illustrate why people might object to being called “divergent”, even though it really just refers to being different from the norm.

        1. jojo*

          Divergent = dyslectic or autistic or wheelchair bound. Diverse = female, black, Hispanic, Indian as compared to white, male, cis gendered. Diveregent differs from the norm. Disverse expands the norm.

    2. with a comma after dearest*

      I will never forget a really eye-opening comment in a book by from an educator: that some inner city schools are among the least diverse in the country because there are no white students and very few non-Black students there, and the same is mirrored in their neighborhood.
      He made the point that “diverse” is often code for “lots of Black people”, but that’s not what it means – if there is only one race, it still isn’t diverse!
      That seems obvious now, but as a younger college student, it was really eye-opening because I had never thought to challenge that assumption.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        As a black person, I sometimes find it helpful to remind myself that all those white guys in power faced *less* competition because they got the benefit of a lack of diversity. The pool of competitors was smaller back in the day. So they talking about “diversity” hires shows that, on some level, they want to keep things that way.

        1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          Oh, absolutely. It illustrates how segregated their view of the world is. If an African American person from a different zip code in one’s own city makes you think you have a “diverse” workplace, you are messed up.

          Also, the whole “us” v. “them” is disturbing. I think of us v them at work as creatives v accountants. These people are thinking engineers and “women engineers”, “POC engineers” etc.

          And you know they are going to drop the high praise on OP at some point:
          “I don’t think of you as a [insert reason to other OP here] anymore.”

        2. Venus*

          I strongly believe in the suggestion that the people who are most angry and fearful of non-white non-male people in the workplace are average and below-average white men. Confident people want to hire employees who are better than themselves, to improve overall. Weak individuals focus on weaker employees in order to make themselves seem better. So mediocre white men have a lot to lose when they have competition from women and POC. As you say, they want to keep their position stronger by keeping things the same way.

        3. Artemesia*

          I think many people don’t fully appreciate how much white men have lost with diversity progress. When you always go to the head of the line and then you have to compete, you get resentful of all those ‘others’ who now are getting jobs and promotions that would have gone to you.

          My husband was in a law school class of 200; 20 were women and 10 of the 20 on law review were women — because the women were so much better qualified than the men given discriminatory admissions, they rose to the top and were much more likely to be in the top 20 in the class. when I was admitted to law school there were 5 other women in the accepted class according to the admissions dean I spoke to (I ended up going to grad school rather than law school). The average LSAT was in the 500s (on the old 800 point system); mine was in the high 700s as I suspect the other women admitted were.

          If you are privileged then equality is a loss to you and that is what we are seeing with the politics of white men in the US. It also doesn’t help that hiring managers often (in my experience) will tell white candidates that they ‘need a woman or minority or else you would be hired’ and leave them disgruntled when as likely as not they got passed over for another white dude. I know two hiring situations about 20 years ago where I heard men complain they were passed over ‘because they had to go with a woman’ when I knew that the person hired for the position was a white man.

          1. Paperwhite*

            On the one hand you have described a very real sociopolitical phenomenon very cogently, but still I can’t help thinking, “Being required to return stolen property is not the same as being robbed.”

            1. SeluciaMD*

              Thank you for this! I am committing this one to memory because it is such a perfect encapsulation of the sentiment. *chef’s kiss*

            2. Artemesia*

              Well yeah. Their ‘loss’ is not an injustice — but it is a ‘loss’ to them and means their ambitions have been disappointed. Naturally they like to think it is because ‘less qualified people’ are getting the opportunities not that they are not competitive. It doesn’t even have to be about race and gender. My first husband thought he was going to go to Harvard Law — he was born in the late 30s in a baby bust and after college was in the Navy for 4 years during the early stages of the Vietnam War and then took a further year off before applying– he had gone to college on a ROTC scholarship. When he went into the Navy his scores and grades probably would have gotten him into Harvard Law — 4 years later as the baby boom began to hit and lots more people were going to law school he was no longer competitive — against other white guys. He went to a good state flagship and was on law review, but it wasn’t the dream he had always had.

          2. Nesprin*

            I’ve always heard that women will have met parity when one can point to a female coworker who is kind of an ineffective schmuck. Everyone knows a white guy who doesn’t really do anything and is kind of a jerk.

            1. kt*

              “Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel.”
              ― Bella Abzug

        4. Mystery Bookworm*

          Yeah, maybe OP can start calling the rest of her team “status quo hires”.

          (A joke! Not actual advice.)

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        My last workplace wasn’t even diverse! We had hundreds of American black people and hundreds of American white people, but only a handful of Asians, hardly any foreigners and I don’t remember any Hispanics.

        Two categories of people isn’t really diverse either.

      3. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        “diverse” is often code for “lots of Black people”
        Yes, this is not what diverse means.
        It’s like that old riddle, “a man and his son are in a car accident. At the hospital the doctor says, “I can’t treat this boy. He is my son.”
        Most people assumed it was the dad talking…Diverse now has the same connotation. People don’t picture the workplace looking like the writers’ room at the end of Mindy Kaling’s “Late Night” movie, people picture “lots of black people.”
        How can we change this?

        1. Anne of Mean Gables*

          shoutout to the well-meaning white people who called my old neighborhood in south Chicago “diverse.” No – this neighborhood is literally, by the census, 98.5% black. It is the actually the opposite of diverse! What you mean is that /you/ are a racial minority and that is a new and uncomfortable feeling for you, and “diverse” is the only language you have for that discomfort because you’re trying to be euphemistic about the fact that you just realized you’re kinda racist.

        2. Quill*

          I hated that riddle because apparently having three different potential answers (the surgeon is the kid’s mom, the child was adopted & the surgeon is one of his birth parents, the surgeon is the kid’s other dad because gay people exist and do have kids…) was not good enough for the makers of the riddle, they insisted that only the one they’d thought of was correct.

      4. Venus*

        Also diversity from all the protected groups and more. People with mental and physical disabilities, childhood and current poverty, cultural backgrounds, gender (and sexual orientation but not something one typically knows at work), and so many more.

        1. JohannaCabal*


          As someone with depression and other related mental issues, I’ve found that when companies use the word “diversity” they really just mean skin color or ethnicity. It’s harder to showcase that your company supports mental health. Much easier to slap together a brochure with stock photos of people with different skin colors.

      5. Az*

        This. I work in K-12 education in an area that is over 70% Latinx (primarily Mexican immigrants) and I’ve had to make that point many times throughout the years when speaking with people from other areas. A high minority population does not make a place diverse.

      6. iglwif*

        I got into this several times with authors years ago, when I worked as an editor. One thing that came up again and again was authors writing about HBCUs and describing these institutions as “diverse”. They literally were using “diverse” to mean “Black,” and it didn’t seem to matter how many times or in how many different ways I explained that that’s not what diversity means. It was very frustrating.

    3. Randomity*

      Thank you for explaining this! I knew saying “neuro diverse” didn’t sound right about individuals but I couldn’t figure out why.

      1. MayLou*

        I hadn’t thought of it this way and it does make sense in terms of the meaning of the word diversity. However, when referring to myself, I’m more comfortable saying that I am neurodiverse rather than neurodivergent. I don’t like the idea that I have diverged from something. I prefer the idea that I am different in an interesting and enriching way, rather than that I’m odd and weird in a strange way. It would be good if there was a grammatically accurate word that felt less negative. Although I am open to the possibility that my resistance to the word “divergent” is due to some kind of internalised ableism (I’m also a straight-presenting lesbian, I have spent my entire life trying to be average and having my mother wish for me to be average, my head tries very hard to stay below the parapet).

        1. Wisteria*

          I like to call myself neuro deviant. Everybody else better smile when they say that though.;)

  3. Writeitalldown*

    LW1- You should document this. Write down dates and quotes, print and save email etc.. This is likely just the tip of the iceberg and if you can tie this behavior to negative job impacts you could have grounds for a discrimination lawsuit.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      Yes, I was thinking OP should consider documenting. My thoughts didn’t jump straight to lawsuit, though – concerns like this should probably start internally if there’s a grandboss or HR to talk to.

      1. Anonymo*

        Non Black woman of color here- has anyone non-white ever successfully done this? My fear with a lawsuit is that word would get around and no one would ever hire you again. Whether or not your lawsuit “won.” If my next career change works I might revisit this, since the new career won’t care about the old one.

  4. Sorted by Magic*

    There are going to be a lot of diversity hires in the years ahead as employers re-examine their teams/boards. Look at Hollywood for example; there are now clear diverse requirements for films to be considered as Oscar entries. Till there is real equity, people are going to wonder the same as you. Unfortunately you have a boss who is too blatant in their motives. Use Alison’s script, learn what you can there, and look for better.

    BTW, I’m the only white person in a department of 60. No one has called me a diversity hire – except myself… I should probably reread the self-depreciating letter again. It gets tedious at photo taking time so I hear you.

    1. Diversity Higher*

      Most movies that get made would already easily clear those requirements, as the crew on the ground is usually as diverse as any other industry, while the execs and producers are usually…not.

      It’s a tough call for “diverse” (/s) people: do you suck it up and use the opportunity to advance your own agenda, or do you speak up about the tokenism and risk the opportunity being taken away.

    2. Forrest*

      >> Till there is real equity, people are going to wonder the same as you

      Would be nice if people would “wonder” about how all the white middle-class male people got hired instead.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        For years I was the only female in management and was routinely referred to as “the token woman.” I led a team that was mostly white males in the professional roles and women (most white but a few non whites) in the support roles. Over time as positions opened up I intentionally hired the best candidate regardless of race. Initially I didn’t get many applicants who didn’t “match” the existing team, but once word got out that I was open to other races, genders, religions, etc. I started getting a much more diverse pool to select from. By the time I left, my team had a great mix of languages, cultures, backgrounds, and experiences that led to our being able to connect better with each other and our clients. It was an uphill battle, but definitely one worth fighting. I would say definitely keep track of your accomplishments and keep an ear to the ground for managers and departments who welcome experience and talent over what the outside package looks like. There aren’t enough, but they exist and they want you for your work, not your face in a PR photo.

        1. JustaTech*

          When my husband was doing hiring at his startup he occasionally commented on how they never had any women apply to their positions (usually after I’d made a comment about it being an all-guy workplace).

          One day I asked if he’d ever *asked* for any women to apply to the positions. “No, I don’t know any.” “Have you asked Friend1, Friend2 or Friend3?” (Friends from college who are women in his industry.) “No…”

          If you don’t at least put in some effort (like Hotdog) to *find* the under-represented people in your industry then you can’t complain that they don’t offer themselves up to you.

      2. Artemesia*

        No kidding. When I worked in a high powered academic environment it used to bug the heck out of me that our brilliant put together young women struggled to find a good job opportunity on a promotion track while male doofuses far less intelligent or diligent, could put on a suit, get a hair cut and immediately be snapped up for management trainee or investment firm positions. The young women usually succeeded but it was very very easy for the young white guys with mediocre talents and records.

      3. Mama Bear*

        One of those talk shows, I think it was The Daily Show under Jon Stewart, realized that by not offering paid internships, they only got rich white kids who could afford a few months without income. Once they started paying interns, their intern pool got more diverse. I think it is valuable for companies to look into their own policies and practices if they only attract a certain kind of employee.

        1. Johanna Cabal*

          When my previous company was hiring for entry-level positions, I always looked at the resumes from candidates that did not always “shine” like others. Why knock out of consideration someone who had to work retail during college and did not have the resources or time for unpaid internships, semester abroad programs, campus clubs, etc.? While my efforts weren’t always well-received, I do think we developed a level of true diversity in our candidate pool and also the staff itself.

          Paying your interns, exploring why you’re rejecting some resumes in favor of others, and even where you post your jobs (I always included the local community colleges and HBCUs when we posted entry-level and internship jobs), are all ways to build a diverse pool of candidates.

    3. Perbie*

      I’m going to articulate this badly, most likely, but there is value in bringing different perspectives and experiences; so i think there’s some legit way to factor in “diversity” as a positive attribute, similar to other positive qualities one could list on a resume (ie; speaks [other language], or [experience with southwest sales region]). Idk

      1. Person from the Resume*

        But a person is not diverse. It is not an individual attribute. So it cannot be listed on a resume as an attribute.

        There could be value in noticing an office has a lack of diversity and then make an effort to …
        (1) Not hire / favor the applicants that look like the rest of the company just because they have the best “fit” because they make the best impression and on the on hiring committee (who looks like them and went to the same schools as them and go to the same churches and clubs as them).
        (2) Recruit applicants from a different hiring pool so that your pool of applicants getting interviews is more diverse from the get go.

        Let’s be honest there is a lack of diversity in place of power in America like the “best” schools. If you only hire people who graduated from Harvard and Yale you’re limiting your potential diversity to their lack of diversity.

      2. anon here*

        Well, for sure. I did hiring for a STEM summer camp for a while and we wanted diversity in TAs: folks with experience teaching at other summer camps or kid’s programs, folks with experience in machine learning, folks with experience in teaching math, folks with experience in statistics. The point was to build a cohesive team that could cover the bases and trade off leadership. By advertising to a wide variety of student groups, and making a point just to send an email to all the ethnicity-STEM subject clubs, we were able to pull together an amazing and ethnically- and gender-diverse group without paying any attention at all to the gender and ethnic diversity!

        Build your connections so that you can get applications from folks who have taken different paths to *the skills you need* — so for software, for instance, consider the CS majors and the career-changers and the bootcampers and the self-taught hackers and the folks transitioning from social media to code after building 12 customized shopping cart websites & learning to customize Django sites — and then diversity of perspectives and experiences (and more) will not be hard to get.

      3. some dude*

        When I have been responsible for hiring someone and keeping the team reflective of the community served was top of mind, I tried to use their various identities as nice add-ons that complimented their whole package as a candidate, rather than the sole thing I was focusing on. I’m a straight ciswhite guy, but it was always very important to me that a, my team have a variety of identities and b, no one felt like they were hired FOR their identity.

        That said some of the hiring practices I see in my field, which is overwhelmingly white, sometimes seem dodgy because they essentially say “we want a black person for this role because we are all white and it looks bad.”

  5. Double A*

    LW 5, isn’t it possible that if she had to submit references upon applying she maybe didn’t have all her ducks in a row quite and maybe that was a placeholder number? Also, did your tell her you were calling references? If not, she probably didn’t get a chance to give them a heads up to expect the call.

    I mean, her quitting within two weeks has nothing to do with either of these scenarios but I just think there’s a lot of reasonable explanations. And also you need to tell people when you’re moving to check their references (you may have done this and just didn’t mention it in the letter).

    1. BuildMeUp*

      Yeah, since the LW called the direct office number for the second call, I would assume she reached the correct person. The applicant wouldn’t have set up a fake reference at a number she didn’t think the LW would call. Which means the first number was likely just incorrect. It could have been the boss’s old cell number he’d recently changed, the applicant could have written the number incorrectly, or the LW could have misdialed.

      LW, I think you’re connecting the two things because they’re both odd – the weird phone incident, and the new hire quitting by email after 2 weeks. But it was most likely just a coincidence.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        And since the guy she got through to at the office gave a good reference, it doesn’t sound like there was any reason for the candidate to have set up as a friend as a fake. I honestly think the call to the man at the sporting event was most likely a wrong number.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          They work in “sports and entertainment at a seasonal property —” so is it possible the guy was working?

          1. RecoveringSWO*

            Good point. As LW mentioned, there’s a lot of turnover in that industry and it wouldn’t be odd if the applicant picked a boss who left that job, even if the current boss was there long enough to speak well of her work. I know I always picked references based on who I had the best working relationship with and not who was still employed there.

        2. TootsNYC*

          or she got two different people’s phone numbers scrambled? Maybe the guy at the sports event (their field, after all–as Person from the Resume points out, maybe that person was working) is a different person she would have put as a reference, but she skipped a line when she was looking at the list to copy from (or started to add him, and then deleted incompletely)?

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      Honestly, my first thought was a typo in the number (although this depends on how similar they were). Or a misdial.

      It’s also possible she had more than one supervisor/manager at the role.

    3. with a comma after dearest*

      The boss’s husband or friend or someone else who was holding the phone answered it (in the first call)? That might explain their confusion.

    4. Firecat*

      Agree and I found it odd that her first thought was fake reference. There really isn’t any evidence of that. If you had spoken with the first man, who gave a glowing review, then the second person from the switch board gave a bad review, then sure researchore but even that is not enough evidence of a fake reference. (Switchboard person could be someone who personally dislikes your candidate but didn’t manage her, etc.)

    5. Quill*

      It’s also possible that the number no longer belongs to the reference… or that it’s actually an occasionally shared cell phone… Or that OP transposed some numbers / got an area code wrong / didn’t dial an area code… or that any of those mistakes had happened on the references list.

    6. Annony*

      I was also wondering if she put in the wrong number to avoid having her references called too early and it may have been either her phone number or that of her SO or friend. It sucks to have to commit to a reference check before you have even had an interview and know for sure you want the job.

    7. This Old House*

      My first thought was that she gave the personal number of a former boss at that job, and when you called the office you got the current boss – he thought he was “the right person” to give the reference (and he’s not wrong), even if he wasn’t the person she intended for you to reach.

      1. Mama Bear*

        My thought was that the personal phone was picked up at a time/place the person did not expect to be fielding an employment related call and then the OP got that person (or someone similar) when they called the office. Some people use their cell phones so much that it should be considered primary, even for work.

        The whole leaving after 2 weeks thing – that was just a little odd. Without knowing her reasons (or seeing the letter), you can really only speculate what happened. We had someone vanish suddenly and we think in retrospect he was arrested. Another person was determined a few weeks in to have lied regarding their background investigation. I also worked with a woman who moved to another state and simply…didn’t tell anyone at work. People are weird.

        1. Malarkey01*

          I’ve had a few people leave in a very short 2-3 week period. The main reason is that after taking our position one of their other potential job offers came through which was a better fit (while that sucks someone leaving right away hasn’t cost us much other than the initial on boarding and it’s just a reality of our field which has some longer hiring timelines so you could be in the application/interview process with a few places and move forward with one to finally hear from another).
          The second reason I’ve had for really short notices is the person found that the position wasn’t what they expected at all and again I’d rather they let us know before spending a lot of time training. The ones that leave at the 1 year mark are the ones that kill me.

  6. TCO*

    #5: Was the applicant currently employed at this agency? If so, I can see someone not wanting their current boss to get a reference call, and setting up a fake reference instead. That’s not an okay way to handle that situation, but I could see someone trying it.

    1. Firecat*

      There’s really no evidence of that. Loads of people don’t want their current managers contacted but don’t fake references.

      1. Annony*

        She may have assumed that she would be notified before the reference check and could give the phone number at that point. I can’t blame someone for not wanting to tip off their boss that they are job searching until they know they have a real shot at the job.

        1. Firecat*

          The way you handle that is to not list your current manager as a reference. You don’t mark your manager as a ref with a fake phone number…..

  7. MerBearStare*

    #1 Ugh. I hate when people write off women or POC as diversity hires. Like, you think I only got my job because I’m a woman, but did it ever occur to you that maybe you only got your job because you’re a white man?

    I don’t really have anything else to add, but I do want to second the comment that you should document everything.

    1. Granger Chase*

      “Like, you think I only got my job because I’m a woman, but did it ever occur to you that maybe you only got your job because you’re a white man?”

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      MerBearStare’s comment makes me think of a response I can use when some one mentions diversity that way at work. I could say:
      “What you are really pointing out is that you got your job bc you are white and thats probably not something we should focus on in our proposals/promotions.”

    3. Lora*

      YES THIS THANK YOU. My women colleagues and I have all been frequently told in many jobs that we “just don’t look like management” or “I don’t know, I don’t think of you as wanting to go into management” or even the dreaded “well you’ll be wanting a family soon – focus on that and come back!” when the promotion goes to a straight white man whose qualifications are minimal at best. You apply to the promotion having worked for the company for years, being extremely well qualified, knowing all these decision-makers and building a reputation with them, and taking on more responsibility than anyone else and demonstrating your teamwork skills and culture fit and crap…and they hire a white guy from outside the company with barely a year of relevant experience. You sit down with Boss and ask nicely for feedback about how you can better position yourself to get the promotion next time one comes up, seeing as how you DID ALL THIS STUFF AND EVERYONE LIKES YOU and he blurts out “I dunno maybe wear makeup or something,” “I mean let’s be real you don’t look like the management type,” or “I didn’t think you really wanted to do management – you’ll be disappointed in it” or something equally disingenuous.

      This is basically how I view it: women and minorities, when we are the tokens, have to work twice as hard to get half as far. We are playing life on the Difficult / Expert setting (thank you, John Scalzi). I have known many many women who leave STEM to go into healthcare or teaching or something where they won’t make nearly as much money, but it avoids the constant rain of discrimination that is super stressful every damn day. This is why I am not a fan of “we just need to recruit more (demographic)! then we shall overwhelm the sexism and racism by sheer numbers!” tactic: it is not Informed Consent to the people who you are trying to recruit. Realistically, yes, the money is better – IF you get paid the same as white men, which took me several job changes and tough negotiations at each job change to do, but overall yes the money is better especially in the engineering and operations side. But the constant stress of dealing with out and out discrimination is a thing, and as OP said, it wears on you mentally. It doesn’t make you a bad person to want a career that won’t send you to an early grave with stress. It’s not even subtle microaggressions, it’s straight up, “yeah, maybe you should think about going home to make babies for your husband, this isn’t the job for a woman” and “well you’ll want to go back to wherever you’re from and we want someone who will be in the job long term” and crap. Every. Friggin. Day. And that is crazymaking. You spend decades of your life being told if you jump through just ooooooone mooooore hoop you will magically THEN be considered a respectable competent human being, and then they shift the goalposts AGAIN, meanwhile Ross Chaddington the Third is promoted to senior VP one year out of Wharton even though he’s bankrupted the last three divisions he was allowed to run. It’s ridiculous and I blame absolutely nobody who opts the heck out of that situation. If you can live with some less money but a lot less stress, there’s nothing wrong with that.

      One thing that has helped me: seeing my colleagues across a vertical slice of the company on LinkedIn. When I saw their education levels and experience, it because clear that I and many of my non-white non-male colleagues had accomplished a LOT more than many managers above us had done. I could see immediately who had moved up due to something *other* than merely achieving really great results. As soon as I saw that and realized there is absolutely NO meritocracy, anywhere – mentally this became a lot easier for me (though more cynical). Partly because it pinpointed exactly who the discriminatory person was, and it’s not like they go around with “hi, I am a racist sexist homophobe” on a t-shirt for you, so I didn’t waste my time with such people unless forced to. Partly because my success as a person had absolutely nothing to do with my skills or intelligence – it was no longer a judgment on my worth, sort of thing. There were two particularly egregious examples at OldJob where a discriminatory executive oversaw both massive profit losses and legal trouble due to the bigotry of a few senior managers – and decided they’d rather have billion-dollar revenue losses and lawsuits than fire a few a-holes who richly deserved it, and when you looked at the track record of the people getting pushed out vs the people who did the pushing – it couldn’t be more obvious who the bigot was. And who was willing to go to the mat to defend their bigoted employees, too.

      Re: several comments to the effect of, leave: Depending on OP’s industry, it may not get better by leaving. I have been the only woman on my team the majority of the time, even when it was quite a large team. There is enough of the “make history by being The First (demographic) astronaut!” type of stuff, and hardly anyone talks about how crappy it is to have to be The First. Shirley Ann Jackson talked about discrimination a few years ago and OH MY GOD the blowback she got – professors acting all mystified like “well she never said anything” and “MIT doesn’t have a racist bone in its body!” and similar nonsense. It’s hard. It’s just really really hard. My women friends and I get together at least one or two times per month for beer and wings to commiserate, and that helps too. But it really is taking on a lot of WORK which straight white men do not have to take on.

      1. Forrest*

        There was a fascinating study in the UK about ten years ago which showed women in STEM making 25% more than women with arts/hums/socsci degrees up until their early 30s, when the salaries of the women in STEM suddenly … stopped, whilst the arts/hums/socsci kept increasing.

      2. Batgirl*

        This is all so true. I was glued to every word. How you can almost FEEL your boss waiting for you to just go have a baby already, or they say something subtle to put you in your place about how you’re “a great little reporter” and then they forget to be subtle and they just … say it. And they look at you like you’re crazy when you object to the blatant sexism. They were just being straight with you about how you’re perceived!
        So, yeah, now I teach and it’s less money but no one makes me feel like I’m just there temporarily playing dress up.

    4. HS Teacher*

      It’s disgusting. I had someone tell me I’d always be able to find a teaching job because I’m “one of the few black teachers” in my town. Maybe I’ll always find a job because we have a HUGE teacher shortage, or because I’m cross-certified, or because my reviews are always excellent, or because I actually teach (even online), or because myriad other reasons. They ALWAYS laser in on race first, and it’s annoying.

      1. anon here*

        Yep, got told the same thing in grad school by a white guy who is really nice and talks the diversity talk and is tenured now, while I’m… out of academia ’cause I couldn’t find that job, hahah.

        At least I’m paid more than he is finally.

    5. saf*

      I worked for a federal agency that had some “diversity issues.” When I was there, they had just lost a lawsuit because all of upper management was white, and a lot of lower level technical folks were not. (Interestingly, it is a very gay place in the middle levels, but they are all white men.) I am a white woman, and was working a technical job.

      Anyhow, we had to have diversity training. Our boss (black woman) maintained that our department was diverse because we had 18 black folk, mix of men and women, two white men, and one white woman. She then said, out loud and in front everyone, that I (the most recent hire) had been hired for diversity purposes. “There were better candidates, but she was white.”

      One of the stranger days I had there, and it was a pretty strange place overall. I was so glad when I left there.

      1. Paperwhite*

        That was an unfair and unkind thing for her to say, and even more so in front of everyone. I’m sorry. Turnabout is not fair play nor is it the goal.

      2. squidarms*

        “We’re so diverse that we make hiring decisions entirely based on skin color” is… really missing the point as far as diversity goes. Not to mention that that’s a really mean thing to say to or about anyone.

    6. limotruck*

      I have talked to a lot of people who have a negative view of ‘affirmative action’, and I point out that 1. Black people and people of color still have to be qualified to be hired through any diversity initiative and 2. MANY MANY MANY white people get hired because they know someone in the industry, or their dad used to be a donor somewhere, or their mom went to the same fancy college as the boss, etc. The latter ways of getting a foot in the door are not available to a lot of non-white applicants because their parents WEREN’T ALLOWED to go to the fancy college, their family couldn’t get hired in the industry in the 70s and 80s because of their race, their dad was prevented from building enough wealth to be a donor through redlining and other discriminatory practices.

      “Diversity” hiring is a way of getting a foot in the door for non-white people that attempts to balance all the OTHER (non-meritorious) ways that white people have of getting their foot in the door. It is just as legitimate as getting a ride-along because Daddy used to be a fire chief at the department. But many white people who don’t consider themselves racist still subconsciously see a white person in the job as a default and so don’t consider all the ways in which hiring white people isn’t a meritocracy.

    7. Nesprin*

      If OP is a “diversity hire” does that make her white colleagues “antidiversity hires”? “ingroup hires”? “Good old boys network hires”? “racism hires”?

  8. LilyP*

    Ooooohh that aside about “an individual person is not diverse” is so good. I hadn’t put my finger on why I found that so grating before. Thanks Alison! And I’m sorry your boss is such a dillwad OP #1, you deserve a work environment that isn’t constantly othering you while patting itself on the back for it.

  9. Ludo*

    This was “kk” until the usage of these terms started getting picked up by my coworkers.
    – –

    Your use of “kk” is so funny to me lollll I’m dying

      1. TypeFun*

        It’s funny because “kk” usually means “understood” or “got it” but not “permissible” as it’s being used here as a substitute for ok. It’s just a funky divergence for how people use ok and kk. I think kk comes from online gaming slang originally.

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          Interesting, I have always read/sent it as a cutesy variety on “okay” (as a younger millennial, I grew up with chatspeak). I don’t think OP misused it – I assumed Ludo was laughing because OP used the offending phrase in a wry, tongue-in-cheek way. As if she had said, “My supervisor uses a lot of 90s slang. That was totally church, dudette, until my coworkers started up…”

          Then again, I’ve always liked “how do you do, fellow kids” type jokes, because I am secretly an Old.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is my issue with textspeak – I have no idea what half it it means. I live in acronym-land and am pretty good at those, but I have to spend quality time on the internet looking some of this stuff up because I can’t figure it out in context. Same with emojis. I get the smiley face ones, thank you, and the straight picture-to-word ones, but I don’t text with people that use them regularly, so I had no idea initially what the eggplant emoji meant.

        I also found out, when my mother learned to text, that my brain struggles to make sense of textspeak. I tend to have my husband read her longer texts to me aloud because I can hear it, I just can’t get my eyes/brain to translate “c U 2nite” to “see you tonight”.

        I’m trying to keep up, but I think I’d really struggle somewhere that this was a routine means of communication. My office is pretty formal and into formally-written language, so it’s not pervasive here.

    1. Person from the Resume*


      I don’t even know what kk means so that seems like it would be at the very least unclear communication.

      1. ThatGirl*

        It’s a substitute for “OK” – sometimes people say ‘kay instead of okay? well, this is two of those. I kinda picture a cutesy tween saying it in a chipper voice.

      2. twig*

        Today I learned that KK is an actual thing. When I’ve run across it before, I figured it was a typo for k or ok, based on context.

    2. Mainely Professional*

      It was cute. But maybe I’m weird, I have a lot of daily slack conversation that *doesn’t* consist of ty/kk/:thumbs-up:/+1 and when people use those shorthand terms I read it as a sign of respect for my time. But as I said, it’s balanced by long, literate discussions as well.

    3. I'm that person*

      People in my office use use f/u to mean “follow up.” At first I thought that they meant something less polite…

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        I used to work in a place where people used “OOO” for “out of office”. It took me a while to figure out why everyone was “ooo”ing about dentist appointments and meetings with the plumber.

    4. MechanicalPencil*

      I have a coworker who uses “gg” and I had to google what on earth it meant. Did a cat walk on his keyboard in the same fashion, is it a spastic response? What does this meannnnnn. I discovered it means “good game”. Which doesn’t always contextually match with when he uses it, but whatever.

      1. MarsJenkar*

        In online matches of certain competitive games, “gg” is often used as a capitulation–the first person to say “gg” during a match is surrendering the match to the other player(s). In other contexts, it can be used sarcastically; in such a context, it could be read more like “game over”.

      2. Ciela*

        I’ve been known to play a tabletop game in person, and it was not uncommon for people to say “G G” when conceding.

  10. BabyShark*

    #5 – Alison is an advice blogger not a psychic….how would she possibly know what happened in this very specific situation?

    1. Jenna*

      Eh, I, too, would be tempted to ask *everyone* what they thought the deal was. And Alison’s a better person to ask than most!

      1. Amity*

        Fair point, but I think a lot of times people want a definite, hard-and-fast answer from someone. In this situation there really isn’t one.

    2. Mookie*

      Most of the questions are rhetorical. The LW had an instinct even before the whole thing shook out; she’s asking if the particulars as laid out raise any flags for Alison and/or the commentariat.

    3. Beth Jacobs*

      I’ve definitely asked all my friends what could have happened when I had a puzzling incident. Based on their collective experiences, they can definitely make some educated guesses as to what could have happened.

  11. Storie*

    In my industry (entertainment) “diverse” is often used to describe an individual. So grating on my grammar nerves!

  12. Magnolia*

    LW1 – There is already great advice in previous comments: 1) RUN! And 2) Document.

    I want to add a couple more things to consider: 1) Read up on gaslighting and racial gaslighting – so you are aware of abusive behaviors and can inoculate yourself against internalizing anything. 2) Use the tactics recommended in gaslighting advice – don’t just document your managers behaviors, document your successes, positive feedback, etc. 3) Read up on black women’s workplace experiences – to reinforce that it’s not you. Unfortunately, most black women face this trauma (and trauma is what it is; too many treat this like regular workplace annoyances and racism is decidedly not that – the research is clear on that). But what reading the research also helps do is protect against imposter syndrome – when you read how low the bar is set for white hires and how high the bar is set for black women, you’ll never doubt yourself again. You’ll be enraged, and it will be sad because it’ll be a rare experience when you are working with your actual peers (e.g., hiring studies show a black women needs 7 years MORE experience and an advanced degree to be considered equal to white women; in no universe are there two women equals, obviously).

    The most important thing you can do is build a network of black professional women – in your industry and across related industries; include peers, mentors, and sponsors in this network. You’ll need them for advice and to maintain your sanity. AAM has been incredibly helpful in establishing what the workplace SHOULD look like, so I can remain tethered to reality anc how far off base racist managers and coworkers are and validate that my own behavior is on point. BUT black women are held to completely different standards and have to play by different rules; so the advice offered in many cases would not work for me. I bring that advice to my council of black women for translation to my circumstances and reality as a black woman. It may take you time to build this network (via conferences and professional associations); until then, use social media. Black women know what you’re going through and we will rally around you.

    *My overall network of professional support is diverse. But my black network is a lifeline in a specific, unique, and necessary way.

    1. bookartist*

      Sine there is nothing in LW1’s letter to indicate she is black, would you say reading up on black’s women’s workplace experiences is broadly cross-applicable for folks of other ethnicities?

      1. Diversity Higher*

        Sure sounds useful for everyone to learn about others’ experiences, and I’m sure OP can substitute the term for the group they belong to.

        1. Jazz Can Mambo*

          Right but the assumption that she must be black because she said she isn’t white shows that these kinds of issues regarding race and gender aren’t exclusive to white men.

          She also might not identify as a woman just because she’s not a man.

          1. Magnolia*

            LW1: The best thing to do is ignore responses like this. I’m replying for illustrative purposes and because this response (suggesting that the real or equivalent “issue” is me assuming your race and gender) is representative of the racial gaslighting I referenced in my original comment.

            Many of the tips I’ve read, one that I think is missing is to arm yourself with knowledge about cognitive biases (so that you can identify and name the unintentional flaws in thinking) and logical fallacies (the intentional flaws in argument and discussion). Naming these broken thought patterns and making them visible will help you to dismiss them. I keep in mind Toni Morrison’s quote about the function of racism being to distract (and exhaust). Don’t be distracted by this kind of game playing; name and dismiss so that your energy is saved for the work that matters and that you care about.

      2. Magnolia*

        Definitely if the LW is Latinx. Much of the research I referenced addresses black and Latina women’s (e.g., being punished for advocating for raises or promotions due to “racial resentment” which was defined as anger/annoyance that these women of color wouldn’t “stay in their place). The research for Asian men and women in the workforce mostly focuses on the glass ceiling in tech (e.g., Asian men stalling out at middle management because they are stereotyped as too passive for higher levels of leadership). From experiences that have been shared with me personally, Asian women in social science report being tapped for quantitative research even when their expertise is qualitative research – because teams assume that funders will trust an Asian name in a quant role.

      3. anon here*

        Absolutely! I’m white as wall primer and recently transitioned into corporate life mid-career. I have learned a ton about corporate life from reading the work of Black women in particular, because the Black women who are writing about workplace experience are far more likely (in my reading so far) to give actionable, honest advice than the MBA-white-business-guys who write a lot of platitudes and just don’t “see” any of the issues I face, much less have ideas on how to deal with them. Because the authors I’m reading have had to “read the room” and position themselves for success in a far more conscious way, they give lessons that are way more useful to me as a kid of immigrants who grew up not-so-well-off. These authors know what they’re teaching!!

      4. Observer*

        I would think so. Obviously some of the issues are going to be different, but a LOT are going to be the same – especially the issue of being the “diversity hire” that people make all sorts of stupid assumptions about and who many people resent.

  13. pcake*

    LW#3, something that concerns me isn’t just that she lied – it’s that she lied stupidly. For me, that’s a double strike, at the very least.

    1. Esmeralda*

      Agreed. It’s an internal position, where even if she didn’t know exactly who would be on the hiring committee, she had to know there’d be someone who would know her work. Or could easily find out.

      LW#3, if you proceed with this candidate, I’d press hard on other accomplishments in her resume. Push for details, probe to see if she can answer in the way someone who really had done X and Y would answer.

      If she makes it to finalist, get really detailed info from her references. And follow up with team leads for instance on other projects, not just her listed references.

      There’s putting your work in a good light. And then there’s LYING, which is what this candidate did in her resume re your team’s project.

  14. Muskduck*

    Re. # 3 – thanks Alison! That was my question :) I really appreciate the advice. Unfortunately the person in charge of the recruitment talked to her boss, who decided to cancel the process and start again with a whole new assessment panel – because my prior knowledge introduced a ‘potential for bias’. I’m rather frustrated as we were trying hard to be fair to everyone and this just doesn’t seem like the right answer. But as a friend said, ‘not your circus, not your monkeys…’

    1. Casper Lives*

      I’m confused. Do you work for the government or a university? I’ve heard they have odd hiring practices.

      I don’t understand the problem with your prior knowledge here. Most workplaces would be happy to have extra information on a candidate, especially knowledge like a candidate possibly lying about prior experience.

      Do they contact references, or is that also bias?!

      1. Muskduck*

        Yes government. It’s quite a bit more formalised than private sector, and candidates have particular rights (e.g. they can access selection reports etc that are written about their application).
        Contacting references is normal, but if the reference says something negative, then the candidate gets a right of reply.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      Pity. Her reply to being questioned about this could have been entertaining.

      I’m also wondering what kind of disfunction you’ve got in your management.

    3. Mookie*

      To me this appears to indicate that the way you disclosed this to the panel at large amounted to an unequivocal and disqualifying judgment which, as Alison says, could leave no room for doubt, when doubt definitely existed and your employer offered two means, again as Alison notes, of testing it or excluding it. The well was poisoned, perhaps. Do you know for a fact that the next panel weren’t also apprised of this, but in a different fashion? I’m assuming you eventually learned how her candidacy ultimately played out. You mention fairness to everyone; does that mean that you and the rest of the panel had no prior knowledge of anyone else in the pool?

      1. Muskduck*

        Added a reply but messed up so it’s down the bottom of the thread. And I strongly doubt my info would get passed on to the next panel. It would have to be documented in the selection report, which the candidate could potentially access if they wanted to challenge the process. I suspect that’s the main reason for restarting the panel.

        1. EPLawyer*

          They REALLY want to hire this person and you gave a disqualifying reason. So they started the process over — without you raising info they don’t want coming out.

          1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

            Ding ding ding!

            This is where an “objective” process actually turns out to be less fair.

      2. TechWorker*

        Or even that they use quite a different ‘voice’ when answering a call to their personal number during a sports game as to the one they use on the phone in the office. Obviously that doesn’t apply if they say had completely different, strong accents… but I’m not convinced I’d be able to prove two people I spoke to on the phone were ‘different’ if the first call was very short with background noise.

      3. Casper Lives*

        Your reply strongly indicates LW Did something wrong, but there’s no evidence of that in the letter. Are you speaking from experience in hiring for the government in why it would play out this way? Why OP is an unreliable narrator?

        Because the candidate at the least highly exaggerating her involvement with a project should raise giant red flags.

    4. NYWeasel*

      While not the same, it sort of reminds me of this guy in my current region who’s said multiple times, including in newspaper interviews, that he worked on a prominent project that I was involved with. The timing coincides with when I was out on maternity leave, but from what I understand, he never was hired for the project. Instead he worked on a small promotional marketing element for the project. But I don’t know 100% for sure.

      The headache is that because this guy uses this “experience” and there aren’t many opportunities in our area for that type of work, I keep finding out that he’s sort of following in my tracks. None of my previous employers ever think to reach out to me about him, but they hire him thinking that if I was a strong candidate, this guy must be too. I keep waiting for him to apply at current job.

  15. Lyger*

    LW#1 – I really feel you the ‘diversity hire’ issue. I’m a female software engineer, and I’ve encountered this more times than I’d like. It’s utterly demeaning to have your hard work, talents and efforts dismissed because ‘token female’. In software development, at least, it seems to be an unintended consequence of diversity laws for *some* people (I’m based in the UK, for what it’s worth – not sure what diversity laws are like elsewhere). I once had someone feedback to me from HR that ‘We had to hire you, you’re female!’. At various jobs, I am ‘randomly picked’ every single time for focus groups. And here is the really painful truth in my case – thanks to diversity laws, I absolutely do check off some of those lovely HR checkboxes. It really is a double edged sword.

    There are a few comments in here suggesting that you run/document. It’s not necessarily bad advice – and most places I would agree with it fully – but make sure you know your job culture, and consider your approach. It could well be that the run/document advice is spot on for where you’re working. A male-dominated field (such as software development) is unfortunately rife with this kind of comment, albiet from a clueless minority. If I’d taken the ‘run/document’ advice in my own field, I’d have done a hell of a lot of job hopping, and spent a lot of time in HR – because there is always at least one numpty who will make a comment like this without realising what an awful thing it is to say. I’ve had people make this comment to me in pretty much every job I’ve had.

    The main reason I typically haven’t gone the HR route is that in many of the places I have worked, there is an attitude of ‘Oh, software developers are a weird bunch anyways’, and they’ve often gotten away with more than what should be acceptable because of the fun stereotype of computer nerds lacking social skills. /eyeroll

    Here are things that have worked out for me (should the document and run advice not be right for you):
    1. (Politely!) clap back. In front of witnesses. The first time can be hard. But given computer nerds are apparently ‘lacking in social skills’ (pfft), that is something I can use for my own benefit and be pretty direct.
    2. If you find yourself internalising it, start keeping track of all the things you’ve done, and done well. Got great marks on your qualification? Remind yourself of that. Nailed that bit of work in a pinch? Make a note somewhere. Mine is my ‘victory log’, and I usually review it every time I get dragged into something as a result of a company wanting to look ‘diverse’.
    3. Identify the people who don’t have this ‘diversity hire’ mindset at work. There are many of them, but they may be scared to speak up. Times are changing/have changed, and when I sum up the people who have made this kind of comment to me at different jobs, it really has been only 1 person with this attitude. Everybody else Ive worked with would be in the ‘clap back’ camp if they’d happened to have over-heard some of the silly comments people have made to me.

    Do those above 3 steps fix the problem? Nope. Again, if you’re in the kind of job/culture where documenting/running makes more sense, absolutely go for it. But if you’re in a field similar to mine, I can say from my own experience that point 1 in particular has always gotten me more traction. The last person I had a run in with about this kind of thing (my line manager at the time, who I still work with), now doesn’t make that kind of comment to me at all, refers to me a ‘a strong lady’ (eew), but most importantly to me, also takes what I say seriously. Because this guy is notoriously difficult with anyone, regardless of gender, I did gain a reputation as someone to not be messed with. Which works for me. Better to be seen as a b*tch than the ‘diversity hire’ in my eyes.

    1. Myrin*

      I love these very practical tips! I especially like the third point and I’ve actually made it a point in the past to be that kind of person for others (both in my personal life and at work), as in, the kind of person who is visibly on the marginalised person’s side and who they felt safe approaching; I’ve been told a few times that it was really appreciated and I think it’s a good idea for everyone to try and find their own people like that, too.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I, too, think the OP should take note of this practical advice. Certain fields are just dumpster fires of micro (and macro) aggressions, so if you want to stay in them, you have to find a way to cope with the bullshit.

    2. Hare under the moon with silver spoon*

      There are no diversity laws in the UK, only legislation that pertains to equal opportunities. This means there should be no discrimination in the hiring process and a level playing field.

      This is why being referred to a “diversity hire” is so damaging. No one is forcing a situation that’s anything other than meritocratic, the laws relate to creating a level playing field and nothing else.

      1. Lyger*

        Heh, I’m obviously not a legal person! I honestly thought some of this stuff was enshrined in law. That said, I’m not sure I’d really know the difference between law/legislature. What I do know is how this has panned out in terms of hiring in the field I work in – and unfortunately, that’s not always meritocratic like it should be in the eyes of a select few. I totally agree that being referred to as a ‘diversity hire’ is absolutely damaging, and it really shouldn’t happen in this day and age. Unfortunately, that’s not yet the reality I’ve experienced. Maybe in another 20 years, software development will catch up with the industries that are doing this right!

        1. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

          So law/legislation in this context are interchangeable (parliament creates legislation that then becomes laws, but we also have common laws handed down over centuries that precede the existence of parliament). All equal opportunity legislation (aka law) came via parliament from 1960s on :)

          Totally agree it is an issue if equal opportunities become hijacked by people in a company wanting the optics of diversity without a meritocracy. This is extremely damaging to everyone involved in this charade – and a HR team that does not understand diversity is not a law is clearly not fit for purpose.

        2. Forrest*

          >> I’m not sure I’d really know the difference between law/legislature

          There isn’t a difference! Your company may have a policy of hiring people according to a quota (although it would be very unusual if it does, and potentially that would violate the Equality Act itself, because that protects majority groups just as much as minority ones), but there are absolutely no legal requirements to do so. Just clarifying this because the myth of quotas, diversity hires and affirmative action as part of UK legislation is a really pernicious and enduring myth.

      2. Scooter*

        Yeah it’s so concerning to me that an HR person outright said that the company had no choice in hiring her because of her gender. Making hiring devotions based on gender is (in almost all circumstances) illegal in the U.K.!

        1. TechWorker*

          I had thought it was the case that if things are otherwise equal between two candidates you’re allowed to choose the candidate that would make your company more diverse? (So, quotas are not allowed, nor is choosing a mediocre woman over a more qualified man, but choosing a qualified woman over a qualified man *is* allowed). HR person sounds awful but potentially this is what they meant?

          1. kt*

            But between two otherwise equal candidates you can also decide based on all sort of other things. If two candidates are equally qualified, a coin toss is fine. I don’t understand what diversity has to do with it, in that companies have for years considered equally qualified candidates and selected the one who most closely matches the cultural and gender makeup of the current employees, and that has not really been held to be illegal either.

            If the HR person is expressing wonderment over the idea that you are allowed to hire a woman even if there is in the universe (or your applicant pool) an equally qualified man, then you’ve still got a bad HR.

  16. BeenThere*

    ^ This advice is spot on for this industry, my career would be incredibly short if I let every poor comment get in my way as a woman in software engineering. My current Grandboss is completely in my corner giving me many chances to prove myself and continues to support my development. I’m even allowed to drop the occasional ball which is a privilege normally reserved only for straight, white and south asian men. Yet even he has said the wrong thing on occasion. Fortunately we are both very direct and prefer that style so anything gets addressed up front and without resentment.

  17. Mystery Bookworm*

    Letter #2:

    in the context of delivering/presenting important work I’ve put a ton of effort into, a “ty” and nothing else is really discouraging. My workplace is fully remote (even before Covid), so sometimes a “k” or a “tnx” is all I hear in a day.

    I think this is your real issue! That sounds demoralizing. Some people have jobs where they can see the direct impact of their work (or where the work itself is fun), but a lot of us have jobs where emotional satisfaction comes from knowing how our deliverables made the lives of our colleagues easier and are seen/appreciated by them.

    Especially with social distancing in place, I imagine this superficial connection with your boss/colleagues is wearing thin.

    I don’t think you should raise the text-speak, but I do think it’s really worth it to raise the larger issue of team cohesiveness. Stuff like a shared social channel (that people can opt into), peer spot bonuses, or an optional Zoom coffee meeting can work in some enviornments. Even things like how meetings are run can be helpful — like, is there a culture of everyone muting/multitasking while one person presents, or are people active participants? Efficiently run meetings usually mean that people feel safe to devote their full attention and something as small as that can make a big difference in feeling united in the work.

    Good luck! I can see why the text-speak is starting to grate.

    1. Corporate Lawyer*

      I agree that it may be work culture, be it team cohesiveness or leadership style, that’s the real issue here. I can really relate to LW2’s irritation and discouragement because I had a similar experience years ago with a terrible manager at OldJob. She too would respond to things that had taken a lot of work with “Thx,” and it felt like, really? you can’t even spell out “thanks” to acknowledge how hard I’m working? But the real issue was that she was an awful, punitive, unreasonably demanding manager in an awful, blaming, dysfunctional leadership team, and that’s what I was really reacting to, not so much the abbreviations. I now work for a company with a reasonably functional culture, and if my current decent manager were to start using abbreviations, I would be able to shrug it off as a mildly annoying quirk in a way that I couldn’t do at dysfunctional OldJob.

  18. Ermintrude*

    OP 1, I’m sorry you’re dealing with that, how vile. I would struggle to keep my composure if I were described thus.

    Regarding letter 2, I lived on my own for the first time and spent hours online whilst the whole LOLcat/ ‘I can haz cheeseburger’ phenomenon happened (memes of cats and other animals with silly, mis-spelled words and abbreviations used to represent their speech). My own inner dialogue and talking to myself became LOL speak and I had to consciously make myself to think in regular English. It was weird.

    1. Pretzelgirl*

      I worked for a very popular cell phone company from 09-12. We talked, texted and emailed in acronyms all the time. Even our internal system for inputting notes on customer accounts was full of acronyms. After I left, I got a temp position where we had to make notes on customer accounts. I was so used to typing in abbreviations, I was asked many times to spell things out. It was a difficult habit to break. Now some 8 years later I still do it a lot.

  19. TechWorker*

    #5 – possibly a slightly special case but my office doesn’t see clients directly and thus doesn’t have a receptionist or a switchboard! If you were given someone’s direct mobile and instead decided to try to go through a general office number it would be much more of a pain for everyone involved.

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      That’s not going to be the case for a city government that has a duty to serve the public.

      1. TechWorker*

        Meant more in response to the notion that it’s always best to go through a general number rather than the one the candidate provides.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          For what it’s worth, in my small city, you can find a lot of government managers’ direct numbers online easily. So it’s not about just calling the one main number — the LW could have found the person’s direct line.

      2. Kate S*

        You might be surprised how inefficient Government’s internal communication systems are. I work for a UK Government department (albeit as a policy advisor, rather than public-facing operational roles) and ringing the reception of my building would never get you directed to my work number because reception don’t hold that information!

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          UK local government here, and sometimes our switchboard have put through calls in some…rather odd directions. In some cases I can see the logic i.e. calls for Schools HR being directed to education rather than HR because people just hear “school” and don’t realise they need to be directing those to the HR department. The ones that get me most are the ones for “Tony Stark” – Tony Stark is an employee in another department who we have no real reason to interact with, and none of us know him. We are getting his calls because switchboard keep dialling the number for our former coworker NED Stark who left three years ago! Looking at the directory myself Tony Stark is listed under the correct number and Ned Stark is no longer listed at all so no idea why we are being given these calls.

  20. Jenny D*

    LW4: Here’s another idea – would it be possible to ask for a budget for each person to do something nice for their own workplace? Having a picture, or a better chair or mouse or keyboard or whatever… things like that do a lot to make the workplace happier!

  21. Muskduck*

    I just said that her version of events was inconsistent with mine, even that possibly she was confused, and then explained my recollection of the particular project to the panel members after first double checking my email history to confirm what happened. I suggested that we give her an opportunity to clarify her role on the project.
    And yes we did have knowledge of some of the other candidates, as any other panel would as they’re all internal applications. But we didn’t have specific knowledge about their projects in the way that I did about this one.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Were you absolutely, positively sure that the candidate lied about their contributions? Back in my early days, I was working on a team that was giving me high level pieces of the project and then taking credit for my work. I was a low-level employee so I just thought that was the way it worked and I was gaining experience. But when the day came for my first review and I wrote up all my accomplishments, my manager exploded that I was a liar and I hadn’t been doing those projects. It.was.bad. It thought I was going to be praised for all my contributions, but instead I was reamed and it started a bizarre back and forth where I gathered all my paperwork to prove that I had worked on the projects. The manager begrudgingly looked at my work but still never really accepted it. I think that if she believed me, then she would have to admit that she wasn’t in control of her department and there were systematic failures that she didn’t want to deal with.
      This may not be the same thing, but is it possible that someone on the team asked the candidate to prep for their consultation meetings, then actually lead their meeting? Then do the follow up? And that team member took the credit for it?
      They only way to know is by talking to the candidate. It’s possible they lied, possible that they are exaggerating their role innocently, or exaggerating purposefully, or its possible that they are an excellent, accomplished employee that has been used and ignored.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I just re-read your comment and saw that you did want to give the candidate the opportunity to explain. Wonderful!

  22. Catalyst*

    LW 4 – Just something to keep in mind, cash may be declined (or not have been thought of) because of the tax implications. I’m not sure how it works where you are, I am in Canada. Here, if we are given cash or a cash equivalent (like a gift card) we have to be taxed on it. So when it’s say $100 they try to buy us a gift so that we don’t lose 30% of it to taxes. Still worth asking though.

    1. Betty (the other betty)*

      Even gifts can be taxable.

      What good companies do is figure out the tax implication, and add that to the bonus so the recipient nets the full amount. For example, if they are trying to give $100 bonuses, the pay stub might show $130 – $30 for taxes = net $100.

    2. iglwif*

      A company I used to work for (also in Canada) used to give us each $100 of our annual bonus in cash, because that was the max we wouldn’t have to pay tax on (plus some kind of actual gift like a mug or a hat), and the rest in our next paycheque. It was a nonprofit and the bonuses were very small, so that tax-free $100 was very nice…

  23. EPLawyer*

    #4 – I think when the Boss says she wants to do something more, she means more involved than a Brunch or a Lunch. Not something plus Brunch or Lunch. She wants to go out and celebrate. She can’t do that giving you cash. She wants an outing where you all go out and have fun together for several hours because it was so great that work had a great quarter. She’s missing the point that most people do their jobs in exchange for a paycheck. They don’t necessarily want to party with their coworkers over the 3rd quarter numbers.

    Dunno about you, but I would not be going on an outing or Brunch/Lunch right now. I am avoiding restaurants and groups.

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      Precisely. I’m saving my “risk points” for essential activities, as well as friends and family. I won’t risk exposure for a work party.

      1. JustaTech*

        Oh, “Risk points” is a great way to think about it! You’re brilliant Beth! I’m going to start using that.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yeah, I was confused by this answer, both for the idea that “more” meant that the boss was asking what they wanted (it didn’t sound like that?) but also who in their right mind is taking their staff out for any kind of group activity right now, unless LW is in some magically wonderful place with very little infection or social restrictions.

    3. Anonforthis*

      Yeah, I was really surprised that this was not even mentioned in the response, since restaurants are one of the top hot spots for virus spread…especially if they’re not complying with regulations (which a lot are not)…I don’t think employers should be pressuring groups of people to go out to restaurants right now, considering the power dynamics and how some people may be uncomfortable pushing back, but really need to. I have a boss who is not taking the virus as seriously as I am, and I’m already dreading some conversations about avoiding exposure where he thinks things are just not a big deal.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      We’d order lunch in and just give out bonus checks because it’s a frigging pandemic o.o

      They don’t even accommodate large parties around here anyways.

    5. yala*

      Yeah, I’m kind of baffled at a boss trying to arrange a Fun Outing for staff right now when it’s like…there’s a plague on?

      Like, legit the only Outing I could imagine doing right now is maaaaaybe that thing where you can rent out a theater and watch a movie for about $100, with, like, 10-15 people. But those people would be my friends, that I know take precautions, and anyway the theaters aren’t offering anything really worth the effort, and you wouldn’t really be sitting next to anyone not in your Bubble so it hardly works on any level as a Social Outing, and the risk still isn’t really worth it.
      (maybe it would be worth it for Fury Road or Pacific Rim or a good Hitchcock film, lol)

      But I can’t imagine Doing A Risk just to spend social time with coworkers.

  24. MissDisplaced*

    Regarding #3 though, I have to say that in some workplaces there is such an emphasis on “teamwork” that it can become difficult to discern who “led” the project.
    Especially if it’s something like a large complex integrated marketing project that may have several critical creative inputs. So, who takes the credit for it? Is it only “the initiator?” Is it the campaign team that executes it? How about the copywriter or designer who made the website and various artwork? I always try to go by the rule that if I didn’t personally conceive the idea, it’s not “my” example to share in an interview portfolio, or I need to be clear about the portion I did do. But then this can also diminish your contribution or make you seem like nothing but a glorified coordinator who farmed all the work out.
    I think this is generally more of a problem in creative or programmatic type work.

  25. AvonLady Barksdale*

    LW #5: That’s an unusual conclusion to jump to. The more likely scenario is that the number had a typo in it or that you dialed the wrong one.

    Not every situation needs to be dissected. You take the information you have and move from there. In this case, you got what you needed. Inferring some kind of mischief on the candidate is unfair to her and, frankly, a waste of your energy.

    We need to get back into a mindset where “this is the wrong number” just means that a minor mistake was made.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. I’m not seeing where the candidate attempted to deceive OP or the company, and it seems like quite a leap to make. It was likely a typo or OP dialed the wrong number.

    2. Myrin*

      Yeah, I don’t want to disount OP’s feeling of weirdness surrounding this hire – oftentimes, our guts tell is something is strange without any discernible reason and later it turns out that we’ve been right all along! – but as the story stands, I honestly don’t really see a “weirdness with the reference”. I’m meticulous when writing down numbers and even I have both given somebody a wrong number before and misdialed a number myself, so really, that would be my number 1 assumption here.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      Agreed. It’s normal to occasionally get a wrong number, and I don’t think every tiny deviation from the script should be considered suspicious.

    4. Daisy*

      Wrong number is the first thing that come to my mind too, either a wrong digit or copy and pasting the wrong contact from your list. This is 100% the first thing that come to my mind.

      While annoying, there are people that consider quitting via email (after a short time in) not such a big deal, despite we here may all think it is highly unprofessional. People think and react differently (but we all make mistakes!).

  26. Khatul Madame*

    About including OP1 on a proposal. Sometimes companies are allowed to submit representative resumes for employees that may or may not participate in a project if it is awarded. It is good practice to notify the person that they are included in the proposal (and address any concerns they may have about possible reassignment), but in reality almost every proposal is a mad scramble and it isn’t done.
    Furthermore, trying to pull together a diverse team is not a crime but again, good practice.
    So just including OP on a proposal was not a big deal, but calling out “diversity reasons” TO HER was.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      As someone who works in proposals, I agree with this. The issue here isn’t that the company used OP in a proposal to score points for diversity (many companies bidding for work do this), it’s that she wasn’t informed ahead of time that they were doing this and then they had the audacity to call her a diversity hire to her face.

      1. Ominous Adversary*

        I can’t tell if this is one of those things where it seems normal because everyone does it, or if there is some reason that isn’t apparent. But it sounds like what you are saying is that it is very normal for companies to lie about having diverse teams in order to win proposals.

        1. Deanna Troi*

          Yep, Ominous Adversary. I used to for a company that put a bunch of people on the proposals who “might” work on the contract if awarded, but it was problematic that they would include people they knew they would never use to look better. Khatul Madame, it is NOT good practice to put together a diverse team for the proposal if you have no intention of using a diverse team on the contract.

          I’m a little concerned that the first two posts in this comment sound like it’s okay to put together a fake diversity team as long as you don’t tell minorities about it to their faces.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            That is not remotely what my comment said – in fact, I specifically said the person put in the proposal should always be consulted about their inclusion before you do so. But the nature of proposals is that if Company A knows that Company B has a project they’re looking for bids on, and they also know Company B has strong diversity requirements, they will scrounge up every potential candidate they think can fit those requirements and put them in their proposal.

            Now ideally, you would have a truly diverse team to propose already so that you’re not having to propose “possible” candidates you know for a fact won’t be working on a project once it’s awarded to your company. But as the original comment said, proposal submissions have tight turnarounds and you won’t always have the necessary staff to propose, so you throw in a name, submit the bid, and smart companies then make a concerted effort to recruit and source for actual diverse candidates outside their orgs to fill the role should they actually win the contract.

            1. Ominous Adversary*

              That’s not really the nature of proposals, though? That’s the nature of Company A not caring much about diversity until there are real consequences (i.e., losing the proposal from Company B). As you describe it, Company A then scrounges around for diverse employees, “asks” them to OK having their names put on the project (as if they’re going to jeopardize their careers by refusing), and then perhaps actually puts together a diverse team if they get the project.

              Presumably if Company A doesn’t get the proposal they forget about diversity until the next fire drill? Because if we’re assuming smart companies, you’d expect they’d already have diverse hiring and retention so they don’t have to go through this charade.

    2. Proposalperson*

      As another person who works on proposals, I read it more this way as well. I am often the one pushing to have a more diverse team, by all reads of the word (so not just by ethnicity) because diversity genuinely benefits clients. I’m also a female and a minority, and have been in situations where I felt only included for that, so I would say trust your gut on if it feels like microagressions and a larger cultural issue (and if they every literally say the phrase “diversity hire” – would be straight to HR). For the many that are saying to job search – depending on your industry, you may encounter people who chose to believe you were hired based on those reasons regardless. So make the best judgement for you – but it’s often a sad reality for the “diverse” folks to have to perform at a high level to dissolve this assumption. It’s not fair, but I’ve never let it hold me back, and I hope you won’t either. But still we rise.

      Very much agree with Allison’s advice to ask if you’ll be working on the project – you’d either find out it’s a representative list (and if you are always on proposals in a way that others are not and can call that out, easier to do) or that you indeed may work on it.

    3. Sab*

      Completely agree with this. I work with EU research grants, and the inclusion of gender balanced, “diverse” teams in the partner staff description is pretty standard. Everyone does it. Most persons listed will not actually work on the funded project. Such is the sector.

  27. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #2 – I agree with Alison that this isn’t a hill to die on, and that the bigger issue is that you don’t seem to have much contact with your boss other than the occasional text speak. But it would drive me nuts as well. If you’re having a casual conversation with a friend or co-worker, abbreviations aren’t a big deal. But in a work context, to me using text speak makes you seem lazy and disconnected because you can’t be bothered to speak in full words or sentences. I do think ASAP is an exception, because it gets your attention more than typing out the words. And before you jump all over me and say “but so and so may be extremely busy”, it takes a few additional SECONDS to type “thank you” over “thx”.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I used to work for someone who would go with “tnx” or “thnx” instead of “thanks.” It used to drive me nuts because it’s really not that much harder to type (and I know this person was typing on a keyboard, not texting from a phone) 6 letters instead of 3 or even 4 – one of which isn’t even actually a letter in the word. Telling me that someone is too busy to type 2 extra letters is insulting, when I’m just as busy (or possibly busier, but hey, who am I to go typing out 6 whole letters!)

    2. hbc*

      I almost never use text speech myself, but I think the argument about “it’s just a couple of letters” goes both ways. If you understand what someone means when they drop the “a” in “thanks,” why do you need that extra letter? Either it’s a pet peeve, or it’s a symbol of a much larger problem with feeling disrespected or devalued. Seems like it’s the latter in the LW’s case, and there’s really no point in picking at this one little aspect of it.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        My point of a few extra letters was about people claiming they’re too busy to type in full words and sentences. I still think it shows laziness and being disconnected. Like I said it’s not a hill to die on, but it doesn’t make it any less obnoxious IMO.

    3. lilsheba*

      Text speak is a pet peeve of mine. It’s bad enough it’s all over social media, but to carry it over to work as well? It makes a person look lazy, unintelligent, and I won’t take what they say seriously. Add to that bad grammar and spelling and I really won’t listen to anything you say. I have a co worker like that. DRIVES ME BONKERS. Learn to spell, learn to use full sentences, and use punctuation. At least appear like you went to school at some point!

      1. Me*

        And in this workplace you would be seen as the person who was out of touch with the rest of the team. It’s not a hill to die on.

        1. lilsheba*

          Thing is with my co worker, she sound completely unprofessional, like she didn’t even learn English in school. We do email with customers sometimes, what if she sends out an email looking like that? Yeesh.

    4. EventPlannerGal*

      That’s interesting – to me abbreviations like “thx” don’t really come across as lazy for exactly that reason, the person typing isn’t saving any time or energy by missing out a couple of letters. It’s quite informal, for sure, but the OP says that this is happening in texts and chats where I think people do tend to be more informal. I get thinking that it’s too informal for business communication, but I don’t think it’s significantly lazier to respond with just “k” than to respond with just “OK”.

      1. comityoferrors*

        Me too. I have some coworkers who use “text speech” when we’re having informal conversations, especially now as most informal communication happens via Skype/Teams. When they’re involved in more formal email communications or talking with clients/higher management, they use proper grammar and spelling. Obviously if someone DOESN’T switch back to proper spelling for important communications, that’s an issue, but otherwise why does it matter? I can understand if someone doesn’t want to do that themselves, but it’s not “lazy” IMO – it’s setting a tone. It’s casual because the purpose is to be casual.

        It is really fascinating how tone is conveyed through text. As Alison alludes to, there is a huge difference between someone responding to your work with: a thumbs up emoji; the word “ok”; the word “k”; and endless other variations with punctuation and capitalization (wasn’t there a discussion here about how “…” is received differently between older and younger folk? If I got a “k…” in response to my work, I would lose my sh!t with anxiety. But my boss uses “…….” as emphasis for her words, ie “Thanks…..” when she actually is grateful. Wild.)

        I think there is real value in matching the level of formality in a text conversation. You might be capital-C Correct if you respond to a team text thread full of gifs and LOLs and “thx :)” with “Thank you. The report will be complete at 12.” But you probably won’t seem very warm or friendly to your team, even if you mean it with the utmost friendliness. That doesn’t mean you have to start shortening “thanks” to “thx” or anything, but loosening up your own style a *little* can have a huge impact on how you’re seen – adding emojis/emoticons, not capitalizing everything, sending multiple messages in lieu of including punctuation. At least that’s been my experience. We don’t have much body language to convey that we like and appreciate each other lately, and many of the people I know are trying to recreate that casual friendliness by using casual, friendly “text speech” when it’s appropriate.

        1. Heather*

          my boss uses “…….” as emphasis for her words, ie “Thanks…..” when she actually is grateful.

          Yikes! That would freak me out for sure. That definitely reads super passive aggressive to me. It would never have occurred to me that anyone could use ellipses for emphasis. Is that really a generational thing?

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I am old and would read it the same way you are. “Thanks…” would read to me almost like “Thanks?” or like they aren’t sure why I would have done something but feel obligated to than me. Or “so….” like, “What am I supposed to do with that information?”.

            I see words bounded by asterisks or in caps mostly for emphasis – “I *really* need this back by 4 p.m. to get it sent out to Jane.” or “You MUST sign the llama riding disclaimer to participate!”.

        2. LW2*

          LW here! You make some really good points about matching tone – I generally keep it very conversational in my chats, it’s a small team and teams is our primary form of communication – so lots of gifs and emojis! I think many commenters have tapped into the idea that it’s somehow lazy to use these abbreviations…I actually don’t have that problem with it at all. I think with my coworkers, it is truly just a trend that’s been picked up in conversation. In reality, I would never ask my coworkers to use formal language, I certainly don’t always – I think I was grasping at straws in that part of my letter! I struggle with my manager because our conversations often don’t have that friendly/informal feel. So, when I pitch an idea or send something for review, it ends up feeling very transactional, in ways I don’t always observe when she interacts with others, for example. I can’t necessarily match her tone 1:1 without seeming reticent, and try to be verbose to encourage more conversation actually. I think lots of commenters hit on the fact that this is the tip of the iceberg…it’s more about my relationship with my boss than my irritation with a tnx of kk.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        And I specified this in my comment…

        “If you’re having a casual conversation with a friend or co-worker, abbreviations aren’t a big deal. But in a work context, to me using text speak makes you seem lazy and disconnected because you can’t be bothered to speak in full words or sentences.”

        Right now a lot of people are working from home, so more conversations are happening via chat since we’re not in person. And some of those conversations are about official work things, not just casual stuff.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          But even in a work context, I think almost everyone I work with tends to write more informally in internal chats or texts than they would in an e-mail and I don’t see that as an issue unless it’s really inappropriate to the seriousness of the subject (or if it actually obscures the meaning). I have been having those same conversations with my colleagues via chats and texts since March and pretty much everybody all the way up to the CEO writes less formally than they do in e-mails or posts on our intranet, including about official work things unless they are really quite important, and many people use abbreviations. I don’t know, maybe your experience is different in that regard, but I don’t see it as a problem.

  28. soon to be former fed really*

    #4: In this time of Covid-19, it is terribly tone deaf to suggest what I assume would be in-person group gatherings of any kind. I would refuse to attend any indoor event, and even outdoor events are suspect if too many people are present and mitigation protocols are not followed. Just show me the money.

    1. bananab*

      Agreed, and it’s so exhausting the way it seems folks have to repeatedly remind others there is in fact a pandemic on as if they don’t know.

      1. JustaTech*

        I wish I could get this through my 3x boss’s head. He’s a smart guy. He’s a life-sciences guy. We live in a city and state that isn’t easing up yet.

        But Boss still wants to have pizza parties and happy hour and shared bagels.

        I don’t care that the lunch room is large. If I’m not having distanced happy hour with my friends why the heck would I take that risk for my coworkers?

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Have had to explain again to my boss that just because he thinks this ‘Covid thing’ has gone on long enough and we need to go back to normal social behaviour, it doesn’t mean his opinion has changed reality.

          The reality is that there’s no way I’m going for drinks with the team until there’s a vaccine for this wretched bug.

  29. The Bimmer Guy*

    Wow. Your boss calling you a “diverse hire” is super passive-aggressive. Like, “I didn’t want to hire you, but the EEOC was on my case…” I would also be alarmed and affronted.

  30. learnedthehardway*

    Re OP3 – I run into this sort of thing a LOT – often, the candidate genuinely believes they did what they are claiming they did, but they don’t really understand what their part in the project was. For example, I managed a junior person who was absolutely convinced that he single-handedly organized a rather large event for the senior management of the company. In reality, he booked meeting rooms. The event was organized and delivered by the events management team, and he was tasked with a little piece of the whole thing. But he didn’t understand the big picture, so as far as he was concerned, he was the event organizer.

    The way I get around these situations is to drill down to what the person actually did, who they reported to, what their scope of work was wrt to the rest of the team and the project manager, what were the results they were personally responsible for, etc. etc. It usually becomes pretty clear who was leading and who was getting coffee for the project.

    OP#5 – I would not worry about whether you got the same person or not. If you phoned someone who was at a loud event, they may not have been able to hear you well enough to understand what you were talking about. A lot of people have ambient hearing loss – esp. as they get older. As a general rule, I’ve always found it useful to dial into a switchboard, whenever possible, to verify that a reference is who they’re supposed to be, so it’s good that you did this.

    1. Bad Hare Day*

      Reading this comment to OP3 was like a light bulb turning on in my brain. I previously managed a couple of employees that routinely took credit for major accomplishments they had nothing to do with (and in one case, were told specifically that they were not part of this project and to stop trying to worm their way onto the team). They also had trouble grasping the big picture and the fundamentals of their job. I always wondered how they could possibly think they were responsible for (project success) when they were clearly so bad at their job, but never put the two together like that!

  31. Dagny*

    LW1: do not quit, contrary to what everyone else here is saying. It will make them feel good but will make your life harder; it’s not fun to explain why you’re leaving somewhere after a short time. Use Alison’s scripts and document what is happening in case you need to go to HR; otherwise, get some experience under your belt and you’ll be a much stronger candidate in a couple of years.

    A lot of people used to tell me that I was “only” admitted to my top-flight engineering school because of my lack of a Y chromosome. Eventually, I noticed that those people are tools – and not just because they are the type to say that. The men my own age who blathered on about that fell flat on their faces in university, because it turns out that you can’t just wave around your …. and get good grades. Not much surprising that their dating lives were also a mess; turns out if you don’t respect smart women, it’s hard to have a functional relationship. It was enraging and hurtful when I was a teenager/early twenty-something; in my older age, the main emotion I feel is pity. You’re not wrong for being upset and frustrated; please believe me when I say this does not actually go on forever.

  32. lilsheba*

    Text speak is a pet peeve of mine. It’s bad enough it’s all over social media, but to carry it over to work as well? It makes a person look lazy, unintelligent, and I won’t take what they say seriously. Add to that bad grammar and spelling and I really won’t listen to anything you say. I have a co worker like that. DRIVES ME BONKERS. Learn to spell, learn to use full sentences, and use punctuation. At least appear like you went to school at some point!

    1. Quill*

      I’ve gotten so much more relaxed about grammar at work since my industry is aggressively international. People are graceful about my barely-fluent spanish, I spend extra time trying to parse out the difference colleagues meant between doing something for a project or to a project.

      Textspeak has been weirdly unifying, probably because it’s a secondary language for all of us and the abbreviations have less variation than writing full sentences in a second language.

      1. iglwif*

        Me too!

        Many of my colleagues use text speak at least sometimes in the IMs that are currently our only form of water-cooler chat, and I can assure you that none of us think anyone else is lazy or unintelligent because they type “lmk when I can call” or “ok np”!

  33. Firecat*

    #5 My new company has gone phoneless. All internal calls are done with Skype or teams. There is literally no switchboard to connect you to someone. If someone outside wants to call HR they can, but they won’t be able to connect you to my manager. I guess the could maybe verify the cell number provided but that’s about it.

    1. Jennifer*

      Same here. We’re all working from home and I don’t really want to give out my personal cell number.

  34. employment lawyah*

    1. My manager refers to me as a diversity hire
    The good news: I’d bet your HR person–assuming they are competent–would be horrified to hear that. If you are in a protected class and your manager is disparaging you due to your membership in that class, that may be illegal. They don’t need to be wearing KKK hoods to create what’s called a “hostile environment,” and it’s possible (though not guaranteed) that this qualifies. This may provide you extra leverage with which to push back.

    In other words, the law can work to your benefit. It can sometimes create an odd situation in which it can simultaneously be legal (or even required!) to consider factors other than merit; and ALSO inappropriate/illegal to openly discuss those factors, or the result of how one might apply them.

    The bad news, so to speak: It’s possible you that you were granted extra consideration/hiring/money/status because the company simply wanted to have someone “like you” at a certain position/level/etc., or because they were trying to compensate you for discrimination suffered by other historical people, or whatever, and not because they were entirely focused on your individual merit. Plenty of companies do this nowadays. This may follow you throughout your career and may give you an enormous personal benefit in the long run.

    This is just how things are. You don’t need to feel bad about it: It’s like if you meet someone who is the nephew of the founder, or the son of a partner; or a new hire who “has been playing golf with me since he was a kid”; or an exec who suspiciously only hires 23-year-old people with perfect hair that look like olympic athletes crossed with models. Everyone knows those people are given a non-merit-related boost, too.

    You can certainly ask not to be included in meetings/proposals/things above your level, if you want, and not to be promoted extra fast, or paid extra money, or get extra recognition. Alternatively you can accept those things as “someone thinks I deserve them for whatever reason, they may be right or wrong but it’s fine with me.” You can’t control what other people think, though, and if you’re working with smart people, then you can’t simultaneously have a boost for factor X and also expect people to ignore that factor. So you may as well take the perks since you’ll get dinged for them anyway via assumptions.

    And consider your HR / legal options, too.

    3. Candidate didn’t do the work her resume says she did
    I would:
    Interview her, since you would do so anyway. Do not give her the right of reply in writing. Ask her point blank in the interview and see what she says.

    1. Paperwhite*

      and not to be promoted extra fast, or paid extra money, or get extra recognition
      ahahahaah this was a good laugh. See Lora’s comment for what actually happens, which is that people who sling around the term ‘diversity hire’ then penalize the person that they assume got hired just for being Latino or female or whatnot and thus is actually unqualified, with a lack of recognition for actual work, lower pay, and fewer opportunities for promotion.

      You’re right about HR and documenting, though.

      1. employment lawyah*

        It varies widely across companies and individuals.

        One of the most common effects of discrimination is that people don’t get to network or make connections. But one of the more common effects of diversity initiatives is that some people are specifically added to teams / included in meetings / etc. This is a direct counter.

        The interesting thing is that even if there is “compensatory discrimination” a/k/a an attempt to defeat the goals of a diversity initiative it often produces more benefits in the NEXT job, just like “old style” networking.

        Say you hire your friend’s kid because of nepotism and not merit, but put him on a lot of big name projects. Say that some folks at your company know this and treat the kid as less smart. Still: The next job may not know about the nepotism, so those benefits may eventually transfer and really help the kid in the long run.

        So this OP may find that OP’s current boss is not helpful. But if the OP gets to put OP’s name on strategic documents and proposals and patents and panels and whatever, then at the *NEXT* job, those things alone may allow OP to advance their career, even if the NEXT job does not have diversity initiatives worth a damn.

        And, OP: The reason I keep bringing up these examples of nepotism/golf/etc is to point out that non-meritorious advancement has been happening forever, to plenty of people who weren’t you and weren’t “like you”. If you’ve got it, use it; there’s no need to be embarrassed.

    2. Ominous Adversary*

      “If you are in a protected class” – everyone is in a protected class (with the exceptions of disability and being over 40). The protected characteristics are things like race, sex, or national origin, not “if you’re Black” or “if you’re female”. I’m surprised to see this from an employment lawyer.

  35. Scott M.*

    on #2 – I’ve only recently realized that this is a “thing”. I don’t really understand how ‘k’ or ‘thx’ comes off as abrupt. I actually take it a being polite – where the other person is really busy and is pausing to send a quick response, rather than just checking your message and not letting you know they got it.
    (FYI this is a duplicate reply, since I accidentally replied to another response first)

    1. livelaughandrun*

      Personally I feel like it would be ok if it was part of more feedback received. Its not in this situation. Its the main way she communicates and I would find that grating. Bu I find it rude because personally I feel like it lacks any real acknowledgement. I work with numbers. If I am sending information over more often than not I need some feedback on it. K or thx now requires me to loop back around and verify that you actually looked at it, understand the numbers etc.

  36. Jennifer*

    Re: text speak

    I think, as Alison said, the real issue is that you are feeling a bit disconnected from the team. Maybe you need to talk to your boss and see if you can get more feedback about your work, or maybe just have some small talk with your coworkers for a few minutes in the morning over slack. I understand how you feel.

  37. Jennifer Juniper*

    LW#4, your boss does know there’s a pandemic on, right? A work outing to a restaurant is not safe due to COVID.

  38. EventPlannerGal*

    Textspeak OP – I agree with Alison that this is probably not about the abbreviations. Would you really feel that much better if the only communication you had in a day was “OK” instead of “k”, or “thanks” instead of “thx”?

  39. MJ*

    LW1 – I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. Having your identity be made into a commodity is… rough. You shouldn’t have to deal with that, and the world isn’t changing fast enough. All I can offer is when it breaks in my direction, I take it. In a world where these things can set me back at any time without me even knowing it, I lean into that helping me occasionally. 

  40. Serene Vannoy*

    At my job, hiring committees would not be able to take that insider knowledge into account in the hiring process. The logic is just because I know candidate A is lying on their resume, it’s unfair to hold that against them when I don’t know if candidates B, C, and D are also doing the same.

    1. employment lawyah*

      My feeling is that everyone is always doing their best to hide the bad parts. When you get to see through the window at the real employee and learn something bad enough to bother you, you should act on it.

      Of course, some of the other applicants COULD also be lying. But think of the math: A is 100% lying, the remainder is somewhere between 0-100%, your odds are better if you don’t hire A.

    2. JustaTech*

      I mean, I guess that’s fair, but why wouldn’t you want to know that Candidate A is not good at their job and goes through expensive materials at twice the rate of anyone else?

      (Yes, I did have a coworker like this who was not good at his job, sometimes difficult to work with, and must have eaten his reagents given the rate he went through stuff. The lab manager knew him from a previous lab, but the boss didn’t want to hear about him, didn’t even call his references. So we were stuck with a high-cost, low-output coworker.)

  41. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    While I empathize with OP#2 I wouldn’t put the burden of meeting your preferences onto your colleagues right now, either in emailing complete sentences or asking for more social time. I have a coworker like this and…I’m already just exhausted and can’t help her with her need for more socialization. I’ve had more business meetings in the last 6 months than I’ve had in my entire 30-year career using 3 different meeting apps so I always feel like communication is coming at me from different “directions”. When we have down time we’re expected to do online learning courses like LinkedIn Learning and submit the certificates of completion. It feels like I receive 1,000 emails a day for the most inane things. But my coworker is very social and wants to keep adding more “coffee break” Zoom gatherings to keep the group “together”. It’s making me even LESS social. If someone asked me to provide them with more than “ty” instead of writing out “thank you,” I’d might just go radio silent unless answering a direct question.

  42. boop the first*

    5. Whaaa? The easiest explanation is they got the number wrong, like everyone on earth has done significantly more than once per life. I do know a few people who always cook up the zaniest explanation or working plan possible, maybe to spice things up, I really don’t know, but it seems to cause them way more drama, stress, and actual harm to others than is necessary.

  43. Luke G*

    OP4: Do you have a sense of whether your boss is saying “I want to use company funds to do something nice for you” or “I want to show you appreciation out of my own pocket?”

    If it’s the former, cash may be off the table- I saw another commenter point out that starts to involve tax and payroll implications. I’m not a lawyer but have been told by my company that even giving out something like gas cards or gift cards can be classed as a monetary gift and thus involve taxes.

    If it’s out of pocket, well, what do you know about your boss? I received a bonus and wanted to use some of it out-of-pocket to treat my team, since their work was part of why I got it. They all said that money would make them happier than any kind of food or objects, so I wrote each of them an individualized thank-you card for their contributions and filled it with cash. I’m not the company so it didn’t impact payroll, and I’m not the kind of person who gets squeamish about money and thinks its “tacky” for employees to want it. I think the only way you could go wrong is if you come across as rudely dismissive or grabby: “Honestly, what would really make me happiest now would just be a cash bonus” comes off much nicer than “I don’t want some crappy trinket, I just want money.”

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The boss is the owner, so even if it’s out of their pocket, it’s going to be sketch and suspicious if it’s “out of their pocket”. But in reality, all bosses should know that by giving out funds, you’re evading taxes and you’re doing bad-things-that-the-irs-doesn’t-like-so-don’t-do-it. You may not be the company but the IRS doesn’t care, they want their slice and if they ever sniff around your finances and see you give money out in any large amount of quantities, you may get into tax trouble yourself. You aren’t even supposed to just pay someone for mowing your lawn without it being reported, technically speaking.

      There’s very little you can do without running through the payroll tax funds, company outtings/parties/luncheons are about it. That’s a taxable expense, allotted to all your employees as a token of appreciation. When you start bringing in gift cards, they look at those like cash. High price gadgets, they also look poorly upon unless it’s a very infrequent gift for say a big anniversary at the company or everyone gets a fitbit so they can join in an incentive program to “get moving” or something that is something “not just because we want to give you something you may be able to hock and turn into cash and avoid taxes on.” ;)

  44. RagingADHD*

    #5, you have been worrying about a wrong number for two years? At a job you had already given notice on?

    There is no great mystery here. The most likely explanation for a new hire quitting after 2 weeks is that they are a bit flaky, or they have some chaos in their life (whether temporary or chronic).

    Flaky people & people going through chaos mix up stuff like phone numbers.

    I just don’t understand why it’s even on your mind this long after the fact. You haven’t even worked at that place for – what? Eighteen months or more?

    If stuff this minor bugs you this long, maybe you need to work on your stress levels. That’s not healthy.

  45. Cranberry Sauce*

    On OK vs kk vs K:

    Linguist Gretchen McCulloch has found that for people who pay attention to these nuances, “kk” generally feels softer than “OK.”

    She also notes, though, that more words are more polite, so if all you’re getting is OK/kk/ty, that’s going to sound harsh overall no matter what the specific “OK” synonym you choose is.

    And she notes that this is generational — older people don’t infer voice and tone from capitalization or punctuation nearly as much as younger people do. “A younger person may find a period at the end of a message to be ominous, [but] an older person may be more surprised that anyone is reading meaning into their periods at all.”

    1. iglwif*

      Gretchen McCulloch is brilliant on this subject!

      As well as the generational differences among people, I think there can also be differences based on who else those people are communicating with on the regular–for example, as a Gen X person with a teenage child, I’m a lot more fluent in How Teens Text than my same-age coworker with no kids, even though I don’t necessarily use those same conventions with everyone else I text.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, I’m definitely old because the period at the end of a sentence is not a coded message. It’s just punctuation.

      1. Cranberry Sauce*

        As an old, I really appreciated hearing that people might find something like a period at the end of a text ominous. It’s good to know how your communication style might come across. Definitely wasn’t something I was going to intuit on my own.

  46. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    As someone who works in an organisation which is AWASH with pointless in-language and endless acronyms, with an array of people for whom English is a second language, textspeak can cause misunderstandings and confusion. Everyone, literally, knows ‘OK’ means ‘OK’, but an email ‘k’ or ‘KK’ would throw some folk into utter bewilderment. Is K a file? A document? Someone’s initial? A code for something?

    Be CLEAR, please.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same. Several of my groups literally hand out government acronym sheets to new hires, and just keeping some of those straight is a chore (and some of them are text-y acronyms that absolutely do not mean the same thing, sometimes bordering into hilarious and/or awkward misunderstandings).

      I have never seen “kk” before – my children are too young for their own phones, my spouse and I are too old to be hip to the scene, and I work in an office that writes formal documents for a living and would frown upon textspeak in business communications.

  47. Environmental Compliance*

    #1 – I’m so sorry. I went through something similar when I got my first “real” job. Boss told me to my face that while I was great, it was even better that I was a woman because that really helped their metrics.

    My respect for him went through the floor. I was upset for some time, until one of the other department heads (also male) let me know that 1) he heard what was said, 2) he had put in a word with their boss over what was said, and 3) not only was it not okay what was said, my skills far and above were a reason why I was hired, not because of my gender.

    I stayed at that position, did great work (I got my name published! In a state book!), got some great references from not-my-boss, and have skyrocketed in my career.

    Many internet support/hugs/solidarity fist bumps.

  48. Dee Mentor*

    I recommend this article and podcast from Michelle Singletary (“Did you hire me because I’m Black?”)
    “Michelle Singletary gets personal about misconceptions involving race. Here, she examines the notion that affirmative action gives unqualified Black people an unfair advantage.”

    I hope that you find the article encouraging. Speak with your manager and ask whether you we hired *only* because of their race and gender.

    FWIW, lots of white men were hired because they were white men in the past (and the present).

  49. Northerner*

    Oh man, LW2, this would drive me up a wall. To me, “k” or “thx” is basically pressing a “communication acknowledged” button—the bare minimum response. And in some contexts, that’s totally fine and appropriate! But if that’s all you’re sending in response to something that took real effort, whether it’s a piece of work or a thoughtfully composed email, it feels kind of shitty. Like I set out to have a conversation, and you turned it into a transaction.

    I don’t think there’s anything to be done here, but you have my sympathy. Someone above connected wanting more substantial communication to wanting an extreme amount of social interaction, which I don’t think is a fair thing to assume! My personal preference is to keep work conversations quite direct and work-focused, but that doesn’t require being abrupt or affectless.

  50. KT*

    Thank you Alison for pointing out that an individual person can’t be diverse! It is a grammatical error that really annoys me. If something is diverse it literally means comprised of or including multiple elements that are very different. Hence one unit (one person) cannot be diverse. The only time I could remotely accept an individual person calling themselves diverse is if they are trying to explain they personally have a mix of many different ancestries – like say they are part Swedish, Korean, Chinese, Irish and some Native American too. I once saw it used this way and immediately thought “that’s grammatically wrong!” Then I paused for a second and thought “Well… in this instance I kind of get what they were trying to say though”. Saying “I have a diverse family” would probably be a more correct way to explain it, but I would understand if they just said “I am diverse” because they had like 5+ ancestries.

  51. KT*

    I recently gave references (and was offered the job) but one reference was a cell number because she left the organisation. I had specified she was the (former) Position Title during my tenure there though. For my second reference, I gave office number as she is still employed there, but when I checked in with her for my reference she actually said she was going on two weeks annual leave in a couple days time (it was around a school holidays period) so I could give them her cell number and she would be happy to take the call while she was off – which she did! But yes both my references ended up being cell number only and that didn’t affect my candidacy.

  52. ElleKay*

    #5 My first thought was that it was an honest typo that resulted in a wrong number! Particularly since you called the location listed and confirmed the applicant had worked there it was probably an honest mistake

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