updates: manager can’t let go of a disagreement, the robocallers, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are five updates from past letter-writers.

1. My manager won’t stop talking about a disagreement I had with a coworker months ago (#2 at the link)

The day before you published my post, I had another 1:1 with my boss and yes, she did bring it up again! Or rather, it actually entered the conversation organically. We ended up discussing Jane’s next project and she was curious whether I’d spoken with her since the disagreement (I haven’t, though our last interaction was fine). I ended up asking her whether or not Jane still seemed angry and why we kept revisiting the situation, to which she replied that Jane tends to hold grudges and take things a lot more personally than most, and in order to be able to record the incident for their quarterly review, she needed to talk about it, and had spoken with me to keep things “even” between us, since Jane apparently threw a fit that I wasn’t being “talked to” enough about it.

Boss also gave me a bit more insight into their conversations about it, reiterating that *I* did nothing wrong, that Jane’s reaction was way out of line, and Jane is the one who needs to recalibrate on it. Though based on her wording, it seems like she may not be communicating the same (clear) message to Jane.

Since then … For this fiscal year (we roll over in the summer) my boss has essentially tasked me with adding professional development in emotional intelligence and communication tone into my goals. Apparently some other “teapot designers” have also had issues with my more direct communication style and have been getting upset when I present better or different design ideas because they’re not used to someone questioning their work. I supposedly need to work on “softening the blow” and make them think it’s their idea, and so forth. I’m not sure I totally agree with her advice, but since I’m newer to the team, lower on the totem pole, and don’t have as much political capital, I’m open to trying it. Plus, I know it’ll help in my personal life as well; my husband has often said I have a tone problem too. I don’t generally hear an issue on my own, but sometimes he has super intense reactions to things I say, so I know something’s gotta be up.

On top of everything else, I’ve been toying with the possibility that I may have ADHD or some other cognitive thing going on. I’ve been noticing more and more interference with my daily life, starting around the time this original issue presented itself. I’m in the process of trying to set up my first psychiatric appointment through my EAP to help me diagnose any underlying issues. I don’t know if understanding and getting help for that will also help my tone, but I think it’ll at least help to slow down my thought process so I can communicate something without being misconstrued.

On a separate note, this update post actually spurred a lot of my introspection and suspected conclusions about what’s been going on, so a HUGE thank you to this person for sharing their progress with us.

2. Can I use my vacation time to work at a second job? (#5 at the link)

I have a very not-exciting update. Exactly nothing happened, no one was concerned, and I never even wound up doing SideJob with the PTO I had to burn. BUT it was reassuring to know I wasn’t doing anything shady (and I enjoyed the debate in the comments!). And don’t worry, there was PLENTY of doing nothing while watching terrible TV…..which is why I was kind of desperate to get out of the house and do something I enjoy. I was rapidly reaching the point where that went from relaxing to unhealthy.

I did have a job once where they explicitly said you could not use paid vacation time for anything else paid, but I think that may have been the job where someone who was chronically late was caught working at a bagel shop two blocks from the office during regular working hours, so I may have been overthinking it…

3. My coworker loves to abuse robocallers

Well, I didn’t end up saying anything because as the only person from my department in the room I felt a bit intimidated. Unfortunately the trend has spread. Multiple people now make it almost a game of who can shame or waste the most time of robocallers. Fergus is still the absolute worst though.

4. I was denied a request to use a different computer because of a heavy smoker (#2 at the link; first update here)

I’ve changed jobs 2 times since my last update. It’s just interesting to read my old letters and think about them in the context of covid-19. Like, a face mask would have probably solved my problem and was one of the accommodations that I requested way back in 2014, and was refused. It’s just yet another example of Covid making something previously “impossible” for the disabled, now becoming normal when it affects everyone.

At my current job I am having issues because I found out that someone just hired to my role in a similar unit, with 10 years less experience than me is making 15% more thanks to being hired under different budget VPs/salary compression/not negotiating more when I was hired in 2017 and when I changed jobs internally in 2018. but that’s a whole other journey!

5. Friday good news (#5 at the link)

I wrote in August ’21 for Good News Friday. I was the poster who took a small-town reporter job on a newspaper and was able to give up a poorly-paid, not-respected paraprofessional work in the public schools.

Posters were appropriately horrified that I would basically be making twice the salary working for a small paper as opposed to working with developmentally disabled teens. (It’s still not THAT much money, but in our rural area, it’s an improvement).

I am happy to report that everything is working out well – I had freelanced for this paper for quite awhile so I knew the editor and her working style. We don’t have a design team (writers do it themselves!) so re-learning page design was a challenge. My editor said “It’s not a sprint, don’t worry about it” so I believed her (I can’t remember the last time I believed someone who had authority over me at work) and now I am proud to say that within three months I can design pages and lay out copy. I had forgotten how satisfying it is!

I sit in a quiet room and write with other dedicated, nice people and then I get to go out and talk to people who have something interesting to say/promote/agitate for. My hours are flexible and my commute is 2.5 minutes.

The fun part is that my former Vice Principal at my school job happens to…run in the same circles as I do. This guy is the very definition of the glass ceiling – he was a classroom teacher for a year before getting promoted to VP. (Women teachers are super-overlooked and discounted after years in the classroom if they aspire to administration).

It’s a small town, so we definitely would have run into each other, but because I cover the arts and politics, our interaction has been overlapping. He was a condescending jerk who did not realize I have education and connections and, now, outreach to affect change.

I now have to attend events where he has to smile at my camera, treat me well, and offer quotes for articles that reflect on his school. He is scared of me. I almost feel bad, but I don’t quite feel bad. It throws him off his game when I smile.

Thank you for your advice, thanks to the thoughtful comment-givers at AAM. For those who aren’t quite happy at work right now, it will happen!

{ 152 comments… read them below }

  1. OftenOblivious*

    I feel like OP5 should add in a “Highlight a local teacher” column…which happens to be largely women (and, of course, all worthy persons). I also imagine OPs smile like a friendly shark, all those lovely, lovely sharp teeth.

    1. Artemesia*

      I was a school teacher in the late 60s and I so well remember how new male teachers were sought out and groomed for promotion and very competent women overlooked. It was possible for a sharp woman to move to administration but barely — while young presentable guys would be taken under the wing and moved into leadership positions very quickly. I will share your shadenfreude as a power broker in your community.

      1. Clisby*

        My mother was really critical of this, too. She started out as a teacher in 1948, when the norm was that an elementary school principal was a woman with a LOT of classroom experience. Fast-forward to my mother marrying and staying home with us kids until kid #6 went to school – and elementary school principals typically were men with negligible classroom experience. (This would have been about 1969.)

        1. Princesss Sparklepony*

          Your comment reminds me of my grammar school in the early 60’s. The principal was a woman with teaching experience. But the VP was a man who’s job it was to scare the kids. Now, my sister is a teacher nearing retirement, still in the classroom and her principal is a man.

    2. Sara without an H*

      He is scared of me. I almost feel bad, but I don’t quite feel bad. It throws him off his game when I smile.

      This is…peculiarly satisfying. Congratulations, OP#5, and may you have a long and successful career making pompous officials squirm.

    3. OP5*

      Hi, it’s OP5 here! We actually do have a column like that :) and we have an entire page for student awards, etc. that doesn’t have to do with sports!

      1. OyHiOh*

        Oh, this is lovely! Our local schools have a hard time getting non-sports student achievements featured in the paper. Wonderful to see that some papers are choosing to highlight non-sport achievement too.

    4. Carol the happy elf*

      I love you for that comment, because I had a delicious “Finding Nemo” moment, where they have a shark support group meeting. We have a shark meme in our locker room that says ” Jerks are friends, not food!”

      1. Your Local Password Resetter*

        Served with a smile, and a professional face that would never poison someone’s meal as their justly deserved comuppance, nossirree.

  2. EPLawyer*

    #1’s manager is not managing. She is letting Jane run the show. Everyone in a situation does not need to be talked to evenly. Jane needs to be told to get over her grudges. Also now I am seriously wondering if the rest of the designer are men and OP is a woman. Because I cannot IMAGINE telling a man “oh you need to make the ideas look like theirs.” A good idea is a good idea regardless of who it comes from. Are there diplomatic ways to express your better idea? Sure. But making it seem like the other person’s idea is NOT the only solution.

    #3 – UGH. This is what happens when toxic behavior is allowed to spread. Nobody likes robocalls. But the best way to handle them is just to hang up.

    1. Your Local Password Resetter*

      #1 Raised my eyebrows a bit too. It’s certainly possible that OP needs to be a bit more diplomatic. Telling people they’re wrong without getting their hackles up is a delicate and difficult art after all.
      But a lot of the language certainly echoes the sexist nonsense women have to deal with whenever they speak up or say things other people don’t like to hear.
      Also, the manager does not strike me as particularly good at handling people with how she handled Jane’s behaviour, so I would take her advice with a pinch of salt. Certainly don’t discount your own ideas just because of other people’s ego’s.

      1. Rav*

        That gave me those vibes too.

        Diplomacy goes both ways. If I want to be offended by something, by golly I will find something.

        Not that they shouldn’t learn to soften their words, but sometimes it’s so easy to take offense.

      2. Eye roll*

        Raised my eyebrows through the roof.

        I came from politics, so telling people unpleasant things diplomatically, or offering a verbal smackdown as required were both tools in my arsenal, and I could tell the difference. So when my manager spent my first few reviews telling me to be nicer when I give feedback and be more diplomatic when correcting people, I pushed back for years asking for specific examples or for ways I was supposed to do things… until the feedback was explicitly made into don’t tell X, Y, Z, Q (all men) they are wrong, and try and get them to adopt your improvements so they get credit for them. Yeah, no.

        Add that to the clear example of a bad manager managing badly, and I don’t think OP has the EI problem they think they do.

        1. Birdie*

          Same. I’ve always been told I’m a bit too abrasive–but I’ve always been a woman working in places dominated by men. On the rare occasion I’ve worked for and with women, the abrasive label magically disappears.

          Now, I’m a woman working in the South and oh boy is it a thousand times worse. I can’t even politely try to tell a man that he is wrong or set any sort of boundary without being accused of not being a team player (or worse). Being direct as a woman, not allowing men to stomp all over you……absolutely not tolerated and you will be disciplined.

          So, yeah, I’m job hunting. The management at my current job is terrible, but my prior job in the same Southern city had many of the same problems.

    2. Nanani*

      #1, I doubt you have a tone problem. You have a manager problem and a sexism problem.
      It’s not actually part of professional behaviour to puff your colleague’s egos, and its shitty to suggest it.

      You might want to look into changing jobs or at least teams because this shit will only get worse.

      1. Viette*

        I think that if #1 is noticing that they have tone problems in their personal life as well as all across their professional life, it’s very likely they *do* have a problem. The boss may well be dealing with it in an incredibly sexist way on top of that.

        1. pancakes*

          It sounds like they don’t have a handle on that at all, though – they said their husband “has super intense reactions to things I say, so I know something’s gotta be up,” but without knowing anything at all about the husband’s personality, it could be that he has super intense reactions to things other people say as well, or to certain topics.

      2. WellRed*

        She may or may not have a tone problem but the answer is not letting other people claim your ideas as their own! Wtf?

        1. Threeve*

          I have a hunch that the advice may have been closer to “even if you make major changes to someone’s work, don’t present it as completely tossing out everything they’ve done.”

    3. Sea Anemone*

      if the rest of the designer are men

      Directness is one of those things that is received poorly from women by both men and women.

        1. Sea Anemone*

          If you can elaborate on your question, I’d be happy to expand, but I can’t tell what you are asking.

          1. Stevie*

            I think it’s the formatting of your comment. Is the first part a quote, and the second part your thoughts on it?

            1. Sea Anemone*

              Yes, I had a typo in the close tag that I didn’t see until after I hit submit. It’s not that hard to figure that out, though.

      1. Nanani*

        Hahahahahhahahahaha no

        Directness from women is recieved as (insert gendered slur here) and is treated as normal for men.

        1. Stevie*

          Right, I think that’s what that comment is agreeing with you. Both women and men see women behaving assertively as a negative.

    4. Wintermute*

      I agree about the manager abdicating responsibility and being irresponsible not telling Jane that “not holding grudges unproductively against coworkers over nonexistent slights” is a hard job requirement for continued employment.

      But I don’t agree that being told to soften a message is gendered, I’ve seen plenty of men given that advice as well as some women, I’ve even GIVEN men that advice when they’ve complained that management or senior employees never seem to take any of their input.

      It crops up a lot in places where you have long-term senior entrenched employees with a bad case of “not invented here” syndrome where they refuse to hear any ideas that come from outside the company or even their own small team. It’s also a common symptom of workplaces that have excessively feudal departments that become the demense of a manager and are stocked with “their people”, and thus ideas from outside are threatening to the manager’s little fief.

      It’s often beyond the scope of your ability to fix the entire culture, and impractical to get rid of everyone that buys into that way of thinking, so it’s most effective to teach junior associates to soft-pedal ideas and “manage up” subtly because they’re more effective that way.

      It’s also super common advice to people relatively fresh to the business world who come in bursting with great ideas and no conception that “your methods are outdated, your knowledge is stale and your practices are wasteful” is not a great opening position to secure collaboration from.

      1. Sea Anemone*

        But I don’t agree that being told to soften a message is gendered

        It is very much gendered, and racialized, and there are multiple studies confirming so. Being gendered doesn’t mean something always and only happens to women (or men). It means that it is a clear pattern that disproportionately affects one group vs. the other when data are examined across large groups.

        1. Zweisatz*

          +1 Wintermute does raise great points about when this talk is needed for people of all genders. Nevertheless, women and people of color sure are getting this feedback more often and especially in inappropriate places when they are merely politely raising a fair point.

          As for the letter writer. It could partly be gendered (if applicable), but due to the feedback in private life, going for an EAP sounds like a great choice to see if there’s anything more to it. I do think though that the manager is handling this really badly. “If I talk five times with Jane about this I need to speak to LW about it five times.” is super weird. That’s not managing. That’s how children triangulate their friendship problems.

      2. Smithy*

        Yes – this is a case where the advice can be good and also be coming from within a larger workplace with sexist issues.

        I had one job in a relatively small off-shoot office to a very large “parent” bureaucratic organization. Newer hires in our office had a relatively easy time getting hired/moving up and changes could theoretically happen within the scope of our office fairly easily. Theoretically, you could go to the CEO and say “I have this idea” and it could be in implementation by the next week.

        However….that was only if your idea was strictly confined to the remit of our office and had no overlap to the large parent org. With the parent org, making any moves was highly bureaucratic, political, difficult, etc. And it took a while to learn exactly where those lines were and not every team had the same level of flexibility. So it was not uncommon for more junior staff to get professional development advice around managing up, because that was more straight forward than the minutiae of when a situation might be parent org tied.

        If you told your boss “X is the right idea cause it’s evidence based, efficient, and everyone else in our sector is doing it. We’re actually behind doing it this way.” – and it was an idea connected to the parent org, you just gave your boss the job of rewriting the entire pitch. Which was far more likely to be received as difficult no matter how good the idea. However, finding a way to share the same material in a pitch that could allow our office to eventually go to parent org and flatter them, soft sell it, blah blah – far more effective.

        The OP’s office may indeed be sexist. And you can certainly argue that those kind of highly bureaucratic systems that make change difficult are broadly speaking patriarchal and/or sexist. But depending on the industry and the overall job, the OP having the tools to manage up softly as well as directly can be seen as an asset.

    5. MK*

      I don’t think we help OPs by ascribing everything to others or institutional problems. The fact is that multiple coworkers of the OP, plus their spouse, have an issue with their communication style; common logic says that there likely is an issue there. Bringing up sexism coming from male coworkers, even though both the coworkers the OP mentions are women, and the designer who actually complained about her is a woman, is looking for zebras.

      Also, I don’t have to imagine a man being told to make their ideas look like someone else’s because I have seen it multiple times when there is a perceived inequality in status. I recall the OP described herself as a builder versus Jane being a designer, and my bet would be that this is more about classism than sexism.

      1. Rav*

        Eh, why not both?

        OP1 could have a real tone problem, and still there could be sexism at play. One does not eliminate the other.

        1. anon for this one*

          As someone who is frequently too brusque and gets criticized for it at a much higher rate than my male colleagues with similar behavior: ding ding ding!

          1. anonymath*

            Yeah, and….

            Even if the advice has sexism, racism, or other prejudices mixed in — what is the OP supposed to do?

            We live in the world we live in. We gotta play the hand we’re dealt. So it’s advice soaked in -isms. The OP needs to do something about it, and finding a way around, under, over, or through the problem is the only way to go.

            1. Your Local Password Resetter*

              But being aware of how much is your fault and how much it’s other people being weird will help a lot.
              Otherwise you waste a lot of time and effort meeting an impossible standard.

    6. Amethystmoon*

      #1 I agree, this is misogynic advice. The “tone” advice is generally given to women when men want said women to be quiet and not make waves. (Hence also not showing leadership abilities.)

    7. Lilac*

      Plus as a neurodiverse person I feel a twinge of past trauma any time I see things like people being told they have a tone problem. Especially because it’s frustrating and exhausting to try to adopt communication styles that aren’t your own rather than finding a middle ground.

    8. Disco Janet*

      I didn’t read #1 that way at all. I have a new coworker who sounds just like #1 in the paragraph about other coworkers having issues with their tone – thinks her designs are superior to ours and will bluntly tell us so. Is very like “ugh, why do I have to beat around the bush when my designs are clearly better.” (They’re…not. And it’s hard to have suggestions and come to an agreement when she enters the conversation with this tone signifying that she thinks she’s better than us. And we’re an all-female team, and we all have an issue with her tone. There is a right and wrong way to point out potential flaws or where things could be done better. There’s no such thing as a perfect design in our field.)

  3. Iris*

    I have to admit I’m very interested in the gender and/or racial dynamics that are likely playing into the teapot designers having an issue with OP#1’s ~tone.

    1. NoviceManagerGuy*

      Certainly worth examining, but some people are overly brusque, and it doesn’t do them any favors.

      1. Observer*

        True. But given the context of a boss that won’t manage, and who penalizes the OP for the fact that they needed to have multiple conversations with a misbehaving coworker – a coworker who had a pattern of mis-behavior. But somehow THE OP needs to have multiple conversations. Because it doesn’t matter who is wrong. If someone is complaining about the OP, the OP “needs” to spoken to.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      It crossed my mind–but there could be no dynamics, everyone the same subgroup. When OP noticed this same pattern popping up across multiple contexts, I was glad they considered that maybe it’s them.

    3. mreasy*

      Agreed, I am a woman who has been called out for my “tone” when being direct, I would be curious to hear what else is involved. Being overly brusque can be a bad thing – but I have personally never seen a white man called to the carpet for it, even while observing them yell, swear, condescend, and treat people much worse than I ever would. (Im not saying it doesn’t happen, Ive just never seen it and I know it didn’t happen at the prior workplace where I, the highest-ranking woman leader at the company, was denied raises for my tone etc.)

      1. NoviceManagerGuy*

        I’ve held several white men to account over tone problems. Not discounting your experience or saying what you experienced was right, just saying that others exist.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          I as well have seen tone problems (e.g. arrogance, condescension, classism, thinly-veiled contempt) from white males, including that aimed at other white males, and have criticized and seen them adversely affected professionally as a result. Unfortunately, inappropriate behaviour can come from any source.

          1. Artemesia*

            I have watched men rage in meetings both from the front of the room and as a participant; I have watched men be consistently condescending to women; I have seen brusk, ‘assertive’ men who take credit for the work of others. AND pretty much all of them prospered. In 45 years in the workforce I can only think of one example of a white man who suffered professionally for his assertiveness — and he was someone not valued for other reasons. On the other hand, I have known of people with very high positions whose professional misbehavior was legendary prosper, sometimes at the expense of people they undermined.

    4. Bananas*

      If multiple coworkers, a manager, and the OP’s own spouse have all had issues with this, it’s far more likely that the issue is in fact that the OP needs to work on how they address and interact with people.

      1. Rachmon*

        I noticed some tone issues in this letter itself that makes me think OP most definitely has things to work on. Talking about how their ideas aren’t well received because they’re “better and people don’t like being questioned”, if that attitude comes across to the designers as it did in the letter, is absolutely a tone problem. For what sounds like a fairly junior employee to make assumptions that their ideas are better and other people are too sensitive, is something I’ve seen a lot before and it is almost invariably a well intentioned idea other people have tried before, that the junior employee doesn’t have the experience or context to understand the full scenario, and come in as though they’re the first person to have a good idea when the idea isn’t actually that good and treating everyone else like they’re kinda stupid, to boot.

        I absolutely used to do this when I was 25, and got very embarrassed by my past behavior 10 years later, so I tend to notice when other people go down the same path of hubris…

        1. Mominabigtruck*

          I absolutely got this vibe also. She sounds tone deaf in her post, claiming her husband has outsized reactions to her, multiple people at work who have complained about her behavior, why is everyone’s go to it must be sexism? I am an extremely blunt woman, I lack the ability to sugarcoat anything, but no one complains about me because I also have emotional intelligence and the ability to read the room. You can think plenty of things, but that doesn’t mean you have to open your mouth and share them if it’s not productive or helpful.

    5. TeapotNinja*

      Regardless of gender/racial dynamics, any organization that’s not open minded about new ideas / feedback and asks people to soften the message is not leveraging their employees and their ideas the right way. It’s going to be a problem.

  4. Exhausted Trope*

    Poster #5, love your update! I’m so glad you’ve been able to get a great, creative position doing what you enjoy. (Please consider telling Old Boss that he needs to smile more.)

    1. KateM*

      Many happy interviews for OP5 with their old boss! And the part about throwing him off his game reminds me of the saying abut being nice to your enemies so they give you a lot of headspace wondering what you are up to.

    2. OP5*

      Thanks! I’m really loving what I do. And that vice principal can, as my wonderful new boss is fond of saying, go pound sand.

  5. Cherry*

    Nice one, OP2. I freelance with both sporadic and regular jobs and volunteer outside of my full-time job (all very broadly in the field of my full-time job, but not competing of course). One company I worked for was an ass about it and clearly thought of it as a liability not a benefit (due to being very broadly related I have/had to inform them). I don’t work for them any more.

  6. Falling Diphthong*

    OP1, there’s a thing described as “You’re right but you’re being an asshole about it” which can be hard to see and rework–after all, this is a thing you’re right about. And it’s a sliding scale where we would all disagree about the precise point where someone’s argument slid over that line. But it really holds people back once integrating with others is a significant part of the new role. I mention it because you’re now seeing this same pattern pop up in other contexts, which suggests you are the common factor and it’s not just one weird office or manager.

    I don’t like your manager’s explicit example–make them think it’s their idea–but that is one way someone might shorthand “You need to present this with a tone and wording that other people will listen to, and then convince them that your approach is the correct one.” I’m glad you’re using the EAP to try and get a bigger picture of what’s going on and what things are changeable or worth changing.

    1. Sea Anemone*

      There a great scene in The Big Lebowski where the Dude is arguing with Walter, and he ends the argument with, “You’re not wrong, Walter, you’re just an asshole!” I play that scene in my head a lot.

    2. That IT Guy*

      It could also be that the receivers of OP1’s comments are reading subtext into statements where it’s not intended.

      If Random Person A says, “Jane, why did you leave your dish in the sink,” most people would assume implicit criticism against the decision to do so. On the other hand, if I were to say, “Jane, why did you leave your dish in the sink,” I’m genuinely wondering why it’s in there and whether there’s some aspect of the situation that I’m missing. Maybe I didn’t realize the dishwasher was still full and that’s something I can take care of, or whatever. Especially in text, I am frequently taken for an asshole when my intention was anything but. I’ve had to come to terms with people regularly reading way more into statements than what I intended, and that’s just how my brain is wired. Telling me to change that? You may as well tell me to have been born in a different place. Can’t do it.

      1. Sea Anemone*

        You can’t change how your brain is wired, but you can change what you say. You know that people read into your words, so make your intention explicit. For example:

        “Jane, I was about to move your dish out of the sink, and I just wanted to check whether you put it there for a reason before I move it.”

        “Jane, I’ve noticed you always put your dish in the sink. I’m really just curious, do you do that for a reason, or it just happens to be most convenient?”

        1. pancakes*

          I’m not sure what you mean by “wiring,” but people indeed can change their thought processes. CBT, for example, is one method.

          1. Sea Anemone*

            I interpreted “wiring” to mean neurology as with ADHD or autism, things that really are so unlike a thought process that the suggestion that one should just go to CBT to change it is laughable.

            1. pancakes*

              I think it’s quite clear that I was not recommending CBT for anyone or in response to any particular condition(s) when I said “for example.”

            2. That IT Guy*

              Yeah, this exactly. I suppose, to a lot of people, it may sometimes appear to be a thoughtless process. ;)

              But in all seriousness, this is a problem for a lot of us. Yes, we know people read into things, but we’re not good at figuring out how they’re going to do so ahead of time, so either we end up blunt or we end up with a mile-long explanation to try to cover all possible bases. Wouldn’t it be easier for others to just take people at face value and be done with it?

              1. River Otter*

                Those people can’t change their brain wiring either! I got a lot more patient with allistic people when I realized that they are just as shaped by their neurology as I am, so I have to accommodate their deficiencies the same way they have to accommodate mine. Yes, it’s tiresome. But, it’s reality. Work on cutting the mile long explanations down to a couple of yards, bc another problem with allistic people is they are not good at details. You don’t want to overwhelm them.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Whereas someone else would say “ffs Jane wash your plate instead of leaving it for someone else, the cleaner doesn’t come till Friday” and nobody would be wondering anything. Sometimes direct and blunt is clear.

    3. UKDancer*

      Yes I’ve had this discussion with one of my team a few times. They’re often right but the way they go about being right annoys people more than necessary. I’m trying to explain that my team member would progress further if they considered their impact and just tailored the delivery a little more.

  7. late for breakfast*

    re #3: I’d like to reiterate that a robocaller is a recorded telephone call, vs. a live call using an auto-dialer. So if these people are harassing robocallers, that is truly unhinged.

    1. pancakes*

      It’s pretty unhinged either way!

      It’s odd that the letter writer said they don’t want to speak up because they’re the only person from their department present when this happens. I don’t see why that should be an issue unless there’s some sort of weird us vs. them mindset amongst departments, on top of the dysfunction already apparent from the way these people treat robocallers. (To be clear, I think there probably is). This seems like a really, really unpleasant place to work.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      Read the original story. The initial call is a recorded message. But the coworker is waiting through that, faking interest in the product until a human comes on the line and they are just about to close the deal. Then getting abusive with them.

      1. Clorinda*

        Well, that’s just nasty, People working in call centers are doing that job because that’s the job they can get right now. Maybe it’s not their lifelong career dream, but they have to keep a roof over their heads. Not interested? Don’t waste their time and don’t spoil their day. Just say “No thanks” and hang up.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          On the other hand, any entity using those tactics is almost guaranteed to be shady if not downright exploitative so there is some thought that tying up their time hypothetically prevents them from contacting someone who would fall for it and be cheated out of their life savings or just roped into a complete waste of time and money. Benignly wasting time though is one thing and Fergus’ vigilante abuse is a different thing in my book.

          In that case, were I the boss I’d probably want to shut them down for wasting time they presumably should be working and if others are using the phone the possibility of their tirades leaking onto an actual business call would make me shut that down real fast. (Also the optics if someone were walking through and hearing that phone call without any additional context, YIKES)

          1. Green great dragon*

            Yep. Wasting the time of these people is a public good – the more time it takes them to clinch the sale/scam, the less incentive they have to expand. But do it politely. There’s no need to make life worse for the human on the other end.

            1. pancakes*

              There is no reason to believe that the people making the calls are the same ones making decisions about whether to expand the business or not. Wasting the time of the callers who happen to make contact with you is an extremely sporadic and almost certainly ineffectual way to try to bring about change. You’d be better off complaining to your representatives about this.

      2. Artemesia*

        People in those jobs are paid poorly; they are doing the only jobs they can get; they are forbidden from responding in kind and in fact fired if they do so. To be mean to them is just ugly. They don’t make the policies; they read the scripts for minimum wage. To have sport with people is cruel and it doesn’t address the problem of telemarketing and its interruptions in your life. It is just cruel, ugly, abusive behavior and good people don’t do it.

    3. Wintermute*

      exactly! if they’re true robocalls then it makes about as much sense as screaming at an ATM about banks’ investment policies.

  8. PT*

    “when I present better or different design ideas because they’re not used to someone questioning their work. I supposedly need to work on “softening the blow” and make them think it’s their idea, and so forth”

    Just get a new job, you work with a bunch of sexist pigs.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      So Jane doesn’t think OP’s been “talked to enough.”
      OK, perhaps you can roll a wheeled whiteboard into Jane’s area and write, “I will not ask other’s input on Jane’s ideas,” five hundred times. Is that enough words? Jane does not want an apology, she wants punishment.
      And OP’s manager is enabling that.
      Way to stand up for your people.
      Your manager sucks and is only going to get worse.

    2. Echo*

      Yeah, PT is right. I’ve gotten very legitimate feedback on my communication skills/tone many times before (I am female) and it’s a world of difference from the sexist bullshit OP #1 is getting from her manager. You deserve better than this, OP #1. I hope that you can find a new workplace and manager where your knowledge and skills are appreciated and you can own your own ideas.

    3. Your Local Password Resetter*

      I don’t know if this is automatically jobsearching territory. Incompetent or mildly sexist managers can be worked around if the rest of the job is good enough.
      If it’s the tip of the iceberg though, then definitely look around to see what else you can get.

    4. Chili pepper Attitude*

      I agree, it’s them, not you OP#1.
      I know you said you hear this in other parts of your life but that does not mean that it is still not a gender issue.

      At oldjob, almost every word I said outside my direct team made people think I was implying they were wrong or stupid. At newjob, every word I say is convincing them how smart I am and how happy they are to have me on their team. It makes me dizzy to have such a turnaround!

      Do explore the way you are describing but keep in mind, it is never just you, it is also the way people around you hear you (often tied to their confidence in themselves).

  9. AnonForThis*

    For Update #1 – and all other procrastinators – there is a very interesting article (March 25, 2019) New York Times article. I am a procrastinator and found this very eye-opening:

    Procrastination is “… a way of coping with challenging emotions and negative moods …[and] and emotion regulation problem.”

    My interpretation (with my counselor’s help) is that if I’m feeling bad / overwhelmed / unhappy about X, I will procrastinate doing Y as a way to manage that stress. I don’t have to think about how unhappy I am in a relationship if I procrastinate doing the dishes. Instead I can stress about not doing the dishes and that’s somehow “easier” to live with.

    Tossing this out in case it’s an eye-opener for others…

    And congrats to OP for moving forward!

  10. awesome3*

    I don’t know why the bagel shop down the street in #2 delights me so much but there ya go. Also I love that #1 found another person’s update helpful, so amazing how that works

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think it’s because we hear a crazy rule – and will make up reasons in our heads – but this time we got the reason behind the crazy rule.

      I speak from experience- the room next to me freshman year in college created three new rules – yeah – I spent lots of time in the library as a result of that group.

  11. Sea Anemone*


    It might be enlightening to have a DISC+Values horoscope done. The value comes if you view the results as your communication style rather than a personality type. You will probably come out as a high D (for direct), which won’t come as a surprise, but seeing how you score on the I, S, & C might give you some additional interesting insight into how you communicate.

    Decide how much you feel like you can push back, but there are things you should push back on, for example, this:

    make them think it’s their idea

    You should not have to make anyone think your feedback is their idea. I would push back hard on this. You *should* soften your communication style, even though you might think you shouldn’t have to, bc a less direct communication style will help you build relationships and build trust with the designers. That is crucial to working with them. That indirect style doesn’t have to mean that they should think everything is their idea.

    Since your employer is pushing emotional intelligence, embrace it. Designers also have to have emotional intelligence, which means recognizing that even when they don’t *like* something you have to say, if you make a reasonable request, it is up to them to manage their emotions and get over themselves. So really lean into EI as a corporate value that you alone should not have to have all the responsibility for.

    If you get into something again where Jane or anyone thinks you need “more talking to,” start asking what the desired outcome of the “talking to” is. Dig into what the action is for you, and if there is not one, lean into the “everyone needs emotional intelligence” angle. Bc that was definitely Jane getting defensive, and that’s a Jane EI problem.

    You will have plenty of opportunity to practice your softer communication style when you emphasize that EI is for everyone, bc that’s not a message that managers like to hear ;)

    1. Sea Anemone*

      And this:

      she needed to talk about it, and had spoken with me to keep things “even” between us, since Jane apparently threw a fit that I wasn’t being “talked to” enough about it.

      Boss also gave me a bit more insight into their conversations about it, reiterating that *I* did nothing wrong, that Jane’s reaction was way out of line, and Jane is the one who needs to recalibrate on it.

      You really do have a manager problem! If you did nothing wrong, and Jane needs to recalibrate, then she does not need to keep talking to you to make things even.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreed – I am side-eyeing that manager hard. If the problem is all Jane’s issue, why did it keep getting addressed with OP?

        However, for the sake of covering all sides – what if the manager has been told by upper management that “Manager” has to keep Jane happy?
        (Yes this is putrid managing from up above, but it’s also unfortunately something we’ve read about many times here.)

        1. Your Local Password Resetter*

          Then the incompetence goes all the way to the top. But for OP that just means it can’t be fixed with a better manager.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Agreed – but if that is the case then knowing that all must bow to Jane is important knowledge about the job to have. It can factor into all types of decisions around that job.

    2. Magenta Sky*

      I’ve done DiSC, and while I will always be skeptical of how such personality profile systems are used (and how little actual science is behind any of them), there is value to that one because it addresses communication styles directly, specifically, how people who score strongly in one profile communicate with people who score strongly in a different style.

      (And I agree that any manager who tells a subordinate that they should let someone else take credit for their work is a *bad* manager, and a far bigger problem than grudge-holding whiner.)

      1. PT*

        My old boss used Disc to purge anyone who didn’t get the same profile he did. Because the other styles were the “bad” ones and he had the “good, right” one.

        1. Magenta Sky*

          That is precisely why I am, and will remain, skeptical about personality profiles. There’s always *someone* who will willfully misunderstand who they’re supposed to be used, and abuse them.

          (DiSC, in particular, is *specifically* about integrating *all* profiles, because diversity is inherently superior to a monoculture.)

          1. Goose*

            One of the most stressful experiences I had this year in terms of personality tests is the behavioural/psychometric stuff that I had to go through applying to graduate programs. They’re not exactly kind to neurodiverse people, but thankfully I managed to get to a job offer with disability support in the end.

      2. Sea Anemone*

        how little actual science is behind any of them

        There’s a reason I refer to them as “horoscopes”. :)

        1. Magenta Sky*

          A fair comparison. But like horoscopes, and other forms of seers, cold reading (and even more hot reading) is often very accurate (just not for the reasons claimed) at assessing people. When it comes to managing people, matching perception to reality is key.

          Just don’t bother choosing your lottery numbers based on it.

        2. pancakes*

          Why do you think pseudo-science is preferable to speaking with and working with people whose professional training is grounded in actual science?

          1. Sea Anemone*

            Wow. That is reading rather a lot into a comment about the value of DISC for identifying communication styles.

            1. pancakes*

              I asked because I was hoping you would be able to explain why you think it’s the best approach. By all accounts it is pseudo-science, not actual science. At best it may have had some scientific backing in the 1920s, when it was developed, but science has advanced since then.

              1. Sea Anemone*

                I didn’t say it was the best approach. I said it might be enlightening and that the value comes if you view the results as your communication style rather than a personality type.

                The so-called science of communication styles is barely separated from pseudo-science anyway, given that it’s riddled with cultural biases. It’s an area of study, but mostly the study is on the impact of different styles. I’m not sure how speaking and working with those researchers would help OP understand her own style. Given that most of them are academics or management consultant types, I don’t think they are even accessible to most people. But, it could also be enlightening to go down that route. There are lots of tools that can help.

                1. pancakes*

                  It only seems to be regarded as enlightening by people who believe that pseudo-science is just as reliable as actual science.

                  I’m not following what you’re referring to with regard to communication styles. The letter writer said they’re going to look into pursuing a diagnosis – the professionals who can help with that are what I was referring to when I mentioned professional training earlier, not academics.

              2. Magenta Sky*

                I didn’t say it was the *best* approach. I said there was value to it if it’s applied correctly by people who understand it.

                1. pancakes*

                  I didn’t intend to suggest you did. You did say it’s “often very accurate,” which as far as I can tell has no basis in fact. I can’t quite make out what you’re referring to by “cold or hot reading,” but I’m going to assume it’s similarly disreputable. A quick search suggests these phrases are used in reference to TV psychics.

                2. Magenta Sky*

                  “Cold reading” is a technique that “psychics,” “mentalists,” and “faith healers” use to convince you they have mental powers. Pure 100% snake oil, that usually starts with making guesses about things that are common, like “I’m getting a name that starts with a ‘J'”. Well, that’s one of the most common letters for first names to start with, so *everybody* knows someone whose name starts with a J. And they read the reaction. If you look a bit sad, they might follow up with “And you’ve suffered a loss recently.” And read the reaction to that. And so on.

                  Hot reading is similar, but the “psychic” is fed actual information beforehand. Several famous TV psychics have been caught red-handed doing this, most notably Peter Popoff, on the Johnny Carson show, orchestrated by James Randi. They were listening in on the radio transmissions from the assistant who was interviewing people beforehand, and feeding details to Popoff thought a hidden receiver. Hot reading is obviously more accurate, but a skilled cold reader can be *very* convincing, especially if the listener *wants* to believe.

                  In short, it’s reading people, and it’s a trainable skill. When used to scam people for snake oil remedies, it’s a bad thing, often criminal.

                  But managing people is 100% about reading people, and the same techniques can be used to turn a decent manager into an effective leader. You can’t manage people if you can’t tell how they react to what you’re telling them. It is, again, a trainable skill, and DiSC is one of the tools that can, if used correctly, be used in that training. It’s very much about reading people.

                  The letter writer may have issues that are more subject to objective science – so looking for a diagnosis sounds like a good idea. But that’s unusual. Normal, day to day people management, when done right, is identical in all respects except one to snake oil sales: you manipulate people into doing what you want them to do. The difference is whether or not you intend them harm.

                3. NLR*


                  Cold reading, as you define it there, is people wanting to believe something is real and so letting confirmation bias convince them it is.

                  Hot reading is fraud.

                  Neither of those is the same as management. But this is also far afield from the original letter and I suspect Alison would like us to stick to the topics at hand.

          2. Magenta Sky*

            Because much of people management is, at heart, cold or hot reading. And only vaguely subject to any sort of objective science.

            In fact, trying to apply objective science (poorly) often results in assuming all employees are identical in all ways, and respond in the say way to the same stimulus. Which is to say, some of the most toxic work environments known to man.

            (And I say this as an IT person whose job is 100% objective. There’s nothing objective about managing *people*.)

      3. Elizabeth West*

        The use of the word “horoscope” in the initial comment is spot on. We had to do them at Exjob (it was required) and the VERY FIRST THING the company trainer told us was that they were not to be used to classify people, that we were doing it only to understand communication styles, and that a person’s results could change over time depending on their circumstances. She gave the example of someone who took it twice through her class. The first time, he scored as highly introverted, almost to the point of uncommunicative.

        The second time, it was the complete opposite—it wasn’t until then she found out he’d been dealing with some very serious illness in his immediate family and was extremely stressed out during the prior period. Everything had resolved by the time he took it again and so he got a totally different result.

        As for me, I just enjoyed the day away from my desk and drew a cute little picture of a cat in a sailboat wearing a pirate hat on the back of my worksheet. Never give me crayons and then make me sit around for a while, haha.

        1. Sea Anemone*

          They absolutely change over time, and even that can be interesting. I always score very high D, while my other scores fluctuate. Both the persistence of D and the fluctuation of the others gave me things to think about.

        2. Magenta Sky*

          “a person’s results could change over time depending on their circumstances.”

          We actually did the surveys twice, once with work in mind, and again with home life in mind. Few people were really close to the same. (No, they weren’t trying to tell us how to handle things at home. It was done to emphasize the limitations of the process.)

          We also compared our own assessment of ourselves with similar surveys done about us by other people, which was . . . enlightening for most of us. Very few people see themselves the way other see them.

  12. WellRed*

    Even if I agreed with the concept of “keeping things even” (I don’t! Wtf?), Jane should not be kept apprised of any so called disciplinary conversations between OP 1 and her s**t manager.

  13. Myrin*

    #1, I think you have two problems, one of which can be separated into yet another two:

    1. Your manager is a bad manager. It’s all fine and dandy that she’s “on your side” regarding how she feels and when talking to you about the Jane issue but that’s pretty worthless if she doesn’t have the guts to actually tell Jane to cut it out. Just because Jane whines that it’s unfair that you’re not being “talked to” doesn’t mean your manager has to promptly follow suit; like another commenter said upthread, a manager doesn’t have to address problems evenly if the problem is only one person.

    2.1. As someone with a bona fide tone problem I can literally see in front of my mind’s eye what you mean by your husband’s “super intense reactions” because that’s something I’ve seen with my family and close friends, too. In any given room, I’m bound to have the loudest voice, and to top it off, I have an incredibly hard time calibrating it because I basically always hear myself the same way, not matter what I do with my voice. It takes immense amounts of concentration and consciousness for me to lower, soften, or slow my voice, and I know that that sometimes leads to problems with people I’m talking to, either because they think I’m aggressively yelling at them or because I come across as overly brusque or even mean; the latter I can sometimes even hear myself and I’ve learned through the years that yes, the problem here is indeed me and not the way others perceive me. If you are like that, too – and your husband’s reaction is a good indicator that it is, although I’d certainly ask other trusted people about it – that really is something you need to (probably continuously, like me) work on.


    2.2. I’m not convinced that that’s the problem your manager is seeing at your workplace. Or rather, if it were just the goals of “development in emotional intelligence and communication tone” alone, that would fit the bill. And certainly she might even be right about that (again, those of us who are Like That tend to be the same in a workplace environment, too) but her examples are so atrocious I want to throw a chair at them! Having issues with a more direct communication style, fine, that’s actually pretty common, and the “softening the blow” bit could fit into the thing I talk about in 2.1. where you come across as harsher than you intended to in your head; but getting upset at “better or different design ideas” or because someone questions their work? Making them think good ideas are their ideas?? Really??? Do you work with a bunch of toddlers?!
    I would strongly encourage you to not give in to these ridiculous demands. If the makeup of your team is such that you’re demographically different from those whiny designers in some way, I would actually point-blank point that out to your manager (that it’s a well-documented phenomenon for [people from x group] to be perceived this way, I mean), but even if it isn’t… well, I’d normally encourage you to talk to your manager about this regardless but seeing how ostrich-y she reacted to the Jane issue, I’m assuming this would just be a bunch of the same crap.

    I think my general advice would be to take some time for a really deep introspection which I reckon might happen anyway regarding your recent diagnosis. But what I mean specifically is to try and separate very clearly for yourself which of the issues you’re seeing are related to 2.1., which are related to 2.2., whether you can do anything about anything regarding 2.2. and, maybe most importantly, how big of a problem 1. is going to be in the future.

    1. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

      Yeah, I frequently lack awareness of the volume and tone of my voice and am asked to speak a bit more softly. Ask a few friends, and directly ask your husband ‘hey, about that, is there something in particular that I can work on avoiding,’ because if it’s coming up in your personal life that suggests it is something you could work on (since presumably, you don’t like accidentally startling your husband.)

      But none of that changes the fact that your manager’s making these issues ‘you’ problems when they often have more to do with Jane or your other coworkers. This workplace is very odd.

  14. I exist*

    #2 I wouldn’t have realized would be an issue.
    I used to work FT at a job, left to try to do only an unrelated service I’m licensed, ended up being offered a PT position at my previous employer, then I eventually ended up back at FT. While PT, I would just work my schedule around my personal clients, but when I was back to FT I would take a few hours of PTO each week to see my few clients. I definitely felt weird about getting kind of double paid, but not that it was wrong. They tried to be a good place to work, mediocre success rate.
    I didn’t often get the chance (maybe I could’ve, but the amount of work I’d come back to was not worth it) to take PTO for much other than my own clients and (mostly therapy) appointments (leading to burnout and why I left twice), but sometimes the providing the service was more relaxing than anything else I would’ve done with my time off.

  15. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

    If there’s a job out there where becoming a reporter at a small rural paper can DOUBLE one’s salary, that organization simply cannot be complying with minimum-wage laws. That’s horrifying.

    1. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

      Responding to my own post because I just read the many similar comments at the original link. What an incredible newspaper company – if my math is correct, OP is making nearly triple what I made in management (the poorly paid newsroom variety, not the somewhat better paid business variety) at a small paper about 15 years ago. That’s awesome and I’m thrilled for her.

    2. OP5*

      Hi! OP5 here. My previous organization was a public school and I was employed as a paraprofessional (a classroom aide) at 13.75/hour. That was the absolute top tier to start at, because I have an MA. Others started at 10/hour. So, I absolutely almost doubled my salary at the paper. (Our newspaper is owned by a parent company with 31 papers, if that makes more sense).

      Minimum wage here in PA is $7.50. It’s a travesty.

      1. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

        My gosh, you didn’t need to respond. But since you did, let me tell you that I’m thrilled for you!

    3. Gingerbread Gnome*

      Oh, public school paraprofessionals are paid a pittance. In most places they are hourly workers and not paid for holidays or school breaks so doubling wage while working for a newspaper is entirely believable.

      1. OP5*

        Yes indeed, Gingerbread! If we had a school break, a half-day, a snow day (!), a 4-day week, and of course ALL OF SUMMER – no pay. We only got paid for the hours we worked and that was 6.25 hours/day.

  16. Bookworm*

    #5: HA! I love it. That’s a great update, thank you.

    Thanks also to the other LWs for sharing their updates with us.

  17. Taxidermybobcat*

    For OP #1

    Being direct is NOT the same as being a jerk. One can be kind and empathetic, and also incredibly direct and assertive. One can be an aggressive jerk, and claim a “direct communication style” as a cover. How do I know? I’m direct, and also kind. Someone I work with is an aggressive jerk who uses “being direct” as an excuse for poor behavior. When I was in more junior level roles, I got lectured (as a female) by my boss (who was also a female) for being too direct and was given similar feedback to what you received. I was also a designer, incidentally. I quickly figured out that about 2% of the feedback was legit and took it to heart and made necessary changes, and 98% of it was utter BS that I did nothing to “correct”. It’s amazing how, once I got promoted into a different department, and a more senior role, suddenly my directness was an asset, and the BS feedback about my personality and communication style stopped. Most people find me easy to work with. Young, lazy, insecure people who feel threatened by anyone else’s talent or ambition – they don’t like working with me, and were the source of the complaints. Talented, competent professionals love working with me (I’ve recently been given this feedback by the CEO, as well as having positive working relationships with a couple of people who are known to be notoriously difficult to work with, so I’m not just tooting my own horn). Bottom line: if you’ve got a legitimately rough edge that’s making it difficult to work well with others, by all means work on that. But if it’s mostly (which I suspect it is) personality biased BS, shake the dust off your feet and start planning your next move.

    1. Taxidermybobcat*

      I should have self-edited: being young doesn’t have anything to do with maturity or professionalism; young people can be very mature and professional. I happened to be on a team with very young people who were also very immature. I’ve worked with immature older people as well. Just wanted to make the distinction.

  18. Jaybeetee*

    Yeah, if #1 is hearing about “tone” issues in multiple areas of life, there might be a tone issue.

    It’s not a zero-sum game though. OP can have an abrasive tone, and a crummy manager, and a reactionary colleague all at the same time. If OP does have ADHD, that can sometimes lead to an abrupt tone, or to frustration and impatience with others in general. If OP suspects an issue, it’s worth looking into, even if they *also* have problem coworkers.

      1. Observer*

        It’s not excuse making. I think that Jaybeetee and the others who have brought this up are right. It’s just that the manager’s behavior is SOOO out of line and putting so much unearned burden on the OP that it’s kind of hard to trust anything the manager says.

        The fact that issues are also showing up in the OP’s personal life are a signal that the manager happens to probably have a point, even though it feels more like an instance of “a stopped clock is right twice a day” than actual managerial competence.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Agreed – I think the manager is very less than awesome – but that doesn’t mean that in this one instance (how OP is phrasing messages to others) they may not have a legitimate point.

  19. RagingADHD*

    LW1, I wish you well in pursuing some more insight about your behavior and hope the EAP is a helpful starting point.

    If your manager is telling you that you need to develop emotional intelligence, you are having difficulty collaborating with your fellow professionals, and your spouse is often upset by the things you say, it is certainly worth pursuing.

    If you truly don’t understand why people are hurt and upset, you might want to look beyond ADHD alone as an answer. Typically, ADHD interferes with patience and impulse control so that we get irritable, fumble words, or speak without reflection, so that we blurt out stuff that might not reflect what we actually mean, or that might be overstepping/tone deaf, or lash out angrily and otherwise upset people.

    ADHD by itself doesn’t typically interfere with understanding *why* the thing we said or did was upsetting. “Oh, crap, did I just say that out loud?” is a frequent feeling with ADHD, moreso than “What’s wrong with what I said?”

    So there may be more than one thing going on here.

    1. Observer*

      That’s a very good point. As I was reading this, I was thinking that a lot of this does not track with what I see from the people I know who have ADHD.

    2. Peppermint Moksha*

      LW#1 – Your link to an update about a procrastinator and diagnosis of Childhood Emotional Neglect resonated for me – For a period I thought I had ADHD as I clearly had some Executive Function issues, but after a deep Therapeutic Assessment (including checking for this and Autism), it was clear that ECN is the root cause of my behavior. I fight more with feelings of worthiness than anything else. Don’t rule out that something else may be at play.

  20. AS87*

    It sounds like OP1 indeed might have tone issues and maybe the way she raises her better ideas could be an issue. I hate to say it, but learning how to “soften the blow” can be useful sometimes.

    The only thing I would suggest when it comes to questioning the work of others is to do it privately. If they still get defensive after that, then its really on the coworkers.

    But suggesting OP makes coworkers think her better ideas are theirs? No way.

  21. Texas Teacher*

    About Teacher Aide’s salaries. When I was teaching some Aides I worked with had take-home pay of $50 or less. They basically were working for insurance, while partners worked to pay the other bills. Many were also in a program that got them discounted or free tuition to the community college and then a University for their bachelor’s while working for an education degree.

    There was an effort here in Texas to raise a beginning teacher’s salary from $33,660 a year to $70,000 a year. That is $15,460 over the base salary of a 20+ year teacher. These are base salaries paid by the state to the districts. Districts can offer more but a 20-year teacher in one of the wealthiest districts in the Houston area only gets $67,790

    1. Anon for this comment*

      Another perspective here: I’ve never earned more than $46,000. $67,790 sounds like a fortune to me–even if it won’t go very far in a high cost-of-living area (depending on household size and financial obligations).

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Even $46,000 sounds great. I never managed to get above $33,000 when I was teaching (I’ve long since left for many reasons, but the financials were a part of it).
        Sadly I make far more doing medical record processing and filing then I ever did teaching. The hours are much better too.

  22. Candi*

    #1 -be very careful about issues around “tone”, particularly since you refer to yourself as “direct”. You need to ask for specifics about what they are hearing that makes your tone wrong.

    Often times women who are told they have “tone” issues are really being told “you are not talking as a woman should” -subservient, giving, conciliatory. It’s not the women at all, it’s the society and culture that still insists women are second-class and should stay there.

    Be your assertive, strong, firm self. Go for diplomacy, but don’t undercut yourself.

    #5: This makes me laugh. Go OP 5!

  23. BabaYaga*

    LW1: if you have disagreements with many people around you, the problem is with you. The sarcastic ” “teapot designers” have also had issues with my more direct communication style and have been getting upset when I present better or different design ideas because they’re not used to someone questioning their work” only confirms my suspicion. Something tells me you are one of the “brutally honest” people that just loves pointing what others are doing bad but is extremely unhappy when is at the receiving end of negative feedback themselves.

  24. Retired (but not really)*

    Regarding the need to get certain people to think it was their idea all along, I’ve observed this as being a thing over the years. There are indeed people who think if it wasn’t their idea, then it can’t be a good one. Subtlety is indeed a necessary tactic when dealing with them. I know it can be frustrating to put up with, but learning how to do it can make the necessary changes happen eventually. And this is not necessarily a gendered issue either. In some cases it’s simply “we’ve always done it this way and it worked (however well notwithstanding) so why change?”
    So definitely do figure out how to phrase your suggestions, ideas, proposals in a way that is diplomatic and you will be amazed at how much difference this makes in people’s perception and willingness to implement the ideas. Sometimes all that is needed is phrasing it as “have you considered xxxx” as opposed to “xxxx is best”.
    Also as someone junior you may not have all the information as to how it all fits into the big picture so that can be a thing as well.
    Best wishes on figuring out whether and/or what changes you need to make, including whether or not this job is the right one for you long term.

  25. Quack Quack No*

    Concerning #1 …. looking at the discussion there’s an interesting debate between whether or not sexism is in play. I think that it’s eminently possible for sexism to be in play and for the person affected to be wrong, even if many people around OP#1 say the same thing — do they say the same thing because they are all living this pattern of sexism, because OP#1 is indeed unconstructively abrasive, or even both?

    One of the patterns I’ve noticed over my decades living in the US that people tend to envision bigotry as being inflicted on completely innocent victims, but that’s not how it often works. Indeed, one major way that bigotry works is in disparate punishments for the same offense. I’ve definitely seen proportionately more women of all colors and men of color scolded or punished for abrasiveness than I’ve seen White men checked in any way. But that doesn’t mean that there are no abrasive women or men of color.

    After that long introduction, this is what I’d tell you, LW #1, if we could have a coffee: turn that blunt uncompromising honesty on yourself, and consider if there are ways you can increase your diplomacy. It may seem pointless and stupid — the truth is the truth, however phrased — but while a large part of your job is pointing out these truths, part of it is helping your coworkers to realize them in higher quality work. Also, this self-examination will help sort out actual issues from sexist puffery, helping you make the changes you actually need to without trying to fix being female.

  26. AshK434*

    Can we stop self-diagnosing ourselves with ADHD? I’m noticing a trend here where things go wrong in people’s lives and the next step is to hop on the ADHD train. Maybe you just have a bad personality or bad coping/life skills. Not everything is a psychiatric diagnosis.

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