I have two bosses, my manager attends a notoriously bigoted university, and more

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

1. How do I navigate two bosses?

I have worked for my organization for two years, as a manager. I technically have one director who I report to (Jane) I report to, and another (Niles) who I also report to but less officially. Jane and Niles have vastly different concepts of how things need to be handled. Niles is not clear and I very rarely understand what he wants. (If I do, it’s because I ask a lot of questions!) I’m not the only one in my organization who has this problem — in fact, most staff do not know how to communicate with him at all. (When I tried to talk to Niles about this, he told me that the entire staff doesn’t know how to communicate and he doesn’t see how that is his problem.)

So, I carry out duties as directed by Jane because (a) I understand what she wants and (b) she is my direct supervisor. The problem comes in when Jane makes a decision and Niles has an issue with it … which inevitably is only addressed by Niles to me, not addressed with Jane. Niles is Jane’s boss, so I sort of have to report to each of them. I can’t simply say something like, “I’m sorry, but Jane has assigned me to take care of the task in this manner. I can’t proceed in the way you would like until I get the all clear from her.”

I’m at my wits’ end trying to get the two of them to communicate and to get Niles to communicate properly with the rest of the organization. Jane is pretty understanding about the situation but it’s starting to get out of hand. How do I navigate two bosses?

First and foremost, it’s not your job to get Jane and Niles to communicate, and it’s definitely not your job to get Niles to communicate better with the rest of the organization. Those two things are both clearly problems, but they’re above your pay grade so free yourself from whatever’s making you feel responsible for fixing those. If the people with the power to fix those them aren’t doing it, you definitely won’t be able to — and you’re just adding additional stressors to your plate that don’t need to be there.

With the conflicting instructions, you’ve got to keep in mind that Niles is Jane’s boss and he has more authority than she does. That doesn’t mean you should just abandon Jane’s instructions when he tells you to something differently, but you also shouldn’t respond with “I cannot do what you are asking” (your proposed language). That comes across as pretty rigid! Instead, just explain she asked you for something different and so you’ll go back to her and relay what he wants. For example: “Ah, let me talk to Jane. She’d wanted X, so I’ll let her know that you’re saying Y.” Or, in some situations: “Jane told me to do X earlier. Could I pull her into this conversation so we’re all on the same page?”

You should also have a big-picture conversation with Jane about the pattern — “Niles sometimes give me instructions that contradict yours. How do you want me to handle it when that happens?”

2. My manager attends a notoriously bigoted university

I’m new to my job (two months in) and so I’m only just getting to know my new supervisor (all virtual/over Zoom). She seems lovely and supportive. But I recently learned that she is enrolled to get an advanced degree at one of the most notoriously anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-civil-rights, etc. etc. evangelical universities in the country. I’ll call it University X.

This isn’t a matter of what’s physically close to her, because it’s all online. It’s not a matter of saving money, because it’s being paid for by employers who would pay any tuition. It’s almost certainly not a matter of academic excellence, because this place just isn’t academically excellent. While I give a lot of leeway to where people get their undergrad degrees — an 18-year-old is functionally a child and most are under the thumbs of their parents — this is a woman closer to middle age who would have made the decision to enroll in grad school at University X with both eyes open and a plethora of other options.

As a supervisor, what is her duty here? Our employer is outspoken about support for the queer community. But I can imagine hearing from her that she was enrolled at University X and feeling super unsafe about talking to her about anything in my life that was even the least bit non-normative. Whether I count as “queer” is sort of up for debate within the community, but this question isn’t really about me so much as it is a hypothetical: What would you advise my supervisor to do here? Should she have chosen a different school from the get-go? Should she omit the name of the school when she discusses her academic work with subordinates? Should she mention the school but insert a disclaimer, “I know that University X has a really awful reputation for being queer-friendly, but I just want to let you know I don’t condone that”?

She shouldn’t attend a school that’s notoriously anti-gay, anti-trans, and anti-civil-rights, period. With the context you gave (eyes wide open and other options), you’ve got to assume she either actively supports their positions or simply doesn’t care (which for all intents and purposes isn’t that different from supporting them) and that’s a real problem for her as a manager (and as a human). If your employer is paying for her to get a degree there, they need to revisit what they pay for.

Read an update to this letter.

3. Hiring managers are asking how I thought the interview went before they offer me the job

I’ve recently been job searching and accepted a new job and turned down several offers. One thing I ran into several times was that post-interview, I would receive a call from the interviewer. We’d exchange the usual pleasantries but then they would ask me how I thought the interview went.

Every time this happened, it was incredibly awkward. I had no idea what they wanted from me as an answer and in the moment it felt like answering it wrong might lose me the job. Each time they ended up offering me the job after I answered.

Once when this happened, it was a job that I’d planned to email the next day to withdraw from consideration. They asked me how it went, I said that it didn’t seem to be a good fit for me. They said, “Well, you might think that you didn’t come across well or didn’t answer the questions perfectly but it’s good news — we’d like to offer you the job.” As you can imagine, my politely declining the offer was so much more awkward than it would have been without that spiel.

Is there some logic behind this question that I’m not seeing? What is the “right” answer? Please tell me they aren’t doing this to people they reject?

That is a strange way to open a conversation that’s leading up to a job offer. My guess is that they really mean, “How are you feeling about things?” and they’re expecting you to say that you’re really interested in the job, which they will then respond to by offering it to you.

The problem, of course, is that they don’t seem to be contemplating that you might not respond that way — or at least they’re not adjust their script when that happens, as evidenced by the person who, upon being told you didn’t think the job was a good fit, responded that they had “good news” anyway. It apparently never occurred to them that you might have felt they were not a good fit for you and that you weren’t simply waiting for their judgment of you.

It’s also totally unnecessary! If they want to offer you the job, they can just open the conversation with, “I’m calling because we’d like to offer you the job.” Done!

As for a good response to “how did you feel the interview went?” if you are still interested in the job, you can go with something generically positive, like, “I really enjoyed talking with you, and I’m very interested in the position.”

4. Can I warn a vendor about our difficult IT director?

My workplace has recently identified a piece of software we need to replace, and we’ve selected one that meets our needs well. I’ve been working closely with the vendor during this process to evaluate the software and their proposals and have a very good relationship with them.
The only hurdle we have left is IT approval. The problem is the head of IT is a real [insert not nice word here]. In past interactions with vendors, he’s only been happy when he thinks he’s getting one over on them. I have heard him berate salespeople and hang up on technical reps who he’s specifically requested to be a part of the call. (I’m very happy to not be in his chain of command.) I’m also a woman in a typically male-dominated role (where I’m expected to be THE expert on some things). I’ve had him specifically ask my opinion about things in my area of expertise (which he knows little to nothing about) and dismiss my opinion when I didn’t agree with him.

I will have to keep working with this vendor through the purchase and implementation of the software, and longer if we go with the remote-hosted option that seems the best fit. We have a meeting next week with a technical rep from the vendor and our head of IT to get all IT questions answered so we can move forward. Ethically it seems like I should warn the vendor that the head of IT isn’t particularly nice and may be spectacularly unreceptive to the proposal, but I genuinely have no idea how I would go about that. Is there anything I can say that wouldn’t be badmouthing an exec?

There’s no reason you can’t discreetly say, “Roger can be difficult in these meetings, but you won’t have much contact with him afterwards. I’m the one you’d be working with throughout the purchase and implementation.” If there’s anything you can specifically recommend the vendor do to prepare for the conversation (like “Roger always looks at X really carefully and will likely have questions on Y”), that’s useful too.

5. How do I pass on institutional knowledge before I retire?

I’m a bit over a year from retiring. I currently manage a small environmental regulation group that I was an inspector in for almost 30 years, and when I retire I will have been here for 32ish years. We’re a niche program in a field that really didn’t exist until the early 80s; I got started in it in 1982 at another city, so I was in on the ground floor. In my time here as an inspector, I have always been the subject matter expert here. My three employees total about half my experience in the field.

We have decent policies and procedures, all of which we’re updating/rewriting over the next year. But how do I transfer what’s in my brain? Like I know the answer to something because I read an EPA guidance letter about it 30 years ago that will be difficult to find a copy of, but don’t “know” I know it until the question comes up. We have a good library of guidance documents, and most of them are available online, but half the battle is just knowing where to look and I can’t figure out how to pass that along.

You can’t really pass that kind of thing along. That kind of institutional memory can’t just be written up into a manual or downloaded into someone else’s brain. Even if you had a colleague closely shadow you for the remaining year, you wouldn’t be able to transfer all of that. It would make sense to spend a good part of your remaining time mentoring colleagues, but your bar for success can’t be “they know everything I know”; that just won’t happen.

But this might indicate you could do a few hours a week/month of lucrative consulting work after you’re gone, if you wanted to!

Read updates to this letter here and here.

{ 638 comments… read them below }

  1. albe*

    OP1, what I do in that situation is send a reply to both of them.

    Hi boss 1 and 2,
    I’m a little confused about x – I’ve got two sets of instructions. Could you please get back to me about what you need me to do?

    I do it every time and while I know Jane hates it, I need to cover my arse and make sure she knows there’s a reason I didn’t follow her instructions.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, I think OP1 is going to get better answers if she’s able to pull them both in to the conversation. I feel like otherwise the odds are good that the OP is just going to end up as the go-between among two people who keep giving conflicting answers, especially if their ideas are usually vastly different.

      1. Op1*

        Hi! Op 1 here…. It is usually in person but I do try to clarify that I’ve been given two different sets of instructions to both Niles and Jane. Jane is also aware of the situation and rarely contradicts Niles but it gets frustrating for everyone involved. Including Niles! Haha

        1. SarahKay*

          I’ve got to say, it sounds like Niles deserves all the frustration he gets, and then some more. He’s clearly unaware of the saying that ‘If you meet one jerk, they’re a jerk. If everyone you meet is a jerk…maybe you should look in a mirror.”
          The only advice I’ve got is to perhaps send a ‘summary’ email when this happens, after you/Jane/Niles have agreed on what you’ll do. It could be really brief, like “Niles, just to let you know I’ve followed up with Jane and going forward I will do x task in y way as you advised”. Send it to Niles, copy Jane, save a copy off somewhere for future reference.
          Good luck!

          1. MichelleS*

            I know I worked at a store that had high turnover in one specific department. The manager always complained he couldn’t find good help and all the “help” always complained about him. In the end I was of the opinion that all the help couldn’t be bad maybe it was time to look in the mirror!

          2. phred*

            (When I tried to talk to Niles about this, he told me that the entire staff doesn’t know how to communicate and he doesn’t see how that is his problem.)
            That’s not just a red flag, that’s a red flag with raisins on it. It reminds me of the story of the man who calls his wife while he’s driving home from work. “Watch out if you’re on the Interstate. The traffic report says there’s a guy driving the wrong way.” “One guy? I’m on the Interstate right now and there’s hundreds of them.”

        2. Esmeralda*

          Do a version of the email as a follow up to the in person instructions. Since Niles is ambiguous about his directions, too, I’d be cya’ing and sending a summary email after just about every encounter with Niles.

        3. anonymous73*

          Would you be comfortable setting up a meeting with both of them to discuss this? Depending on your relationship with them, this would be my go to. The way they handle things is not fair to you, and it seems having a chat with both of them at the same time ~could~ help. It doesn’t have to be confrontational – just lay out the facts and explain that this type of thing puts you in an awkward position and affects your ability to get your job done.

    2. Database Developer Dude*

      OP1 really needs to scrutinize the responses of both Jane and Niles to that reply. I can’t imagine neither is aware of the situation, and leadership really needs to speak to subordinates with one voice, otherwise it’s a leadership failure, and it’s not the subordinates’ job to manage up in this case.

      1. ecnaseener*

        “I can’t imagine neither is aware of the situation” – correct, the letter says Jane is understanding about the situation.

    3. M*

      If not for OP1’s clarification in comments that it’s usually in-person, this could very well be a description of my workplace! Speaking as someone in a Jane-equivalent position, our CEO is very much a Niles – though, unlike OP1’s Niles, not particularly inclined to blame all of his subordinates, and aware of his own role in it.

      As a Jane-equivalent person, what I ask my staff to do is very similar to what Allison recommends here. Essentially, some variant of “that’s different from what Jane told me we were aiming for here. Let’s grab her for this conversation, so that she’s up-to-date for the future” – or, if that’s not practical “let me take some notes here. I’ll update Jane on what you’re looking for later and cc you, so you can make sure I didn’t miss anything”. We also keep very detailed – and easily accessible – summaries of what’s been asked for, so that any of my staff can walk our Niles through what they thought was being asked for, and ask him to identify anything that doesn’t match his goals.

      That’s easier when your Jane is reasonable and aware of the problem – and when your Niles is self-aware enough to know things are getting lost in translation. Here, though, your Niles seems… prickly about the suggestion that it’s his communication that’s at fault. So I’d suggest leaning into that! “I know you’ve been frustrated by us not getting what you’re looking for before. I’m going to ask a lot of questions here, so I can make sure I’ve got it right and have full context to update Jane as well. I’ll email you and her an outline later, so you can check and let us know if I’ve gotten anything wrong.”

      1. JM in England*

        Slightly off-topic, I have a family based analogy for Niles. My Dad was hard of hearing and I suggested him looking into getting a hearing aid. He rebuffed the idea and said that I needed a speaking aid! *sigh*

        1. starsaphire*

          Everybody’s grandpa! “My hearing is fine; it’s all you darn kids mumbling that’s the problem.”

          Totally feel you on this one, for sure.

  2. august*

    LW #5, your experience and knowledge certainly cannot be contained in a manual or the sorts. What you can pass is the heads up of where they can look things up or maybe even a reading list of sorts. Things such as what happened in when are no doubt valuable knowledge but difficult to transfer on.

    I do wish my predecessor thought about it those things too but he did say I can call when I have to which helps though I wouldn’t recommend this way since it kind of defeats the purpose of them retiring and also confidentiality issues.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, it’s really difficult to call unless they have an agreement or contract as an external consultant with the employer to cover the confidentiality stuff, and also to ensure that they get paid for doing the work.

      I work for the government, and in my area the mandatory retirement age is 68 in the public sector. Some in-demand employees who’ve basically been fired into retirement have been able to return to doing their old jobs as consultants, and their fees are sky high. They can also pretty much decide for themselves how many hours they’re willing to work. Many of them return like this to help mentor their successor.

      1. august*

        That’s true. My boss was already a consultant, with the same circumstances that you mentioned, but didn’t renew the contract due to health issues on his part. I also rarely call unless I have had to and after I’ve exhausted all available options for help, I think I’ve called twice since he retired a year ago and I hope not to do anymore.

        The consultant route certainly works and I hope it’s a possible option for LW.

      2. Sara without an H*

        This is all good advice. OP#5, I sympathize — I just retired in May and it was a little terrifying to realize how much information I carry in my head that just accumulated over the course of a 35 year career. And I’ve always been pretty rigorous about making sure stuff gets documented and filed on the shared drive so people can find it!

        I did something similar to what CoveredInBees suggested — I kept a document open and added things to it as they came up, or as I thought of something. I also created a file on the shared drive called “Director’s Kit” and put copies of policy documents, memos, and other stuff I thought would be helpful to a new or acting director as they got started.

        In the end, though, you have to have confidence in the training and mentoring you’ve given your team over the years.

        Retirement is great, btw.

        1. Retired Prof*

          Same here. I ran a professional development shop and several committees as well as teaching at the University. My institutional knowledge included a lot of stuff that is hard to document. In 38 years I developed a huge Rolodex in my head of the people you contact when you need help with X, and their back door phone numbers that aren’t on their department webpage but they give out to people they trust. I knew all the weird fine points of policy and the unofficial ways of getting things done, including how to interact with troublesome people. I deeply understood the Favor Bank and still had plenty of credit built up with lots of people in crucial positions. I wanted to just download my brain into a couple of my colleagues. I had to remind myself that I learned all that stuff doing the job, and my colleagues will also.

          And retirement is fabulous.

    2. CoveredInBees*

      I gave a long notice period (3 months) to a former employer and kept a document open to note things like this as they occurred to me. Did I catch everything? Probably not. But I definitely caught a lot.

      1. Nicotena*

        You can definitely also do this before you give notice! In the year that’s left, keep an open doc where you note down things that you realize aren’t written down. But also, it’s okay to realize not everything will be passed down, and that can actually be good. If rulemaking really is based on a notice from 30 years ago, a new staffperson will learn this the same way you did originally; by making contacts, doing research etc – and that will be good for them because they will retain it, as opposed to it being “because Sally says so.” In fact, a longtime staff person who had always been the Final Answer just left our org and I think it’s been great for us (and it turns out there was some newer sources of info that she just didn’t know about, having always had the answers in her head).

      2. ThreeDaysLeft*

        I did this before going on maternity leave three years ago. It was probably overkill for the temp taking on my role for three months, but now that I’m actually leaving and have a much faster transition period, that document is invaluable. I’m spending my last two weeks wrapping up projects and updating the document instead of trying to do it all from scratch.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I agree with making a list of links to guidance, regs, and other resources, which will go a long way in helping others. I’m in banking and used to work in the compliance area. My former boss once told me that I didn’t need to know the answers (I was new to the lending compliance aspect), that it’s about knowing an answer needs to be found and knowing, roughly, where I might find it.

    4. Mockingjay*

      OP 5, why don’t you ask your team if there’s anything they’d like you to work or mentor with them one-on-one while you’re still there? That would be a parting gift beyond price. I’ll bet each one has different specific areas they’d like to know more about, which get glossed over or pushed off during routine work. You can’t teach everyone everything in a year, but if each team member gets a different piece of the puzzle, after you depart they’ll be able to put things together.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      While it’s not the same, I would also recommend the document as much as they can if there is anywhere they are lacking, and if there is anything they prepare make sure it’s documented well!

      I recently joined a team that had been going downhill in terms of documentation and we’ve actively been trying to improve. Unfortunately the two people with the most institutional knowledge on the team are the worst at documenting because we have to ask so much of them that they just end up not having time.

      One of them just retired and I’m supposed to recreate something he did at year-end and there is just literally no information we can find saved anywhere about where his numbers came from!

      The other guy frequently corrects issues with numbers in the final document so they end up not matching the support and when we try to look into the numbers later we are at a loss. This guy seems to have no intention of retiring soon, but obviously it’s going to happen at some point and I’m really worried that we won’t be able to roll forward any of his processes correctly once he does!

    6. Kiwiii*

      I came here to mention a reading list, too. Ensuring that there’s a set of links or titles for “here are all the things/types of things you may need to reference and where to find them” is invaluable.

    7. Hills to Die on*

      I have done something similar in the past – we called it ‘The Bible’. Go back through your emails. Print out any obscure / odd / one-off questions to which you responded. Any unique scenarios, questions, etc that come up should also get the same treatment. I folded these into policies procedures, functional docs into a large binder and it was the foundation from which we worked from there. It was really helpful after I left.

  3. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    “You can’t really pass that kind of thing along. That kind of institutional memory can’t just be written up into a manual or downloaded into someone else’s brain.”

    I needed to hear this as i keep trying to do the same thing

    1. JM in England*

      It’s a shame that there’s not something in real life resembling the BIG RAT from the Gerry Anderson show show Joe 90! :-D

    2. JB*

      Ultimately you need to trust that the people who take over from you will have the same skills you do – i.e. they’ll be able to research and find the same information you did.

      It sounds frustrating, especially to someone who’s late in their career and just knows everything already; but they’ll build that internal database of knowledge the same way you had to do. Nobody handed it all to you, either!

      1. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

        In my case its a lifetime of research and development and testing, i want to write some books and manuals but there are barriers i am fighting.
        I likely have to accept that much knowledge and discoveries will be lost when i am gone.

  4. Xenia*

    The best case scenario I can imagine is that this woman applied to several online universities, only got accepted to X, and is either ignorant of its politics or desperate enough for the degree that she’s willing to tolerate the stupid and hasn’t thought through how it would look to others.

    I’m not too thrilled with the combination of “our employer is supportive” and “our employer is paying for the degree”, either, because the action is not holding up the statement. I know that not everyone can get into every university but I also know that a lot of employers, especially of professionals, will have a specific list of universities they have an agreement with rather than just paying for any degree from anywhere.

    1. John Smith*

      I’m just wondering whether it’s a case of the course being studied isn’t widely available and there was little choice but to go to the one in question. But I do think it raises questions about the employer’s morality and ethics. My employer refuses to do business with certain suppliers because their business models are exploitive. It means it’s more difficult and expensive to get the services from other suppliers, but I give my employer kudos for this. If only they would apply the same practice internally…..

      1. Tali*

        I am genuinely curious about what course would be available at notoriously bigoted, closed-minded, academically weak institution that would not be available elsewhere. The only courses I can think of would not align with widely accepted science/ethics/history.

        1. John Smith*

          Might just be a specialised one. My degree was only offered by 3 universities in the country. Now that’s down to 2. Just an aside.

          1. Tali*

            What general field is it? Because again, I am struggling to brainstorm a specialized field that is only available at an academically weak, notoriously bigoted institution. Surely those 2 universities offering your degree are, like, accredited, and are staffed by professors with proper degrees who think the world is round, etc.?

            1. GMan*

              In my state there’s no nuclear power plants, and therefore no nuclear engineering programs at the schools (For example).

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          If it’s the place I think it is, it’s also not accredited, so I’m surprised an employer would pay for it.

          1. Maglev to Crazytown*

            My employer is paying for several employees to attend this one, because as long as they can demonstrate they are following a course of study to expand skillsets, they don’t screen the accreditation. These are non bigoted employees who are attending due to the flashy shiny marketing campaign, including commercials in mainstream media, that institution has geared towards busy working people with family and other outside responsibilities (i.e., flexibility, large list of programs for everyone, etc).

            I am NOT in favor of that school, but I know what my coworkers are responding to and why so many are using their programs. The commercials they see have a diverse and inclusive student body pictured as well.

    2. Turducken*

      There are some assumptions being made here about the attendee’s focus, goals, intent, and awareness. If all one has done is search for universities with X degree, reputation and whatnot may not come up. We are assuming she even knows about these issues.

      1. Triplestep*

        Yes, this is what I came here to say. There are people who consider themselves “non-polititcal” and simply don’t consider questions about what an organization supports or espouses before choosing to attend, consume, buy products, etc. I thought the question was going to be from the LW asking “how can I cope with having a manager who chooses to sleepwalk through life this way?” Not a question the manager should pose when she is not the one bothered by any of this. I have found people like this are typically taken by surprise when the subject of their choices is raised in the context of something they don’t even think about. She’d probably answer something like “Their program takes the least time to complete” and wonder why anyone would look beyond that.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          This. We who are politically aware have trouble understanding just how unaware many people are. It is entirely plausible that her knowledge of the school is that it is “Christian” (scare quotes used advisedly). This is akin to the people who vote Republican because Ronald Reagan seemed nice.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Should add: this does not excuse them. We are far past the days when being “nonpolitical” was a plausibly responsible stance. Paying attention is the price we pay for democracy.

      2. OhNoYouDidn't*

        Agreed. There are MANY assumptions being made here. Many people are associated with institutions that have values with which they disagree. How many people attend catholic church yet are still pro-choice? By the OP’s logic, Planned Parenthood should refuse to hire anyone who goes to a Catholic Church or University. And, even if said supervisor does believe these things, it’s her right. We are not thought police. People are allowed to go to school where they want, think what they want, and believe what they want. At work, it’s how a person behaves that matters. This supervisor should be judged by her behaviors, which OP has indicated are nothing but supportive and positive. What I see here is OP displaying the intolerant attitude that she is merely scared her supervisor will display but has shown no signs of. Tolerance is a two-way street.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Um, no, it’s not the same as belonging to a church. The employer is paying tuition for this institution to educate their employee. A church is neither paid for by the employer, nor exists to provide a secular education.

          This is a really bad-faith, derailing point you’re trying to make.

          1. Curious*

            That is quite correct–and what is entirely missing from OP2’s letter. We know that supervisor attends a school that subscribes to odious beliefs — from which we may suspect that supervisor shares those beliefs — but the only report about their *behavior* is that it seems “lovely and supportive.”

            As for the employer paying for courses at that school — is anyone familiar with an employer policy that denies tuition reimbursement for courses that would otherwise be covered, at an accredited university, on the basis of the odious beliefs subscribed to by that universities’ leadership/sponsoring religious body?

            1. LW#2*

              She’s lovely and supportive to me, but she doesn’t know anything about the parts of me that are maybe-queer-maybe-not-depends-who-you-ask, and she isn’t aware of my minority religious status, so… yeah, I think the place I’ve landed is just, don’t be forthcoming with her about anything in my life that’s non-normative, and accept her support in the absence of a full picture of me, without rolling the dice on whether that support would persist under a full picture.

              1. quill*

                I’m guessing based on your comments that you’re one of us “invisible” orientations within the queer umbrella (drive by ace high fives by the way) and I get it. It’s always nerve racking to sit there thinking that someone who treats you well might immediately retract their support if they knew less-than obvious facts about you, and not even having an unquestioning support system of “yeah, that was wrong of them” when it comes to the queer community.

                I have been there (distant relatives mostly) so as exhausting as your course of action will be, it’s probably safest.

              2. Anne Elliot*

                I think that’s a perfectly reasonable place for you to land, and I say that as a person who thinks your boss has exactly zero duty to seek educational opportunities solely from institutions that meet someone else’s moral/philosophical purity test.

                1. fhqwhgads*

                  Alas it is a sound way to keep your job when you know what OP currently does about your boss. Not worth the roll of the dice – until you can find a job you’re sure doesn’t require closeting yourself.

            2. Person from the Resume*

              is anyone familiar with an employer policy that denies tuition reimbursement for courses that would otherwise be covered, at an accredited university, on the basis of the odious beliefs subscribed to by that universities’ leadership/sponsoring religious

              I agree. I don’t think this says anything about the employer at all. It would be different if the employer was encouraging the school in some way, though.

          2. Another Professor*

            When has the supervisor been bigoted? The OP reports that the supervisor has been nothing but supportive. Also, if this is the university I think it is, they are known for downplaying their views to enroll students in their online programs.

          3. The OTHER other*

            True, but LW describes the person going to the objectionable school as “wonderful”.

            I very much oppose the agenda of very conservative religious educational institutions but the fact remains that the manager concerned is pursuing a degree in a particular field, and not some sort of certification to oppress the downtrodden. If the company will pay for courses in the field of X and this place offers them and is accredited (if that matters—is accreditation checked for other institutions?) then it seems to me the question of the university’s policies is not relevant. Where would this end?

            1. lazuli*

              “Where would this end?”

              With people making conscious choices based on ethical considerations.

              I’m firmly of the belief that there are no fully ethical choices in late-stage capitalism and that we all have to make trade-offs given the oppressive structures we’ve created and live within, but that doesn’t mean we have no responsibility for our choices.

              1. The OTHER Other*

                …so educational support is yanked for institutions based on political criteria? Keep in mind conservative businesses can likewise apply their own litmus tests.

                1. Mannequin*

                  It SHOULD be yanked for institutions that support intolerant, hateful, bigoted behavior, which is not “political criteria” but an issue of basic human rights.

          4. Worldwalker*

            There’s an article worth reading, though I’m too busy to find a link right now. The gist is that tolerance is a peace treaty, not unilateral surrender. You tolerate those who are also tolerant, just like a country doesn’t attack those who don’t attack it. But if some signatory does not uphold their end of the treaty, and attacks, then all bets are off. Nobody says “Sure, they just invaded our country and all, but we’ve got a peace treaty with them, so we can’t fight them.

        2. foolofgrace*

          And, even if said supervisor does believe these things, it’s her right. We are not thought police.

          I don’t understand what OP is trying to *do* in this situation. There doesn’t seem to be anything *to* do. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with day-to-day work.

          1. LW#2*

            “but this question isn’t really about me so much as it is a hypothetical: What would you advise my supervisor to do here?”

            If Alison hadn’t wanted to answer it because I didn’t request an action for me to take, I would’ve understood!

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              I think a lot of the people who write in are not necessarily looking for action but validation or just a third-party opinion on a situation! Your feelings on this are definitely valid and I agree with Alison that really the only thing a manager in this position can do is either 1) NOT choose a school that makes it appear they either agree with or are not put off by their abhorrent views or 2) know that means that many employees would feel uncomfortable and maybe even unsafe around them.

          2. Insert Clever Name Here*

            {shrug} It’s like the “which TV boss is better” questions — none of us are actually working for Michael Scott or Leslie Knope, but it’s interesting as a thought exercise for a community that is interested in work relationships and dynamics.

        3. Parakeet*

          The idea that oppression’s targets, or decent people who aren’t targets, who object to it, and people perpetrating it, are engaging in equivalent behavior because both are failing at “tolerance,” or have a certain “attitude,” is bad power analysis (even more so in this case since the supervisor has power over the OP in the workplace). And if it’s the university I think, it’s not at all like attending most Catholic universities. Not in terms of views, not in terms of the degree to which politics (in this case, making life worse for certain kinds of marginalized people) are integrated into the school’s mission. If the supervisor didn’t know before enrolling, that’s one thing – I know that there are people who are unfamiliar with it – but it’s understandable that OP would be worried that the supervisor’s views are those of the university’s. And whether the supervisor knows or not, why is the company paying? People get to go to school where they want, but not necessarily on the employer’s dime.

        4. Bamcakes*

          It is simply not safe to assume that everyone is supportive and tolerant until proven otherwise. Giving money to an organisation that promotes intolerance is an action, not a belief, and it’s really OK to judge people on it and reassess how much you can trust them with your own safety!

          1. Kyrielle*

            My beliefs run entirely counter to the bigotry of the institution being discussed here. And if I enrolled with them and gave them money, that would be an action, and I would be supporting hate, and the fact that I didn’t “agree” with their beliefs would not make a whit of difference to the fact that I *was supporting them*. And other people could decide that if I was that comfortable supporting them, I wasn’t safe to be with no matter what I stated I believed. (But I hope if they knew me well and trusted my beliefs, they’d give me a heads-up in case I was just head-in-the-sand stupid ignorant. But that requires knowing someone well, and also trusting that it’s safe to point that out; I wouldn’t expect anyone to risk their job to enlighten me, when they have to consider I might already know.)

        5. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I agree that people are allowed to believe what they want and attend any school they choose, but I do think that a workplace should not be paying for employees to take courses at schools that don’t uphold the company’s values. That doesn’t mean an employee can’t attend University X or that they can’t hold whatever beliefs they hold, just that the company shouldn’t be obligated to pay for it if they choose not to.

          1. Curious*

            But tuition reimbursement is an aspect of employment protected under Title VII, and an employer can’t discriminate based on the employee’s religious beliefs. Like it or not, religious beliefs are protected under Title VII, whether we find them odious or not.

            Think of it this way: a good employer can’t discriminate against an employee’s choice to attend an otherwise-qualified university based on the university’s odious religious beliefs any more than a bigoted employer can discriminate against an employee’s choice to attend an otherwise-qualified HBCU.

            1. AVP*

              Okay, all things aside, it’s kind of incredible that in this example the polar opposite of a bigoted religious university is an HBCU.

            2. JB*

              It’s high time that we stopped acting like all religious beliefs were created equally. “Other people deserve fewer human rights because my god doesn’t like them” should not be a protected religious belief. It simply does not fall within the scope of one’s private relationship with one’s faith.

              1. Mannequin*

                Exactly this.

                If your religion advocates stepping on people’s feet, your religion sucks and you still need to get off my foot.

            3. JG Obscura*

              All “religious beliefs” are not created equal. “My religion says I can’t drink alcohol.” is very different from “My religion says queer people should be put in conversion therapy.”

              If University X is advocating for harmful treatment of others, that’s not about religion. That’s about ethics. It’s more equivalent to saying “We’re not going to buy supplies from a company that uses sweatshops for production.”

        6. Worldwalker*

          The person is using the employer’s money to support an institution that is opposed to what the employer claims to support.

          It’s not what she does on her own time — it’s what she’s having the employer pay for. It’s not like working for Planned Parenthood and attending a Catholic church — it’s like working for Planned Parenthood and steering their corporate donations to Operation Rescue.

        7. Nothing Rhymes With Purple*

          “Tolerance is a two-way street.”

          Not when the street is tilted. LW#2 and her manager have different amounts of power, both specifically at work and in the wider society. Being wary of someone who has willingly allied themself with an organization that opposes one’s existence is in no way shape or form the same as oppressing someone because of their demographics.

        8. JM*

          It could be argued — by me and a lot of other people targeted by said institution — that simply mentioning that one is attending such an institution constitutes, at a bare minimum, a bigoted microaggression. I would personally take it as a threat and hate speech and be hunting for a new job.

      3. Guacamole Bob*

        I think this is a stretch. Do people really apply to graduate programs without even a cursory understanding of the university in which they operate? Maybe my search was different because the programs I was applying to were all at pretty mainstream universities and large state schools, but it seems weird to me to be like “yep, going to spend hundreds of hours of my life doing this online degree program” without even cursory research or talking to others in the field about the different programs available at different schools.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Reading further down in the thread, it seems like some of these schools are doing a lot of marketing on their programs for working professionals and that many people do, in fact, enroll without realizing the values of the school. That’s very different from my experience of looking at grad school, but I guess it’s possible OP’s boss doesn’t actually know the reputation of the school!

          1. Smithy*

            I also think that for a significant portion of ongoing education students currently employed, it really is about the easiest way to get the degree. So it can be a graduate degree awarded in one year instead of two, a program that will accept more of your previous credits, or a classes evaluated in a manner identified as easier for a student to complete (i.e. no capstone/thesis style projects). Combine that with greater access to scholarships/discounts/basic accreditation – and for someone who feels that their professional advancement is being limited because they’re just missing a piece of paper – that’s the most important part.

            I went initially went to graduate school immediately after undergrad, with a fairly similar attitude of being super engaged in school. And even though my school was academically highly ranked and all that, it was a shock to encounter a number of students in class clearly just there to leave with the degree and do the minimum. They weren’t mean or rude or unintelligent – but this was clearly about checking off a box they needed for professional growth. Having Professor Y be impressed on their take on Week 4’s reading didn’t even make their list of 1001 important things for the day.

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              Yeah, I went back full time in my early 30’s and really threw myself into school for a career change, and it was definitely not the kind of program where anyone had a full time job in addition (many people did pick up RA/TA work through the program, though).

              But when I think about my friends and family who are teachers, many have district or state requirements around licensing and pay scales that mean they need to get a master’s degree, usually while they’re working or maybe in the summers. It’s not that they don’t care about the content of their classes, but the prestige of the school is much less important, and they often have a lot more going on in their lives while they’re trying to complete those course requirements than I did. I can see how things like schedule flexibility would be a much bigger part of deciding on a program in that case.

              1. Smithy*

                For my sector, the UN is well know for having a requirement for masters degree for the vast majority of fulltime staff positions. Obviously if you’re not in the UN system at all, then having a more prestigious degree matters. However, for those who are long term consultants in fields where graduate degrees are of ambivalent value it really can be a matter of shopping around for the least painful/most flexible option.

                As the OP said, as her specific employer is not covering the tuition (but perhaps a parent company?) – then this isn’t so much a case of her employer’s values and I’d just use it as a data point on her manager as opposed to a true red flag. Perhaps like half of a red flag? May be indicative of beliefs and values, but might also be representative of a lot more administrative “path of least resistance”.

            2. Parakeet*

              It can also be in part that a university is very good at search engine optimization and ranks highly in search results when you google certain programs.

              I would have been incredulous that anyone could not know about this particular school, before someone that I know, who is in multiple groups targeted by that university’s views, enrolled in an online class there with no idea what they were, and immediately started picking up on something being off and was skeeved by it. Which is why I said in my other comment that if the supervisor truly didn’t know, it’s different than if they did, in terms of OP’s relationship with the supervisor anyway, but the employer ought to know and not pay for classes there.

        2. Spero*

          I work in social work and have had MANY employees, interns etc who did online programs with a well known bigoted university whose name is a synonym for freedom. They specifically promote counseling/mental health/social work programs which can be hard to find on the undergrad level. The specific organizations I work with help teach about birth control, work with sexual assault survivors, substance use, and HIV with a large queer population. So, I always specifically note that their university’s policies directly contradict our agency’s mission and would discriminate against our clients, and ask if their personal views would prevent them from working well with our clients/program. At least half are completely unaware of the reputation, the other half went there because they are religious/evangelical and wanted a school that was but stated they did not agree with all the views. Some had a male (husband/father) tell them the only way they would agree to let them go to school was if it was a religious institution. Of those I hired/brought on, none of them ever had a single issue actually working with the clients or teaching/doing things that were against the university’s code of conduct. A few freaked out in the interview and said it was religious discrimination for me to ask – I did not bring them on.

        3. Gumby*

          Do people really apply to graduate programs without even a cursory understanding of the university in which they operate?

          Considering the number of for-profit and otherwise sketchy schools that seem able to stay in business… yes? And if work is paying for it, I suspect there is even less due diligence being done.

          If you just want the degree because it’s useful for advancement, sometimes any accredited university works. This is why one might opt for an MBA from University of Phoenix rather than, say, Wharton. No one thinks that the educational experience will be equivalent. But if you want something that you can do part time, for less money, to check off a box rather than because you plan to pursue the types of roles top-name school MBA-holders generally aim for, it is good enough.

          1. Gumby*

            Sorry, that makes it sound like I am saying it doesn’t matter. My point was, rather, that I do not find it at all hard to believe that someone might think “I fond an online degree program that fits with my schedule and that work will pay for, woohoo” and then not look any further than that.

            Also, “it has been in the news” — means nothing to people who do not regularly watch or read news. They exist and walk among us.

        4. linger*

          For graduate programs, it matters a lot who the instructors are, and especially, who the supervisor would be. So there’s two possible scenarios: either
          (i) The specific department has some rock-star academics who are given full academic freedom by the university management, and who therefore may not endorse the university’s general religious / cultural biases. (Also, thesis evaluation, at least at properly accredited institutions, has to involve examiners from other institutions.) Under those conditions, Boss might be given a pass for ignoring the wider context of the institution.
          … or, more likely, (ii) the department is undistinguished and has limited academic freedom … in which case the degree is effectively worthless (others have made guesses about the institution’s identity and suggested the program is not accredited). In that case, at best, Boss has been misled by advertising, and at worst is fully complicit in the institution’s bias.

      4. Junebug*

        If we’re talking about Liberty University, the controversy was in the news repeatedly. She’d have to live under a rock to miss it.

        1. Leah K*

          I guess I’ve been living under a rock because I have no idea what Liberty University is what their claim to infamy is.

          1. Esmeralda*

            Evangelical private university founded by Jerry Falwell, who is recently embroiled in a sex scandal (he’s being sued by the *University*– the irony is delicious). It is strongly supportive of Donald Trump, and is anti-LGBTQ.

          2. Sylvan*

            The fairly recent sex scandal, the covid denial, the racism, the university being founded for the purpose of continuing segregation after other universities integrated?

            Anyway, if you were applying for graduate schools and this one was in the running, this information would come up during basic research.

            1. Mannequin*

              “the university being founded for the purpose of continuing segregation after other universities integrated”


          3. Triplestep*

            Same. And I am someone who cares about the values of the businesses to which I give my money, and have NPR on pretty much all day in my office.

            I am surprised so many of the commenters don’t seem to regularly encounter people who are indifferent to things they consider “political”. An organization’s values simply do not factor in to decisions. It’s up to us if we want to cultivate relationships with those people, but if we encounter them at work our choices are to put with it or find a new job. We can’t pontificate at work, and we can’t passively aggressively tell the indifferent that they should have opinions. Take it from my younger self, both of these things are career-limiting.

            1. Bamcakes*

              If your options for dealing with “people who are indifferent to things they consider “political”” are “pontificate or tell them they should have opinions”, that’s a pretty privileged place to be! For some people it’s more like, “consider very carefully whether it’s safe for me to share basic details about my life” or “re-examine every encounter with them to try and figure out whether I can rely on their advice, feedback or support or whether they fundamentally hate people like me”,

          4. Cj*

            Me too. I listen to MPR (Minnesota’s NPR) 80 minutes a day on my commute, and while I know the name Liberty University, I did not know what it stood for. Some vague notion they are probably anti-abortion, but that’s about it.

          5. PJS*

            Same here. The OP seems to think that everyone is fully aware of who this university is and what they stand for. I had no idea until I started reading the comments. And I definitely do not live under a rock when it comes to news and current events.

            1. LW#2*

              This is a genuine question: would you pursue a graduate degree at a university without doing a baseline amount of googling on the university’s reputation? This is the school that people are going to see first thing on your résumé/application for every job for the rest of your life. I don’t expect every person off the street to know about University X’s reputation; I expect someone who’s about to pour years of their life into studying at University X to do half an hour of research.

              1. Siege*

                I absolutely would not. It would also matter whether it’s ongoing and how ongoing. A given school can’t help but be a land-grant university, for example, but what are they doing with that now?

                It is my duty to spend my money ethically, and that’s much easier when you’re talking about a choice as large as a degree. It’s harder when you’re talking about Triscuits. (But nabisco is on strike; don’t cross even virtual picket lines!)

              2. Bluesboy*

                I started a Masters Degree online a couple of months ago at a UK university, and I looked into the academic quality and reputation of the university before signing up. But honestly, I looked at this on pretty impassive sites which were talking about the quality of the teaching and ranking tables – I never even thought of looking into social policies, or whether the university is welcoming to LGBT students.

                That’s on me – I realise now that I should have done. I support LGBT inclusiveness, ergo I should have made sure that a university I attend has that same belief system. I will be more careful in future (and in fact have looked into it now).

                So my point is that it’s quite possible that someone could sign up for a bigoted university without realising, and I know that because I could easily have done so.

                Your question really was what your supervisor should do – I can tell you what I would do. I would look into transferring credits to a different institution, would do so as soon as possible so as to graduate from a different university, firstly to make sure that they don’t get any more of my/my employer’s money and secondly to avoid having that name on my CV upon completion of the course.

              3. Splendid Colors*

                I looked up a lot of stuff about my university’s reputation in terms of academic rigor and acceptance rates to PhD/professional programs, and it was above average. We had an extremely good reputation in certain Federal programs who competed for our graduates (in programs I didn’t take). But a lot of recruiters/employers would hear the name of the university and start snickering and making weed jokes. I didn’t have much of a chance in the job market in 2010 competing with PhDs from Stanford and Cal who had just been laid off anyway, but it probably didn’t help that everyone assumed I was a stoner. (I get asthma attacks from drifting smoke from my neighbors in the Bay Area, so nope.)

        2. ChristineX*

          This is the school I suspect as well, given it’s extremely large online focus and partnership with many tuition assistance programs (discounts, etc.). The school is accredited and while a supervisor or someone may counsel this person against going, they likely could not actually deny the tuition assistance benefit on the grounds of the school’s objectionable social positions.

        3. Metadata minion*

          Yeah, I’m assuming it’s either Liberty or another similar institution, and if that’s the case, I suppose there’s an outside chance that she’s so deeply in her llama studies bubble that the only thing she knows is that it has an unexpectedly good alpaca program, but otherwise the fact that this school is horrifically bigoted is usually the one thing anyone knows about it.

        4. Come On Eileen*

          I don’t live under a rock and I’ve never heard of this university or their controversy. You can pay attention to the news and to life and miss things that don’t catch your personal eye.

        5. Spero*

          Disagree. If they went there because it was a religious university, they are likely also watching/reading conservative national news which did not widely cover those scandals. They’re not reading Slate and Politico. Local news didn’t cover them outside of the immediate area.
          Source: interviewed a grad of Lib in August who had never heard of the rep or scandals. She wasn’t a good fit for other reasons, but I believe her when she said she’d never heard of them.

            1. Triplestep*

              I listen NPR all day every day. It’s only off when I am meetings, or listening to the occasional podcast, or talking to a human being in my presence. Granted, sometimes it becomes background noise, but I did not know about this scandal.

              1. pancakes*

                It’s a misunderstanding to suggest that there’s a single school or scandal at issue here.

                Getting all your news from a sole source isn’t going to result in being well-informed about the world around you, even if you were listening attentively the whole time.

                1. LTL*

                  But that’s not really relevant here. The question at hand is whether or not the supervisor could be an ally. We’re not talking about whether or not the supervisor is well-informed. Those are two different things.

                2. pancakes*

                  LTL, perhaps it’s gotten lost in the threading, but I was replying to Triplestep’s 10:19 am comment suggesting that listening to NPR all day is a good way to be well-informed.

                3. Triplestep*

                  I realize I get a skewed version of the news essentially because I am too lazy to switch away from NPR. (When I had a commute I listened to conservative talk radio in the car to learn more about what people outside my bubble believe.) I was strictly responding to the idea that “Someone who sticks to news sources that didn’t cover those scandals is highly unlikely to be an ally.” I am an ally and I have not heard coverage overage of the scandals mentioned here.

                4. Triplestep*

                  @pancakes: You misunderstood. I was not saying I was well-informed. I was saying I am an ally in response to the statement by @junebug. I thought it would be assumed that “listening to NPR” = “progressive politics” = “ally of LGBTQ+” so I did not bother to spell it out.

                5. pancakes*

                  Triplestep, I have been out as bisexual for a couple decades and know better than to think anyone who listens to NPR is an ally of the LGBTQ community. I realize it has that reputation among many people who consider themselves centrists, and of course many of those further to their right. Its reputation and the quality of its reporting and tenor of its reporting aren’t necessarily aligned as a result.

              2. Worldwalker*

                It was on CNN, the NYT, Washington Post … this was not something only known to readers of fringe political websites.

            2. Spero*

              That’s true, but you didn’t say ‘be an ally’ in your comment. You said “have their head under a rock” to not hear about the scandal. And as much as I have a very poor opinion of those sources, they are very large and widely read. It’s not that crazy for someone to only get their news there – and the people who do think I’m crazy for only getting my news from NPR/NYT.

        6. IEanon*

          It’s so weird to me when Liberty comes up, because I live very close to the campus and have worked with many Liberty grads over the past few years. Most of them have been consummate professionals, and I’ve had great experiences working with them…

          ..but I do admit to a twinge of concern every time I notice where their degree comes from. I’ve also skipped out on professional events hosted at the university due to the school’s positions on basically everything. As a queer person, it makes me uncomfortable to be on or near the campus.

          They definitely push their online programs hard, both regionally and nationally, and my understanding is that the cost is very affordable. I also don’t think the academics are that poor, at least from what I’ve seen. There are plenty of faculty members on campus who don’t ascribe to any of the political/religious BS the board pumps out each year, and they have been very vocal about the president scandal, the covid scandal, etc. etc. I think someone could easily miss the school’s reputation if they’re narrowly focused on the degree and how accommodating the classes are of their schedule.

          1. Lora*

            I just looked it up – $23,000 / year. That is not cheap at all.

            My highly-ranked online MBA program at Private Large University was cheaper than that at $20k, and one of my colleagues is doing her MBA online at Local State U for $5k/year. My local Big State U charges $17k/year for online degrees in various and sundry fields. Penn State offers a ton of online degrees and costs $22,800/year. All those schools come without the baggage of a school known for bigotry, and offer plenty of flexibility with evening classes.

            1. IEanon*

              Very few students at Liberty pay the sticker prices, from what I’ve been told, which is a typical recruiting tactic for religious institutions. Shouldn’t make much of a difference in this case, since the manager is not paying the tuition.

              The more OP writes about this situation, the less I think the school in question is Liberty, and there seem to be a whole host of other issues, like the fact that the manager keeps talking about where they’re getting the degree. That would be WAY more concerning to me than just enrollment there alone. Also, why would the manager attend an unaccredited program? That reeks of tacit support of the school’s beliefs and politics.

              I also wouldn’t say that Penn State comes without baggage.

              1. Lora*

                I mean, JoePa definitely did not go out on a positive note, but that’s not really comparable with “accepts anyone with a pulse, didn’t let women wear pants for 45 years, run by notorious bigots”. Temple U definitely didn’t benefit from being touted by Bill Cosby, and University of Southern California has had one scandal after another. The Baylor basketball team had a huge scandal in 2003 with one player murdering another and the coach trying to cover it up – however, there’s a big difference between “criminal stuff happened and the university regrets it / has taken steps to police it or distance themselves from it” vs “this is ongoing policy they don’t even feel bad about”.

                1. Observer*

                  I’m not defending Liberty U here. But let’s get real. What happened in Penn was a LOT more than “JoePa definitely did not go out on a positive note

                  As for ““criminal stuff happened and the university regrets it / has taken steps to police it or distance themselves from it“, you have to be kidding. If the university regrets anything it’s that they were CAUGHT. They did zero to “police it or distance themselves“.

                  Ask yourself this – a significant portion of the student body strongly, vocally and somewhat violently protested the minimal steps that the university finally took. Why did the students feel so comfortable saying some of the gross things they did? Why did not a single one of these students face ANY repercussions for their awful behavior? It’s fair to consider that this IS a reflection of the school’s values.

                2. Worldwalker*

                  The person who actually *saw* the acts in question reported them to his boss — Joe Paterno — who, following procedure, reported this to his boss, the athletic director. It should be noted that McQueary didn’t do so much as say “Hey, what are you doing there?!?!” to Sandusky. He didn’t follow up. He didn’t do anything. And he was not some frail child — he was a graduate student and assistant coach. He could have said something. He could have done something. All he did was tell his boss, who is then condemned because he just told *his* boss.

                  And, frankly, firing a man who is dying of cancer over the phone because he didn’t follow up on a second-hand report from someone who didn’t think, himself, that it was worth following up on smacks of arse-covering at any cost, not accountability.

            2. Spero*

              I did an in person program at a state university, and the cost was more than double that (about 30k per semester). Costs for state universities vary widely, and if all they say see is 60k at local state u in person vs 23k at online religious program, it looks like a steal.

              1. Splendid Colors*

                The current cost of the Cal State University program I graduated from in 2010 is now about $9300/year for tuition & fees and another $1,200/year in books. So under $11,000 per YEAR. I think it was about $6000/year when I graduated.

            3. NotAnotherManager!*

              I live in Virginia and have looked at doing an MBA. Just looking at the public options, George Mason’s MBA is $50K in tuition alone (does not include books/fees), UVA’s tuition will set you back about $100K, Virginia Tech’s tuition is about $50K.

              I would never go to Liberty because I’ve lived here my whole life and can’t stand the Falwells, Liberty’s views, or the high-pressure tactics Liberty uses on people. A Liberty U degree would be a liability in my line of work (thought due to academic snobbery, not their worldview). But it is cheaper than even the state schools for graduate and professional programs.

              1. Lora*

                So, UVA is charging more than MIT for an MBA now? Seriously, MIT’s Sloan has an online MBA program, $90k for both years (last time I checked was divided between 2/3 of the expense the first year, which is more intense, and the latter 1/3 the second year), all night courses. It’s definitely worth shopping around, and some schools will really open more doors for you.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  MIT doesn’t do online degrees. They have an MBA (total cost estimated at $120K, tuition only $80K) or an Executive MBA for people with more than a decade of experience that is classes on Fridays/weekends for $185K.

                2. Lora*

                  You’re right, I got the MBA program mixed up with their Master’s of Engineering – which they don’t CALL an online degree, they just say they have “flexible distance learning options” with a residency requirement that can be long or short depending on which particular subspecialty / certificate you choose.

            4. PT*

              $23,000 a year for tuition is VERY cheap. That’s what many state universities are charging these days! The private university I attended was charging $32K 15 years ago. They’re up to $58K now. And that’s just the tuition, before room and board, for undergraduates.

              1. Splendid Colors*

                Cal State University is under $10K/year for tuition. UC Berkeley is under $15K/year for tuition, and they’re very prestigious (at least on the West Coast where I’ve lived all my life).

        7. Roscoe*

          I think this is a very local thing. I’m pretty up on current events, and I have no idea what the controversy is

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            I’m British and it hasn’t been a big thing in the news here so the name meant nothing to me, I tried Googling it and mostly got stuff about covid. Three pages of searching brought up a lawsuit.

            1. fhqwhgads*

              It’s not a single news issue or one scandal or recent item. It’s like….the whole history of the school as a recurring pattern of awful. If you google today, you get stuff about how they’re not taking COVID seriously. It you googled three years ago, you’d probably get discrimination lawsuits. Three years before that, rinse, repeat.

          2. IEanon*

            At this point, there’s too many to name. I suspect, though, that the covid policies and outbreak are going to be the biggest story right now. I’m not surprised by EvilQueenRegina’s comment above.

          3. Autumnheart*

            It’s not. I live hundreds of miles away from Liberty University and I know perfectly well what LU is about and what their recent scandal was. It was all over the news.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              I live on the freakin’ West Coast, am not shopping for colleges, and I know what an ongoing scandal farm this place is.

        8. Manchmal*

          I’m also surprised to see how many people haven’t heard about it…but now that I’m looking back to the coverage, I can see how it maybe wouldn’t have been on the nightly news due to how lurid it was. Essentially it was revealed that the head of the university, son of Jerry Falwell one of the most conservative, divisive figures of the 20th century, enjoyed hotwifing (watching his wife with other men). Some people felt like, eh their proclivities are their own business, but many people were disgusted at the hypocrisy of the head of a conservative institution that imposed very conservative social and sexual values on to its students engaging in activity that would have gotten any student kicked out of the school immediately.

          1. Worldwalker*

            Remember, this is the school that prohibits interracial dating. They’re extremely concerned about their students’ sex lives. That’s why the university president’s sex life matters so much, and the hypocrisy demonstrated by the same.

          2. Belle of the Midwest*

            Jerry Jr. was also photographed in a Florida nightclub (Liberty U students are not allowed to dance on or off campus, never mind drinking) and later on with a women he wasn’t married to while on vacation and holding a drink (He claims it was water, yeah right). While I personally think that Liberty’s brand of religious rules and practices is draconian, he should have either practiced what was preached or else leave his job/affiliation/whatever with the university. I attended a southern Baptist college for my last two years of undergrad and this type of hypocrisy runs rampant. I told my daughter when she was looking at colleges that I would not recommend any schools affiliated with a church other than maybe Methodist or Episcopal.

    3. Paul Pearson*

      “combination of “our employer is supportive””

      This! Because I’ve seen so many companies declare they’re supportive and it boils down to ” we get adverts at pride and maybe shell out for some rainbow lanyards” but when it comes to their internal policies, institutional knowledge of LGBTQ people and treatment of LGBTQ staff/clients then… there’s just a void. Claiming to be supportive is easy advertising.

      1. Miss V*

        I’ve often seen “supportive” mean “we aren’t going to violate federal law and discriminate against you”, but without actually doing anything more than that.

    4. LW#2*

      Without getting into identifying details, our current employer isn’t paying for the degree; another large institution is, and that institution would not balk at pretty much anything.

      1. Terrible Too*

        OP 2-ugh, you have my sympathy. I just found out our in-house council, who is the supervisor of HR in addition to being our attorney, has a law degree from University X. I read as queer sometimes, although I do try to hide it at work because we are in the deep South, so this makes me very very uncomfortable. Like I doubt I would be treated fairly if I actually had an issue that needed to be handled by HR. Worse, we are a public higher ed institute *rolling eyes*

        1. JustAsk*

          I rarely comment as unfortunately I don’t think my views align too well with others on this comment box. Although I understand for the OP the employer is paying for it so different from her – but to just give you some insight – I went to a Christian grad school (doesn’t matter which one as any religious school could be seen as anti gay etc) and I frankly did so because I grew up on the poorer side and they were the only school to give me scholarships to go there. Also this was years and years ago before everyone was “woke” – once again just being honest. I myself am not religious and wouldn’t treat people any differently. Just putting a different viewpoint out there – so maybe you don’t have to feel uncomfortable about your co-worker, possibly she was in the same position as I was.

          1. Siege*

            Counterpoint: when I was still an adjunct, the head of my department was a lovely, popular woman who had a notable bias toward mentoring women from seriously disadvantaged backgrounds (understandable in database administration). I never heard a complaint from her students, and I think there were a few who would have shared their concerns with me.

            In private, she was openly biased, particularly anti-Black and anti-trans. It was mostly presented in a very “isn’t it cute that I’m a Boomer and can’t be expected to understand this”, coupled with “I’m the person I am because I grew up with physical discipline and moral rigor”. You can bet I started listening closely to students at that point.

            I stopped associating with her after meeting her husband semi-socially to do some work on department curricula at her house and he launched into a detailed, racist, explanation of Michael Jackson’s supposed IQ, which was apparently fine with her (since she chimed in) and left academia soon after for multiple reasons, of which that was one.

            Just because she was nice and relatively unbiased in public didn’t mean she was an okay person to be around. And in her case, had she gone to a bigoted institution, it would have absolutely been because it supported her views. It’s not a good position for LW to be in, and I personally couldn’t trust that the manager’s persona I see is the real one, especially since she keeps mentioning the school and without either disclaiming it or justification, as to my knowledge there aren’t any schools that fit the description that would be considered top-flight academic institutions. (Being ranked number 1 in granting online business administration doctorates when you also rank highly in acceptance rate and student body size is not quite the slam dunk it seems.)

            1. BluntBunny*

              Yes they are nice to people who they deem acceptable. It’s like when a white person brings the black person they are dating to meet their parents and they are absolutely disgusted.

              If OP wanted to be sure of the person’s views they could casually ask “isn’t that the homophobic racist university?”. Or “I heard University X is really racist and homophobic”. The managers response should tell them if they are surprised, indifferent or defensive.

          2. I should really pick a name*

            “doesn’t matter which one as any religious school could be seen as anti gay”

            Actually, it does matter.
            There are schools that are actively, and very visibly anti-gay. Simply being a religious school isn’t a problem.

          3. JB*

            “any religious school could be seen as anti gay”?

            This is the kind of thing said by bigots who are tired of being told their bigotry is their own responsibility.

            No, gay people do not see Christianity (or religion at large – even sillier!) as inherently anti-gay. No, gay people do not see every Christian university as anti-gay. Affirming Christian universities, churches, and people absolutely exist. ‘But we’re already anti-gay just by being Christian’ is the whine of a university that doesn’t want to make the effort to stop bigoted practices – or who actively benefits from them.

          4. Minerva*

            Did your school expell students for being gay or not going to church? Because I will judge it for that, and for its biology program teaching creationism. Even being exclusively staffed by members of one faith is a downside, but there’s differences between schools.

      2. Casper Lives*

        That sucks. There’s nothing you can do besides note it and remember it in how you deal with your boss.

        I wonder if this information would change Alison’s answer, though? You’re getting a lot of responses on pushing back on tuition reimbursement. That’s not helpful for you if your employer isn’t paying her tuition!

        1. LW#2*

          Yeah, I honestly didn’t anticipate Alison’s answer hinging on that, or her coming down the way she did. If I could go back in time and reword the damn thing, I would!

          1. bunniferous*

            She may already know you are not cisgender and doesn’t care. Just because people hold certain religious beliefs (and we don’t know for sure she does!) does not mean she would treat you any differently or less respectfully than anyone else at work. Now it IS true that that is not true for everyone in that category, but unless she shows you differently -you actually might not have anything to worry about. That said, you are perfectly within your rights not to like that school.

            1. rototiller*

              I get where you’re coming from, but I think a lot of people in this thread haven’t really thought through the practical logistics of being closeted at work. The thing is, if you’re somewhere where it’s not not socially acceptable to be outwardly bigoted against LGBTQ+ people in the workplace, you’re going to encounter bigoted people who keep that part of themselves well-hidden. Your advice would make sense if hiding it well is a sign that they won’t discriminate, and I get the impression that a lot of people are making that assumption. But why? That seems like a total non sequitur to me.

              Keep in mind, too, that OP (like other marginalized people) won’t always know if they’re being treated differently – for example, if others are discreetly getting opportunities or raises that they don’t. So a lack of obvious, in-your-face discrimination or bigotry from someone doesn’t really tell you whether it’s safe to be less guarded around them.

              That’s why closeted people have to look out for less explicit signals of whether a given person is safe or not. Things like what university a person went to, for example. And if that all sounds like a recipe for maddening paranoia… it is! Being closeted at work sucks! But in many cases, we’d be shooting ourselves in the foot if we just trusted people to be safe until proven otherwise.

          2. RagingADHD*

            Unfortunately, this is exactly why the admonition to “always take the LW at face value” just doesn’t hold up in practice. Very often, there are important distinctions or facts that the LW didn’t consider, that really change the answer!

            A lot of LW’s feel like they’re getting beaten up in the comments, when it’s really a matter of missing information or a choice of wording that gives entirely the wrong impression.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              As someone who’s had a letter published here in the past, it is impossible to perfectly predict what turn of phrase the commentariat is going to latch on to. What is the face value here, though? It’s that cost was not a factor in the supervisor’s decision to get the degree from this particular university. While knowing that it’s not LW’s employer paying does impact *part* of the answer, it doesn’t completely change things if the money comes from another institution or because LW’s supervisor won the “Mega Millions” lottery…but those details can certainly erode some of the LW’s anonymity.

      3. EPLawyer*

        So the employer is not endorsing this. Your boss found funding somewhere and is running with it. Hurrah for her.

        Unless you see actual behavior from your boss that is a problem, I would not dwell on this too much. Keep as a piece of data to consider but don’t let it color your whole view of your boss.

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

          So the employer is not endorsing this

          It does raise the interesting ethical question though of whether, if someone is studying at University X or associated with another organisation of its ilk – what ‘standing’ does the company have, if any, to say something to the supervisor because the values of University X don’t fit well with the values of the company.

          1. Spero*

            I think you have standing to say something only insofar as ‘University X’s values directly conflict with program a/client group b/diversity initiative c and I wanted to bring that up before we move forward with your involvement with them. Would you bring [problematic value] into work on diversity initiative c?” I don’t think you can generally say ‘we don’t hire grads of university x’ without more narrowly targeting the specific problematic views.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            This would be a very hard line to draw. Is it just the Libertys of the world that aren’t okay, or do we also start having to talk about Catholic/Jesuit universities or BYU?

            My employer’s tuition reimbursement (hard to get) has to be directly related to your job and at an accredited university. That’s it.

            1. Anne Elliot*

              Ours too. If the university is accredited no further inquiry is made by my employing agency. If the beliefs do not unduly offend the accrediting body, then that’s good enough for us. Why would we want to wade into the morass of what is acceptable and what is repugnant? Presumably Adolf Hitler U. would not receive accreditation — but if it did, my employer would let you go there too.

      4. learnedthehardway*

        In that case, I would assume that your supervisor has decided that the funding of her degree is a big factor in her decision to take this course at this university. Doing a degree is expensive!! She may very well feel that her budget wouldn’t allow her to take the degree, unless she accepts this funding to go to this university (I’m assuming the funding came with certain conditions that she had to fulfill – her choice of universities may well have been limited, as a result).

        It wouldn’t be the first time someone got an education any which way they could, without necessarily agreeing with everything the educational institution promotes / believes in.

        Another factor could be her ability to get into other programs – she might have applied to several programs, but got accepted to this one.

        1. LW#2*

          Without getting into details, your first graf doesn’t apply at all.

          Your last graf, however, seems likelier and likelier as I read the comments!

    5. Snow Globe*

      I’ve worked for a few employers that provide tuition reimbursement as long as the course subject is relevant to the job, but have no rules about which specific universities are / are not acceptable. I can certainly see that the company might not have imagined this situation coming up, so didn’t have a reason to decline the reimbursement.

      1. Maglev to Crazytown*

        A lot of employers are encouraging employees to use this program since they are heavily marketing themselves towards helping fulltime working people with families be able to complete degrees and develop new skills. Our employer is very up on the Diversity and Inclusion proving, but I can think of 3-4 employees offhand using that school since their marketing is very distanced from their historical reputation.

    6. Maglev to Crazytown*

      I am pretty sure I know what this Uni is, and they have made a MASSIVE marketing campaign in mainstream media the past few years to spin a niche into working adults and continuing education. I have several co-workers without a bigoted bone in their body who are taking programs of study through our employer’s education benefits in order to either expand their skillsets or finish degrees they had started long ago (e.g., an older employee finally finishing her bachelors).

      I have not, and would not, hold it against coworkers for attending such a program. While in an ideal world it would be nice for people to not support such ideologies, in practice 95% of the people attending their continuing education programs are responding to a strong marketing campaign they truly think will help them finish their educational goals or expand skills while balancing real life. Ideology or hate doesn’t factor into that for everyone I’ve met using their programs.

      1. Free Will Librarian*

        If it is the one I think it is, a good friend of mine got his masters through their online business program. He based in on other people in his profession getting degrees from there and telling him it was possible to finish. Even though we both worked at a large public university at that time, he was intimidated by the in-person masters programs. He is not that interested in academics for academics sake but believed that it was necessary for his career advancement.

        “Freedom” University also can grant waivers for classes based on life experience and military service (see Experience Plus). Since my friend had both, it appealed to him, especially since his employee was only randomly reimbursing him for tuition. Universities are techy about reimbursing other university’s tuition, especially if they have the same degree.

        So the fact that it would take a shorter time to finish, peers had graduated from it and it was online, “Freedom” University was his choice.

        Once he was doing class work, it was obvious that the university required Bible quotes at every turn. However, it did not try to indoctrinate hate beliefs in the classes. Since I helped him with all of his research and listened to him complain about trying to find a bible quote for every leadership conundrum, I believe that I would have heard about it.

    7. Llama Wrangler*

      LW#2 Have you asked your supervisor why she chose that university? I would wait until the next time her schooling came up naturally in conversation, and ask in as neutral, innocent a tone as I could. You might be amazed what you find out and it might help you figure out the best way to work with her going forward.

        1. Mints*

          I agree with this. It would be illuminating, even if the best case is “she couldn’t get in anywhere else, and didn’t bother googling the university”

      1. Nicotena*

        I think this is what I would do, just so that I don’t have to spend the rest of our working time together worrying that she’s actually a raging bigot. I’d be interested in her tone and attitude as she responds. I’m going to eventually trip up around someone who has these types of strongly-held views if the supervisor so I would want to know now so I can quietly plan an escape.

    8. Person from the Resume*

      I’m willing to bet, though, that the employer is reimbursing tuition costs based on a policy that simply does not specifically exclude “notoriously anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-civil-rights, etc. etc. evangelical universities.” They may exclude unaccredited programs, but I can see how it never occurred to anyone to exclude a university that’s nowhere near them. Perhaps they don’t want to because they don’t want to disallow religious institutions, but I think more likely no one making the policy or managing the reimbursement (usually a low-level HR person) gave it thought until the LW did.

      My point is “our employer is supportive” and “our employer is paying for the degree” don’t actually cancel each other out. Is “employer” as an entity (the decision makers of the employer) even aware of these contradictions.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I think it’s likely that most employers don’t want to wade into the water of deciding what, beyond accreditation, where the bar is on disallowance. Or kick the hornet’s nest of disallowing current employees’ alma maters. It’s not an easy line to draw. I find BYU’s LGBTQ stance just as offensive as Liberty’s, TBH. I doubt I could get BYU disallowed AND it’d tick off the handful of folks who went there and/or are LDS.

    9. The vault*

      Is there not discrimination on the part of the employer if they don’t agree to pay for an accredited university but will pay for another based on their own belief system?. I can’t imagine the manager is not a member of a denomination that supports theses policies, and if they don’t come up at work, then it’s a religious issue. I’m not debating if she should attend such an institution and I also would be uncomfortable knowing this about this manager. However, I’m sure it does not conflict with their educational reimbursement policy. And how exactly would you write something that isn’t also discriminatory to others with those beliefs.

      1. Siege*

        Yep, discriminating against people and institutions that discriminate is the real problem here.

        Look up the Fallacy of Tolerance. It is entirely acceptable to care enough about your corporate reputation to refuse to spend your corporate money on bigoted schooling for your employees. It conflicts with the values most employers typically claim to espouse. (I am very aware that, for example, companies that go nuts for Pride month tend to disproportionately donate to anti-gay politicians the remainder of the year, but most large employers at least pay lip service to caring about diversity.)

    10. Starbuck*

      Flat out, it just makes the employer’s statement a lie. They can’t be LGBTQ supportive and also fund what is essentially an anti-gay hate org (if it’s the university that I assumed from the letter, or somewhere similar). Obviously they’re not expected to fully vet every single person or business they transact with, but if it’s blatant and public knowledge, they have a responsibility not to fund it, if that’s what they say their values are.

    11. Meghan*

      I wonder if there isn’t a legal side to this, too. For example: if the organization doesn’t have clear guidelines on which specific schools / programs they pay for, they are legally required to pay for any school or program?

      I also wonder if it’s being paid outright or reimbursed. Paid outright would give the org some flexibility to decline a certain school; reimbursed after semester doesn’t afford them any flexibility to control the choice of school (unless they have spelled out specific regs in their policy)

  5. Maid Dombegh*

    OP5, it may help to think of yourself as a teacher for your employees. The best teachers don’t just impart facts, they teach their students how to think and how to learn for themselves. Surely there is a way this concept can be tailored for your specific field, so they can start figuring out where to find information on their own.

    Also, make sure you’re actively introducing them to people in your network. When you do so, explicitly say, “Jane is a leading expert on llama eyelash curlers, and also knows quite a bit about eyebrow combs for alpacas.” That way they will know there’s someone they can ask once you’re gone (assuming Jane is willing to advise in this way).

    1. Willis*

      Yeah…and some of this is probably just stuff that OP’s staff will have to learn as they go. Maybe it takes them half hour to locate some random piece of information the OP would know off the top of their head. But next time they need it, they’ll have it readily available. I think that’s a fairly typical situation when someone with a lot of knowledge about the field retires or quits.

    2. Angelinha*

      Great point. What would a company do who didn’t have people who worked in the field 30 years ago? That information has to be found somewhere (or the company has to work without it) and the best thing you can do is teach your employees how to get what they need to get the job done well.

    3. LilyP*

      Also, keep in mind that if some of this is about ideas/approaches/best practices and not just straight facts…your employees will inevitably come up with different ways of doing things after you leave, maybe not how you would’ve done it, and that’ll be ok. Sometimes it’ll be better even! And when it is worse, it’ll be their mistakes and challenges to deal with and learn from.

  6. No Name Tonight*

    In my opinion, one should carefully choose where one seeks a graduate degree.

    Either the person in #2 is careless, incredibly ignorant or not someone I’d care to work with. Alison’s response was excellent.

    1. allathian*

      Indeed. And all the queer-friendly talk at that employer is just so much hot air, if they’re willing to pay for an employee’s degree at one of those bigoted universities.

      LW, do you know for a fact (for example, has she posted it on her LinkedIn profile?) that your supervisor’s enrolled at University X, or is it just a rumor? If it’s a rumor, I recommend treading carefully here.

      This is definitely not a good look. LW, does your employer have a DEI group of any kind? If so, could you flag this to them? If your employer takes civil rights and basic human rights seriously, they should listen if the group flags certain universities as problematic from a DEI perspective. You’ve only been there two months, so you probably don’t have the tenure to effect any change.

      1. PollyQ*

        And all the queer-friendly talk at that employer is just so much hot air, if they’re willing to pay for an employee’s degree at one of those bigoted universities.

        But that’s a big “if”. There’s nothing in the letter to suggest that the employer is paying for the degree. And if they aren’t, then… well, lots of religions are anti-LGBTQ. I’m very comfortable with an employer demanding that its employees treat all other employees/clients/vendors/etc. well while they’re on the job, but much less so with their saying that that employees can’t participate in this or that religion or religious school because it’s bigoted.

        1. Bagpuss*

          The letter says “. It’s not a matter of saving money, because it’s being paid for by employers who would pay any tuition” so it seesm that the employer *is* funding it.

          It does sound to me that it’s something to flag with HR (or whoever deals with training / tuition payment applications) to suggest that the company consider their policy about paying tuition, and perhaps look at amending it to exclude certain institutions (or at the very least include some oversight so that they are excluded unless it’s an essential program and not available elsewhere)
          I think that raising that paying them, and supporting employees in attending their courses doesn’t align with the companies stated positions on diversity is a valid concern to raise.

          1. Lora*

            The paying of any tuition is really the problem. Many schools are not accredited – or not reputably accredited to high levels – why should an employer pay for a half-baked “education” from somewhere not accredited? Do they also pay for recreational classes in wine tasting, pottery and metal sculpture? It’s often pretty easy to filter out the really bigoted ones simply by insisting that programs must have a very high level of accreditation.

            And these days I don’t buy it that Hater U was the only one offering a flexible online degree – plenty of highly accredited, well respected schools have online, evening or flexible schedule classes, all the way up to the Ivies and near-Ivies. If your boss chose to go to Bigot U instead of Johns Hopkins or even Big State U, that’s because they chose to do so.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              It could also be because it’s the only place that accepted the LW’s manager. The Hater U I’m thinking accepts *literally* anyone. I don’t think that excuses the company or the manager, though — if that’s the only place I could be accepted to get a graduate degree I’d just…not get it.

              1. Lora*

                Agree. That’s another reason employers shouldn’t pay for any tuition anywhere, though, and most have some minimum grade requirements to reimburse tuition. Doesn’t make sense to pay for a D student who isn’t getting anything out of the course.

              2. Database Developer Dude*

                And if you need a graduate degree in order to advance, and that’s the only place you could be accepted? Just…not get it? That’s not reasonable.

                1. Lora*

                  Uh, yeah. You don’t have a right to advance in your field if you can’t perform well enough academically. Doctors don’t get into medical school because they just really, really want to – they get in because they have an academic background that shows they are at least somewhat intellectually rigorous and have a minimum level of scientific understanding of the human body. You don’t get to be an engineer if you aren’t good at math in school. You don’t get to be a High Energy Materials chemist if you got a C- in Organic and PChem.

                  This is how life works for those of us without trust funds: you’re really NOT entitled to have anything you want, including career advancement, just because you want it. Choosing one thing often means choosing AGAINST other things. In this case, choosing to go to Hater U instead of working to improve one’s application chances at Big State U or a more-respected institution means many people aren’t going to take you very seriously and will toss your resume in the circular file. Grad students are supposed to not be naïve little babes in the woods, they are supposed to know how to perform due diligence, which generally includes having some knowledge of their field and which programs are respected.

                2. Insert Clever Name Here*

                  Then you study more so you can get into a school that’s bar for entry isn’t “this person is currently breathing.” And if you study more and still only get into Hater U, then maybe that isn’t the career path for you. I really wanted to be a professional ballerina — I worked really hard at my ballet school but ultimately had to accept that no matter how hard I worked that wasn’t going to be my career.

                3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  But LW’s boss is already advancing nicely? She’s LW’s boss isn’t she? My other point would be that, if she didn’t do due diligence to find out how awful her school of choice is (and how bad it will, to my best guess, look on her resume to a lot of employers), who’s to say that she’s done any to research whether she really *absolutely needs* a graduate degree in order to advance?

                  BG: immigrated to the US in the late 90s. In the year leading up to leaving Home Country, was told by my parents, who’d been told it by an experienced (?) younger friend of theirs, that our only chance of finding work in our field in the US would be to go to grad school and get a master’s degree in CS immediately upon arrival. We are software developers. Experienced friend had a degree in, and worked in, finance, and knew nothing about our field. We already had 5-year degrees from a strong school, plus several years experience each. When we meekly emailed Experienced Friend to ask “can you explain why this is absolutely necessary, when we already have XYZ”, he sent us a response that I could probably use to tank his career now if I wanted to, if I hadn’t ripped it up and thrown it in the trash after we both read it. If I were to edit the mountains of bigotry and lowkey white supremacy out of his letter, what was left basically said we’d be on welfare our whole lives if we didn’t attend, and graduate from, a US grad school. It makes no sense, no sense at all to me to this day. Most job ads for a developer today don’t even require a bachelors if you have “relevant experience” in lieu 0f it. I did apply to a grad school when I came here, took the GRE, but somehow found an entry-level job instead and did not proceed with the rest of the application process. Had I gone to that school, I would’ve graduated into the dotcom bust. TL;DR: feeling very skeptical that OP’s boss’s career will be over unless she gets a degree from Hater U.

                4. Starbuck*

                  If you can’t get in any anywhere else other than the place that has no standards, you probably shouldn’t get that degree yeah. Like, not even University of Phoenix was willing to take her? Because even that would be a better option in this scenario.

              3. Farragut*

                The Hater U I’m thinking of has done a helluva marketing campaign targeting working professionals in a lot of areas with flexible online degree programs. If they don’t do the research, or just think it’s a nice Jesus-y school, they could easily get taken in.

                Or they subscribe to the theology and political views in question, which is the truly troublesome part.

                1. pancakes*

                  It’s not un-troublesome when people are very credulous and/or lack context for marketing they encounter. It is wild to see so many people here speak as if it’s harmless when the consequences of this mindset with regard to pandemic information and vaccine information are severe and inescapable.

          2. Turducken*

            No, that is an assumption by the LW. Getting school paid for might be offered, but is often complicated and sometimes easier to pay for oneself.

        2. Ferret*

          From the letter “It’s not a matter of saving money, because it’s being paid for by employers who would pay any tuition.”

          1. LW#2*

            I employed a bit of sleight of hand there. It’s being paid for by “employers” but not the outfit that employs me. So our current employer would have no say in the matter. And that’s about all I want to say about that!

            1. Mary Bennet*

              Thanks for clarifying, LW#2: that information does make a pretty big difference to how I would see the situation.

              1. LW#2*

                I said a 100% true thing that wasn’t as specific as it might have been because I’m closeted and do not want anyone associated with my employer to recognize the story.

              2. Emilia Bedelia*

                Perhaps the boss has 2 jobs and works for another institution as well. Perhaps boss’s spouse works at that university and is able to get her tuition covered for free. Maybe the classes were paid for by a previous employer and boss negotiated as a part of her severance. There’s many interpretations of what this could mean, and it doesn’t really make the boss look worse either way.

              3. MCMonkeyBean*

                Nothing about that is a lie or changes anything about the boss? All it changes is whether OP’s employer is anything to be concerned about which was not something they were asking.

              4. quill*

                People generalize in order to remain anonymous. Doesn’t mean they’re lying. This is the internet, after all.

            2. Netts*

              Why would you employ “sleight of hand” when you’re asking an anonymous question for advice?? There are ways to keep your question anonymous other than inserting a significant, untrue detail!

              1. LW#2*

                It’s not untrue. I said “employers” and the payor has employed my manager (but doesn’t employ me). The point was that the money isn’t coming out of her pocket, and based on things she’s said, it was a “money is no object” situation. (My current employer actually has a similar policy — they will pay *exorbitant* fees for employees’ grad school without batting an eye.) My only intention there was to highlight that she isn’t attending University X due to it being all she can afford.

              2. Nicotena*

                No need to be unkind. I’ve written to advice columnists before and you always end up collapsing some info to be briefer, to try to be neutral, or yes because you don’t know who might be reading and realizing you’re talking about them.

              3. Sylvan*

                OP’s closeted and their manager’s either a bigot or comfortable spending time with bigots. Can’t blame them for changing parts of the story.

              4. MCMonkeyBean*

                In order to remain anonymous, obviously, how is that even a question??? That is so normal in anonymous questions and we see it here every day in nearly every letter–changing or not fully disclosing minor details that aren’t relevant to the core questions (though sometimes it comes out later they are more relevant than the OP expected, which I don’t think is the case)

              5. quill*

                You’re in for a lot of confusion when you figure out that nobody has actually written in for Allison’s advice about the Llama grooming industry.

                1. Netts*

                  Ok, but Alison doesn’t reply to any letters under the assumption that LW is literally a llama groomer. It seems that she did reply to this letter with the assumption that LW’s employer was funding this degree.

              6. Ask a Manager* Post author

                People insert untrue details that they believe will be insignificant all the time in order to stay anonymous. It’s very common when writing to advice columns as a way to preserve anonymity. Please move on.

            3. Nancy*

              So your employer isn’t funding it? Then they have no say, and neither do you.

              It is very easy to finish an online degree without knowing anything about the culture of a school because you never interact with the school outside of the classes. The simplest thing to do is just ask her why she chose it next time brings it up.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                OP never suggested they should have a say, and Alison is the one who brought up whether or not the employer should have a say! (And since OP said their was mostly hypothetical Alison’s response is useful in general even if the part about the employer isn’t relevant to OP)

                I am so confused about the responses OP is getting on this letter!! People are arguing about the weirdest details.

                1. LW#2*

                  Among the super weird comments (or the ones that are bordering on hurtful — I’m not trying to make my boss look bad; I actually find her to be pleasant to talk to and a good sympathetic ear about strictly work-related matters) are ones that are really useful.

                  First class of useful comments is, here is why people typically pick this sort of school. If you’d asked me why someone would choose University X as an independent adult, I’d have assumed that there was probably *some* degree of *wanting* that “right-wing stench” (as someone upthread put it) on them. But from the commentariat it seems like it’s more likely that it’s a school that admits nearly anyone and provides a high degree of flex. This isn’t an excuse for choosing University X; but it helps me reframe it in my mind.

                  Second class of useful comments is, trust your gut and don’t use her as a sounding board if you witness or experience discrimination. (Which is fine; I know my grandboss would be a good person to go to for that stuff.)

                  Third class of useful comments is, you are super valid yaaaaaaay. :)

        3. A.N. O'Nyme*

          “This isn’t a matter of what’s physically close to her, because it’s all online. It’s not a matter of saving money, because it’s being paid for by employers who would pay any tuition. It’s almost certainly not a matter of academic excellence, because this place just isn’t academically excellent.”

          It seems like it is the employer who is paying though, in which case I would say they definitely do get a say in what kind of place they give their employees go to. I wouldn’t expect a company that profiles itself as pro-LGBT being okay with giving money to an organisation that profiles itself as anti-LGBT.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            I almost wonder if the company shot itself in the foot by not having a list of “off-limits” institutions, assuming that people would NEVER enroll in University X knowing our company’s values, right? Which is a good reminder that there should always be some sort of approval process before tuition reimbursement is guaranteed.

            1. A.N. O'Nyme*

              I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what happened, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the company just talking the talk without walking the walk.

        4. Splendid Colors*

          Fewer of the major religions (or at least denominations) are actively anti-LGBTQ these days. The Evangelical Lutheran Church just ordained a transgender bishop, for example. And not all “religious” schools enforce their beliefs on students: I just verified that my local Jesuit university has an LGBTQ student center.

          I don’t know that “religious freedom” arguments apply to selecting work-related graduate programs that OP said would qualify for tuition reimbursement. If a person’s religion bans members from attending universities other than those they operate, that might be different, but is that the case here?

          1. Jyn’Leeviyah the Red*

            (Quick and somewhat-counterintuitive caveat — the Evangelical Lutherans, ELCA, are the more liberal/open branch.)

      2. LW#2*

        When we have our frequent check-ins, she mentions it all the time; it’s not hearsay.

        Without getting into identifying details, our employer isn’t paying for the degree, another large institution is.

        1. Bagpuss*

          I think that makes it trickier. Do you know whether your actual employer has any input into the process? Do they have to sign off on any training / funding request, for instance?

        2. BookishMiss*

          Could you use the DEI work your employer is doing as a framework to shut down her talk about Bigoted U in your check ins? I’m not even sure what phrasing would work, honestly…

          Is pushing to keep your check ins focused on your work an option? That might at least lessen the amount you have to hear about her school.

          1. BookishMiss*

            Obv none of this addresses the question of how should she talk about it, which is easy: not at all, and transfer to another school.

            though other commenters have noted that at least it removed the guesswork about who is and isn’t safe around her… (yes, i know transferring in a grad program is Rough, but… worth it, in this case. )

          2. LW#2*

            I’m so new here and have basically zero political currency. If she were a peer, I would have already brought it up. But the truth is, I’m not such a superstar employee (2 months in!) that I feel emboldened to be like, “hey, did you know University X is absolutely awful and no one should go there???” to my manager.

            Unfortunately the institution that is paying is big and impersonal enough that there’s no way I could get traction on trying to get them to stop paying for University X.

            1. Lora*

              I mean, I think Alison’s advice is correct: assume that this was a conscious choice your boss made which is reflective of her intellectual rigor, her due diligence and her values, and be cautious about what you say and do around her accordingly. She’s a grown adult who is supposed to know things, not a little baby who just doesn’t know any better. You don’t get to wear a Confederate flag t-shirt with the sleeves cut off to an NAACP meeting while whistling “Dixie” and act like you innocently had NO IDEA what that means or why everyone is so mad at you, gosh why didn’t anyone tell you, you were misled by the Dukes of Hazzard on the teevee, etc. There really are not a dozen super great explanations for why someone would go to Hater U and not be also bigoted, all of them are also pretty bad – “dangerously naive and unable to perform the most basic of due diligence” is not a sterling quality in a manager.

              It’s not your job to fix your boss though. Just, now you have this information about her, so adjust your expectations and your own behavior accordingly. Maybe have a think about how closely you want to be associated with her, because if she doesn’t have a great reputation in your field (or develops a bad one due to her degree program of choice) it may hurt your reputation by association, especially if your field is small, or in a highly networked environment where everyone knows everyone else.

              1. LW#2*

                This is exactly the sort of thing I’m taking away from the most helpful comments, yours included. Thanks!

              2. Fieldpoppy*

                I agree — this is a conscious choice of some kind. I’m taken aback by the amount of straight-splaining going on here — “oh, she probably didn’t know/ maybe it was the only place ” — even if she didn’t “know” going in, she has experienced the institution. There are not a lot of great explanations for “this person has explicitly chosen to be part of an explicitly bigoted institution” other than “this person is at least comfortable enough with the bigotry to overlook it.”

                Agree completely with Lora that it’s not your job to fix your boss, but I would be a little vigilant too.

              3. Tali*

                Best response.
                Either she agrees with the school’s stance, or she is so naive and clueless that it throws her judgment into question.
                Evil or stupid, pick one. Neither are good or safe for LW.

            2. I should really pick a name*

              I don’t think that you need to do anything.
              Let them be open about it. It’s a good warning sign for anyone who would be affected. I don’t see what you would gain by stopping them.

    2. Eat My Squirrel*

      I mean, to be fair, every time someone writes in about a bigoted university, I have absolutely no idea who they’re talking about. Nothing comes to mind. I avoid the news as much as possible because it just stresses me out and makes me feel bad, and I’ve similarly tried to fill my social media feeds with positive content. I guess you could call me “incredibly ignorant,” but I bet I’m not the only one.
      Now, if I were looking to get a master’s degree, would I Google the university and see if anything bad comes up? Sure! But if there wasn’t anything in the news about them recently, it probably wouldn’t show up in the vaunted page one of the search results.
      I don’t think it’s fair to assume everyone knows their university is bigoted, and just because the university as a whole or its practices are bigoted doesn’t mean that the students who attend it are.

      1. Eat My Squirrel*

        Also, I would be really upset if someone assumed I was homophobic because of where I went to school, when I have made no indications or actions to show that, and in fact I’m a strong ally for LGBTQ rights.

          1. Nicotena*

            Yeah wut. Giving tons and tons of money to rabidly bigoted institutions that actively pursue legal challenges to equality laws is a bigoted action. I’m not sure it matters what’s in your heart if you’re funding, like, the Klan.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yeah, I’m sorry but at the end of the day “I’m a strong ally” and “I avoid the news because it is stressful” are honestly just not super compatible statements.

            Being a strong ally is more than not actively discriminating against people. I’m not saying avoiding the news makes you some kind of monster, I’m far from well-informed myself. But I fully acknowledge that being able to hide from the news when I want to is mostly only possible because of my privilege and the fact that much of it doesn’t really affect me, and that the times I do that means I’m really not being a good ally to those around me who are impacted.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Attending a school as a younger person is one thing. If you’ve made a honest effort to fully distance yourself from them and condemn their practises as you grow up I’d have fewer issues with you. A lot of people honestly can’t help where their parents/budget/area sent them to.

          Making the choice as a professional adult who has the funding to go elsewhere to attend a massively bigoted place is very different. That I definitely judge.

          1. quill*

            That’s the difference between advice to LW 2 and the question a while back about whether you should judge people in your hiring pool for having gone to an accredited, more subtly bigoted college. (That and the power differential: LW doesn’t need to extend their boss the same benefits of doubt that we hypothesized in the hiring scenario, because the power flows the other way around, and LW is already dependent professionally on the manager’s continued goodwill, instead of simply having a conversation in the hiring process to get more clarity.)

        2. FridayFriyay*

          One way to avoid that upset is to do a basic amount of due diligence when selecting which institutions to publicly align yourself with. It is irritating when people want to claim ignorance but then insist that they’re upset that others conclude that they hold the abhorrent views of those with which they choose to affiliate. You can solve this problem for yourself, it isn’t up to others to give you grace or understanding for making choices that harm them.

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            Y’all can say this, but as a black man, when I say the same thing about people sporting the Confederate flag, I get raked over the coals, and called out as a reverse bigot.

        3. hbc*

          I know you mean well, but being generally ignorant about LGBTQ issues to the point that someone accidentally attends a notorious anti-LGBTQ school is really hard to square with being an ally, let alone a strong one. It’s kind of like a guy declaring himself a strong feminist yet doesn’t know that the average woman earns less than the average man for equivalent work.

          1. EE*

            I concur that the manager is not acting as an ally. But there are a huge amount of heterosexual, cisgendered people who are neither bigoted nor active allies, just as there are a number of men who are neither misogynists nor active allies to feminists.

            OP never said her manager claimed allyship. And OP’s employer isn’t the one paying for the manager’s degree, a different institution is. (OP clarified this elsewhere.)

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              They are not talking about OP’s manager, they are talking about Eat My Squirrel who said “I would be really upset if someone assumed I was homophobic because of where I went to school, when I have made no indications or actions to show that, and in fact I’m a strong ally for LGBTQ rights.”

              If you are a strong ally and/or don’t want people to make assumptions about you based on your choices then you would have to put in a lot more effort to make well-informed choices. Choosing what school to attend *is* an action. Especially as an adult when there is no one but you who has a say in that chocie.

          1. Maglev to Crazytown*

            I know several co-workers going the Liberty route through employer benefits, due to their marketing blitz showing a diverse/inclusive student body and emphasizing flexibility for busy working people with families and other obligations. They are not even thinking about the bigoted perspective, but how to develop new skills within an established career they don’t want to disrupt (hence the not caring about the accreditation aspect).

            1. Chelle*

              Liberty is accredited and is really popular. I would NEVER go there, but apparently their graduates are really good. Now, Oral Roberts…that’s NOT a good school at all. I went on a deep dive on their website once and it’s…bananapants.

              1. Lora*

                I mean, define “really good”…they are towards the bottom of most rankings. They are only accredited in certain fields and in mine (STEM) anything with that name on it immediately goes in the circular file, along with several other universities mentioned upthread – along with the for-profit schools who worship only Mammon. I’m sure they are popular with many people who don’t look too hard at them, but that’s definitely not the same as competitive.

            2. Database Developer Dude*

              I’m in the Army Reserve. I know many people going to Liberty University online. Unfortunately, my taekwondo Grand Master is getting his Ph.D. from there. Causes me to look at him in a different way too, despite the fact that he’s supportive of one of my fellow black belts who is transgender.

          2. Brett*

            Oral Roberts, Liberty, Bob Jones, I could even see BYU fitting the criteria the way the LW has laid it out. Every single one of those is accredited now (Bob Jones has even issued formal apologies for its past).

        4. Cat Tree*

          Being able to remain ignorant of bigotry to avoid your own personal discomfort is a textbook example of privilege though. While you don’t need to know every minute detail, part of being an ally is staying informed on the large-scale oppression issues that the LGBT+ community faces. Ignoring it is simply not an option for the people affected by this bigotry so while I wouldn’t necessarily assume you are a bigot if you chose this university, I would be hesitant to consider you an ally. Actions matter more than just proclaiming that you are an ally. If I met someone who considered themselves an ally but chose this university, I would be as wary of them as I am of men advertising themselves with “I am a feminist” t-shirts.

          1. Chelle*

            Ok, but not everyone knows about everything? My main focus is environmentalism. I think it is the single biggest threat to ALL of humanity and affects lower income folks the most. I would not go to many schools because they don’t have good enough green practices/actively harm the environment. You probably would have no idea about these, but I don’t think you probably hate the environment. I just think you probably don’t know how harmful your daily life is to all of humanity. Does that sound extreme? Probably to someone who isn’t knee deep in that philosophy. I’m not trying to make excuses, but every single person can’t know every single thing about everything. I think there is no point in human rights if humans can’t survive on this planet.
            Now, I do now about DEI and it’s important to me because I actually care about other humans, but I’m just trying to make a point, that I don’t think you are out clubbing seals to death because you attended a particular place.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              But Cat Tree has not said “I am a strong ally for the environment” so there is no reason to expect them to have looked into those things.

              There is also a very large gap between being “knee-deep” and actively burying your head in the sand. No one is suggesting you have to know absolutely everything, but it is disingenuous to say both you actively avoid hearing about an issue and you consider yourself a strong ally.

            2. MyLlamaPeggyHill*

              … Are people denying your human rights based on your stance on the environment? Is that stance an intrinsic part of your humanity and genetic makeup? This is a horrible analogy that minimizes the struggles of LGBTQ people.

            3. Nothing Rhymes With Purple*

              I think there is no point in human rights if humans can’t survive on this planet.

              I’m sorry, but the rest of us are not going to quietly endure bigotry on your timetable. (Actually, not sorry at all.)

            4. MCMonkeyBean*

              Okay clearly I just skimmed your comment before because there are way more issues than I initially responded to, and right now I just want to highlight your last point.

              In the world of environmentalism, there are quite a lot of awful things people can do before getting all the way to clubbing seals. And in the world of discrimination against queer people, there are all sorts of subtle insidious things people can do or think, often maybe without even realizing, before you get to like actual violent hate crimes. This is an extremely ridiculous comparison you’ve made. No one is going to hear what school their boss goes to and jump all the way to “oh wow, you’ve probably murdered someone.” It is however entirely reasonable to assume that they either hold similarly discriminatory beliefs, or that they are at least not actively opposed to them.

              It’s certainly possible the boss has been living under a rock as this comment section seems to have several people who somehow have never heard of how terrible some of those places can be. So maybe she’s just fallen for their ad campaigns and was extremely negligent in researching her school of choice before signing up. Or maybe she’s a bigot. It just feels safer for OP to assume the truth is closer to the latter than the former and proceed accordingly. This is how red flags work. You don’t know for sure, but you have a pretty compelling reason to believe it’s highly possible so proceed with caution.

        5. MyLlamaPeggyHill*

          If you give money to Liberty, Bob Jones, etc. (as an adult) then you are not the ally you think you are and you are being judged fairly when people criticize you for it.

        6. Autumnheart*

          Now would be a good time to google “anti-gay colleges and universities” in case you’re ever of a mind to further your education.

      2. Hardly Working*

        I’m in the comments section because I was curious if anyone had examples of these types of schools. I didn’t even know this was a thing, and I can 100% say I didn’t even consider searching through news articles prior to getting my degree at an online university. I checked for accreditation and ensured their format would work with my life, and that was all I needed to know!
        It’s definitely possible the manager doesn’t know the school has bigoted policies, I wouldn’t immediately assume bad intent.

        1. CoveredInBees*

          Liberty University and BYU are the bigger ones that spring to mind. There are likely smaller schools that aren’t known nationally but still offer online programs and are anti-LGBTQ.

          1. Netts*

            BYU is a totally different category from Liberty etc though, at least in terms of academic reputation and prestige. Wouldn’t paint them with the same brush (though personally I wouldn’t attend either)

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Why not? BYU is certainly a better school academically, but, if the main concern is a school’s stance on LGBTQ+ issues, BYU’s student code of conduct is explicitly anti-gay and explains it by stating that homosexuality cannot lead to eternal marriage. I don’t find BYU any less abhorrent than Liberty, it’s just a different flavor or bigotry in a prettier PR package.

              And this is the problem with employers deciding whose tuition they pay and whose they do not. Where’s the line on “aligns with company values”?

              1. RagingADHD*

                You also have BYU and the LDS’ extremely problematic stances on race over the years.
                I have no idea why LW2 would have a problem with University X for being noninclusive and give BYU a pass. Does being a minority religion somehow make their views more palatable or less discriminatory?

                1. Tali*

                  I assumed it was an issue of scale/severity, like the beliefs are more fringe and the academics less rigorous than BYU.

                2. NotAnotherManager!*

                  The beliefs aren’t more fringe – you can be expelled from BYU for expressing same-sex affection. It’s run by a religious organization that is not only anti-gay but has a long history of actively campaigning (spending large sums of money) against marriage equality laws. And, as noted above, has a very problematic history of racism. If attending schools like Liberty are big red flags of bigotry, I have no idea why schools like BYU get a pass. Does it matter how rigorous the academics are if their student conduct policies are draconian and biased?

        2. deesse877*

          Highly likely to be Liberty, which has a huge online presence. Google that if you’re not familiar; there’s a lot to learn about it.

          1. SongbirdT*

            I don’t think that retort is entirely fair here.

            We all have varying degrees of investment in any given issue. None of us has the capacity to be 100% informed on 100% of what’s going on in the world.

            For example, someone may have a high level understanding of what’s going on in Afghanistan, and have a basic opinion formed that’s shaped by their values and is generally ethical. But they could not have a nuanced discussion of the finer points of what organizations take what position because they’re intellectual and political attention is invested in other issues.

            1. FridayFriyay*

              Sure, but if your investment isn’t there you don’t get to applaud yourself for being such a good ally to that very same constituency.

                1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                  The top comment in this thread from Eat My Squirrel says “in fact I’m [Eat My Squirrel] a strong ally for LGBTQ rights.”

            2. pancakes*

              You and I are talking about different things, Songbird. I was not and am not suggesting that everyone has the capacity to be 100% informed. What I said and meant is that choosing to not engage with the wider world is not an intellectually or ethically neutral choice. I don’t at all agree that it’s unfair to say that choosing to lead a blinkered, insular life is a choice that has numerous consequences. Making a poor choice of what school to attend (in the sense of learning about its values much later, if ever) is merely one example.

            3. PT*

              It’s a privilege to have the time and bandwidth to expend on current events, instead of focusing on things like basic sustenance, health, and survival.

            1. SongbirdT*

              Maybe so? But I’m willing to wager that if I probed hard enough I’d find an issue that you’re not 100% informed on that’s really, really important to me.

              1. EE*

                It’s the comment:

                >It isn’t intellectually or ethically neutral to choose not to pay attention to the world around you.

                that I think is born of privilege.

                Many people don’t have enough hours in the day to pay attention to the bottom levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

                1. Sylvan*

                  I think you’re going for the top levels. And categorizing, like, awareness of bigots as an upper-level concern is kind of weird because it’s a matter of basic safety for some people.

                2. pancakes*

                  You might want to refresh your memory – pursuing an advanced degree isn’t on the bottom level of Maslow’s hierarchy. You might also consider that there have been a number of critiques of Maslow’s views since he published that paper in the early 1940s. It isn’t regarded as a universally true model of human psychology.

                  I think you and a few others are misunderstanding what I mean when I say that leading an insular life isn’t an ethically neutral choice. My point isn’t to call it bad using more gentle or ambiguous language; my point (one of them, at least) is that it’s a choice with numerous potential consequences, many of which will be unwanted by the person making them. Attending a school that doesn’t align with one’s own values out of ignorance is just one example.

          2. Roscoe*

            I mean, people only have so much bandwidth to concern themselves with. I think I’m pretty up on current events, and I had no idea about the controversies there. I’m sure its a big deal locally, but its just not a huge national story. No one can be expected to know everything going on everywhere.

            1. pancakes*

              The existence of prominent US universities that enact and encourage bigotry towards the LGBTQ community has always been a huge story for people in the LGBTQ community.

              I agree that that no one can be expected to know everything going on everywhere. It doesn’t follow that people who choose not to even try to learn about the wider world beyond things that directly affect them personally are making an admirable or wise choice.

        3. SheLooksFamiliar*

          There are too many bigoted schools to mention here. Think Bob Jones University, Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, and other evangelical, fundamentalist, or bible colleges.

          But some more mainstream yet religious universities are not known for their support of, say, LGBTQ students – Bethel, North Central, and Concordia come to mind. Schools like Moody and Wheaton are known for poor policies and overall bigotedness, while Concordia is at least trying to be more inclusive.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Hit submit before I said not all bible colleges are hotbeds of bigoted thinkers, but enough are that it’s important to research each one independently of the others.

          2. The Tin Man*

            Oh I just got really confused because there is a Wheaton College in Massachusetts that is very much not the Wheaton College in Illinois (which I had never heard of).

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              Yeah– I find that so troubling. Wheaton in MA has an excellent reputation. I know a few women who went there in the 60s who are progressive and amazingly accomplished. It’s a shame that they risk being associated with the college in Illinois that is so very, very different.

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                I’d forgotten about the school in Massachusetts. I think it actually was a seminary in its history, but it’s changed focus since then.

                Regardless, I was referring to Wheaton College, a bible college in Wheaton, Illinois. My apologies for the confusion.

        4. Texas*

          These kinds of schools (like Bob Jones University [among many other rules, women weren’t allowed to wear pants until 2018 and dancing isn’t allowed]) are generally pretty open about their bigoted policies, especially when (like BJU) they fight court cases to continue their bigoted policies and frame not subjugating other people as an attack on their Christianity.

          These universities say the quiet part out loud, and they have a reputation (at least the reputation I have encountered discussing these schools with others) as… pretty bonkers. If it was a school known for being more conservative but it was still academically rigorous and the school’s whole thing wasn’t being super conservative, it would make sense to not jump to conclusions. With the kind of school LW write about, there’s no feigning ignorance.

          *the dancing thing I mention only because I’m interested in seeing the Footloose remake that comes out of this one day and it’s such an out-there rule that helps exemplify how far beyond just having a student body that leans conservative this is. Their whole student handbook is pretty surreal and it’s in a pdf online.

          1. quill*

            Yeah, I got the impression that LW’s manager’s school is VERY obvious about their views. And depending on which “invisible” part of the queer umbrella LW fits under, there may be active concern that the tuition is funding political campaigns that could actively harm LW… most notably legislation aimed at discriminating against trans people, for example.

        5. MCMonkeyBean*

          “Searching through news articles” is one thing, but would you honestly not even do a cursory google search before choosing your school? How could you know if they offer what you want without that? And if you google “Liberty University” right there near the top is the “people also ask” section and it has some information about their reputation and then all the top articles are about their poor handling of the pandemic. It should be very difficult in this day and age to know absolutely nothing about something like that.

          We’re not talking about a deep dive here, just a really cursory search brings up all this information and I can’t imagine choosing a school without looking at literally *anything* about them online. Honestly I can’t imagine making almost any decision these days without a quick google search. I stand in a store in front of a physical item I want to purchase for $20 and look up reviews on my phone; I’m certainly not going to pick a degree without at least that level of due diligence…

          1. LW#2*

            This is what astounds me personally. This is the university name that’s going to be front and center on this woman’s résumé for the rest of her career. Going into a lengthy graduate program and having no idea of University X’s reputation seems quite literally unbelievable to me. And yet a bunch of these comments indicate it happens every day!

            I mean, if anyone takes anything away from this, maybe it’s to do a quick reputation check on places whose name you’re going to be tied to throughout your career?

            1. Lora*

              Right? 100% with you here. I am a manager who has done her share of hiring, and this is seriously something you need to consider when you are choosing a grad school. I’m in a STEM field and we tend to look at this stuff pretty hard – which grad school you went to, what experiences they were able to provide (research? clinical work? consulting? internship? in these days, volunteer work for COVID diagnostics development?) and sometimes even the details of who your advisor / PI was, are really critical to whether or not we’d hire you. It’s a big deal whether you went to Carnegie-Mellon and had only academic research experience, vs whether you went to Penn State and did hands-on work in your PI’s industry partnership, vs whether you went to Pitt and did automation of diagnostics in their teaching hospital. Those experiences and those schools and the advisors within those schools have a strong effect on what jobs we think you are qualified to handle and how much ramp-up training you’ll need before you’ll be useful.

              Examples: If you went to Duke, did you work in the Potti lab or in the Lefkowitz lab? If you went to MIT, were you in the Sabatini lab at Whitehead or the Widnall lab? If you went to Harvard, were you in EJ Corey’s lab or Whitesides’? Some of these advisors are truly great, and I’m delighted to have their graduates. Some will make you not-super-employable, because I’m going to assume that your formative years where you learned how to do science stuff were under the tutelage of a notorious a-hole. It matters. If y’all didn’t know before, now you know.

              1. Benny*

                Huh? I’m a PhD in life sciences and have hired plenty of PhDs, and have to admit I had to look these names up. So I see Potti was accused of data fabrication, Sabatini for sexual harassment. So what’s the problem with EJ Corey or Whitesides? I can’t find anything on the internet. How does anyone remember all this stuff? I’d just look at the research papers myself. Why would I blame a poor grad student for having had a crooked mentor?

                1. Lora*

                  Whitesides is good (though often demands LONG hours) – but Corey is notorious for creating such a nasty, bullying work environment that students commit suicide. This has happened multiple times in his lab, and the students in question even put in their suicide notes that this was why. I am not dealing with that level of having to teach people what normal professional work conduct is: “don’t bully and crap on your colleagues so badly they poison themselves with the lab reagents” is not something I should ever have to say out loud to another human.

                  The question is, what do they think is normal, and how they think science and workplaces SHOULD operate: they learned that data fabrication, fraud, general dishonesty and incredibly inappropriate, illegal behavior is 100% normal and how science works, for 5-7 years. How am I supposed to un-train that? Send them to a decade of therapy before I can let them do any work? No thanks.

            2. PT*

              There’s your answer. Your manager could not get into anywhere better, and this was the only school that accepted her. It was here or nowhere, and she’d rather have next-step-up-job-options for having an advanced degree, but perhaps reduced because her school isn’t great, than stay at her current level.

      3. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        It’s extremely basic research to find out the academic reputation of a graduate program you’re applying for, whether the professors are leaders in the field, etc. Universities so bigoted and/or right-wing that they have a national stench are, for a variety of obvious reasons, generally not academically outstanding so this is something that would come up.

  7. Allonge*

    LW5 – can you have some open Q&A sessions with some of the remanining staff while you are there still? Meaning, you are there for an hour and they ask whatever professional questions come up and you answer?

    I 100% agree with Alison that it’s not a realistic goal to hand over everything of a decades-long career. But my boss is leaving in X weeks and it feels really helpful to be able to go to her with a list of questions on ‘how is best to work with Difficult Internal Stakeholder’ and ‘ what do you recommend for X project 2.0’. No, we will not know everything she knows by the time she leaves, but she has no stake in the specifics any more and can give us some pointers on what worked for her.

    1. Beany*

      Or even a “dry run” period — two weeks or a month, say — where they try to cover every aspect of LW5’s job, and LW5 is available to help out when they hit each speed bump?

  8. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Removed a thread speculating on which university the manager in #2 attends; the LW presumably didn’t include it for a reason, which might be to increase her anonymity. Unfortunately, there are a number of possibilities.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      Completely agree with removing the thread, because with the information already given, and the constraints involved, it’s too easy to guess correctly. Let’s leave the LW’s asked-for anonymity alone.

  9. Drizzle Cake*

    #4 I don’t think ‘should I warn the vendor’ is the right question. I’m wondering whose idea it was to have this meeting? It might not be the only way to get questions answered, so I’d reconsider having it at all if you can. Find out what the IT director needs to approve the proposal and act as go-between. Maybe not possible but worth mentioning. You don’t have to let him near your vendor just because he has questions.

    If you absolutely have to have the meeting, then yes I would warn your vendor but DO NOT put it in writing – ask to set up a call with your account manager (or whoever your contact is). I know some people will be all ‘ugh phone calls’ but they’re totally normal in this scenario (which I’m sure you realise if you manage other contracts). I am sure your vendor has dealt with difficult people before and will appreciate the heads up. It’s not about ‘badmouthing an exec’ – that’s not a helpful concept here. It’s about giving your vendor the information they need to do their job!

    1. akiwiinlondon*

      this is what I was thinking also, it’s going to help set up OPs relationship with this vendor to give them a heads up but it’s best to
      a) make a it a phone call so it’s less likely to come back
      b) really frame it as preparing the vendor for the meeting – make it as factual as possible but prepare the vendor that it might be a difficult meeting

      I’ve been on the other side – not always awful clients but certainly been given a heads up on more difficult ones, what areas’ they will likely look at and a warning they might ask tough questions.
      Reading between the lines you think these people may be [inset rude word] but I’ve also found sometimes it’s just that they are a stickler on certain topics – either way having a heads up makes it much easier to manage that meeting (personally this also helps to be emotionally prepared) and I’ve never had this presented in a way I thought someone was ‘badmouthing’ them.

    2. asaassalesperson*

      As someone who works in software sales, they are going to be very grateful for the heads up and being able to prepare. It’s way easier to go into a meeting that you know will be challenging vs. being blindsided. And if you know your IT director will want to negotiate SOMETHING just to feel that he’s contributed, knowing this ahead of time will also help your salesperson strategize on what they could give them during that conversation. For example, getting authorization for a discount up to X% or a free trial period or whatever it is… that often needs approval so having a plan for that is much easier than trying to think on your feet.

      And most likely, unless he’s a holy terror, the salesperson will have worked with others who are way worse.

    3. The Starsong Princess*

      Do not let him near your vendor! I worked with a guy like this and he made my life miserable! I was spending half my time in meetings I didn’t need to be in to babysit him and deflect him from going off on the vendor. Of course, they despised him and it affected our ability to successfully partner with him. Nothing really worked excep charging out my time to a line item of “Maintenance of Vendor Relationship” which gave a dollar value to babysitting him then raising the issue with leadership until I got him forcibly retired. But he did this crap for years.

  10. Smithy*

    OP 5 – I am in a similar situation of being the person with the most experience and subject knowledge in my team. It is very easy for me to fire off an answer to my colleagues, especially if I see them going off track.

    I try not to though. I recall how I learned best – from my own research, coming across information by chance and noting, putting it together in context etc. That truly is the best quality learning. Don’t worry that your colleagues don’t have this yet, allow them to have the chance to read and research and discover.

    And yes- if they struggle in the meantime, then do feel free to offer your services at a contractor rate if they want it!

  11. HiringManager*

    OP3 I often use that script when I make a job offer call – it was what I was taught when I started hiring and I’ve never really questioned it. It somehow would feel too abrupt just to say “Hi, this is X from Company Y [wait for them to acknowledge] I’m calling to offer you the job”. I have made dozens of calls using this script and only once had a person react kind of negatively when I asked “how did you find the interview?” – they said something like “It was fine, but in the meantime I’ve accepted another offer, sorry I hadn’t had a chance to let you know…” so I just said “Oh, that’s a shame as we really thought you had a lot to offer Company Y and I was calling to make you an offer – would you still like me to go through the details of the offer or is your mind already made up?”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I always say “Hi, this is X from Y — how are you? … I’m calling because I’d like to offer you the Z job, and I’d like to tell you the details of our offer.” It’s never felt particularly abrupt; they’re usually hoping that’s what the call is and there’s no need for any kind of conversational throat-clearing before you get to the point! You do have to sound warm and friendly or otherwise it could feel abrupt, but you should be sounding warm and friendly when you’re making an offer regardless!

      “How did you find the interview?” puts people on the spot in an odd way (as we see from the LW’s reaction to it) and it’s not necessary! You can go straight to the point of the call.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        The problem is that it is being used as polite conversation, but appears to be a substantive question. Most of us understand that “How’re you doing?” while passing in the hallway does not call for a substantive response. But this one appears as if intended to lead to an actual discussion of the topic.

        1. SoloKid*

          Yes and no. I would take it at face value as a pleasantry (I hear others in certain European countries take it more substantially), but if I had another offer lined up, that does seem like a good place in the conversation to relay the news.

          That said, I would prefer to skip it and just get on with the call.

          Earlier this year I got an offer and appreciated that the pleasantries were just declarations, not questions.

          “Hi SoloKid, is this a good time to talk? [hiring manager] said they enjoyed their interview with you yesterday and [company] would like to extend an offer for emplyment. [details etc].”

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            I really like the “is this a good time to talk” addition, especially since we’ve occasionally seen questions along the lines of “I called to offer the job and they weren’t excited.”

        2. Tuesday*

          I think a lot would depend on the tone. In the friendly tone I’m imagining it, I think it would just sound like part of the greeting, and I’d probably rattle of a, “Great, how are you?” before giving it a thought. Especially because I’d be thinking, “Am I about to get a job offer??”

    2. londonedit*

      I’d find it really strange to be called after an interview and asked how I thought the interview went. My brain would immediately go into a five-second run-through of ‘Argh! Is this some sort of test? Should I just say it went well? Or does that make me sound arrogant? What if they thought it was awful? Are they calling me to tell me it was the worst interview they’ve ever conducted?? Why are they calling me??’. And to then discover they were going to offer me the job after all? I’d be very confused. Every time someone’s called me to offer me a job, they’ve just said ‘Hello, it’s Jane from Teapots Inc, is this a good time to talk? I’m calling about the Teapot Painter role – I’m very pleased to say that we’d like to offer you the job’. It’s not abrupt, it’s getting straight to the point without any weird questions.

      1. Myrin*

        I honestly wouldn’t even know what to make of that question (and I don’t think that has to do with my not being a native English speaker).

        My mind would alternate between “Do they want my feedback on the interview process? Like, is this where I mention how the interviewer kept trying to sell me his handmade squid plushies?” and “Do they want to know how I think I did? I honestly think I was too distracted by the squid plushies but maybe they didn’t even realise that? Argh!!”.

      2. Snow Globe*

        I recently went through several rounds of interviews, where the HR recruiter called after each interview to ask this question, although she first told me that she had heard from the interviewer that the interview went really well, and she wanted to know how I thought it went. It was kind of weird, but I think they just were really desperate to hire someone, and wanted to make sure to address any concerns I had. It did lead to an offer (which I declined in favor of another offer), but , yeah this question is really confusing if it is just to preface an offer.

      3. OP 3*

        “Should I just say it went well? Or does that make me sound arrogant? What if they thought it was awful? Are they calling me to tell me it was the worst interview they’ve ever conducted??”
        – Yes! This is exactly what went through my head!

        1. Recruited Recruiter*

          OP 3, I really feel you. The company with which I experienced the worst interviewer behavior that I have ever personally experienced opened the call to offer me the job that way. My answer was along the lines of feeling that my values and the organization’s values didn’t align, and asked for my application to be withdrawn.

          At this point, the hiring manager proceeded to offer me the job, which confirmed my decision.

          As a recruiter who regularly makes job offers, I learned a valuable lesson on how to make that call. I like the script that Allison gave us though, and will use it to make my offer calls feel a little bit less stiff.

      4. L.H. Puttgrass*

        I’m trying to imagine how the condom-thrower would have answered, “How did you find the interview?”

    3. Purple Cat*

      If you don’t want to “immediately” jump into extending the offer, you can say “I’m X from Y following up on your recent interview”. And then extending the interview.

    4. Cameron Counts*

      As far I’ve experienced this question is standard. They’re trying to feel out the candidate to get their take on the situation, which is considerate. This happened to me in a call from HR at my now-company, I said I enjoyed the process and the people, and they offered me the job. Not sure how or why I or anyone would have been so thrown off in that situation. “Wait, hold on… you’re asking me how I thought the interview went?! Well, I… I just never quite anticipated this question… let me gather my thoughts…”

      Just answer the question. It’s not hard.

      1. hbc*

        I’m not sure why it’s considerate. If the candidate says, “It was all right, though I thought some of the questions were pretty weird,” what is HR going to do differently? I get it as a question shortly after the interview if you help prompt the candidate with stuff like “Did you get all your questions answered?” and “Did you hear anything that would make you hesitate to take the job?”

        But at the point where it’s your top candidate and you’ve come up with a package, it’s much easier to find out if the interview was a dumpster fire from the candidate’s perspective by offering them the job.

      2. BRR*

        I think it’s hard to answer because it’s a weird question. If a candidate felt they did poorly, they wouldn’t say “I’m interested In the job but think I interviewed poorly.” If a candidate was getting red flags they wouldn’t say “y’all seemed toxic in the interview so I’m going to pass.” If you want to gauge how a candidate feels about the job, which is the reason an employer is asking this question, you do that by making an offer and answer any questions the candidate has.

        also it possibly feels like an interview “test” from a bad hiring manager. ”I ask them how they think the interview went and only then do I decide if I want to offer them the job.”

        1. Cameron Counts*

          You and the other commenter are way overthinking the question. The person who is about to offer you the job wants reassurance that you’re interested and that you feel you can be successful and happy in the role and company.

          If you didn’t have a good interview, go ahead and say that but you’re essentially turning down the job. You still may help the company to improve.

          And if you did have a good interview, simply tell them that and you’ll only improve your situation.

          1. EPLawyer*

            If they want reassurance you are still interested then ASK if they are still interested. No need to play word games and HOPE the candidate knows what you meant.

            If you are offering them a job, offer them a job. You already know you want to hire them, why ask more questions?

            Candidates tend to be nervous and overthink EVERY LITTLE THING. Be nice and don’t give them more to agonize over.

            1. Myrin*

              Exactly. The OP says the question she’s being asked is “How do you think the interview went?”. It would never in my life occur to me to answer that with a “reassurance that [I’m] interested and that [I] feel [I] can be successful and happy in the role and company”. That’s just… the wrong question if you want an answer in that vein.
              Just reading this, I feel like I do when I read/watch interviews with politicians where it often seems like they’re just waiting for a reporter to stop talking so that they can talk about whatever they want to make public that day and not to, you know, answer the reporter’s question.

          2. Tuesday*

            But the thing is, I don’t know they’re offering me the job, so I’m wondering if they’re going to extend the interview process before making a decision. They know I’m waiting to hear if I’ll get an offer, so the considerate thing to do is to share that information with me as soon as possible.

          3. Simply the best*

            So what you’re saying is there’s literally no point to this question. Because people aren’t expected to actually answer it.

            If you’re an employer and want to know somebody is still interested in the position, then ask if they’re still interested. How I think I did on the interview has no bearing on whether or not I’m still interested in the position.

          4. Observer*

            You and the other commenter are way overthinking the question.

            If you didn’t have a good interview, go ahead and say that but you’re essentially turning down the
            job. You still may help the company to improve.

            Are mutually exclusive. Unless you think that “everyone should know” that such questions are not REALLY requests for information but a final screen to insure that all potential employees are Suitably Enthusiastic (TM).

        2. londonedit*

          Exactly – as I said above, I’ve never been called by a potential employer and asked how I thought the interview went, let alone as a preamble to a job offer. So I’d absolutely be thrown in the moment and I’d have no idea what sort of answer they were looking for. If they’re already going to offer me the job, why ask how I thought the interview went? What are they expecting me to say? Is there an answer that would change their mind about offering me the role? It just seems unnecessary to me and it seems like it would add a level of stress or confusion to a conversation that should be positive and celebratory.

        3. Cameron Counts*

          Okay, well now you know so you can stop thinking about it and stressing. Just say you enjoyed the interview process if you did and all will go well.

          1. Kal*

            Except how do we know that all employers are you? What if one day we get a call from an employer who actually wants to know how the interview went so they can improve their process instead of reassurance that you’ll accept the offer before they offer it? What about every single employee who isn’t reading this precise thread to have it explained to them?

            Employer: “How do you think the interview went?”
            Potential Employee: “Yes! I’m indeed still interested in the job!”

            is a very, deeply weird conversation, because that answer doesn’t at all follow from the question. Which means its a bad question for getting the information the employer wants and employers should stop doing it, not that all employees need to be educated on the hidden meanings of weird employer quirks.

          2. SimplytheBest*

            Just look right below this to Lauren19 to know your meaning for this question is not universal.

            If you want information, ask the question that actually requests that information. Not some other song and dance.

    5. ecnaseener*

      Even that lead-in you used here, “we really thought you had a lot to offer Company Y” — that can work as your standard opener!

    6. Lauren19*

      I’ve used the ‘how did you think it went’ intentionally, largely to assess self awareness. One recent interview we liked a lot of things about the candidate, but despite given multiple opportunities she couldn’t tell us about a time she made a mistake and how she handled it (this was for an entry level role). We decided that if she addressed this on her own in a subsequent call it would show self awareness (it was obvious during the interview this was an important question) we would move her on to the next round. But she instead told the recruiter she thought the interview went fine, and so we declined to move forward.

      1. SoloKid*

        “How did the interview go” is a very fair question when you’re on the hiring side and discussing it with others involved with hiring. Not when it’s on the candidate’s side.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Wow, that sound so unreasonable to me!!! Resumes and interviews are a time for selling yourself. It’s one thing to ask specifically about weaknesses or areas for improvement during the process or whatever, it’s another to ask a more general “what do you think” and expect people to respond by saying bad things about themselves when they obviously want you to hire them.

      3. Cordelia*

        maybe there is something different about asking the question when the interview is to decide whether to move the candidate on to the next round – then, as you suggest above, it could be a way for a candidate to show self-awareness and fix their mistakes, although I think there are preferable ways to word this to get the information you are looking for. but, that’s different to asking it in a preamble to either telling the person you are offering them the post, or telling them they have not been successful. I understand the need for a lead-in – I usually say “is this a good time to talk?” and then either “I’m happy to say that we’d like to offer you the post” or “I’m very sorry, but I have to let you know that you’ve not been successful this time”. no need to drag it out, they just want to know if they got the job or not…

    7. MCMonkeyBean*

      If you feel like you need some sort of conversational buffer I would go with something like “Is now a good time to talk?”

    8. Observer*

      I have made dozens of calls using this script and only once had a person react kind of negatively when I asked “how did you find the interview?”

      You mean only one person reacted negatively TO YOU. I’d be willing to bet that a lot of people felt uncomfortable, though. What the OP describes seems like a pretty normal reaction.

    9. Bex*

      FYI, as other commenters have suggested may happen, I was recently asked this question and did have a negative reaction, but I didn’t express it. The negative reaction started out small, as confusion/discomfort, but it got bigger when the HR rep FINALLY got to the actual salary offer (after listing ALLLLLLL the benefits, which were average at best) and it was hugely undermarket. In that context, the “how did you think the interview went?” question looked like a negotiating technique – an attempt to get me to weaken my own position by expressing either doubts about my performance, or strong enthusiasm for the job. As it happens, my natural response to that kind of discomfort is to be as non-committal as possible, so I hadn’t done either of those things, and even if I had, it wouldn’t have mattered because the offer was so low there was no way I would take it.

      If the offer had been good, I would still have thought the opening question was weird but it wouldn’t have kept me from accepting. HOWEVER, caution to people reading this who make job offers: I will probably forever associate this question with an impending low-ball offer, and I may not be alone, so if you ask this, it might turn off the person you’re trying to hire.

  12. JM in England*

    Re #1

    I have been in a similar situation to the OP and can tell you that it’s nigh on impossible to serve more than one boss! Most of the time, I would do nothing until having clear, explicit instructions from or other of the bosses. Where possible, I made sure the instructions were in writing in case of arguments down the line…

      1. JM in England*

        Getting the instructions in writing is also a good CYA move!

        Also, should rephrase my initial point in that it’s nigh on impossible to effectively serve more than one boss….

      2. Sacred Ground*

        If one of them doesn’t respond to email, it seems to me that there’s your answer. Follow the directions of the one who does respond and whose directions are known and on the record. To the other one, it’s “I tried to follow up with you by email. You didn’t respond so I went with Jane’s directions.”

        1. foolofgrace*

          I don’t think it’s a good idea to ignore the directions of your actual supervisor, Niles, and instead follow the directions of the person who is not your actual supervisor, Jane. At the most, you might write an email to both of them saying you’re going to be following Niles’s instruction as you understand them, and list questions if you have them, and if Niles doesn’t respond to your questions, just do the best you can. Or even ask Jane to interpret for you.

          What I have successfully done in the past is to write to both of the folks who are contradicting each other and ask them to work it out and let me know the outcome — and keep my email brief and easy to read and comprehend. Sure as shooting one is going to approach the other for a talk and come up with something, whereas they might not respond to an email from me.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            Wait, Jane is direct OP’s supervisor. Jane reports to Niles. Niles sometimes contradicts Jane’s explicit instructions to OP, and then doesn’t respond to emails to get those contradictions in writing. I don’t think Niles is gonna play ball on this one.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            Jane is her actual supervisor. But Niles is Jane’s supervisor so ultimately if he gives conflicting instructions he gets to have the final word. Alison’s language to try to keep everyone on the same page is the best way to go I think. Let Jane know if Niles asks for something different than she did, and let Niles know that you are looping in Jane (which is what he should be doing really)

      3. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        Send Niles an email saying I understand you are wanting Y handled in X manner. Basically take what ever he says to you verbally and “confirm” it back to him in an email. With a line at the bottom saying your will proceed with whatever is stated above unless he responds differently. I had a boss that liked to say A and then later on claim to have said B. HR said to do this so I had a written record of what I was told verbally and if he didn’t respond to change that it was on him.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Oh the joys of being caught in ‘matrix management’ at one firm and ending up with 3 managers…

      In the end I had to get written confirmation of just about everything. I’d go to a meeting with Boss A who’d tell me to only work on software project 1 and next day be speaking to Boss B who’d tell me to book 100% of my time to fixing calls..it just got utterly impossible.

      Couldn’t even go to the ‘whoever writes my performance reviews is the one I obey’ because they all did.

      Resorted to follow up emails like ‘can you confirm I’m only to do X?’ and by golly did I keep the responses. That place was a total mess.

      1. JM in England*

        Out of curiosity, did you have a 1:1 performance review with each manager or with them all simultaneously as a panel?

  13. flatline*

    OP2, does your manager attend this university because of either the insistence of your employer (due to the fact that it’s cheap), or because of the university’s less-than-strenuous academic requirements for entry? As in, is University X perhaps not her choice?

    But, whatever the case, gross.

    1. LW#2*

      She is attending on the dime of a large institution that has employed her but doesn’t currently, not our current employer; saying much else would open a can of worms. It strikes me as wildly unlikely that that institution would point her at University X.

      Whether it was the only place she could get in, I don’t know! For myself personally I wouldn’t attend this place if it were the only place that accepted me. I’d study for a redo on the GRE and apply next semester.

  14. Well...*

    OP2’s manager’s only acceptable excuse: she’s like Angel working at Wolfram & Hart, taking it all down from the inside.

    (Kidding of course, what OP2’s manager is doing isn’t okay)

    1. Lentils*

      Hah! I’m queer and went to a super-religious college (it’s a long story, wouldn’t do it again) and I programmed the campus alerts number as “Wolfram & Hart” in my phone.

  15. Sophie*

    I don’t want to speculate on the university but I work in higher Ed and the details given point fairly strongly towards a couple options. One of those relies heavily on online flexible education for working adults (similarly to for profit universities) and they often pull in people who don’t fully know the university’s history or current practices but they know it’s a step up from Devry, U of Phoenix, etc. The coworker might know it all and not care, but I wouldn’t land so firmly on that side without a conversation.

    1. I never post here*

      I came to say exactly this. I live in the same state as one of the universities that best fits this description. A few years ago, I considered going back to school as a working professional for a professional degree — and “that” school had far and away the most flexible options. In my case, studying in my field at the time, it was the only program I could have made work at the time. (I did not enroll, and actually am working in a different field now.)

      But a few things to consider:
      – These places are marketing powerhouses. And they identified the “working professional who needs flexibility” segment before just about anyone else. They have a huge head start.
      – A LOT of their students either go in blind to the harm the school causes (or if someone points it out, they don’t seem to have the context to really understand).
      – The university I’m thinking of is accredited, and I live in a largely evangelical area. It absolutely would. not. fly. for an employer to blacklist the school.
      – It’s easy to subscribe to absolute thinking when one is further separated from the evangelical fundamentalists — when one lives among them, one has to work toward incremental change and find ways to have (cautious, guarded) relationships with people who are connected to harmful systems but individually do not recognize or intend harm. That is, of course, easier said than done.

      1. LW#2*

        I think this comment is probably the most well-informed I’ve seen thus far. It’s *really* hard for me to square with my life experiences growing up in centrist/liberal areas and going to centrist/liberal schools, but I can well imagine living elsewhere (as this manager has/does) and being marketed to relentlessly and being surrounded by people who think this is a normal school to attend.

        For the record, this is “explanation not excuse” territory for sure. I strongly believe that working adults with high resources need to be better than “well University X has so much flexibility and really lax entrance standards!!” But she probably hasn’t clocked how much of a showstopper even mentioning this school would be in the areas where I grew up and was schooled. It’s probably just normal to her.

        1. Lora*

          …which begs the question, “what else does she think of as normal?”

          I grew up in an area where going to the local Bible College (a very bigoted, woman-hating, homophobic one indeed) was normal. There was a LOT of stuff that was normalized which is not acceptable to people who are not raging sexists, homophobes and bigots in various and sundry ways. They are also very aware of how they are viewed by the rest of the world and think of themselves as sort of crusaders against a wicked world, though.

          Seriously, *ten years ago*, hardly any serious schools offered online graduate courses. Now literally dozens, multiple dozens, of Big State Universities offer them, as well as a ton of private universities, all the way from Your Local State U to MIT and Harvard. Flexible scheduling, night courses, all of it. The choices haven’t been limited to University of Phoenix and DeVry for at least a decade. It’s not a cost thing either, Local State Universities are as a rule pretty cheap – one of my colleagues is going to her Big State University online for an MBA and paying I think $5k/year in tuition – much less than a lot of the Bigot Universities named upthread, if all you’re trying to do is get the piece of paper. I looked up tuition costs for some of those universities and they’re more than the private schools AND public universities I’ve attended!

          1. LW#2*

            I agree with everything you’ve said. I don’t give anyone a free pass for actively choosing this school. At least the comments have illuminated for me how much her choice may have been based in ignorance vs. apathy vs. low-key agreement with University X’s goals.

    2. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

      Then the manager is a grown woman who didn’t bother to do basic due diligence before spending a TON of money on a huge investment. The manager doesn’t look good no matter what angle you look at it from.

  16. Justin*

    I would gather, based on a number of people I know from a Facebook group of grad students, that it’s likely one of the few places that accepted her, and she just wants those letters after her name. (If she’s a woman of color, this is unfortunately a common way these schools try to be ‘inclusive,’ marketing to us when other schools are less receptive to our attendance.) Unfortunately, even if she’s nice, the degree will be seen very poorly anyway, so it helps no one. Your job just needs to institute standards for which schools they will pay for, which is hard because those schools are usually (barely) accredited. You can push them to live up to their stated values in the longterm and make a change though.

    And even if the manager has been scammed, no excuse for her choice.

  17. Purple Cat*

    OP2 – in the past two years I’ve had to vigorously mentally separate my coworkers out of office actions/beliefs vs in office actions to maintain the respect I have for them. (It’s exhausting, but that’s a topic for a different day).

    In your case, ignore where she’s getting her degree from, but file it away in the back of your head and keep an eye out for if it is impacting behavior at work.

    For people saying the employer shouldn’t reimburse that tuition, the school I immediately thought of is Accredited (sad that there are multiple potential options though) so I don’t think there’s any standard for excluding them that wouldn’t also reek of religious discrimination.

    1. mreasy*

      It would be a shock to me is discrimination laws mean the employer is required to pay for an employees education at literally amy accredited school, regardless of their public statements about LGBTQ+ groups.

  18. I should really pick a name*

    LW#2 speaking as a gay man, I’d want the manager to admit where they got their degree without any disclaimer. It lets me know that I should be careful around them. If they don’t care about the institution’s reputation, that’s useful info for me.

    1. Terrible Too*

      Apparently my reply got caught up in the sweep but basically chiming in on the same vein. I sometimes get read as queer and our in house attorney, who is over HR (because they have had issues in the past that got us sued a bunch) has their law degree from University X. I don’t think I would get treated fairly if I ever had to take anything to HR.

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Shoot, I’m a straight female and I prefer to know this information too, as it’s useful, as you say.

      Because if my gay coworker asks my opinion on something that I’d normally say “hey, bring it to HR”, I want to know if HR is going to be unsafe or not. It should be, but realistically – it isn’t always. And if it’s not safe for one person, it stands to reason it isn’t safe for others. When work isn’t safe for anyone who isn’t a white het cis man, we all need to be very observant.

  19. Database Developer Dude*

    I think OP 1 needs to start looking for a new job. Leadership needs to speak to subordinates in ONE voice, and if that’s not possible, then leadership has failed.

    It’s not OP’s job to run interference between Jane and Niles, and it certainly isn’t OP’s job to “improve” Niles’ communication style. It seems like they both expect it. No. If two higher-ups are having a pissing contest, and I’m the only one getting wet, I’m opting OUT.

    1. AG*

      Nah, I don’t think so. I’m in a similar position where the line of command is a bit fuzzy (department head vs. site boss), and you just have to remember that there might be different priorities. As long as you can keep both bosses informed and as long as you can get clarification about what you really should do in the end, that is fine. Although you have to let the notion to fix the discrepancy go!

    2. GNG*

      OP1’s issue is hardly insurmountable/untenable or uncommon, so much so that there’s no guarantee they wouldn’t run into a same or similar issue if they got a new job.
      Alison’s advise is good and can be immediately applied by OP. It’s much better, much more empowering for OP to use it, and in the process gain valuable skills that they can use now and also in future similar situations.

  20. M*

    LW4: I work at a software vendor that sounds very similar to what you’re dealing with. I wanted to say that we meet with guys like Roger all the time, so it won’t be anything new, but we also really appreciate notes like what Alison wrote. No implementation is perfect! It may also help, if possible, to clarify to the vendor what Roger’s role in the decision process is (like it is actually “approval” or just “identify any blockers”), and how he’ll be involved in the implementation. Otherwise, good luck!

  21. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP3 – is it possible that this vague “how did the interview go” question is a request from the hiring managers to critique *their* performance? I agree that the whole thing can make the OP feel like it’s a trap. And that kind of question ought to happen after the job decision (offer + accept, offer + decline, rejection) is actually done.

  22. W. Rogers*

    Isn’t it true that most if not all major religions have traditionally opposed lgbtq ideology? That is an awful lot of people and instead of just dismissing them them as wrong and undeserving of our tolerance I would create space for difference — traditionally religious people place greater value on tradition, communal cohesion, authority of written texts and leaders, etc. It’s simplistic and bigoted to refuse to entertain any other understanding of them except that they are bad and must be excluded or otherwise punished because they don’t think like we do. Let the lady attend the school that she wants and leave her alone. Work on your own shortcomings that is hard enough.

    1. LW#2*

      I’m not talking about belonging to a religion; I don’t judge people for being a member of any religion. I’m talking about funnelling 10s or 100s of thousands of dollars into a university that terrorizes its gay and trans undergrad students and gives platforms to extremely harmful bigots. It’s a very different scenario.

      1. pls*

        So… change jobs, or avoid discussion of personal issues with this supervisor (which is probably a good idea with supervisors anyway)? I mean, I’m not sure what you want to be done here. The institution that employs you isn’t paying for this tuition, you said, and you can’t control what education your supervisor gets, so…. It’s kind of… not your business. If it really bothers you to be supervised by someone who’s getting a degree from an institution you’re against, then… ask to be moved elsewhere. I know you wrote in ostensibly to ask Alison what your supervisor should do, but honestly it comes off like you wanted somewhere to be like “Omg isn’t this just AWFUL?” like there’s no shortage of places on the Internet to do that.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I’m hoping you don’t mean this – but responding to someone who’s justly afraid of being discriminated against with a ‘get over it’ kind of statement is invalidating to a lot of us.

        2. FridayFriyay*

          Discriminatory views in a supervisor (explicitly or implicitly) are absolutely the purview of a workplace advice column and the “business” of their employees. It IS awful, it creates an unsafe working environment, and this reaction is uncalled for. If Alison didn’t want to answer the question or deem it appropriate it wouldn’t have been published on the blog.

          1. FridayFriyay*

            Also “avoid discussion of personal issues with this supervisor” is advice hundreds of years old that us queers are getting reallllll bored with. Who I am is not a “personal issue” that is inappropriate for the workplace. Respect for who I am is a matter of discrimination and equity, not managers’ personal preference.

          2. SeattleSue*

            But the supervisor has not discriminated against her. She even said she is a lovely person. The LW is making an issue out of something that isn’t an issue.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              This is getting a little bit too close to the ‘I’m sure you’re imagining things’ trope that comes up every single time an issue of sexism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, etc occurs.

              I believe the letter writer and Alison who both feel this is problematic.

                1. quill*

                  I think you might be seeing Occam’s big paisley tie here.

                  LW has said that the manager has been lovely SO FAR. You’re taking this to mean that the manager, having checked off the “human decency” box is incapable of discrimination, which is 1) manifestly untrue, 2) a very common fallacy of demanding that people who have experienced discrimination exhaust every possible alternative explanation before they’re allowed to worry that something might be discriminatory.

            2. Colette*

              There are plenty of people who come across as lovely people until you realize that they hold bigoted views. That doesn’t mean that they use slurs or are outwardly mean to others – but it might mean defaulting to sterotypes and assuming the individuals they meet conform to them rather than treating them as the individuals they are. It might mean deciding not to hire or promote someone because of those stereotypes, or because they hold them to a higher bar.

              And those biases are damaging, even if they’re done in a nice tone of voice.

        3. LW#2*

          LOL, I specifically said in my question to Alison that my question was philosophical, and that I was curious about her answer, and that was all. I honestly expected her to say that my manager should just keep her head down and not run her mouth to her employees about University X; the fact that Alison doesn’t think she should’ve enrolled there at all was a weird shock to wake up to this morning.

          I’m very accustomed to staying closeted and I didn’t expect to come out at this job. It doesn’t really change my plans at all. All it does it label her in my mind as not the first person I should go to if I see discrimination happening at our employer.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            You’re in the right – I definitely wouldn’t trust her with anything pertaining to discrimination.

          2. Artemesia*

            You are right — but you won’t win on this. In a Bible belt area especially no business is going to come out against employees attending giant religious institution. Even if they were reimbursing the tuition — if they do it for others in other institutions, no way they are going to single out religious ones to black list. And since they are not paying the tuition there is not even that leverage. It is a giant red flag for you and others who are likely to suffer discrimination in this organization, but I can’t see how in this region and context, there is anything you can do about it. It does suck.

          3. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

            LW#2 for the record I absolutely hate that its 2021 and so many people still feel they have to be closeted among coworkers/neighbors/family. Its why I feel its important as an ally to use preferred pronouns when someone expresses them to me and to make sure I’m creating a safe place for the LGBTQ people around me. Mad moral support to you and any difficulties you may face.

        4. Temperance*

          This kind of sounds like you’re telling OP to live her life in the closet so as not to offend the likely homophobe, just FYI.

          Members of the LGBTQ+ community have *historically* been told to go into the closet, keep their lives “private”, stop being so … queer, etc.

        5. quill*

          pls, I’m assuming you don’t fully understand the difference between disapproval and constant, low level fear that most queer people experience when it comes to people who have power over their livelihood potentially suddenly discovering that they’re queer, and the social or financial impact that discovery could have.

        6. MCMonkeyBean*

          Why are there SO many comments here harping about what OP can or cannot do. They are not trying to *do* anything!

          “but this question isn’t really about me so much as it is a hypothetical: What would you advise my supervisor to do here?”

          That’s their question. People are really bending over backwards trying to be dismissive over something OP didn’t even ask!!!

      2. SJ*

        Rather than respond to the deeply unkind thing someone else just said in reply to this comment, I’ll pop this here to say LW #2, your question and the concerns that prompted it are completely valid. Also, as a queer & trans person, can I just say that your identity, whatever it may be, is not up for debate in my eyes: if you ID as queer then that’s that, welcome to the club. Sending you all kinds of love.

        1. Parakeet*

          Seconding this. It’s an absolutely valid concern, especially given that this is someone with power over you in the workplace. Also seconding the “welcome to the club” part. :)

    2. Bagpuss*

      There is a massive difference between a religion or organisation which has historically seen certain sexual orientations as sinful, and harmed people in the past, and one which actively supports discrimination now.

      Yes, many regions have at different times in their history been deeply intolerant and discriminatory, but the question is about someone who is attending an institution which is propounding bigoted and discriminatory beliefs *now* – it’s something which is, objectively, wrong.

      Many religions have, of course, also accepted and supported slavery in the past – would you suggest that an institution or religious group advocating in favour of slavery now should be tolerated, and urge people to create space for that difference, too?

      Tolerance may be appropriate where an individual or orgnisation has understood and acknowledged it’s past mistakes or the ways in which it has wronged people and has made or is making efforts to try to address those actions, and to do better.
      But “tradition” and “authority” are not valid excuses for actively harming and oppressing others

      1. mreasy*

        There’s also a huge difference between a mildly religiously affiliated university like Notre Dame, and one of the institutions that the LW’s manager is attending. The former are basically a standard college experience with some extra praying available. The latter actively teach their bigotry as gospel within ANY course of study.

        1. Artemesia*

          My husband went to Notre Dame during Vat II and when it was lead by Christians who sought to be welcoming and well, Christian. He has severed all ties and support as the institution is now proudly on the side of bigotry with changes in leadership over the years; it is sad to see. We also lived in the south during our careers and there is zero chance that businesses functioning in that area are going to blacklist a bigoted fundamentalist college.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        To a good approximation, all versions of Christianity condemned homosexuality, back in the day. We might compare it with geology and evolution, and the age of the Earth. Two or three centuries ago, more or less everyone in the West took the Genesis version of the age of the Earth at face value. Then science happened. We think of Darwin and evolution today, but the early undermining of the assumption came from geology. There followed a split within Christendom between the churches that responded with “Cool! This puts Genesis in a different light. Let’s go figure that out.” and those that responded with “I’m not listening, and you can’t make me!”

        At the same time, everyone accepted the general societal position on homosexuality. It simply wasn’t challenged within the mainstream. Then it was. When it became a topic of mainstream discussion, some churches reexamined their assumptions and came to the realization that they had been wrong. Other churches responded with “I’m not listening, and you can’t make me!”

        Not coincidentally, to a pretty good first approximation the various churches line up the same way on both issues. Go figure. This also, to a pretty good approximation, is the split within Protestantism between “mainline” and “Evangelical” churches.

        The upshot is that there are mainline churches where LGBTQ+ members and clergy don’t result in so much as a raised eyebrow. Others are still working their way there. The Methodists are in the midst of a split over this right now. This has to do with Methodist church organization, which is on a worldwide rather than national basis, with strong opposition from some parts of the world. Most other denominations are organized on national lines, so the only question is how much the various national churches are willing to still talk to each other after the American version went liberal on LGBTQ+.

        1. Bamcakes*

          (FTR, there are tons of queer theologians and queer church historians who would contest this teleological view of “Christianity was against homosexuality until it wasn’t”. What Christianity has thought about same-sex love, same-sex sexual activity, expressions of queer desire, and about what call heterosexual love, sex and desire have varied wildly across history, geography and class. The idea that Christianity has traditionally opposed “homosexuality” until the liberation movements of the 20th century is an anachronistic one created by various church and social movements from the early modern period onwards.)

        2. Bagpuss*

          Depends a bit on what exactly you mean by ‘back in the day’

          f you have an interest in church history, there’s strong evidence for female bishops in the early Christian Church, based on the terminology and iconography used, and good evidence of Christian marriage services for same sex couples, and record s of marriages being conducted in church of same sex couples as late at the 18thC. (although more common between around the 8th and 14thC)

          Then over time, as books were included or discarded from the bible, most of the female writers and references to women were lost, or reinterpreted, and as social attitudes towards same sex relationships, so to did the way they were addressed by the church, and of course as the bible and other religious texts were translated and interpreted, they were read, and translated, in line with the prejudices and assumptions of their translators.

          Similarly, the celibacy of clergy wasn’t something which was normal or widespread in the Christian church right away, although when exactly it became the norm depended a lot of which specific branch you belonged to, For instance, married clergy remained common in Wales much longer than in England.

          And even in more modern times, while yes, homosexuality was seen as a sin, the extent of that, and how seriously it was taken, was very variable – both in the church’s views and in how those, and the views of society in general, fed into the law.

          Not that any of this changes the position for someone in LW2’s position trying to navigate the here and now, but I think it s a very interesting subject and something which might surprise a lot of the ‘respect for tradition’ brigade , particularly in thinking about how traditional some of those traditional values really are!

    3. None*

      W. Rogers- I had some of the same thoughts. I understand the issue with the school, but its the underlying evangelical religion that’s the problem, and we wouldn’t tell her to change religions or not attend her church. Let her actions speak for her character.

      1. pancakes*

        People who fall in line with bigoted institutions and/or contribute to their financial and social capital are also a problem. Doing so out of ignorance or ambivalence isn’t exculpatory.

      2. Temperance*

        I would tell her exactly that. There are dozens if not hundreds of Protestant denominations out there that don’t have those beliefs, so if she’s willingly signing up for this, it shows what she believes and her true character.

    4. Admin Lackey*

      If you want another shortcoming of your own to work on, this sort of lazy bigotry would be a great place to start

    5. hbc*

      I think it’s simplistic and bigoted to dismiss any questions about this as “they are bad and must be excluded or otherwise punished because they don’t think like we do.”

    6. pancakes*

      What exactly do you mean by “dismissing them”? No one has suggested that the letter writer take a hardline stance on ostracizing her coworker, and doing so obviously wouldn’t be practical. To say the letter writer should “let the lady attend the school” is similarly a distortion of what people are talking about, because there isn’t in fact any element of permission here – even if the letter writer were to say something along the lines of, “I think you made an awful choice about this school,” the coworker retains the personal agency to stick with it. It seems like what you don’t accept is the idea that people should be wary of this coworker. It could be detrimental to their own lives not to be, though. The coworker’s choice of school conveys information about their values and character. It isn’t unfair or somehow illegitimate for other people to notice it.

    7. Pippa K*

      “Create space for difference” is a remarkably disingenuous way to say “pretend all viewpoints and institutions are morally equivalent so there’s no basis for calling bad things bad.”

      If you’re that interested in tolerance, go scold the people and institutions espousing the nasty views, not those who object to the nasty views.

    8. Spencer Hastings*

      Yes, unthinking obedience to authorities, traditions, and written texts is bad. Congratulations on finally figuring that out, I guess?

    9. New Jack Karyn*

      “It’s simplistic and bigoted to refuse to entertain any other understanding of them except that they are bad and must be excluded or otherwise punished because they don’t think like we do.”

      This sentence is breathtaking in its ability to turn the bigotry on its head.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        That really is one of my pet peeves – the framing of views that are dangerous if brought to the workplace, e.g. anti-science in a STEM field, or, like with OP’s boss’s school, views that are based on the idea that some people are less equal the others, when OP’s boss’s job is literally to manage people and to provide equal treatment; as an innocent “oh they just don’t think like we do.” They can think unlike we do all they want about what to eat for breakfast or what TV show to binge on with their family in the evenings. Whether all their employees are equally human, is not up for debate though.

    10. quill*

      The question wasn’t “my manager goes to a religiously affiliated university, should I worry?” It was “my manager is going to a university that is actively campaigning to deny a group of people (which includes me) civil rights, should I worry?”

      There are leagues of difference between going to a school affiliated with a branch of christianity that has said “you’re not welcome” in the past, and a school actively participating in / funding a denial of civil rights.

      Also being queer is not an ideology so maybe stick that under your hat with “people fearing for their safety because powerful institutions campaign against their identity is not intolerant” and ruminate on it a while.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Also, no, not all religions and not all branches of the major religions are like that at all. And I am saying this as someone who does not belong to any religion.

    11. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      No, it’s not–and thanks for the dog-whistle of “ideology” to mean that people shouldn’t have to worry about being murdered for being queer.

      Where’s the “cohesion” in telling a woman she can’t bring her wife and their to family dinner? “Authority of written texts” assumes a lot about which texts to emphasize, and what they mean–it’s somehow “traditional” to condemn homosexuality,and forgive men for adultery–even though the much-invoked Ten Commandments forbid adultery and say nothing about homosexuality.

      Being disagreed with, and being told “I don’t think you should associate with bigots,” isn’t punishment, and it isn’t exclusion.

    12. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Whoa, no. Being LGBTQ is not an “ideology,” it is not bigoted to want the same rights as others, and having a manager who appears to support bigotry is highly relevant to the people they have power over (as well as to the employer that pays them to manage those people). I’m closing this thread.

  23. Commenting Squid*

    re: question 1. I am Jane in my organization, and I’m a little surprised that the OP is pushing back so hard on Niles. Jane is understanding because she knows Niles is her boss and that is part of the deal with working there. In my org, it goes like this: partner walks up to random staff and says “drop everything you are doing and do xyz immediately” Staff says yes, considers if they can add this while still meeting expectations on current work, and if so, simply does it and is done with it. If no, they inform me (or their other managers) and the managers solve the staffing/timing issue. In the somewhat rare case that I absolutely can not spare this person for xyz task, I take it up with the partner. The only responsibility OP has here is to inform Jane.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yeah, LW says when she checks with Jane, she says to do what Niles says. There’s your answer LW. If Niles contradicts Jane, you do what Niles says and tell Jane the reason for the change.

      I think LW you are focused on getting Niles to communicate better. That’s not your issue to solve. If you understand what Niles told you to do, even if you have to ask a lot of questions, you do it.

  24. Kaiko*

    An aside to OP 2: I just want to address your throwaway line about if you “count” in the queer community. There are many ways of being queer, including in your own head and by questioning your place in the world, and for many people, (including me), coming to understand your own queerness is not sudden like a bolt of lightning or undeniable like an ocean; it is a lifelong process following a stream that whispers “what if?”

    I wish you self-compassion and grace on that journey, and you count, you count, you count.

    1. BookishMiss*

      I can only join in on this. Kaiko, you said it perfectly. LW2, you count, you are valid, and you are worthy.

    2. LW#2*

      That’s incredibly sweet of you, to pick that parenthetical out from the question, and to send me a message of support. Without outing myself — because I’m pretty deep in the closet — every June I get treated to The Pride Month Twitter Discourse™ about how of course I don’t “count,” while advocacy groups for my identity try to fight against that tide. The sheer amount of online ire for people like me claiming the label “queer” has put me well off using it. However, I can say with certainly that the official position of University X on my life would be that I’m a dirty rotten sinner who’s going straight to The Bad Place.

      1. Temperance*

        If you’re making those people mad, you’re doing something right. Cheers to living your best life and owning whatever label fits!

      2. BigHairNoHeart*

        You know what’s funny about this comment? My initial reaction was, “oh I bet we have the same identity because I relate to this big time!” But we might actually not! It’s astounding and sad that multiple groups can feel this way. In any case, you’re more than welcome in the queer community as far as I’m concerned–twitter discourse be damned!

        1. quill*

          Yeah, my initial thought was “LW has seen the exact same discourse as I have, they are either sharing something with me or they’re the identity next door.”

      3. NotRealAnonForThis*

        I have thoughts on University X’s official position on most our lives and beings, and honestly, if we all end up in The Bad Place, while they go to The Good Place? I don’t want to be there with them if that’s how its going to roll.

        Not that I’ve NOT been told I’m going to The Bad Place for my sins. My typical response to that is “puh-lease. I rule that place, never forget.”

        1. pancakes*

          My thought is that neither of the places you allude to are real places, and they have no more place in a discussion of bigotry here on earth among adults than Santa Claus or the tooth fairy do.

      4. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        Jumping in to say, yes, claim the queer (or whatever term you want), and don’t worry about whether The Official Queers will fret about it. Your identity is as valid as anyone else’s — as is your ability to redefine it when you find words that fit you better.

        And if going to The Bad Place means not hanging around with the Sanctimonious Jerks, well … there will be a lot of us down there to play Scrabble with.

    3. quill*

      I’m Aroace, I’m already beating people who say I don’t count with a great big broom. LW#2, come sit by me, we can whack the exclusionists with two brooms!

      1. Crocheted Familiar*

        I’m also aroace and we 100% count as queer. And yes, if you’re heteroromantic and ace, you count as queer. If you’re heterosexual and aromantic, you also count as queer. We’re part of the queer community and we’ll get through the Annual June Discourse together.

    4. Deanna Troi*

      Thank you, Kaiko. I am a bisexual woman who has been in a monogamous relationship with a man for 27 years. I have been made to feel like I’m ridiculous by many members of the queer community. Whether LW #2’s situation is similar to mine or not, I understand being made to feel marginalized for this. And you also don’t quite fit into with all of your straight friends.

  25. Blaise*

    OP3- I JUST got that question for the first time ever after an interview last month. It caught me off guard, so I laughed and said “I mean, I think it went really well, but you tell me!” which I think went over well. I’d use that line again anyway lol

    1. Caz*

      I tried that once and the person pushed back at me! “But I really want to know how *you* felt it went…” They were calling to tell me I had not been successful, and I felt like I dodged a bullet!

      1. foolofgrace*

        They asked you how you thought it went, and then they dumped you? Wow. Just Wow. They have to know people are going to be complimentary about the interview; people aren’t going to bad-mouth their interview tactics in the hopes that they’re getting the job.

      2. Artemesia*

        A new kind of awful. I sort of fantasize I would say some bland thing about how well it went and then when they said ‘we went with someone else’, would be inclined to say, well that is your answer to the question of how the interview went — I’m guessing it went really badly?

      3. Blaise*

        Yikes, that’s awful. I had a feeling during the call that they would only ask me that if I got the job or if they were about to tell me how great I was but that they went with someone else because of some defined reason. Any scenario where you’re not going to be highly complimentary of the person is not the right time to ask that question! I’m sorry that happened to you :/

  26. MissDisplaced*

    My guess for #1 is that Jane knows this very well and is trying to avoid dealing with Niles. But Niles is Jane’s boss, so that does make him the final say. The best you can do is loop Jane in when this happens. I’m sorry though, this is a difficult situation for you to be in. The onus really should be on Jane to communicate things with Niles.

    #2 Bad University
    There could be a third reason. Is it possible this university offers something unique about the online program? Time to degree, transfer credits, or specific programming? If they did, it might make one ignore the sexism and bigotry just to get it there.
    My thought is the person doesn’t care about the bad reputation because this degree somehow offered what they wanted otherwise, or they think it no big deal because it’s online.
    If this is some genetic MBA you could make the suggestion the company should be concerned about what the company is paying for, but also understand it can be difficult for HR to monitor things like this as long as the university is still fully accredited.

    1. pancakes*

      “If they did, it might make one ignore the sexism and bigotry just to get there.”

      You say “just” as if intense careerism is a neutral or benign choice. I don’t agree that it is.

  27. Stepped on a Lego*

    LW 5
    I am on a small team of 5. Our organization had a re-org, and a new Director was placed over our group about a year ago. To introduce him to our very intricate work, we have been giving him weekly one-hour talks on a specific topic. We started very broad, and have been narrowing down. We present for 30 minutes, and use the rest of the time for Q&A. We also invite others in our org to talk about related but specific topics to our work. He has really enjoyed it, and we have all learned something, and he is getting to know us well.
    We have either a document written, ppt, or just discussion, and we share the files after.
    You could try something like this?

  28. Colette*

    #5 – As Alison says, you can’t download your years of experience for your colleagues to access. And while you should do what you can (e.g. create documents with the stuff you think of, step back and let others handle stuff while you’re still there as backup), just know that they’ll be OK when you leave. It will be harder for them since they don’t have the knowledge you have, but they’ll muddle through and figure it out. And that’s how they’ll grow to become the experts themselves.

    1. After 33 years ...*

      LW5: Sending you much sympathy. This is exactly my situation. However, at my university, paid consultancy after retirement is not an option. Whatever is passed on will only happen up to my retirement date.
      I’m not in complete agreement with the idea that the knowledge cannot be downloaded or shared. Documentation helps, but what helps more is conversation. The absence of mentorship is a significant issue, especially when coupled with downsizing of available human resources.
      Colleagues will grow into their positions and may gradually accumulate institutional knowledge. However, much depends on the other commitments and stresses that they will be working under. Unfortunately, the luxury of time for growth may not be there, and in the short-term there will be a loss of knowledge which will negatively impact the more important people in the group – students, staff, and faculty colleagues. Having undergone many years of “muddling through with mixed results”, I would not wish that on anyone.

      However, life will go on …

  29. Caz*

    OP3, interviewers at my organisation always used to start phone conversations with “how do you feel it went” – whether they were calling to say you were successful or not! It always felt to me like a trick question – if I say I felt i performed poorly, will they abruptly pull an offer they were about to make? If I say I think I was brilliant are they going to say “well, we thought otherwise”? I have used this to build my own script for phone calls which starts “I’ll get right to the point…” and then does so!

  30. Kesnit*

    I can’t believe I am about to do this, but I am going to stand up in defense of #2’s manager a little…

    I am a lawyer in a field known to be leaning-liberal. About an hour up the road from us is a nationally-known, ultra-conservative, Christian university with a law school. Over the summer, we had 2 interns from that law school in our office. One told me that a professor got on her case because she was living with her boyfriend (“living in sin.”) She was rather annoyed. The other intern was annoyed for Intern #1 about the situation. I had the same intern in my car at one point (going to see a client) where my pentacle was visible. (I forgot it was there before she got in.) Nothing was ever said and she didn’t act any different towards me after. Both have told me they find the uber-conservative administration annoying and overbearing.

    Because of the close proximity of the law school, several local lawyers are graduates. Not all are the kind of person you would think of when you think of a graduate of that school.

    So before you freak out about your manager going to that school, wait and see how the manager actually acts.

    1. pancakes*

      The fact that these two interns didn’t have a discernibly negative reaction to the pentacle in your car doesn’t mean much. It certainly doesn’t mean that people who are historically on the receiving end of bigotry would be wrong to be wary of students who choose to attend schools known for bigotry.

      1. Kesnit*

        I didn’t say LW2 should be perfectly fine with her manager going to University X. I did say for her to see how her supervisor actually is. I used the example of the interns and local lawyers as examples that student at uber-Christian school =/= fundamentalist, bigoted jerk.

        The manager could be a fundamentalist, bigoted jerk. If she is, LW2 will figure it out pretty quick! But there is no need to jump to conclusions and assume the worst.

        1. pancakes*

          I realize that is what you meant. My point is that I don’t agree you can see how someone “actually is” based on how they treat their boss during an internship. It’s not a reliable indication of how they treat minorities without power over them. Similarly, I don’t agree that the letter writer can see how her supervisory “actually is” toward people in the LGBTQ community simply by spending time in her presence as a closeted person who appears to be cisgender and heterosexual.

        2. Bamcakes*

          Where the heck does this idea that we can separate everyone into “good supportive person” and “obvious bigoted jerk” come from? It’s rubbish! “Kind supportive person who suddenly gets really awkward around me when they find out I’m queer” and “generally lovely person who asks a ton of inappropriately intrusive questions” or “decent manager right up until they have the opportunity to recommend me for promotion because they don’t think people like me should hold positions of influence” or “lovely cheerful person who does a lot of charity but just thinks Jom seems like more of a ~natural leader~“ are way more likely.

          1. Kesnit*

            If LW2’s manager is a bigoted jerk, LW2 is going to figure it out pretty quick.

            Right now, everyone is assuming the manager is a bigoted jerk. Maybe she is! My only point is that isn’t an assumption we can automatically make. I said from the beginning that “student at uber-Christian school =/= fundamentalist, bigoted jerk.”

            We don’t know what school it is. I admit, I can think of a school* where, if I found out someone went there, I would certainly assume they are a closed-minded, bigoted jerk until proven otherwise. I can also think of a few (not just the one down the road from me) where I would be willing to see how the person is before making a decision.

            * I’m sure there’s more than one school I would make that assumption about if I took more time to think about it. One just popped into my head very quickly.

            1. FridayFriyay*

              It is harder than you might think to figure out if someone is a bigoted jerk when you are closeted and thus not an obvious target for the jerkiness. Yes, those of us in targeted minority groups do sometimes err on the side of assuming bigoted jerkiness because to do otherwise potentially exposes us to discrimination and even bodily harm. Being neutral about someone until they prove you wrong is a losing strategy in this situation.

            2. Bamcakes*

              I don’t think you read my comment! This just isn’t how bigotry works. Sure, few people are outright, unequivocal, can’t-be-missed bigots, especially at work. Many people who are bigoted are NOT jerks. They are perfectly nice and friendly right up until the point where you come out to them, or they decide people like you can’t be trusted, or prefer someone else for a development opportunity or promotion for reason that have nothing to do with your work product, or they vote against your fundamental human rights, or give significant amounts of money to organisations working against your human rights. Bigotry would be a ton easier to work against if it always came with a neat badge saying “bigotry” on it.

              1. pancakes*

                Big yes. Even if this was a jury trial, though, the manager’s behavior toward people they believe to be cis and hetero wouldn’t be dispositive as to whether they’re bigoted or not. Kesnit and other lawyers should know what that word and concept mean. Maybe it will ring a bell.

          2. lazuli*

            >Where the heck does this idea that we can separate everyone into “good supportive person” and “obvious bigoted jerk” come from? It’s rubbish!

            I agree it’s rubbish. It comes out of the historical trend (70s? 80s?) to think of bigotry as interpersonal rather than institutional/systemic, and about countering bigotry be being “colorblind” or “gender neutral” and just “being nice” to everyone.

            Robin de Angelo writes about the “good/bad binary” in “White Fragility” and how it’s a way for people with privilege to protect their privilege. The idea is that we think of racism as bad, and ourselves as good, so therefore by magic nothing I do can possibly be racist (because I’m good!) and if you say I did something racist, you’re calling me a bad person and now we can argue about how you’re mean rather than about the racist thing I just did. Or bystanders can claim that I am a “good person” and therefore “didn’t mean it” and now they can all argue that you’re a big ol’ meanie for accusing me of being a bad person, and, again, completely deflect from the racist thing I just did.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I have more sympathy for an intern going to that kind of school than an adult who’s been working long enough to be in management. An intern might have been uninformed, or sent by their parents.
      An adult has either made the decision to go to such an institution regardless of it’s reputation, or hasn’t bothered to do the work to find out its reputation.

      No one is freaking out. We’re just taking note of the information and keeping an extra eye on the person.

      1. quill*

        Yeah, the question is more “should I keep an eye on myself” than anything else. Also, sorry but visibly displaying that you’re part of a religion that conservative christianity disapproves of is not currently the same risk as being queer. People aren’t campaigning to allow doctors to refuse treatment to wiccans at the moment.

        1. anon4eva*

          It’s already passed legislation in Ohio and Arkansas. Just wait till the Supreme Court finds in favor of a Christian doctor’s right to refuse service to LGBT patients.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think you’ve missed the major differentiating factors though:
      1) this is online so location specifically has nothing to do with it
      2) This is a fully-grown adult who was the only person with any say in her school of choice. Your interns may fall more in the category of people OP specifically called out as being young enough to either not have had time to learn better or else they maybe don’t even get to choose their college because their parents chose it for them.

      (But also, finding the uber-conservative administration annoying when they are targeting you personally doesn’t inherently mean they disagree with the fundamental values–just throwing that out there)

  31. JayCee*

    OP3- reading your question was a little awkward for me. Lol. As I am a corporate recruiter and DO often ask candidates that we are interested in moving forward with how things went for them. I’ll definitely look to change up my wording or flow of conversation here in the future. Just to provide some clarity as to what goes on in my head on this however: while I am HR for the company, I genuinely want to know that candidate’s thoughts and impression after having met with the hiring manager (HM). I am of the mind that this is VERY much their interview to determine if they want to work here as it is of the HM wants to bring you in as well. At the conclusion of the interview I will ask the same of the HM. If they are interested in moving forward with you as the top candidate, then I will reach out to you and have that same conversation (how did things go? Do you feel it’s the right fit? Do you have any other questions about the role or company? Etc.). For the record, I would NOT ask this of a candidate we are not interested in moving forward with. If I’m asking you, you can be pretty sure that we are interested in making an offer but I want your genuine opinion on your thoughts and experience. I hope this helps at least provide some clarity and as I mentioned, I too, will look to maybe reword the flow of that conversation. It never occurred to me as potentially being awkward on your end. :)

    1. foolofgrace*

      I genuinely want to know that candidate’s thoughts and impression after having met with the hiring manager

      But can you expect that the interviewee will be completely honest with you? After all, they just (probably) want the job, and they’re not going to have anything negative to say about the hiring manager.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I imagine most candidates would not be comfortable answering that candidly if there were any issues but they still needed the job!

    2. GNG*

      I think it’s fair enough that you genuinely want to know the candidate’s thoughts, and of course you need to ask this question to the HM in order to decide next steps. But asking it to the candidates does present an awkward situation for the candidates, because of the imbalance in power dynamics and information asymmetry.

      I’m a HM as well but obviously I’ve been on both sides. If I put myself in the candidate’s shoes, without the knowledge of why you called, there is no good way to answer that question. If they think you might be calling to reject them – would they say they think interview went great and risk looking like a fool when you tell them they didn’t get the job? If they think you might be calling to offer the job – would they say “honestly, the HM sounds like a jerk and the pay isn’t great but I really, really need this job so I’ll bear with it for a year or two”, and take the risk of you changing your mind? The vast majority of candidates don’t have nearly enough power in the process to share their honest thoughts, and they certainly won’t believe you’re a “safe” person with whom they can share it. Even if you ask it after you gave them the offer, it’s still awkward to be put on the spot immediately on the call.

    3. North Wind*

      I don’t mind this question so much, because if the job isn’t right for me it gives me a natural place to say, “Thanks for the interview, it’s been interesting to learn more about your project [or whatever positive true thing can be said], but I don’t think this is the right fit for me after all”. Or something to that effect. Or if I have a concern or follow-up question, it gives me space to ask (carefully, sure).

      But I also get how people could be uncomfortable. It’s one-sided. You’re not a neutral third party to the hiring manager and the candidate in this interaction. While you as a person might feel warmly toward a candidate and wish them well in general, your job is to benefit the company and hiring manager and the candidate’s job is to look out for their interests. I imagine a candidate asking the recruiter, “So how did you/the hiring manager feel about the interview?” <>

  32. agnes*

    #2 While I understand the concern, I think, using your analogy, I could have issues with a number of my colleagues’ alma maters. Some are affiliated with religious institutions that have turned their backs on child molestation issues; some are so focused on sports that they cheat,; some teach such mercenary approaches to business that I think it harms our country, some are so snooty about their brand, ….etc.

    We should all be treated with respect and tolerance in the workplace, and if your work colleague isn’t doing that, then that’s a valid thing to discuss. What college someone is attending is akin in my mind to what church they go to (or not); what political party they support, and their views on social issues…..as long as they keep those issues out of the workplace, it’s not my business.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I once fired someone for posting intensely bigoted stuff online/leading demonstrations against a section of society I belong to. Did they do this stuff in the workplace? No, but I reserve the right to not want to pay people who hold views like that.

    2. Colette*

      “Directs hate towards marginalized groups” and “snooty about their brand” are not remotely equivalent.

    3. HigherEdAdminista*

      This is a dangerous position to hold because there is no way to truly separate your views and beliefs from your actions. Do you think a white supremacist can ever really treat their colleagues of color with respect? Would they be just fine answering to a black manager? Would they make every effort to support their Latina colleague’s work? If they were the manager, could they be trusted to hire people when they view non-white people as inferior?

      This might seem like an extreme example, but really it isn’t at all; it happens every day. There is something known as the paradox of tolerance. If we want to claim we tolerate all people, that means we also tolerate intolerant and terrible people, which means that the environment will no longer be safe for anyone. We do not have to tolerate people who hold bigoted beliefs.

      (Not to mention you can’t really compare someone being “snooty” about their brand to someone suggesting gay people should burn in hell and trans people should be ostracized from society.)

      1. anonymous73*

        So everyone with terrible values and beliefs should be unemployed, or only employed with companies that share their beliefs? That’s a very slippery slope and where does it end?

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          So organizations should be forced to hire and retain folks with terrible values and beliefs, even at the risk of hurting non-bigoted employees? A person is not entitled to a job, especially if they cannot perform all functions of the position (and not being a bigot is generally a function of most positions).

        2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Yep. If you insist on holding bigoted viewpoints then don’t complain if the rest of society wants nothing to do with you.

          1. quill*

            People who make their workplaces unsafe for others don’t get to be in that workplace. If you’re a white supremacist you make the space unsafe for people who aren’t white, so businesses should get rid of the problem (the white supremacist.)

            You can always change your views and behaviors. You can’t buy safety by being less brown, less queer, less female, less jewish, etc… someone will always come along who decides that your existence makes you a viable target.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              We’re just asking for the right to exist, the people who insist that we *don’t* are in the wrong. I’m having real problems with this idea that being wary of bigots makes *us* the real bigots.

              Goddess I’m tired.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*


            (Though I’m sure there are plenty of other equally terrible people who would be willing to hire them so that was a ridiculous attempt at an argument anyway)

        3. Siege*

          Ideally, with the rest of humanity being allowed to flourish in ways that anti-human-rights folks don’t want them to. Like, I am not upset that my organization would reject someone who showed up with a track record of working at bigoted organizations out of hand; as a progressive union representing marginalized public employees, we can’t, don’t, and won’t play the “who gets to be treated like a person today?” game.

          Bigotry is a denial of someone else’s basic right to live a fulfilling life while being different from the bigot. If you can’t live your life without denying that Black people are people, or that queer people are allowed to be queer, or that people can be non-christian or not cis or not pregnant, you’re being a bigot. So ideally we end with no more bigots.

        4. Nothing Rhymes With Purple*

          No one has a mind scanner, you know. If someone with “terrible values and beliefs” can actually refrain from acting on or expressing them whatsoever, then no one will know they have those beliefs and will not penalize them for those beliefs. If people express “terrible values and beliefs” then what they are being penalized for is the expression of those beliefs and thus making the workplace unsafe for those affected by those beliefs. There is no actual way to penalize someone for beliefs they don’t act on, because there’s no other way to know what those beliefs are.

          All that said, choosing a university which espouses bigotry is definitely acting on a belief and should be noted as such.

        5. Tali*

          That seems very reasonable to me. If your beliefs are socially unacceptable, then you are going to have difficulty integrating into society…
          Why do bigots’ “right to be employed” (a right which no American has, btw) trump others’ right to be respected?

        6. Sylvan*

          Ideally it ends with them changing their behavior. You know, like any other people who are unemployable because of their own faults, like dishonesty, unreliability, or an inability to get along with their coworkers.

          The slippery slope is the name of a logical fallacy, btw.

      2. Bamcakes*

        I mean, who cares if they could be trusted to do those things, the more important question is whether your Black and Latina colleagues and reports could trust them.

      1. Nothing Rhymes With Purple*

        Ugh. I for one am tired of hearing people set up excusing bigotry as some form of tolerance.

  33. Enginuity*

    LW 4: I’m one of those technical experts at a vendor, and I think Allison’s script is perfect to open the conversation. It’s not going to sound like bad-mouthing but rather giving a heads up. What’s probably most useful for us to know, though, is if we need Roger to buy-in (or at least agree to get out of the way) or if this is merely a courtesy. What topics he’s likely to want to drill into (i.e. what has he been most skeptical about with this project or in past vendor meetings) would also be really helpful so we can come prepared or bring additional experts to go super deep, especially if he does have the power to block the purchase if he’s not happy.

    Fun fact: Rogers are partly why software vendors have separate technical experts that assist the sales teams, as it helps when you have product experts that can answer the questions IT thinks of and be credible with this audience. We actually role-play Roger before we send new people out to meet with customers so that they know how to leverage that knowledge to diffuse a difficult situation with a skeptical audience.

    So don’t feel bad for your vendor having to have this meeting, but definitely help them prep for it so that it will be a success.

    1. Artemesia*

      I particularly liked the earlier advice about identifying some way he can ‘negotiate’ successfully i.e. if the vendor offers a discount suggest that he let Roger negotiate that in the meeting.

  34. CheeryO*

    LW #5, I’m in the same field, and we’re slowly losing all of our staff members with 30+ years experience to retirement. I fear the exact scenario that you’re talking about (I can’t tell you how many times per month I get pointed to some ancient memo with exactly the guidance I was looking for), but it’s been difficult to retain institutional knowledge. Things that have NOT worked – passing on reams of paper files and USBs with tons of unorganized emails, long meetings where experienced staff monologue to newer staff. Things that have sort of worked – flash drives with organized files, ongoing shadowing/on-the-job training, thoughtful meetings where staff share the high points of their experience and their opinions about where we’ve been and where we’re headed.

    At the end of the day, try to have faith that the newer staff are smart, capable people. We are muddling through at my agency, even though we thought we wouldn’t be able to. There is more brainstorming and collaboration now, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and we lean on higher-ups and peers in other offices the way we didn’t need to, but the work gets done. If someone makes an informed decision but doesn’t know to consult some EPA guidance from 1982, well, the world will continue to turn.

  35. HigherEdAdminista*

    Regarding #2, in my line of work, I often run across students who have previously attended the university in question (or ones like it). Sometimes they are these type of bigoted universities with an online program and other times they are just online universities that are basically diploma mills.

    Oftentimes, people attend one of these programs because they aren’t strong students and they aren’t often accepted to regular universities. Or they want a degree, but they are busy working and with families and they want a program that makes less demands on them (aka a diploma mill). Students in these instances seem to think the important thing is just having the degree, not what they learn or where the degree is actually from.

    I say this because it is possible that she doesn’t know the background of this school, and is just looking for the fastest and easiest option to add that degree to her resume. It doesn’t mean she should attend there, nor does it excuse it, but your HR definitely should have been on top of blocking vouchers for these kind of programs. Of course, it is also possible that she picked this school specifically because she agrees with the religious stance in which case that is even worse.

  36. Barbara in Swampeast*

    LW2: I am so very disappointed in both the question and the answer.
    This kind of right OR wrong, us OR them, either/or thinking, is tearing this country apart. Just because you accept LGBT and women’s rights, does not give you pass to be bigoted and discriminatory toward those who are not. It makes you the same kind of small, non-thinking, non-accepting people that you feel superior to.

    1. HigherEdAdminista*

      Actually, this is entirely incorrect. Please look into the concept of the paradox of tolerance, a concept which has been discussed since at least the 1940s.

      To create a tolerant society, we do not not to tolerate any and all beliefs, including bigoted ones. We must indeed be intolerant of bigoted beliefs so that actual differences can flourish.

    2. LW#2*

      I’m honestly fine with you being disappointed in me. I’m keenly aware of the very real and traumatizing harms that University X has enacted on its marginalized undergrads, and I’m not interested in a both-sides POV on that.

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      OK, no. “If you’re so tolerant, why don’t you tolerate my intolerance?” is the biggest load of hooey in the world. Look up Popper’s “paradox of tolerance,” for more information on why.

      You want Nazis? That’s how you get Nazis. By defending their right to be Nazis.

    4. J.B.*

      I’m surprised at people who think it’s perfectly fine to support organizations that fight politically against others rights and expect never to have social or financial consequences to themselves.

    5. Leroy*

      If they were complaining about a university just because it was related to some religious organization (Baylor, Notre Dame, etc) I’d agree.
      But this is an organization that is actively against basic human rights.

    6. WellHere'sTheThingJanet*

      Just like there is no good middle ground between “I want to stab you” and “I want not to be stabbed”, there is no good middle ground or compromise between “I believe people are equal” and “I believe one race and one religion is superior to all others and *only they* deserve to qualify for human rights.”

    7. quill*

      Okay, so we’re doing activism 101 here today, got it.

      “Just because you accept LGBT and Women’s rights” is a misreading of the whole situation. EVERYONE gets human rights. That’s why they’re called “Human” rights. Opposing people’s human rights is, I hope we can agree, universally a bad thing.

      LW is not in a position to deny their manager the education that she has chosen (which would be a potential infringement of rights). Manager, who IS in a position to potentially impact LW’s employment, is going to a university that is actively against queer people having human rights. The university’s stance is bad. LW is creeped out by this, believes that the two reasons that manager would have chosen this are malice (bad) or ignorance (less bad) and wants to check if there’s potential that they have misread the situation.

      Your understanding seems to be a false equivalence that posits that queer people want to win a prize and defeat religious people. In reality, queer people want their human rights guaranteed. Much like you can’t negotiate with a wildfire, there isn’t an actual middle ground between “no human rights for you” and “I’d like my standard issue human rights please.”

  37. Lucious*

    On #1 : it may be a wise idea to simply accept that your workflow will be disrupted at a moments notice & depersonalize from their output quality. Unfortunately, the LW does not have the authority to mediate communication problems between her boss and grandboss. Further, LWs immediate boss is dealing with the grandboss by avoiding him wherever possible.

    Alisons advice is good- loop them both in wherever possible. However- especially in Niles’ case- LW should be prepared for radio silence followed by additional contradictory guidance anyway. In dysfunctional situations like this, productivity takes a backseat to turf battles and egos. If the boss and grandboss don’t care about delays and contradictory guidance, neither should the LW1 either.

  38. Roeslein*

    OP#5 might want to consider writing a book! A senior partner at my previous firm did this (there was literally no book available about how to do stuff in this specific subfield) and it’s now on its 3rd edition and being used by lots of people in the field.

  39. Bamcakes*

    LW3, I have been job seeking and interviewed 5 or 6 times over the last few months (first day of my new job today, hooray!) and a couple of people opened the post interview call like this. It honestly felt like they’d activated the “developmental feedback after observing an activity” script instead of the “feedback after an interview” script, and didn’t know how to reverse. It was so unnerving! How I felt about this morning’s interview will vary wildly depending on whether you’re offering me a job!

  40. Ryan*

    For LW5 two actions to consider
    1) hold learning sessions at a regular frequency and use the casestudy method. You dont have to actually write a casestudy. You can explain a situation that came up years ago (just go through your emails from way back and u will remember many) Ask how it could be handled and probe furthur so they can clear their thought process. Explain what actually happened. Resist temptation to simplify. Get into all the gory details so they get a feel of whats it was like then. End with discussing the actionable learnings and first principles.
    2. As in yin and yang, now start to trust the judgement and potential of your colleagues. Many people with high levels of expertise as you retire every year. And most often the work goes on. Do your best to teach and trust them to learn with you and then beyond you.

    1. J.B.*

      Having been a more junior person in this situation I think the biggest problems my bosses created for succession were never including anyone more junior in the current decision making process. Writing grants, negotiating work agreements, working with the department. Being able to find that decision from 20 years ago that EPA may or may not stand behind now is probably less important than understanding the overall workflow.

  41. Dave M.*

    Concerning #2. Attending university. Your reply has several problems. It seems the OP has a personal dislike for the university by the way they describe it. Just because there is a personal problem with a university doesn’t mean others can’t go there and learn valuable information and skills. The OP also states the supervisor is nice and supportive so the OP doesn’t have a leg to stand on for any supposed discrimination, which is where they seem to be going here. I can have a different worldview than someone else and still be their supervisor and give them all the support and training they need without allowing my worldview to color how I interact with them. This seems to be the case here and the OP is making assumptions not based on fact or experience. I would assume the school is accredited based on the title university and the business has deemed that it meets their tuition reimbursement policy. If the business knows the supervisor is going there and doesn’t have a problem it, especially given their stance on LGBTQ, why is the OP making such an issue of it?

    Perhaps the OP should focus on their work and not on things that don’t concern them. If the supervisor engages in verified discrimination based on the OP lifestyle or other protected behavior, then the OP will have a case and should go to HR with it. Until then, the OP needs to be more open and tolerant of others when they are not infringing on the OP’s lifestyle or work.

    1. Nesprin*

      I disagree entirely. If my supervisor is okay with bigotry, I dont want them to be my supervisor. If my supervisor is actively choosing to support the westboro baptist church, Liberty U etc, even if she is always pleasant to me, she is not a good person, and the company is not one that I want to work with.

    2. WellHere'sTheThingJanet*

      While I am all for “live and let live” the problem is that the university directly supports beliefs and policies that hurt people. Like, “literally shock the gay out of people” and “minority groups are less than human” level of hurting people. We cannot look at something like that as “eh, it’s not affecting me or my work personally so I should let them be”; it becomes a human rights issue. I hope you’d have a problem with the university if it was oppressing a people that OP2 wasn’t related to or a part of – simply the act of hurting other people should be enough to provoke emotion and action.

      If OP2’s employer is outspoken in the queer community then OP2 could certainly bring up with mgmt and say “My supervisor is a wonderful person and I have no complaints about her at all but I’m concerned that her association with this university could reflect poorly on our organization.” If companies can do that for employee FB posts they can certainly do it for other cases.

    3. JHunz*

      Sorry, but if a person’s supervisor has a personal belief that the kind of person you are should not exist or should be oppressed, that is very much something that concerns you. Even if they do not yet know that you fall into that category, you are very much at risk of them learning that information as long as they are your supervisor.

      And no, this is not an assumption not based on fact or experience. Choosing to associate with bigoted organizations is a leading indicator of a person being a bigot.

      1. Hannah*

        Exactly. The comments suggesting that OP needs to be more “open and tolerant” of bigotry are appalling to me. This isn’t a difference of opinion about what kind of pizza is the best or whether Shakespeare is a genius. It’s about whether people have a right to live their lives and/or exist peacefully. Not the same.

    4. LizM*

      Respectfully, discrimination is rarely as cut and dry as your second paragraph makes it sound. It can be quite subtle and hard to prove. Should an employee have to risk coming out to someone who attends a university that preaches that their sexual orientation or gender identity is a sin or mental illness in order to learn if their supervisor actually believes what’s being taught?

      It’s about power dynamics. It’s leadership’s job (including supervisors) to do the work to make the workplace inclusive and diverse, not employees’ jobs to wonder if it’s safe, or to bid their time until they’ve been able to build a legal case of discrimination to force the change.

    5. WindmillArms*

      Can I suggest doing some reading on the topic of the “paradox of tolerance”? It’s not acceptable to decide that since bigotry is aimed to [other group], you shouldn’t personally concern yourself with it.

    6. AJR*

      I think I’ve come across this situation before. In my field, a terminal degree (PhD, EdD, etc.) is usually necessary to advance to the higher levels of management. However, if you are even a slightly non-traditional student – let’s say you are a woman with a family living in a rural area who has worked up the ranks of a regional community college and is ready to take the next step up the management ladder, but obviously can’t leave your family and home to move to a major city for 2-5 years – the door might be nearly shut. You might have close to zero options for online programs in your discipline, since the online PhD is an extreme rarity. Let’s say your institution’s reimbursement policy only covers non-profit institutions – even fewer options.

      For some reason, there’s one religious school in particular (that shall remain unnamed) at the forefront of providing online programs at the doctoral level. So it is not wholly uncommon to see people in my field (especially women, first-generation, or otherwise non-traditional mid-level administrators) who hold a doctoral decree from this particular institution, even if the rest of their CV is pretty secular.

      Anyway, all of this is not to excuse the policies of this school, just to shed light on a phenomenon I’ve observed in the past. It is so frustrating that there aren’t more flexible options available for people in this situation.

        1. AJR*

          I can think of about 4-5 women of my acquaintance for whom this scenario was the case (mid-level higher ed administrators at rural community colleges who needed a terminal degree after they had started their family). Most of them went to less-than-reputable for-profits for their online PhDs, one went to this particular religious university for her online PhD, and one managed to find a program at a local state flagship that must have been part-time (I suspect her husband helped with childcare). Most of these women were also first- or second-generation Americans who spoke English as their second language. There really aren’t many other online alternatives out there.

          While I wouldn’t attend the university I’m thinking of or send my children there, I can’t help but think there but for the grace of God go I, having to choose between bad options. I was extremely fortunate and privileged to have been a traditional student and to have finished my graduate degrees in my twenties. Even so, when I look at options to get a PhD (both the credential and the training would be useful in my line of work), I look at the options and realize that door is probably permanently closed to me.

          My mom had that choice when I was a toddler – she got into several PhD programs at public institutions in our state – but faced with the prospect of having to leave her child to attend in-person coursework (my home is 4 hours from the nearest major city), and without having my dad’s support to do so, she was forced to turn the options down and never got her PhD, which permanently limited her prospects in her industry. This isn’t 1993 anymore – I wish there were better options out there.

    7. Jennifer Strange*

      It seems the OP has a personal dislike for the university by the way they describe it.

      If a university was openly opposed to you being allowed to exist, wouldn’t you have a personal dislike for it?

  42. Midwestern Communicator*

    For the OP wondering what to do about the difficult IT director – I’ve worked on both sides of a relationship like this and it goes so much more smoothly if the vendor knows about the dynamics in the room! I encourage you to be honest (but nice) about the difficult IT director.

    We have wonderful relationships with our vendors and deliver great results with them because we are so honest.

  43. anonymous73*

    I’m a bit surprised by Alison’s answer for #2. Unless the manager has done or said something offensive or in direct conflict with the policies of the company, you’re only assuming behavior based on the school she attends. You don’t seem to know any concrete facts about this person specifically, so why assume the worst? It’s no different than assuming that all members of a specific political party will have all of the same beliefs, no exceptions.

    1. Artemesia*

      We survive by judging danger; knowing someone’s political views or religious views when they embrace bigotry toward one’s own ‘group’ is pretty good information to trigger self protective behavior. Klansmen, Nazis and Americans who embrace those views don’t deserve a ‘clean slate’ when others interpret their behaviors.

      1. anonymous73*

        I stand by what I said. I don’t tolerate bigotry, but I also don’t make assumptions about people with knowing the details. And where someone attends school isn’t enough to go on IMO.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          And that is a sign that you aren’t heavily affected by these things.
          As someone who is, I pay attention to these flags as a method of protection.

          I wonder if you’re assuming that paying attention to that kind of thing means shunning someone.
          It doesn’t, but it means that there are certain issues that I will avoid when dealing with that person, and I will do what I can do avoid situation where they would have authority over me.

          1. WellHere'sTheThingJanet*

            Exactly – not having to guess and predict how people will react to you is a sign of privilege. As a cis white male, I don’t have to worry about being deadnamed, constantly worrying “what if people find out”, or be on high alert when answering questions about my home life.

          2. anonymous73*

            It has nothing to do with shunning anyone. But making an assumption on how someone MAY be towards others based on one fact that may or may not affect their behavior is the wrong way to go and helps nobody. I am the most skeptical person on the planet and I don’t new people until I get to know them well, but I have a problem with judging people before you actually know them. And knowing what school they attend is not KNOWING them.

            1. lazuli*

              The only way to find out conclusively if the LW’s manager is going to discriminate *against the LW* (because that is part of the question the LW is asking) is for the LW to come out of the closet and just… wait and see if the manager discriminates, bullies, belittles, etc. the LW? Or denies the LW raises, opportunities, projects?

              Does that seem like a prudent course of action for the LW? Do you give your entire life story and information that could potentially be used against you to people you barely know and who have power over you simply because you don’t want to make assumptions about what they’re going to do with that information? Or do you use clues and context as the relationship develops to determine what feels safe to share?

            2. Siege*

              So, you would rather that those of us who identify as non-white, non-cis, non-straight, non-Christian, or any combination of the above set ourselves on fire to keep the privileged bigots warm?

              Do you know how much it eats at me when I have to pretend that my partner and I are any of the above? We’re mostly none of them, other than he’s cis and I’m white, but we sure do pass well. And we pass because it gives us protection from bigots. I have had people comment on my “weirdly ethnic” last name – it’s just Italian. Oh no, an Italian last name in America! What would they do if it was Arabic, or Chinese? Do you know the pain that comes when your whole family won’t really talk about your relationship because staying on good terms with the evangelical Christian QAnon fanatic is more important than acting like my relationship with my partner, who is actually here and actually present and actually sees my family, unlike the ECQF, is complicated?

              You talk about making assumptions about how someone MAY act, and as though that’s the worst thing that could happen. No, the worst thing that can happen is being in a position of disprivilege and watching everyone around you sh!t on you because your happiness matters less, or your success at work is offensive to them, or whatever othering is available is more important to them than you are, apparently. No kidding I’m not going to out myself to someone who’s indicating that their choices might reflect beliefs antithetical to my existence! You’re talking about a behaviour someone can change being more important than MY LIFE, which is not conducted in a way that it should bother ANYONE. I don’t stand around being actively bisexual at people or something, because to the wrong person that is a dangerous thing to do, but you’re objecting to someone being concerned that a person with power over them is maybe gonna exercise that power. I can definitely see that the fact I was made a person who likes men and women is equal to being fired by someone who doesn’t like that I was made that way.

              Shame on every person in this post who’s just decided to justify going to a school that preaches hate by saying that there’s just really acceptable forms of ignorance and since they didn’t know how could anyone, anywhere, possibly know, and why on earth would LW 2 be AT ALL concerned about the impact of a bigot on their career. For one thing, y’all need to study you some power analysis, and get some disprivileged friends.

            3. Jennifer Strange*

              And knowing what school they attend is not KNOWING them.

              If someone attends a school that is openly anti-LGBTQ+ (meaning they are giving money to and supporting that school!) you can at least know that they aren’t bothered by anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments. And before you try to claim they may not know, these schools DO NOT HIDE IT. They would have absolutely no way of not knowing it.

    2. quill*

      You sidle away from people affiliated with anti-queer institutions when you’re queer for the same reason that you bear proof your food stash when camping. Nine times out of ten there’s no bear. The tenth time is dangerous enough that it’s worth the supposedly wasted effort of the other nine times.

    3. Nothing Rhymes With Purple*

      Because not ‘assuming the worst’ is a very expensive gamble, and the constant demands by the privileged that disprivileged people leave ourselves vulnerable to destruction for your comfort are really, really, truly exhausting.

  44. Greenville, SC - Buckle of the Awful Bible Belt*

    I thought the university named by LW2 was Bob Jones. If you don’t know anything about BoJo, look it up. Couples are not allowed to go on dates unless they have a chaperone. Women are taught to be “subservient” to their husbands. LGBT is considered a “curable disease.”

    The place should’ve been burned down years ago.

  45. Essess*

    To OP#1 – Just like other have said… I had this same situation and whenever I had conflicting instructions I would send an email to both of them stating, “Due to the directions by [boss with higher rank], I will be moving forward with [task] in the following way: [summary of instructions]”

    If this is a case of not understanding what Niles wants, you can add “Jane, do you have any additional comments/clarifications about X before I begin?”
    This way it’s all in writing and both see the information at the same time. If they don’t agree, or start giving you conflicting info in email responses, you can reply that you cannot begin until they have reached a consensus. It puts it on them to work it out first.

  46. *daha**

    There’s a good chance the contents of the online grad course were not developed in-house and reflect neither the positions nor qualities of the university. Companies like 2U create the course content. They offer the courses to universities where it is branded with their ID and sold at a markup to grad students who are trying to invest in their careers and improve their skills and marketability.
    For recent articles on the practice, do a search on “graduate programs cash cow”. Even universities known for their selective admissions are doing this.
    So this particular person won’t be part of the on-campus culture and (probably) won’t be indoctrinated in it by the course material. That still leaves open the question of whether she chose that university specifically to claim a connection to their mindset and public bigotry.

    1. LW#2*

      Or, even if she didn’t choose it specifically to be like “yay, I support University X’s aims”… she at least didn’t see them as a barrier. Also not great, right?

      So there’s a behind-the-scenes company coming up with similar content for a zillion schools? Then isn’t this like saying, “Companies 1 through 10 will all sell me an identical widget that costs $50k bare minimum. Companies 1 through 9 are seen as neutral to good stewards of their employee population. Company 10 actively discriminates against its queer employees. From where should I buy the widget?” Isn’t the answer, *anywhere but Company 10*???

      I take your point that her courses of study probably won’t be full of hate, and I guess that’s worth something.

      1. Observer*

        Then isn’t this like saying, “Companies 1 through 10 will all sell me an identical widget that costs $50k bare minimum. Companies 1 through 9 are seen as neutral to good stewards of their employee population. Company 10 actively discriminates against its queer employees. From where should I buy the widget?” Isn’t the answer, *anywhere but Company 10*???

        That’s reasonable – assuming you KNOW that there are 9 other options and that you actually have access to those options one way or another. The first is unlikely – It’s obviously not a secret but it’s not the kind of thing that is widely known or likely to show up in normal searches. The latter is also a surprisingly common issue for all sorts of reasons.

        Should you use this as a data point? Absolutely. Should you keep quiet about your orientation? Probably a good idea, as a practical matter. Also, a good idea, cultivate personal allies. That can be surprisingly useful if your manager turns out to be problematic in a professional and practical way.

  47. LW#2*

    Or, even if she didn’t choose it specifically to be like “yay, I support University X’s aims”… she at least didn’t see them as a barrier. Also not great, right?

    So there’s a behind-the-scenes company coming up with similar content for a zillion schools? Then isn’t this like saying, “Companies 1 through 10 will all sell me an identical widget that costs $50k bare minimum. Companies 1 through 9 are seen as neutral to good stewards of their employee population. Company 10 actively discriminates against its queer employees. From where should I buy the widget?” Isn’t the answer, *anywhere but Company 10*???

    I take your point that her courses of study probably won’t be full of hate, and I guess that’s worth something.

  48. Daisy-dog*

    Regarding #3 – I once was working with an external recruiter who set up an interview for me. After the interview, she called and asked how I thought it went. I thought it went great and I was really excited to learn more. She then said that they didn’t think it was a good fit and were going to pass. This was also just 30 minutes after the interview. I can understand not wanting to abruptly turn someone down, but teasing it with the “How’d it go?” question when she already knew it did not go well was awful.

    Just don’t ask vague questions. Ask what you actually want to know.

  49. Fabulous*

    #5 – I’m in the same situation, except on the receiving end. My (for lack of a better word since we do the same job) Team Lead has talked about retiring “in the next 18-24 months” for the better part of a year now, so I’m essentially terrified because her institutional knowledge is invaluable.

    She hasn’t been around quite as long as you have, but she’s seen multiple iterations of the business (as have I in the last 5 years) and has been in the same position for as long as I’ve been at the company, whereas my role has morphed throughout the years. I used to work in a parallel role for a different team and modeled a lot of my processes after her larger “historic” team, but our teams were only just combined recently and there’s SO much to catch up on.

    We’re thankfully doing a lot of recording of our processes and procedures, but I’m still so nervous about her departure and I’m already having a lot of inadequacy feelings, even though nothing’s been officially announced. I think the only real thing that’s been helping me is the constant reminders that I’m not expected to know everything, there’s no way I’ll know everything she does, it only will come with time.

  50. cassielfsw*

    OP1 several years in the future after a few rounds of restructuring:

    I have eight different bosses right now.
    I beg your pardon?
    Peter Gibbons: Eight bosses.
    Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That’s my only real motivation is not to be hassled; that, and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.

  51. employment lawyah*

    2. My manager attends a notoriously bigoted university
    So what?

    Do you have OTHER evidence that she is acting in a bigoted fashion? If so, act on that evidence.

    But this isn’t it: the school she chooses to attend is not much of your business. Maybe she’s going there because she’s a bigot. Maybe she likes practicing arguments against bigots. Maybe there’s some other, unrelated, reason.

    Generally speaking it’s not ideal to judge people by this sort of complex multi-factor choice. Would YOU want everyone to do that about all of your choices? I wouldn’t! Moreover, this sort of “association with a group which I believe is related to X, means you support X” stuff goes both ways, and often ends up badly for the very disempowered groups which you probably like.

    4. Can I warn a vendor about our difficult IT director?
    Yes, but do it off record (not email!) and be aware that it may get back to your director.

    “FYI, you’ll be working with me, not Roger” is a good one.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      People’s choices are basically all we have to judge them on. What else is there? What you choose to do and how you choose to act is what people see of you and informs what they think of you.

      If you choose to support a harmful organization then people may see you as an unsafe person. That is a natural consequence of your choice.

      1. quill*

        Also: being wary of a person is not harming them. Keeping your identity quiet is not harming someone. People who make a fuss that someone thinking they might be bad / racist / intolerant / mean are putting their comfort over other people’s safety.

    2. Nothing Rhymes With Purple*

      One would think that the “trying to protect oneself from bigotry is just as bad or worse than bigotry” argument would be worn out by now.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Right? Got to say some of my faith in humanity has been well eroded today by the ‘you must tolerate intolerance’ stuff.

        1. quill*

          Very self-centered worldviews coming out of the woodwork today, just like *checks watch* last time we had a question about being queer in the workplace.

          People, please consider that the idea that someone COULD be a bigot is not nearly as damaging as bigotry is. There is no witch hunt here.

      2. employment lawyah*

        Why is it so hard to see?

        Life is complex. “trying to protect oneself from bigotry is just as bad or worse than bigotry” is rarely but sometimes true.

        When there’s major bigotry which is actually happening, for example, it doesn’t matter what the consequences are of protecting yourself; you can do it anyway.

        But it should also be obvious that this “protecting myself is justified” claim isn’t always true, and that it depends on the situation.

        For example, you can look at the scale and type of the bigotry itself (major, minor, objective, subjective). And you can look at surety of it (actually happening right how, virtually guaranteed, very likely, and so on, all the way down to “feared to be theoretically possible.”)

        This case involves no actual bigotry on the part of the manager, and something approaching “feared to be theoretically possible” level.

        1. nothing rhymes with purple*

          You’re arguing that LW#2 has to wait for the boss to hurt her with bigotry before she’s “allowed” to take steps to deal with it. I wrote a whole long comment below about why this is impractically dangerous for disprivileged people, but really, the old aphorism about barn doors and horses should suffice. People approve of being proactive in so many other fields, but when it comes to dealing with bigotry we are supposed to let ourselves be harmed, knowing the harm will be ongoing, to protect the sensibilities of those who are uncomfortable with how others would think of them? Why is it so “hard to see” how utterly ridiculous that is?

            1. nothing rhymes with purple*

              Why are disprivileged people required to have formal trials to be allowed to have opinions?

    3. rototiller*

      These comments, man. You got some “how dare you judge someone for their BELIEFS” and some “how dare you judge someone for their CHOICES and ACTIONS” and a few that somehow do both at once. Have y’all considered working on this irrational fear of being judged by anyone, ever? Maybe take an improv class or something?

  52. AngryOwl*

    OP2, just want to reiterate that you’re 100% valid in both your identity and asking this question. Anyone saying this isn’t something to wonder about it someone who doesn’t have to worry about their safety. I hope the supervisor continues to be lovely to you.

  53. Pyjamas*

    op2, are you a recent college graduate? If so, the manager may be bringing up going to school as a way to bridge the age gap. When you’ve been there longer, you might find other things you have in common and chit chat will tend naturally to those topics. Meanwhile, best of luck with the job.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      What on earth does this have to do with the question? The issue isn’t that the manager is bringing it up, it’s that the manager is choosing to attend a university that openly believes OP doesn’t have the right to exist.

  54. Canadian Librarian #72*

    Maybe don’t call it University X, because that’s the interim name for the university formerly known as Ryerson (it’s in the process of divesting itself from the colonial legacy of Egerton Ryerson, who was one of the architects of the residential school system).

  55. AnotherLibrarian*

    So, I’ve been going back and forth on commenting on LW2, because I fundamentally agree with Alison, in principle. A person should not support an organization that is bigoted. However, from a practical standpoint, having worked in higher-ed for over a decade (some of which was in a Christian college), I am well aware there are often limitations on people’s options, particularly for online only graduate programs. Plus, some have very good marketing that manages to obscure their origins and culture. (I shocked a friend when I told them a program they were considering was religious. They had no idea. I only knew, because part of my job was to know.) To LW2, I will paraphrase some wisdom from another friend, “Showing people grace and assuming the best of intentions doesn’t mean you should put yourself in a position where you might be harmed. People will show you who they are through their actions, not their words.” I’m sorry you are dealing with this LW2. Hopefully, that the manager is remote makes this a little easier to handle.

  56. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    Regarding OP #5

    There’s not much OP can do to transfer institutional knowledge now. It takes an incredibly long time to amount this information, and it can be extremely difficult to convey the nuances that went behind the decision making process. For the rest of us considering retirement or other opportunities, there are things that we can do to make accommodations for the eventual passing of the torch.

    Keep written policies and procedures: Whenever you make a policy, have a corresponding notes page that provides the background on why the policy was made, and any possible citations. You won’t always do this as some PnP are just standard industry practices that don’t really need much conveyance.

    Keep a work journal: I use mine to plan out my day/week, and also track my thoughts on different decisions made. I’ve found this extremely useful when I need to remind myself why I did or did not do something. I have a work-work journal, and personal-work journal; the work version contains everything pertinent to my role with that organization and I’m happy to hand-off to my replacement as I exit, while the personal version contains much of the same information (minus confidential info) and allows me to keep my thoughts long-term for other endeavors and better track my career.

    Avoid management debt (I stole this concept from software development): the more decisions you’re making on the fly, or that need to route through a specific decision maker, the more likely there will be an interruption in decision making if they’re not available. Similarly, the more your team is making adjustments for poorly designed systems, the harder it’s going to be to train new hires or exit with minimal impact on operations. Take the time now to do things right or correct for errors in process. Unlike fiscal debt, you can’t just pay off management debt little by little, it eventually just comes crashing down at your feet.

    Develop a strong business continuity plan: Keep job descriptions well worded and up to date, keep track of duty rosters, and assign backups. Produce plans for the most common/impactful disasters your organization could face: natural disaster, platform failures, death of a key employee, and so on.

  57. HelloHello*

    In Re: Letter #I work for a large organization in the department that specifically processes tuition reimbursements. There are thousands of schools and it would truly be impossible to vet all of them. The only real solution to reimburse everybody, or not offer the benefit at all. Our employees attend all sorts of online schools (Most I’ve never heard of before). Some of them are based out of other countries. I am pretty confident that many of these schools are scams. If someone was attending “Murder Innocent Puppies and Kittens University”, they still get the benefit.

  58. Nothing Rhymes With Purple*

    Regarding Letter #2:

    I wonder sometimes if people who have not experienced a certain kind of risk don’t realize it exists. If LW#2 comes out to Currently Lovely Boss [who willingly attends a vociferously bigoted university], she does not just risk a moment of bigotry — she risks a continuing change in their relationship, one which can have heavy consequences that don’t leave obvious proof. Can LW#2 show evidence that CLB stopped mentioning her good work to other managers because she came out? How can LW#2 quantify CLB becoming more critical of her work since she came out, let alone assess its fairness? Can LW#2 prove that CLB didn’t recommend her for that internal promotion or this raise because she came out? Can LW#2 convince HR that a string of written warnings about issues that LW#2 doesn’t see anyone else getting written up for are because she came out? (How can LW#2 even know what others are getting written up for or not?)

    No, not unless CLB flat out says she is downgrading LW#2 for being queer, and people don’t admit that kind of thing. And yet those of us who have come out and had someone’s entire attitude towards us change, we _know_ when it’s the reason why. (This is a way that bigotry operates, not only homophobia but more widely — does anyone remember the letter from a larger woman whose boss really liked her till they met in person and then the boss turned on her, and it was very clear that it was because the boss was being fatphobic towards her but how would one nail it down?)

    Many members of the commentariat here identify as liberal. But one thing I have seen, over and over again, not least as a Black queer woman, is how many liberals will disregard disprivileged people’s lived experience in favor of setting the discomfort of being mistaken for a bigot* over the safety of actual disprivileged people. Even disprivileged people do this to each other! It’s very human and it’s holding us all back.

    *: or of having one’s bigotry pointed out, so that one can eradicate it instead of clinging to it while yelling “NO YOU”, but I digress.

    I’ve seen this over and over again while reading here, and this time I just had to say something. Please stop believing that everyone who is nice in surface level interactions can never change their behavior, or that bigotry is only perpetuated by obviously jerkish jerks. Very nice kind people can and do perpetuate bigotry every day, but whether CLB doesn’t recommend LW#2 for a promotion because she thinks filthy [expletives] should go away or because she is just concerned about someone with those _tendencies_ taking a job that involves, say, children, LW#2 still wouldn’t get the promotion. And that’s the risk LW#2 has to evaluate.

    1. Tali*

      Great post.
      Seriously shocked at the idea that we can’t judge someone for their choices and actions. Manager is either actively bigoted herself, or so clueless and naive that she risks harming LW through her dangerous ignorance (ex. promoting a university that discriminates against people like LW).
      Either way Manager is not an ally and it is safer for LW to be cautious.
      Many liberal/left-leaning people still think that bigotry is perpetrated only by angry, spittle-flying mobs with signs. Every movie about race has one Obvious Bigot so that the moderate white/straight/cis audience can feel reassured about their own beliefs, “at least I’m not that bad”, ignoring that we ourselves perpetuate and benefit from the systemic injustices that put the Obvious Bigot in a place of power. In reality, many people (all, to some degree) think and act in bigoted ways, and yet are sweet and polite, especially to people Like Them.

  59. PlainGrayLady*

    Op#2, I agree completely with Alison’s thoughts. I actually tried to get my organization to stop hiring graduates completely from a well-known university with an anti-LGBTQ+ slant, although I was overruled by a more senior executive that it might appear “anti-Islamic.” Frustratingly, my presentation on Popper’s parable of Tolerance went nowhere either.

    I’ll keep pushing. Either you recognize people’s rights to existence or not; there is no middle ground here.

  60. 4dhouse*


    I once had a manager leave me a message asking me to call her back after a series of interviews. Obviously it was an offer – one wouldn’t have you call them to say thanks but no thanks…right? Nope – it was a decline. Super awkward and humiliating. Some dead air. I wish I would have told her that at the time so she wouldn’t do it to the next candidate.

  61. Nodramalama*

    Maybe I’m missing something because I’m not American, but why is everyone so sure that the co-worker knows this university is homophobic etc? I have a lot of friends who attended Australian Catholic University. I, and I’m sure they couldn’t tell you the first thing about the politics of the actual university.

  62. jotab (she/her)*

    2 .The difficulty I find with this question/answer is that an admittedly “lovely and supportive” person cannot be tolerated because her views differ from yours. Why should no one attend a Catholic school for example? The Church loves all people. The simplest definition of love is “willing the good of the other”. I give her full credit for coming out as Christian if the response from those around her accuse her of being anti-everything with no basis in fact. When someone actively supports these positions in love – not hate – why are we condemned about our worldview? An Evangelical Christian should be able to live her life as freely as an LGBQT+ person.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      If those “views” are that OP doesn’t have the right to exist/have equal rights then no, we don’t need to tolerate that person. People above have outlined it way better, I suggest you read those responses.

    2. rototiller*

      Look, you can fantasize about “coming out” as Christian and being persecuted all you want, queer people are still gonna face hostility in the workplace that you know nothing about. Diocletian’s been dead for 17 centuries and the suffering of others is not a buffet you get to sample from.

  63. Pretreatment Coordinator*

    LW#5 here. I’ve been on vacation for a week, so I didn’t know this was going to be published until I got back this morning.

    Thank you all for the advice, I’m already doing some of the suggestions, and will be implementing some of the others. I like the one-on-one sessions that are open ended, especially. One of the things I’ve started doing is, rather than saying “do this”, saying “What do you think we should do?” then having them explain why they suggested that.

    One thing I did 20 years ago, seeing this problem for the new people getting into the program, was I created a then Yahoo Group (now on groups.io) to facilitate information transfer and one place storage of as many of those ancient memos from the Three Letter Agency. It’s now up to ~2500 members. To CheeryO and Fabulous, if you aren’t a member of the online group for “Pretreatment Coordinators”, go to groups.io and join the group inside the quotes without the space.

    Unfortunately, the rules make it almost impossible to consult for my employer for a year after I retire.

  64. NP204*

    I feel #2 – we have such a university near hear (I suspect it could be the same) and when I find a colleague went there, I am appalled and second guess what I know about that person

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