how can I find new hires who will be comfortable with our “boys club” culture?

A reader writes:

I’m looking to add a new employee to my team, most likely a recent college graduate, and I’m not quite sure how to come up with questions to ensure a good cultural fit. Our team is a bit of a “boys club” with cursing and the occasional inappropriate joke made in smaller group settings. I know that some people aren’t comfortable around this type of environment (and I know this culture won’t change in the near future) so I want to make sure the person would be able to fit into this group. It seems awkward to ask, “How do you feel about cursing and the occasional crude joke?” Is this a legitimate question to ask in an interview? If not, do you have any other recommendations for how to do it?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Should we fire an intern for extending her vacation without permission?
  • My colleague didn’t hire my son
  • Working on maternity leave
  • Why did my interviewer mention another candidate?

{ 269 comments… read them below }

      1. 30 Years in the Biz*

        Love your name!
        “I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet. I send no compliments to your mother. You deserve no such attention. I am most seriously displeased.”

    1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

      And now I really want to know how the OP of the garbage bag letter is doing five years on …

      1. bag of garbage OP*

        I won’t derail this thread, but I will sent a (thankfully garbage-free) update for the year end round up.

  1. Phil*

    LW1: Why not try to change the culture of your team? Can you make it clear that behavior like that which you describe is no longer tolerated? Personally I hate that sort of thing and made it clear to my crews it wasn’t tolerated and I was in the entertainment business, where that sort of thing is alarmingly normal.

    1. Rayray*

      I agree. I’m all for a casual and relaxed work
      environment where you can have fun with coworkers but if conversation is regularly crude and offensive, maybe it should be corrected. There’s a time and place to swear and make gross jokes, and work probably isn’t the best place unless it is a private conversation not overheard.

      1. Dave*

        I think you can swear without going into crude territory. This is one of those things changing the worst behavior first, which is probably crude jokes, should be the focus.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          This. Some days the computer just needs to be sworn at, but “crude jokes”? Join the 21st century.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Having worked environments where swearing is par for the course, I am at a complete loss as to what it adds to a workplace.

        1. Rayray*

          Kinda what I was thinking. I’m not necessarily horrified by it but I don’t see why it’s necessary either. The occasional swear here or there won’t even make me think twice but if conversations regularly have lots of swearing, I don’t really care for it.

        2. Cj*

          My husband worked at an auto body shop. The two owners were two of his best friends. In social settings, none of them hardly ever swore. But just have them step in the door at work, and it was a free for all. And they weren’t even swearing over anything in particular, like something went wrong or they dropped a tool on their foot. They just swore for the sake of swearing. I don’t get it.

              1. J*

                Yeah, I’ve been the one to “break the seal” in more than one workplace. I don’t swear a ton, but sometimes the right word is the wrong one.

              2. Sesquedoodle*

                As a woman who absolutely swears at minor inconveniences… it COULD be a sexism thing, but not necessarily.

        3. Wisteria*

          It adds the same thing it adds in other situations. There’s lots of research on swearing. You should look into it. Might give you valuable insight into your potty-mouthed colleagues and maybe make you more open-minded and less judgmental.

          1. GrumpyGnome*

            This is unnecessarily rude. I swear a lot around friends and family, including around their kids because sometimes I don’t think about it. At work, I tone it down quite a bit because it can be considered unprofessional and because in my experience an environment with excessive swearing can actually be demoralizing. Not always, of course, but usually that swearing is linked to frustration regarding work processes and issues.

            Frequent and excessive cursing does not add positive value. Occasional cursing is excellent for letting off steam but all the time? No. And that’s not being judgmental or close-minded, that’s recognizing the effect that frequent swearing can have on both coworkers and customers (especially in customer facing positions).

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              This is unnecessarily rude.

              I can come across as judgmental even when I’m not.

              I notice when every other word is an expletive,

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                the expletives lose their force, and I stick out even more for not using them.

              1. D'Arcy*

                Excessive swearing at work is a way of marking the workspace as “rough” and masculine. It’s kinda the human male equivalent of peeing on fenceposts.

          2. MusicWithRocksIn*

            Everywhere I’ve worked with swearing it opened up into swearing in anger. Which as a child of very conflict heavy parents, always makes me feel very small and uncomfortable. Sometimes it lead to swearing in anger directly at people. I don’t see that it ever brought anything of value.

        4. Elizabeth I*

          I’m not a fan of swearing myself, but a friend told me about a really interesting book she read about swearing – apparently teams where swearing is a part of the culture are often closer/build more trust, because swearing is somewhat transgressive and since they are all being transgressive together, it forms a deeper bond. This was based on some sort of research/psychology studies. Fascinating stuff!

        5. Lora*

          I swear because as a woman in an EXTREMELY male-dominated field, it helps ensure that nobody but absolutely NOBODY mistakes me for the secretary.

          Not often, but, you know, sometimes. When necessary. Otherwise I am frequently, very very VERY frequently, assumed to be the secretary. In my field, at my level, there are easily 9-10 men for every woman employee. I’m often the only woman in the room. Being talked over, brushed off and ignored is commonplace. The occasional well-placed F-bomb seems to remind them that I am not, in fact, the furniture / houseplant / cleaner-upper of their messes.

            1. Lora*

              Been in this field decades. The younger guys aren’t any better, either – many are worse than their managers. I don’t anticipate it ever happening.

            2. (insert name here)*

              Yeah, I don’t think this is the specific men she works with but a standard part of western culture in male dominated rooms. So ubiquitous that the men don’t realize they do it. It’s been the experience of almost every woman I know who has worked in male dominated fields, if not all the time, at least some of the time.

          1. Not Me*

            Just FYI, secretaries also aren’t furniture, houseplants, or janitors. They’d most likely be just as offended as you are to be treated as such.

            1. Lora*

              Yes, understood – but they are not participating in highly technical discussions where they are supposed to be contributing as an expert in the field. The men consider them “safe” to ignore, and if the admin assistant told them, “hey, that room needs to be Class 1 Div 1, you cannot put it next to the oxygen tanks” they’d look at her like she had three heads, and either pretend she hadn’t said a word and keep talking or else tell her to go order the lunches.

              Ask me how I know.

              1. Not Me*

                I understood your original point. My problem is still with you suggesting secretaries are furniture or houseplants and that you’re better than them. Your role may demand more attention than theirs does in that situation, but attention is not the same as respect. They’re still people who deserve to be treated with respect and not treated like plants.

                1. MCMonkeyBean*

                  They said that they are not the secretary, and then separately said that also they are not a houseplant. You seem to be reading that as A does not equal B and A does not equal C therefore B equals C, but that logic is highly flawed. Nothing in their comment implies that anyone thinks secretaries are houseplants.

            2. Malika*

              As a former secretary, i agree. Women would often treat me worse than the men, in order to make a point about their own position on the totem pole. F- that S-. And no, I don’t clean up anybody’s mess, and I am not a moving houseplant. Please refrain from describing support staff in this way.

              Your larger point absolutely stands though. It’s best to blend in, and the odd swear word and crudity does wonders. I am sorry that being brushed over has been your experience at work. It is very frustrating to be talked over constantly and have your very worthy input be ignored.

          2. NRG*

            Yep, and my ability to voluntarily belch has been nearly as useful for my career advancement as my advanced degree. After several decades, I no longer believe change is imminent.

          3. Keyboard Cowboy*


            I’m in the habit of swearing anyways and dial it back, but not off, for work. IMO it serves as a good reminder that folks shouldn’t hold back, with profanity *or* with other things like technical details, when I’m in the room.

            My cousin is a Lutheran minister and says she makes an effort to swear once in a while when talking in confidence with members of her church so that they feel more comfortable and less like they need to be perfect and holy and restrained when talking to her.

            1. Yet the latest in a long string of Anons*

              I’ve had men several wrungs on the ladder lower than me apologize for swearing “in the presence of a lady”. Not in an embarrassed-to-have-messed-up-in-front-of-a-great-grand-boss way, but in a ‘your delicate ears’ way. I reacted highly confused and with a well placed “what?….I don’t give a f*ck”.

              1. allathian*

                I would’ve loved to see their faces after that one! I hope they acted less patronizing around you after that.

              2. Union Maid*

                haha, I am more likely to react by telling them that I find the term ‘lady’ far more offensive than any swear word.

          4. Ailsa McNonagon*

            Lora, same here. I also tend to trust people who swear on occasion more than I trust people who don’t swear at all- it humanises them to me, and give an air of collaboration.

        6. Quill*

          If only done occasionally, advanced warning that someone has just dropped something on their foot / let the machine run too long and ruined their experiment / done something else foolish and only slightly alarming.

          If done more than that, nothing at all.

        7. Lavender Menace*

          It doesn’t necessarily add anything, but there are a lot of things humans do that don’t necessarily “add” anything to a setting.

        8. Mayflower*

          It can be regional. As a consultant, I’ve witnessed culture in many different companies, from small start-ups to corporate giants, in New York, Colorado, and Minnesota. In New York, it’s completely unremarkable to use the f-word in formal meetings; nobody blinks an eye, it’s like the Canadian “eh”. In Colorado, it’s ok to use the f-word but sparingly. In Minnesota, you better have a good reason or people will comment on it. People take their culture with them when they move and are surprised when things are different than what they are used to.

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            True. I’m Australian and everywhere is a sweary workplace. Crude jokes fly in close-knit, casual workplaces like hospitality and not so much in law. But even here, a self-described ‘boys club’ culture is another thing entirely and needs to be put in the bin. F-bombs and poop jokes are a world away from using misogynist/racist/LGBT+phobic/ableist slurs and making denigrating jokes.

            1. Liz*

              In my experience of the legal industry, the crude jokes just have more syllables, and are followed by a particular type of guffaw common to private school boys.

        9. TrainerGirl*

          I worked at a tech company for about 3 years, and while I would describe it as a bit like working in a frat house, I learned to deal with it because it wasn’t a “boys club” atmosphere. Yes, people swore, and I was sometimes shocked to hear executives do it, but I will admit that I learned to enjoy the relaxed, casual environment. I think it helped that there really weren’t any crude jokes, just people cursing when things didn’t work, or customers were awful. It doesn’t add anything to the environment, but I just popped in my ear buds and listened to podcasts and missed a lot of it.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah. Like the time when we were having problems with our network drives and autosave was disabled while they were trying to fix it. I completely forgot about this and didn’t remember to save manually often enough and lost more than two hours of work when my computer crashed and we were working to a tight deadline. You bet I swore at the computer, and I work in a governmental agency. That said, I have never sworn at a person, which I think is inappropriate at any time but especially at work, just at unfortunate circumstances.

          There’s some scientific evidence that shows that if you hurt yourself, swearing actually makes it hurt less. The worse the swear, the more it helps, provided you don’t pepper your sentences with swears all the time.

    2. MsClaw*

      This feels like it could have been written by someone working where I work, although they wouldn’t use the phrase ‘boys club’. They absolutely use the term ‘culture fit’ as an excuse to not hire people they think or too old, too straight-laced, etc. If I had to pick one word to describe this place, it would be ‘fratty’. I am a terrible culture fit for this place, and that’s fine. I don’t care about being friends with these people. And I have made a point of pushing back when I feel like they are using ‘culture fit’ as a cover for some bullshit.

    3. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Unless “boys’ club” means something other than exclusive fraternity (and really does mean that it’s people who don’t follow professional norms and are more laid back), OP needs to change his mindset about work being a private club.
      “I want to work with people like me: casual, crude, relaxed, high-energy. And the only people who could possibly be like me must look like me, sound like me, have my same background and life experience because they are the only ones who think like me, who will be comfortable around me, who I will comfortable around, who will work well with me who I can work well around.”

    4. JJ*

      Cursing is not in the same category as “crude jokes” and “boys’ clubs.” Being a “boys’ club” means you’re very likely excluding people who aren’t your bros at work from information and opportunities, legal red flag alert! Definite morale issue for those being excluded!

      PLUS it is only a matter of time before someone crosses the line with a client. I worked in an office where a bro group got fired because a client got wind of their crude jokes (of course made at the client’s expense) and the client (like 30% of the business) dropped us. Pleeeeease urge everyone to cut this out immediately. Like, this will definitely happen eventually the longer you allow this culture to fester.

    5. Booboo*

      I really don’t understand why Americans are so uptight about swearing. Swearing is totally normal and accepted in most non-customer facing workplaces in my country and in many non-US countries.

      They’re just words. There’s a million “acceptable” things which are far more problematic.

    6. Workfromhome*

      Because maybe they are not in a position to do that. All we know from the letter is that they have people “under them” and that they have some say in hiring an additional team member. They sate that the culture is not likely to change anytime soon. If the CEO owners etc all support this culture and have 100s of employees who fit this culture this person may have little ability to change this (short of quitting). I get that we all want inclusive work places now but it seems like the default these days is the minute someone says something is not perfect that they need to A kick and scream to get it changed or quit because by working there its supporting incorrect behaviour. Not everyone can do that. If this person is not in a position to change this stuff making sure that they are up front about what this workplace is like and that they cant change it to a prospective employee is the best they can do.

    7. TardyTardis*

      Also, you might look for someone who is a veteran. Female and minority veterans are glued into military culture, which is often more fun-loving off duty than people think. Also, I came back from field training with a Language Problem, which became evident when I asked my MIL to pass the potatoes and described them as I did so. If you are looking for someone who looks diverse, again, a female or minority veteran is likely to adapt fairly quickly. And may come up with new and flavorful words that you never knew existed. :)

  2. Fieldpoppy*

    Forest, lol. My response to most of these letters was a giant eye roll, which I think means that I’m feeling like « man we have bigger fish to fry in these times » and « you know you’re in the wrong here, Lw1. »

    1. lazy intellectual*

      FTR, I think these are old letters. I’m not sure how old, but I think pre-COVID. Doesn’t make it better, though.

  3. Bend & Snap*

    It’s 2020. “Boys’ Club” is a gross term and a grosser culture. Interviewing is the least of your problems here.

    1. Cobol*

      Also, women swear (and crude jokes should not be part of work). On at least two separate occasions I’ve had my interviewer say sh*t in an interview. That’s a good way to let people know it’s not a profanity free environment.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        The problem, it sounds like, is that it’s not just a place where people swear and tell the odd crude joke. That does not a boys’ club make. For the OP to describe it as such implies that the culture has other, more toxic qualities.

        1. Cobol*

          For sure. Alison’s original response was spot on, and a boy’s club in any sort of professional capacity is unacceptable, full stop.

        2. MusicWithRocksIn*

          There are crude jokes that are just crude jokes. But ‘Boys club’ crude jokes make it sound like women are the butt of all of them – which is so very not ok.

      2. many bells down*

        Yeah I work with a MINISTER who’s been known to drop an occasional f bomb. We’re all adults, we can handle swear words.

        1. Cobol*

          Frankly, I prefer it. In one of the interviews, the profanity is literally what made me decide about wanting the job.

      3. Tisiphone*

        Hilarious job interview I had in the early 90s. I was inteviewing for a job at the city desk of an electronics warehouse. The manager went through a bunch of typical interview questions and then said to list three strengths and three weaknesses. I got through the strengths OK, but the weaknesses weren’t so easy. The manager said he was thinking of things like swearing, smoking, things like that.

        I told the following joke: I never swear, I don’t smoke, and I don’t drink. G%#$%mit I left my cigarettes at the bar. Again!

        He laughed. I got the job.

      4. Anonys*

        Also, at first he says “inappropriate jokes” and then “crude jokes” – those are not the same to me. Crude jokes are more in the realm of swearing, they might be a little dark and not be to everyone’s taste but also not discriminatory. But inappropriate does imply to me that they are either incredibly sexual in a way not appropriate for the workplace and/or making women/minorities the butt of the joke.

        In combination with the “boys club” comment, I guess the jokes are genuinely inappropriate. The swearing doesn’t worry me, but the implication that (a certain type of) men are more suited to that kind of environment is worrying and will lead to discrimination in hiring.

      5. (insert name here)*

        I said sh*t in an interview just this week.
        Candidate: “I will wear long sleeves to keep my tattoos covered.”
        Me: “I don’t give a shit about your tattoos. Well they look nice and all, but I don’t care if they are covered or not.”

        I feel like I conveyed the right tone about our culture here.

      6. tamarack and fireweed*

        Well, but the LW wrote “boy’s club”. Having an informal culture where the occasional swear word isn’t suppressed is one thing, but if it was just that the LW wouldn’t be worried about fitting in new hires – they’d just pick up on the vibe during interviewing. What the letter suggests to me is that the following are surely, or very likely, part of the package: sexist humor, put-downs of real or imagined outsiders, scathing remarks clad in irony, cursing for effect’s sake (not just as part of regular speech patterns).

        I would be highly surprised if this workplace attracts women, LGBT people, and members of ethnic and religious minorities to the same degree as white guys. And that’s a *problem*. This isn’t something the LW should try to perpetuate by hiring more good ol’ boys compatible with this kind of discriminatory environment – they should try to change it.

    2. Nea*

      I was thinking much the same thing. It’s one thing to ask “Would you have a problem working where people swear?” – I’m a woman, I’ve been asked that, and no I don’t – but it’s quite another to essentially say “Would you have a problem being considered the odd person out and probably lesser because of your gender?”

      Because that is exactly what the phrase “boy’s club” is code for.

      I’m comfortable hearing swearing, I’m comfortable swearing. I’m not remotely comfortable being called out for my gender.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        ““Would you have a problem being considered the odd person out and probably lesser because of your gender?”

        Because that is exactly what the phrase “boy’s club” is code for.”


      2. Simonthegreywarden*

        I would be a little offended to be asked if I have a problem with swearing because I’m a girl (well, woman, but thinking of the mindset of someone asking that).

        1. Ahsley*

          But I know men who are more offended by swearing then I am. What I really hate is when men swear and then apologize because they did it in front of me a female.

          1. Chinook*

            Yup. My response is usually faked confusion and asking why the h3!! they think that would offend me?” (if there are no customers around).

          2. Marissa*

            One time at the grocery store this old dude apologized to me for saying “shit” in my earshot and I reflexively responded “oh I don’t give a fuck” and I’m still proud of myself for it years later.

          3. That_guy*

            I stopped swearing when my first child was born (yikes – 17 years ago). I didn’t want to swear around him, and it was just easier to not do it all than try to switch modes when I got home. I was never a big user of profanity, but my wife can make a sailor blush.
            My co-workers apologize when they swear around me, no matter how many times I explain that it doesn’t bother me, but I just don’t do it myself.

          4. EnfysNest*

            This is a huge fight for me. I am the only woman in my department, but I am NOT the only one who doesn’t personally swear. I have made it very clear over and over that I do not have any problems with other people swearing, and in fact I don’t even notice swear words (I don’t swear for somewhat religious reasons, but I listen to and read things full of cursing all the time, so I truly do not care or notice in the slightest).

            What IS a problem is when a male coworker who has been swearing up a storm in the hallway just outside my office for the last 5 minutes sees me join the conversation, swears again, then gasps and makes a whole production of apologizing to me. It’s so derailing to the conversations at hand and it makes me feel super uncomfortable because they’re singling me out solely for being a woman.

            “Why are you apologizing to me and not Bob (who also doesn’t swear and was there the whole time)?”, “I really want you not to apologize to me for cursing,” “Why would I care?”, and a million other options have made no headway at all. It’s so gross and obnoxious.

          5. Its GIF not JIF*

            OMFG yes. I have a potty mouth that generally helped me fit in better in my male-dominated industry in the Northeast. Then I moved to the deep south, and men constantly apologized for swearing in front of me. My go to was “Oh s***, guess I need to learn to stop swearing.”

            But… its not actually about not offending you. Otherwise the first 100 times you explained it was fine they would cut it out. Its entirely about pointing out that you don’t belong and/or are inconveniencing them by existing.

            1. Tiny Soprano*

              Because of course it’s easier to see you as a collection of cultural tropes than an individual person! Ugh.

            2. Marie*

              Eh, I don’t know. If you’re hardwired to not swear in front of women, as a politeness thing, it can be hard to break out of that habit especially if it’s being reinforced in other contexts (church, maybe?). I’m guilty of saying sorry when I bump into people, even after practicing the less-apologetic alternatives. I don’t actually feel bad for bumping into someone and I’m more likely to be thinking “move, dumbass”, but it’s like a…polite pleasantry? I agree it’s more about them, but I don’t think it’s insinuating that you don’t belong or your “existence is an inconvenience”. I think that’s reaching/projecting a bit.

              – another Yankee transplant

          6. allathian*

            Yes. I’ve had worse, though. Some men swear but think it’s only acceptable for men to swear. When I responded in kind to show I’m not bothered by it, they looked at me like I’d grown another head or a set of horns.

          7. Tabby*

            Ahsley, this exactly. Especially since I swear a LOT in general conversation, though I try to keep it to a minimum at work where customers can hear me. But seriously, I hate it when men pull the ‘can’t cuss in front of the little lady’ routine — sir, I can curse you under the table, do NOT wave a red flag at my inner gutter rat. lol

        2. Observer*

          Well, I would hope that an employer would ask everyone this, because there are men who don’t like cursing either.

          On the other hand, cursing seems to be the least of the problems here, to be honest.

      3. Chinook*

        I agree that “boy’s club” is a code for a place that would not welcome an outsider who doesn’t fit their narrow view and is a flag for a bigger problem.

        But, I am wondering if OP is stuck on a better title for the type of atmosphere that is inclusive but very rough around the edges. I have worked in these places – as long as you can hold your own, aren’t a danger to others and can take a joke, you are “in the club.” Those club members come from different ethnic, religious, and language backgrounds, are male and female (and run from butch to feminine outside of the job site) but are united by the dangerous work they do and the dirt it creates. It also a culture of crude jokes and close quarters that mean you may have to touch someone in uncomfortable areas to keep them or you safe.

        I have seen these guys (and that who traditionally had these jobs) work hard at including people not like themselves, especially women, in the trade because they respect their work ethic as well the different perspective (and smaller body sizes to fit in smaller spaces) and all know where the line is between laughing with and laughing at someone. Their jokes are rough and expect the women to give as good as they get. A good boss knows when to let “gentle hazing” happen without it crossing the line to inappropriate.

        These are also the guys who one came to me to ask if the new hire was a guy or a girl (she was very androgynous looking in her PPE and a non-gendered name) because they wanted to ensure she was gendered correctly (I had to double check the paperwork). And ensured that the PPE available actually fit them (since it was all originally created for Caucasian farm boys, not petite women or Filipino men) and insisted on replacements before the new employees brought it up. So, if the OP works for this type of place, I know it isn’t the issue that others may think it is.

        I was always given a heads up about this in the interview by the type of questions being asked about how I would deal with a situation. Ex: How would I deal with a colleague who walked into the reception area while in mid-sentence and let loose an f-bomb as an adjective? By presenting a real-life scenario, they were giving me both a heads up and informing themselves about how I would react to it (i.e. – am I going to clutch pearls and be offended or read the room and realize it was a piece of uncooperating machinery they were talking about).

        1. Cj*

          I’m not sure that expecting women to put up with rough jokes and to give as good as they get is working hard at including people not like themselves. What you are basically describing are men who are fine with women, as long as they act like men.

          1. anon here*

            I literally had to check the date on this comment. Is it really true that rough jokes and giving as good as you get are purely male characteristics? I’m going to have ask my gynecologist about that… I thought I was a woman but I’m now experiencing severe dissonance…

            oh wait, I’m a mathematician too, I’ve been through this “you’re not a real woman if you act like that!” thing before.

            1. PeanutButter*

              Yeah, I’ve worked in rough jobs (in Emergency Services, specifically) where it’s not “women acting like men” it’s “acting like people who are attracted to this line of work.” In days gone by, only men were allowed, but now emergency rooms attract rough-around-the-edges folks of all backgrounds. During my 10 year tenure in emergency services, I did not notice a disparity between the proportion of men and the proportion of women who left because of culture fit.

            2. Chinook*

              Exactly. I can be prim and proper in language and deportment or the exact opposite depending on the situation. This doesn’t make me less of a real woman because I can code switch. In fact, different cultures have different expectations of how a woman holds herself and interacts with others. The one I come from happens to expect you to speak up if you are not treated correctly and to do so loudly. How else can you expect animals, small children and men who are working around loud machines to listen you yo u?

            3. Cj*

              I should have thrown in an “what men think men act like”, but in the LW’s mind, yes, she does perceive them as male characteristics, since she refers to the people who do these things as belonging to the “boys club”.

            1. Paulina*

              Though like “anon here” above, I also find the gender stereotypes problematic. But “old boys club” type places alienate people who differ from the club, irrespective of gender, and socialization does shape who is likely to fit in, as well as who is likely to have experiences that make the “rough jokes” harder to brush off. Old boys’ club types often have the “I’m an equal opportunity offender” excuse that ignores differences in impact.

          2. Michaela*

            Well that’s because even men and women are different.

            Especially when I was younger I would bristle when women would say all women are a certain way, because that certainly wasn’t true for me (except for the fashion and the shoes). I have a lot of traditionally masculine traits – assertiveness, confrontational and so forth, and I think its more of a personality thing, than a gender thing. What Chinook is describing is cultural fit.

        2. learnedthehardway*

          “Rough around the edges” is a good term for the kind of culture you’re describing – one that is not polished, but not discriminatory, either.

          I did a summer job one year in a company that was in heavy industry, in the traffic department. All men, except for the secretary. The men were all respectful and perfectly nice, but could they ever swear! Seemed to be a tactical approach to things going off the rails (literally). You knew how serious the situation was by how many swears the traffic manager uttered while on the phone.

          1. Chinook*

            Ironically, I love working with these type of guys as new computer users (I teach remotely) because I can tell their level of frustration by the words they use. I am also helping them become “office ready” by reminding them that, unlike most machines, computers do not respond well to bad language and, instead, freeze up and have a nervous breakdown from being belittled. I always get a laugh and slowly softer language as the weeks continue.

        3. Rivka*

          Chinook, yes – I’m in exactly this kind of environment in my volunteer work, which is disaster relief. Coming into it as a woman with a Ph.D. (two strikes!) I’ve found it very useful to consciously “roughen up” my presentation, trading broad joking insults and standing around in the parking lot drinking cheap mass-produced beer that is definitely not to my taste. If I start out that way, I’ve got a much better basis for having what I say accepted when it counts.

          1. Chinook*

            Forget being female – the real strike against you is those “fancy letters” after your name. Too many times the blue collar types are talked down to by those who are big on ideas but lack practical experience, which makes it hard to except one at face value. As I pointed out to one Engineering student – you are a potential safety hazard to them until they know otherwise. Once you can show them that you can dress appropriately and aren’t worried about getting your hands dirty, you will be accepted. they want to see what you can do and don’t necessarily care about where you are from or what you know. They are big on “show don’t tell.”

            1. Rebecca Stewart*

              There’s a reason why one of the T-shirts available for me to buy for my son who is a welder says, “I’m a welder with a high school diploma and I’m here to fix what your engineer with a college degree screwed up.”

      4. NotQuiteAnonForThis*


        There’s is nothing “boys club” about the company I’m employed by currently. We swear plenty, and usually creatively, and crass jokes happen with reasonable frequency.

        But I’m never considered the odd one out, nor am I considered lesser (because spoiler: female in a historically male heavy industry).

        I think the interviewer needs to ask him/herself these questions, and figure out the answer prior to asking the interviewee.

      5. Alexander Graham Yell*

        Exactly. “We have a fairly casual work environment” is one thing – though crude jokes are definitely something that don’t belong at work. “This is a bit of a boys club” says to me that I will not be considered an equal to my male peers and would instantly turn me off. This is definitely a situation where the culture *needs* to change and will limit the team’s and the company’s ability to grow as needed.

      6. Thankful for AAM*

        “Would you have a problem being considered the odd person out and probably lesser because of your gender?”

        Because that is exactly what the phrase “boy’s club” is code for.

        Also +1,000

      7. Jennifer Juniper*

        “Called out” for your gender?

        Last time I checked, “called out” always refers to something you should apologize for and strive to overcome. Gender doesn’t fall into that category.

    3. Just a Cog in the Machine*

      Yes, this all reminds me of an interview I went on for an internship. I don’t remember how the interviewer (a woman) worded her question to me, but my brain translated it into “Are you going to be okay with basically being kind of sexually harassed?” And I needed an internship to graduate, so I tried to convince her that I would be fine. In retrospect, I am not upset that I was not offered an internship there.

    4. Batgirl*

      It’s…very interesting OP chose that term. I’m pulling out all benefits of the doubt, that its not intended to be exclusionary to women.. but it’s just thoughtless if nothing else. Suggests that women don’t get certain types of humour? Or that if they do, they are one of the boys. Inspiring a breakout of ‘chill cool girls’ who aren’t like ‘other women’. Ick ick ick.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yes, in the year 2020, I’m really surprised that someone chose that specific term and seems to think it’s neutral. I’m certain there are worse things about their company culture than just bad words.

        1. allathian*

          To be fair, we don’t know how old this post is and I’m not curious enough to check the archives.

    5. Indy Dem*

      I’m a white het male, who was in a fraternity in college. If someone mentioned that the culture was like a boy’s club in an interview, I’d be out. And not because of the swearing, ffs.

  4. Ray Gillette*

    A bit of practical advice on addressing the “boys’ club” approach is to make sure that there isn’t one lone woman surrounded by dudes. I inherited an all-male team and while they are all good guys who are still doing well today, the group dynamic was such that I could see it being intimidating for one woman to break into. Luckily I was able to hire two people at the same time and as luck would have it both my frontrunners were women, so neither had to be that lone woman in the bro shop.

    1. Chinook*

      Ironically, that also helps change the atmosphere. When we had one female welder, the odd guy would try and help her (and she would firmly tell them what they could with their help). Once we had two, the issue disappeared because she was no longer standing out s being different. Plus, it meant that they could ask for help without fear of it stigmatizing them because they could ask the other woman and it was no big deal.

      1. Lavender Menace*

        I would say that the women feeling confined to only asking each other for help because their male colleagues might look down on them for it is not really the kind of change they were probably seeking, and doesn’t indicate that the issue ‘disappeared’

        1. Chinook*

          I disagree because I saw it, so I think I described it wrong. I do know that it was seen as normal because they would ask each other in the same way as they would ask the guys because it was a two man job. It was also an eye-opener for some of the guys to see the women use different techniques to do the same job (usually due to size or body mechanics) and they seemed to quickly figure out that the women didn’t differently for a reason, not because they were doing it wrong.

          The workplace made a major shift when they went from one female welder to two and then 4 (on a floor of 12 welders). It allowed the women to go from being “the female” to being their own selves who happen to be female. And the change was not just among the men but the initial women as well. (I think it also helped that the women could “bond” in their change room instead of being the lone person away from the group at the end of shift).

    2. kt*

      These are called “cluster hires” in some places and it is really really useful. I was part of a math department that had a number of successful women members in the 1970s and 1980s but after they retired were unable to retain any new women hires at all for a number of years (they’d hire one, she’d win a big prize and get the %*&^ out ASAP, they’d hire another…). Only once they hired, oh, about three women at once did they get to a situation where the dynamic changed enough that they could retain these new hires. I don’t think it was intimidating, per se, just that all the (crap) being focused on one woman instead of diffused was untenable and they were all good enough to find professorships elsewhere quickly (which if you know academia, says something).

    3. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I’m a woman in engineering, and the field is still heavily skewed towards men. For my 5 years of college (including several internships) and about the first 10 years of my career, I was very often the only woman in a group/ meeting/department. It’s not pleasant. Sometimes I was one of two women, which honestly isn’t much better. But I was in that situation for so long it just felt normal to me.

      Now I’ve been at a much better company for years, and it’s so different here. I get paid well, plus the company values diversity. Now typically about one third of my coworkers are women, and it’s wonderful. When a suggestion is made to take notes during a meeting, the whole room doesn’t turn to stare expectantly at me. Sometimes by chance I end up on a team with no other women, but since the overall culture is so different I usually don’t even notice right away. I was recently on a project with a total of 5 people, and for the first time in my career the tables were turned and there was only one man on the team. All of the women, including me, have male counterparts so it was just an interesting coincidence.

    4. Old Doesn't Mean Mean*

      Gotta make sure to hire the right people to break up the boys club tho. I worked (VERY briefly) in an office of pretty evenly split male/female in an industry described as “slightly boys clubbish” in my interview. What that meant, it turned out, was an office full of upper middle class white men and women dedicated to the concept that all groups that werent them (poor, non-white, non-straight/cis, you name it) were trash to be laughed at, mocked, derided, etc. Also, the white women openly laughed at ‘jokes’ that were appallingly misogynistic, because it got them into the inner circle and that’s all they gave a fuck about. In case it’s not clear yet, I HATED that place. I felt physically ill many days knowing I had to go in again, day after day. Fuck “how do we find people who wont make us face our own inadequacies.” Fuck “nobody here minds so its fine”. Fuck horrible attitudes excuses with phrases like “old boys club”, and the feelings, mental and physical health, and professional opportunities of those who ask for it to stop being dismissed as the problem. If you help an old boys club keep its privilege at the cost of others, you’re an old boy, and a jerk.

  5. anonconsultant*

    My friend was interviewing for a position at my small consulting firm. My boss told me “don’t forget to tell her about all the sexual harassment that goes on here” in a joking, but not joking way. Yes, there was harassment.

  6. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

    “We’re very unprofessional and sexist, so I want to make sure you’ll fit in well with that.”

    1. Its GIF not JIF*

      Yes, please DO ask the question so I know to stay far far away…

      And I say this as a former female firefighter, the very definition of a boys club. There’s a huge difference between “we are casual and fun and you need to be able to take a joke” and “we are gross” and if you’re at the point of wanting to ask interviewees how they feel about inappropriate jokes, its the latter.

  7. Crivens!*

    “How do we make sure that the only people who will be comfortable working here are straight, white men who don’t mind bigotry?” is what I’m hearing.

    1. Chat Quiche*

      The most diverse work environment I’ve ever been in also had the most swearing and crude jokes. It was a fine dining kitchen. The amount of swearing in a professional kitchen is off the charts. The people making the crude jokes weren’t limited to gender, age, etc.

      1. allathian*

        Nope, but professional kitchens are also notorious for behavior that wouldn’t be acceptable anywhere else, like chefs shouting abuse at staff lower in the hierarchy. One reason why I like restaurants with an open kitchen area is that at least customers can see what’s going on in the kitchen.

  8. Ginger*

    Op whose colleague didn’t hire her son:

    If you’re advice/coaching to your son includes mailing a self addressed envelope, your other advice may be out of date and/or not entirely relevant for today’s job market.

    Your tenure of 35 years doesn’t mean your child is entitled to a job there.

    1. shannanigans*

      If they haven’t job hunted since 1985 then their outdated advice would be understandable. But since they said they weee also a hiring manager, I wonder if they’ve ever been on the receiving end of a self-addressed stamped envelope from a candidate… and if they were how they would react.

      1. Indy Dem*

        I know you meant “were”, but I can’t help but read the sentence as – But since they said they, WEEE!, also a hiring manager

    2. Black Horse Dancing*

      OK, can we please stop with the ‘no place takes mail anymore for applications!’ Many places do and many use mail all the time. Many still place ads in –gasp–newspapers as well as on their websites.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        True, true, but each tool for its purpose. Would you send snail mail & a self-addressed stamped envelope if you wanted feedback after a hiring? It seems rather quaint.

  9. yllis*

    LW1 – A frat house? A There is Something About Mary special reissue showing then look for the one laughing so hard they’re choking? Send out “You won a lifetime supply of Axe body spray!” postcards then see who replies?

    1. a sound engineer*

      #1 – As a woman in an industry that’s skewed very male and is also more casual than an office environment, there is a huge difference between “casual environment where we curse occasionally and have fun” and “boy’s club”. I’ve worked at both. The places I’ve worked at that would be described as boys’ clubs meant that the ‘jokes’ were offensive and almost certainly directed at me, the only woman, I wasn’t taken seriously, I was last in line for shifts, and I had no chance at getting more hours. If an interviewer mentioned this to me I would remove myself from the process right there. Maybe take the effort you’re using on finding the right wording and put it towards actually changing your work culture into something that isn’t a big red flag?

      1. Batgirl*

        It reminds me of being a teenage work experience girl (15) on a week’s placement, surrounded by middle aged men at a function and all of them making jokes about how tempting/attractive I am to the boss, like I was some kind of sexual zoo animal, the issue raised apropos of nothing. Boss called me out later for the frankly disgusted look of incredulity I responded with: “youll have to get used to that kind of banter in the workplace”. Nope, never did. Worked in all kinds of dark humour, rough and ready, sacrifice anything for a joke places but never came across that kind of mindset, where my gender itself was sime kind of joke, ever again.

  10. Elizabeth West*

    #1–Cursing is not an issue for me, but if an employer mentioned a boy’s-club atmosphere, I’d probably nope right on out of the interview. If they said “People here curse,” I would ask for context.

    Seriously, there should be no boy’s club workplaces. This is 2020.

    #2–Did the intern give a reason for the extension? I had to extend a holiday once when the airline canceled my return flight the morning of the day I was supposed to leave.

    Either way, an internship is a chance to learn workplace norms. Freaking out and firing her isn’t the best way to handle a teachable moment.

    #3–Park that helicopter, Mom.

    #5–What Alison said seems pretty straightforward. It’s better to just move on after the interview after appropriate follow-up, if any, and concentrate on the next one. If you get the job, yay! If not, at least you won’t feel like you hung around for no reason.

    1. Louise*

      Sadly to a certain amount there are still regionally boys club industries. Construction comes to mind.

      1. Sleepyhead*

        Yeah, but you know what? I’ve worked closely with construction crews, and while all are different than say, offices, most would not describe themselves as “boy’s clubs” and would not be problematic to work with. A “boy’s club” implies that they are offensive, and that anyone who doesn’t like it will be ostracized and driven out; anyone who doesn’t fit in will have difficulty progressing. Most construction crews have mad respect for hard workers and will at least try to tone it down if someone who is offended by profanity is around. In a “boy’s club,” certain people will never be accepted no matter what they do, and if anything, profanity would increase when it’s known to offend someone. I’d join the following without hesitation; you could not possibly pay me enough to tolerate the latter.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I second this; I’ve worked in manufacturing where it’s also common. But it wasn’t at every workplace, and it doesn’t have to be.

        2. Pumpkin Spice Unicorn*

          Completely agree. I work with contractors, in an industry where the phrase “potty mouth” is oddly appropriate. Some of the techs have been there longer than I’ve been alive, and I’d never describe it as an “old boys’ club”. The term is sexist and gross and 100% denotes a very specific culture.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Elizabeth – absolutely why you are extending a trip matters! Also important is what/how you say when you call work to tell them you have to extend.

      1) Extending my trip boss, I’ll see you two days later than expected. Bye! (Not going to win you any friends at work.)

      2) Hello Boss, I’m calling from the airport, my flight has been canceled for weather/mechanical issues/problems in the airport. I may not make it back to work on time, but I’ll update you as soon as I know when I’m getting out of here. ( This probably wins you sympathy from the office, and boss probably approves without fuss any extra time off you need.)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Exactly. And since this is an intern, they should take advantage of that moment to let her know what the expectation is. That’s what internships are for.

        I feel like it’s okay to immediately dump an intern for egregious behavior, but this hardly rises to the level of, say, injuring a coworker in a fit of rage, stealing a laptop, or torching the building because you left a candle burning on your desk.

      2. Dust Bunny*


        I once had an employee–I was her supervisor–call us an hour after she should have been at work to tell us she’d extended her long weekend in a city four hours away. No problems; she just hadn’t felt like coming home (with this particular person, I’m pretty sure this was code for “too hungover to drive”). This wasn’t the first time she’d fudged a shift, so we told her not to come back. But she wasn’t an intern and was well past the point where she should have needed “teaching moments”.

    3. Batty Twerp*

      #2 This is absolutely a teachable moment. Also, she’s an intern – is she going to be solely responsible for a business critical event that would be affected by a single day’s delay?
      She needs to learn better communication practices. I was once in a similar position – flight cancelled for 24 hours – but this was before 2000, very much pre-smartphone, and I could only afford a single text message to my boss (140 characters cost over a quid and I was on PAYG!) I was still able to get a reasonable short form of the reason “Flt canx. home 2moro. Will call wen in UK”.

    4. pancakes*

      Same as to #1. Fwiw I’m a gen-x woman.

      I did once work with someone who had a problem with swearing and that was fine too, though she waited a bit too long to let everyone know that about herself, and as a result maybe accumulated more anger than strictly necessary. People did tone it down, and we all moved on. It would generally be pretty rude to not be mindful of a request to tone down a sweary environment, I think.

  11. Well Then*

    I cringed at the intern thing, but truthfully it’s the kind of unprofessional, irresponsible thing I might have done when I was young and very new to the working world. Her manager should sit her down when she comes back and explain why that wasn’t ok, and what the correct procedure would have been. The point of an internship is to learn professional norms, and this is a perfect opportunity.

    1. Momma Bear*

      I think also it may be the way it was phrased. It is one thing to day, “Unfortunately I will need to extend my stay in the NY area. I can be reached at x or y in an emergency. Sorry for any problems this may cause.” The way the intern phrased it seemed very entitled. If OP gets the boss to relent, OP needs to make it incredibly clear to the intern that it can’t happen again and why and how to handle it in the future.

      1. Kittenthatmoos*

        I definitely agree the wording is probably why the boss freaked out. If she had some sort of explanation (too sick to travel, plane issues, etc), it probably would have gone better. If I had ever called out like that, I would have gotten fired.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I probably would have too. I was not an intern when I had to extend; I was a regular employee visiting an SO who lived out of state. I called my boss and explained that the airline couldn’t get me on another flight until the next day. It was better to stay where I was and take the guaranteed seat rather than sit around the airport all night on standby.

          If I’d just said “Not coming back for another day, see ya then!” they would have packed up my desk the second I hung up!

      2. Liz*

        Exactly. This happened to me, at my first job, about 4 months in. I had taken a couple of days off around New Years to fly across the country for one of my BFF’s weddings. I ended up flying home a day later, due to fog in SF and my flight being cancelled. Unfortunately, this was pre-cell phone, internet etc. and i wasn’t able to contact my boss, so my mom had to call for me. I didn’t have any contact info with me. But it ended up being ok.

        at my next job, i worked with someone who had recently graduated and been gifted a week’s trip to the Caribbean. which they never mentioned until the Friday before they were to leave, when they told their boss they’d be out the following week! They weren’t happy with her, but she wasn’t fired, and i’m pretty sure she learned that wasn’t how she should have handled it.

    2. Malarkey01*

      I was a little surprised by Alison’s response that a lot of places let people manage their own time and this wouldn’t be a big deal. I’ve worked in a lot of places where that is true and people can duck out early, arrive late, and leave is more announced than requested (as in “I plan to take next week off, let me know if you need anything before then”). It would still be a bit of a big deal to tack a day onto being out of the office without some extenuating circumstance like flight delay, injury, etc without any consideration for the adjustments people made for your out of office and return.

      Agree that with an intern it’s not a fire able offense and a learning opportunity, but I wouldn’t present it as something that’s okay in most offices.

      1. Lavender Menace*

        I work in a workplace like this. People have extended their holiday by an additional day for no other reason than they wanted to take an additional day and no one blinks an eye. We’re not an office that typically relies on each other for coverage, so as long as the person has vacation and has communicated appropriately with their stakeholders, no one really minds.

    3. Threeve*

      I’ve seen a few young coworkers teased for requesting approval for taking an hour for a doctor’s appointment, or asking permission to take an early lunch–they just don’t know where the norms are more relaxed than they were at school or working in retail.

      Someone who’s been embarrassed about that kind of thing might later on decide to err on the side of independence.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        I’d say this could be company culture specific.
        I have never worked anywhere where it wasn’t at least considered courtesy to let your manager know about a doctor’s appointment, which can come across (depending on how it’s worded and the relationship with said boss) as a request for permission.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I’ve never worked anywhere that relaxed. When I worked retail and shift jobs it was MUCH harder to get time off because I had to cajole someone into covering for me! And when I was in school, if I missed class I was responsible for getting notes and assignments. Getting time off in my current job is a piece of cake.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Most places I know of this would be an instant dismissal.

      Where I go to on this, trying to think like Alison, is I would have to explain to the intern that some employers will fire immediately for something like this. Especially if no reason is provided.

      It could be my area. Or it could be the places I am acquainted with. I would have to do a sit-down and warning with this intern. “Know your workplace!” Cues such as when there is 10 feet of snow that is NOT a reason for not showing up, can guide you as to how best to handle something. I am chuckling because I saw an ad a while ago, “We are only hiring people in this immediate area. Blizzards, white-out conditions, freezing rain etc are NOT excuses for not showing up to work, don’t even try it.” This was a professional office setting.

      I found that ad had two pieces of information. The first is a straight read. The second piece of information I saw, is that if this is the way they “talk” in their ads, the workplace will NOT be better.

  12. Rafflesia Reaper*

    The first person LW#1 interviews: “Yo Alison, my potential boss warned me in our interview that they drop a lot of f-bombs in the office. That’s weird, right?”

  13. Momma Bear*

    Is it cursing and crass jokes or does it really lean toward crossing the line in a way that might be harassment or sexism?

    Years ago I was hired as part of a small team where I was frequently the only woman in the office. It was fine at first but the CEO recognized over time that behavior in the office needed to improve if they didn’t want a lawsuit. We all took training after someone crossed the line from joking to harassment.

    I think profanity is less of an issue than culture. You can mention that there is cursing in the office, but I’d also be ready to tone it down if you would lose a good employee (or candidate) over it. It’s a business decision to make the work environment palatable to more people. And definitely work for change if it’s sexist behavior.

    1. Observer*

      Well, according to the OP it’s a “boy’s club” and the jokes are “inappropriate” which goes well beyond “crass”. So, I do think there is real potential issue of harassment.

    2. Chinook*

      I loved how, after everyone had to do the training, it was easy enough for anyone to curtail behavior that was reaching the line by just saying something along the lines of “dude – don’t make us have to sit through that HR stuff again. Stop it.” It became a nonconfrontational way to flag behaviour they may not have been aware of (especially when it is wrong but not done with malice) while at the same time made it noticeable when someone was choosing to go over that line.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Our training included a lot of good information about how to handle many kinds of situations. It was not just “don’t be a sexist jerk” and benefitted everyone in one way or another. Once it was made plain there were limits for what would be tolerated, it was actually more relaxed because you weren’t on edge waiting for the next cringey thing.

  14. Blisskrieg*

    Maternity leave OP: I’d be hesitant to describe your culture as “very family friendly” if they can only provide unpaid leave. Be mindful of lip service not matching the policies. I do understand budget constraints for very small businesses, and that this may be normal in those situations, but it can be normal and still not “family friendly” when it comes down to brass tacks.

    1. Momma Bear*

      You’re on UNpaid leave. I would step back and re-route people to the folks in the office that should be stepping in while you are out. If you use Outlook, change your internal away message to remind your coworkers who those resources are. It is hard enough to be a new mother without also fielding work questions.

      1. What we've got here is a failure to communicate*

        I would be really tempted to passive aggressively mention in my internal out of office message that I was on UNPAID leave so any response was out of the kindness of my heart.

    2. Rectilinear Propagation*

      Yes! I was very confused when LW #4 described their employer as being family friendly. I had to go back and confirm that I had read “unpaid”.

      1. Sleepyhead*

        I’m thinking she may have meant that the job has a lot of flexibility… so the employer isn’t necessarily family-friendly, but the job itself is, which is why she doesn’t want to leave it.

  15. FormalOne*

    I really wish people (including LW1) would recognize the distinction between a “boy’s club” and a non-sexist culture that is less formal and more jokey. Because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a culture where people are a bit more unfiltered at work. I’m not comfortable with the idea that every office has to be straight laced and formal to be professional (I say this as someone who is prefers to be more reserved and straight laced at work myself). Many women curse like sailors at work or appreciate a more informal environment, while some men won’t fit in. That’s fine.

    The issue is that many people conflate that kind of culture with more sexist attitudes and behaviors, and the latter are obviously not ok. You can be informal and “crude” without tolerating sexism or exclusion, but many act like if they crack down on the sexism they will have to crack down on everything else, which isn’t true.

    1. Scarlet2*

      “You can be informal and “crude” without tolerating sexism or exclusion, but many act like if they crack down on the sexism they will have to crack down on everything else, which isn’t true.”

      THIS. I think there’s a really big difference between swearing and trying to pass bigotry as “humour”. You can refuse to tolerate offensive “jokes” without becoming straight-laced and rigid.

    2. Quinalla*

      Agreed! I’m glad Alison answered as she did not assuming which it was. If you have a casual, swearing is ok environment, just tell people. As someone else said, do an appropriate swear in the interview if that makes sense. If you are casual in other ways, describe it.

      If you truly have a “boys club” where most people who don’t identify as male (and some that do!) feel uncomfortable because it is sexist, bro-culture, your company needs to work on that culture before someone gets sued…

      If it is more it is a recovering bro culture, but your company has been and continues to work on fixing it, I think you can say that in the interview as well. But not in a “I hope you can fit in!” but “I hope you can join us in moving forward and here is what we are doing and welcome further feedback.” My line of work we have some people who fall easily into that bro culture, partly because we are designing for construction – and industry that is so much better than when I started 19 years ago, but still has a long way to go – and partly because it is a male dominated field. It is getting better, especially at my place of work, but there are still thoughtless comments, one million sports references, and so on. I do take new women hires aside at some point and offer my ear if they need someone to talk to or someone to help them out if they aren’t sure if they can or should call someone out. I’m not at the highest level, but only one down, so I have a lot of clout and can utilize it when necessary.

      1. Chinook*

        I like that phrase “recovering bro-culture” because it implies that people want to change but are struggling to fix past habits and behaviour. The intention has changed, which is the most important part, but they need to be called on it when they fall back into past habits. It also means that the new people have to be willing to stand up against it and call it out, but they at least have the advantage that the employer policies will have their back. Not everyone has the emotional bandwidth to do that and a heads up in an interview with the right type of behavioural questions would go a long way in ensuring that the change continues in the right direction.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      “Boy’s Club” is a specific type of situation and problem. One place where I worked, there was a boy’s club. But it was the customers. So there was the protected stuff (remarks about sex, gender, race etc.) And there was an added layer of stuff that is just not suitable in a family environment (toilets and pooping; graphic descriptions of hunting stories and killing, among other things). Things were discussed in loud, animated conversations it was impossible for others not to hear.

      The term boy’s club was meant as a slam about these supposedly adult men. And “boys” was meant in a very derogatory manner. These people were so. very. much. disliked.

      One basic common thing that I see with a boy’s club or girl’s club for that matter is exclusion. And exclusion is done by berating people who are not present atm or by directly putting each other down on a regular basis.
      The whole thing is one big ball of negativity.

      Swearing. I don’t care about swearing. I do care if a dropped screwdriver means a total meltdown each and every time it happens. That is exhausting to have to listen to and put up with everyday. See, it’s not the cuss words. It’s the steady streaming anger that is so damaging. It’s a screwdriver. You dropped it accidentally. Get over it, you know, like adults do. Take your anger elsewhere. So, OP, I’d need more to go on than “people cuss”.

      Nope, OP, you tell me you have a boy’s club environment then I am withdrawing my application.

  16. MerBearStare*

    Literally said “Ugh” out loud when I saw the title of this post. This isn’t directly directed at the OP but “boys culture” in general. 1.) You’re grown-ass men, not “boys.” 2.) Plenty of women, myself included, swear. Some of us quite a lot. This isn’t just something you and your cool boys do.

    1. Krabby*

      I know, right!?

      My absolute kindest reading of this question is that this employer is so unaware of historical and structural misogyny that they think a workplace where people swear is called a Boys’ Club because naughty words are unfit for the ears of delicate women-folk. And that’s still super crappy.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        My interpretation was that OP hates that it’s a boys’ club too, and wouldn’t have taken the job if someone had warned them in the interview.

        1. Krabby*

          I mean, I guess I see where you’re coming from, but my comment was more about the fact that what they describe is *not* in fact a Boys’ Club, just an environment that’s a little more vulgar in regard to jokes and language.

          If it was truly a Boys’ Club, it would be pretty crappy for OP to wash their hands of the responsibility to change something that could be seriously damaging to current or potential female employees (I realize that the gender of OP is not specified, but I assumed male based on their apparent lack of understanding of the term Boys’ Club). If it’s just the bad language piece that caused them to call it a Boys’ Club, then they’re minimizing the term by equating it to simple bad language and not systemic barriers to power and advancement that have harmed women for centuries.

  17. Ashley*

    That boys club letter, sheesh. Allison gave a good response but I want to mention that while I truly don’t mind cursing I have a major issue with being cursed at. So calling me “out my name” or asking me, “where are those damn files” is a no go for me.

  18. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP1, “I know this culture won’t change in the near future” – well, no it won’t, if your objective is to make sure that any new hires fit into this culture. Which by the way, is a great way to NOT get the person for the job.

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      That should be: Which by the way, is a great way to NOT get the BEST person for the job.

  19. Traffic_Spiral*

    For #1, well, firstly you should be more professional at work, but if you refuse to do that… I guess swear and be a general horse’s ass at the interview?

  20. Emily*

    #1 I actually was once asked that in a job interview. Well, it was an interview for an office job connected to a ware house. “You will interact occasionally with the men in the ware house and you will work close enough to overhear them in this part of the building. Their humor can be somewhat crude. How do you feel about that?” I asked for clarification. They meant (bordering on) sex jokes. I was just yikes, yikes, yikes. Everything else about the job was great but that gave me so much pause that I did not mind getting not the job.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      This exact thing happened to me in an interview for a job working around field technicians. Fortunately it was just cursing and not sexism. But I wish somebody had warned me the (married) managers would get into screaming fights in the office.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, if they say there is swearing going on, it’s just the tip of iceberg. The situation is probably way worse and this is the one thing they decided to convey to the applicants.

        I went back to my old company for something. The office person said, “Oh it’s much better here now.” Uh, I know people on the inside and I happen to know it’s a 1000 times worse. But because no one is complaining, then obviously that means it’s way better. Even the immediate bosses had NO idea how bad it was.

  21. Mike*

    Man, Allison went way too easy on LW 1. He’s basically asking “How can we continue to run a hostile work environment and make sure no new hires are gonna go crying to the courts?”

    The answer is: you don’t. If your office culture is a boys’ club, you get rid of the culture, not the staff.

    1. Crivens!*

      Also, how does someone think AAM is the place to ask about how you can maintain your terrible workplace? Do they even GO here?

    2. stiveee*

      What I heard was “how can we essentially screen out female or non-cis/non-straight applicants without making it seem like we’re doing that so we can keep telling those ‘women are from venus’ jokes which are the height of comedy?”

    3. Random Commenter*

      I think she left open the possibility that he used the term “boy’s club” thinking it just means swearing.

  22. D3*

    “Boys club” is NOT a culture you should expect anyone to fit into.
    ESPECIALLY if by crude jokes, you mean sexist, racist, etc. Which IME is 95% of what people think of as “crude jokes”
    By it’s very title, it’s exclusionary and discriminatory.
    And apparently you have no desire or goal to change that.

    You are asking the wrong question. The question should be “how do I root out bad behavior in my workplace?”

  23. AnotherAlison*

    When I hear “boys’ club”, the bottom of my Terrible Things About This Place list are cursing and crass jokes. Lack of promotions and meaningful assignments for anyone who is not in the boys club is near the top. Fix your culture, OP. Even in my industry (construction), this type of thing is starting to have run its course.

    1. staceyizme*

      I concur! It isn’t the specific and lamentably acceptable violations of polite norms that is actually the issue. It’s the “okay, I know we’re off base in how we operate here, but I want to make sure that you fit in with our dysfunction so that we for sure don’t feel uncomfortable about being unprofessional in a professional space… are you up for that?”. Yikes.

  24. Miss Manners*

    I’ve seen, “Does strong language offend you?” as an interview question, but the problem with LW1 is not the swearing, it’s the Boys Club garbage.

    And it is garbage. Crude jokes don’t belong at the office anymore than ethnic jokes, discussions about religion, politics or sex. It’s 2020, this should not even have to be a discussion.

  25. Missy*

    I once had an interview in a manufacturing facility for an entry level HR Generalist role and one of the questions was what I would do if I was catcalled while walking through the plant. I went through several HR-ish explanations like I’d approach them and let them know that was inappropriate or that I would discuss the matter with the HR Director if I was uncomfortable approaching them. It was 15 years ago so I don’t remember exactly what I said.

    Every answer I provided was the *wrong* answer and I walked away knowing the only acceptable answer was “boys will be boys and I will be meek and polite while I’m being harassed.” If I had that question today and had my perfectly normal answers rejected, I’d know the only reasonable thing to do would be to get up and leave. I was oozing schadenfreude when I read the plant closed a few years later.

    1. staceyizme*

      Oh, I’m sorry that happened to you! But your anecdote here is perfect! It sums up “you have to agree to cooperate in your own abuse in order to even BE here…”.

  26. Kat*

    You can change a “Boys Club” atmosphere, if you really want to. However, the managers have to be the ones leading the change and there has to be a consequence for poor behaviour. Eventually the (usually few) hardcore jerks will either self-select out, or be removed. I am a woman who has worked in construction for 20 years, and there really has been a significant improvement in many workplaces over time. If you select only people who accept the Boys Club behaviour, you will perpetuate it.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yes. My company has vastly improved its culture over the last 10 years. It started from the very top with the ceo saying she wanted a more professional environment and we had to sit through trainings and some people were coached individually. Others left. As I’ve gotten older, I just don’t think that stuff is as funny as I did in college, I guess, so I’m glad of the change.

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

    I’ve always hated the whole idea of needing “permission” to use vacation or sick days. I get some businesses need coverage for some jobs, but if I’ve earned it, it’s mine to be used. Now maybe the intern was given vacation on credit as it were — allowed to use time before it was technically earned — but seriously, what would have happened if she had asked for “permission”? Would they have said no? What then? She’s in a different state. I had a boss like that. I went to Chicago to visit an old friend over New Year’s and the flight back was cancelled the morning of… in fact so many flights were cancelled because of bad weather that there were people in the line who had driven down from Milwaukee to Chicago because their flights had been cancelled and they’d been rebooked by the airline at a different airport. People were taking any flights that could get them anywhere near their final destination, but those were very few and far between. So of course I called work and let them know that I wasn’t going to make it back as scheduled and it honestly might be 2-3 days before I could get a flight. I certainly didn’t ask permission — I can’t pull a flight out of my… When I got back the boss called me into his office to scold me and said I should plan on these types of problems when I go on vacation. I solemnly vowed that the next vacation I would absolutely pad my days off by 2-3 days to account for any possible delays.

    1. Madame X*

      I think it is courteous to inform people if your plans have changed. Reasonable people will understand if it is completely out of your control. Based on the LW’s wording it was not clear if some sort of emergency came up or if the intern simply decided to extend her stay.

  28. Rose*

    I also took unpaid maternity leave. My boss and I set a couple of hours of week for me to work (paid) to answer these kinds of questions and provide assistance. If you are able to do it, maybe set up recurring “office hours” and try to get paid for them. I think I worked around 2 hours/week.

  29. staceyizme*

    For the OP whose colleague didn’t hire your son- it sounds like your colleague, inadvertently or deliberately, made the right call! Your natural sense of caution about injecting yourself into the hiring process of a colleague simply because it involved your son is prudent, and it’s a message that you should amplify to yourself. Should your son have a chance to interview for another position going forward, you don’t want him to be eliminated simply because nobody wants to deal with the possible reaction that “mom” might have if he weren’t hired, weren’t paid as much as you thought he should be, weren’t promoted when you thought his work merited it etc… Flip the script a little bit and put yourself into the role of the hiring manager- would YOU want any contact with the relatives of your candidates? The fact that you have access to this person is incidental to your employment there, so it shouldn’t come up (or be brought up) in the course of your dealings with them. You just don’t have standing to speak here, even to ask “why wasn’t he hired?”. To do so would impact his future prospect there, if any, and might also impact how your colleagues perceive your overall fairness and professionalism.

  30. Cautionary tail*

    Sort of on-topic, sort-of-off topic. I was on the Kohl’s department store website on Nov 22 and typed into the searchbar T O O L. At that point a drop down list of autocomplete search terms appeared and one of them was “mens tools.” There was no corresponding “womens tools” I was shocked to see that in this day and age.

    1. Kate*

      I am “that person” who refuses to shop at stores that have separate aisles for “girl’s toys” and “boy’s toys,” and I always send an email to corporate about it.

    2. Dawbs*

      Kohls is awful awful AWFUL about this.
      Like hoverboards and nerf guns being ONLY for girls.

      Please join me in tweeting at/email ing etc frequently.
      (Also, contacting the product’s company is helpful. Hasbro cared enough to temporarily make them fix nerf. Swagtronics cared a LOT and made them really fix it)

      Fight the good fight #letToysBeToys

  31. Ann O'Nemity*

    I’d be interested to know what “boys club” means to the OP. To me, a “boys club” culture means that the business is run and dominated by men, and discriminates against women. The term is not synonymous with swearing. I’ve known boys club law firms with the most formal, uptight environment you can imagine. And I’ve known women-run start-ups that are full of swearing, joking, and drinking.

    My advice to the OP is to stop using the term “boys club,” and describe the culture. If it’s just swearing, say that. Is it extremely casual? Irreverent? Rambunctious, frat-like?

    And another way to get at this is to ask candidates to describe their ideal culture preferences, and/or discuss the kinds of culture they’ve been successful in.

  32. Mel_05*

    My boss warned me in the interview that there’s a lot of swearing. I said it was fine, people swear. I was not prepared for how much swearing there is. And it certainly is out of step with most departments in our company, where swearing could get you in trouble (they’re public facing, so it’s different standards).

    There’s also a lot, a lot, a lot of crude joking. I don’t, so people tend to warn me or step out of an earshot (when we were in the office). I’ve never complained, but since don’t join in they know it is not my cup of tea.

    But. I also don’t know how anyone would complain. It would be really obvious who complained and it would be super unpopular. So, they definitely should be working on not having that be the default.

  33. SusanIvanova*

    “But other workers have to cover for your assignments while you’re out, and we ask for advance notice. ”

    Interns are there to learn things, full stop. Every time I’ve been on a team with interns we gave them nice-to-have projects, not something other people depend on. Even successful intern projects are likely to need some reworking before they’re useful, just because they’re still learning.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      And for that reason, I think it would be good to tell her “this isn’t the kind of thing you do in a lot of jobs.” I wouldn’t fire her over it, but I’d let her know that she can’t assume this is appropriate behavior at her next job.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        In the kind of jobs where interns are common, I’ve never seen anyone fired for missing one day. I think even the places where no-call-no-show can get you fired still don’t do it on a first offense. But yeah, an intern who misses a day needs a lesson on “how to handle a situation where you can’t get to work at all, and how to tell the difference between that and one where you’d *like* a day off but need to be able to accept a ‘no'”.

    2. D3*

      Right? Interns are not supposed to be your core workers. You have to pay core workers. Interns are not free/cheap labor, they are there to learn.
      So you definitely want to help the intern learn from this mistake. But if one day off from one intern means your business is in trouble? You’re misusing interns.

  34. Retail Not Retail*

    My job has seemingly abruptly turned into a boy’s club and it sucks. We had the cursing loosey goosey casual conversation nature and then over the last month a majority of the men have started saying sexist and hateful things. And my manager has started doing borderline things – so one of the 2 men not getting disgusting was like “oh don’t tell anyone”

    We need new blood so bad. (It’s 2 women and 6 men) Also 3 of the men are the work release guys. My manager usually keeps them in check but he hasn’t this month. It’s so terrible!

    And this isn’t construction but it’s adjacent.

    1. The Boys Club's Gotta Go*

      I (a woman) worked in construction and building materials (for a manufacturer) in corporate. It was a bit of a boys club, but there was also another cultural component, because while located in the US, the company isn’t a US company. I digress.

      Anyway, I sat directly in front of the sales department, who were all men. One man in particular would frequently recount his frat boy weekend antics (the women he’d claim he slept with, etc). It was an open office floorplan, so all I had to do was turn around in my seat and look over the divider to be face to face with this guy. At first I would make snide comments under my breath, like “I feel sorry for her” when he would talk about hooking up with some “chick.” Finally one day he was talking and I just said, extremely loudly, “I CAN HEAR YOU!”
      The sad thing was that the “nice” guys that he worked with, who had wives and families, wouldn’t say “dude that’s not cool” so it just kept being perpetuated. And then I had to finally say something because no one else would.

      So if you’re a man in an office and there’s another man that does this kind of sh*t, please call him on it so the women don’t have to. It gets really old having to have that uncomfortable conversation with smarmy sales guys who are most definitely objectifying you as you try to tell them, politely, where they can stuff it.

  35. Retail Not Retail*

    My least favorite coworker – the one who is encouraging a coverup! – has certain swears when he’s really mad, it’s a little comical. Couple weeks ago he decided to say, “oh intercourse” thanks dude i will never effing swear around you you make me want brain bleach

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      I used to sit with someone who said “Oh, thingummies!” and one who said “Oh, poopants!” Having an irrational dislike of all variations on the first, and thinking the second belongs in the playground, I used to find it annoying.

  36. PK*

    I’m struggling with the same problem as LW1, but from the opposite perspective — I work in a very bro-y environment (mechanical engineering), and the constant low level microaggressions are incredibly wearing. Our team lead is actually a woman, but she does nothing to address the issue, and I’m looking to leave the company soon. But in the meantime, how should I answer when candidates ask about our team culture in interviews (especially women/POC)? Is there a professional way to warn them? Do I just lie?

    1. Anon for this*

      Do you think you would face sanctions if you told the truth?

      I am a woman of color who works in a male-dominated field, and although I would overall say that my company and org is trying really hard to change its culture and doing all the right things on face – in practice, it’s difficult to change the culture of a gigantic corporation. Especially when the whole rest of the field has the same problem and threatens to drag you back into the abyss. When candidates ask me about the culture, I tell the truth.

      “Personally, I love working for [company] and on [team]. I can’t say that I have personally ever felt targeted, directly, by sexist or racist or homophobic behavior; on the contrary, I’d say that most people here are consciously welcoming and attempt to make this an inclusive place to work. [Insert some lovely things about our inclusivity activities here.] But a lot of the things that wear on me are more covert, more unintentional things – like people assuming that you don’t [have specific skill/knowledge] because you’re a woman, or looking around an all-hands meeting with hundreds of people and realizing that you’re the only woman of color in the room, or having people ask you inappropriate questions/say inappropriate things because they don’t realize they’re offensive. While I love that my company has made a commitment to growing and becoming more inclusive, we still have a lot of work to do.”

      Now, that’s because I know I won’t face negativity or censure by my management chain for being truthful, and it does help that I have had an overall positive experience. It’s trickier when your experience has been negative, and that’s when I might default to the “it’s not without it’s challenges” kind of comment. There’s also damning with faint praise.

      1. PK*

        Unfortunately our upper management is pretty comfortable with the culture the way it is – so I could probably mention it if it came up in a phone screen, but not in a more formal interview. But thank you for taking the time to type this out! I may have to go with the vague, “not a complaint but also nothing incredibly positive to say” option.

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

      Could you say something like it’s pretty much on par with industry standard (provided that’s true)? If they have any experience in the field, the candidate should know what to expect of the bro-culture. The only time that wouldn’t work is if your office were an outlier in an otherwise great industry. For young candidates that may not know what the industry is like, you could point out the the whole industry is still very XYZ-dominated and this office is on par with that.

  37. A Woman*

    I worked for a “boy’s club” once. What that meant was I was subjected to rape jokes, racist jokes, and comments about my appearance on a daily basis. The HR manager told me to “lighten up” as it was just their culture.

  38. AnotherSarah*

    Is there also an age issue with LW1? It seems like assuming you’ll hire someone right out of college is also something they might want to reconsider. Sure, lots of jobs don’t require years of experience and do require lots of energy, but assuming you’ll hire a 22-year-old (which is probably what they mean by “right out of college”) is also an assumption worth checking.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      Yeah, I didn’t get a great job right out of college. I had to temp around for a while to get experience and connections first.

      1. AnotherSarah*

        That’s what I was thinking….”we don’t hire people who don’t like boys clubs and we don’t hire people who would complain about it…but it’s just coincidence that we only have 25-year-old men on staff!”

  39. Andy*

    I didn’t realise swearing and dirty jokes means “boys club.” Two of the foulest mouths in my old department were on women. One of them was the department manager. When she went on mat leave, yet another woman made her a cake depicting a baby… coming out…

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      You’re a little early for WTF Wednesday, but I think I can swing an honorable mention for this post.

    2. Katbag*

      We did this for a coworker going on maternity leave in my department. The cake looked awesome, and we all thought it was hilarious! But then, we do work in a hospital operating department, and developing that kind of dark humour is unavoidable after being there a while.

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

      I believe Cake Wrecks dot com has a whole section on cakes like that.

  40. TimeTravlR*

    You need to change your culture, not try to find people who will fit. I cannot even believe that needs to be said out loud.

  41. Claire*

    I once worked at a union, in the part of the building housing the call centre where industrial issues were dealt with. Many of the calls were quite tense and the employee was often trying very hard not to go off at a clueless member or a jerk boss. A few choice words when the call ended were not uncommon. I believe that in interviews my boss would lay out this scenario and then check in about how the potential hire would cope with some swearing. (I was told that one otherwise strong candidate took themselves out of the running by responding “In my last workplace I implemented a swear jar”!)

  42. Anonymous Educator*

    Just swear and tell your crude jokes during the interview, and that’ll ensure your “boys club” culture continues, as you drive away plenty of qualified candidates who don’t want to be anywhere near that. You can also leave some Glassdoor reviews of your company that include examples of those crude jokes, so people can get a real sense of what the culture is like.

  43. Delta Delta*

    When I hear “Boys Club” I think an exclusionary workplace where the (male) boss makes deals with other dudes in the locker room at the golf course. You know, cigars and handshakes, that kind of thing.

    When I hear “we make crude jokes” it makes me wonder if it’s gallows humor to help get through the day, or if it’s discriminatory/sexist in nature. If it’s the former, it seems like an office culture thing that might be off-putting to some people but maybe that’s as far as it goes. If it’s the latter, that seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    1. Batgirl*

      I think that’s worst case scenario, but even best case scenario (we just don’t attract women applicants in this field and we don’t care about doing better; as a result we’ve forgotten what language to use in the 21st century) is very ignorant. They must not know anyone who’s had to face gender issues at work, or just not work with any women. I don’t know many men even who’d be willing to put up with that kind of backwater.

  44. Lygeia*

    On LW1: I don’t mind some swearing, but I would be nervous about coming into a culture like that. The thing that would need to be clear to me is that if someone did cross a line that I would be supported. Because this sounds too much like a situation where something really problematic could happen, but when it got reported, management would just shrug and say “It was just a joke! Don’t take Bob so seriously.”

    1. Cathy*

      I interviewed for a job with this kind of culture once, though I wasn’t aware of it until later. The interviewers vaguely asked me what I would do if “someone said something I didn’t like”. Of course my brain went straight to sexual harassment, and they visibly didn’t like my answer about going to HR, exchanging concerned looks and all that. I didn’t get a call back, which wasn’t too disappointing for me.

      Then the person who recommended me for the job let me know they were just asking about swearing. But at that point, I didn’t want to work with people who weren’t able to be honest with me about what the work culture is like. And like you said, I also wondered what they would do if someone did escalate beyond crude words (or if that had already happened before, and that’s why they reacted the way they did during the interview).

  45. fhqwhgads*

    For #5, for my current job they gave me salary range and benefits info during the phone screen to make sure it made sense to move forward at all. And it has turned out to be the most reasonable, rational employer I have ever worked for or with. IMO all employers should provide this info well before the offer stage. Employers who do this are treating the process as a two-way street from the start.

  46. Amethystmoon*

    As a woman who has often been the only female gamer in a group of guys, I will say it is something you get used to. Getting used to is not the same thing as enjoying, though. I did it because I enjoy gaming, and it’s something women often have to put up with. But I wouldn’t want to be the only woman at work. There’s a difference between hobbies and work.
    I’ve also since found better gaming groups where I wasn’t the only woman.

  47. lazy intellectual*

    #1: I’m curious why the LW is using the term “boy’s club” and not just “we use crude language”. Women definitely curse, but there is a difference between just cursing and cursing at the expense of women (aka “locker room talk”). One is exclusionary and the other isn’t. I personally don’t curse but don’t care if other people do. However, I wouldn’t want to work somewhere with people joking about grabbing p***ies and whatnot.

  48. Formerly Ella Vader*

    Lots of insightful comments already on the “boys-club-atmosphere” letter.

    A couple of things to add – I wondered whether the OP wasn’t just saying “how can I give the candidate enough information that they can screen themselves out if they wouldn’t be happy here”, but “what can I ask so that I can judge whether to hire them?” which is even more problematic.

    I also think that it’s not fair to put a candidate on the spot with any “this is how we are, do you have a problem with this?” questions in a real-time interview. You’d probably get more realistic responses if you just describe the things that might be problematic. “We have a lot of dogs in our office” “We work til 10 pm every night in launch weeks, which are once a month” “We all go to the brewpub during working hours and have our afternoon meetings there” “We don’t do formal employee evaluations and raises but will entertain salary negotiations if an employee starts the conversation” “We have a rigid 20th-century dress code for everyone except the boss” “All workplace property is vegan-only including the trucks”. “We have no air conditioning and most of the men work shirtless in summer.” Offer to answer more questions, find out whether they’re still interested in being considered, make an offer to hire, and see what they choose.

  49. Jessica Fletcher*

    Consider that your workplace might not be “family friendly” if it offers zero paid parental leave and then constantly expects you to work during your unpaid leave. They’re clearly don’t make it easy to start a family in the first place!

  50. Jennifleurs*

    I was once asked in an interview, “How do you feel about offensive humour at work?” in a way that made it clear that was part of their “workplace culture”. I answered truthfully and did not get the job lol, nor would I have wanted it by then.

    There was actually HR in the room, but a) they said nothing when this was asked and b) they, like the interviewer, were young and male. For all I know the question might even have been their idea, from this sort of point of view.

    Like, does it let people screen themselves out? Sometimes, if they answer honestly. I’ve answered dishonestly to other sorts of deal-breaker questions because I was that desperate for a job, so it isn’t even foolproof from that angle. And of course as everyone has said, the culture will never change if you only hire people who are comfortable within it.

  51. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    I just love it when Alison tells them they’re asking the wrong question! Yes, this boys club thing sounds very much like it’d be a hostile work atmosphere for all sorts of people starting with that oppressed group that forms 51% of the population. They think they’re screening for “fit” but here “fit” means “people as crude as us (who won’t sue us for sexual harassment when we harass them sexually)” rather than “people with the same professional outlook”.

  52. Construction_Marketer*

    I work at a construction company. I’m young, female, generally come off as put together and clean-cut; during the interview process, actually after they made me the offer, the HR rep called me to specifically say,

    “Hey, we are a construction company and so it’s not uncommon for there to be some cursing/crudeness and the techs can be rough around the edges. We try to foster a healthy work environment, but it might be different than [non profit startup] you came from. I just wanted to make sure you’re okay with that – do you have any questions?”

    It was great and I did know going into it that a union-based contracting company is going to be a bit different by its nature. I did have one sexual harassment issue in the year since, but I took it to HR and they dealt with it swiftly and appropriately. Otherwise, I’m very happy because in general because despite the occasional crudeness, everyone tries their best to be welcoming to newcomers.

    1. AnonPi*

      Better than being asked if I had a problem “getting down and dirty with the boys” during an interview, then proceeded to stare gobsmaked at the two idiots giggling and elbowing each other like a couple of 10 year olds. Of course the interview pretty much went downhill from the start, they made it apparent from the get go I was the only “token female” they were interviewing. Their “joke” was just the icing on the cake.

      For OP or any other person hiring, please do let candidates know if this is the kind of environment they’re walking into, and to what degree (just some swearing, crude talk, etc). I have no problem swearing, but draw the line at anything that would be harassment (for me as a woman, or others such LGBTQ, disabled, etc). I realize you can’t always make major changes, even if you do encourage them, so the least you owe to an interviewee is to be up front about it, and let them decide if they want to work there.

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