my employees took offense to my social media post

A reader writes:

I am Facebook friends with a few of my current employees. The other day, I was frustrated that I couldn’t find anyone to cover a shift, and had a conversation like this:

Employee: I really need more hours.
Me: I’ll do my best! I need someone on Saturday. Want to come in two hours early?
Employee: Nah, I don’t want to.

It struck me as kind of funny, as well as frustrating, and I posted it on Facebook, with no identifying details and some details obscured to make it as non-specific as possible. Two days later, two employees who I’m not friends with on social media are taking offense to it and gossiping about it behind my back. How do I resolve this? I feel bad that I offended someone and shouldn’t post work-related frustrations on social media in the future, but also feel they are being overly sensitive and inappropriately spreading negativity in the workplace.

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My employee frames everything as a question
  • Using professional development funds to get a new job
  • When I introduce my clients to my contacts, I get cut out of the loop

{ 342 comments… read them below }

  1. Nanani*

    I disagree with the advice for number 2.
    Criticizing how women talk is fraught, to say the least. Things that are perceived as characteristic of women (including uptalk, which is the issue here, but also vocal fry, use of quotative like, and so on) are actually not, they just are less criticized coming from men. It’s often just (intentionally or not) a way to tell women to shut up with extra steps.
    I’m sure Alison and LW2 don’t mean it that way, but that’s what happens.

    If she’s not actually asking questions, don’t criticize -how- she talks. Let women speak how we speak.
    You should focus on what she says, not the subliminal crime of saying it in a feminine way.

    1. Nesprin*

      This 100%- the double bind on women’s speech is that if you soften/use uptick/use filler words, you’re perceived as weak and unprofessional. If you remove all softeners, you’re perceived as aggressive and unprofessional

      1. PotsPansTeapots*


        Also, if you notice it, she is 100% aware of this. Changing the way you speak can be extremely difficult for some people.

        1. Hannah*

          I don’t see anything in the letter to indicate that she is aware of it? Can you point out what you are seeing?

          1. PotsPansTeapots*

            If it’s that noticeable, it’s extremely likely that a teacher/professor/acquaintance has pointed it out to her.

            1. Hannah*

              Or maybe they were told that they should ignore vocal fry and so they didn’t say anything. I mean, isn’t that what is being recommended here?

          2. Ellie Rose*

            Almost everyone women I know that has this kind of uptick has been told about it *many* times.

            1. Anonymous4*

              That because if you make a statement? As if it were a question? You sound like you’re totally unsure of yourself? And it may be fashionable right now? But it sure doesn’t do anything for your credibility? If you sound like you’re constantly begging for reassurance?

              I don’t sound like I’m begging for reassurance. I sound like I know what I’m talking about — and I do know what I’m talking about, because I’m a SME. And I would never undermine myself like that no matter how common it is to sabotage oneself in that fashion.

              1. Ginger Dynamo*

                And I have a background in linguistics, and there is a very good reason why women often uptalk—melodic arcs in speech help people follow what you’re saying, but they’re more noticeable at higher vocal pitches. It’s not just fashionable right now—this phenomenon has been ongoing since at least the 70s, based on audio records. It is a part of how many people speak, just also laden with a whole lot of bias around women in general talking “annoyingly”

                1. Esmae*

                  This. I don’t use a lot of upspeak, but when I completely eliminate it I get told my voice is “flat” and “too deadpan” and I “don’t sound excited.”

                2. My linguistics degree says you're a prescriptivist?*

                  Another fellow linguist here to confirm.

              2. Ellie Rose*

                There’s a reason I wrote this as a reply: I’m *specifically* responding to “I don’t see anything in the letter to indicate that she is aware of it? Can you point out what you are seeing?”

                My point is simply that it’s so common for women to be told this that assuming she’s been told is the safer assumption, regardless of whether or not the LW decides to ask her to adjust for work.

          3. Julia*

            PotsPansTeapots meant “if you (the letter writer) are noticing this, odds are she is aware of it”. I initially read it as “notice that she is aware of this”, which I’m guessing is the same misreading you did.

          4. Evelyn Carnahan*

            I do the same thing. And yes, when I’m speaking professionally and am confident in my knowledge of the topic, it’s less common or less noticeable, but it’s still there. My upspeak has been pointed out to me many, many times since I was in probably sixth grade, and I did spend years trying to drop the upspeak. But when I did I focused so much on how I spoke, I couldn’t focus on what I was saying. LW2 needs to find a way to overcome their bias against people who upspeak or have vocal fry.

            1. Anonymous4*

              You might want to try vocal therapy, because it’s not a bias to hear something as a question when someone raises their tone at the end of a sentence. And when it’s not actually a question, it’s confusing and it makes people think the up-speaker is uncertain about what s/he saying.


              1. Sillysaurus*

                Hi, I’m a speech-language pathologist. This would not be something we’d target in therapy. Most listeners are not confused by uptalk. If someone was really confused by it, we’d work with them on identifying questions vs comments.

              2. JamminOnMyPlanner*

                I’ve talked to a lot of people in my life who use uptalk, and I have never once been confused.


                1. Ellie Rose*

                  Yeah, this. It might be considered more professional *not* to speak this way, and it may undermine her credibility, but I highly doubt it leads to confusion.

                  Being concerned about how she come across to clients is valid, but the idea that it’s _confusing_ them seems like a real stretch.

      2. many bells down*

        I cannot COUNT the number of times a man has called me “rude” or “harsh” for making a simple factual statement without any “softening.” In fact, I often got told that I “type like a man” online when I’m direct and to the point.

        1. PT*

          I’ve gotten in trouble for delivering “bad news” to male bosses, for being rude/difficult/insubordinate/not a team player.

          Think of the bad news being something like, “We can’t feed the llamas french fries from the cafeteria, it will make them sick. We need to order more llama feed and hay.”

          1. Anonymous4*

            I got a job in a place in which the women all had to say, “I feel” this or that, in meetings. “I feel that if we want XYZ to happen, we need to xxx.”

            I was an outlier because I said, in a perfectly pleasant tone and with a smile, “I don’t get paid to feel things; I get paid to think. And, based on the data from MNO, I think that such-a-thing is likely to be problem because xyz.”

            Never got called out on it and, before I left, I noticed that some other women were “thinking” instead of “feeling.” Yessssss!

        2. Beehoppy*

          Two days ago a man e-mailed the president of my company calling for my termination because I used sharp language in an e-mail. I had made a factual statement.

        3. Reluctant Mezzo*

          You have to realize that when women talk, period, they’re wrong. See, it’s easy! (unfortunately).

          If they don’t talk, then it’s wrong too.

      3. Loulou*

        Why is everyone conflating using softening language (which has to do with word choice/sentence structure) and uptalk? They’re really not the same thing and Ive really never seen the latter reflect well on anyone, whereas the former is really important.

        1. This is a name, I guess*

          Framing a factual statement as a question undermines the authority of the speaker by inviting the listeners to give feedback, even if they have no feedback to give or authority over the situation.

        2. boo bot*

          I think uptalk is one way of softening what you’re saying, and softening what you’re saying can often (not always) amount to implying that you have less authority, power, or knowledge than you actually do.

          To take the example from the post, she’s turning “You can’t do X because of regulations” into “I think there’s a regulation against X, isn’t there?” She’s just doing it tonally rather than changing her phrasing.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      If it’s causing confusion or hurting the clarity of her communication, which OP indicates it is, then it’s a professional issue. Insecure vocal patterns are characterized as feminine because women use them (subconsciously, or as a result of socialization) to soften their messages. This is absolutely something to correct.

      1. Stacy*

        OP says clients haven’t complained or brought it up so it’s really just OP’s perception that it could be causing issues.

        The way you characterize women’s speech as based in subconscious, insecure vocal patterns in need of correction is something you may want to examine. The vocal patterns I use could probably be perceived as such, but I am neither insecure or subconsciously softening my language. I think this judgement that women should sound more like men is just another way to assign what is considered a feminine trait as negative whole more masculine traits as positive. Why can’t softening language be a positive?

        1. Cat Lover*

          Softening language and upspeak (which I think the OP is talking about) are two different things.

          1. NaN*

            They’re two different things, but they’re in the same category. Uptalk is often a way of softening tone and delivery (conscious or not) in the same way that softening language is.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          We have had many discussions here about how often clients don’t say “OP, as Mary’s boss I want to tell you that her speech pattern seems to introduce doubt where I’m paying you for clarity, and this undercuts your company’s professionalism.” Or “Manager, your clerk ignored me and I could not buy the potato chips I wanted.” They just go somewhere else.

          1. Evelyn Carnahan*

            But LW2 has not said that clients are leaving after working with her. LW2 is very clear that, at least as of when they wrote in, this was based on just their perception.

        3. LittleMarshmallow*

          I agree that it’s not so subconscious. If I’m “playing dumb”, or softening my language, or posing something as a question rather than a statement even when I know it’s true, I’m definitely doing it intentionally and usually to manipulate whoever I’m talking to into doing what I need them to do. Is it fun that it’s needed? No, it sucks, but sometimes you get tired of fighting it and just go with what works. Men out there, if a lady does this to you but not to others, you have likely been identified by her as “difficult” and she is using those techniques to get you to comply. Take note and do better because a lot of us are pretty tired of having to “lessen” ourselves in order to get our work done because you can’t handle women being themselves or speaking to you in a direct fashion.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Being given uptalk lands to me as someone trying to manipulate me. As Peanut Butter put it downthread, I feel they want me to feel I must reassure them that everything is fine. But I don’t want to reassure them that everything is fine–I want them to provide the information that is supposed to be their area of expertise.

      2. sara.bellum*

        No… OP has noticed it and is bothered by it, but has no indication it’s actually causing any confusing or issues.

        1. JM60*

          Clients won’t often report things like this though, so I’m not sure if the lack of reported problem necessarily means that there is a lack of an actual problem.

          1. Neptune*

            Right, but it’s possible to spend a bit of time paying attention to how the client is responding to Mary to see if it seems to be causing problems rather than just assuming that it must be and coaching her into changing her entire speech pattern based on an assumption. When Mary says “we can’t do X because of the regulations?” do clients actually seem confused by that and ask for clarification, or otherwise seem like they haven’t understood her? Do they seem irritated or impatient with her? Do her clients seem like they’re not confident in her advice, eg frequently asking other people to confirm what she’s just said or arguing with her more than they do with other advisors? Does she have a lot of initial consulations/conversations with people who then never come back?

            If this is a problem so bad that clients will just go somewhere else over it then it should at some point show in their demenour. I’m not saying that OP should have conducted an exhaustive investigation into this, but if someone was like “hey, I want you to change the way that you speak because I think it has X effect”, I would want to know if there was a reason to think it actually had been having that effect.

            1. JM60*

              changing her entire speech pattern based on an assumption

              I don’t see this as coacher her to change her entire speech pattern, but rather getting her to change one particular habit.

              but if someone was like “hey, I want you to change the way that you speak because I think it has X effect”, I would want to know if there was a reason to think it actually had been having that effect.

              IMO, the reason is very clear. It stands to reason that phrasing something that way will make someone wonder how certain you are. I think that, plus the OP’s own observation of how it comes across to her, is sufficient reason to believe that it’s having that effect on others to coach someone into changing the habit. There are lots of habits you can coach someone into changing before/without carefully analyzing how it comes across to customers.

              I’m all in favor of carefully observing the reactions of clients when she does that, but there may not be overt signs that this speech habit is undermining their confidence in her. Perhaps they won’t overtly say, “Are you really sure about that” when she does this, but rather think, “she’s unsure about a lot of things, so she must not know what she’s talking about,” after she does this many times.

      3. Empress Matilda*

        Actually I think OP indicates exactly the opposite. They worry that it might be causing confusion, and then go on to say that nobody has commented on it. I assume if there were an actual example of people being confused by the employee’s speech patterns, OP would have included it in the letter. To me it reads as entirely speculative, and entirely based on the OP’s feelings about uptalking.

        I agree with Nanani and Nesprin – this is an OP problem, not an employee problem. And it’s typically very gendered, as it’s usually women who are told to correct their speech so that “people” will take them more seriously.

      4. Elle*

        I totally agree. If they have a good relationship, I think it’s completely appropriate to give a little coaching on (though I would ask her first if she wanted some feedback re: her communication style). I also think it matters very little that others haven’t commented. A client would be a real jerk to comment on something like this, but I think it’s appropriate for a manager to consider addressing- if it were me, I’d want a trusted manager or mentor to offer feedback WAY before it got to the point of others commenting on an issue. It’s not the end of the world (or her career) if she speaks that way but I think correcting it could be a net positive for her. I’ve made an effort to stop doing this myself as well as soften my language less in general and I think it’s made my communication much clearer. A big part of that for me has been owning my actual knowledge (so maybe some coaching/reassurance in that area would be appropriate as well) and accepting that it’s okay to be wrong- instead of saying, “I think we do ABC….?” I’ll now phrase it “I believe our process is ABC; if it has changed Fergus would be able to speak to that.” I still have vocal fry and probably use tons of word whiskers that would annoy sexist people in the workplace, but I see that stuff as personality/texture, and the questioning tone situation as a (mild) communication flaw. That’s just my experience in my org though-I feel like ymmv based on industry, region, and many other factors.

        1. Very Social*

          This is the first time I’ve seen the phrase “word whiskers”; thanks for introducing it to me!

      5. Falling Diphthong*

        This. I am a woman and this sort of “You should repaint the teapots? Because of the regulations? By end of month?” is very off-putting to me regardless of the gender of the speaker.

        It’s a pattern I associate with trying to appease the more powerful. I don’t want to be appeased; I want you to tell me if the teapots need something done to them, and if so how difficult it’s going to be.

        1. PeanutButter*

          I just was at an online conference where a very accomplished researcher presented data that I was very interested in and her talk was the main reason I had planned to attend since her research closely parallels what we do in our own lab.

          She talked exactly how the LW describes the employee, and I had to mute the talk and rely on auto-generated CC because I could not STAND it. My brain kept going to “Why are you asking me questions, this is YOUR research.” It’s nails on a chalkboard and totally stood out as just plain WEIRD among all the other talks.

    3. Hannah*

      As a woman, I would want somebody to call that to my attention. For better or worse, it is perceived as softening the message and it sounds like in this situation, softening to the point that she is not clearly communicating what she means. It’s important to me to communicate well and if I was not doing that, I would appreciate somebody telling me.

      1. Unkempt Flatware*

        Totally agree. IME, I have to be more professional, more prepared, more aware, more everything than my male peers in order to not be called out for things. It’s just the way it is and I choose to play the damn game.

        1. anonymath*

          Thank you. I want to fight for justice in many ways… and being passed over for promotion because I’m perceived as unconfident because of something I’d change if I knew about it but no one told me because “women are just like that and it ought to be ok”…. well. There’s what ought to be ok and there is the world we live in, and the careful dance of accommodation is a fact of life that’s unavoidable no matter what choice one makes. It’s nicer in my view to know what my options are than go in unaware.

      2. Health Insurance Nerd*

        I feel the same. Just because clients aren’t complaining doesn’t mean that she isn’t damaging her credibility and their confidence in her abilities.

      3. Bee*

        Yeah, if this were just internal or casual speech, I wouldn’t mention it, but when you’re speaking as an authority to external clients, you don’t want to soften the message so much that you no longer sound authoritative. (And I would be very surprised if clients commented on this speech pattern specifically! It’s probably not *confusing* them, just subtly making them feel like maybe she doesn’t really know what she’s talking about.) I’d also let it go if it were pretty much any other form of stereotypically feminine speech, like vocal fry or use of filler words or saying “sorry” when you’re not apologizing. But she needs to make clients feel confident in her abilities and information, and this makes her sound doubtful instead.

      4. Elysian*

        Agree. It sounds like it is her job to give advice and be confident in that advice. If she doesn’t sound confident with her clients, someone should be telling her that at least once. This would be different than if the OP harped on it after it has been mentioned once, or put it in a PIP if no one has complained, etc. But should she be told by her supervisor? Absolutely.

      5. WomEngineer*

        I don’t like that women get scrutinized more than men based on their perceived level of confidence… but it happens – especially in male-dominated fields. Men and women have different communication patterns that affect “who gets heard and why.”

        I think it’s fair to bring up, as long as it’s not the only piece of feedback this employee gets. Tell them what they’re doing well, too.

      6. WomEngineerz*

        I don’t like that women get scrutinized more than men based on their perceived level of confidence… but it happens – especially in male-dominated fields. Men and women have different communication patterns that affect “who gets heard and why.”

        I think it’s fair to bring up, as long as it’s not the only piece of feedback this employee gets. Tell them what they’re doing well, too.

      7. I'll get flamed for this*

        I got called out on uptalk in college and I’m grateful for it. No matter who does it, it sounds unsure. I don’t want to do business with someone who sounds unsure of their products, their company, their work, or themselves.

        I have no objection to qualifying language or stating that something is one’s opinion. Vocal fry is a natural thing. Uptalk is not. It comes out of women being talked over, which undermines confidence.

      8. Batgirl*

        Yeah, I was coached to stop doing this *as much* when becoming a teacher because you definitely have more control in the classroom if you’re direct, rather than making suggestions. I still use questions and softened language though! I’m just more aware of the options. If OP has a genuine and open-minded discussion with this report, including listening to her take on why she uses questions, and whether she should always use questions, it won’t be sexist.

      9. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. OP also notes that this happens more when the employee is actually less confident, so I think it might be worth having the conversation about what to do in a client meeting when you *aren’t* sure and how to loop back professionally with a confident answer.

      10. Koalafied*

        This woman agrees with you. Even if I accept at face value that it’s unfair/discriminatory for people to look down on upspeak, I don’t need my boss to try to maintain for my benefit the illusion that it’s not still an issue that can affect my career and earning potential. I would certainly expect a good boss to understand the gendered aspect of this and be sensitive to that – to say, “I know you’re knowledgeable and confident, and I want to equip you to come across that way to others,” rather than, “Your upspeak makes it impossible to take you seriously,” for instance. But I absolutely don’t want my boss to shy away from pointing out unpleasant realities that can materially impact me just because it “shouldn’t” be that way. Too many things in life aren’t as they should be for anyone to go around deciding you don’t have to take into consideration anything that isn’t as it should be in an ideal world.

        1. Champagne Cocktail*

          I like your phrasing, and a good manager will do just that. While intent certainly matters, it’s impact that drives reactions and you have to account for that.

      11. Atalanta0jess*

        THIS. Yeah, it’s a misogynistic world. I want to function in it as effectively as possible. Which means I need to understand how I am being perceived.

      12. Rose*

        Thank you. “This wouldn’t effect her career in a more equal world so let’s let it damage her career on principal” is extremely unhelpful. I’d be pissed if a manager screwed me this way as some kind of feminist stand.

        The fact that this is an actual problem (as opposed to something like vocal fry which is just deemed annoying) compounds the issue. Clients need to know when she’s telling them something and when she’s asking.

    4. My Llama Peggy Hill*

      Agreed. Saw a really great video about how uptalk is often our armor against being called aggressive or worse, a way to seem passive and compliant to minimize danger. It’s an adaptation to misogyny and the fact that we’re not safe anywhere, nor is anything we do perceived as nuetral.

    5. supertoasty*

      In Alison’s defense, these are old questions. It could be that, at the time the question was originally asked, things like “women’s cadence in the workplace” wasn’t as much of a vocal issue (excuse the unintentional pun) as it is now. In any case, yes you’re right – it’s not great advice now, both with the benefit of hindsight as well as to someone asking the same question in 2022 or in whatever future year. I do enjoy reading these as a time capsule to what the professional world looked like just a few years ago, though

        1. supertoasty*

          Huh! Long enough ago that this topic wasn’t as much on people’s minds yet, close enough that in hindsight it really, probably should have been. Thanks for digging it up!

      1. Koalafied*

        I’m pretty sure Alison has in the past discouraged managers from criticizing women for vocal fry.

        Upspeak to me is a different flavor of issue, which is maybe why she’d have handled it differently. Vocal fry is just a “vocal pattern associated with women,” while upspeak is a “vocal pattern that is commonly understood to convey uncertainty when used by a man or a woman and is also associated somewhat more strongly with women.” Vocal fry is also typically just panned by its critics as universally bad, while upspeak is usually criticized for being used in inappropriate contexts that undermine the intended message, with the understanding that there are indeed some situations where you have good reason to want to convey uncertainty.

        To me the case for telling women to fix our voices to sound more pleasant by some arbitrary standard is on much shakier ground than the case for telling us to pay attention to our voices to better control the message we’re sending, and ensure that we only convey uncertainty when we want to convey uncertainty. Even though both issues intersect with gender, there’s a more rational basis for the latter.

        1. supertoasty*

          Oh don’t get me wrong, I agree wholeheartedly! I’m simply responding to people’s reactions as if this was a brand new question being asked, which it’s not – which is why I think Alison’s advice doesn’t seem like it would gel with current attitudes about how women in the workplace vocalize.

        2. PeanutButter*

          Over a decade ago, when I was in school to become a paramedic, ALL students/genders were coached to avoid “uptalk” (it wasn’t called that, we were just told we sounded like clueless children, ha ha) People were going to be trusting us during the scariest moments of their lives and the last thing they needed was an emergency responder saying “OK, so… we need to start an IV????” instead of “You need an IV for fluids and pain management on the way to the hospital. May I start one?”

    6. Some dude*

      I’m a dude, but I disagree. I get that the criticism of these tics can be sexist, but the tics themselves are also not the best. There is nothing feminine about saying everything as a question. It’s just something that women develop, and they can un-develop it. There’s nothing feminine about apologizing all the time, or sounding unsure when you aren’t. It’s something we get socialized to do, but we can unlearn things we learn if they aren’t helping us.

      I think men can have similar unhelpful tics (using informal language in situations where it makes them look like they are dumb or not serious), and you certainly don’t want to go full bore on policing women’s language, but how we present ourselves matters and sometimes we aren’t aware of how our use of language is making us come off.

      1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

        Agreed, other than the upspeak is not a “tic” (involuntary, repetitive vocal or physical motion) but rather better characterized as a learned habit.

      2. My Llama Peggy Hill*

        So the next time I get called aggressive hy a man for not softening my language with these “tics” I’ve developed to keep myself safe and sane, what do you want me to do? I say “next time” cuz it wouldn’t be the first or second time and anyone who doesn’t uptalk or add tons of exclamation points to emails will tell you the same.
        Also, what you perceive as “tics” is just a normal way of speaking that deviates from how men speak, as well as some adaptations for dealing with patriarchy (think of passivity as the speach equivalent of “You’re prettier when you smile-” some men expect it and get weird when you aren’t differential enough). Why should I have to change? Maybe you, as a man, should worry more about how you’re perceived by women and start adding uptalk and vocal fry. Sound ridiculous? Then why do you want me to change how I talk?
        There is a huge body of academic linguistic research backing up how language is used to keep people in check, how speech differs among gender, race, etc. and who gets to decide what sounds professional. I’d recommend doing some research and bettering yourself.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I mean when I get called aggressive by a man I just shrug. I’m not worried about being aggressive I’m worried about communicating clearly and concisely.

          Fwiw I know a lot of men who adopt vocal fry to sound softer. Vocal fry isn’t an issue but sounding unsure about what you’re saying is different.

            1. NotNow*

              That’s nice, I’m glad you feel that way, but being seen as aggressive can negatively affect your career just as much as being seen as unconfident. The first time I applied for a leadership position, I was told I was intimidating and that I should work on being more approachable.

              1. RetailEscapee*

                Seconding you on this. Being “unapproachable” or “rude” or “b!tchy” or god forbid “emotional” can hinder career development, raises, etc.

          1. Claire W*

            I mean that’s great until you’re not getting promotions because you’re “unfriendly” or “not communicative” because of gendered expectations

        2. Rolly*

          Interesting. I read another woman, who gives workplace advice, write: “Yes, address it! It’s making her sound unsure, and that’s bad for her professionally”

          1. My Llama Peggy Hill*

            Oh no did she deviate from the yonic hivemind? There’s no other explanation for a two women having separate views. Could be that she understands the sexism but wants to operate around it (way different energy than the post i replied to) or that she has some internalized sexism herself

                1. Casper Lives*

                  She’s responding in a sarcastic and, yes, somewhat aggressive manner. “Did she deviate from the tonic hive mind?” Is not clear at all.

                  Actually, I found a lot of her responses in this thread to be aggressive. I should know since I’m a woman in a conservative field where both men and women can be aggressive (litigation). Sometimes I’m aggressive at work if the occasion calls for it.

            1. Rolly*

              ” There’s no other explanation for a two women having separate views. ”

              Oh I’m well aware that different people can have different views – I just can’t help but wonder if you’d pour scorn on that other person in the same manner as you pour it on Some dude.

        3. IEanon*

          I’m in a position that also requires me to advise clients on regulations and policies, and I had to deliberately train myself out of this exact tic once I started in my first full-time role. I was doing it primarily because I was unsure of myself; not of the regulations, which I knew, but of whether or not I would be taken seriously by the people I was advising.

          The tic wasn’t tied to my gender identity, but to my relative lack of experience and impostor syndrome (which is experienced more by women, anyway, but that’s not the point).

          I need to project confidence because I’m the subject matter expert at my organization, and I also need my colleagues to recognize that. If I were OP’s employee, I would want to know that they had some concerns about any aspect of my presentation, whether the clients brought it up or not. (Very few of our clients would, even if they interpreted me as unsure.)

          Like EOW above, I’m not at all concerned about being called aggressive, as long as I’m making my point clear.

        4. MacGillicuddy*

          Then the next time you get called aggressive by a man because of the way you phrased something, your reply to that man should be “ if a guy said that to you, you’d say he was ‘confident’ or ‘direct’”.

          Call it out when you see it.

          1. My Llama Peggy Hill*

            Yes I’m sure that’ll go over quite well. Thank you for solving this lifelong issue for me.

          2. Pippa K*

            You might consider that the same women who get chastised for their tone and directness are often also direct enough to address it. I’ve done literally what you suggest and I assure you it did NOT solve the problem but became further evidence that I am aggressive.

            1. allathian*

              No matter what we do, women can’t win. So I’d far rather be known as the aggressive one who stands her ground rather than the meek one who can be trampled on. YMMV.

              1. allathian*

                That said, it helps that my culture is a direct one that values clarity over pretty much anything else regardless of gender, so this issue hasn’t really come up for me as much.

              2. NotAnotherManager!*

                This is the way I’ve always looked at it. If I can’t win, I’ll not win as me – I’m not rude, and I’m liberal with please/thank you when appropriate, but I’m not going to soften or adopt speaking mannerisms because I’m a woman. Saying, “Unfortunately, we can’t do that because it violates X regulation, but we can do Y instead.” is not rude and if someone can’t handle that, it’s probably not a good fit for me work-wise.

                I hate upspeak. Fortunately, it’s not prevalent in my industry because appearing confident and decisive is important for everyone, but I had a 20-something (guy) on my team for a while that used it all the time, and one of his clients finally got exasperated and started saying, “Are you asking me or telling me?”.

        5. Critical Rolls*

          Vocal fry and upspeak are not the same. Upspeak creates an impression of uncertainty no matter who does it, and it’s something that can be controlled/reduced with effort.

          Men who call women aggressive for being insufficiently subservient can’t be reasoned with. I’m not going to shrink into a mouse to please them, because that is doing all their work for them. They will have to deal with me in my unapologetic, unsoftened state, and if they want to tear me down they’ll have to do it the hard way, in daylight, where everyone can see what sh*theels they are.

      3. Ev*

        People who criticize these vocal “tics” are assuming that a culturally feminine way of speaking is inherently inferior to a culturally masculine way of speaking. Many of things you describe as “not the best” are assumed to be so only because they are associated with women. As long as it’s not hindering communication, there is nothing inherently inferior about them. Women should not have to change the way they speak simply because it is not the way men speak.

        1. Cat Lover*

          As a woman, I don’t think that’s true. People criticize upspeak because English is a language where tone and inflection can change meaning and intent of a sentence. Doesn’t matter the gender identity of the speaker.

          Women are not immune to feedback and criticism just because they are women.

          1. Koalafied*

            Upspeak is also not nearly as gendered as it’s being made out to be here. Women do use it more frequently, but the usage gap is particularly narrow among Millennial and Gen Z men and women, and even elder Boomer/macho cowboy President Bush II was famously known for heavy use of uptalk in his speeches.

            Many things will be slightly more predominant among one sex, and things associated with women are often disparaged or judged poorly for reasons that can only be attributed to that association. Something that is reasonably common among both men and women, which has a socially understood meaning (uncertainty/seeking affirmation) that is understood to be appropriate for some contexts but not others, is not that, even if it’s more common among women and may be criticized more than it would if not for that association. Intersectionality always, be aware of how gendered perceptions influence things – but not every criticism of something associated with women is baseless.

          2. JamminOnMyPlanner*

            I’ve never seen anyone criticize a man for using uptalk, though. It’s only women, even though men also do it.

        2. IEanon*

          I’m honestly a little offended that so many commenters are suggesting that this specific manner of speaking is culturally feminine at all. I’ve absolutely heard male colleagues (always young or new to the field), do the exact same thing. And it made them seem unprepared or uncertain, as well!

          Do women do this more often, or for longer than their male peers? Probably. And I think that’s a reflection of the fact that women are more likely to suffer from impostor syndrome, and less likely to be taken seriously by their male peers.

          That’s an issue of sexism, for sure, but I think the solution is coaching women not to fall back on manners of speaking that undermine them (when necessary). Reinforcing the idea that we should read a style of communicating that sounds unsure or uninformed as stereotypically feminine seems more damaging to me.

        3. Some dude*

          That’s not true. I’m not assuming being feminine is inferior to being masculine. I’m not assuming making everything a question is an inherently feminine trait – more women than men do it, but a fair number of men do it too, myself included. I’m not saying talk more like a dude. I’m saying be aware when you are coming off as unsure of yourself, and maybe don’t do that to the extent you can control it.

        4. philmar*

          A culturally feminine way of speaking IS inherently inferior to a culturally masculine way of speaking in the context of the culture in which being perceived as feminine often has professional drawbacks. Unfortunately, this is a “world we live in” vs. “world we wish we lived in” moment. If you want to be the change where you stick to your culturally feminine way of speaking, you are making that choice knowing it could hinder you.

          1. My Llama Peggy Hill*

            I disagree. I think you can prepare women, lgbt folks or people of other ethnicities for the microaggressions they’ll receive based on how they speak and let them adjust ir not as they see fit, while still fighting attitudes that make that adjustment necessary.
            In my case, not being feminine enough has been a curse. People expect me to be passive and bubbly. Sometimes I am and sometimes not depending on what’s at stake. Having had to do that as a gay woman makes me more sensitive to others whose speech isn’t dominant- that and Labov

      4. SnowyRose*

        I agree with you. How you present yourself internally and externally is something all of our junior level staff get coached on regardless of gender because it matters. To be clear, we address things that can learned/unlearned like vocal fry. Things outside of someone’s general control like a tic or the pitch of their voice would be outside the scope of what we can and should address. Within my organization, at least, “bro speak” is probably more frequently addressed (our members are not your “brother,” do not use “hey man,” etc.).

        1. Cut Short For Time*

          Ira Glass has vocal fry – it is different from upspeak and often only identified as a problem when women use it. Vocal fry is often not as cultural/learned, but a way that a person naturally speaks.

          1. Clisby*

            I still don’t really understand vocal fry. I had never heard of it before AAM, and have listened to examples on YouTube, but usually they just sound like normal speech to me.

            1. Mannequin*

              This. I don’t hear it and the supposedly annoying “vocal fry” voices don’t bother me at all.

            2. Burger Bob*

              I always say this too. I don’t understand the problem. That’s just how people talk sometimes (of any gender). It sounds like normal speech to me.

          2. MsClaw*

            This American Life did an episode a while back touching on this, where Ira talked about how he gets emails complaining about the ‘vocal fry’ of the female voices on this show. But how, oddly enough, he gets no comments on his own vocal fry. Which tells you something since he fries like he’s serving novelty foods at a state fair.

      5. Reluctant Mezzo*

        And yet if women don’t soften their language enough, that’s also perceived as bad.

    7. Former call centre worker*

      I agree with this and I’m also unconvinced that using “question intonation” is ever actually mistaken for asking a question – it’s usually subtly different from the intonation actually used in questions. From the example given about regulations, it doesn’t sound ambiguous, and there haven’t been any incidents of confusion.

      Women get punished for speaking authoritatively and punished for trying to soften what they say to sound less authoritative – there is no way to win.

      1. allathian*

        Yup, there really is no way to win. But given that’s the case, it’s also sort of liberating when you internalize this, because it sets you free to do what you want, whether it’s to use softening language, or directness.

      2. JM60*

        The concern isn’t that clients will think she’s asking a question, but rather that she’ll sound uncertain. To me, phrasing like this often sounds like they’re subconsciously asking themselves the question because they aren’t sure themselves.

    8. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      As a woman I disagree on this in a specific area. This type of uptick does make it sound like the person is uncertain, and also is easily fixed. If I were communicating in a way that could cause people to doubt my abilities (as it is doing so for the boss) I would absolutely want to know.

      This is not the same as needing to lower your pitch, or use softening language to “not seem aggressive”. I have worked in Finance for 20 years and have gotten some sexist feedback on my communication style, but I think this could directly impacting her message and how she is perceived, and as a woman in leadership I would want to know that.

      For the record, I have heard younger men do this as well.

      1. No_woman_an_island*

        Completely agree. It’s not something we should be creating space for and it’s not exclusively feminine. If this person needs to use fine-tuned communication skills in her job, then it absolutely needs to be addressed with her.

    9. Gerry Keay*

      I disagree. I have colleagues of all genders who have this specific upvoice tic and I find it incredibly challenging to verbally communicate with them! It’s really hard to get a sense of what the actual answers are, and it’s really hard to know when to break in, and I frequently have to ask for clarification. In terms of how the feedback is given, yes, LW should be sensitive to this, but I do actually think this is helpful feedback.

      1. Anonanon*

        “it’s really hard to know when to break in”

        I feel like I heard something recently about how this is actually the utility of uptalk. It’s not necessarily “being uncertain” or “saying everything as a question” but instead is actually a way to control the conversation and prevent being interrupted.

        I’ll see if I can find it.

        1. IEanon*

          I also read something similar that discussed how ending a question with, “right?” was a way to either prompt agreement from the listener or indicate that something was so obvious that no one could possibly disagree.

          Interestingly, this iteration of uptalk is typically read as stereotypically male. It also, in my opinion, needs to be corrected.

          I stopped listening to a government and policy podcast because the host ended every third sentence with, “right?” It sounded SO arrogant to me.

        2. Untitled #77*

          This is really interesting. I was always annoyed when people described this prosody of stating everything as a question, when really I meant it as a series of items in a list. When I was done saying all the sentences in my list, my voice went down to signal the end.

          (Though it can also convey uncertainty, as it seems to in this letter the way it is described.)

          1. NotNow*

            I said this in another comment, but I really think that this idea that it makes everything sound like a question or makes the speaker sound uncertain is an interpretation applied after the fact to justify finding women’s voices annoying, at least in many cases. Or not necessarily “annoying” but just — different from what we’re used to in a professional context, therefore it must be unprofessional, and here’s a justification for why. Even in this letter, the letter writer doesn’t have an example of where it has actually caused confusion.

      2. Allonge*

        Exactly. The part where women get criticised more for how they speak makes it trickier to address, not unnecessary.

        Put another way: a manager NOT offering constructive professional advice to me because women get criticised more is not someone I would like to work for. I want to know if there is something I can improve and I want then the chance to decide if it’s worth investing time!

    10. Beth II*

      I mean ending a sentence that is supposed to be declarative with a question is strange and also makes me think of how teenagers speak. I get that the OP may just be annoyed by this verbal tic and I get it as it also thoroughly annoys me as well but might not be an issue for anyone else.

      1. PT*

        A lot of teenagers speak that way to be deferential to the authority figure to whom they’re speaking. Like, imagine a teacher saying, Please take out your textbooks, and a student saying, Ms. Teacher? I forgot my textbook?

        They’re leaving an opening for the authority figure to tell them what happens next. Borrow a textbook from the back of the room, share with a seatmate, get their participation grade docked, be issued detention, etc.

    11. Artemesia*

      I knew we would go there, but IMHO the way to proceed is to not allow women to continue to sound sniveling and unsure of themselves. Women also tend to apologize a lot or use apologetic language which undercuts their authority and allow themselves to be talked over by more aggressive men. It isn’t ‘masculine’ to sound authoritative when you speak in a work setting or to insist on being heard in a meeting and women need to learn to do those things and hold their own.

    12. Cat Lover*


      English is a language where inflection and syllabus emphasis can completely change the message, tone, and intent of a sentence.

    13. Indigo a la mode*

      Hmm. I feel like saying uptalk is “how we speak” or “a feminine way” dismisses the fact that women don’t necessarily naturally speak like that – it’s a learned habit, presumably wrapped up in our cultural learning to be deferential and accommodating. So I think uptalk is actually a great habit to break so she can embrace her authority and sound as confident as she deserves to.

      Early in my career, another woman pointed out that I would often say something at work and then giggle, as though to undo or dismiss whatever I had just said, and that it made me sound unconfident when there was no reason to. I no longer laugh off my points, and I greatly appreciate her advice.

      1. Gerry Keay*

        Thank you. The idea that “women do this as a response to sexism” equals “it’s good that women do this” is just… a bizarre take to me.

        1. NaN*

          As with many things, it’s a matter of degrees. I don’t think we have to jump all the way to “it’s good that women do this” to recognize that:
          1. There can be utility in speaking this way
          2. The level of distain that women get for speaking this way is unwarranted
          3. If “uptalk” and some form of aggressiveness are thought of as opposites, it’s not true that the opposite of uptalk is necessarily “right” or “the default”.

    14. Noelle*

      As a woman who knows I have this problem without anyone telling me, I’m kind of split here. On one hand, I know my speech pattern is a result of my anxiety, causing me to constantly second-guess and edit myself mid-sentence. If someone told me I had this problem and insist I fix it, I would get even more anxious talking, and try to control and edit my tone so much I would grind to a halt.
      On the other hand, it definitely isn’t great if you’re client-facing, and not just because customers want to feel like you’re sure of what you’re saying. I used to work at a call center, and some of the callers who were out for blood would POUNCE on me if I sounded unsure and verbally berate me. Obviously that behavior is inexcusable, but sounding confident when you talk helps prevent these situations.
      I guess what I’m saying is that the issue is a bit more nuanced than AAM’s answer, and while some people can change this using a little mindfulness, it might require years of professional training or even therapy for others.

    15. Monkey Fracas Jr.*

      “You should focus on what she says, not the subliminal crime of saying it in a feminine way.”

      Thank you for saying this. I agree with you 100%.

    16. anonymous73*

      If the way she speaks is coming across as questions, then yes it needs to be addressed. It has nothing to do with criticizing the way a woman speaks, it’s about being professional and eliminating confusion.

    17. Naomi*

      +10000. Came here to say exactly this; you hit the nail on the head here and explained it better than I could have. I was disappointed by Alison’s response here!

      1. Cat Lover*

        Nah, Alison is correct. Women deserve to be given professional advice just as much as men. Resigning to “oh well, women use upspeak” (to their determent!) is not as helpful as people think it is.

        If an employee of any gender identity is using tone and/or inflection in a way that could be confusing or otherwise unprofessional (especially client-facing), that employee could benefit from knowing.

        Language inflection is a learned habit and can be changed. Read through some of these comments.

        1. Allonge*

          This. No, OP should not insist on mentioning this every week or devise tests, but women get to get professional advice as much as people of any other gender.

        2. Littorally*

          This. I feel like leaving it be on the grounds of ‘oh well that’s just how women talk’ would be a much bigger problem than addressing it appropriately (ie, as development advice and not Managerial Edict From On High).

          It’s the soft bigotry of low expectations in play.

        3. NotNow*

          I think the point is that it’s only perceived as confusing and unprofessional _because_ women do it and that it’s only to women’s detriment because there’s so much policing of how women speak.

          Even the idea that it makes you sound unsure of yourself or makes it sound like you’re asking a question is a bit of an imposed interpretation, applied to justify finding women’s voices annoying.

          There’s a cooking channel on youtube where the person ends every single sentence with an upward tone, and it drives me crazy. But it doesn’t make me think he’s unsure of himself or that he’s asking a question, because that’s just not how I’ve been conditioned to interpret that tone from a man.

          People are pointing out that young men also do this early in their career when they’re learning, but I think that’s different — there’s a difference between recognizing when someone actually sounds uncertain and interpreting all uptalk as uncertainty.

          1. NotNow*

            I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the manager to talk to her and tell her she’s likely to be considered unprofessional. I just think the reasons it’s seen as unprofessional are nonsense a lot of the time.

    18. Nina*

      I got hit with that a few times when I was in the US – ‘why do you always sound like you’re asking a question, be more assertive’.

      Uptalk at the end of a sentence is an integral part of the normal accent for my native country. Everyone does it. It’s just a thing.

      1. Koalafied*

        This can be such a hard thing! I have some intermediate Spanish that has taken me about 5 years to attain – I can follow along with 90% of verbal communication and express 90% of the things I want to say without needing to look anything up, but I still find myself thrown off by intonation sometimes. They just slightly don’t match the way I would intone the English equivalent – there’s a certain emphasis we often put on key words. Like, I would almost always say either, “Are you going to work now?” or “Are you going to work now?” Which one depends on whether I want to emphasize that I’m asking about the destination or the timing, and the emphasis can be very subtle, but one of those two words will be emphasized, no matter how slightly. I often can’t detect either word being emphasized that way at all when a Spanish speaker asks a question, and it very occasionally leads me to listen to the first half of a sentence thinking it’s going in one direction, and then be surprised by the second half of it.

      2. Erik*

        It’s not just your country. My wife is both a linguist and born in Southern California, and she points out that Valley Girl is her native accent. (Like, it’s a statement?) It’s a common regional accent in the US as well.

        Uptalk as an accent is unfortunately being treated as marking an individual as lower status, and advice to get rid of the accent has to keep that in mind. You’re telling someone to do something that will help them in business – but you’re also telling them to erase their own background to fit in. The true answer is to get people to not treat asking questions as a sign of weakness, but that may be too much to ask.

    19. I'm just here for the cats.*

      I would also like to point out that I have a naturally higher-pitched voice and I have asthma. Sometimes I just forget to breathe when I’m talking and the end of the sentence draws out and could be perceived as me framing it as a question

    20. Cake or Death?*

      As a woman, I find it offensive that you’re implying that uptalk is a characteristic of how women talk. Because, frankly, it’s not true.
      I’m a woman. I don’t use uptalk. I find it highly annoying, no matter who’s doing it. And it certainly isn’t only done by women and it certainly is looked down upon when men do it. I worked with a man in his late 40’s that talked this way and it drove me bonkers.

    21. TootsNYC*

      I don’t know who it was I was listening to–some semi-famous man who’s on the airwaves a lot–and I was amazed how much of his discourse was vocal fry!

      1. JamminOnMyPlanner*

        If it was Ira Glass, he actually addressed this on one of his podcasts. He says they get tons of emails complaining about the female hosts and guests’ vocal fry, but not his.

    22. Evvie*

      I found out I’m a question-sounding person after starting a podcast. Before that, I was a teacher. In all the years I taught, no kid thought I was asking a question when I wasn’t.

      Bringing it up would just make me extremely self-conscious when talking to customers. Every time I made a statement that came out even a little like a question, I’d be afraid of getting in trouble and the customers would get a much more distracted version of me. It’s bad for morale and bad for customers.

      As an aside, too, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was trained in theatre or public speaking. Some trainers drill this idea into people’s heads. It’s not as obvious onstage, but having your voice kind of go up at the end makes sure your last words aren’t lost. It can become so second nature that when someone is “on” (like giving a presentation or talking to a customer) that it happens without realizing.

    23. Vocal Coach*

      Vocal and presentation coach here; I usually work with young attorneys who are running into perception issues: specifically, being perceived as inexperienced or unsure of themselves. Often, clients (law firms/law schools) expect me to somehow magically make changes to people’s speech or movement patterns, but about a third of the time, I end up simply bringing things to their attention rather than actively trying to alter their behavior (which presents its own problems). Awareness of an issue can often help mitigate (if not outright eliminate) it.
      One big issue I constantly bump up against is that the vocal and physical traits we associate with authority, gravitas, and confidence (which are what attorneys often want to convey) are almost all “masculine” traits: think a large profile, a lower pitch in speaking, and a lack of gesture. Returning to the tonic (i.e. ending your sentence on the same pitch as you started, rather than raising it to a higher pitch) isn’t necessarily what I’d call a “masculine” trait, because it’s the way we identify a spoken sentence as a statement as opposed to a question. However, there’s no doubt that an uptick in pitch at the end of a declarative sentence is a vocal pattern used far more often by women than men, and which is often perceived as exhibiting a lack of confidence in what one is saying (which I think, in this instance, may be actually more about the “sounds like a question” aspect than the “used more often by women” aspect).
      Rather than telling people that this and other traits (like, for example, overgesturing or rocking from side to side when standing and talking) are “wrong,” I prefer to say that they are traits we as a society have been conditioned to associate with a lack of confidence. Being aware of them (and of how they are generally perceived) is important, but once one of the people I’m coaching is armed with that awareness, I always try to let them decide for themselves how they’d like to proceed.
      As for OP’s specific situation, while it really depends on the relationship, I would lean towards bringing it to her attention, but in a non-judgmental way, as in, “have you ever noticed the uptick in your pitch at the end of your sentences? It often sounds as though you’re asking a question when I don’t think you are,” or some such (one advantage of being a coach is that I’m being paid to point these things out so I don’t need to worry about how I’ll be perceived when I do so; Alison and others probably could come up with much better phrasing for this situation). Of the people I have coached, about 50% have said they’re aware of traits like these before I call them to their attention.
      As a coach, what I sometimes have people do to mitigate this issue (among many other potential techniques!) is use their index finger to “trace” their pitch pattern in the air in front of them as they talk (moving it up when their pitch rises and down when it falls), and then eventually, instruct them to “place” a period at the bottom center of the space in front of them, and always move their finger down to that period when they reach one. You’d be amazed at how that simple physical act dramatically changes the pitch pattern! (Of course, this is something to do in a coaching session: please don’t start using it in all your workplace conversations!)

    24. JamminOnMyPlanner*

      100% agree. People have been using uptalk (and vocal fry) forever, and it’s only become a “problem” since it’s been associated with women.

  2. HigherEd-Staycation*

    This is why you don’t have employees as friends on social media or at least don’t make posts they can see and then be surprised when they’re offended.

      1. Allison*

        Right, OP should’ve blocked their employees from seeing that. Posting it for everyone to see was a recipe for drama; someone’s gonna know it was about them and feel like it was passive aggressive, the others will know that anything they might say or do at work could end up being posted on OP’s social for everyone to see and laugh at. It doesn’t feel good, even if it might be warranted.

        I’m tempted to friend my boss because we have so much in common, but I think it would be awkward and I should probably wait until a time where we no longer work together.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This is exactly the thing that works just fine venting to your spouse or friend over coffee. Social media isn’t those things, and OP should stop mixing them up.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Right? This is the kind of post that definitely makes people hate their boss, even if it seems innocuous or funny to the boss.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Totally OT, but my brother in law sent us a big old tin of caramel and cheddar popcorn at Christmas, and we DEVOURED it with unseemly haste. Every time I see your name, I want to get more.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          Oooh if it’s Garret’s caramel and cheddar popcorn there is no such thing as eating it too fast. That stuff is insanely good.

      2. Anon for This*

        The fact that it is funny to the boss is puzzling. Of course an employee who may already have commitments for Saturday doesn’t want to come in on Saturday when they weren’t scheduled to work Saturday, desire for more hours or not! Employees are not drones who go home after work and then sit there doing nothing until their next scheduled shift! A desire for more hours, predictably, is not willingness to drop everything at the drop of a hat.

        1. Not_Me*

          Too bad a lot of bosses don’t seem to understand this. So many bosses think employees are just robots who power down at the end of the workday just waiting for their next orders from their overlord. The worker drone doesn’t have any other thing in their life besides work and can take on any and all extra hours as the boss sees fit. Who cares if your kid’s soccer game is on Saturday? There’s extra hours at work!!! If you’re available to do extra hours on Mondays, why can’t you do extra hours every day? You should be available whenever your boss needs you.
          Bosses like that LW really annoy me and I wouldn’t last long at a workplace like that.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            It also feels like a pretty solid misunderstanding of what the employee was probably trying to ask for. Someone who goes to their boss to say they need more hours probably means they want more hours on a consistent basis, like working 25 hours a week instead of 18, so their overall income will go up. What the boss offered instead was a random 2 hour shift that would get the employee a one-time $20 bump in their paycheck. They’re very different scenarios.

            1. Tired social worker*

              I used to give the benefit of the doubt and say it was misunderstanding, but the last two years have convinced me that 99% of the time it’s willful misinterpretation. They know exactly what they’re doing.

            2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Overheard once at a former job (that had explicitly written policies against doubles and clopens that you signed during onboarding):

              emp: I need more hours, can we get me some extra shifts.
              boss: I’ll do my best, what extra days are you available for scheduling?
              emp: just the ones you already have – I’d love to work doubles.
              boss: you know that’s against policy, and I’ve already got you scheduled for the max number of shifts based on available days.
              emp: really, I don’t object, you can schedule me to work a double and I won’t report you.
              boss: sorry, but that is not allowed. Please fell free to let me know if the availability you have changes and I’ll do my best to get you on the schedule more. [Walks away]

              So I can see the conversation being “ironic funny” to boss in that you just asked for lore hours and instantly shot down the first chance for lore hours I had to offer….

              1. Tired social worker*

                The example you gave is not really applicable – if someone asks for more hours and you don’t have more shifts for them during their availability, it’s reasonable to say you’re not currently able to give them more hours. OP’s example is only “ironic funny” if they’re using an unreasonable interpretation of their employee’s request for more hours.

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  True. I guess it’s more of a that job the group that did the most complaining about not getting as many hours as the wanted and the group that had the most restricted availability were one and the same group (with two exceptions). It was endlessly annoying to listen to a person who could only work two days a week kvetching about the fact they were only scheduled for 16 hours.

                  I somehow suspect that that prior job was not unique in that aspect.

            3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Yeah, and saying yes to those two hours won’t then mean the worker gets upgraded to a full-time contract, they’ll just become OP’s go-to person to cover last-minute emergencies, meaning good-bye social life, because the emergencies will often be at the weekend somehow.

            4. JamminOnMyPlanner*

              Absolutely, I basically said this exact thing before I saw this comment. In the grand scheme of monthly pay, two extra random hours on a Saturday is NOTHING, especially if you have to cancel plans or wake up earlier for it. (The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized how important my sleep schedule is, to the point where I will not wake up earlier than usual to convenience someone else unless it’s a super special circumstance).

        2. JamminOnMyPlanner*

          YES. What this comment says to me is that the boss fundamentally misunderstood what the employee was asking for, which was probably more regularly scheduled hours. Not to last-minute come in two hours early for their shift when they might already have plans or would have to totally change their sleep schedule for (if it’s the morning).

    2. PotsPansTeapots*

      Yep. Boss made the mistake friending them on FB to begin with. They’re absolutely entitled to blow off steam, but not in a forum where employees can read/hear.

    3. The Original K.*

      Yep. I connect with coworkers on LinkedIn, and that’s it. I’m not on FB anymore (and do not miss it) and my IG is private. I’m careful with what I like and post on LinkedIn because I view it as a work platform, though it’s gotten more social lately (which is a change I don’t like).

      I’m connected to some former coworkers on IG, but I connected with them after we no longer worked together, and they were people I was particularly friendly with. There are former coworkers whose requests I wouldn’t accept.

      1. Lizianna*

        I’m on facebook, but am only friends with former coworkers and one or two coworkers who I spend time with outside of work. But I am still very careful to not really post about work, and do not accept friend requests from anyone for whom I’m in the chain of command for.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yup, I connect with current colleagues only on LinkedIn. All other social networks can wait till we’re not working together any more. Cuts down hugely on the potential for workplace drama!

    4. Stormy Weather*

      This. I don’t really have any sympathy here. I very rarely post about work even to my friends. Co-workers can be on my Facebook when they are former co-workers, not before.

    5. Lady Blerd*

      I temperamentally defriended an an employee once and learned my lesson that day. No friending employees on social media. Same for bosses.

    6. Come On Eileen*

      YUP. And it goes both ways — a co-worker of mine was promoted to be my boss last year, and I silently unfriended her on Facebook. She’s lovely and I enjoy being friendly with her, but as my boss I don’t want her as a social media friend anymore.

    7. Artemesia*

      This. A boss should not be on social media with underlings. And someone really has to be told not to make fun of employees on social media? Seriously?

    8. Batgirl*

      It’s like a bingo card of what not to do as the boss: befriending employees on Facebook, publicly posting about work/employees, being visibly negative about work/employees, having higher expectations for staff than oneself, brushing off symptoms of low morale as being not your concern… The OP has a full house here.

    9. Richard Hershberger*

      I belong to a closed Facebook group whose members go back to a usenet group. We have online known each other for over twenty years and have high mutual trust. We use this group as the place to post stuff we don’t want to release into the wild. I would never post what the OP did on my wall, but I might in this group.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      I wonder if their Facebook is set to Public. I have a few friends whose profiles are like that and they post EVERYTHING about their lives. It makes me wonder if they even know there is a setting to keep the entire world from seeing all your business. At best, it means you get a ton of targeted ads; at worst, someone could clean out your house while you’re happily posting on vacation.

      As for work, I don’t friend anyone from my place of employment unless both of us have left the company already. I don’t talk about my actual jobs on Facebook or Twitter, either, except for writing.

    11. KR*

      I found it really interesting that OP noted their employees were now “gossiping behind their back” when they were the one that started gossiping about their employees to their whole Facebook friend list. It’s just a BS thing to share in that it doesn’t prove any particular point. That person may have needed more hours but just wasn’t available that particular day.

      1. JamminOnMyPlanner*

        Thank you! The boss publicly gossiped about their employees and then gets upset that the employees are talking about it?

    12. Evelyn Carnahan*

      Yep. Even if the employees that LW1 knows are upset aren’t their friends on Facebook, LW1 should know that people can screenshot and share with other people. If you’re going to be friends with your employees on Facebook or any other social network, you cannot also post about your employees.

  3. Mike*

    Facebook is increasingly toxic for a bunch of reasons. This is the type of post I’d make 5 or 10 years ago but not today. Do people really log on to facebook to see this type of comment from their acquaintances? Is posting this, with the knowledge that co-workers/employees will likely see it, really worth it? What was the risk/reward calculation?

    Best rule of the internet is if you don’t have something nice to say, keep it for yourself.

    1. Elena Vazquez*

      Facebook has been losing users for years partly because of competition from other platforms and partly for instances like this where people are taking offense to everything.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Uh are you insinuating that the employees shouldn’t have been offended their boss was mocking them on the internet?

        Cause usually when people complain about people getting offended easily it’s because they’re actually mad they’re getting called out for their offensive behavior.

      2. Valkyrie*

        Uhm this isn’t people getting offended because someone else has a different opinion on the last Star Wars movie; people being offended that their boss is making snarky posts about them is pretty valid. People will get offended by a video of a cute panda bear, but this isn’t a case of people being offended for “no reason”

    2. supertoasty*

      These *are* old questions, so it very well could be that someone did ask this 5 or 10 years ago

    3. Dust Bunny*

      This doesn’t have anything to do with Facebook being toxic or not, though; this is about the OP making fun of an underling, which would be uncool even if it were old-school overheard in the parking lot or written on the bathroom wall.

      (As an aside: It’s also tone-deaf since not all hours are created equal. If my last boss had offered me more hours by letting me come in early, I’d have been coming in at like 4:00 in the morning and at some point there is only so much disruption you can take in your life.)

      1. Meghan*

        Yes! Also, sounds like the schedule was already written and asking someone to make a 2 hour addition might be problematic on short notice— childcare, transport etc might already be set up. It sounds to me like the employee was asking for *future* schedule periods, not that same week.

        1. quill*

          And even if it wasn’t problematic, saying “I need more hours but those specific ones won’t work for me,” is perfectly fine!

          1. Valkyrie*

            Right? I don’t feel like employees are obligated to take literally everything. Let’s say I was already booked for an 8 hour shift, had already made plans for the morning, and my boss thought they were doing me a “favour” by giving me more hours and took offense when I said that a 10 hour day last minute wasn’t what I meant I’d be frustrated (not the exact parameters, I know, I’m going with a hypothetical), then I feel like I’d have to go back and clarify that, say, what I “really” meant was that I wanted MORE shifts, or to be more reliably scheduled for 8 hour shifts and fewer 4 hour shifts, or whatever may be the case.

            In my actual situation, it would look like asking for more clients; my job isn’t based on showing up and doing whatever people do for 4 hours (e.g., reception work), my job is based on my project/client load and I would literally need more or a new project.

            It’s definitely not unreasonable for last minute shifts NOT to be a workable solution for everyone

            1. quill*

              Not to mention that the answer to “I need more hours” is not to randomly throw time slots at people, expecting them to be grateful to pick up two hours here, one hour there, It’s to CONSISTENTLY schedule them. And to schedule them in such a way that isn’t just you barely dodging making them a full time employee (very common in retail, no evidence that OP practices it but they should be aware of shitty practices.)

              1. Valkyrie*

                It might not even be the OPs fault, even if they are avoiding making employees full time – I get the sense that a lot of owners or retail chains might bar their managers/supervisors from making people full time and claim that they can’t “afford” it and also keep everyone employed. I call bull shit on that – something needs to change if you can’t afford to keep your staff treated well, but nonetheless, it’s not always the fault of those scheduling stuff.

            2. JamminOnMyPlanner*

              Exactly. The boss fundamentally understood what the employee was asking for, which was probably more regularly scheduled hours, not the “opportunity” to last-minute cover someone else and cancel plans or have to wake up extra early.

      2. Lunch Ghost*

        …or if it were posted on the social media du jour– I assure you toxic posting does not die out with social media platforms. (I can visualize this precise post as a TikTok, with someone acting out both characters, and it’s definitely short enough for Twitter.)

      3. biobotb*

        Exactly. Just because someone needs more hours, it doesn’t mean they are available literally whenever. They’re still going to have some constraints on their time.

    4. Wintermute*

      The letter was from almost exactly 5 years ago… so it has to be interpreted in that light.

    5. Batgirl*

      If the OP really wanted to share this she’d have been better off doing it anonymously on Reddit or Not Always Right. Alternatively, she probably would have gotten a better laugh with a group of friends over margaritas. Skitting someone online, even gently, where they can see it but aren’t part of the joke is a pretty obvious no.

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

      Yeah, I remember posting about my job search on Facebook about ten years ago and people told me to shut up, stop lying, stop being fat and show more skin if I wanted to get anything. My account has been abandoned since.

  4. Sea Anemone*

    OP1 actually have two separate questions in there:

    1) Should I ask my direct report to stop using upspeak

    2) Should I coach my direct report on giving herself a second to think answers through or tell the client she’ll get back to them

    I would go with no on the first and yes on the second.

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

    No, seriously, what did OP expect posting something like that? Clap emojis? I’d expect people leaving comments about how their manager bullies them publicly it on Glassdoor.

    1. Loulou*

      That would be very dramatic and silly! This isn’t bullying, even if it’s in poor taste and unprofessional.

      1. JamminOnMyPlanner*

        I would say that publicly mocking someone on the internet is bullying, personally.

  6. The Lexus Lawyer*

    Pro-tip: don’t be friends with your employees on FB or any other social media

    1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      Or, alternatively, exercise some discernment about what you post and use the technology you have available to you to restrict who can see what.

    2. Rolly*

      My boss and I follow each other on Twitter. Many people I know are connected to their managers/reports on LinkedIn. It’s entirely normal to be connected on some platforms, particularly with if you all can exercise some discretion.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        LinkedIn is for job stuff, though; Facebook is more personal. Or at least that’s my rule. Some of my friends are on LI and FB and we’re connected on both platforms, but we don’t post personal or jokey stuff on LI.

    3. anonymous73*

      With one caveat…
      If I can be myself completely unfiltered around someone IN PERSON, then I have no issue connecting with them on social media. With that said, I am connected to very few colleagues on social media.

  7. Jean*

    I wonder how LW1 would feel if she read some not-so-subtle negative facebook status or tweet from one of her employees that was obviously about her but didn’t name her specifically. Would she find it lighthearted and funny? Probably not.

    1. Kate in Colorado*

      Exactly. I can’t believe how OP is the root cause of this negativity and is blaming her employees for being negative!! They didn’t want to come in two hours early last minute on a weekend, but OP doesn’t seem to get that calling last minute to offer two hours is a crappy way to respond to people who ask for more hours. They are asking for more scheduled, predictable, and planned hours. OP was “frustrated” that the employees weren’t at their beck and call during their off time and publicly vented those frustrations.

    2. Allison*

      Yep, it’s not actually uncommon for employees to get fired if they post negative comments about work. OP could’ve (and possibly would have) hauled someone into the back room for a chat about their unprofessional attitude if they posted that same conversation from their perspective.

  8. mlem*

    “You can’t do X because it’s against regulationnns?” doesn’t sound unsure to me. It sounds catty/condescending (though, of course, tone on the internet). I’d push an employee to avoid *that* to a *client*, but uptalk alone is just a way some people speak.

    1. Budgie Buddy*

      That’s a good point. Depending on the situation, uptalk could come across as implying the client should already have known the regulations. Like adding “duh” at the end of a sentence.

    2. Cake or Death?*

      Yeah, for me, uptalk often sounds less unsure and more condescending or sometimes even whiny.
      Frankly, it grates my nerves.

  9. Daisy Gamgee*

    “Inappropriately spreading negativity” sounds a lot like “daring to have a problem with any action of their superior’s”. I can see how employees could be dismotivated by being mocked online.

    1. Imaginary Friend*

      I really, *really* want to know what “appropriately spreading negativity” would look like.

      1. Lab Boss*

        I appropriately spread negativity in my job all the time! “The test failed. This will not work at this point in time. More work is needed to make it ready to market, and we will miss the early deadline. No, there’s nothing we can do to change that. Yes, I’m sure.”

        1. AFac*

          Or as I tell my advisees: ‘My job is to mentor you, and sometimes that means being the bad guy.’

        2. quill*

          Saaaame, but from the “can’t start that study yet, lab peeps. The client hasn’t signed their paperwork” end.

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          …you sounded pretty positive at the end though!
          (notes “failure to see things through as well as missing deadlines” on Lab Boss’s yearly review”)

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        “That’s a bad idea, it’s dangerous.”

        “We can’t do X because we don’t have enough manpower, and it seems unlikely the board will authorize new positions in the foreseeable future.”

        “The plan you spent 40 hours developing looks great on paper, but we can’t implement it because it is a violation of our permit. No, we can’t apply for a different permit, this is the only type allowed for by state law.”

        “We will have to stop [extremely popular program] because of supply chain issues. No, there is no workaround. There are only two companies that supply these materials to our region, and both of them have suspended services indefinitely. I have no idea when we will be able to reopen.”

  10. raincoaster*

    Oh, I love #1. “I gossiped about an employee and now my employees are gossiping about it. How do I bring them to heel?”

  11. KP*

    LW 2: I’ll use uptalk? If I want to?

    You know how sometimes you have to put people at ease? You may disagree, but uptalk is a tool to allow feedback in a conversation, you know? I think making friendly, open spaces drives more engagement?

    1. No_woman_an_island*

      Not universally. I inherently don’t trust people who do it. That 100% might be on me, but it’s true of a lot of people. I had a young doctor who talked this way and never returned. There is breaking the ice and making space for friendly conversation, and then there is not being understood in a conversation because of your inflection.

      1. KP*

        Do you not trust them because of internalized misogyny or does it really make things difficult to understand?

        Do you see how that question is a lot less offensive or abrasive than if I had simply stated it?

        1. Cat Lover*

          But if your intent was to show that you disagreed with the commenter above, why didn’t you just state that?

          You’re admitting that inflection and cadence changes intent.

        2. No_woman_an_island*

          It makes them extremely difficult to understand. But I tend to be very left-brained. (Incidentally, I didn’t read your question with any kind of inflection other than a statement, and I didn’t find it offensive).

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          Suggesting that everyone who disagrees with you must have internalized misogyny is not the killer argument you think.

          Or, if you prefer: Suggesting that everyone who disagrees with you must have internalized misogyny is is not the killer argument you think?

          Did that actually make it less abrasive? (Actual question, not faux-warmth question.) And yes, I find it difficult to understand in the sense that the person seems to doubt everything they say.

        4. PeanutButter*

          It comes across as extremely manipulative, like you’re trying to make ME feel like I need to do something to put you at ease.

      2. Artemesia*

        Me too. It may be adorable in a young junior employee. It just sounds unsure and unprofessional in anyone in a position to be offering guidance to others.

      3. Nina*

        I gently suggest you never come to New Zealand (or to a lesser degree Australia), you’ll go insane.

        1. No_woman_an_island*

          Really? I love Australian and New Zealand accents! I don’t equate them to this phenomenon at all. Do you hear those accents as uptalk or am I misunderstanding?

          1. Bethany*

            I’m Australian. It’s not so much a feature of all Australian accents, it’s just a more common practice here. Still the minority though. With my personal acquaintances I see that it’s more common for people from rural areas.

            I hate listening to it, it drives me crazy.

          2. KZ*

            A professor of linguistics has written a book called ‘Uptalk’ about it.

            “Prof Warren said early studies relating to uptalk traced the speech habit to New Zealand and Australia in the 1960s, but it had also been noted in research in Canada and the United States, and more recently in the UK.

            Prof Warren said the purpose of uptalk was seen differently by those using it – the ‘in’ group – than by those hearing it – the ‘out’ group.

            “The uptalkers, the ‘in’ group, they’re using it largely to keep communication channel open, they’re trying to invite the listener into the conversation.

            “The ‘out’ group perceive it differently… they hear it as questioning the validity of what the speaker is saying and so they then interpret that as showing lack of security, lack of confidence in what you’re saying and so that they reflects badly on the speaker.”

    2. IEanon*

      Not in a presentation or client meetings, when you’re expected to be the authority on the subject, not break the ice.

      I’ve sat in meetings where everyone contributing (men, women, nonbinary) phrased their suggestion as a question, and it drives me NUTS. I find that it contributes to circular conversations, where no one wants to commit to one idea or agenda item, because no one sounds like they’d be willing to go to bat for their own idea.

    3. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      I disagree. I think it makes it confusing. I am a woman who is a strong and direct communicator, there are so many ways to invite a comfortable and collaborative environment than to add a question mark at the end of every sentence.

      If it were just now and then I would agree, but I have known people (male and female) who do it every time, and it does undermine their confidence and subject matter expertise. I think this is a great coaching moment.

      As the receiver of a lot of misogynistic feedback on my tone, my assertiveness early in my career in Finance, this strikes me as completely different. Being clearly understood in statements and facts is an important component of professional communication. When presenting to a client a proposal or facts they should feel like you are confident, not uncertain.

    4. Madame X*

      If every sentence you say ends with a question mark, then it stops sounding like you are trying to put people at ease and more like you are uncomfortable or unsure of what you are saying (especially if your role is to be an expert). I would find it very distracting and a bit confusing to discern when you are asking a genuine question or when you are just talking.

    5. Eldritch Office Worker*

      When used with discretion, yes. This doesn’t read as friendly it reads as condescending and off-putting.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This reminds me a bit of the manager instruction to front-line clerks about having a warm and personal engagement with each customer, and customers were like “I just want this person to give me coffee. They should be reasonably polite; they don’t need to pretend we’re friends.”

        Sometimes attempts to create faux-friendly environments backfire and make people uncomfortable.

    6. Rocket*

      Up talk absolutely can be used as a tool. It also is just a part of normal speaking when you are attempting to convey “I don’t actually know if the information I’m telling you is correct.” (Example: if someone asks you or Kevin is and you respond “I think he’s at the store?”)

      But if it’s a pervasive part of your speech pattern and it’s conveying uncertainty where you don’t intend it to, then that is a problem.

    7. anonymous73*

      If someone spoke to me in that manner as a client in a professional environment all the time, I’d ask to work with someone else.

      1. Maryloo*

        A few years ago I took my kid to college freshman orientation where there were separate sessions for students and parents. One presentation was from a woman who worked in the student housing department. She said everything in a high pitched voice with an exaggerated smiling tone (when you force your mouth into an exaggerated smile and then speak, it affects the tone). And every sentence ended in upspeak.

        She was extremely difficult to listen to and take seriously, because I thought she sounded like a babyish little kid.

        I hoped somebody would clue her in because it seemed like this would eventually hold her back professionally.

        1. Rainy*

          The sad thing is that there’s a decent chance she’s been told she has to smile while she presents or she’ll be fired.

    8. Some dude*

      In many cases I don’t care if someone uses uptalk, and I have only given feedback on it in the context of an actual public speaking class. But I will notice it in professional environments when I can see it is undercutting the speaker’s perceived competence or mastery of whatever it is they are talking about. You wouldn’t want your doctor saying, “I think you have cancer? In your brain? And I’m going to have to operate? And you have a 40% survival rate?” But I wouldn’t care if that same doctor, while making small talk said, “I was in wine country? And went to a great winery? and it was surprisingly kid friendly?” (Although maybe not after they told me I have terminal brain cancer in this imaginary scenario)

    9. Nope, not today*

      Except that sometimes it makes it sound like the speaker is not confident in what they are saying. I had a client who would aggressively question me when I spoke like that, because she assumed that I was unsure of myself and didn’t 100% know the answer (she would then follow the questioning by asking to be transferred to a coworker, who would give her the same answer). She was a jerk in how she handled that, but also I had to make sure to speak more authoritatively with her so she would trust I knew the answers I was providing.

    10. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s a speech pattern I associate with appeasement. And I don’t want to feel that someone is appeasing me, telling me what I want to hear lest I get mad; I want to feel that they are telling me the truth.

    11. Cake or Death?*

      Ugggghhhh NO. It’s annoying and whiney. Uptalk literally does the opposite of putting me at ease; it irritates the crap out of me. Put on your grownup and pants and talk like an adult.

    12. infrequent commenter*

      As a slightly neurodivergent person, listening to people that use uptalk patterns needs A LOT more mental effort on my part. My brain wants to be literal, so I have to be extra alert to catch the fact that some phrases that sound like questions are really statements.
      It causes a low-level annoyance, and when it happens continuously I end up feeling left out of conversations. So much for being inclusive…

      Also, several phrases you used in this thread as examples of uptalk are actual questions. You might be making some confusion between the upspeak pattern and rephrasing statements so they become questions, which isn’t something many people would oppose to.

  12. TinaTurner*

    I think #1 is funny and the offended ones are think “the truth hurts.” But she could have said it differently if they’re so touchy.
    #3 – I didn’t assume LW has to introduce people, it doesn’t say she has to for the job. I took it as her helping client. But client cuts her out of emails so what ARE they doing here? If client gloms onto LW’s personal friends and she loses them, something is going on. She could set him up w/someone who will report back to her secretly and see what he’s up to. But if it’s the job, then relax.

    1. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

      I don’t think it’s “touchy” to be irritated that your boss is making fun of you on social media. The boss is entirely in the wrong here.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      What’s funny about it? Asking for more hours doesn’t mean you’re magically available at the last minute for a shift.

      1. eisa*

        According to LW, the employee did not say “sorry, can’t do that, I have to drive my kid to a playdate” or whatever one might have going on on a Saturday; it was “nah, don’t wanna.”
        Which coming right at the heels of having asked for more hours is, in fact, unexpected (and thereby potentially falling under one of the three main categories of what we consider humorous : the unexpected/incongruent; schadenfreude; puns – or any combination thereof)

        Answering the question like that was bad judgement on the employee’s part – s/he could have provided a plausible excuse, even if s/he just wanted to sleep in longer.
        (Venting on facebook while being connected on facebook with people from work was questionable judgement on the supervisor’s part, too, though)

  13. Fluffy Fish*

    Sigh. the Facebook debacle is very much “it was just a joke” and “people shouldn’t be so sensitive.”

    And seriously wanting more (regular) hours is not the same as last minute not wanting to work a specific shift that involves extending their already scheduled work day. Retail management isn’t known for their understanding or empathy and I don’t think you really want to be that person.

    Don’t be that person. Apologize for your lapse in judgement, that you understand how it was hurtful and that you will not do it again.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      And seriously wanting more (regular) hours is not the same as last minute not wanting to work a specific shift that involves extending their already scheduled work day.

      This. OP1 (and others who I’ve seen post that “joke”) seem to think that when their employees aren’t at work, they’re just sitting at home hoping work will call and ask them to come in.

      1. Allison*

        This was very much my experience in retail. I was hired in a new store, and they told us that once the store was set up and the store opened, they’d only have so many hours to give out and some of us might not have a job anymore. Talk about stressful! After a while, and admittedly some weeks of my not hitting my sign-up quota for the rewards system, they stopped scheduling me. I’d call to ask each week, and nothing, but then the manager would call me on random days saying “someone called out, can you come in this afternoon?” and I’d be like, no, because I couldn’t just drop everything and report to work like that, and then the manager would say “oh well, you said you wanted hours, so . . .” They basically treated me like an on-call employee, despite never having a conversation about me being on-call, and then acted like I was a bad worker when I couldn’t do that. I DID have a life!

        After a couple weeks of this, I stopped considering myself an employee and just got a new job. I don’t know if we ever had an official “I quit” or “you’re fired” conversation, maybe at one point they called and I was like “stop calling me, I got a new job.”

    2. Tired social worker*

      Exactly. “I would like more hours on my weekly schedule so I can reliably support myself” has never been equivalent to “I am available at any time, on short or no notice,” and managers who act like this are willfully lying to themselves and their employees to manipulate them into an unsustainable state of constant availability. It’s exploitative and it needs to stop.

  14. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

    I’m kind of iffy on the answer for #2. Upspeak isn’t uncommon. Men do it too, actually, but young women in particular get picked on for it and it’s dumb. Personally, if I thought my employee was ACTUALLY unsure based on her answers, I’d address that — it’s okay to take time to think through things, if you need to tell someone you’ll research and get back to them, that’s fine, etc. But unless her speech patterns are distractingly dramatic, I wouldn’t address the upspeak. It’s just how some people talk and once someone realizes she knows what she’s talking about, they’ll get over it.

    A lot of people in my field tend to have rougher/southern accents that people unfairly associate with ignorance. But as soon as you talk to the guys, you figure out really quickly that they know what they’re talking about. I wouldn’t tell them to change their accents so they sound “more capable” or “smarter” or whatever people’s prejudices lead them to believe. This is, frankly, a very similar issue, and I don’t think it’s okay to tackle upspeak unless it’s unnaturally exaggerated in a way that’s distracting. It’s just how some people talk.

    1. quill*

      The fact that young women in particular are perceived to be less authoritative in their knowledge, and that a speech pattern commonly associated with them is perceived to show that people are not knowledgeable, authoritative, or confident, is truly an ouroboros of stereotypes.

  15. Cat Lover*

    I know comments are probably going to go they “stop criticizing how people talk, especially women”, which I agree with to an extent… but if your tone and cadence is changing the meaning of a sentence and can cause confusion, then yeah, it’s worth mentioning.

    As an aside, I’m a 26 year old female. Upspeak is definitely not appropriate in every situation. English is a language where inflection can change sentence meaning or intent.

    1. hardly_lovelace*

      Confusion is a significant issue, and as someone on the autism spectrum, I experience the confusion x 100.

      1. Jack Bruce*

        Same! I feel so relieved when someone stays something directly and where I don’t have to figure out if they need something or are asking me a question. I have audio processing issues so adding another layer of uncertainty to conversation isn’t helpful.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I’ve heard it associated with British upperclass men, for what that’s worth. Regardless of the gender, if I want you to be an expert on something (my lab test results, where the belt sanders are, whether the help desk has fixed my access) making everything a question is off-putting, and I’ll try to deal with someone who seems to be giving me straight answers.

  16. Essess*

    The easiest way I can see to handle the uptalk issue is that when she does it to you, simply ask her “is that a question or a statement?” each time it happens. It doesn’t matter if it is a man or woman, inflection changes the whole meaning of the sentence and it needs to be pointed out when a statement is ambiguous.

    1. Gerry Keay*

      Oh god no anything but this. This is possibly the *most* condescending response possible, and would make me feel like a toddler being scolded by my teacher. Please please not this.

    2. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

      Oh my word, that is as bad as those teachers who would answer, “Can I go to the bathroom?” with “I don’t know, CAN you?” It’s obnoxious and condescending. If there’s a concern about their understanding, address that. If the upspeak is wildly exaggerated, address it. But it also is just the way some people speak, so if it’s not ACTUALLY causing confusion or harming business relationships, just deal with it the way you would an accent you don’t personally like.

    3. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

      Sorry, I cannot stop thinking about this so I’m here with a second comment. Essess, just so you’re aware, if you do this someone you manage, this will be the quickest way to have them shut up entirely. I have zero interest in being nitpicked at work seemingly without reason, and if the things being repeatedly picked apart are the literal words coming out of my mouth, I will just stop talking, period. And I’m not a particularly shy or meek person.

      If you actually want employees to speak up and speak confidently, this is the quickest way to have the opposite of that happen. I sincerely hope you’ve never done this to anyone, and if you have, you may want to take a long, hard look at how they responded long-term.

    4. Rolly*

      No. Please no.

      If you’re going to try to do something, it has to be from the perspective of a good coach or mentor, starting with explaining it to her. Then, if she wants to be reminded to help her own development, remind her. But don’t treat her like a pet who has to reminded in a simplistic way.

  17. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

    OP #1 just exercised a lot of poor judgment all around, starting with being friends with direct reports on social media. I’m glad they’re owning part of the blame, but it’s concerning to me that they can’t see they should own all of it. Hopefully they’ve matured as a person and as a manager (or maybe realized managing people wasn’t the best path for them) since this letter was originally sent.

  18. Ellie Rose*

    I agree with other folks saying it’s fairly likely that the woman in #2 is fairly likely to already know about the problem.

    I think this is messy because LW#2 definitely *does* seem to have some personal issues with it (finds it annoying, associates it with naivete), and it correcting women’s speech to sound more professional is such a widespread Thing, yet LW also seems aware of these issues.

    However, I know a woman who had a whole bunch of these verbal things people associate with being naive and young, and she decided that out of all of them, the uptick at the end of the sentence was the one she wanted to correct, and she was right that it changed people’s perception of her.

    I feel like Alison’s suggested script ignores the fact that vocal uptick is a commonly criticized thing in young women, and for some reason that bugs me. The script very much frames it as a personal correction, which it of course is, but it’s not like either the verbal habit or criticism of it exist in a vacuum.

  19. Middle Aged IT Guy*

    With regards to #1: this is why you do not talk about your job on FaceBook, and why you don’t friend your employees. Especially don’t friend up or down (meaning, don’t friend anyone who you manage, or who manages you).

    Yeah, that was annoying on the part of your employee but calling them out like that is not going to help anything. That was a mistake.

    1. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

      I don’t think it was annoying on the part of the employee. It sounds like they want to be scheduled (in advance!) for more hours than they currently are; they’re not automatically going to be free to start a scheduled shift a few days from now 2 hours early. And it’s not like 2 hours represents a huge increase in their paycheck.

  20. animaniactoo*

    LW1 – see, the negativity actually started with you and your attitude about this, and your inability to distinguish the nuance of what you were hearing so that you leapt to a reductio ad absurdum conclusion, took it as fact and then posted it because you were amused about it and wanted to share that amusement.

    Someone who wants more hours in general may simply not be available to pick up the one singular opportunity that you are offering… and treating it as if they must not be serious about wanting more hours because they didn’t jump (and say “how high”) when you offered this specific last-minute opportunity more than likely means that you have a bad perspective about your employees, what they are asking for, and what their other responsibilities or obligations outside of work may be. Or granting any weight to the idea that those things are and SHOULD be valuable to them.

    And it’s the same way that you shift the burden of the negativity to them for sharing this, rather than placing it on yourself for first seeing things this way and secondly posting about it – even though, I realize, that is not what you thought you were doing. But the fact that it isn’t what you thought you were doing is part of the negativity that YOU are bringing to this situation and you need to back up and re-consider how you view your employees in general.

    1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      Exactly. The problem isn’t social media so much as it is the OP not having a whole lot of respect for their reports’ time, and that mentality likely leaked out in all sorts of non-Internet-enabled ways.

    2. Tired social worker*

      100%. To be charitable, unpredictable schedules in retail and hospitality have been SO normalized that plenty of managers and even employees have just accepted them as The Way Things Are. To the point where a LW from a couple months ago was told it was unreasonable for her daughter to have an idea of when her break would be, without much acknowledgement of the fact that the workplace norms that make that “unreasonable” are pretty awful and need to change.

      That being said, I’m not feeling super charitable anymore – so many places are whining about a “labor shortage,” while employees have been telling them exactly what they could do to staff themselves. Many employers are being super transparent about not wanting to make those changes and “bake them in” in case the tides turn and they can go back to shamelessly exploiting people desperate for literally any job. I’ll add another comment with a link to those interviews.

  21. anonymous73*

    #1 a good rule of thumb is to not “friend” colleagues on social media unless you can be unfiltered at all times in their presence. I never accept a friend request from someone if I feel I need to censor my posts.
    #3 wow your employee had some balls thinking they could use company funds to interview. This is why most places who pay for employee education also require you to remain employed after a certain time after (or repay the money they gave you).

  22. SLR*

    OP1: Former manager here. I highly recommend not having any of your employees/direct reports on your social media friends list. Things can get pretty murky and I learned that lesson myself when I went from being their peer to their manager. I sent everyone a quick heads up saying that I had to remove everyone from my FB as I was now a manager, it was nothing personal, it just wouldn’t be appropriate to have that relationship on Facebook anymore. Thankfully they were understanding about it. Once I left that company, we all re-friended each other on Facebook!

    1. Orora*

      Yeah, I’ve been on Facebook for over 12 years. Aside from the very first job (which is where I signed up for FB because I used it for marketing), I have never been friends with any current co-workers FB. It’s so much easier than thinking about what I’m saying and to whom. Since it’s a blanket policy, no one gets offended; or if they do, I don’t really care. I’m also in HR so most people don’t want me to be looking at their FB anyway.

      When someone leaves, if I like them, I’ll send them a friend request. But to me, LinkedIn is where I connect with current and former colleagues.

  23. Miss Disregard*

    For LW#3 with the professional development funds, the one caveat I could see with this is in academia (or academia adjacent) where the position is a fellowship, ends after the employee graduates, or another type of position that is purely intended to be a step ladder to the next one. If that’s the case, then professional development funds are more often used to help employees find the next job.

    1. workersolidarity*

      Exactly, I’m a permanent employee at a law firm but many of our attorneys are here on fellowship with no guarantee of employment at the end of the year. If LW#3’s employee doesn’t have guarantee of employment after a certain time, but is still encouraged to use professional development funds, then this activity would be comparable to any other training that would hopefully help them find their next job.

  24. GenXisReal!*

    For OP #2: This question-speak would confuse me so much. I’m sure it’s partly because I’m old (Gen-X. I still say “like” a lot). And partly because I am hovering around the edges of the autism spectrum and struggle with inflections and social queues. I have noticed an increase of this habit of making a declarative statement sound like a question. When I can’t tell which way it’s going, I will just come right out and say “sorry, was that a question or a statement?” I really can’t always tell.

  25. Littorally*

    #2 – There’s a wide area in the realm of personal presentation where, as a manager, it’s good to coach younger and/or less experienced employees on how they come across, but also leave them room once you’ve coached them to decide if changing their behavior for the sake of their own career, credibility, etc is worthwhile. Uptalk falls squarely in this area. It is not mission-critical or even enormously mission-important for the business that she stop, but good management also involves setting people up to succeed, including this kind of interpersonal skills coaching.

    I see everyone in the comments talking about how this kind of personal presentation issue shouldn’t be held against young women, and I agree that it shouldn’t — but the plain simple truth of the matter is that most of the time, it is. Declining to coach this young woman about how her presentation might be coming across on the grounds that it shouldn’t be a problem, when in actuality it may very well hold her back, is doing her a disservice. Let her know that it may be a problem for her either with her current clients or in her future career and let her make the decision if she wants her vocal patterns to be a hill to die on or something she wants to work on correcting. And then let her be about it.

    1. Angstrom*

      Yes. There’s nothing wrong with telling someone — especially a younger/newer employee — “You appear to be doing X. In this company/industry/culture, that’s often perceived as meaning Y”. Then let them decide what they want to do about it.

      As for uptalk, it’s a communication tool that’s appropriate in some situations. If I was trying to encourage a collaborative discussion, I might say with uptalk “The spare monitors go on the cabinet?”, but if the decision was already made it’d be “The spare monitors go on the cabinet.”

      The best training I had for conscious control of tone and inflection was a good dog obedience class. Having to clearly differentiate between a correction voice, a command voice, and a praise voice was excellent practice for dealing with humans. ;-)

    2. moonstone*

      I think if it is really causing problems with people understanding her, it is worth bringing up with the employee. It could also just be a cultural difference. In the U.S., I notice uptalk is a lot more common among women in the West Coast vs East Coast. The employee might just have to learn to code switch at work the same way people have “work personas”.

  26. Oven fried chicken*

    That social media joke is 100 percent identical to the sorts of things employees screenshot and share as examples of boss cluelessness. “If you aren’t fifteen minutes early then you are late” type stuff. OP may need a little social media recalibration vis what makes em seem relatable vs what makes em look kinda stereotypically out of touch.

  27. Didi*

    Re: question #1 – I did something like this when I was young and dumb and a retail manager about 14 years ago. I posted an exchange between me and a pregnant employee who was expressing frustration about the demands of the job while pregnant (HR was making all the reasonable accommodations they would allow). While I never got found out by my employees or my manager, a manager of a different department at my store did correct me. When I left retail, I (recognizing the fact that I do have a big mouth, and liked to vent on social media) developed a strict policy against being friends with coworkers or managers on social media. I don’t even post my employer anymore. It does wonders for boundaries. And I’ll go so far as to say it should be standard in the current age of screenshots.

    1. Didi*

      And I should clarify, I would NEVER post anything like that today. I know now that I wasn’t just venting of myself but actually ridiculing this person for their life choices. Glad that era of cluelessness is behind me.

  28. linguist ™*

    I’m not a sociolinguist and don’t specifically study uptalk, but Alison, given the amount of vitriol that pops up in the comments section every time uptalk/vocal fry/fillers come up in a letter, especially in relation to gender, might I suggest reaching out to an expert on this to settle a lot of the pseudoscientific hot takes on here? This comment section makes me want to scream.

    1. Littorally*

      What are you seeing that’s specifically pseudoscientific, as opposed to merely incorrect?

      1. linguist ™*

        Okay, so pseudoscience is maybe too strong of a word for this, but I’m thinking of the dozens of comments along the lines of:

        “It’s easy to change the way you speak, so we can just expect our employees to speak in the ways we dictate to them.”
        “Uptalk is learned/cultural but other ways of speaking are natural.” (Honestly I don’t even know what this means? <- question mark to indicate that this is me doing uptalk in writing)
        "Uptalk is a 'verbal tic.'" (Again, what?)
        "The idea that uptalk makes you sound insecure has nothing to do with the 'fact' that it's used more by (or at least that we associate it with) women." And the companion, "Actually, I hate when men do it, too, so checkmate sexism has been solved."

        All of these, I believe, stem from a lack of understanding about (1) what uptalk is, (2) how language works, and (3) how sexism works. There's a legitimate discussion to be had about the relationship between workplace discrimination and (what we perceive to be) malleable characteristics, but we can't have that conversation when everyone's version of the "facts" are different.

        1. Littorally*

          Thank you!

          Your last line is a particularly good one, for this and many other discussions — “…we can’t have that conversation when everyone’s version of the ‘facts’ are different.”

        2. Budgie Buddy*

          I wonder how much culture plays a role because reading this comment thread made me realize that often Indian coworkers will uptalk a statement to me when they’re asking a question, sometimes adding a “No?” on the end for emphasis. And it does come across as very intense for me (the opposite of American uptalk), even though I don’t think that’s the intention. I think it’s just a tone difference that doesn’t translate well.

          1. linguist ™*

            Everything about the way we speak and our attitudes about ways of speaking is cultural! In terms of English, different varieties of English use intonation slightly differently from each other. Look up clips of Australians talking, for example, and you might notice that nearly every sentence is “uptalked” (ends in a rising pitch) — but you’d certainly never call out an Australian coworker for sounding “insecure” based on that.

            Your comment about your Indian coworkers also raises how uptalk is very rarely actually interpreted as a question in American English (that is, we *understand* that it’s meant to be a statement), in part because we actually only use rising tones to ask yes/no questions. If you’re American, picture the difference in intonation between “Do you want pizza?” versus a more open-ended question like “What do you want to eat?” A rise sounds natural on the first but jarring on the second, because *most* American English questions don’t actually use rising tones. But our *ideologies* (about uptalk, language, women, young people, etc.) lead us to interpret it as sounding ‘like a question,’ even though most questions in English don’t actually end in rises!

            (Research also suggests that uptalk is used to implicitly ask a yes/no question like “are you following what I’m saying?” or “got it?” without actually saying those words. So yes, in a way it’s ‘asking a question,’ but not in the ‘I don’t know what I’m talking about’ way that many people interpret it.)

            1. allathian*

              This is really interesting. My native languages are Finnish and Swedish. Finnish uses word order rather than a rising pitch to indicate a question, Swedish uses both word order and pitch. That doesn’t stop some Finnish speakers from ending every statement on a rise, probably through some form of contamination from languages where a rising pitch indicates a question. It sounds odd, to say the least.

            2. Very Social*

              Oooh, I remember being told once something along the lines of “we don’t actually use a rising intonation for questions,” and that never made sense to me. But you saying we use it for yes/no questions, but not other kinds–especially with that example? Totally clarifies it for me.

              Also, I’d love to see Alison interview a sociolinguist about speech in the workplace!

    2. Important Moi*

      I think because it is late in the day Alison may not see this. I would suggest sending this to her directly.
      This is a very good idea.

      ~ Signed
      “Could you watch your tone? You speak too directly.”

    3. Tired social worker*

      Cosigned by a former Linguistics major. I haven’t engaged with those comments because from past experience, I’ve become resigned to the fact that that challenging people’s sense of linguistic “right and wrong” is a huge exercise in futility, no matter how much peer-reviewed research you point to.

      1. linguist ™*

        100%. People get so invested in their identities as people who “speak correctly” that pointing out how most of our ideas of what sounds “correct” are rooted in racism/classism/sexism/xenophobia/homophobia/etc. makes them cling harder to “No, it’s just that they aren’t educated” and “No, it’s just that they *sound* unprofessional.”

        1. Tired social worker*

          Absolutely YES on the “identity as someone who speaks ‘well’” piece. I definitely had a lot of unlearning of my own to do on that front during my studies, so on one level I get people’s reluctance to change their perspective. HUGE kudos to you and other linguists who have the patience to keep trying!

        2. Minerva*

          I’ve worked on my own judgement of a specific accent that pinged me as insecure/young, and specific “mispronunciations” that pinged me as uneducated… and it’s only done me favours in the workplace, in recognizing the true value of what’s being communicated.

          The “it is hard to listen to – it is hard to understand” comments are a little uncomfortable, in that they sound a lot like criticisms of accents I hear all the time. I have been pushing myself as I started interviewing people, to listen past stutters, accents, variations in speech, and so on. It has been revealing, how some people sound “less annoying” as I focus on content and on accepting their speech as valid.

    4. Rainy*

      Yes, I agree.

      Also, the vocal fry “discussions” (for values of discussion that equal “just stop it”) enrage me. I have a lot of vocal fry about seven months of the year because I take a medication for part of each year that is known to cause dysphonia. I have a little vocal fry all the time and a LOT when I’m on my seasonal medication, and boy am I sick of people acting like I do it on purpose. (I’m honestly not sure if it’s more enraging when people assume I’m doing it “to be sexy” or “to be trendy”, but either way, ARGH.)

      1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

        I remember years ago on This American Life, Ira Glass spoke about the fact that his vocal fry is far more obvious that certain contributors who happened to be women, but the show had never received irritated emails about his voice, whereas they received multiple emails complaining about his female colleagues’ vocal fry.

        I also just…don’t think faking vocal fry is as prevalent as people seem to think. Some people just have it! Some, like yourself, have it because of a specific cause. But the way it’s addressed as something that women in particular force on themselves is absolutely absurd.

        1. Rainy*

          Yeah, Mr Rainy also has a lot of vocal fry (we are the House of Vocal Fry) and literally no one has ever said a word about it to him as a professionalism issue.

        2. CommanderBanana*

          Yeah, I find that when people complain about a woman’s vocal fry or uptalk, what they’re really saying is that a woman is speaking and that annoys them.

  29. I'm just here for the cats.*

    So I was a little confused on a few of these.
    #3 are there 2 conferences, one that is professional development and another that is a hiring conference and you want them to attend the professional development one? Or is it just a general conference that has professional development AND also the hiring conference? If the employee wants to use the Professional development funds for a hiring conference then that is a big fat no. But if it’s a professional development conference that also happens to have some hiring stuff as well then I don’t think you could say no. After all how would it be any different than networking at a development conference.

    #4 I don’t understand what #4 is looking for. It sounds like he gives his clients intros to people/companies that can help the client. So if he introduces his client to Bob who does great graphic design, does he expect to be part of the process any jobs that the client hires Bob for? I would think it would be weird if I hired the OP because of their network and their only job was to connect me to people in their network, and then they wanted to be included in our conversations and such after the introductions. It’s like setting someone up with your friend and expecting to go on the dates with them.
    Unless there’s more to it and the way their job is supposed to work is that they are supposed to be a go-between? I’m going to have to look for the original post for more info.

    1. Public Sector Manager*

      I couldn’t figure out #4 either. It just has the tone of “I know a celebrity. My friends and family are constantly asking for introductions. But when I do that, the celebrity and my friends/family then start hanging with them and I’m left in the cold. Like last week, I introduced my younger brother to George Clooney and Matt Damon, and now my brother is going with them to Vegas. He didn’t even like the Oceans movies! They never even would have met if it wasn’t for me. Why are they not inviting me?!?”

      Because if OP #4 is being paid to introduce the client to prospective clients for their business, once that’s done and the OP is compensated for their time, that’s the end of the transaction. Being heavily invested in what other people you introduced are doing seems misplaced.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      I read #3 as saying that there are several conferences which would qualify as professional development–and possibly other PD opportunities that are not conferences. Then there is a particular conference for the industry that (to me) sounds like a glorified career fair. The employee wants to go to that one, and use PD funds to pay for it. Which, no.

  30. infrequent commenter*

    So, I posted a comment answering someone and it’s not showing up. Anyone knows why that happens? I posted without an e-mail, does that mean it goes to moderation or something?

    1. Littorally*

      Posting without an email won’t send your comment to moderation, but something in your wording might have.

      1. I'm just here for the cats.*

        Also if there is a link in your response it goes to moderating. I’ve also had a technical problem where all of my posts were not showing up. I emailed Alison and she got it taken care of.

  31. Cam*

    For #2, I think if you criticize her vocal softeners, you need to be damn sure to have her back 100% of the time when she’s direct or blunt, and give her a lot of benefit of the doubt if other people find her so.
    As a trans man, I had to unlearn a bunch of uptalk when my voice pitch lowered (throwing the higher pitches into my vocal break), and in the year after it did so, I had multiple male callers rage at me on the telephone. I did learn other vocal strategies for de-escalating, but those vocal habits definitely serve a purpose and can’t be removed while keeping everything else constant.

  32. Guin*

    Why can the employees see the irritated manager’s Facebook posts at all? Sir/Madam, you need to use the many, many privacy settings FB makes available to you, such as: Friends EXCEPT_______

  33. CommanderBanana*

    If you don’t want your employees spreading negativity in the workplace, try leading by example. And, it may not be the smartest idea to be Facebook friends with your employees if you plan on posting snarky work-related stuff.

  34. Zeus*

    The employee in letter #2 would do well in Aotearoa New Zealand – a lot of people talk like that here! It drives my (English) mother mad. It’s interesting how something that’s normal in one place can be considered unprofessional in another.

  35. raida7*

    I think that your business needs some policies on how to handle conflict outside of work – such as “If you have issue with a co-worker’s social media post which refers to the workplace, contact [person/position/team] to mediate. [Business] does not tolerate gossiping, rumours, bullying, exclusion, whatever and staff and expect staff to handle disagreements about work-related public posts on social media in [whatever] way.”

    Essentially, if they’d contacted their manager about the post, saying they feel uncomfortable that them for not taking the short-notice extra-long shift means they can be fodder for social media posts. And the post could have been reviewed, checked against the company’s social media policies, the situation explained by both parties, etc.

    But instead – you did not successfully anonymise the story when complaining publicly, and it got back to the source. Now you have to deal with it, and I’d suggest that simply *not* slagging off the staff or company online would be a good resolution. If you feel that you have the right to vent publicly, then get ready to die on that hill – most places don’t think it’s reasonable for staff to vent about their co-workers or workplace, both for public image and for the issues it causes between staff that you are now experiencing

  36. Esmeralda Fitzmonster*

    In addition to the points Alison made, LW1 doesn’t seem to understand why her post would be so offensive. I think it’s likely that if someone is asking for more hours, they mean that they want to be regularly scheduled for more hours each week. Not that they want to be randomly offered a couple of hours here and there that aren’t scheduled and so can’t be planned for. I would find it very disrespectful if my boss mischaracterized what I asked for and then mocked me for it. It is making light of the needs of the employee- more regularly scheduled hours, which is a reasonable ask. And it unfairly turning the tables so that the boss appears to be at the mercy of her lazy employees, when in reality the boss is in the position of power.

  37. Dude, no!*

    Dude, no! Alison already hates small businesses and tells people to never work for one, and here you’re just providing ammo against them. Would all jerks running small businesses please stop giving the rest of us a bad name?

    1. allathian*

      It takes a particular kind of person to work for someone who’s running a small business. I suspect that many people run their own business because they’re constitutionally incapable of working for anyone else (ego, problems with authority figures, etc.). I’m not saying all small business owners are like this, or even a sizable minority, but I suspect that the Venn diagrams of small business owners with authority issues and small business owners who are also jerks overlap a lot.

      No doubt the vast majority of small business owners are decent people and decent employers, but it takes a particular kind of personality to work for a small business. This is because small businesses depend even more on interpersonal relationships than larger ones do, and small businesses are rarely able, or even obligated, to provide the sort of benefits that many employees need and want.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      I worked only for small businesses for several years (and work part-time for one now) and when it’s great, it’s great, but when it’s not, it’s really terrible. There’s usually no HR and you can’t get away from the problem, so often the only option is to quit.

    3. Rainy*

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen Alison say she hates small businesses, and I don’t think she’s ever told people to never work for one.

      I think there are a lot of people who have said for themselves that they’d never again work for a small business, but that’s not Alison pronouncing from her emerald throne that no one should do it, that’s people who got burned once (or more) and decided they need the rest of their fingers.

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Where has Alison said she hates small businesses? Family businesses for sure, she’s said that it can be difficult when you’re not a family member. She’s addressed bro culture and fit issues in start-ups too, which obviously are not huge since they’re only just starting up.
      But small businesses without any family members working together or buddies starting up together? Not sure. I’m a very small business owner, I’m sure I’d have noticed if she’d been expressing disapproval of all small businesses.
      Pretty sure her own business doesn’t employ all that many people if any…

    5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Where has Alison said she hates small businesses? Family businesses for sure, she’s said that it can be difficult when you’re not a family member. She’s addressed bro culture and fit issues in start-ups too, which obviously are not huge since they’re only just starting up.
      But small businesses without any family members working together or buddies starting up together? Not sure. I’m a very small business owner, I’m sure I’d have noticed if she’d been expressing disapproval of all small businesses.
      Pretty sure her own business doesn’t employ all that many people if any…

  38. Rosacoletti*

    #2 – Definitely address it as it’s unprofessional to sound so unsure of yourself in a client facing role. I had a staff member do this and we had to work quite hard together to cut the habit but she did improve. I’ve more recently had a non-client facing person do the same but it was still frustrating enough for them when we continually had to ask if they were asking a question or making a statement that they adjusted their behaviour.

  39. Valley Girl??*

    OP2 – When I presented my fourth year thesis in university, one of the profs I’d never met before told me that I “spoke like a valley girl”. It was shocking to get such direct feedback and I didn’t even understand what that meant – she explained that I often ended my sentences as if they were questions, and it made me sound unprofessional. That comment stung – it was made to me out in the open, in front of other profs and all my classmates – and I never forgot it. But I worked on my speech and developed a confident, professional way of speaking. I get compliments all the time about my ability to present and my confidence (even when I’m not at all confident!). That prof did me a huge kindness and I’ll aways be grateful. Tell your employee – though in private! You’ll be doing her a favour.

  40. Testerbert*

    For LW1, what did you expect? You may not have been naming names in your post, but if several of your workers will see the post, they’ll know that a) you are posting about them, and b) you are publically airing your issues about your staff. You can’t expect people to be happy about that.

    On a separate point: if someone is saying “I would like more hours”, they don’t mean “I am free and available to work any and all hours at short notice”, they mean “I would like to have more hours on my regular schedule in a mutually agreed manner.” For all you know, that person has a second job which means they can’t just start working at yours early, but would gladly pick up more hours from you *if you can guarantee those hours every week going forwards*.

Comments are closed.