I was used as a public example of what not to do at a team meeting

A reader writes:

Today we had our monthly team meeting, in which our managerial team usually chooses one topic to discuss and instruct the rest of the team on. Let’s say the work we do is llama grooming and today’s instruction was about the tone we use when writing the llama grooming documents. My grandboss, Chad, leads the meetings and today started by saying something along the lines of, “I was reminded of some issues related to tone when I was reviewing Ivy’s last llama grooming document, and I thought they’d be worth discussing as a group.” (Surprise! Ivy is me!)

He then proceeded to list several things that llama care writers like myself often do wrong or could improve upon, frequently peppering the instruction with things like “As I noticed in Ivy’s document, it’s often better to do X rather than Y” or “I was reminded of this issue when reviewing Ivy’s document.” None of the things he mentioned were Big Issues, more like subtle course corrections or ways to more effectively communicate the right ideas.

After about 15 or 20 minutes of this, he said “Ivy, I don’t want you to think I’m picking on you. Your writing is very strong!” to which I just didn’t respond because a) it was a Zoom call, so it wasn’t as though we were in the same room and I just didn’t say anything, and b) I had no idea what to respond with, because I felt VERY picked on.

To say the least, it was very uncomfortable, embarrassing, and demoralizing to consistently be referred to in front of the whole team in relation to things we shouldn’t do, and now I’m left worrying about whether the rest of the team even views me as a competent asset to the team or takes me seriously after listening to a recitation of my missteps and areas to improve in.

Chad had already given me this feedback via email and I thanked him for it and have implemented it in other documents, so having my weaknesses aired in a team meeting felt decidedly not great. There is absolutely no reason he couldn’t have just said, “Here are some things I’ve noticed that could be improved as I’ve reviewed the team’s documents” and left me out of it completely, and I’m so upset that he didn’t do that. My close colleagues who are also llama care writers privately expressed their outrage to me that he’d used me as a public example like that, but nobody from the managerial team seemed to think it was inappropriate. Unfortunately, the one manager who I feel confident would have my back on this wasn’t in the meeting, so going to her for advice isn’t really an option.

Is it worth shooting Chad an email to tell him that I was very uncomfortable by the way he handled this situation? We’re remote right now, so a face to face discussion isn’t possible, and even if it were, I don’t think I’d be comfortable with that. Chad is always saying that he wants us to give him feedback and call out when he messes up or could improve, but I have little faith that me saying anything would even have a positive effect (which is a whole separate issue in and of itself). Telling him that I was uncomfortable with the way the meeting went would be more about catharsis for me than it would be about expecting change from him, but should I do it anyway? If so, how exactly do I say “I think it was highly inappropriate of you to use me as an example like that and please never do it again” in a professional way?

Yeah, that’s not good.

It’s very possible — even likely — that Chad thought it was okay to use you as an example because he thinks it’s obvious that your work is strong and/or that these weren’t serious issues. He might have figured it would be clear to you and others that this wasn’t “Ivy sucks,” but rather “here’s how to take something already good and make it even stronger.”

It’s still not okay though. As you said, he could have made the same points without naming you. Or he could have checked with you beforehand to see if you’d mind and to let you know where he was coming from.

Of course with the way he did it, you felt singled out and embarrassed. Does Chad … perhaps have a track record of not seeming entirely in tune with how most humans work?

As for whether it’s worth saying anything: If you felt comfortable talking with Chad about it and believed it would have an impact, I’d say yes. Sometimes managers have blind spots and are receptive to people pointing them out, especially when they’ve injured someone. But you said doing that would be more about catharsis than expecting any real change from him, and if that’s the case, it depends on how much you want that catharsis, how much political capital you’re willing spend on getting it, and how open to feedback Chad really is (not just how much he says he is).

But if Chad has a history of taking feedback about himself reasonably well, there’s value in saying, “This didn’t sit right with me. Can you please not do it again?”

Another option is to talk to your direct manager and ask her to talk to Chad. It’s perfectly appropriate to take something like this to your own manager, and talking to a third party can feel a lot less emotionally loaded anyway. (Also, you said, “The one manager who I feel confident would have my back on this wasn’t in the meeting, so going to her for advice isn’t really an option.” Is that your manager or someone else? Either way, you can ask advice from her even though she wasn’t in the meeting; just explain what happened. And if she’s your manager, you definitely should.)

My guess, though, is that Chad lacks emotional intelligence, and that can play out in two different ways: He could be horrified to learn he embarrassed you and will want to apologize and try to fix it (like by correcting the record at the next team meeting). Or he’ll think you’re being overly sensitive and won’t see anything to fix. You probably know which of these is more like Chad — let that guide what you do next.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 130 comments… read them below }

  1. Zephy*

    Gross. OP, I’m sorry Chad’s such a dingus. You should definitely at least bring it up with someone who can theoretically relay the message to him.

    1. I’d Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yes. Someone should.

      Also because in addition to being demoralizing to OP, this behaviour absolutely sends a message to the rest of staff (‘your mistakes, however trivial, might be put on public display) that is likely to put them in on edge in group meetings.

      1. D3*

        I think that the message that this sends to everyone (that your mistakes might be broadcast like this) is yet another reason to address this, and an important point for Chad to be aware of.

      2. Momma Bear*

        Praise in public and chastise or correct in private isn’t just good parenting advice. There was no need to specifically call Ivy out after it had been addressed and I think something needs to be said. Not only was it not the best way to handle it with Ivy, but now it affects how she is perceived by her team. If someone brought this to my attention, I would address it with the other party.

        1. Calyx Teren*

          Exactly. Chad’s behavior just lowered the trust between employees and management by several degrees. People don’t innovate, don’t volunteer, don’t stand out in company cultures where they see that management shames employees publicly and with impunity. He may have done this unthinkingly rather than maliciously, but it is something any good management team would want to correct pronto.

          1. Quiet Liberal*

            Yep. This, exactly. My old boss would bring up surprise examples of ways not to do things, but present them as “I’m not going to say who made this mistake, but here’s an example.” The problem was everyone could figure out who made the error just by looking at the evidence he presented, and I’m 100% sure he knew that. It was super uncomfortable for everybody. Like my old boss, Chad’s a clod.

  2. Fake Eleanor*

    Ugh, I’ve had similar situations happen where one of the senior people on a project decided to use my work as an example of what not to do and picked it apart in front of the whole team. This was especially demoralizing because the team was comprised of junior employees such as myself (a year out of college at the time) as well as people with advanced degrees who had been doing this kind of work for years.
    He apologized to me in the moment, saying something like “I don’t mean to pick on you,” but I was definitely in a Mood for the rest of the day. Luckily the other junior employees had my back and agreed that this wasn’t ok. I ended up never addressing it with him because I just had no idea what I could have said that wouldn’t make me look overly sensitive.

    1. Snailing*

      Also simply saying “I don’t mean to pick on you” is NOT an apology – in your case or OP’s – it’s just an admission of the very thing the boss is doing. It’s a non-apology that only serves to make the boss feel better about what they’re doing. I’m sorry you had to experience that, as well.

      1. Paulina*

        Yes, that’s how I interpreted Chad’s remark — after spending a lot of time publicly criticizing the OP’s work, he tried to reframe it at the end as if he hadn’t. Doesn’t change that he did, or apologize for doing so.

    2. HerGirlFriday*

      “I didn’t mean to pick on you.”
      “And yet you did pick on me. And it made me look bad.”

    3. fhqwhgads*

      That this person and the one in the letter felt the need to say “I don’t mean to pick on you” means that as some level, they did understand they were doing precisely that. Which means they’re both assholes.

    4. AnonforThis*

      I dealt with this situation with my manager for almost a year. He would berate me about something in meetings, and unfortunately, it was just me that he did it too. As Allison said, he has a blind spot and thinks it’s fine to do this. I went to my grandboss, who worked with him on this issue. Since the grandboss left the company, he’s slipped back into his old habits a bit, but not as bad as he was before. He likes to begin with, “I’m not doing this to pick on you…” but that’s exactly what it is. And the interesting thing is that the things he usually brings up are things he’s guilty of as well, but he tends to laugh these off as a joke when he does it. He just falls into the “your manager is a jerk and is not going to change” category, and I’m working to move elsewhere.

  3. Reba*

    Oof. That’s ugly!

    Op, I agree with Alison that someone’s not witnessing the meeting firsthand doesn’t mean you can’t discuss it with the trusted manager! If you think it would make things easier, you could approach it as seeking their take on it/a mentorship type conversation, rather than “I have a grievance” (even though you do!).

    1. OTGW*

      Yeah, like, I’m sure there’s plenty of things that manager hasn’t been there for, but you can still go ahead and talk with them. And if the manager doesn’t do anything if they’re not there to witness it, then you have other problems to deal with.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Yup. In fact, it was Alison’s pointing out that a manager who says, “Well, I wasn’t there to see it” (with the implication of “so I don’t have to believe you”) is not a good manager that helped me see it in my personal life. I was so frustrated with a family member because one of their other relatives kept saying slyly mean things to me. When I finally brought up an example that was not possible to re-frame as me misconstruing things, that’s what heard: a reluctant, “Well, I wasn’t there”. And in that minute, I knew that it would never change, and somehow that actually helped! I guess because I was able to stop second-guessing myself.

  4. daffodil*

    I suspect Chad realized it seemed like he was picking on Ivy, just not until halfway through the meeting when he mentioned it out loud. Asking a manager to reinforce that it wasn’t cool seems reasonable, depending on if you think his attitude will be “yeah, I realized how that might hit after I was already deep in it. Sorry.” or “what??? I SAID I wasn’t picking on her!” but even if he gets defensive, the feedback might reinforce that he shouldn’t approach things that way again.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      Yes! And I think there would be value in talking to the manager who was not in the meeting. Enough people heard it and have commented on it that I think this manager could reasonably go to Chad and say “I’ve heard talk about meeting X. Understandably, Ivy is uncomfortable with how her work was used as an example” Or whatever wording sounds best.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I suspect Chad realized it seemed like he was picking on Ivy, just not until halfway through the meeting when he mentioned it out loud.

      Perhaps someone sent him a private message at this point….

  5. Antilles*

    To me, the weird thing is that he exclusively used your document.
    It seems like you’re part of a group of similar level people…surely you’re not the only person who didn’t provide enough detail on llama grooming or who failed to define acronyms for the reader or whatever other issues.
    Why not just take an item or two from everybody’s reports? Then you don’t need to call out names AND it makes it more directly applicable to people because nobody can feel “oh, see, no issues with my document!”

    1. I’d Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Honestly, my read on this is a little bit of laziness on Chad’s part. I’m imagining these are small, relatively nuanced mistakes that come up now and again — perhaps he’s been meaning to address them.

      But rather than think of examples or search for historical examples, he just used the ones that were most easily available to him, without thinking of the impact this would have on OP or what sort of message this would send to his team.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        I fully admit to doing this when I need to review something with my team. If I have one doc with multiple examples that reminds me I need to go over something I will use the one doc. Mostly it’s just because looking for multiple examples can be like finding needles in hays stacks and I often just don’t have a lot of time to dig through past submissions, especially when I have a perfectly good example in front of me.

        I do make a point of letting the person know I’m going to use their example and why. I also make a point of not using the person’s name repeatedly, I’ll say, “as you can see here,” or “in this example…” something like that as opposed to “What Ivy did here…” or “With Ivy’s document you can see…” I’ve found that sort of makes it a bit more about the document, rather than the person who wrote it.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I can definitely see it being a little bit of laziness, that he was looking for examples to use and decided “hey, this document from Ivy is good” and didn’t look any further or think of anonymizing it.

      1. doreen*

        That’s the part I don’t understand – even if he was lazy and didn’t want to look further for examples, I don’t understand why he had to say things like “when I was reviewing Ivy’s last llama grooming document” rather than “when I was reviewing a recent llama grooming document”. It’s one thing if Ivy knows it’s her document – but there isn’t any reason everyone needs to know.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I agree, and I think he realized partway through that it might sound like he was picking on her specifically — but I also know there are people out there who just don’t think that way.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            To me it sounds like Chad is just simply near-completely insensitive to how his unfiltered statement comes across to the team. And that’s not good at all, regardless of whether he thinks very highly of Ivy or not (as he may very well do).

    3. Batgirl*

      It’s easiness/laziness. He’s not having to compile different examples or consider everyone’s reaction; he knows if OP makes a mistake, it’s one everybody would make and he also trusts her ability to field criticism. It’s both a bizarre compliment to the OP while also highlighting his own shortcomings. Poor leaders focus on the most reliable members of the group because they are the easiest to mould with a few subjective tweaks. Poor leaders are also fond of en masse group instructions without thinking of the entire group because… lazy.

    4. Van Wilder*

      I think it has to do with the fact that they do this meeting monthly, which means that he needs to come up with something to talk about, whether it’s useful or not, month after month. And this document was wrong place/wrong time.

    5. HerGirlFriday*

      That would require more work than someone who was willing to throw one person under the bus repeatedly was willing to do. He had his scapegoat. And he wasn’t going to look for more.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        I think the term “scapegoat” assumes a more malicious motivation than we have any evidence for. To me, scapegoat means deliberately trying to put blame for an accident/wrongdoing on one person… but I don’t see anything in the letter to indicate the boss had a punitive mindset or was trying to blame anyone.

        Based on the letter, it sounds like it didn’t even occur to the boss until halfway through that using Ivy as an example this way would come across as picking on her. It was tone deaf, thoughtless, and inept, but doesn’t seem malicious to me. A lot of people are just really REALLY bad at group training like this (including people who really should know better).

        I’m in safety, so I do a lot of trainings/meetings on what not to do. Examples are super important, but what Ivy’s Boss did is not the way to go about it. The examples I use (in order of preference) are:

        1. Get people to volunteer their own examples. A lot of times once I’ve shared one or two of my stories, trainees will be comfortable opening up with a little prompting. This is ideal because it gets people thinking more deeply about their own work, the examples are going to be 100% relevant to what they actually do, and it grounds the discussion. This does mean it’s important to establish a respectful, comfortable, environment where people know they won’t be punished for admitting a mistake.
        2. My own mistakes. I tell stories about the times I fell on my face – sometimes literally! Not only does this keep anyone else out of the hot seat, it also helps humanize me, establish credibility, and build connections with the trainees.
        3. Share anonymous examples of something I’ve seen people do in other places, on other teams, or from people who no longer work here. I prefer this to anonymous examples from my own team because this way, no one will recognize themselves and feel uncomfortable
        4. Anonymous examples from the team I’m training. I only use these if there’s something really critical that I have no other examples for, and the person/people in question doesn’t bring it up themselves.

        And of course, it’s also important to point out the good along with the bad! When we talk about an incident, even one where a lot went wrong, I always point out what went well and what each person did right.

    6. c-*

      Yup, the original idea had merit, but this was very poor execution on the presenter’s part.
      To offer an example of how this can work out in real life: I’m a translator, and part of our training in college includes instructors picking apart our work in front of us and our peers every day for 4+ years to learn how to produce really polished texts (this is called a translation workshop). You need to get very comfortable with giving and taking criticism, and to separate a text from its author, else you are going to have a very bad time. And even given my background, I still felt uncomfortable on behalf of the LW!

      Part of why a translation workshop works is:
      – Everyone knows in advance what they’re signing up for (so, the presenter should have let people know that he was planning to adress these issues through samples from their writing).
      – Not one person is the single focus of the lesson. You take a couple sentences from someone’s work, then another couple from someone else’s (so, more samples from Ivy’s coworkers should have been collected and analysed as well).
      – Praise is offered AS WELL AS criticism. Ivy is feeling insecure about her writing right now, and no wonder! Praising the praiseworthy facts helps offset that and keeps everything in perspective.
      – The instructor asks the group for their opinions and ideas on how to improve a sentence or solve a problem. That turns the workshop from feeling harassy into feeling cooperative (just a bunch of people trying to produce the best version of a text from the starting point kindly provided by their colleague Ivy).
      – You always thank the author for offering themselves as tributI MEAN providing their text as a starting point, and these contributions are voluntary if at all possible (so, the presenter should have asked for volunteers, or at least informed each person he would be taking samples from, if he didn’t use samples from the whole group as is ideal).
      – If the instructor has feedback, they offer it after the group has taken a crack at the problem, and they focus on the text, not its author (so boo for namedropping Ivy all the time, not good at all).
      – Rudeness, picking on, and harassing anyone in the group are not tolerated.
      – If feasible, anonymising the texts can help in certain contexts. Translators don’t tend to do that since part of the goal is getting people comfortable with criticism, and also people tend to be gentler if they know it’s their respected colleague’s text they’re criticising, but in this case I believe it would have helped, given that y’all presumably didn’t have prior experience with this format.

      All in all, LW, you were the victim of an astoundingly badly planned and worsely executed workshop (like, I’ve never quite seen a workshop fuck up this bad and I’ve had screaming matchI MEAN very spirited discussions during some, it would be impressive if it hadn’t run roughshod all over your feelings). I’m so sorry you had to go through that. Rest assured that, unless they are bullies, your coworkers know this was not your fault at all and have not lost an ounce of respect for you or your work.
      And yes, please loop in your boss! If you don’t want to focus on how it made you feel, you can focus on how these workshops need to happen if they’re to be effective instead of counterproductive, as the bullshit y’all had to plow through was.

      1. miss chevious*

        Yes, this is similar to what I used to do when I taught composition. We would go over work in class, and provide feedback, but it was anonymized (so much so that I couldn’t even remember what student had provided which sample) and many different students’ work was used. Of course, sometimes students did feel singled out and would talk to me about it privately, especially at the beginning of the semester, but as the semester progressed and they got comfortable, they would sometimes even mention that it was their word on the board. Key to this process though is (a) the author knowing ahead of time that this may happen and (b) not singling out the author in the presentation.

    7. Spencer Hastings*

      Yeah, I work for a CPA firm, and during tax season we have occasional meetings/reminders, like “here are some issues that managers have been seeing when reviewing tax returns.” Not only would it be weird for all the examples to be from one preparer, but also, the examples that end up in the meetings are usually things that have already been resolved, so what everyone else sees is how you got it *right*!

    8. allathian*

      What bothered me most was the way Chad kept bringing up Ivy’s name. In corrective feedback like this, especially when it comes to editing someone else’s work, the focus should be on the writing itself rather than the writer. We all make mistakes, but that doesn’t make us bad employees, at least not if we can incorporate critical feedback to improve our work product, never mind bad people.

    9. BHB*

      I’ve been in team meetings where we have done a deep dive on a single piece of work, rather than a handful of examples from everyone. However, we were looking for things that were done well and we could praise, as well as things that could be improved, and the examples were anonymised as much as possible. It was valuable to review a piece of work in the whole, rather than small examples, but the culture was very much collaborative and wasn’t intended to shame or “pick on” any one person.

  6. Myrin*

    Aaargh, I’ve definitely known people like that. I like Alison’s framing of it as a lack of emotional intelligence – I’ve always described it as a lack of tact or an inability to make something more abstract or general, but I think “emotional intelligence” captures it very nicely and concisely.

    I wonder, OP, if you think it would be helpful to approach Chad in a “What was the reason(ing) behind this?” kind of way?
    Because if these are issues that all llama care writers face – which is what he says – then it’s strange that he kept referring back to this one specific document of yours. It’s totally possible that he was indeed simply reminded of all these issues when recently reading your document, and that it was simply the last one he read before this meeting so it was fresh on his mind, and that he’d been meaning to point this out to all of your anyway and just took your writing as the hook in his mind to come back to, but it was also wholly unnecessary.

    So maybe it might bring both catharsis and clarity to you if you asked him something along the lines of “You said that you keep seeing these same issues resurfacing with all the llama care writers, so I was really confused why you kept coming back to my writing in particular?”. Adjust accordingly, of course.

    1. Batgirl*

      I think this is true. He was simply telling the truth that this was the last one he read and it reminded him of x and y. He just didn’t bother running it through the “thinking before speaking” checker.

  7. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Sounds like Chad would be better off writing a style guide for the documentation that everyone can use.

  8. Sled dog mama*

    OP did it seem at all like Chad was nit-picking or pointing out really subtle things?
    I once had a teacher use my work in the same way, what not to do. She told me ahead of time that it was going to sound nit-picky to me because the writing was good enough to allow her to point out some subtle things that were hard to point out in my peers writing due to other issues. Who cares if you use the semi colon correctly if every other sentence is a run on?
    While you manager should have found some other examples or at least warned you that it would be exclusively examples from your work, it’s probably due to the fact that it’s hard to come up with examples of what not to do and since your writing prompted him to think “hey I should point x, y and z out the whole group”. It was easiest to do with your writing.

    1. BadWolf*

      I was thinking if only Chad had made it a collaborative thing and asked beforehand (a couple days, not a couple minutes), “Hey OP, I want to bring up some style points and I’d like to use your article. It is otherwise great, so it’s easy to only see these knit picky things.” And then opened the meeting with something like “Ivy has kindly allowed me to pick apart her article, but this applies to all of us.”

      However, as Alison points out, this requires a certain degree of emotional intelligence.

      1. Ashley*

        Or at least he could have pointed out all the good things to make this not so terrible feeling. A person may not mean to pick on someone but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come across that way to individual or even the group.

      2. Galinda Upland*

        Exactly my thoughts, too! I used to teach writing classes to college students, and from time to time, a student would either 1) have an exceptional example of something that I thought others could learn from, or 2) make a particular mistake that others made/could learn from. I asked them privately, first, if it was okay to use their document at all (highlighting specifically why) and, if they said yes, whether it was okay to use their names or whether they’d prefer it be anonymous when displayed to the class.

        I can absolutely understand how errors in a real document can be more effective than a “sample” – depending on the context, it can be surprisingly tricky to actually create realistic errors from scratch for the sole purpose of explaining somethin! But the OP should have been given the chance to decline or to be anonymized (if that’s possible in this context); a belated “haha I’m not picking on you!” in public, from a person in a position of authority, is incredibly insensitive, even without any malicious intent.

        1. NYWeasel*

          Yes, I always ask before I bring something in and I usually ask the person to talk a bit too—maybe sharing learnings or maybe identifying root cause issues that could help others avoid it.

        2. kt*

          Yes, this is what I was going to say — as a math prof I sometimes did the same thing. Often I’d phrase it as, “Hey, this actually points out a really common problem that I’ve seen coming up in class/homework; I’d like to bring it up to the class.” When it truly is a common problem like that, I would not use a name at all and I would also not “ask permission” as it’s not their unique mistake. If it was truly something rather unique, then I would ask permission or ask if they wanted to bring it up themselves for discussion. Fostering an environment where no one feels picked on, though, is important and non-trivial.

      3. Snailing*

        Exactly what I was thinking – if both Chad and Ivy were in on this together from the start, Ivy could have felt bolstered vs picked at. In his original emailed feedback that went just to Ivy, he could have said “Hey, these are little things I’ve been meaning to address with the whole team. Let’s revamp your email together so we can demonstrate to the rest of the team how to make an already good email even better.” Ivy could have even been a part of presenting their findings. It would have been a collaboration instead, making the team stronger, versus the way it turned out – an unexpected public pile-on of mistakes that now makes the entire team mistrust their boss.

    2. Sparrow*

      Once in grad school, my advisor was so happy with a paper I’d written for her class that she wanted to show it to the other students in the seminar and highlight the things that made it successful, using it as a learning exercise for the newbie grad students, in particular. Overall very flattering! And she STILL asked me for permission to share my paper with the class and use it for this purpose, specifically explaining what she imagined doing/saying. To publicly use someone’s writing for instructional purposes without getting permission is horrifying to me, and that goes double if it’s a “what not to do” lesson.

    3. Jellyfish*

      Something similar happened to me in college as well. The professor did not ask me ahead of time, but he did anonymize my piece and tell the class we were looking at it because it was a strong submission.
      Even though he was complimentary and no one knew it was mine, it was still a frustrating, embarrassing experience to have my work publicly torn apart when I hadn’t signed off on it and wasn’t prepared for it.

    4. Paulina*

      But if it’s too hard to use others’ writing to point out those types of mistakes, then how useful is the information to those people? Eg. if they’re still writing run-on sentences, they’re not going to get much out of a demonstration on the finer points of semicolon usage.

  9. Keymaster of Gozer*

    There’s a common flaw I know I have when trying to pull the staff up on a series of errors in that my first thought is to find an example where the best person has made that error as a “hey look, even the best coder here makes this error so it’s a generic issue we all need to work on!” because I think that the team will find it less stressful to know hey we all make mistakes.

    It’s only through people telling me why that’s really not a good way to go about it that I stopped, years ago. Having someone say after the meeting ‘if you’re going to use examples, can you make them anonymous please? Now everyone thinks I’m a total bellend’ was something I’m ashamed to say I thought was a joke, at first. Then I got told that no, actually, they were finding it really offensive.

    It wasn’t a conversation I wanted to have. But it was one I needed to have.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      It’s hard! You want to use real life examples, without alienating your team. But even with the name not mentioned, a lot of times it still is kind of apparent who the example came from.

      My team customizes teapot orders. I could very well say this customization for ACME customer, blah blah blah. No mention of a person’s name, right? Except everyone can go in and see who was the last to update the ACME customer profile.

      Because of the nature of the work, it’s damn near impossible to come up with meaningful examples that doesn’t lead to a specific person. So the best I can do is use generic “Don’t forget X” or “Y is really important when dealing with Z-like accounts” which really don’t work and sadly are glazed right over along with “Don’t microwave fish in the breakroom” emails

      It’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.

    2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      Good on you for having that difficult conversation and seeing another perspective. It’s not easy!

      Your intent makes sense and isn’t malicious. It is really important, especially when managing junior staff, to help everyone understand that no one’s work is perfect and it’s not an easy thing to do. But the fact that not everyone is on that page is exactly what makes pointing out the best person’s mistakes to be a risky move. The person who found it offensive may not be the issue so much as someone who may have inadvertently took your sharing of that person’s mistakes to be permission to cut down a tall poppy. Let’s be real, less-charitable managers sometimes use similar tactics to cut someone down to size.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Afterward, I had a long think about how I’d feel if I was in a team and my manager was routinely using my stuff as an example of ‘bad errors’. Quite rough really.

    3. Drama Llama's Mama*

      I tend to use my own work as examples when I do this – either an instance where I made the mistake in question or I replicate another person’s mistake in a project of my own so as not to call out anyone on my team. I usually preference with, “I’ve seen this happen a couple of times now and want to make you all aware….”.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Definitely my preferred ways now. I’ve made enough royal clangers in my own work to provide examples from the past!

    4. Six Feet Under Par: A Chip Driver Mystery*

      Sometimes I’ve had someone do something like forget to shut the llama gate and I will address it with them and then say “I’m going to remind the team to shut the llama gate – I am not trying to single you out – everyone forgets and it’s causing problems, they need to understand why” and I would never name that person in the group

      I find you need to address it in both ways at a group level and then individually in case they’re a “she’s not talking about me” person when it comes to taking about things at a group level

      1. JessB*

        Wow, that’s a great idea to let the person know ahead of time that you’re going to remind the team, so that they’re prepared when it happens.

  10. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP, I’m sorry you had to endure that. Chad could have suggested ‘best practices’ or preferences or corrections or any number of recommendations without mentioning you at all, but nope. Maybe he thought, ‘I already talked to Ivy about this, so I’m not blindsiding her. It’s okay to talk about it now.’ That’s a charitable take on his behavior, and he’s still wrong about what he did.

    I like the suggestion about a peer to Chad coaching him on matters like this. And, for what it’s worth, I think the other folks in the meeting understood how wrong Chad was, and it doesn’t reflect poorly on you.

  11. Sun Tzu*

    My gut reaction, after the first half-dozen or so of remarks from Chad, would have been to say “Gosh! I am really a disaster in documenting llama grooming! Time for me to go back to primary school!”, smiling and in a joking tone.

    1. really*

      Really? I would not recommend that at all, especially if Ivy is female and Chad is male. That is making a joke at her (the wronged) expense to save his (the wrong-er) feelings. Too much of that is done as it is.

  12. LGC*

    Name Chad’s behavior. In public.

    Okay, so, to be serious: I’m in agreement that this is a lack of emotional intelligence on Chad’s part, and that we’re not equipped to say precisely how bad it is. But yeah, this is definitely something you can escalate.

    So…um…I just want to point out a couple of things:

    1) You said that it wasn’t like you and Chad were in the same room…but honestly? You guys basically were, at least to me. I don’t want you to feel like it’s lesser because you guys are remote – it’s just as bad that he did this over Zoom as if he’d done it in person.

    2) Speaking as a stranger on the Internet who’s reading about your misfortune on a day off: unless your colleagues are also dinguses (I don’t know what field you’re in exactly, and how emotionally intelligent it is and how male it is, which often correlates inversely with how emotionally intelligent it tends to be), they’re probably not going to think “Ivy’s an idiot.” They’re more likely going to think, “Chad is a jerk who aired Ivy’s mistakes for 15 minutes before he belatedly realized that he was being a dingus.” (And honestly, if they do think you’re incompetent because of what Chad said, that’s more reflective on them than it is on you.)

    2a) And there’s already signs that your colleagues think that, as you yourself say that multiple people reached out to you pointing out Chad’s error!

    2b) But that doesn’t mean that your feelings aren’t valid, and that it’s irrational to feel like everyone thinks you’re an idiot! Even if you take Chad’s intentions in the best possible light, what he did was still at least mildly embarrassing! I’ve felt embarrassed over far less – when coworkers have told me loudly that I made a mistake in front of others. (And – honestly – like Chad, I also say I’m open to feedback and criticism.) You can’t force this out of him, but I think you certainly deserve at least an apology.

    1. Batgirl*

      I think not being in the same physical room is quite significant. It’s not that it’s a different degree of egregious; as you say, it’s just as bad in either format; it’s more that it robbed OP of the chance to use more subtle reactions. On a virtual meet you’re limited to a) interrupting the host to object in some way or b) looking overtly annoyed or upset – enough for it to come over on screen. Conversely, in a physical meeting OPs discomfort would have been palpable. Her silence would have spoken volumes in a way it probably didn’t on the screen.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        Yeah — even just making eye contact with a particular person can have an effect, but you can’t really do that on a Zoom call…

      2. LGC*

        True, and that’s something I didn’t even think of on my first pass. Although I’ll be honest – given that Chad went on for so long, I don’t know if better nonverbals would have helped anyway.

    2. D3*

      I don’t think the OP was saying it was less of a problem because it was over Zoom, but rather that it was harder to deal with/respond because it was over Zoom. It’s harder to get body language, eye contact, etc to communicate over Zoom. Her options were more limited.
      OP thinks it’s significant to the situation, therefore it is.

    3. Van Wilder*

      Totally agree with #2. They were probably not thinkin less of Ivy but thinking “wow, I’m glad Chad didn’t use my last document.”

  13. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    Oh, ew. I am preparing something like this – one of my teapot polishers made a pretty common mistake that was caught on her monthly quality review, and her reviewer gave REALLY good guidance on how to avoid that mistake in the future, so I wanted to basically lift the reviewer’s guidance from my polisher’s scorecard and share it with the rest of my team.

    But not only am I not naming the polisher in my presentation, I emailed both the polisher and the reviewer to make sure that they were okay with me doing that so that the polisher didn’t get blindsided with seeing her example put before the team as a what-not-to-do-and-why, and in so doing I reassured her that -a- I would definitely not mention her name and -b- the reason it’s something I want to do is that A LOT of people on the team make similar mistakes and that the guidance would be beneficial to everyone, this is definitely not just a mistake that SHE makes. (Polisher and Reviewer have confirmed they’re both 100% on board. I am also including Reviewer’s name so that her guidance is properly credited.)

  14. hbc*

    Damn, Chad, there were so many better ways to do this. Off the top of my head, in increasing order of effort (which I suspect had an impact on Chad’s choice):

    1) Warn Ivy so she’s not blindsided.
    2) *Lead* with something that elevates Ivy. “I picked Ivy’s because she’s one of the strongest writers we have, so if she’s doing it, there’s [a gap in our training/at least 10 other people doing the same thing/something I’ve been unclear about].” And *don’t* talk about how much this one report made you think everyone needs a refresher.
    3) Anonymize it. Put little white bars over her name, and emphasize the writer as much as the writing.
    4) Give an estimate of how often you see each mistake so the scope is clear. If 70% of reports have it, it feels less like an Ivy problem.
    5) Pull up two or three different reports to spread the “feedback” feel.
    6) Pull two snippets as examples for each issue. Less easy to identify, and more likely to be clear what’s wrong with different writing styles.

  15. Salt & Vinegar Chips*

    This sucks, I think Chad could have handled this better. In my experience this goes over best if Chad could have either apologized at the start of the meeting and acknowledged immediately and after every few mistakes that everyone was making these errors and he was just using one as an example, or have blacked out your name and acknowledged that everyone is making these mistakes. I can see where it would be beneficial for the group who is all making the same errors to see the errors within your work as opposed to telling you to stop something. I can appreciate time restraints and just picking one to bring in to the meeting as opposed to meeting with each employee, especially if you have several employees.

  16. staceyizme*

    I wonder what the organizational culture is like? Are “areas of opportunity” usually dealt with publicly if it serves the (theoretically greater) purpose of aptly illustrating what NOT to do in a given context? Don’t get me wrong, there’s PLENTY of room for a dialogue here about best practices for offering up these kinds of examples and I think that OP has plenty of standing to frame an objection as a matter of “there’s got to be a better way to do this… for ALL of us” rather than “oh, that was awkward”. It carries more weight when it’s a matter of group standards and potential group impact. Using humor to say “Ouch, that was quite a LOT of use of my material in the last meeting as fodder for the fubar mill (or whatever the appropriate vocabulary would be for you/ your group).” Maybe followed by “you know… if we use examples, maybe we could leave names OUT of it and also spread the citing of specific work around a little… it would be less likely to be perceived as embarrassing and probably go over much better for most people.” Whether that’s a conversation for your direct boss or Chad is something only you can answer, OP.

  17. JSPA*

    Trying to post via a different browser, as safari is hanging, after the Captcha…

    Coming from a science research background, where there’s a strong culture of a) owning your work and b) getting comfortable with the work being shredded and critiqued–including core content, not “merely” presentation–I had to retool to figure out how this would be uncomfortable.

    (I get that some people’s job description focuses on the presentation aspects, but presumably, in most written communication, the ultimate goal is to communicate the content effectively.)

    From that mindset, if Chad wasn’t complaining about the effectiveness of the writing, but only “playing grammarly” on it, or indicating tone preferences, or setting the level of diction for a particular audience, he might well be surprised that this was any more problematic than, “this fridge runs warm relative to the reading, so set it at -82, not -80” or “regulations require that the warning signs be printed in 48 point or larger bold type.” That is, there’s a stark “right way”–but it’s nothing personal / there’s no emotional component to being corrected on it, if it’s not something you were told, or would otherwise have been expected to know.

    If Chad comes from that sort of background, there might be a moment (or more) of surprise that this could be problematic, and it may be useful to bring those cultural differences to the surface.

    “I recognize that in research science, calling out someone’s work by their name is fairly normal. However, like most of your employees, I don’t come from that background. In our world, calling someone’s work out by name–even to correct issues that you think of as minor or stylistic–is borderline shocking and a bit painful, not only for the person involved, but for everyone else listening. Several of the people from the zoom meeting have called me to commiserate or even to be outraged on my behalf. So I know I’m not being unusually sensitive or out of touch, and also, that this is feedback you’d want to hear. If you don’t intend to shame or punish the author while bringing up a general style point for everyone’s benefit, call out the document–just the document–not the author.”

    1. Anonymous for this*

      Doesn’t have to be in sciences. I was a grad student in a liberal arts field at U Chicago, where if people never criticized your work, or only said blandly polite things about it, that’s when you knew you were in trouble. Because that meant nobody respected your work enough to address the problems and nobody thought you were capable of fixing those problems.

      1. JSPA*

        Good to have that confirmed! I knew it also existed in the humanities, but didn’t know if it was similarly near-universal (or at least highly prevalent).

        But, yes, it’s the fear of bland silence that haunts my stress-dreams.

        Getting deep down into the dirt on a piece of writing was a sign that it was well worth the effort, and that the writer was within revision distance of doing excellent work. If OP can reconsider in that light, the experience may look much better in hindsight.

      2. Frieda*

        ah, Chicago. It was a surprise to me when I learned that not everyone’s graduate program involved quite as much active feedback.

      3. Sue*

        My daughters were ballet dancers and if the instructor didn’t give you feedback (often VERY pointed) it meant you weren’t worth correcting. As hard as it was to hear, they came to see it as validating. I think it’s a valuable life skill we still talk about, gracefully accepting critical feedback.

    2. JSPA*

      wanted to add: if that’s Chad’s background, he may be suffering from lack of similar reaction and feedback from his people.

      One of the delights of Scientific discussion is that an undergrad student–if they can formulate a solid argument–is (broadly) absolutely welcome to punch holes in the arguments made by a grad student, tech, Post-Doc, even the P.I.

      That said, if Chad dishes it without taking it in the same vein, Chad isn’t an ex-scientist…he’s a current asshole.

    3. c-*

      Seconding Anonymous for this’ point that this also happens in the humanities (communally picking apart your and your peers’ work is how translators learn our craft, for instance). And yeah, I definitely had to learn how to soften my tone when pointing out problems in texts written by non-translators, who were understandably taken aback when I went full-on optimizer on their poor defenseless writing.
      But also, Chad may be suffering from a “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” deficiency. I wonder if he was indeed playing grammarly, as you say, and the feedback was more about his preferred tone and style rather than an actually better way to convey the information.

      1. anon translator*

        Yeah, I’m a translator too. But the point is that it’s the translation that’s picked apart, sometimes with a very fine tooth comb. Something’s wrong if the translator starts feeling like it’s a personal attack.

        That said, as a translator I’ve sometimes been forced into giving some quite critical feedback on the original text. Nobody ever reads a text as carefully as a translator, so if your translator can’t understand a sentence well enough to translate it, chances are your readers won’t understand the original either. I’m just glad that translators in my org have enough capital to get our suggested edits of original texts approved in the vast majority of cases. It’s one advantage of being an in-house translator, it’s so much easier to get clarification on any issues with the original text when you know the author.

        The worst examples I’ve seen looked fine in the original, but when I tried to translate them, the long and rambling sentences were literally meaningless nonsense, semantically null.

        We’re also working for an org where the aim is to produce understandable and clear texts, at least for the most part. In some cases, the ambiguity may be intentional and politically expedient, but if that’s the case, our client will make that clear when giving the assignment.

  18. NeonFireworks*

    Oh, I know this feeling so well and it sucks. Happened to me twice at the entry level with two different managers. Both times were sudden, needless, and kind of humiliating (to the point that I can explain both experiences in detail because they’re burned into my brain). I’m up a couple of levels from that now, and it’s one of the things I try really hard not to do as a manager myself.

  19. Girasol*

    We had a manager pick on an employee like this except that he did it in anger, and did not say anything to soften it like “I don’t mean to pick on you,” and it went on for 45 minutes in front of a team of about 100 people. The employee ended up out on workman’s comp for stress related health problems (not just from this. This was just the last straw.) The manager ended up fired due to a pattern of this sort of demeaning behavior resulting in considerable employee turnover, of which this was the last straw. Public shaming by a manager should be considered career-limiting behavior.

    1. Batgirl*

      It should be career ending. You don’t need to be the world’s most empathetic person to understand that you’ll lose employees, demotivate individuals and lose the trust of the group overall.

    2. Wombats and Tequila*

      You say, “I have little faith that me saying anything would even have a positive effect (which is a whole separate issue in and of itself).”

      This definitely piqued my interest about that issue. I’m wondering if that issue isn’t in fact quite central to this problem. Since you also mention another supervisor who has your back, the impression I got from this letter was that he sounds like a domineering type, or possibly a bully.

      Is there any chance that he thinks that punishment or fear = motivation? Have there been times in the past when you have been singled out by this guy? If so, it is possible that you are the scapegoat?

      Are you a hardworking, accommodating type, or perhaps a younger woman?

      Sometimes the Chad types scapegoat people whom they perceive as weak. Unfortunately, working harder or being more polite and accommodating to such people only encourages them to treat you with more contempt.

      One strategy is risky–if you come back at them somewhat bluntly, you may be surprised to see them back down. The trick to that is you either don’t have to care if he gets angry, or you have to act like it. I don’t mean cursing or raising your voice, and definitely don’t make any threat you can’t or won’t deliver, but I do mean just telling him without agonizing about making the perfect magic wording.

      For example, you could see him and simply say, in an even tone, making the pitch of your voice lower, “I resent that you used my name as a negative example, over and over again, for a straight 20 minutes in the last meeting. If you say that I am a strong performer, there was no reason to use my name at all, much less, ‘Girasol this, Girasol that, Girasol, Girasol, Girasol.’ It was distracting and demotivating for me and for many other people. Please do not do it again.”

      The key would be to wrote this out and practice saying it a lot until you can get through it without speeding up, raising your voice, getting quavery, or otherwise sounding what he would perceive as “beta.”

      The whole “beta” thing is such a stupid concept, but jackasses like Chad are often people who think that social relations are a strictly zero sum game and that every social interaction needs to reinforce their place on a heirarchy.

      If you really can’t see yourself trying this, or if you think it would be too risky for your career, is there any chance you could talk to your grand boss?

      1. Non non*

        You’ve commented under the wrong post, and the name you’ve used multiple times isn’t the right name.

  20. Sparkles McFadden*

    Ouch! So sorry this happened. This is the kind of thing to put into a “things not to do when I become a manager” file.

    It most likely is that Chad is a lazy clod. He received your document most recently, and just figured he’d use that because it made life easier for him. Maybe he realized halfway in that this might be uncomfortable for you, and just plowed on ahead anyway (See above: lazy clod. It’s what they do.)

    It might also be that this happened because the manager who would support you wasn’t there. (Sadly, that is a thing I’ve seen too often.) It doesn’t sound as if that’s the case, and Chad’s motivation here doesn’t really matter. All that matters is if you think talking to him is worth your time. I think you need to talk to the manager that you’re comfortable with so she can be aware of it at the very least. Just a heads up, as in: “This was weird and disconcerting.” Once you do that, you’ll have a better idea of how to proceed.

  21. BRR*

    I’m a little unsure of the management structure/org chart but I would probably do some combination of checking with your manager and touching base with the manager who would have had your back. Checking with your own manager if there are any concerns about your work since Chad singled out your work to such an extreme degree. You could then add in how you appreciate the feedback but how it was an unpleasant experience. Or checking with the other manager by basically asking for advice. “hey chad spend 15 minutes picking apart my work in the groomers meeting last week. While I welcome constructive criticism, it was rather unpleasant to sit through and do you have any advice?”

  22. Home Away from Work*

    Could your close colleagues who reached out to you tell either Chad, your manager or their manager how unhappy they were about how Chad handled this, and that it worries them that they will also be publicly called out at these meetings?

    Also, the fact that you didn’t answer Chad in the moment should have put him on notice that you WERE uncomfortable and feeling picked on.

  23. ResuMAYDAY*

    Bullying AND gaslighting in one zoom call. And now everyone is going to work twice as hard to not make a mistake, or risk ending up on Chad’s company-wide meeting hit list. He’s got this down to a science. Yikes.

    1. JSPA*

      Gaslighting is a very important concept in part because it’s a very specific concept. Don’t use it lightly or when it need not apply; it cheapens and weakens the term.

  24. Batgirl*

    OP I don’t think it’s on you to course correct and coach Chad into being a better manager. Think about what’s in it for you as an outcome before you even try. If, however, you do want to say anything you might find it easier (ironically) to start with finding something positive to say:
    “I appreciated what you said about my writing being strong enough and that you would never pick on me as a poor example.
    “Nevertheless, even with that disclaimer, that was a really uncomfortable and unexpected experience for me and I found it much more difficult to go through x mins of entirely negative feedback in public than I did when you gave it privately. Could I request both anonymity and a heads-up if you were going to repeat that? I’ve given it a lot of thought about how I process constructive criticism before approaching you and that’s what would make it better for me.”

  25. Bookworm*

    :( I’m so sorry that happened to you OP. I can relate–had something like this (not to this degree!) happened to me long ago and agree with Alison’s advice. Agree with having your manager speak to Chad (is the name perhaps an indicator of how this might go…?) since that is arguably what your manager should be doing (sticking up for you) even if she wasn’t at this particular meeting.

    Any chance your manager or another one might know of similar instances? This could be a legit talking point for someone (either your manager or HR or someone else) to sit down with Chad and explain that this is an unhelpful way of going about it and a pattern of behavior would be helpful instead of it possibly devolving into (well, OP here simply misunderstood my attempt to ~help~).

    Also as Alison says: you know best. Maybe Chad didn’t realize this was not the best approach. Maybe he sees nothing wrong with it and is someone who should be leading these types of feedback sessions. In any case: good luck.

  26. C4T!!!*

    That blows. re: catharsis – if you are concerned Chad would not receive the feedback well, something that might help would be to draft the email, but then just send it to yourself (and not Chad). That way you can get it all out of your system, and send it out, and not hold it in.

    Hope you update us later (hugs)

  27. RC Rascal*

    “Chad is always saying that he wants us to give him feedback and call out when he messes up or could improve, but I have little faith that me saying anything would even have a positive effect (which is a whole separate issue in and of itself)”

    IMO senior people who say stuff like this don’t actually mean it.

  28. LegendaryBobcatTaxidermy**

    Yeah, my boss does this alllllll the time, except it’s in one-on-one conversations. Like he’ll be talking to me and say something like “I want you to note how Jared did this, because that’s the wrong way to do it. I wish Jared would blah blah blah.” Which makes everyone think he’s talking about them to someone else behind their back. To be fair he does bring stuff to us directly, but still. It’s annoying as heck and means we all have to have a super thick skin.

    1. Esmeralda*

      You can be sure that he is indeed talking about you with other employees.

      I would not share any thing negative ever with a boss like that. Or anything that I didn’t want being shared with others.

  29. OhNoYouDidn’t*

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. Chad sounds like a social clod. I think, though, the fact that other people have mentioned their shock at his approach to you can act as an excuse or an opening for you to address it directly with Chad. You could say something like, “I wanted to say I was taken a little off-guard the other day when you kept using my mistakes as an example to make your point. And, even though I don’t think you meant to, I have to admit that I was feeling somewhat offended. I thought I was possibly overreacting until I had several people approach me later saying that they felt bad for me and that they thought your behavior was not the best way to approach the situation. In light of that, I wanted to talk to you to see if maybe there’s a better way you could approach a topic like this in the future because it really did make me feel picked on and that my coworkers might think I don’t know how to do my job.” Softening it a bit and approaching it in a collaborative way may make it easier to have the discussion. I really hope you send an update about this!

  30. Liquorice*

    This happened to me but in a small Teams chat. I was so upset and angry that I did say something in the moment. Either the person had NO idea she would upset me, or she was more embarrassed at being called out on doing something deliberately nasty than I was to be “picked on” – she apologised fairly fast, and never did it to me again.

    She did do to it others, though, which is why I’m dubious about her intentions. I do think it’s worth a mention even though it’s a hard thing to say.

  31. Budgie Buddy*

    The petty part of me wants to see an all-managers meeting where someone launches into “Now Chad here gave us a very good example of how we should all NOT give feedback to our reports. Over the next ten slides I shall — sorry Chad don’t mean to pick on you or anything :) …”

  32. Enough*

    Even if the comment on your work isn’t negative it doesn’t mean you should name names. Had a math teacher who asked if anyone had the answer other than Enough. Being singled out isn’t fun.

    1. Jayne*

      Had the same thing happen to me in college. Professor was trying to motivate a couple of students with “Jayne can do it, why can’t you”. The third time he did it, I went to his office hours before class and told him that I knew why and what he was doing, but that I would prefer he not do it. He stopped.

      I only had the poise to ask him because I was a returning student and had words such as pedagogy at the ready to throw at him. I was in academia as well, which I had not disclosed, so was ready for a throw down.

      Tougher if it is my supervisor that is doing it, so I would have had “connection problems” after the second example and wandered away. Since the OP had already gotten the feedback directly, no reason to hear it again. One of the few positives of Zoom life is the ease of “walking” out of the room.

  33. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I… had one teacher who did this. She’s read her students’ work in front of the class and make fun of their mistakes. But she was nearing retirement and very old-school. And it was the 1970s. And we were ten. I had no idea people still considered it a good idea now, in a professional setting? what the heck is wrong with Chad?

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      The ten year old me would have done something extremely immature at that, but very satisfying in my revenge.

    2. X*

      People still do this. I’m a doctoral student, and currently stuck in a (mandatory) course that is *in theory* intended to support the first-years while they put together the bones of a dissertation and begin the writing process but *in fact* has been nothing but the professor picking apart every. single. student’s. abstract. word. by. word. in front of a group of 15 people for two hours every week. He routinely asks whether English is the student’s first language (we’re a very international university, and our department in particular has a lot of students from cultures where this kind of public shaming is a *huge* nope), goes on rambles about how he supposes it’s not my generation’s fault that none of us were ever taught to write well or brought up to have any standards at all (unlike the standards *he* was brought up with when he went to boarding school in the Land of Imperialist Standards for a whole year and then went to Fancypants University three times back in Ye Olden Days), and insists that this is all somehow constructive for everyone in the virtual room because (direct quote) “one really only learns through being humiliated.”

      It’s his first year teaching this course. I’ve been documenting meticulously in hopes I can prevent his ever being permitted to teach it again. (His apparently genuine belief in the value of public humiliation is, unsurprisingly, not the only thing that makes him a terrible teacher.)

  34. Autumnheart*

    My team is a bunch of creatives (writing, design, front-end), so one meeting we have on a regular basis is a creative critique (all creatives together), and another is a standards meeting (usually by role, all the designers together, all the writers together, etc). It IS important for everyone to follow the same standards, but it is known in advance that if you’re going to bring up an item about work that pertains to standards, you should bring it up in one of those meetings. It’s the #1 way to inform and remind everyone about how to interpret standards according to a particular business need, but it is also already understood that being used as a “bad example” is not saying “You suck” but mainly “Let’s do it this way instead” and “If your business team asks for XYZ, tell them our standard is ABC because #reasons.”

    The way Chad did it wasn’t good because a) top-down instruction isn’t the same as a critique among peers, and b) if you’re going to hold something up as an example for your lesson, it shouldn’t be a personalized topic about a particular individual’s error. It should be anonymized and ideally generalized.

  35. Katiekaboom*

    I had this exact thing happen. The office I worked at was a bunch of Mean Girls. They went through the faux grand gesture of whiting out my name, as if the group of us 5 didn’t know everyone’s handwriting (our forms were longhand). I cited this in my first call to HR. They had the nerve to act shocked when I put in my notice and only gave one week.

  36. Play a doctor on TV*

    FWIW this makes Chad look super bad and I highly doubt anyone thought you were incompetent. If anything, people were just sweating and thinking about their own documents, and hoping they wouldn’t be called out publicly too. As someone mentioned, now everyone is going to be on edge around him.

    It’s also not on you to do anything about this (if you don’t want to). I would bring it up if asked, even in an employee survey or 1:1 later on, but if you just want to put this behind you, you absolutely should. Chad sucks.

    I am a teacher and I was trained to use real life mistakes in class (think ESL). But the training was clear that you should walk around the class and pick multiple mistakes, one from each student, and anonymize it. I would switch out subjects/objects of the sentence so that even the student who made the mistake couldn’t identify it as theirs.

  37. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    But if Chad has a history of taking feedback about himself reasonably well, there’s value in saying, “This didn’t sit right with me. Can you please not do it again?”

    Even if Chad does have a history of taking feedback on board… even I (a person who often says things I oughtn’t to) would hesitate at asking my grandboss directly to (essentially) “cut that out” …!

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      That’s me too. No problem saying, “that wasn’t okay— you owe me an apology and assurance it won’t happen again.”

  38. Database Developer Dude*

    Time to look for a new job. I’m glad I’m older, because a much younger me would have given that person an education in profanity in four of the five languages I speak. That is so beyond the pale it isn’t funny.

  39. Mannheim Steamroller*

    “Ivy, I don’t want you to think I’m picking on you. Your writing is very strong!”

    WTF? Of course he “didn’t want you to think he was picking on you” — he clearly WAS picking on you.

    Please start the job search now. Next time he pulls that stunt, I hope you’re able to respond with, “Stop lying, dude. You are picking on me, and today is my last day.”

  40. Flora*

    Yeah, he knows he was wrong, because if he didn’t realize this would feel like picking to lots of people he wouldn’t have said unprompted that it was totally not-that. He needs to know, though, that this is something that will demoralize all the folks in the room except maybe one or two who also are bad at people skills. I say tell him. If you want a script, maybe:

    “Chad, I wanted to talk about the writing criticism. I was really uncomfortable because it was definitely possible to deliver the exact same content without naming me and so even though I am willing to believe that wasn’t your intention, by the time you indicated my work was strong, I was already feeling really punished and it’s hard for anyone to be productive in that frame of mind. Most of my colleagues have also told me they were uncomfortable as well. But what’s even worse is, several people have indicated that something like that can poison the well for the whole group because it will make everyone fear a similar public discussion of their flaws. Going forward, I hope you won’t be doing that kind of display again, even if you will sometimes need to bring forward anonymous examples, but also, I hope you’ll assure the group at the next meeting that this is your intent. Everyone’s work will suffer if folks fear a public flogging for missteps.”

    1. Mannheim Steamroller*

      Chad’s most likely reply: “When I said that I wasn’t picking on you, that was a statement of official company policy and not a question.”

      This is why Ivy should NOT call Chad out, publicly or privately, unless she is fully prepared to resign or be summarily fired.

  41. Lizard*

    Oh no – were you on my call last week OP? I was recently in a similar meeting, although it wasn’t my work that was being used as a ‘teaching tool’. The manager hosting the call even said “I’m not trying to call out so-and-so”… but yeah, that’s what he actually did.

    At the time I felt that while the lessons learned as presented during the meeting were useful, I was also hoping none of my work would ever be similarly showcased. Frankly, I think it was a cringeworthy half hour for all of us on the call!

    I wish that this manager had discussed the presentation content with someone else before putting my co-worker on the spot like that. There absolutely was a better way to present the same information – just would have taken a bit more preparation.

  42. Caroline Bowman*

    Ah yes, the caveat-insult, I do love these, where someone says ”now, don’t take this the wrong way” or ”no offense but…” or says some really embarrassing / unkind / inappropriate things and then says ”you mustn’t think I’m being mean / picking on you”. Why not? Why must I not think that when A/ you have clearly done precisely that very thing and B/ are aware of it, because you mentioned it? Does that make it okay somehow?

    Hey Chad, everyone hates you and thinks you have the social skills of a rock! So funny. We have private bets to see what awful, unkind thing you’ll say or do next! No offense! Don’t feel picked on! It’s just some general feedback about you personally and how awful you are! Have a great day! Etcetera.

    Obviously this is your grand boss so clearly there are limits to what can be done, but I would definitely speak to your own manager and say ”I felt incredibly singled out for something that had already been addressed privately and constructively and saying *I’m not singling you out* while singling me out, amazingly, didn’t make me feel less singled out! In fact, it made it even worse! So funny!”.

    Cannot bear this kind of person. Very often they themselves are desperately and exquisitely sensitive to any perceived slight, any tone that’s not 100% as they’d like it. They just don’t apply it to others.

    I’m so sorry this happened, do speak to your manager, but rest assured he was the one who came off looking awful, NOT YOU.

  43. Dust Bunny*

    Oh, man.

    I’m in a hobby where people regularly ask for critiques of their (basically artistic) work and I always use my own work if I need a bad example. Or if it’s unavoidable I’ll say, instead of “The lighting in your photo isn’t very good”, I’ll say, “The lighting here is casting some odd shadows that make it hard to see the horse’s legs against the backdrop. You might have better luck if you could photograph earlier in the day/wrangle a few more studio lights,” or whatever. I’ve done deliberately bad work just so I’d have an example to use that didn’t pick on somebody else’s (granted, this is a hobby and a lot of the people I’m addressing are teenagers, but still).

  44. Not So Super-visor*

    I had this happen early into my working history. I worked as an admin for a customer service department, so my main job wasn’t the phones, but if the phones were busy then they’d ring over to me. The manager was terrible at managing her team — people would literally be out of their seats, hanging around in other people’s cubicles and talking to each other while the phones were ringing off the hook (and over to me). I literally took as many calls some days as a full time customer service rep, and I got very frustrated. Then the company decided to install call monitoring software. In the meeting to introduce the software, the manager decided to use one of my calls to demonstrate a bad call. It wasn’t a terrible call, but I was clearly rushed on the call and failed to display the proper amount of empathy (according to my manager) when the customer mentioned a problem with the product. The manager had not reviewed the call with me ahead of time or even warned me that we would be listening to one of my calls. I got ripped to shreds by the manager and spent the entire meeting holding back tears. Promptly after the meeting, I spent about 5 minutes in the bathroom sobbing, and then returned to my desk where I was reprimanded for not coming back directly after the meeting as another meeting was about to start (where the next gorup would listen to my call). Truly terrible managing.

  45. Hannah*

    I was an accidental Chad early in my career. I was doing a presentation for my department about a process for performing a task with a government agency and mentioned, in what was intended to be a fond, joking way, that one of my colleagues loathed a part of the process. (It was a truly annoying aspect of the process and more “technical” than the rest of it.) She came to talk to me that afternoon and explained that she was hurt by me using her as an example because she thought it could give the impression that she was less tech-savvy / capable than others. Until that moment, it hadn’t even occurred to me that what I said could be taken that way, and I was horrified. I am really glad she said something because I was clueless. It still weighs on me 15 years later, and I’ve been careful ever since not to refer to other colleagues in any way during a presentation like that (unless it’s clearly positive, i.e. “if you are ever in doubt, Colleague X is a master and has helped me many times!”).

    It sounds like Chad, unlike me, did realize somewhat in the moment that his method was potentially hurtful and negative toward the quality of your work, but based on my experience, I would go ahead and have the conversation with him regardless, because he may not fully realize exactly why it was bad in a way that will help him not do it again. I would definitely say something to your manager / the good manager, because they might help you frame the conversation with Chad to be the most effective given his limitations.

  46. anon for this one*

    That’s awful. And I say this as someone who recently had a colleague demonstrate exactly how to do this thing in a respectful manner. He wanted to show how his feedback to me and other colleagues had improved a thing. So he first created an amalgam of the source documents, with fake names and otherwise obscured details, plus the corresponding amalgam of the “after” documents. Then he ran those obscured versions past us for approval and listened/incorporated our feedback before showing them to anyone not involved in the original discussion. (My only feedback, hilariously, might have made me more, not less, identifiable; he’d defaulted to all of his fake names being male and I asked him to make at least one of the fake people in my role female as I felt a little TOO erased.)

    (And if my coworker reads this, as his pop-culture fake name source was one commonly used here on AMA, and I would not be shocked if he did, hi. )

  47. Absurda*

    Reminds me of when I first started working with my grand-boss (he was my direct boss at the time). Whenever a problem came up or something wasn’t working he’d say “It’s Absurda’s fault”. It was always something that I clearly had nothing to do with so it was obviously a joke.

    He once asked me if it bothered me that he kept saying this. I told him I was fine with it as long as everyone knew he was joking. He stopped doing it after that; I guess he figured not everyone knew it was a joke.

  48. Newly Hired*

    I recently experienced almost this exact situation, except I was a participant on the Zoom call cringing while my boss was being picked on by my great-grandboss. In my experience, this will reflect much worse on your grandboss than on you. Following the call, several people, including myself expressed discomfort and that the entire call was handled so unprofessionally by my great-grandboss. It didn’t make me think any less of my boss or his competence, but absolutely changed my perspective on my great-grandboss. I’m really sorry you went through that and I think you should tell your direct supervisor. Picking on someone in a meeting is absolutely not a good way to deliver feedback or manage.

  49. Khlovia*

    “I don’t / didn’t mean to pick on you.”
    “Oh, so all that nastiness just fell out of your mouth entirely by accident? I am sorry to hear you have no volitional control over the noise that comes out of your face. Have you seen a doctor about this problem of yours?”

    Do not say this to Chad, OP. Say something else instead.

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