interviewer pressed me about politics, I was undercover-bossed, and more

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

1. Interviewer pressed me about the presidential election

I had my first job interview since the pandemic started. It took place the day after Election Day. After the usual small talk of hi and thank you’s, the hiring manager proceeded to talk about the presidential election results and asked what I thought about all the allegations being thrown about, before voicing their support for one of the candidates. They kept saying “don’t you agree?” I was stunned, but chuckled awkwardly and thanked them a second time for the opportunity to interview. The hiring manager commented on my non-answer and said, “I guess we’re not going to get an answer.” The interview then turned tense — they asked me one question and let me ask one question of them before abruptly cutting the interview short (it was scheduled for an hour as it was a higher level role, but lasted less than 15 minutes). The hiring manager emailed me around 3 am the next morning saying they hired another candidate. I know I dodged a bad situation, but what is a good way to handle things like this in the future? I’ve never had an interviewer ask me to comment on politics. Also, the job had nothing to do with politics or writing about politics. It was for a business operations and logistical type role.

That’s incredibly inappropriate — but just as the interview is supposed to be an opportunity for them to learn about you, it’s also an opportunity for you to learn about them. And you learned a lot about their (lack of) professionalism and boundaries, and what it would probably be like to work there. They were rude and wasted your time, but it’s good that they didn’t hide any of that until you were actually working there. (Also, I love that the rejection email was at 3 am — was the hiring manager stewing about it in the middle of the night?)

If something like this happens again, any polite answer is fine because a reasonable interviewer will accept it. One who doesn’t is giving you important info. Personally I’d go with “Ha, I know better than to discuss politics in an interview!” or “You’re not going to get me talking about that in a first meeting” — said cheerfully and as if of course that will be the end of it. If they actually do have good reason for asking — the job is more political than you realized, for example, or you are actually interviewing for a lobbying job and no one told you that — they can explain at that point.

2. I was undercover-bossed

I work in the healthcare field. After a period where our clinic was without a permanent supervisor, we were notified that a new supervisor had been hired and would be starting in the next month or so but not given much other information. One day, two coworkers and I were working in a common area and were approached by a woman who struck up a conversation with us. Our clinic has employees who work in and out of the office, and there are always new faces and staff members I don’t always know. My coworkers and I asked this woman if she was new, some general questions about what position she had been hired for, and if she had started seeing clients. She gave vague answers but insinuated that she was working in the same program as us. The conversation was sort of strange since she was asking us a lot of questions about ourselves and our experiences working with the company, but I didn’t think too much of it.

After about 10 or 15 minutes of talking, she introduced herself as our new supervisor and launched into an explanation of how not revealing who she is when she first meets someone is a tool she likes to use to see if people will tell her things or be more open and honest with her if they don’t know her role when they first meet. My coworkers and I were astounded that she was using a strategy that we felt was deceitful and dishonest.

Since this first impression, I have had a hard time trusting this person’s intentions or feeling comfortable with her in her supervisory role. I keep thinking, “Is this a normal or acceptable way to start a professional relationship with employees?” Am I wrong for now having my guard up in my interactions with her?

It’s understandable that you feel wary and don’t fully trust her! She started your relationship by showing she was willing to deceive you.

And there’s not that much she could learn in 10-15 minutes of small talk! (Unless you were wildly unprofessional and starting dishing dirt on the company/colleagues/managers with a complete stranger. Was she hoping for that?) It’s true that sometimes people are different around the boss than they are with someone they don’t know, but not so often that it justifies starting the relationship off on the wrong foot. There are other ways to learn about a team you’re new to.

It’s possible that this isn’t representative of your new boss’s approach to the people she manages, but she’s going to have a harder time building trust with y’all than she would have had otherwise.

3. How do I leave without looking unreliable to my team?

Earlier this year, I was hired by a company abroad for a position that excites me (and would bring me closer to family) but travel restrictions prevented me from entering the country. The company said they would hold the job for me, as they really wanted someone with my skill set and experience, but they couldn’t afford to pay me in the interim (it’s not a job that can be done remotely). Having no idea how long travel restrictions would last, I started applying for temporary work until borders reopened.

One day, I got a call from a manager who had seen my application for a temporary job at a sister company. He said he was extremely impressed and invited me to interview for a permanent position with him. I was up-front with him about the job abroad and how I was only applying for temporary positions, but he responded positively. He said having someone with my experience on his team for even a little bit would benefit the entire organization and that he hoped I would consider it. He put in writing that I would be released from my contract and duties when borders reopened, and I accepted the position. I felt incredibly blessed and fortunate to have this opportunity fall into my lap!

I love working under my manager, but I have not hit it off so well with most of my teammates. Many complain constantly about, well, everything, including Manager. There are a lot of office politics and negativity, and some seem to always have a problem with our manager’s decisions. I never mentioned the other job to anyone here because a) I had no idea how the corona situation would play out and b) I’ve tried to minimize chatting with coworkers because it is such a gossipy/negative environment.

Now, border restrictions have been eased and my original company is preparing for me to come within the next couple months. I have no problem talking with Manager about this, but I’m terrified about bringing it up with my teammates. If I just say I’m resigning but don’t mention my agreement with Manager, I worry I’ll look flaky and unreliable for leaving a contract job and damage my reputation. But if I do mention that Manager and I had an understanding, I’m worried I’ll be throwing him under the bus and some people will use this as further ammunition against him.

Thinking about having these conversations fills me with dread and anxiety. How do I break the news to not only my team, but the dozens of other people I also work with? Do I avoid mentioning Manager and just say that HR was aware of the situation? And can I wait until my visa paperwork is finalized, or am I obligated to bring it up now?

I think you are over-thinking this! Just be matter-of-fact: “Yeah, it was always intended as an X-month contract; we’d negotiated that from the start.” Say it casually and as if of course it’s no big deal, because it’s not. As for when, with this group I’d probably just treat it like any other resignation and announce it two weeks before you’re set to leave.

If you’re really worried they’ll somehow use this against your boss, you can check with him first — “is there any particular messaging you want me to use when I explain to people that I’m leaving and that our plan was always for the role to be short-term?” But really, if he wanted to hide this from them, you’d probably know (and he probably wouldn’t have done it).

4. How to withdraw from consideration because of a sexist hiring manager

One of my former coworkers, Theon, is trying to bring me on board at his current company. Theon and I always had a good working relationship, and are friendly outside of work as well. He also referred me to my current job and is a big cheerleader of mine, which I appreciate. I am reasonably happy where I am now, but always open to chatting about new opportunities, so I said I would consider it and asked if it made sense for him to submit my resume to get the ball rolling.

Instead of submitting my resume, he suggested that I call the hiring manager directly. This is how I found out that the hiring manager is Ramsay, another former coworker and the bane of my existence for the time that we worked together. I knew Ramsay worked at the same company as Theon, but when we all worked together, they were in a separate chain of command, so I assumed that would continue to be the case at the potential new gig. Not so.

Ramsay was, to put it plainly, a total nightmare to work with. Besides drawing a verbal sexual harassment claim from a woman at my current company, he was sexist in more “old-school” ways — for example, frequently asking younger women he didn’t manage to summarize information that he could easily find himself. He was also disrespectful of others’ time — scheduling last-minute, early-morning meetings including everyone under the sun, for non-urgent items, that he would then come late to/expect others to lead. He would also chastise his own employees about perceived mistakes in front of everyone in our small open office. I could go on.

Just having to work with this man gives me pause, but I could absolutely not tolerate him as my manager. How can I respectfully withdraw from consideration, without burning bridges with either Theon or Ramsay? (Ramsay also had a fairly high opinion of me, and is more senior/well connected.)

If you don’t want to get into the details with Theon, the easiest way is to just tell him you’ve thought it over and decided to stay in your current job for now.

Alternately, though, you could tell him the truth — anything from “I found Ramsay tough to work with at OldCompany so I’d be wary about working for him, but thank you for thinking of me” to “a lot of women found it tough to work with him” (if that’s true? it sounds like it is) to a more specific explanation of the problems you saw. How detailed to be depends on how candid you’re comfortable being with Theon … but there’s an argument for not being terribly concerned if Ramsay’s reputation follows him around.

As for Ramsay, if he already knows you’d been interested in the job, you could ask Theon to just explain you’ve decided to stay where you are. People decide that all the time, and it won’t be weird.

5. Announcing a pregnancy when I’m remote

I’m pregnant with my first child and will be far enough along to announce it at work in a couple of weeks (just waiting for the all-clear from my OB). Due to COVID, I’ve been working from home since March, although I have gone on site occasionally. I work with people in many different departments, and there’s a mix of people on-site most of the time, on-site some of the time, and fully remote.

I’d like some tips on etiquette for announcing my pregnancy. I already have routine status meeting with my boss over teleconferencing, so I’m planning to tell him then. But what about everyone else? Is it okay to share through a mass e-mail, through individual IMs, or should I set up specific telecons to discuss it with the groups who will be most impacted by leave? I’m at a senior individual contributor level, but there will be parts of my job that require a specific person dedicated temporarily, rather than just being absorbed by others in my group in a similar role.

I wouldn’t set up specific calls for the groups most impacted at this stage — that’s something that might make sense to do closer to when you go on leave but at this point you’re probably not talking specific logistics, just sharing the news. One way is to just share it with people as you talk with them — like saying at the end of a call, “I have some personal news to share.” But it’s also fine to send a mass email to your team. I wouldn’t do a company-wide email unless your company is pretty small, but if there are people on other teams you work with a lot, you can send them individual emails (“just to let you know / expect to be out from May – July / will talk details about coverage during my leave closer to then”).

{ 404 comments… read them below }

  1. Jane Smith*

    LW2: That’s weird and I don’t blame you for finding it hard to trust her. I guess the only thing you can do is continue to be professional towards her? It’s really up to her to build the trust now.

    1. BethDH*

      Yeah, I had a new manager once who asked a question early on that was something like “what would you tell a new peer about how to work with your colleagues most effectively?” And I feel like that was the good version of this.
      Even though I was circumspect, I’m sure the manager learned a lot about us that way, including who just complains at the first opening. And no deception was required!

    2. fukem*

      Right?? I had a new CEO and in his first meeting with me he said “Hmmmph! You’re overpaid! But god job on your ‘portfolio’.” (We were a nothing private enterprise with a <10k customer base and static customer acquisition for the last 10 years – he acted as is we were IPO status!) And then never he referenced it again.

      Once those impressions are expressed, every single interaction with that person is tarnished with them. I never trusted him since that statement.

      4+ years later – company is in a worse position. Probably because even though they did lose my salary (I quit) – they had to replace me with 4 people at 5x that total salary. #sosad

      1. Minbari*

        With due respect, you’re taking an offhand remark, probably intended in a lighthearted way, far too personally.

        If he really thought you were overpaid, the company would have probably addressed the situation, rather than never referencing it again in the four additional years you worked for them.

        But you sure showed them, working there for four additional years. Seriously, do you think he’s even drawn a connection between that incident and your leaving four years later? Do you even remember specific conversations you had four years ago? #walkingoneggshells

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          “Hmmph you’re overpaid!” as the very first thing you say to someone isn’t exactly light-hearted. And if it truly was light-hearted and the boss ended up being wonderful, I’m fairly certain fukem would think of it as just a weird first interaction, instead of it being the first in a string of further not-great interactions. Bad first impressions can absolutely affect how you view someone, and it sounds like the boss didn’t do anything to undo it.

          And while you might not remember exactly what someone said a few years ago, you absolutely can remember how they made you feel.

        2. MissBliss*

          It does not read to me that they stayed an additional four years. It sounds like they left relatively soon after, and in the 4+ years, the company has had to replace them 4 times.

          1. jojo*

            The company had to hire four people to do what one person did. So there was a reason she was “overpaid” but still paid less than the competition.

        3. Amanita*

          “With due respect, you are obviously wrong about your personal experience. I, a stranger with no direct knowledge of the situation, feel confident in saying that this is actually what happened.”

        4. tangerineRose*

          To me, this doesn’t sound like an offhand remark. It sounds like a signal to fukem to look for a new job.

        5. Autistic AF*

          Even if fukem wasn’t overpaid, I’m sure the 5x their salary is felt. Not sure why your instinct is to downplay a stranger’s commentary, though… #gaslighting

        6. Jennifer Thneed*

          No, “Hmmph you’re overpaid!” during a first meeting is like when a boss jokes about how she can fire you any old time. Probably meant as a joke, but definitely can be hostile, and tone-deaf to how it sounds to the other person. So, at best, the speaker is tone-deaf to hierarchy issues; at medium, they make vaguely hostile “jokes” habitually; at worst, they’ve just announced that they are adversarial with their team.

          1. The New Wanderer*

            Agreed, that’s already a lousy start whether it was meant as a joke or not. It’s objectively not funny because of the power imbalance. But the next part is what would have bothered me far more, if the tone of “Good job on your ‘portfolio'” really demonstrated the sarcasm of the airquotes.

    3. CM*

      She may not have learned much about you, but you learned something valuable about her. Her judgment is questionable and she is not always straightforward, so you’ll need to be cautious with her as your boss.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I also think this is a boss you might have to watch your back on. I’d be slow to trust her as well.

    4. Totally Minnie*

      I feel the same. LW2’s supervisor chose to begin her association with her new subordinates by playing mind games, and it’s not surprising at all that the team would find it difficult to trust her after that. I think a watch and wait strategy here is probably best. Do your job, be polite in interactions with the supervisor, and watch what she does and says. It’s possible that this is the only weird thing she does in her capacity as a boss, but I think it’s probably more likely that she’s got other odd and unconventional practices you’ll want to be prepared for.

    5. Anonys*

      In the brilliant and underrated show”great news”, Tina Fey’s character comes in as the new grandboss and infiltrates the staff meeting as a janitor before ripping off a full face mask and revealing herself. She apologises for “undercover bossing you” but says she had to do it to “get an unbiased view of how this place runs” which sounds like exactly the reasoning OP’s boss gave. The scene is hilarious like the rest of the show but you know, the whole humor is based in the fact that that’s a weird and boundary crossing thing to do.

      Basically, your workplace/management style generally shouldn’t closely resemble something that could happen on a workplace comedy or reality TV.

      1. irene adler*

        Agree with your assessment. This was something for the movies.

        There’s an old Robert Redford movie that starts with a similar premise. Only it’s a prison.

      2. TardyTardis*

        Although this brings back the two different episodes of Kylo Ren: Undercover Boss on SNL. Be glad if it doesn’t end the same way…

    6. Someone*

      #2 signals manipulative person. If this person isn’t naturally manipulative, then they have learned that manipulation is ok to use. I wouldn’t trust them.

    7. So very anon*

      She wants honesty gained through deception? Ha, that’s a terrible sign. I would be veeeery tempted to tell every new employee that story, in a light-hearted, ha-ha isn’t she quirky tone, so that those with ears to hear know what they’re dealing with in her.

  2. CurrentlyBill*

    LW2: It may be a little unusual, but at the same time, this isn’t that different from all those folks working retail and food service who will regularly encounter mystery shoppers.

    It’s likely not effective for only 15 minutes, but maybe the boss did learn something. I don’t see it as any kind of breech of trust. It’s a good reminder to maintain your professionalism at work, especially around folks you don’t know

    1. Pandas are the best bears*

      See I disagree. Secret shoppers are different, both because the workplace settings and norms are different, and also because the secret shopper is not your boss. Once the shopper leaves you never see them again, that is the whole point. A manager lying to employees on her first day is a breech of trust. I don’t think it’s impossible to recover the relationship, but if she’s willing to lie about this, is she willing to lie about other things? Plus it would make me feel like I was always being watched, which isn’t a good start to a relationship either. It feels like she doesn’t trust her employees to behave or act professional without a manager standing right there. That may not be her intentions, but that is the effect.

      1. allathian*

        You nailed it in your two last sentences. It would take a lot for me to trust a person like this again. Fortunately there’s no chance it would ever come up in my current job. The lists of candidates for public service jobs are available on request from the employer here.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        While a secret shopper is not your boss, whatever they write up CAN get you fired. I have seen this one too many times. Usually it’s for the slightest transgression, real or perceived.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Anyone working food service or retail KNOWS that secret shoppers are a possibility. Also, you should be polite to any customer/client regardless of field. Someone who is not a secret shopper can still make a complaint and you can get fired. Because retail/food service.

          On the other hand, this is wildly out of the norm for most other fields. While again always being professional is a good idea, you don’t expect your boss to be sneaking around to spy on you just to make sure you are professional. It’s just not done. Because your boss should not be playing “gotcha” with you.

          1. GothicBee*

            I worked food service was familiar with the possibility of secret shoppers, but if a new manager had come in without being honest about who they were and then proceeded to try to get information out of me about the workplace, I’d find it really hard to trust them.

            Also, secret shoppers are different in that they’re only monitoring and scoring your service and/or the general state of the store. They’re not pumping you for info about your workplace or your coworkers. In fact if they did that it would defeat the purpose of being a *secret* shopper.

            1. pancakes*

              Yes, agree, and the gotcha element is unsettling. I was a mystery diner for a local restaurant group for a few months, and that was not an element of it at all. I acted like any other customer. The point was to score the food, drinks, and service against a rubric and produce reports about that, not to put the staff on edge, or to try to entrap them into gossiping or doing something wrong.

        2. PVR*

          But a secret shopper is evaluating your job performance in how you interact with customers when no one else is around and that kind of information can be useful. The secret shopper is NOT your boss or anyone you know, and theoretically then is representative of how you treat customers. That is not at all what the boss did here. In this case boss decided to pretend to be a coworker which isn’t the same thing at all.

          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            This is an important distinction. In retail, the customer experience is literally your job. So a secret shopper is evaluating you on the most fundamental thing you were hired to do.

            The OP is a healthcare worker. The “undercover boss” did not pretend to be a patient, or a client, or any other person the OP would interact with as a core function of their job. They pretended to be a coworker, and they were evaluating the OP not on their work, but on how they talked about the job around the watercooler. It’s not the same at all.

            It would be like if, in retail, instead of secret shoppers, they had secret new guy hanging around the breakroom trying to get you to talk smack about the bosses on your lunch.

      3. Violet Fox*

        You’re also warned when you start working at the job that secret shoppers are a thing, as well as a rough idea of how they grade things and what they are looking for. At the cafe I worked in when I was in high school, we had secret shoppers, and always had good scores because we were trained to assume *everyone* was one.

        It also wasn’t any sort of trust breech because we knew this was a thing that could and did happen.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes, I worked in a shop as a Saturday assistant as a student. We were well aware we could have a mystery shopper at any point and told what they marked us against.

          As you say it wasn’t a breach of trust because we expected them. Also they were doing their job making sure we were doing ours.

          Having your boss turn up incognito to try and get you to spill inside information is a completely different thing.

    2. Artemesia*

      If this occurred inadvertently it would be different – and of course everyone knows they might be ‘secret shopped’ if they are in retail. This was sneaky and of course being wary of this person’s integrity is a reasonable response.

    3. Anonys*

      It’s so different. People in retails/restaurants/etc not only know that mystery shoppers or restaurant critics visiting is a possibility, in those cases it at least directly assesses performance as these are customer faced roles and mystery shoppers can directly asses how well customers are served at the particular place at work.

      So the only way this would be “not all that different” was if the new boss actually went undercover as a patient/client which would be impractical in a healthcare field. At least I really hope “mystery clients” never become a thing in health care! That’s what patient surveys are for. And even then, mystery shoppers are never ever someone’s boss but rather hired externally, so basically, I don’t think your analogy works.

      I agree it’s not a breach of trust, simply because trust hasn’t been established with a stranger, but its certainly a way to obstruct building trust with your employees. And I think it’s the new supervisor you needs “a good reminder to maintain professionalism at work” because I don’t think deceiving people about your identity to trick them into telling you more (juicy?) information is very professional.

      Taking your approach to managing straight from a reality TV show is likely generally a bad idea and I hope this woman isn’t also a fan of “the apprentice”

      1. Washi*

        I actually thought this was where it was going, that she would pretend to be a difficult patient and see how the receptionist dealt with her or something. Which would also be incredibly weird but somehow more logical than pretending to be some other new coworker and being all “what’s up fellow employee?” I really don’t know what she was hoping to gain, unless one of the OP’s coworkers is such a blabbermouth that they would immediately start gossiping with any new staff member.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Trust. My husband used to comment that there are some areas of the country where trust is a given UNTIL a person proves themselves not trustworthy. He always thought that us on the East Coast collectively thought of trust as earned and not an automatic given. (Not everyone and not everywhere on the East Coast, but more so in the east than anywhere else in the country.)

        What is interesting here to me, is that either way, this supervisor probably does not have the trust of her employees. If they were going to automatically grant her some level of trust they won’t now. And if they were waiting for her to prove herself trustworthy she has already proven she is not trustworthy. Boy, she really blew this one. Now she will have to take the slow, hard road in leadership.

        1. LW#2*

          I think this is a great point. I consider myself to be someone who tries to enter into interactions with people trusting that they are being genuine. I think it is sometimes my mistake that, because I tend to be straightforward and honest in my interactions with people that, other people will be too.

          1. Smithy*

            When it comes to work, it’s taken me a while to find a balance between finding a mix of trusting the best of a manager’s intentions and the balance with situation beyond their control.

            Like a manager that comes in and asks to be cc’ed on everything. Is that micromanaging? Are they trying to get up to speed, and that’s just their initial style? Or is that a directive from higher up? So there often is a mix of trying to give new leadership some grace in between those spaces while still being cautious. However, it seems wildly unlikely this was anything other than the manager’s initiative and just speaks to such distrust.

            Not to mention….if you’re in the medical field, being somewhat inquisitive of who’s “behind the scenes” makes sense from a confidentiality perspective. Not that you need to grill every professional, but certainly to make sure that a patient or family member hasn’t wondered in.

        2. Tammy*

          I think this is where I come down on this one too. Rightly or wrongly, what this supervisor did undermined the trust of her team. Regardless of why she thought this was a good idea (and whether or not she was right or wrong), that’s the effect her actions had. So now the operative question is, was the information she could reasonably expect to gain from the ruse worth that cost? I can’t imagine she’s learned anything so valuable that it would be.

        3. Filosofickle*

          I have found it very helpful to understand that there are people who mistrust by default and those who trust by default. I’m the kind who sees trust as a given until proven otherwise. It works out more often than not and is, frankly, a more pleasant way to operate for me. (No idea if it’s regional — I’ve lived in 3 regions and 5 states, never sure where I got what. But never lived on the east coast.)

          1. boo bot*

            This is interesting! I kind of casually assume the best of everyone while not investing too much time or energy in a new person until I’ve gotten to know them. I think that would work out to “mistrust by default,” but I don’t really feel like I’m especially untrusting, it’s more just that for the vast majority of people I meet, it will never matter whether or not I trust them.

            I think that sounds more negative than it feels! Basically I assume most people are doing the best they can with what they’ve got, but I won’t share secrets until I know them pretty well, and I won’t invest in their underwater time share until I’ve seen it for myself.

            I’m from NYC; I think the regional thing might factor in here.

            1. Filosofickle*

              I’d say you’re actually trusting by default if you’re generally giving people the benefit of the doubt! It’s just common sense not to be super vulnerable with total strangers. I’m not so trusting I get taken by Nigerian princes or anything. I suppose it is more nuanced than just yes/no.

              For context, I was thinking largely of work. I’m a consultant. I join new teams several times a year, and my default setting has to be to assume that everyone is responsible and capable or else we’re not going to bond the way we need. We have to trust. But I use a ton of judgement choosing my teams — I suppose it’s fair to say I trust who I engage with but I don’t engage with everyone.

    4. MK*

      And the employees learned something too: their new boss’ management style is gimmicky with delusions of Jane Bond. You only get to make a first impression once, and the first impression I would get from this is that the new manager is a fool who thinks playing stupid tricks is brilliant out-of-the-box thinking. Is “maybe she learned something” worth starting on the wrong foot with you new team? What could she really have learned that she wouldn’t have found out anyway? And why would you even give that much weight to a random moment of an employee’s behaviour?

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        the first impression I would get from this is that the new manager is a fool who thinks playing stupid tricks is brilliant out-of-the-box thinking.

        Same. And thats a hard first impression to overcome.

      2. Smithy*

        This is it – it’s so gimmicky – and strikes me like a concept I’d be distrustful of in a “new ways to be the best manager” buzzfeed kind of online listicle.

        If this happened to me and in a few weeks I felt stressed/overworked and felt the need to take a sick day to recover – this is the kind of manager where I’d just call in as sick and not feel comfortable opening a larger conversation about being burnt out. I’d want to feel like I had more time to feel out the reaction I’d get.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I read it and said, “Oh. Is this her first day working EVER?” As employees we know how it feels to be spied on.
        If she has ever been an employee anywhere, she should know something about this topic.

        And worse yet, she has just telegraphed that she has little to no confidence in her own leadership abilities.

    5. pleaset cheap rolls*

      ” this isn’t that different from all those folks working retail and food service who will regularly encounter mystery shoppers.”

      Other than never interacting with the mystery shoppers ever again vs working with the manager almost every single day – yah, pretty similar. Suuure.

      1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

        Don’t forget about being advised during new hire orientation, you’re flat out TOLD you could get mystery shopped!

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

      Not really. The way OP’s supervisor approached them sounded like an information security excercise, like anti-phishing training campaigns InfoSec likes to run, although such events are announced well in advance. Makes sense since they’re in healthcare, but I don’t think is the best way to meet your new boss.

      1. TTDH*

        This was my first thought! Why would someone respond positively to being pumped for information about their job/team, knowing that security is a constant concern? When we were in the office, my company’s security team would occasionally bring in folks to try and talk their way into getting someone to let them into the building (prox card access), or try to enter a restricted area of the building and see whether anyone flags them down.

        1. LW#2*

          That makes sense, but in this case it was definitely not about security or trying to get anyone to have a breach of confidential information.

      2. Arvolin*

        The phishing test emails we got were not from my boss, and secret shoppers are not supervisors. In some fields, it’s reasonably common for the company to hire penetration testers, who will try to talk themselves into information and access they shouldn’t have (and some of their stories are quite entertaining). These people are not in the chain of command, and you’re not going to see them again.
        (My favorite penetration test story is from before WWII, when the Navy had Fleet Problems without rules on what one side could or couldn’t do. In this one, one team was deploying its force through the Panama Canal. A member of the other team, wearing the insignia of the first team, snuck on board the lead battleship one night, talked his way into a magazine, left a fake device in the powder stores, and went to the bridge to tell the captain his ship had just exploded.)
        The idea of a supervisor doing such a security check is weird. If security is any concern, you do NOT trust anyone you don’t know who claims to work for the company, let alone is your supervisor.

    7. LW#2*

      I agree that breach of trust is perhaps not the right way to describe it since I didn’t have any trust established with that person to begin with. I would say it did make me wary of trusting them going forward and skeptical of their intent as well.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        I think it is a breach of trust. We generally trust strangers to be explict about their role in relation to us.

        If someone interrupted you at a cafe to explain that the shop was closing, you’d reasonably believe they were an employee. If someone is dressed in a jumpsuit told you the toilet was out of order, you’d reasonably believe they were in maintenance.

        It’s not weird to have that sort of trust — we need that sort of trust, or else we’d walk around wary all the time. It would be exhausting. Especially in a workplace where you interact with a lot of new faces.

        1. Jennifer*

          I think that more people than you realize are wary of strangers. I mean, I don’t necessarily think the person ringing me up at the grocery store is an imposter, but I’m always on alert when I’m approached by someone I don’t know. Maybe it’s a regional difference.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            There’s a difference through between being wary of those you don’t know and reasonable belief that those around you aren’t actively pretending to be someone they’re not.

            I’ll make a logical assumption that someone walking out of the bathroom with tools & work overalls that tells me sorry, this bathroom’s out of order is maintenance/a plumber. That doesn’t mean I trust them for anything and everything, I am not going to just happily follow them down a dark alleyway if they asked, but I will trust that the bathroom really is out of order, and I’m not going to barge in and check for myself.

            I’m going to assume as well that someone that presents themselves as a new coworker is actually a new coworker, because that’s an incredibly odd thing to lie about – especially as the new boss.

      2. Jack Russell Terrier*

        I agree – yet it is a breach of trust from the other side. The sneakiness means she assumed you’re not trustworthy.

        1. LW#2*

          I agree. The assumption that I would not be honest did bother me and was something I thought about when wondering why someone would choose this approach.

    8. Jennifer*

      I kind of agree. I guess I don’t immediately trust anyone so there would be no trust to rebuild. I’d just see how I enjoyed working with her and go from there. This wouldn’t sway me one way or the other.

      I’m also a little disappointed because I was hoping the OP was actually on the hidden camera show :)

      1. LW#2*

        I am so glad my reaction was not taped. I’m pretty sure I looked like a deer in the headlights and needed a second to even know how to respond. It’s not my natural inclination to have a poker face!

    9. Lacey*

      A secret shopper is having a shopping experience an reporting on specific parameters of it (did they tell you about the seasonal selections? did they smile? etc.) That’s not quite the same. And it isn’t normal to have someone undercover outside of retail – and in retail any customer can complain any time, it’s not that different.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Right! And at the end of a secret shopper’s visit, they don’t go up to you and say, “Oh, by the way! I’m a secret shopper! Gotcha!”

      2. tiny cactus*

        I think this is another one for the “treat employees like adults” column. The boss didn’t extend the benefit of the doubt that her new employees would be professional and honest, so she can’t really expect them to respond with more trust than she showed them. She set up the expectation of distrust and antagonism from the start.

        I wouldn’t really hold up the mystery shopper as a paragon of great workplace dynamics either, since it’s pretty common in retail to distrust employees and refuse to treat them like adults.

        1. LW#2*

          I agree. There was something about the approach that made me feel like we were not being approached as professionals. The assumption that we would could be easily trapped into bad behavior from the first meeting was kind of insulting.

    10. AKchic*

      A secret shopper is looking for a set list of criteria, and depending on who is paying the secret shopper/what the secret shopper is contracted to do; there could very well be a specific outline of what is supposed to be happening (i.e.; trying to find out if the cashier is carding for cigarette/alcohol sales, or if the greeter is tagging returns and checking carts/receipts, or if the floor staff are answering questions properly and pushing the warranty on high-ticket items).
      I spent a year doing part-time secret shopper work. It is a lot different than temporarily misrepresenting yourself (even by omission) to your employees in order to try to “gotcha” them into being somehow unprofessional, or revealing some kind of truth that she couldn’t have gotten by any other means of observation (I kind of doubt that). Her willingness to be manipulative right off the bat speaks a lot about her as a person and as a manager, and revealed more than she thinks it did, and probably more than she wanted it to. I’d be extremely wary of her. Managers who play games rather than put in real, honest effort are a hazard.

    11. Tobias Funke*

      Okay, but you don’t have an ongoing relationship with a secret shopper. They do their transaction and they write their report. It’s apples and giraffes. Scolding the OP to maintain their professionalism is absurd.

  3. MM*

    #5- I am also working remotely and became pregnant during the pandemic. I announced it in an email to my boss first, and then a separate email to the team. I did not want to bring it up in a video meeting as another coworker had a miscarriage a few months previously. I thought it might be difficult news to hear when we were all on a video call.

    1. Quinalla*

      The way I’ve seen it handled is folks emailing or announcing during a regular team meeting. In pre-COVID days, I used email to inform everyone (after telling my boss) at my small company (we were around 10 people) as it was just easier because everyone traveled a lot, so we were almost never all in the office at the same time. Otherwise, I would have done it in person mostly likely.

      I do know the two women who were pregnant (they’ve had their babies!) said it was really weird that they had to announce it to let everyone know. Normally you announce to your own team early, but everyone else figures it out cause ya know – belly. They said it was very weird to have people that could see them on video chat and work with them every day not know they were pregnant. I figure it gives a taste of what expecting Dads feel like where no one can tell by looking that they are expecting, kind of an interesting thing.

    2. turquoisecow*

      My boss’s boss left the company while I was in the early weeks of pregnancy and he and I were moved under a new boss (who already worked there, we just moved to her team.) as part of this move, boss’s boss set up a call with me to talk about what I do and any concerns I might have. I used that call to tell her about the pregnancy.

      I also told my boss in a private phone call. We don’t talk on the phone regularly, just as needed, so I asked him if we could talk and then told him. He was nervous I was calling to say I quit, but was happy for me.

      The team has a weekly meeting every week so I planned to just tell the whole team at the next meeting, but one of my coworkers announced her pregnancy that week and I didn’t want to be seen to steal her thunder, so I did it the following week. If we hadn’t had weekly meetings I might have just told people in email.

      My job doesn’t really overlap with the rest of the people on the team, so there wasn’t a lot of logistics to work out – boss just took on what I was doing, and since I’m part time it was no big deal for him. And since there was a pandemic going on and we were all remote, I waited longer than I think I might have if we weren’t remote (I was due in September and I didn’t tell them until June.) But also, thank goodness for remote work because I was super nauseous and exhausted for the first four months and this way I could work from bed looking and feeling like crap and no one knew a thing.

    3. nym*

      We’ve had two pregnancy announcements during the pandemic, and all of these methods were used. Both women (I assume) told their immediate supervisors during a 1-1 meeting; one of them told me personally via IM, as we’re friends as well as coworkers, and the other one sent a subtle email to our immediate team (a pic of her toddler wearing a “Big Brother” t-shirt with no other caption — not everyone picked up on it right away!). Both of them made announcements at a full staff meeting for people who hadn’t already heard as well, and the announcements were preceded by the lead saying something like “before we do the full round robin, so-and-so has some personal news to share with us”.

    4. Beep Beep*

      I was pregnant before all this and was about to announce when I was sent home on line with our country’s guidance at the time (my managers knew). I did manage to tell quite a few colleagues in person.

      But I assumed that office chat was working in the same way as before and that word would get around, but it didn’t! I posted a bump update pic on a social channel at a colleague’s request and shocked a few people who wouldn’t be directly affected by suddenly being 5 months gone.

      I definitely recommend telling people as you speak to them and reaching out to specific teams/people that you work with regularly.

      Bump is now a happy two month old and we’re enjoying a very strange maternity leave hoping we can get out and about a bit more before our year is up.

  4. Harvey JobGetter*

    Re OP1: am I really not allowed to screen for people who believe the presidential election was fixed? I know politics is a disaster in interviews, but I don’t trust the judgment of people who think the whole thing was fixed in a totally nonsensical way. I honestly and firmly believe that anybody who actually believes that conspiracy theory could competently do the jobs I’m involved in hiring for. (On the other hand, the people who don’t believe it but advance it in support of their own agenda probably could do the jobs I’m involved in hiring for.)

    I’m not saying that’s what happened here. But the answer seems to rule out doing this. I don’t think I’d have the guts to actually ask about it, but I probably should.

    1. Roci*

      Then it sounds like screening for people who could competently do the job your hiring for, will screen out anyone who actually believes it. And anyone who is clever enough to promote it while not believing will lie to you anyways.

    2. Hiker*

      It technically has nothing to do with the job, and you should have job specific ways of screening people’s judgement that are more effective. As shown by the OP, lots of people will dodge the question regardless of how they feel. I would also think my interviewer/the company is a bit sketch, too, especially if they pushed it. If you’re bringing up politics in an interview for a job that isn’t about politics, it’d make me worried about the office culture, because no one agrees on everything.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There are lots of things that would probably make you distrust someone’s judgment that you’re also not bringing up in job interviews because it’s not relevant to the work — their stance on vaccinating, whether they believe the moon landing happened, etc. There are more work-relevant ways to screen for judgment and critical thinking.

      If you bring up politics, you’re going to turn off good candidates who will find it inappropriate and out of place.

      1. SomehowIManage*

        What do you think about about turning it into a case study, as opposed to asking their opinion. That is, “Here is the situation: election, allegations of fraud, etc. Walk me through how you would determine your position on the topic.” Might be a way to give people a chance to show how they would structure a problem, what data they would use to investigate, and how they might draw a conclusion.” It could be a more current take on “how many golf balls would fit in this room?” Case study. ;)

        1. EPLawyer*

          Find another case study. Politics do not belong in the work place. Plus, the savvy ones will lie.

        2. Lizy*

          If someone asked me that, I would either ask for a different situation or give my response to a different situation, and explain not talking about politics as “I don’t talk about politics – even hypotheticals”.

          Politics has no place in the workplace, unless you work for a political organization.

        3. A Poster Has No Name*

          Agreed with the others to find a different case study.

          Especially now, where there’s so much…emotion bound up in politics these days to throw that at an interview candidate.

        4. Metadata minion*

          I’m going to use similar techniques to figure out my stance on a political issue as on a work issue in very general terms, but they’re such massively different situations that I don’t think this is a fair interview question for a non-policy-related position. In a work situation, I usually have considerably more power to both obtain relevant information and to affect the situation.

          If you’re talking about allegations of nation-wide election fraud, I’m probably going to look at opinions from a brief range of experts and unless there seems to be real disagreement, I’ll trust what they say and get on with my life after maybe donating to some voting rights organization or something like that. In a work situation, I want to look at as much specific, detailed information as is relevant to the problem, and it’s probably a situation where I have some degree of professional expertise myself, unlike election mechanics where I can be at best described as a moderately well-informed layperson.

          And in a work dilemma, it’s something where I specifically have both authority and some degree of obligation to do something about it. I can’t go “wow, this is really complicated and there are people who know way more than I do who are working to fix the situation; I think I’m going to go work on something I can actually affect”. If I’m doing that in a work context, something has gone desperately wrong.

        5. Lucette Kensack*

          If the role you’re hiring for isn’t in election administration or electoral politics, that’s going to come off a really odd. And it’s not going to fool anyone; it would be very clear that you were trying to ascertain their political opinions.

        6. tiny cactus*

          Maybe this is a controversial stance, but I don’t think many people actually display as much judgment and critical thinking in their political opinions as they think they do. It’s very easy to be driven by your pre-formed opinions and which information sources you trust. That’s not to say that conspiracy theorists have great judgment, but someone who has the opposite view didn’t necessarily use more rigorous analysis, they may just travel in different circles. So I would think your political views don’t necessarily reflect your general analytical skills very closely.

        7. pancakes*

          In addition to what others have said, I want to point out that people with very poor judgement, people who are overly credulous, etc., wouldn’t invariably out themselves as such by describing how they reach the conclusions they do. There are countless people who describe their fondness for trawling the dregs of addled social media posts and thoroughly disreputable publications as “research.” It’s unlikely someone is going to sit down and say “I like to rely on dodgy sources of information, and I’m not a lucid thinker.”

          For me, as a candidate, if someone asked me a question like that, I’d think they must struggle with hiring good people and often not succeed. It’s like when someone says, on a dating app, “wow, you’re so much more interesting than the sort of person I usually meet.” It’s a great cue to back away.

        8. kt*

          Nope nope nope! I’m going to interview someone in 5 minutes, using a case study, trying to figure out how this person would structure a problem, what data they’d use, blah blah, and this is *not* the question! No matter what your political leanings, this immediately raises the emotional room temperature and sounds like a freaky litmus test that is instead about how well you thread the needle when talking about delicate subjects with people you don’t know. I’m not hiring a diplomat, I’m hiring an analyst!

        9. JSPA*

          I might engage, in the moment.

          After the fact, I’d decide that you’d shown a problematic willingness to rules-lawyer your way around polite and professional boundaries that are in place for a reason. Whether you were doing it to be clever or because your curiosity brooks no limits? Who knows, who cares–either way, I’d consider it a red flag.

          Mind you, me-of-30-years-ago would have been flattered by the “trust.” Then lured by the implied deeper friendship–transgressing normal work boundaries–that joint rule-breaking promises. (“Me-of-30-years-ago” ended up in far too many deeply dysfunctional workplaces, and some pretty problematic relationships, too.)

          1. pancakes*

            Good point – it can be very flattering for an interviewer or someone else in a position of relative power over you to take a “we’re among friends here” tone, but it’s not necessarily a good move to lean into that!

        10. Marie*

          As other have said, this is not acceptable. Moreover, it sounds like your belief that anyone who thinks there was election fraud is unintelligent and therefore would not be able to do whatever it is you’re hiring them to do is rooted more in your personal dislike of the supporters of one particular candidate than it is in actual competency for the job. This is inappropriate for the workplace – what people believe and who they support politically outside of work is irrelevant to what happens in the office, unless you are in a handful of very specific industries.

      2. LTL*

        Thank you Alison. I was glad to see OP didn’t mention the specific candidate in their letter because I just knew something like that would change the response dramatically (not your response, but the responses from the commentators) and it would become about politics when its not.

        I cannot express how much I dislike one of the candidates (you can probably guess who), but if someone asked me in an interview to “check” that I was on the right side? I would have been so offended and turned off that they thought they were in a place to judge me. Interviewers are supposed to screen for job competency, it’s not supposed to be a morality test, or even a general intelligence test if that’s what they were going for. On top of that, the interviewer seems to think that the only reason someone would avoid their question was if they were “guilty”.

        Went a bit long there… but this belief that you should screen people based on their politics really grinds my gears. I’ll spare everyone from the essay.

      3. Smithy*

        I work in a nonprofit sector that does not proactively support one political party over another – however certainly has a preference in what that means for our mission. In that context there are 101 ways to talk about the election and politics as it relates to our individual jobs that certainly tip the hat to our personal preferences without ever making that the point of the conversation.

        And even in a workplace like ours where elected politicians do touch on our work lives, that kind of respect and those barrier are still helpful to know exist. Not just for those who may vote significantly different than the rest of us, but particularly during primary season. Provided you’re not working on a political campaign – it’s so inevitable to find part of the election calendar or issue spectrum where there may be differences of opinion you’d really rather side step at work.

      4. Lacey*

        Yes! My boss has all sorts of wild beliefs. Even more fun – they are a crazy mish-mash of liberal & conservative and he likes to have long discussions about all of them.

        But. aside from wanting to have long convos about things that are distinctly not for the office he is really stellar at what he does. And, now that we’re all working from home – it matters less than ever what he believes about vaccinations or the moon landing.

    4. MK*

      I disagree, even though in my field and country this would be an egregious example: Here the elections are run by the courts. The person who is in charge of each voting station and counts the votes afterwards is a judge, a barrister, a court clerk or a permanent employee of the Ministry of Justice, assisted by a committee of random citizens chosen by a raffle. There cannot be widespread fraud affecting the winning party and anyone who has run a voting station (or even participated as a secretary or committee member) must know this. If I find out that a barrister or clerk (or, shudder, a judge) thinks an election was stolen, I must think this person is a crackpot and biased beyond logic. But I still don’t think it’s a good idea to ask candidates about their politics. Frankly, the vague possibility of uncovering a crackpot isn’t worth bringing politics into the hiring process.

      Also, you know your field best, but I am dubious that this really tells you much about someone’s ability to do their job. Many people hold outlandish views and function in their everyday lives.

    5. Susan*

      If an interviewer started asking me questions about politics I would assume they believed they had the right to have knowledge of, and oversight of, my vote and participation in our political system. I just can’t see where those questions are leading that is at all appropriate. Absent a significant career shift, my personal opinions about voter fraud allegations are irrelevant. They really don’t provide any information about my ability to do my job.

      I think you are in dodgy territory when you start using irrelevant measures to decide on suitability for a job. It screams I only hire people who are just like me.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        “If an interviewer started asking me questions about politics I would assume they believed they had the right to have knowledge of, and oversight of, my vote and participation in our political system.”
        That’s huge leap.

        It could simply be they do not want people who support overt racism working for them. That they don’t want to control your vote – they just want to not hire you and have you around.

        “my personal opinions about voter fraud allegations are irrelevant. ” I’d speculate support for the current voter fraud lies are HIGHLY correlated with racism. Whether that racism is relevant to the job is a more complex question, but it could be relevant.

          1. LW#1*

            Honestly, I’m a little surprised people assumed this had to do with screening out racists. It had everything to do with the fact that the hiring manager was extremely pro conspiracy theory and believed the election was rigged against the incumbent. The hiring manager was trying to goad me into agreeing the President Elect had cheated and there was massive voter fraud. I was vague in my letter because of political polarization and the divisiveness in the country right now.

            1. LW#1*

              Also, because I didn’t see the relevance in mentioning it to Alison, but it seems important now – it appears everyone is assuming I’m Caucasian. I am not.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                That’s actually really interesting. I am a middle aged straight white guy living in a predominantly Republican county. It is not at all uncommon for people to make assumptions based on this. A casual conversation with a stranger might feature a racist and/or sexist joke. Were I in that job interview you endured, I would take it as more of the same. But in your case, this was something else. My guess is either he was seeking an excuse not to hire you with the racism at least thinly disguised, or he was trying to figure out if you are one of the “good” ones. Of course the other possibility is that he simply can’t help himself, and rants about the election to everyone he meets.

                1. JSPA*

                  No requirement to answer, and nothing but idle curiosity, but do you indeed resemble Rutherford B Hayes?

                2. Richard Hershberger*

                  That actually is Henry Chadwick. He is an important figure in 19th century baseball. I won’t say that you would have trouble distinguishing between us, but there is some resemblance. I have a good friend whom I describe as the one who looks like Teddy Roosevelt. People who have heard this easily identify him.

              2. A Poster Has No Name*

                This makes the whole even ickier. I would be curious to know if the interviewer asked the same questions of white applicants, or if the questioning of you was itself racially motivated (to see if you were one of the “good” black/brown people who knows their place and not one of the “uppity” ones). I may be reading too much into that, however.

            2. Minnie Mouse*

              I’m glad you were able to find this out and run! I didn’t know my current office would be COVID deniers, just that their political views were a bit extreme and easily influenced by social media. It has been hell working in those conditions with people who don’t think it’s serious.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                One thing Covid has taught us is that “it doesn’t matter what their politics are as long as they don’t talk about it at work” is not always true.

                1. Arvolin*

                  I don’t care what people’s views on the pandemic are as long as they wear their masks and stay six feet away – say, far enough away that I can’t whack them with my cane. I can go along with rules I think unnecessary because my boss tells me to; why can’t they?

                2. Rusty Shackelford*

                  @arvolin, I was really thinking of the opposite – if I believe masks are important, and my manager believes they are an affront to his freedom and forbids them.

            3. Dwight Schrute*

              This was actually my initial reaction! I assumed that if the interviewer was bold enough to try and goad you into a potential argument and asking about election fraud during an initial meeting that they were likely a believer in said election fraud. Glad you dodged a bullet! It’s unlikely you’d want to work for this person as they probably aren’t taking health very seriously right now and clearly don’t have any professional
              boundaries

            4. I edit everything*

              That’s how I read it: as the interviewer being a conspiracist, and you wanting out ASAP.

              Asking about politics signals discrimination to me: we’ll only hire people who agree with us. If you want to keep racists out of your organization, then actively build a diverse company. Brag about it during interviews: “We value diverse voices and experiences, and respect is one of our company values,” (and live out those values, of course). People who have a problem with that environment will not hang around. Trying to out racists by asking if they’re a political conspiracy theorist seems like a remarkably ineffective way to do it. That woman who accosted the birder in Central Park was an avowed liberal.

            5. Lucette Kensack*

              I don’t think folks are assuming that, actually. (At least, I didn’t.) I think they’re just imagining themselves in the situation, wanting to screen out people who believe that the election was rigged.

              1. Washi*

                Yeah, I think a few people are jumping to conclusions, but mostly there are a lot of people discussing the opposite situation of “if I wanted to screen out conspiracy theorists how would I do that?”

                I realize that’s probably annoying for the OP to read but it’s also fairly typical of commenting sections where a question with a fairly clear answer (in this case, this manager was terrible and a bullet dodged) gets less discussion than a murkier question, even if it’s not as relevant to the matter at hand.

            6. Paperwhite*

              This was the interpretation I took. And, oh my goodness, I am so glad you escaped intact. You may not have just dodged a bullet, but a slow noose.

            7. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              Thank you for clarifying that. I was of the impression the interviewer was pro conspiracy theory, but I admit that you kept it vague. And honestly, it troubles me how many people here are suggesting that it is ok to ask about it if you are of one political persuasion on the issue rather than the other. It is not relevant to the job, and plenty of people prefer to keep politics out of the office. If I am looking for a surgeon to perform a surgery on me, I look at his medical qualifications and credentials, his experience and overall success rate with the procedure, etc. I do not worry about his political views but rather his surgical skills. And if he saves my life but thinks the vote is rigged, oh well, at least I will be alive to offset his vote in the next election!

            8. JSPA*

              Racism (illegal) has been known to sail under the safe conduct flag of overt political bias (or any other broad “ism” that’s gross but entirely legal).

              Add a dose of, “if we can get the candidate to withdraw, we’re definitely home safe” (not actually true, but hey, we’re not dealing with a pair of Einsteins here), and this only gets grosser.

              I’m glad you’re not stuck there, all the same. But dang, they sound ripe for a sting operation.

            9. Lacey*

              Thanks for clarifying the situation! I thought this was the most likely scenario, but it’s nice to know for sure.

        1. Snow Globe*

          As stated, there are better and more direct ways to get at what you are screening for. Unless you have reason to strongly suspect someone of being racist, it’s pretty strange to start asking questions about election fraud to gauge if someone might be racist.

          1. Sara without an H*

            And even if you need to screen for racist attitudes — say, the job is one that works with a diverse clientele — there are better ways to do that.

            1. Emi*

              – ask them behavioral questions that deal with race
              – ask their references directly
              – have diverse interview panels and watch how the interviewee responds to different members
              – heck if you’re still set on secret tests then use an actual psychometric test for racial discrimination

            2. UKDancer*

              Definitely. My company asks behavioural questions and asks people applying for management roles about their experiences of managing a diverse team and bringing on talent.

              They try and have gender mixed panels with BAME representation (although admittedly this can be difficult for more senior posts as we have a way to go). If anyone reacted differently to female or BAME panel members that would be definitely viewed negatively.

              Asking people something as political as voter fraud is likely to put peoples’ backs up regardless of their views. In the UK I guess the equivalent would be asking their views on Brexit which is pretty divisive. Ask about diversity if that’s what you want to know about but don’t try and trick people into some kind of reveal.

        2. Mystery Bookworm*

          It’s not a huge leap. There are absolutely employers like that. And pretty much any topic that an interviewer establishes as “on the table” in an interview, I’m going to assume will continue to be so on the job.

          So if they asked about my political beliefs explicitly, I would assume they would continue to feel entitled to that information even after the job started — and even if I agreed with their position in the interview, there might be other, future political topics upon which we disagree. So I would be wary of opening that door.

          To screen for racism, I think it’s better that the interviewer focus on relevant questions about how I interact with others / work with diverse populations, etc. And more importantly, demonstrate/explain how their workplace takes ownership of ensuring an anti-racist enviornment. That’s how you screen out racism. Not with coded political questions.

        3. BenAdminGeek*

          pleaset, it’s interesting that you think being against racism is political. I see anti-racism as fairly non-political. It’s about basic human decency, it’s not a question about politics.

        4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          “I’d speculate support for the current voter fraud lies are HIGHLY correlated with racism.”

          That seems like an even bigger leap. A candidate wanting to simply avoid discussing the subject may not be racist or a conspiracy theorist, but just someone who prefers to keep politics out of the office. It is ridiculous to draw a conclusion about a candidate because they simply do not wish to answer a question that is not related to the job. And honestly, in this case, I was of the impression that the interviewer was the one claiming the election was rigged, not the other way around. And the interviewer clearly dismissed the candidate for not jumping up and enthusiastically agreeing with him, rather than due to anything he or she said.

        5. AKchic*

          I had a boss that was strictly forbidden from the interview and hiring process because he liked to ask political questions.
          He still would make sure that every single employee knew that if they didn’t vote GOP down the card in each election and he found out, they would be fired. If anyone had any kind of sticker, button, or anything that wasn’t 100% his political choices showing at all times, he would fire them.
          He was a driving force in why I will never work at a family-owned business again. I have yet to find one in my state that functions in any way other than dysfunctional and as more than a personal fiefdom of a petty tyrant.

        6. Marie*

          “I’d speculate support for the current voter fraud lies are HIGHLY correlated with racism”

          That’s…quite a leap.

        7. Susan*

          Then ask about racism.

          Assuming that every person who has a different political opinion to you is a horrible person is basically concluding that anyone who doesn’t vote like you is stupid or evil. I have good friends who vote differently to me, because when we weigh up all the factors we end up at different places. I don’t think them racist, or stupid, or evil. More importantly, I don’t think them incapable of doing their jobs because they don’t agree with my politics.

          Diversity of thought is important and that means accepting that some people will vote in ways that you would not. And that’s the point of a democracy – your freely exercised choice to vote for your preferred candidate.

          Asking about the voter fraud allegations is a way of asking someone’s political opinions and how they’d vote. Not appropriate for the overwhelming majority of jobs.

    6. Klida*

      Well, you want to sort out people who do believe there was voter fraud. The person in the room over would like to sort out people who do not believe there was voter fraud.

      1. Nia*

        But thats useful information too. If the person hiring me is so incompetent that they believe there was voter fraud(or so evil that they’re willing to pretend they do) I want to know about it.

        1. LTL*

          Someone mentioned this somewhere else as well, but whether or not someone believes in conspiracies actually tells you nothing about their competency in their job. I guarantee that there are people who believe wild things but are good managers and good workers.

          1. ellex42*

            Some years ago I worked for a very competent and lovely boss who believed in some conspiracy theories. She was generally quite a sensible and intelligent person, but every so often she would say something that gave me pause.

            Granted, the current events in the US political arena are one a whole different level of ridiculousness than anything previous, but some of her beliefs were pretty out there.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            Until they insist you’re not allowed to wear a mask at work because “Covid is just a lie by the liberal media.”

            1. LTL*

              I feel like you’re disagreeing with me, but my response to this is. Well yes. Exactly.

              Being a covid denier and pushing people not to wear masks are two different things. Many people won’t do the latter because they know it won’t work out well for them.

          3. Nia*

            You cannot be racist(and all the election conspiracy theorists are) and good at your job. It is mutually exclusive.

            1. MK*

              No matter how much you may want for this to be true, it isn’t, unless you are talking about specific jobs. History is filled with racists who were brilliant at what they did.

                1. JSPA*

                  1. there are conspiracy theorists on all sides, in all elections. We’re most aware of one side and this election right now–it’s impossible to miss–but (as someone involved in the election process) I can assure you this is a turbocharged, extra-warped manifestation of something that is always with us.

                  2. Someone’s job can be to screw a widget in a hole all day, or to write code for refrigerator water / ice dispensers, or to be Isacc Newton (a quite famously antisocial, phobic personality).

                  If you have a job where you don’t interact with other humans, your biases absolutely can remain entirely theoretical–whether that’s sexism, racism, or absolute misanthropy.

              1. Paperwhite*

                That depends on if we include treating people decently as part of the job. A brilliant coder who mocks and belittles his Black coworkers is not good at his programming job.

          4. Lacey*

            Yup. My boss is one. He doesn’t believe in this voter fraud stuff, but only because he hates Trump. If it was a conspiracy on the other side, he’d be all in. But he’s a great boss!

      2. Noni Noni Anony*

        Not trying to be rude, but would you ask someone their religious beliefs as to screen out religions?

        1. Pippa K*

          In the United States, that would be unlawful in most circumstances. Screening based on party affiliation, belief in political conspiracy theories, or general rabid stupidity would not.

          1. ellex42*

            “Screening based on…general rabid stupidity would not [be unlawful].”

            That’s a shame. Particularly given some of the work my coworkers produce.

            1. Pippa K*

              True! I should have remembered California. Are there other states that have this too?
              (Happily, rabid stupidity is still not a protected class, I’m pretty sure!)

      3. anonPerson*

        What if there was voter fraud in the opposite direction? Can you imagine what a person’s response would be if they cheated to win but still lost?!

    7. Washi*

      I think you have to ask yourself what effect that belief would have on the job and screen for that. For example, when I was working for a nonprofit that mainly worked with kids of color, we would do our best to screen for racism through job-related questions, like why do you think inequality in educational outcomes exists? What would you do if you heard someone say X about a kid you were working with? Why?

      Sure, we could have administered a multiple choice assessment with questions like “do you believe the earth is flat” and “is racism real?” but lots of people will just tell you what they’re guessing you want to hear and it will come across as bizarre to people who do have good judgement. I’m sure the OP could have guessed the “right” answer based on tone, but it was so offputting they didn’t even want to do that.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Yes. I work in a health-care setting and all the interviews I’ve been on have screened along these line.

        IMO, the best way to screen for people who won’t act racist is to have established cultural norms and boundaries that ensure that on the job. Ask behavioural questions related to the job and diversity. Be explict about your cultural values with interviewees.

        I don’t know of a shortcut.

      2. LW#1*

        The only right answer to the hiring manager would have been “yes, there was massive voter fraud.”

        These were not screening questions. They were “agree with me as the incumbent should have won” statements.

    8. LW#1*

      To clarify (which I didn’t want to do b/c of political polarization) the hiring manager was very, very (can’t stress this enough) pro conspiracy theory. The job interview was in the USA.

      1. Marny*

        I had a feeling this was the case based on the reaction he had to you trying to politely avoid his questions and the 3am rejection. You dodged a bullet (obviously). But honestly, I think it’s ok to show discomfort in response to inappropriate questions during an interview.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Just in general terms if the interviewer leads with anything that is NOT directly related to the job that stands alone as a warning in my mind.

        People (interviewer and applicant) are on their best behaviors during the interview process. It will NOT get better once you work there. I even learned to pick up on small things such as a passing mention of a specific employee’s failure. Usually what I see on the interview is a snapshot of what I will see over and over.

        I think you are very patient, OP. I would not have lasted very long in that conversation. I know I would have squelched it by saying, “Work is my time out from the news and politics. I prefer to concentrate on the work at hand.”
        I remember applying for one job and the boss went on and on about ghosts. Then I find out I have to attend seances as an employee. He carried on and on. Finally, I said, “Well, you just have to tell the ghosts to leave.” In that sentence I lost the job that I had decided I did not want anyway. See, he did not want the ghosts to leave and he could not trust me not to order the ghosts to leave. (Yeah, there so many levels of problems here that I won’t even write about it all.) My point is that sometimes situations dissolve to the point that it is not salvageable, worse there is no part of it left to even try to salvage. Which is what you found here.
        My boss and I agree on politics and I STILL tell her that I do not want to discuss politics, work is my time out from all that. I think that stands up well enough on its own.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          Exactly. It’s rare for a topic to come up in an interview that the employer isn’t going to continue to believe is on-the-table going forward.

        2. Sara without an H*

          Re your ghost-loving interviewer: Like you, I would have decided right there that I didn’t want the job. I might have asked the interviewer some questions about how the ghosts were compensated and how much vacation they got. (But then, I’m warped like that.)

        3. Polly Hedron*

          > I remember applying for one job and the boss went on and on about ghosts.
          > Then I find out I have to attend seances as an employee….
          > (Yeah, there so many levels of problems here that I won’t even write about it all.)

          Oh please do write more of this story for next week’s open thread!

      3. Lora*

        This was what I sort of suspected because at this point what I’ve seen is: the conspiracy theorists are a lot like recent converts to CrossFit / new diet fad of the day / talk radio enthusiasts. You don’t HAVE to ask, they will tell you all about it. At length. Whether you want them to or not. In some ways I feel like this is actually a good thing, because such people cannot be compelled to wear a t-shirt warning others to avoid them.

        LW, you dodged a bullet. You did the right thing, smile and nod, say things like “what a curious / unusual / interesting idea!” and get the heck out of there ASAP.

        1. JO*

          You’re exactly right. It’s not hard to elicit conspiracy theories from people that believe them. Heck, you could just casually ask something open ended like “what are your thoughts on this chaotic world we live in now a days, how are you managing it?” Most people will tell you something generic. The conspiracy theorists will happily launch in to whatever diatribe about the deep state or whatever.

        1. Greg*

          Came here to post the exact same thing! They’d probably be able to figure out it was you if they saw it, but you presumably don’t care that much about working for the company, and as long as you stick to the facts (“My interviewer tried to get me to engage in a political conversation, and when I declined, he ended the interview abruptly.”)

          Depending on how far you want to pursue this, you could also alert HR (sounds like this guy was the hiring manager). If the company has a functional HR department, they would certainly want to know that this kind of thing is going on. In fact, I would suspect that if he did it to you, he’s probably doing it to other candidates, which is absolutely something the company should be concerned about. Wouldn’t open them up to a lawsuit, but it could absolutely hurt their reputation in the industry.

          But again, that’s really just a question of whether you want to get involved. You certainly don’t have an obligation to, and it’s fine if you just want to write this company off and not think about them again.

      4. Smithy*

        All I can say is that you have to see this as a blessing. Not that anyone wants to interview for a job that ends of being a total dud, but so often the red flags just aren’t that clear.

      5. AKchic*

        Can you document all of this in an email to someone higher up with a very pointed “I’m hoping that I was the only one subjected to this line of questioning, because it made me want to rescind my application, but the 3AM rejection email beat me to it.”

        I have to wonder if the rejection email may be factually inaccurate (and there was no candidate hired yet), but that is a fanciful notion on my part.

        1. Sparky*

          This is well stated, AKchic. Also, had LW#1 gotten the job, I wonder how many 3 a.m. emails they would get. Bullet dodged, and good luck to you, LW #1, in your job search.

    9. Jennifer*

      I also agree. I don’t particularly want to work with someone that delusional, which also ties into people who don’t believe COVID is real. I just think the interviewer handled it in a clunky way.

    10. Dust Bunny*

      I work with someone who believes that cats steal your breath at night, but since we don’t work with animals it doesn’t affect her ability to do her job. As much as I’d like to not work with people who believe in voter fraud/vampire cats/all sorts of nutty things, if it’s not relevant to the work I don’t see how you can reasonably ask about it.

      1. JSPA*

        I had to tell someone with whom I have a quasi-professional relationship that her conversations with the spirit of my dead ancestors (with implications for my own impending doom) were not something I want to hear about, thankyouverymuch.

        But it doesn’t affect her ability to extremely reliably and tirelessly do a set of helpful tasks for the population being helped. Think: show up to unlock door, make sandwiches. (Not, but similar.)

        She gets premonitions of my imminent death every time she’s irked with me, which is to say, some ten times over the past 15 years. (She no longer tells me–well, mostly–but she heaves the same meaningful, moist-eyed sighs, and presses one hand to her heart, and another to her brow, while dramatically pursing her lips on the words she’s not allowed to say.)

        Panoply of life… Takes all kinds… Poor dear, can’t help it… It’s the work that matters.

        1. Idril Celebrindal*

          Oh my goodness, that sounds simultaneously infuriating and hilarious. The theatrics are just something else.

    11. Malika*

      Ben Carson was a leading neurosurgeon, and he had some off-the-wall beliefs as well (though i can’t remember conspiracy theories as such).
      We can believe all kinds of theories that might seem nonsensical to some/many and still be capable of our job. The key is to leave the discussion of these topics to the exterior of our office walls, not to avoid hiring anyone who holds beliefs that are deemed eccentric.

        1. JSPA*

          The topic was conspiracy theories, not racism, before someone asserted that one particular conspiracy theory equates, one-on-one, to racism.

          (Which, no; there are actually a wide range of disordered views of reality, appealing to very different groups of people, that have been funneled into that particular conspiracy theory.)

          Besides, by its definition, systemic racism is systemic. Avowedly racist, would-be race-blind and determinedly anti-racist people all grow up within that system. Regardless of intent or party affiliation, we’re none of us completely unmarked by that.

          1. Paperwhite*

            How many times do I have to repost that link to the Slate article about why this election’s conspiracy theory of voter fraud is actually racist and about the legitimacy of Black people voting? I mean, I think the journalist should really get the credit they deserve.

            There’s a larger discussion to be had about how explaining away every instance of racism actually furthers it (this happens with all bigotries I’ve seen) but that’s outside the scope of this particular discussion.

            1. Paperwhite*

              “about *questioning* the legitimacy” Ugh, the feeling when the important word in the sentence is the one that falls out.

    12. Sylvan*

      Along with what Alison said, interviewers might not necessarily intuit where you’re coming from correctly. If someone really wanted to talk about a conspiracy theory during an interview, I might assume they support that theory. And as someone who doesn’t support that theory, I’d feel pretty awkward.

      If you want to be sure of people’s judgment, like Alison said, there are plenty of other ways to gauge it.

    13. Not playing your game anymore*

      If it’s important to know, in the current environment it seems like you could discuss Covid precautions taken or not taken and get a real good feel for the applicants thinking about the election. Seems like there’s a big overlap on “the election was stolen” and “Covid is a hoax.” And much more important for the day to day health of your team. Sorry if it’s politically incorrect, but there’s no way I hire a covid denier.

    14. nm*

      The fact is that most competent candidates will avoid talking about politics in an interview regardless of their beliefs. So instead of finding out what they believe, in most cases the good candidates will skirt around the question and find it off-putting. So in some sense yes, you’ll catch out the bad candidates, but at the cost of scaring away the good ones.

    15. Temperance*

      I’ll say it this way: I’m on the same side you are, but so far, the only people who have really approached the subject in inappropriate ways and at inappropriate times are ones who might as well be wearing tinfoil hats in public.

      So i would assume that you’re one of them, by asking me.

    16. CoveredInBees*

      If the interviewee had brought it up, it would be fair game to evaluate their judgement. Both for what they said and for even bringing it up. However, you bringing it up as a “test” is not going to go well and I don’t think you’d get a clear read on anyone but the furthest out there. People that far out will out themselves in other ways.

  5. Roci*

    #4 makes me so sad that there are still so many instances where women can and should be honest about sexist people in the workplace, but have to stop and reconsider if being honest could harm their own careers. Sigh.

    One other argument in favor of being honest with Theon is that it sounds like he is unaware of Ramsay’s reputation at your old company, and works more closely with him now. If you trust Theon’s judgment, he might be in a position to help the women at his current company who have to work with Ramsay. Also sounds like the dude is rude to everybody regardless of gender so maybe there’s an opportunity for Theon to help everyone who has to work with him.

    1. Rachel*

      YES!!! I find many men I work with want to be allies, but no one tells them this stuff! Whereas the women notice, and talk about it all the time (which is often dismissed as gossip rather than “be careful about getting drinks with so-and-so” or “it’s not just you, he’s patronizing to all of the women”).

      It makes it so that when the Ramsays are forced to resign, all the women go “Finally there was finally something bad enough with evidence!”, while all the men go “Ramsay is a great guy! His career shouldn’t be ruined because one female employee misunderstood him!”

      I implore women to talk to men about this the way we talk to each other. OP #4 has a real opportunity to speak for all the women who have had their careers hobbled by this guy and while in a position where he cannot directly hurt her. Even if Theon doesn’t really believe you, it plants a seed for him to look out for it in the future and makes him more likely to believe the next woman who tells him.

      1. Susan*

        That’s great in theory, but that only works if you can absolutely trust the bloke to believe you, back you, and not turn that information against you. If he hasn’t noticed any of the sexism from other male, or hasn’t noticed that many female colleagues are uncomfortable around/are actively using protective measures then you do risk the potential ally dismissing your experiences. This is risky and can happen even with people who want to be an ally. You also risk being dropped in it if they decide to “fix” the problem.

        So absolutely if you’vea colleague you can fully trust use that resource. But I totally get women NOT sharing what they all know with men who (a) might not actually be supportive, or (b) might make things worse trying to be supportive.

        1. Cat Tree*

          Exactly! Rather than advising women to force men to notice sexism in a way that is risky for women, perhaps we should be holding men accountable and expect them to step up and look past their own privilege.

          I hate it how every time men do something bad, the advice always, *always* turns to how women should be fixing them.

          1. Grapey*

            “Rather than advising women to force men to notice sexism in a way that is risky for women, perhaps we should be holding men accountable”

            What does holding someone accountable mean (from a colleague POV, not a managerial one) and how is it less emotional work than just being upfront with (some) men in the first place?

            I try to live by “I cannot control other people” and ‘expecting [men] to step up’ falls under that umbrella when it comes to coworkers or other relationships I can’t choose.

            1. Paperwhite*

              Holding men accountable means, “I expect you to notice these incidents and to believe what you see.”

              Being upfront, in your definition, seems to mean, “Women should always be prepared to risk our jobs, careers, and potentially even our physical safety, to have to argue our point every time, to push through any and all disbelief, and so on, to be the ones to inform men of any and all sexism, tirelessly and never daunted by the massive weight of pushing back against sexism, or we deserve what we get.” It takes a LOT of emotional energy, as you put it, to decide, “Can I trust this man?” It would be nice to not have to every so often.

              (This happens with other kinds of bigotry as well. I could write the above paragraph over again about being Black in a society that belongs to White people.)

              1. Cat Tree*

                I’ll also add to this that men need to help each other. I saw a Facebook post about husbands not having basic housekeeping skills, and all the comments were about how *mothers* need to teach their sons these skills and stop coddling them. There was no mention of fathers raising their sons better, or of men taking the initiative to seek out this knowledge for themselves. Nope, it’s only up to wives and mothers to make men improve themselves.

          2. MK*

            How is holding men accountable about looking past their privilege to be accomplished without pointing out sexism? And who is in the better position to point out sexism than women? And while I agree it’s not fair for women to carry this burden, it’s actionable advice to tell them to name sexism, if they feel it’s safe for them to do so. Telling them they shouldn’t have to do this is basically telling them to, what? Wait till society rights itself?

            Also, it’s not an either/or situation. Sure, if you hear a man praising a sexist coworker, call him out for not noticing/caring about the sexism (though I am not sure how that’s safer than pointing out the sexism, or even noticeably different). That doesn’t make advising women to not be silent about this invalid.

            1. Paperwhite*

              I was going to write a long essay but I think instead I’ll point out “if they feel it’s safe for them to do so” is a very important part of this. Women risk careers and even physical safety to point out sexism at work. Also, to be honest, why do men have no obligation to notice what happens around them? (Why do White people have no obligation, and so on, to reference the racism discussion above? Why do people with privilege have no responsibility to notice the maltreatment of the disprivileged? These patterns repeat in different kinds of bigotries.) There are times when bigotry is so egregious that anyone witnessing it should be able to recognize it whether it’s directed at their group or not.

            2. Cat Tree*

              Men are fully aware that sexism exists. Or if they’re not, then they are willfully ignorant. It isn’t every woman’s job to educate resistant men. Allies can take the initiative to seek out resources to educate themselves, then look out for sexism they encounter. If every instance must be spoon-fed to them, I wouldn’t consider them good allies.

              1. AKchic*

                All. Of. This.

                You aren’t an ally if you have to be led by the hand into every ally opportunity. Performative allyship isn’t allyship at all. It’s a self-serving mockery.

              2. anon here*

                To be really jerky yet honest, I don’t think most (people) are good allies. Most (people) just want to go along to get along, and if problems are not raised they’re not problems, and most problems that *are* raised still aren’t considered problems.

                I have sympathy for many sides of the conversation here. My husband is a generally good person and also ridiculously oblivious to most sexism. He’s a guy who will say he’s against sexism, wants to treat women fairly in the workplace, works successfully with female colleagues, etc. If you forced everyone to publicly state if they’re an “ally” or not he probably would say he is, as he’s not against women in the workplace, but it’s also not like he makes any effort to notice problems that are not his. I like the guy enough to stay married to him, but I also think most people are like him: they mean well and also notice fairly little beyond their own issues, and really don’t care enough to educate themselves or go above & beyond. And a good thirty percent of the self-proclaimed allies I meet on any matter are self-serving performers who’ll throw you under the bus if it serves them, so I’m just not a very optimistic person honestly.

                So yeah, good allies can seek out resources etc. But I feel like there are about 5 good allies out of 4.5 billion on gender, and maybe the same on race. Given that Theon is probably just a nice guy/decent dude rather than an “ally”, what do you do in this situation? I think I’d tell the guy I can’t work with Ramsay ever again, but everyone’s different.

                But that goes to the conspiracy theory question too: I think the conspiracy theory interviewer was effectively screening out people who would make ‘a problem’ in his office, and thus keeping his office a problem-free place where racism and sexism ‘don’t exist’ because there’s no one rocking the boat and saying they’re a problem. Someone else said above you can’t be good at your job if you are, for instance, being racist to your colleagues. Obviously a number of workplaces solve this problem by ensuring your colleagues are all white-ish so there is ‘no problem’ and racist can be ‘good at their jobs’. Same with gender (for instance #3 in the Friday good news post) and orientation.

                I’m sorry I’m so cynical.

                1. anon here*

                  And to reply once more to myself, this dude I’m married to would not notice if someone stared at my chest instead of my face. I understand that a number of people in the comments feel people/men *ought* to notice this stuff, and I agree they should, but the fact is they don’t, because ignorance is bliss. Once you start seeing it you can’t unsee it, but if you just don’t see sexism/racism/any types of unequal treatment, life is much easier, so why bother starting? Obviously this has quite differential effects on different demographic groups.

              3. nonegiven*

                If they don’t notice a growing pile of their socks on the floor, how will they notice something that doesn’t affect them?

        2. Lora*

          Heaven preserve us from the guys who try to White Knight and make everything 10X worse. Or, manage to get themselves fired or demoted for being a Gender Traitor or whatever. Seen that happen too.

          I have a friend who recently retired but was a manager at a large software company. I was telling him about a sexist thing that happened in my field one day, and he proudly assured me that they no longer had sexism where he worked, because all the guys had been told not to do that anymore in a very clear training. When I was done laughing, I assured him that sexism most definitely happened, with depressing frequency – he just wasn’t aware of it, and the men he worked with were doing a better job of hiding it. A couple of weeks later, he reported to me that he had actually asked some women where he worked and they told him, yes indeed, there is certainly still sexism, especially in departments headed by men. But how can this be?? I said, sometimes you just have to fire someone – loudly, publicly, announcing exactly what they were fired for. Heads on pikestaffs. That’s how you get people to understand you’re serious. He didn’t like firing people, he wanted to rehabilitate them. Yeah, good luck undoing decades of habits and social pressure, some of us have work to do.

          1. Grey Coder*

            Not firing, but just this week I rejected a job candidate for using sexist language (among other reasons). It felt good.

                1. Grey Coder*

                  Well, he wasn’t straight-up hostile, more like offhand patronizing and demeaning — think along the lines of “in that job I worked on Project Z, which was to help the lab girls with the difficult things”. That’s not a quote, but that was the kind of thing, and that was not the only instance during the interview.

            1. OrigCassandra*

              I once roundfiled an application to the graduate program I teach in because of language in the application essay that was blatantly sexist and ageist. (I yelled “EXCUSE YOU?!” in my office on reading it — that’s how bad it was.) I don’t want that in the atmosphere of my department, insofar as I can avoid it.

            2. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Good on you mate! I remember taking one guy off the consideration pile after he spent part of the interview ranting about how ‘lying women’ had got him fired from a previous job. And spent the other half talking to my forward system attributes instead of my face.

              Ick, no. My gut said that he’d be a disaster in our dev team.

              1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                “Forward system attributes.” Love it! The term, not the fact that he was talking to them. That’s gross.

              2. Idril Celebrindal*

                Oh man, that’s awful. The worst I got was someone applying for an entry level student worker role in a completely different field from his first career that he had done this work “all the time” and trying to explain the job he was applying for to his two female interviewers. Ugh

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            He didn’t like firing people, he wanted to rehabilitate them.

            Yeah, dude, we’d all love it if you could legitimately cure people of sexism. But in the meanwhile, here we are, stuck in the real world.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              What? There’s not a magic wand you can wave that turns bigots into pleasant human beings? /s

              (It would be nice though. Certainly be less damaging to my health)

              1. KaciHall*

                All I can see while reading this is that scene from the end of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where Tril and margin incapacitate a bunch of people with the POV gun (or whatever is called).

            2. Lora*

              His philosophy, as near as I can tell, is sort of a Use Your Words thing: that if people would simply be direct, clear, and very very firm, then people would not be confused about what behaviors are expected of them, and that interpersonal issues arise from people being confused about expectations. Which is not wrong as a general rule, it’s just…what do you do when you HAVE communicated these things and it’s not working, because the other person says “Eff You, I do what I want”? He didn’t get that.

              And he doesn’t quite know what to do when people are not communicating in good faith at ALL, like the dudes who mysteriously need to be told every tiny thing: No, you’re not allowed to touch women’s butts. Yes, you can shake hands. No, you cannot tell women they look sexy. Yes, you can tell women “that’s a nice jacket”. No, you cannot stare at women’s boobs. Yes, you can look at women’s faces. Like, this is not a communication problem, this is a “dude is just a pig with a personality problem” thing, and you as a manager must decide if this person’s technical skills are so valuable that you are willing to sequester them in a closet away from other humans, or do you have time to micromanage this person’s interactions with other humans eight hours a day? Or do you want to hire someone who is not a giant a-hole and doesn’t cause you so much extra work but whose technical skills are only 90% of what you hoped for instead of 100%? I am in the “hire the 90% person with a decent personality, send them to a seminar to get the other 10% and make my life easier” camp. My friend is not.

              Basically, he thinks sexists are just stupid, while I think they are not stupid – they are evil. He feels that this is a terrible thing to think about people as it shows little faith in humanity. He’s probably right, but, ehhh…

            3. AKchic*

              Rehabilitate = teach them how to be more subtle about it so they have plausible deniability and won’t get in trouble. I.e., make it harder for “the girls” to complain so I (the man) don’t have to pretend like I am doing something about a non-problem (for me).

      2. Anon because my co-workers read here*

        I did something in reverse recently. A new project manager in another country has been making level-inappropriate support requests of my department in his country and mine. These admin tasks are his not ours…and coincidentally my department is all women at the moment. Then a manager in a third group sputtered to me about the same behavior and I found myself saying “It’s weirdly reassuring that he’s doing that to a man too.” And then had to explain that yes this sort of bs does still happen.

        1. KRM*

          Yeah, we had a guy who started at my old job and I was worried that he was a mansplainer. He explained exponential cell growth curves to a colleague. She’s been in science for 15 years. But (luckily) it turned out that he over-explained things to everyone for the first six months out of what was probably over-eagerness to talk to people and try to fit in. Once he settled in more things were much better. So I get the relief of finding out that “oh good, he does it to EVERYONE”!

      3. Snow Globe*

        A few years ago, there was a situation at my office that illustrated that. There was a guy who worked at the office before I worked there. Over the first year I worked in that office, I heard several women tell stories of this dude’s absolutely inappropriate sexual “jokes” and bad behavior. Then a supervisory position opened up, and the big boss (to whom I directly reported) told me that sexist dude was interested in coming back, and he thought he’d be great for the job. I told big boss what I had heard, that I had no first hand knowledge but had heard it from multiple women, and he did not hire the guy. But big boss was pretty upset that he didn’t know any of this when it was happening, and indicated that he would have put a stop to it if he knew. He didn’t blame anyone for not reporting it, but asked me for advice on how to make women feel more comfortable raising these issues.

        1. CM*

          While this sounds like a good reaction from the big boss, I’m skeptical when people say they didn’t know because they weren’t told. If it’s an open secret that this guy is regularly inappropriate, clearly other people knew without having to be explicitly told. You can know by noticing that this person made a slightly off remark, stood a little too close, acted defensive; you can notice that a normally friendly coworker is on their guard with this person, or that women go out of their way to avoid being alone with him. You can take small warning signs seriously instead of assuming he’s a nice guy and everyone else just needs a thicker skin.

            1. Paperwhite*

              Yes you may miss these sorts of seemingly small signs, which is one of the reasons that those who can notice such things should not dismiss them.

          1. The New Wanderer*

            It’s interesting because it can be pretty complex. For example, I attended a large group (~50 attendees) meeting that required working in teams of 5-8 people and was moderated by a man who systematically gave the men more airtime than the women, who were often interrupted or talked over. The other women and I saw it happening in real time, and we all made eye contact with each other and side comments the whole time.

            Afterwards I mentioned this to some of the men I work with who were there – none of them had picked up on it. Not the moderator’s behavior, not the women’s reactions, nothing, but they listened and believed me when I described the instances I had noticed. Maybe hearing me talk about it happening right under their noses will make them more vigilant but unless you’re on the receiving end, you aren’t always primed to notice things. At any rate I hope I raised some awareness because that’s the only way we’ll get real change.

          2. Susan*

            It’s easy to miss things that don’t apply to you and nobody mentions to you.

            I once worked with a bloke who creeped me out. Turns out he creeped one of my female colleagues (and friend) out too. We did what women commonly do in this case, made sure no women were left alone with him (small workplace), shifted around some things in not too obvious ways etc. Didn’t take long before he moved from giving off creepy vibes to saying something inappropriate. At that point yep he was reported, and yes we could mention that while a one-off he made the women very uncomfortable. We had a great boss and creep was quickly gone.

            But there were a lot of men there who had totally missed what all the women had picked up on. I think they thought him a bit weird, but they didn’t see him as a threat.

            I definitely expect people to notice blatant, overt examples. But a lot of problems are either out of sight or more subtle. Without a vested interest this stuff can slip past your notice. I’m sure that I miss things not related to me all the time.

      4. Pippa K*

        I see what you mean about making non-targets of sexism more aware that it exists, but one of the most depressing things about a long-running sexual harassment situation at my job was that, when several women did eventually discuss their experiences with a male colleague we knew well, he said cheerfully, “oh yeah, (X Guy) has done crap like that for years. He’s always been a creep. But it’s no big deal.”

        Finding out that our senior colleagues, with whom we had warm professional relationships and who were equal or senior in rank to (X Guy), had not been blissfully unaware of the harassment but had known about it and let it continue because they didn’t think it was important – that was one of the most demoralizing things that’s happened at this job (which, trust me, is saying something).

        I’ve realized that the problem here isn’t information, it’s attitudes.

        1. OrigCassandra*

          Mm-hm. The “that’s just how he is” reaction. Where “he needs to be a different way, then!” is not an option to say.

    2. Green great dragon*

      It’d be a kindness to everyone at the company to say something. Not expecting Theon to go in all guns blazing or anything, but it’s information he can use, maybe watching a bit closer when his team interact with Ramsay, being a bit more alert to any issues he sees which wouldn’t have seemed much in isolation. Maybe one day Theon will be deciding whether to promote Ramsay. And it’s not like you’re casually gossiping – it’s a polite, no, working for this man is a deal-breaker for me, further details available if required.

      1. LW4*

        LW4 here! I left out in my letter that Ramsay is Theon’s boss, and was at my current company as well. Theon was aware of the sexual harassment situation; it was a small office and word got around to everyone. However, similar to Pippa K’s situation above, there was a whiff of “that’s just how he is,” especially among the older men who have spent their careers in an industry (and role) where blatant sexism was widely accepted/swept under the rug until recently. Also, though Theon and I get along, we are very different people and don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things; he is not someone I would feel safe with as my proxy to go to bat against Ramsay. Plus, he is not in a financial position to jeopardize his job (whether or not his job actually would be in jeopardy isn’t clear, but I’m saying he wouldn’t be willing take the risk).
        Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments/discourse. I agree with everyone who says women shouldn’t have to be burdened with whistleblowing on this stuff all the time, but I also agree with those saying I have an opportunity to make a difference for other women at Ramsay’s company.
        I would almost feel safer going through the interview process and raising it with the company’s HR or recruiting team, but also wasn’t sure about the potential pitfalls of going that route.

        1. AKchic*

          Knowing that Theon isn’t going to be helpful here, I’d be hesitant to try for this job at all. It may be better to just politely decline.

        2. JSPA*

          OK, that doesn’t sound like a consciousness raising gap that you can bridge.

          “This isn’t the right time for a move.” Perhaps with a side of, “Current job has been refreshingly egalitarian and completely respectful of professional norms. I know that doesn’t sound exciting, but it’s been liberating for me. I know it’s hard to find that mindset by chance, in our field, so it’s not something I’m ready to give up.”

          That tells them the direction they need to go, if they want you.

          Without explicitly saying, “Ramsay’s sexism stinks up the place like a three-day-old liverwurst sandwich sitting on the radiator. Your enabling of it is like closing the windows and turning up the heat.”

    3. JSPA*

      The main problem is that Ramsay

      a) apparently believes he’s doing it right
      b) apparently is eager to work with OP
      c) is a fan of OP
      and thus
      d) is a reference OP wants to preserve

      OP might want to name this, in a way that Theon can process. (It might even do Ramsay some good, which is a kindness to anyone who’s working with him.)

      “It’s odd. And it’s awkward to bring it up, because Ramsay clearly intends to be supportive of me and of other women in the workplace. But some of ways Ramsay deals with women in the workplace copy behaviors that other people traditionally used to professionally devalue women. Nothing mean-spirited, of course. Things like asking junior female staff, but not male staff, to play ‘gopher.’ Or delegating significant tasks equally, but asking only the young women to do the low-level, ‘be back-up for my brain’ tasks, while leaving the men to focus on their official jobs. Look, maybe if you’re a guy, you notice him assigning those sorts of tasks to young men, too. But once I saw it in the context of gender, I couldn’t un-see it. By the time I left, it was definitely starting to grate. Given that awareness, I don’t think I could work closely with Ramsay again, and maintain our current, collegial and mutually-respectful relationship.”

      I suspect Ramsay may actually expect too many people (junior and senior) to be his back-up brain–that is, the gender stuff is overlaid on a general problem with organizing his day and his thoughts. In which case, Theon may be…not-unaware…of the overall issue.

      Likely Theon’s not appreciative of the bias in how it’s launched. Also likely, he has not thought about how and why this might land differently in the context of so many generations of young female professionals incredibly disproportionately being asked to make coffee, make phonecalls, organize departmental social events, do holiday decorations, grab files left behind on desks, run errands, etc.

  6. MsM*

    Tangential to #1 (bullet dodged, 100%), but the phrase “don’t you agree?” is like nails on a chalkboard to me. If you just want to spout off, spout off. If you want my opinion, give me an actual chance to express that, even if you don’t end up liking it.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I do wonder if the guy who interviewed me for a job when I was 21 (software company) is still employed. He seemed to think an interview was for proposing his views on a number of subjects unrelated to work and then asking if I could ‘see the wisdom’ in such views.

      (Said views were extremely sexist, racist, anti-everything science…21 year old me though just stammered and probably tanked the interview anyway. I certainly didn’t get a call back)

      Basically, don’t ask questions that aren’t relevant to job. Don’t ask someone if they have kids, what their sexual orientation is, what political views they have, what religion they are, what gender identity they identify as..etc. Unless it IS directly relevant to work and those situations are rare.

  7. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    OP1: I withdrew my application in June when the interviewer spent 20 minutes talking about the current candidates in the interview. It was just one of many flags and I ended up giving candid feedback to their HR when pressed.

    For reference, I am a cis white female in my late-20s applying for an accounting position with an American company in another city here in Europe. My interviewers were all male, 40-70, white, and American except for one who was German (and who was the most professional).
    This was the email (identifying details removed):

    Dear Mr. XZY,

    Thank you for considering me for this position. Although the terms were acceptable, I will be unable to accept the offer. After much thought, I still had several more serious concerns due to the nature of the interview process. Per your request, I am providing feedback on my experience. I hope this may be helpful.

    Even after the four-part interview process, I still lacked a clear idea of how an employee is successful in this position: after being told in the second interview that a person in this role needed to be “very confident”, then in the third by Mr. 123 that the same position could only be held by someone who is “not too direct”, I realized that having conflicting expectations regarding how I carry out my duties could be a heavy distraction.

    One reason I moved to Germany was because I am able to enjoy a better work-life balance than with firms in America. Being told that the department needed “a woman with an ever-ready sympathetic ear ready to help with colleagues’ personal crises” indicated to me an overstep of private life into work life. Such a role would involve a lot of deep, emotional contact and mental effort that would prevent work from getting accomplished efficiently.

    My goal is to get the accounting work done accurately, in a friendly and outgoing way, but that would be hindered by having to do the mentioned therapy-type work that I have no professional training in. I am always willing to support a colleague and my team but with “carrying each other” being a requirement for the role, I’m afraid that there would be no professional distribution of duties.

    Additionally, it was jarring to have the topic of Trump brought up during the interview. I felt it was an assessment of my political orientation, when XYZ company publicly promises no political affiliation.

    Finally, although I understand the company’s stance on “supporting families by keeping families together”, I felt that my employment was made conditional on whether or not my husband was able to relocate with me, which requirement does not apply to everyone. The various exceptions I am aware of, in fact, are all male employees who have maintained separate residences from their families for decades.

    Thank you for your respectful consideration of my experience.

    Sincerely, Teekanne aus Schokolade

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        As a whole, this org is fantastic, and I’m glad that the HR rep (also male) wrote me to tell me they would use my feedback in rethinking some of their policies!

    1. SomehowIManage*

      Wow! So many red flags in one interview process! I almost thought it was a game of “how many mistakes can you find in this scenario”.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Thank you! It was not fun to write and had me feeling so confused, trying to sort out what is just culture carried over from the American home office and how much I could accept. With each interview contradicting the previous as far as expectations for the role, I realized that having to report to so many people with different views would drive me insane.

        1. PSF denizen*

          With each interview contradicting the previous as far as expectations for the role, I realized that having to report to so many people with different views would drive me insane.

          Welcome to the world of professional services firms, where you work with partners who (shockingly) sometimes value different things. If you can’t wrap your head around this don’t work for a PSF.

          (To be clear, the comment that we need “a sympathetic female” was out of line of course.)

          1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

            Right? And this was just a small accounting department for a local chapter of a global nonprofit. It wasn’t so much about different expectations for the work that bothered me, because I’ve no qualms about direct conversations regarding results. It was the different expectations for my attitude (and I’ve got a bunch they didn’t have the “not too ditect’ conversation with male applicants). This is a non-client facing roll as well.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          I particularly liked the fact that you basically said you felt the job description, as told to you, included performing unlicensed therapy during work time, which you are unqualified for and would detract from the core priorities. That’s a very pointed yet professional way of calling out the terrible “sympathetic female shoulder bearing emotional labor for the men in the office” expectation.

          1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

            I don’t even know if it was just for men or for the other women as well. Either way, I’m in no way a therapist. The interviewer talked his way around the fact that everyone gets so stressed around key deadlines that they needed emotional support. I’m not a golden retriever- if it’s so bad they need emotional support then that is definitely a signal that things are way bad, culture wise as well. He said, “It’s not uncommon for us to feel comfortable discussing our home life burdens with each other and we want to lift each other as much as possible”. That was my noping out moment.

    2. Ask a Yank*

      Unfortunately, Teekanne has just found out that Europe is not a workers’ paradise. None of what she wrote about is uncommon in corporate Germany.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Well, this was an American firm in Germany run by Americans and like two Germans. I’ve been contracted out to dozens of corporations here in Germany over the years and found them to be absolutely different than this.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        That letter writer from 2017 is a favorite of mine as well!! They encapsulated objective management so, so perfectly. I take it as the utmost compliment, thank you :)

  8. ballerina*

    #5 Make sure you talk to your boss (and maybe HR) first. I’d give the boss a call and email HR.

    You should discuss coverage for your maternity leave with your boss and then they or you or both of you should inform the colleagues who are affected by those plans.

    With everyone else I’d drop it in during small talk, but you can also send an email if you prefer to let everyone know at the same time.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      In a different setting, it can be a lot of fun to say, “Well, actually I don’t!” and count how many times I say that before the person even notices what I am saying. Typically it’s at least 3-4 times. When people are on a rant they really do not hear inputs from others.

  9. KHB*

    Q1: In normal times, I’d agree that politics is something that reasonable people can disagree about, so it has no place in an interview for a job that’s not explicitly political itself. But these are not normal times. This year, we’ve got one side in favor of reality and the continuation of American democracy, and the other side in favor of seizing authoritarian power through lies. Both sides are not equally valid here, any more than it’s valid to believe that the Earth is flat or that (insert historical event) never happened.

    I can think of a lot of jobs that aren’t overtly political where you still want to have employees who can separate truth from lies. And true, there are other ways to screen for that, but when the election just happened the day before and is on everyone’s minds, that’s the one that’s naturally going to come up in conversation.

    1. LW#1*

      I disagree. Mainly because the hiring manager started off by saying the election was rigged against the incumbent. Didn’t I agree? There is no way the president elect could win. Didn’t I agree? They say there was massive voter fraud and from the numbers it appears something fishy is going on. Didn’t I agree? Mail in ballots shouldn’t be allowed because they are all for the president elect. Didn’t I agree? People were burning ballots. There’s a YouTube video showing it. The election should be thrown out. Didn’t I agree?

      There wasn’t even a conversation, just rapid fire questions asking me to confirm the claims of voter fraud and cheating.

      1. Nia*

        Then the interviewer gave you extremely valuable information about themselves. I’d be grateful. Would you have preferred they not have asked those questions and only find out once you’ve started the job and they start in on that bs?

        1. Jennifer*

          Agreed. I would rather they reveal themselves in the interview so I can dodge that bullet. I would hate to leave a job and end up at a place like this. “Politics” isn’t just politics anymore. Even covid is politicized now. So when people say they want to keep work and politics separate, I don’t even know what they mean anymore.

        2. Paperwhite*

          On the one hand it’s useful informstion but on the other hand it’s a horrible experience to have inflicted on one. As an example: long ago at a convention I tried to talk to someone whose work I admired. He groped me. Being glad I now knew to avoid him didn’t overcome the deep unpleasantness of experiencing that. So while I think LW#1 learned something very valuable I don’t think they need to be grateful for the terrible experience they were deliberately given.

          1. kt*

            Yes, this!!!!

            Someone assaulting you “gives you valuable information about them”. Do any of you say, “Aren’t you happy you learned that now?” when something like that happens?

            This is not perfectly analogous, but the LW did not go into the interview thinking it would be an attack of this kind. Feeling upset is quite justified.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, it seems like the most outspoken people about politics are precisely the ones who believe in these ridiculous conspiracy theories. I’ve never heard unprompted workplace rants from the other party, even pre-2016.

        It’s no coincidence that the people who believe these conspiracy theories are disproportionately members of privileged groups, where they are used to always getting a platform to air their opinions, and also know that they will never face any serious repercussions for anything.

      3. KHB*

        It’s the interviewer’s position – pro-lies and pro-authoritarianism – that’s inappropriate, not the fact that they asked you about it in the interview. Like the others said, I’d be glad that they revealed this information about themselves sooner rather than later.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Unless you’re applying for a job that’s related to politics, I can’t think of a way to bring this up in a job interview that would have been appropriate.

      4. learnedthehardway*

        You mentioned above that you’re not Caucasian – did you feel that the hiring manager was bringing up politics and putting you on the spot like this simply because he’s a conspiracy nut, or did you feel that this was a way of rejecting you for racial reasons (presumably because he would think non-Caucasian voters were Biden supporters)? Ie. did he set you up so he could discriminate but in a way that would be difficult to say was racial discrimination per se?

        That’s honestly the feeling I’m getting from the further details you provided. Initially, my thought was that the guy was unprofessional and/or looking for a “yes-man/woman”. But it takes on a different meaning when you consider that this might have been a clumsy (but effective) attempt to racially discriminate.

        (I know there are non-Caucasian Trump supporters out there, but I’ll bet this guy wouldn’t realize that.)

        1. LW#1*

          I don’t think so. Hiring manager was aggressive that their candidate won – I think it was more denial than racism and hiring manager wanted some type of confirmation that their opinion was right. I brought up race b/c I felt like people assumed I needed to be “screened” for racism.

      5. Reba*

        That sounds like such a disturbing interview (interrogation?). It’s truly wild and I can’t imagine how I would react in that situation!

        Hopefully before too long it will become another wacky job search story.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      Eh. I think you can screen for certain things that are related to the beliefs you’re describing here, but if you start asking specifically about the political candidates (assuming its not explictly relevant to the position) you risk sending really weird signals.

      I’m reminded of an interaction I had with a senior colleague in a non-political setting, when they abruptly asked an explicitly political question. The phrasing implied they were “on the same side” of the spectrum as me….but the question was SO unexpected that it felt….like bait, almost? Then I was stuck in the situation (much like interviewees often feel stuck in interviews). I didn’t want to agree because I was a little fearful they were only asking the question for an excuse to rage/rant to a captive audience. But I also didn’t want to disagree, because that would have been a lie.

      The way employers can communicate to me they value truth and egalitarianism is by taking action to commit those values to reality, treating me (and others) like adults, and setting firm boundaries against inappropriate speech/behaviour.

      Asking everyone in the office to confirm they voted for Biden just feels like an excuse to slack off on real actions.

      (And, FWIW, on a macro level I agree: stated political values can say a lot about a person. But on a case-by-case basis, like you’d have in job interviewing, there’s every chance that these questions will help you screen for savvy-interviewees who know to tell what you want to hear rather than people with the values you’re actually looking for. We know people with unconventional beliefs who know to strategically hide those….and we all know vocal progressives who don’t actually practice their advertised values.)

    3. Uranus Wars*

      But, to me, this still doesn’t make it relevant in a job interview, because, as Alison mentioned, there are better ways to screen for this. The OP dodged a huge bullet, not just because the interviewer was a conspiracy theorist but also because (to me) he exhibited signs of someone who would push a lot of professional boundaries.

      Depending on the size of your company, you probably already have a few co-workers – probably high-level, competent at their job employees – who believe the election was rigged. Are you going to now fire them because of their beliefs on the election, even though their work product hasn’t changed?

      For what it is worth, I am pro-democracy and believe the election results are representative of the vote. I just don’t think politics holds a place in an interview.

      1. Nia*

        I would fire them yes. You can’t believe in the voter fraud conspiracy without being racist and there’s no place for racists in the workplace even if they’re otherwise great at their jobs.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          That is an interesting stance, but I don’t think its blanketly true, at least not where I live. We have many POC that think there was fraud and Trump won – but then again, racism isn’t a one-way street, so of course racism could be involved there too.

          1. Paperwhite*

            And also POC are no more homogenous than any other group united by a particular similarity. It can be really exhausting to say “In part based on my experiences as an X I think Y” and be told in response “I know if an X who thinks not-Y” with the clear implication “so they cancel you out.”

            1. JO*

              It’s kind of funny actually how white men are told to listen to the voices of women and listen to the voices of POC. So they do and then they listen to people like Ben Carson, Ann Coulter, and Candace Owens. Should they get credit for at least trying or what.

              1. Paperwhite*

                Ahahahahahaah good one.

                Responding to “you told me to listen to women” with “I listened to Ann Coulter” is actually based on the whole “All people in X group are completely interchangeable” idea. Searching out one or two quislings who will tell you “for my own personal gain I will confirm that everyone else in the Group You Want Me To Represent is subhuman and undeserving of human rights” is not actually listening to People In Particular Group, but I suppose you get half a point for effort. Of some kind.

                1. JO*

                  Well.. half a point is a start I guess. For the record, I hate the idea that “All people in X group are completely interchangeable” which is why it is so baffling to me that people are told that they need to listen to women, POC, etc.. It doesn’t even really work thanks to the “quislings” as you like to put it. It is more than just one or two though. A minority yes but still a significant amount. Not only that, I don’t want people to feel pressured to support certain policies, candidates, or political parties based on their gender or the color of their skin. Maybe that’s why I find this whole concept of listen to POC, women, or whatever. It strips them of their individuality.

                  You mentioned quislings, are you a Max Brooks fan or did you pull that reference from somewhere else?

            2. Uranus Wars*

              I wasn’t really trying to imply anything…one of the things I like about this blog is the opportunity to learn and to hear what others are experiencing in places that I do not live thru the commentariat.

              I am not so naïve as to think that what I experience is what others have experienced…which is why I ask questions and want to have discussion about what everyone experiences.

        2. Uranus Wars*

          That’s an interesting stance (conspiracy = racism) because where I live that largely applies, but definitely does not apply to 100% of those who are questioning the outcome of the election.

          1. Nia*

            Its a conspiracy theory built around disenfranchising black voters and being perpetuated by the party that has explicitly had disenfranchising black voters as part of their election strategy for decades. Of course it and its believers and enablers are racist.

            1. LTL*

              Many people who believe the voter fraud don’t believe that black voters are being disenfranchised. That’s the point. They believe that in a truly fair election, they would win.

              1. Nia*

                Most racists don’t believe they are racist. That doesn’t mean they aren’t it just means they’re also extremely stupid and unaware. I’d still fire them for it.

                1. LTL*

                  “Most racists don’t believe they are racist.”

                  This is true but doesn’t relate to what I said? People who believe in voter fraud don’t necessarily believe that black voters should be disenfranchised. So I’m confused about how believing in voter fraud proves that you’re racist. What’s the link?

                  You can *speculate* about correlation (but until you do a study or have a source, I’m not going to take it as more than speculation). And what you’re saying is much more absolute.

                2. Nia*

                  If you support racist policies, and disenfranchising black voters is racist whether a person believes thats what they are doing or not, then you are racist.

                3. JO*

                  Almost any policy can be spun as racist, even things like affirmative action can be spun as racist. Are you really going to fire people for misstepping in that mine field?

                4. LTL*

                  Many people who support voter fraud DON’T support disenfranchising black voters and don’t know that the politicians they support help disenfranchise black voters. That’s the point.

                  If I support a politician, and later find out that they’re doing something sexist (and consequently stop supporting them), does it mean that I’m sexist and going to bring that sexist attitude to work? Of course not. I supported an image of a politician that turned out to be untrue. It’s not that I was sexist (politician is sexist and I’m okay with it), it’s that my facts were wrong (I was unaware of the sexism).

        3. tiny cactus*

          But if what you really want to do is screen out racism in your hiring, there are more direct and more effective ways of doing that. Polling people about their opinions about current events would be a weirdly evasive way of achieving that and would probably turn off candidates who would have been a good match, since they have no way of knowing the purpose of the question.

      2. KHB*

        I’m not personally in the position to be able to fire anyone, but if I were, and if I found out that one of my reports was of the pro-lies, pro-authoritarianism persuasion, I’d at the very least take a good long look about whether their work product was really as good as I thought it was. Because in my line of work (media/journalism), being indifferent to facts is just not especially compatible with being a competent employee.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I also believe that, particularly in your field, that everyone should look at the facts and not let any personal bias get in the way. If you found an employee who believed that the election was rigged, but did not report on it or write articles that reflected his personal beliefs, and his past work was still up to par after a more critical glance, would you still fire him based on his beliefs about this election?

          Are those who believe you can’t separate personal beliefs from work willing to re-interview every single person in their workplace and find out where they stand on this issue? If not, then it shouldn’t come up in an interview.

          There are so many other ways to ask questions in regards to character, critical thinking, personal bias and racism other than politics, especially in 2020. The commentariat below has had some very good suggestions on how you can do this without it being political.

          1. KHB*

            “Are those who believe you can’t separate personal beliefs from work willing to re-interview every single person in their workplace and find out where they stand on this issue? If not, then it shouldn’t come up in an interview.”

            Are you saying that if a hiring manager asks a candidate about a topic that they’ve never raised in an interview before, they’re obligated to go back an re-interview all their employees and ask them the same question? Because that’s not how any of this works.

            1. Uranus Wars*

              No of course I know people change interview questions. I am replying specifically to people saying they would fire someone based solely on their political beliefs and for no other reason.

              I am getting too deep in the woods and starting to say things that don’t even make sense to me.

              1. KHB*

                OK. For the record, I do not believe that employers should go on witch hunts to root out their current employees’ political leanings, this year or any other year. That’s because I believe that employees, once hired, should generally be trusted to behave like reasonable people unless they give the employer reason to think otherwise.

                However, if it were to come to light that an employee held a “political belief” that is not compatible with being a reasonable person, I believe an employer would be well within their rights to revisit the question of whether that employee is right for the job. Furthermore, I believe that at the current moment, the “political beliefs” of the sitting President and many of his supporters are not compatible with being a reasonable person.

                1. Susan*

                  I’m really opposed to the idea of hiring and firing based on “beliefs” rather than actions.

                  Believe that the morning after pill is immoral but still dispense to all customers providing the care, attention and courtesy we expect then I’m fine with that.

                  If you believe your boss only got their job as a diversity hire because aren’t really capable of being skilled, but you treat them with the courtesy and respect required and do your job well – I honestly don’t care.

                  Focus on behaviour not belief. Instead of trying to infer someone’s belief based on correlations, worry about how they will act and ask about that.

              2. Paperwhite*

                Watching you bring up the specter of people being fired for, say, believing in racist voter fraud theories, reminds me of how many Black people were fired for daring to vote in the 1960s and anecdotes I’ve heard about people being ‘managed out’ and suddenly given lots of warnings leading to firing upon expressing support for BLM and other current Civil Rights groups. Who claims pre-emptive martyrdom because they say this will surely happen, vs whom it actually is done to, basically.

        2. JO*

          Is that how you frame it as pro lies or pro authoritarianism? One, no one sees themselves as pro lies or authoritarianism. Secondly, the claim can be made for both of our political establishments at least here in America. This seems like an awful lot of concrete scrutiny towards your employee over something so nebulous.

      3. LW#1*

        Not directed to you but in general. I’m confused as to why people believe I was the one who believed in conspiracy theories…I was intentionally vague in my letter on this subject as to avoid this. BUT the hiring manager was the one who was the conspiracy theorist. And pressed me to agree with his views.

        1. Nia*

          People don’t think you are pro conspiracy theory I’m willing to bet everyone understood the interviewer was the conspiracy theorist, people are disagreeing with Alison’s answer because they want to be able to screen out the conspiracy theorists.

        2. Uranus Wars*

          I’m sorry if my note indicated that. I was referring to your interviewer as being the conspiracy theorist and agreeing you dodged a bullet.

          What I was replying to was people thinking politics belong in an interview at all, and that we have to use better ways to screen out people. Unless we are willing to screen out ALL the people.

    4. Blackcat*

      But I think you can ask more relevant questions that suss out the issues with judgement.
      ex: “Tell me about a time when you found information that conflicted with your initial ideas. What did you do?”

      A quick google search revealed this one, which I *really* like: “Have you ever realized you had said or done something that may have been offensive to a colleague? How did you respond to that realization, and what was the outcome?” (I’ll drop the source link in a reply).

    5. EPLawyer*

      If the only way you can sort out someone’s judgement is to bring up a very divisive topic, I would have serious questions about YOUR judgment. Such that I would walk out of the interview.

      This is like the undercover boss – -oh the way only you can find out the “truth” about your employees is to spy on them? Yeah you are not a good boss. That probably translates into micromanaging and other dysfunction. Oh the only way you can find out someone has poor judgment is to ask them about the recent election – you are not a good interviewer, don’t have good hiring processes in place and probably have a lot of other dysfunction going on. BYE-BYE and buy bonds.

      1. whistle*

        Very well said, EPLawyer.

        Also, even this was a good interview strategy, it has a built in time limit. What are you going to ask about in a year? Current controversial events are not good sources of interview questions except in very particular fields.

      2. LTL*

        Not to mention, someone who isn’t a conspiracy theorist can have poor judgement in ways relevant to the job. Best to screen directly.

  10. Jam Today*

    #4 — tell them exactly why. Secrecy, shame, and fear of being labeled a trouble maker (a valid fear, I freely submit) are part of why men like Ramsay are allowed to get away with what they do. If management doesn’t know, they don’t know what to look out for, and if they are in any way a conscientious company, they will move to protect their female employees.

    As an aside: after the worst year of my life spent working for a Ramsay, I decided to be very honest with future interviewers when they asked why I left X company after working there for so long. Two of the three interviewers I told (all at different companies) were men, and both men were startled but immediately thanked me for saying it out loud. I was worried that I would get the “troublemaker” brand out of the gate, but was offered jobs at two of the companies so I have a little more confidence that honesty about sexism in the workplace isn’t entirely the poison it used to be.

  11. Bookworm*

    OP1: Agree. If the job *was* political in nature (like, you’re being hired to close out the campaigns for one of them), then that’s another thing.

    I can understand some of the responses feeling different, but there are other ways around it: a background search, social media scans, etc.

    Ultimately it sounds like a bad fit. Even if you DID agree, it still might be an issue. How do they deal with people who don’t agree? Or outside clients/vendors/customers, etc.?

    1. KHB*

      Personally, I’d find a “social media scan” to be a whole lot more intrusive than an in-person chat about current events. I don’t have any social media to speak of that’s linked to my real name (for exactly this reason) – but if you want to know what I think about something, just ask me, and I’ll very likely answer.

      1. TB*

        When I’m hiring a new employee, I absolutely check said person’s social media. If there are blatantly pro-(a certain political figure, you can probably figure out which one) things posted on there, it means two things:
        1. They exercised poor enough judgment not to make their profile more private, which is just common sense if you’re going to post divisive things, and:
        2. They simply aren’t the type of person I want on my team, because I know they’ll discuss their views in the workplace. People with political views on that particular end of the spectrum can’t resist shouting their support for that particular candidate to the heavens, and I know they’ve already done so on a public social media profile.

        Those people won’t even get an interview. People whose social media contains posts expressing ideologies that may be on that side of the political continuum, but not outrageous baseless claims or clear evidence that they are cult followers of one particular politician, will get an interview, which will be conducted professionally and without political questions, but with a close eye on whether or not they express political views in the interview. If after the interview, the person seems like a good fit and can do the job, there’s a good chance I’ll hire them.

        1. Lacey*

          I suspect that you notice people on that end of the political spectrum discussing their views in the office. Because you don’t like those views and they bother you. But the ones that coincide with your views don’t, so you don’t blink.

          I am fairly centrist, so I get to be uncomfortable no matter who is talking. I don’t notice that one side or the other talks more. They’re both pretty loud and both of them have people who don’t keep politics out of the office.

          1. Marie*

            “I suspect that you notice people on that end of the political spectrum discussing their views in the office. Because you don’t like those views and they bother you. But the ones that coincide with your views don’t, so you don’t blink.”

            +1,000

        2. Marie*

          Curious, do you apply the same scrutiny to prospective employees who take the same actions and are equally expressive in private about their viewpoints, but are on the other side of the aisle?

        3. Susan*

          So basically you screen for who people vote for as part of the hiring process?

          I’m honestly finding myself more in sympathy with some of the conspiracy theories I’ve heard about the US. I just can’t imagine a company thinking it has the right to exercise such control over their employees.

          I’m not in the US, but there are political parties here I am incredibly opposed to. I still can’t imagine deciding that someone can’t be a good because they vote “wrong”. I admit if I heard some people had voted for X I’d really want to ask why bc there’s some obvious conflicts between what we do for a living and what X promote on specific topics. But I know it’s inappropriate to ask, so would just be privately confused. People can care deeply about a topic with the same values and still vote differently overall. Personally, I’ve voted for parties I never want in control but do want to have a place at the table because I think they bring valuable corrections to the status quo (but find them too extreme to lead).

  12. WellRed*

    Disappointed by the comments trying to validate the interviewer asking about elections. Way to add insult to injury for the OP.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If we point out our differences we will continue to divide and separate. But if we focus on what we have in common there is an opportunity to rise above it. The boss could have chosen to focus on the fact that we all need to eat and have a roof over our heads. We have that in common.

      1. KHB*

        Thanks, but I’m not interested in finding common ground with racists, liars, and authoritarians. People with those views have been coddled long enough.

        1. JO*

          I have found that where I am living that even though the political establishment is split between two parties that they both are racists, liars, and authoritarians. When this makes up 98% support of the ruling elite, it becomes a lonely existence.

          1. pancakes*

            There are numerous organizations working on political issues outside of electoral politics, and numerous organizations dedicated to anti-racist action, anti-authoritarian, etc. If you’re not looking around beyond where you live there’s a lot you’re not going to see.

      2. Pippa K*

        Yeah, look, where I live, political officeholders have suggested on social media that supporters of my preferred political party should be shot as traitors. They like the metaphor of mass graves better than the metaphor of common ground. Urging everyone to seek unity is saying they need to learn to tolerate people with different policy preferences and I need to learn to tolerate people who want me dead.

        So no.

        1. JO*

          It’s getting bad where I am at too. Surveys have shown about a ten fold increase over the last few years or so for a total of about 33% of both sides believe that it is acceptable to use violence to achieve political goals.

      3. Paperwhite*

        The burden of trimming down and painting over differences always falls on those seen as different, seen as “marked”, vs those seen as “ordinary/normal/unmarked”. Also, we should not need to prune away our identities to be worthy of being treated as human beings.

    2. LW#1*

      Thank you! I didn’t intend for my letter to have people question whether I was racist or that I believed in conspiracy theories. I have been a victim of racism (both verbally and physically) and it’s strange to have that brought up when my letter was simply asking how to avoid talking politics as that’s not normal business in any office I’ve ever worked for. It feels akin to asking someone’s religion…

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        I think I uncovered a personal bias here, because I realised I assumed (from your letter) that the boss was pro-conspiracy theory — and then was taken aback to see commentors arguing the other way around.

        1. LW#1*

          Me too! I purposely didn’t use language as to tip the political beliefs one way or another in my letter, but it appears by not coming out and saying “conspiracy theories” or “vote fraud,” people assumed I believed in the conspiracies and needed to be screened for racism…

          1. Mystery Bookworm*

            Yes. I think I noticed your careful language, concluded you were reasonable/self-reflective, and then (without explictly realising) concluded I probably agreed with you politically….LOL, something for me to keep in mind.

          2. Slinky*

            Yeah, you are getting some really strange responses to your question! The idea that a manager would be asking if you believe the election was rigged to screen for racism is a leap, in part because a person could believe the election result was valid and still be racist. There isn’t a 1:1 correspondence.

          3. CM*

            I agree with you, either way it’s 100% inappropriate to ask someone about their politics if the job has nothing to do with politics. I think you handled it fine by trying to turn the conversation back to the interview. But honestly, I don’t see the situation being salvaged after this, so it almost doesn’t matter how you handle it? You could have said, “I’m no longer interested,” and walked out. If you were desperate for the job and were determined to get it no matter what, it seems like the only way you could have done that in this situation was by lying and agreeing.

            1. LW#1*

              In normal times, I probably would have ended the interview, but in these times and with the amount of money they were offering for the role, I tried to salvage it. But it was really stunning to be asked that.

              1. Lora*

                I am wondering if the reason they are offering such a lot of money is because the #1 job condition is, “must put up with a boss who rants all day about politics, conspiracy theories, tinfoil hat design and what he heard on 2am talk radio but somehow still get work done”.

                There’s two employers in my field who notoriously pay a LOT, and offer lavish benefits: free food, on site gym complete with personal trainers and dietitians, transportation to and from work gratis (a charter bus picks people up from a transit station, transit passes are heavily subsidized), etc etc. The downside is, they do not manage Personality Problems at all. They have a lot of Personality Problems, and if you complain to HR you’re told to shut up and deal with it. It’s just a complete abdication of management when it comes to dealing with people’s crappy behaviors. People rarely last more than a couple of years at either of those places, unless they luck into a really good manager who shields them from the worst of the crap. Mostly people – very good people, intelligent people with thick skins and easygoing personalities – decide the money isn’t worth their sanity and bail as soon as they reasonably can.

          4. Blackcat*

            I don’t know if folks were ascribing those traits to you, necessarily. I think they *do* believe in screening out for the beliefs the interviewer holds, and it’s hard to justify doing that while also not defending the reverse.

            I will say, I feel like I’ve been screened for racism in just about every job interview. Maybe that’s because it’s education/higher ed, but I’ve *always* been asked some question that gets at that. I’ve also been a part of interviewing faculty candidates, and watched people massively whiff on such questions (generally saying something like “I believe STEM ability is innate and some groups of people just don’t have it as much.”). I really support finding a way to do some screening for folks’ racist beliefs and letting that be a determining factor.

            1. LW#1*

              That’s a bit different. I don’t think a hiring manage should say that the election was ripe full of fraud and follow up with “don’t you agree?” Because either way you are setting up the candidate and what are you really screening for. If I say ‘no’ and you don’t agree, then I’ve blown the job. If I say ‘yes’ and you were just testing me, then I’ve blown the job. Either way it’s horrible to ask. There are other ways to screen for beliefs and values that do not center around a very polarizing election. Someone people can’t even converse with their own family about it, let alone how is a person supposed to speak about it in an interview?

              1. Blackcat*

                Yeah, but I think people often project adjacent situations onto questions. That’s what happens here. Your question sparks discussion that can veer from the actual context.

                What happened to you was wild and 100% not normal. And there was really no good way out–people who ask questions like that won’t be satisfied by anything other than a full agreement.

                And, honestly, it’s part of what makes me scared for the future. If people who believe in conspiracy theories won’t even work with people who don’t, I lose a lot of hope for those conspiracy theorists eventually seeing the light.

              2. juliebulie*

                “Don’t you agree” rubs me the wrong way no matter what, because it means “I’d rather put words into your mouth than know what you really think.”

              3. Paperwhite*

                You’re absolutely right. ASking “don’t you agree” about ANYTHING is terrible in an interview for the reasons you describe And then that they chose this contentious election for their topic, and their chosen opinion, let you know you were sitting across from someone who didn’t really value your humanity, which is never a fun time. All in all, ugh. I am so sorry you had this inflicted on you — and that’s what it was, a deliberate infliction.

            2. Jennifer*

              I agree. To me, it was obvious that the interviewer was the conspiracy theorist, not the OP. I think that the interviewer provided information that helped the OP make the wise decision not to move forward with the hiring process. So if politics was never mentioned, she could have ended up in an office with a bunch of covid deniers.

              I don’t see anyone assuming the OP is a racist conspiracy theorist. They are just pushing back on the idea that it’s always wrong to screen for this kind of thing.

      2. le teacher*

        First of all, I agree with you that politics should just not come up in job interviews if the job has nothing to do with politics. But I read your letter how a lot of other comments did, because I live in a metro area that is very political (and liberal) and people talk politics all the time. So when someone in my region says “I’d prefer not to discuss politics” or “this is not appropriate to talk politics” it almost always means they are a big Trump supporter to be completely honest. So that might be where people are coming from. I think it just depends on the region and field.

        1. pancakes*

          I don’t think this is or should be regional. I’m in a similar city, perhaps the same city, and I’ve said that to people who are centrists because they’re to my right and I’d rather not get into it at times. Unless it’s relevant to our work I’d rather not get into it at work.

    3. Meh*

      Yes! Thank you! This whole comment section reeks of “it’s not discrimination if I do it!”

      What’s next? Asking someone’s religious beliefs and screening them out because their beliefs are problematic? (Yes, I know religion is protected, but so is political affiliation/activities outside the workplace in California, either way neither have a place for “screening” in an interview.)

  13. Dancing with Dragons*

    LW 5 – I became pregnant before the pandemic so was able to tell my manager in person in March, but didn’t tell my teams until after the 20 week ultrasound (around June). I let the gossip mill carry the news around further then told others I was working with regularly around 37 weeks that I’d be on maternity leave soon and so-and-so was my interim replacement etc. I told HR at the last possible moment for FMLA and STD considerations. It was nice to do it on my terms since I wasn’t walking into the office with a huge belly and due to my own health concerns I was worried I’d lose the pregnancy. Being able to wait til a much more safe time was great for my mental health.

    Congratulations!

    1. Lily Rowan*

      It’s wild with everyone working from home, because there is so much less of a gossip mill, and no way to casually notice that someone is pregnant. I have found out that a couple of people I work with are pregnant the week before they go out on leave! (And a couple of people I work with less closely not until they were off.)

      1. LW 1*

        Yeah, I was hoping that the gossip ring would work for me but we’ve had some turnover in the last year so I don’t know who the main news-spreader is now. I think a lot of people won’t know until I’m gone and they see my OOO automatic reply.

        I told my boss a few weeks ago, expecting he would help arrange coverage (which he still will closer to the time), and he says he wouldn’t tell anyone because he thinks it’s my news to share. I told him that is not a secret and he can tell people as necessary. I don’t know if my grandboss even knows, and I almost never end up in meetings with him so I don’t know how to bring it up.

        1. Dancing with Dragons*

          I definitely had people say to me in meetings they didn’t know if I’d mention it or not so clearly someone was spreading it around lol

  14. Franz Kafkaesque*

    LW#2
    Your new boss really sounds like one of these Dunning-Kruger Armchair Psychologist types. She probably picked up this “tip” in some “this is how they do things in Silicon Valley” book or conference. I’d walk a wide circle around this person. Sorry if I’m being hyperbolic, but stuff like this boils my blood. What a fool. Way to complete ruin your credibility with your new staff on Day 1. It really takes a special talent to accomplish that.

    1. Van Wilder*

      Yeah I find this really embarrassing. Especially because it sounds like she executed it terribly. Not answering direct questions? Asking nonstop questions at complete strangers? What a NARC.

  15. Butters*

    For #5 there really is no need to notify people that will not be directly impacted by your absence on maternity leave. I wouldn’t even send out a mass email and would just let people know privately that you plan to be out during x period of time unless there is a team meeting where you could state that. I would not want to be notified in a mass email that someone is pregnant – I get that it’s a big deal for you but it’s not for everyone else.

    1. Susan*

      I disagree. Well I disagree if you mean people you’d normally see and interact with in the office so would get this news another way. I agree if you mean random people who just happen to have the same employer.

      I like hearing good news about my colleagues. Winning a major sporting event, getting married, having kids. If a colleague’s going to disappear for a year then it’s weird not to know that (or any length not normal leave time period), even if I’m not affected by their absence professionally. I’d probably assume you were sacked if you just disappeared with no announcement.

      Email isn’t my preferred means of sharing such news, but if that’s all that’s available I say go ahead. Maybe not as early as “I’ve started telling people” but definitely when I’m preparing to be out of the office for a lengthy period of time and will likely notice.

  16. employment lawyah*

    1. Interviewer pressed me about the presidential election
    Makes perfect sense to me; I am a but surprised at the contrary responses.

    There are TONS on this board involving someone who is dissatisfied with their companies political stance. here, they’re eliminating those posts up front by asking. Frankly this is arguably a brilliant mood, because it’s better not to hire someone than it is to hire someone who turns out to think half your staff are idiotic throwaways.

    This seems rude because it didn’t used to happen. Then again, it also used to be rude to do a lot of things, so that doesn’t really control any more.

    4. How to withdraw from consideration because of a sexist hiring manager
    Just withdraw.

    There is nothing to be gained by telling the truth. You’re not going to foment change by a comment, because you’re not important enough to force things. And you may burn a bridge. Why risk i?

    5. Announcing a pregnancy when I’m remote
    First, congrats; kids are awesome.

    Mass emails are best IMO. As you may have noticed, people have vastly different reactions to all sorts of things. I’ve seen adults burst into tears (they had fertility problems) or make wildly inappropriate comments, etc. Email allows them to have those reactions when you’re not there.

    1. employment lawyah*

      To clarify: I, personally, prefer a job where everyone just goes about their day. If someone supports a cause I hate then I wouldn’t invite them to my BBQ, but I don’t care if I work with them.

      But it is apparent that a LOT of people disagree with me; they want to work with (and for) companies who share their goals, values, and political beliefs.

      That’s a two sided coin. If the companies think they may hire one of those folks, they need to test for it.

      1. LTL*

        “they want to work with (and for) companies who share their goals, values, and political beliefs”

        Quite frankly, unless they work for a nonprofit, they need to curb this expectation. You can’t spend your life avoiding people with different beliefs, even if those beliefs are outlandish sometimes. By all means, put up your own boundaries and don’t tolerate anyone having discussions with you that you don’t like. But work is work. It’s not your friend group.

      2. Arvolin*

        The goal of my last company was to provide new and innovative manufacturing solutions (and make money doing so). The values were of treating employees and customers well, and accomplishing good things. I was fully on board with all of that. We had no stated political beliefs. I know some people mostly shared my beliefs and some didn’t, but that was individuals, not the company.

      3. Jennifer*

        I don’t need to work with people that support my beliefs, that’s a tall order. I just want to work with people that won’t put my health at risk by not wearing masks or socially distancing while at work, and that aren’t sexist/racist.

        They can think Covid is a hoax at home, but stay 6 feet away and wear a mask when we’re in the same building.

      4. Paperwhite*

        Do you have to go through life considering the odds of being called slurs, having your work downgraded, beaten up, sexually assaulted, and so on, because of who you are? Some of us have to consider that calculus every day, and it affects how we have to negotiate the world. People discuss “beliefs” as if no one ever acts on those beliefs, but people act on their beliefs all the time.

        1. employment lawyah*

          Huh.

          For example, 3/4 of the things you discussed (called slurs, beaten up, sexually assaulted) really have nothing to do with “work” per se and are not ordinary risks of work at any normal workplace. Of course they happen–I’ve represented people involved in all of them–but they re not standard by any means and are usually far more limited in scope than those same issue outside work.

          As such, using them to justify any other work behavior or decisions is blurring the distinction between life in and out of work. And that’s your choice of course! I support your own choice to do or feel whatever you like, whether or not you agree with me.

          But life doesn’t work in just one direction. If YOU blur lines, THEY blur lines. If YOU assign assumed actions or bias or whatever to people based on their group membership, political affiliation, or anything else, then THEY will also do the same.

          Again, this is your call, but I don’t think it is necessarily a globally-effective strategy.

          1. Paperwhite*

            OK, you’re good at words. I totally don’t have time to dissect and unpack how fractally you have deliberately misunderstood me here.

          2. pancakes*

            That’s just not correct. Many of these things are extremely common in US workplaces. I don’t know what you’re trying to allude to with “normal,” but there are numerous well-sourced reports about the prevalence, of, say, sexual harassment in food service, which is one of the largest categories of jobs in the nation. There’s a report that came out just this week from One Fair Wage about sexual harassment in food service during the pandemic:

            “Of 1,675 tipped service workers who were surveyed, 41 percent said they had noticed an increase in the frequency of unwanted sexualized remarks from customers. Nearly 250 of them shared sexualized comments they’d experienced or heard; in many cases, they said, customers demanded that female servers remove their masks so they could judge their looks . . .”

            There’s no shortage of information about the prevalence of racism in US workplaces, likewise violence. The US Gov’t Accountability Office (GAO) has published reports about, for example, the prevalence of violence in healthcare. From a 2016 report, which was easy to find: “The number of nonfatal workplace violence cases in health care facilities ranged from an estimated 22,250 to 80,710 cases for 2011, the most recent year that data were available from all three federal datasets that GAO reviewed. The most common types of reported assaults were hitting, kicking, and beating.” More recent reporting in the AJMC says that “75% of nearly 25,000 workplace assaults occur annually in healthcare settings . . .” There’s no shortage of information about other industries, either.

            1. employment lawyah*

              pancakes*
              December 5, 2020 at 10:25 am

              That’s just not correct.
              Um. Are you using words differently than their normal usage?

              Sexual HARASSMENT is fairly common–though it varies a lot depending on whether you’re looking at claims, reports, or findings of guilt, of course. I didn’t say otherwise. Sexual ASSAULT, however, which is what I was replying to and what the poster discussed, is not at all common, thankfully.

              I differentiate between harassment and assault, and I would do so even more stringently if I was talking about customer comments and not inter-employee harassment. Don’t you differentiate, too?

              You then mention “racism” which is common, sad to say. I do plenty of racial discrimination suits.

              But “racism” wasn’t discussed, either. This was slurs. Ths open, direct, racial slurs–I’m not talking microaggressions or someone who wears a Blue lives Matter shirt here–are dropping hugely and are much less common now in the vast majority of workplaces. I can’t say that people never get called the N-word, but I can say that a) it’s a hell of a lot rarer than it has been; b) it isn’t “normal” workplace behavior by any means; and c) there is a strong and developing body of caselaw where the employer can be held significantly liable when it happens.

              As for violence: Come on, seriously, do you not see the thread is about EMPLOYEES?

              Yes, health care workers get beaten and assaulted because a) “healthcare” includes a lot of work with a lot of people who are not able or willing to control their impulses; and b) healthcare workers, unlike cops, are less interested in Tasing people every time they raise an eyebrow.

              Health care workers don’t get attacked *by coworkers*, as a rule. Neither do other folks.

              1. BuildMeUp*

                Sexual ASSAULT, however, which is what I was replying to and what the poster discussed, is not at all common, thankfully.

                Ths [sic] open, direct, racial slurs–I’m not talking microaggressions or someone who wears a Blue lives Matter shirt here–are dropping hugely and are much less common now in the vast majority of workplaces.

                Health care workers don’t get attacked *by coworkers*, as a rule. Neither do other folks.

                Please cite your sources for these claims.

              2. pancakes*

                I didn’t say or suggest healthcare workers are being attacked primarily by their coworkers. What I took / take issue with is your assertion that violence and sexual assault “are not ordinary risks of work at any normal workplace.” Both are quite ordinary at US workplaces. What you’re seeing in your own work isn’t at all relevant to the question of what’s common or normal. Your own work isn’t a microcosm of work in the US.

              3. Jam Today*

                “Sexual ASSAULT, however, which is what I was replying to and what the poster discussed, is not at all common, thankfully.”

                I’m not sure where you are getting your information from, can you cite?

                Speaking purely anecdotally, I was assaulted TWICE at a previous company — a fairly run-of-the-mill software development company. Both times I was groped by a coworker, one of those times at a function where clients were standing 20 feet away from us. I wasn’t a waitress and I wasn’t a nurse — who are assaulted with nauseating regularity.

  17. TTDH*

    Wow, the boss from OP2 isn’t thinking critically if they feel like this is a good way to gauge the attitude/friendliness of their team. My industry is less tightly regulated than healthcare, but involves some confidential work, and we do sometimes have folks who “secret shop” us – for security reasons. I’m considered pretty sociable, but if I ran into someone I didn’t know and felt like they were trying to press for information about me, my job function, or my team, I’d be more likely to be cagey (or possibly escort them to their destination in the building, or to Security) than to be warm and accommodating.

  18. Emi*

    > “if … you are actually interviewing for a lobbying job and no one told you that”
    Is this a joke, or an actual thing that happens? Like with these masked job postings from recruiters, or something?

    1. Briefly anon*

      Ha, I was once asked to do a briefing for a ‘government agency’ that was carefully not disclosed (itself a clue!) until the scope and timing of the briefing had been roughly agreed. Then the agency (a somewhat controversial one in my field) was disclosed and it was made clear that I could decline with no hard feelings if I had objections. Seemed a perfectly reasonable way to handle it, but surely that’s a pretty rare circumstance.

  19. Carina Price*

    LW1 – What a strange way of starting off your relationship with your employees. I take the point about “mystery shoppers” and that their evaluation of you and your customer service can get you fired. However, with mystery shoppers the purpose of the exercise is to objectively evaluate the service extended to the customer – it is about a business transaction, nothing to do with trust.

    As Alison has stated on numerous occasions – first impressions matter and they last (I am paraphrasing). In a lot of instances, these comments were made to or regarding job candidates as a bad first impression can cost you the job. I consider myself someone who takes a long time to trust an employer and even then not fully (been burnt too many times and have learned the hard way), so a manager who deceived me like this would likely lose any chance of me ever trusting, even just a little. In whatever they do or say, I would always wonder that their agenda is. Hell, I would likely start job searching as constantly looking over your shoulder is too much like hard work and in my exit interview make my reason for leaving abundantly clear.

  20. Luke*

    On the subject of LW1: can we put together a “field guide” for how to effectively screen toxic managers/workplaces at the interview step?

    Setting aside the political subject, this interviewer gave off multiple red flags. Including the rejection letter at 3am. In my professional opinion, life is too short to deal with toxic leaders and orgs. Unfortunately, not all of them are as “open” about their dysfunctional ways.

    1. Arvolin*

      On the other hand, it is nice to get an actual rejection rather than the usual ghosting, and an email sent at 3 AM doesn’t mean I have to be awake then.

  21. AngryOwl*

    LW1, I don’t think anyone is assuming that *you* are a racist, but rather talking about screening for racism/sexism/etc in general. I fully support screening for those things, but in no way assumed that you were the problem in your situation.

  22. Slightly Snarky*

    OP1: I worked for a large organization during the 2008 election. My boss and I were the only ones in our group, but after a reorganization, I was transferred to another group in our department. Nothing we did had anything to do with politics. My boss and I had a friendly, but hands off relationship, so I didn’t know much about him or vice versa. The new group was WAY more social and interacted a lot. A day after transferring to their group, one of the members, Lucinda, came by and out of the blue brought up the upcoming election. I didn’t really give an answer (similar to the LW), but was pretty benign in everything I said to her – basically suggesting that I hadn’t made up my mind yet. After five minutes of her beating around the bush, she got more direct, trying to figure out how I was going to vote. So I finally said that I was leaning towards one of the candidates. She rolled her eyes and said loudly, “She’s one of yours!” And another team member came around the corner, smiling. Turns out, I’d been in a bit of a bubble with my old boss and didn’t know the entire department was pretty open about their politics. You were on one team or the other. It really threw me off since I don’t discuss politics at work.

    On the other hand, I worked there for many years afterwards and it was actually pretty respectful. We all knew who was what (and who the independents were), but it was a much more friendly dialogue when it came to politics. The department was pretty evenly split between the Ds and Rs and a lot of people were pretty politically active outside of work. Not that there wasn’t one or two heated debates or even snarky comments, but somehow it worked.

    I seriously doubt that can be the case in most places though. I still believe it doesn’t belong in the workplace. Period. An interview like that would have bothered me, but it could be that their atmosphere is similar and you’d need to be comfortable with it to work there. If you’re not, better to opt out.

  23. daisies*

    I don’t love this pregnancy narrative that is emerging that there’s an OK time to announce, and a not-OK time to announce. Do it whenever you are comfortable! And if there’s an OB telling you when you should or should not tell other people, that’s kind of inappropriate. Not to be too morbid but we have seen this very publicly recently with the Chrissy Teigen situation–no stage of pregnancy is truly “all clear” of potential for complications or adverse outcomes. Share your happy news when you are ready!

    1. Lacey*

      There are optimal and sub-optimal times to announce depending on what your goals are for the announcement. That’s what people are talking about.

    2. PT*

      “Share your happy news when you are ready!” and the OP has said she will be ready when the OB confirms the risk of loss will be low from that point forward.

  24. Elle Woods*

    LW#1’s story reminds of an interview I had 10 years ago. My neighbor was a receptionist at a small law firm and she said they wanted marketing & PR help. She gave them my name, they reached out, I sent them my resume, and went in for an interview. Pre-interview, I did the obligatory research about the firm, its lawyers, cases they’d argued, media outreach, marketing efforts, etc.

    The first few minutes of the interview were awkward. It was very apparent to me they had no interest in marketing & PR help but instead wanted a new receptionist (which was my neighbor’s job). My gut told me I wasn’t getting the job but to see it through and be professional about it.

    Eventually, they got around to asking about my education and about my master’s degree. (It’s in political communication.) The head lawyer’s eyes lit up. He proceeded to go into a spiel about his time as a state legislator and how politics was exciting to him. Then he said, “Isn’t politics an exciting game?” My reply was something along the lines of “Politics is interesting but I don’t view it as a game; a game has winners and lowers. Politics has very significant real-world consequences on people’s day-to-day lives.” I didn’t get the job and a couple of years later, the firm closed its doors.

  25. Jean*

    LW1, I admire your restraint. That would have been met with an “ARE YOU F***ING KIDDING ME” and an abrupt walkout from me. HARD NO. That person must have been on some kind of mind altering substance (further supported by the 3AM rejection email).

  26. PeopleOps*

    Re: LW1. In Seattle (where I am) there is a municipal code that makes discrimination based on political views illegal. Just an interesting tidbit to toss in here, as hiring managers should be aware of not only federal level of protections, but also state and city, which could be more narrow than the federal list of protected classes. I work at a progressive organization and we aren’t apolitical per se, but I train hiring managers about this.

      1. Slinky*

        How? Not discriminating based on political ideology doesn’t violate free speech in any way that I can tell.

        1. pancakes*

          It’s not a new idea at all; people have made the argument that a code of this type violates their 1st Amendment right to free association. This argument was rejected by the Supreme Court in Roberts v. United States Jaycees (1984). There have been some subsequent developments but that’s the gist of the idea.

  27. California Typewriter*

    My political beliefs are generally the opposite of my coworkers (from what I can tell). If it comes up I stay very neutral (as in, “yes, that new law will raise taxes,” or “with that new law we”ll have to start doing this.” Exactly explaining my beliefs or reasons behind them would take too much time and I don’t like being put in a box based on saying “I’m liberal” or “I’m conservative.” Also, if someone I work with is a blatant racist or wild conspiracy theorist I don’t want to know (for what it’s worth, I’m mixed race myself, might not see it by looking at me but my name was on my desk and it’s obvious).

    That said, in that interview I probably would’ve said something like “they’ve looked into it, there’s no widespread evidence of fraud that would change anything.” Then assume I wasn’t getting the job for not falling lock-step with the interviwer’s beliefs.

    1. JO*

      I love this phrase “there is no wide spread EVIDENCE”, and I wish things were approached more often from that angle. I am a nurse and we are taught since day one to follow the principals of evidence based practice. For example, I have a supervisor that believes COVID-19 was created in a Chinese laboratory and that virus has been created to integrate with our DNA. She says it with such confidence that I don’t really have an opening so to question it even though most experts believe that this was a natural jump from animals to human. Granted, I don’t believe for one second that the Chinese government has the best interests of the American people at heart but if someone is going to make a claim about that then they need to provide evidence and be specific on how that would change someones treatment plan etc…

      1. pancakes*

        They don’t actually need to, though. Your coworker doesn’t have evidence, and that hasn’t stopped her from acting as if she does. You don’t need to treat her misplaced and unearned confidence as a fine substitute for evidence, either, for that matter! It’s not.

  28. Tony*

    Sorry to say that acknowledging reality has become a political statement. How is anyone supposed to keep politics out of work, when one party is politicizing facts?

    Joe Biden won the election, COVID is bad, masks help stop the spread of COVID. These are all political statements now. It’s sad, but true.

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