my older male colleague gives me condescending, unsolicited advice

A reader writes:

I occasionally work with an older gentleman (different organizations, collaborative projects), “Bob,” who gives a lot of unsolicited advice. It’s funny because he’s … a bit prickly? And his advice is always about building relationships. For reference, I’m a woman in my 40s. He’s probably been working longer than that.

I’m not big on phone calls, especially unscheduled ones. I know I’m not alone in this from a recent comment thread! He calls me when he wants something, and I sometimes call back, sometimes respond in writing if it’s not a time-sensitive issue. Last week he left a message that it took me a few days to return (via email). I know my response time sucked and apologized for it before answering his question.

He responds: “Thank you for getting back to me. Don’t forget, there are 24 hours (1,440 minutes) in a day and it only takes a minute to return a call. That was one of the most important lessons that I was shown in my professional career. We all get caught up in the time pressure compromise thing but that 1/1,440 of our day is a very positive way to strengthen relationships.”

I’m dying to reply to this! Something about not working 1440 minutes a day, or explaining that phone calls don’t work that way for many of us, or … I don’t know. I should let it go, right? What would you say?

The good news is I don’t work with him super often. Couple times a month, I’d say. Bad news is I definitely can’t burn the bridge. We have the same customers and our projects can last years. I have to play nice. But maybe not as nice as I have been.

I … want to punch Bob in the face.

You didn’t ask him to be your mentor, and his slew of unsolicited advice fits squarely in a very old pattern of men believing they can and should condescendingly bestow their Very Important Wisdom on younger women who didn’t ask for it and probably don’t want it.

And the irony of him advising you on how to build relationships when he is utterly oblivious to the way he’s harming this one is rich indeed.

Someone reading this is sure to say, “Oh, he means well — he’s nearing the end of his career and wants to help someone who’s earlier in theirs” … and I’m sure that’s exactly how Bob sees it, and he feels good thinking he is helping you out. But it doesn’t make what he’s doing any less obnoxious. He doesn’t need to be the devil to be overstepping and out of line. And frankly, at this point there’s really no excuse for anyone to be oblivious to the frequency with which women have to deal with this exact thing. If he doesn’t realize how precisely his behavior is pulled from the sexism playbook, he needs to pay more attention to the world around him.

Another thing pulled straight from the sexism playbook: You, the woman, are left worrying about choosing your words carefully and making sure you don’t harm the relationship. Bob … clearly isn’t thinking about either of those things. This is always how it goes, and it’s exhausting.

And yet, odds are that you’re right that you do indeed need to care about not harming the relationship. The question is, is there a way to respond more pointedly than you have been without crossing a line where things are harmed? And that depends on a lot on Bob: is he touchy/ego-driven/vindictive? Or do you have reason to think he can deal with some pushback without falling apart? You said he’s a bit prickly so it’s a tricky line to walk, and honestly, the easiest path is probably just ignoring his comments. Like, literally don’t acknowledge what he wrote.

But it’s also pretty likely that you wouldn’t torpedo the relationship if you replied to that message about the 1,440 minutes in a day with something like, “As I’m sure you can relate to, I’m not at work for all 1,440 minutes in the day and I’m juggling a number of projects right now. I appreciate your understanding that occasionally I might need an extra day to respond.”

You also have the option of at some point addressing the bigger picture with him. For example: “You’ve offered me a lot of advice on building relationships and XYZ, but I’ve got it covered!” Or a slightly longer version: “You’ve offered me a lot of advice on building relationships and XYZ. That’s an area that I’ve been very successful in so I’m surprised when you advise me on it. Have I done something to make you think I need guidance?” … and then depending on his response, “Well, I’ve got it covered!”

Or hell, what if you offered him advice on building relationships, since he’s signaled that’s apparently part of what the two of you do together? “I know you don’t mean any harm when you offer advice on things like X and Y, so I want to make sure you know there’s a lot of discussion right now about how frequently women receive unsolicited advice from men in professional contexts, while men in comparable positions aren’t assumed to need it. I know you’d never want to come across that way so I wanted to make sure you were aware of how it could be received.”

But honestly, the easiest thing is just ignoring him. Which of course means he’ll go merrily along his way, patronizing the younger women who cross his path. It really depends on how much you want to fight the battle.

{ 507 comments… read them below }

  1. Kramerica Industries*

    I would need to ignore him because my petty self would be too tempted to send him replies with “Don’t forget, there are 24 hours in a day (1,440 minutes) and it only takes a minute not to patronize women.”

    1. jess is my name, seltzer's my game*

      this 10000000x

      i dont even know how many zeros that was but probably not enough.

    2. LCH*

      hahaha

      i’d probably go with, wow, you are here at work 24 hrs a day??
      and then with Alison’s suggestion of offering him advice.

      1. Rolly*

        “Oh dear, I hadn’t realized you feel you have to be available 24 hours a day. I guess that’s understandable as people get older and the mind slows down. But please do be sure to keep getting your rest. You deserve nothing less as you enter your golden years.”

        1. Prickly pear*

          The ageism displayed in this response and so many others is truly unnecessary and demeaning.

          1. Zombeyonce*

            I don’t consider this ageism; it’s turning what he’s doing around to prove a point. It’s comparing how stupid it is to say that older people are bad at their jobs and need help because they’re old to his opinion that women need help at their jobs because they’re women.

    3. High Score!*

      This x a billion! I’ve been in this situation, and working in a male dominated field, worse. I use snark when needed. It does NOT destroy the relationship. It often makes them think, “O that’s just how she is.” And then they back off BC now THEY are the ones who must worry about maintaining the relationship instead of me. :D

    4. Eric*

      On the next call with him, I’d probably wait 60 seconds and then say “got to go, got 1,439 other things to do today”.

      1. Jessica*

        EXACTLY. If only I could be confident that a phone call would only last for a minute! No, we’re probably going to waste 1 minute of my life just on the hello/chitchat/goodbye portion, never mind how long it actually takes on the phone to actually get the business accomplished. And that’s if we connect on the first try. aaaaaaghhhh.

    5. Cait*

      It takes even less than that. It takes zero minutes and zero effort to keep your opinions to yourself!

    6. Autumnheart*

      “Don’t forget there are 1440 minutes in a day, and it only takes one minute to return a call!”

      Okay, your 60 seconds starts now…Oh, I’m sorry, we’re out of time. Have a great day!

      Or assign him Minute #1268 and call him at 9:17 PM (I didn’t work the math out on this).

    7. Artemesia*

      I would so itch to say ‘can I give you some advice about networking and building relationships? Most women in the workforce resent having the basics of their profession mansplained to them and so you should probably back off from giving unsolicited advice.’ But in the OP’s situation I’d probably ignore this stuff if I didn’t have to deal with him too often. And if you do have to deal with him more often then a tactful expression of that thought is in order.

      1. Kapers*

        The sad thing is this isn’t even snarky; it’s actual helpful feedback. Of course it would be like talking to a brick wall (or worse) but this is actionable useful advice that would help him.

    8. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      or “it only takes a minute to stop and think whether what I am about to say seems condescending and rooted in sexism and/or is based on archaic notions of how things work in the professional world that do not reflect the realities of the current times.”

  2. Kix*

    “Thank you for getting back to me. Don’t forget, there are 24 hours (1,440 minutes) in a day and it only takes a minute to return a call. That was one of the most important lessons that I was shown in my professional career. We all get caught up in the time pressure compromise thing but that 1/1,440 of our day is a very positive way to strengthen relationships.”

    Dude, there are 24 hours (1,440 minutes) in a day and it only takes a minute to send an email or a chat. One of the most important lessons that I was shown in my professional career is that people prefer email or chat to phone calls. In fact, we don’t have dedicated phones any more. We all get caught up in the time pressure compromise thing but that 1/1,440 of our day is a very positive way to strengthen relationships

    1. Low Power*

      His comment might have been less about LW’s responding via email and more about the fact that it took a couple days for the response. Rather than saying something nasty about the delay, he softened his message. Alternatively he could have been more straightforward with LW, or reached out to LW’s manager to complain about delays.

      1. introverted af*

        “Rather than say something nasty” he was passive aggressive about something that we don’t really know was mission critical. He didn’t follow up after the phone call either, so clearly it wasn’t that important, but instead had to be snarky about iT oNlY tAkEs A mInUtE

        1. Zephy*

          How much do you want to bet that LW has literally never spent fewer than 12 and a half minutes on the phone with this blowhard, to boot? I have been subjected to men like this, I have been related to men like this. If there’s something vaguely woman-shaped in his line of sight he will. never. stop. talking unless and until he wears himself out.

          1. Usagi*

            I know there are much more logical reasons to why “I have been related to men like this” is in the past tense, but my headcanon is that these men were so like this that Zephy had to take some… measures. And let’s just say that you can’t be related to someone who no longer exists…

            And of course I mean that in a completely SFW, kid-friendly way.

      2. Wisteria*

        Yes. Bob is not complaining about the email. Bob is complaining about the delay. He’s not giving advice, he’s complaining. If Bob had written in, we could tell him that is softening his message too much and he’s coming across as condescending. We could tell him that being direct about any impact of the delay would be a better approach while also counseling him that just because it’s urgent to him doesn’t mean OP has the capacity to drop everything to respond. Bob didn’t write in, but all the responses that ignore Bob’s subtext are not going to help the situation.

        1. somanyquestions*

          Maybe Bob didn’t need an immediate reply and everyone here is recognizing that he expects utter deference in every interaction, no matter how undeserved. Are you really defending him and his crap?

      3. CatPrance*

        Getting unbearably snippy and superior about “1,440 minutes in a day and it only takes a minute to return a call” is your idea of softening the message?

          1. BuildMeUp*

            Complaining to LW’s manager would be aggressive and completely unnecessary in this situation, though

            1. STG*

              A couple days delay in some businesses may be enough to talk to a manager though. SLA’s might be one example.

              1. Burger Bob*

                Maybe if it was a time sensitive issue that he had tried to reach out to her a few times and hadn’t gotten a response. But seeing as he didn’t follow up with another attempt to reach her, it clearly wasn’t so urgent that it couldn’t wait the couple of days.

            2. SarahKay*

              Frankly I’d rather someone complained to my manager than sent me such a condescending message. At least then
              (a) my (male) manager may or may not be irritated, but he wouldn’t be insulting like Bob, and
              (b) he’s well aware that some days I really don’t have a minute, not if I also want to eat and sleep (pro-tip: I do).

          2. Emmy Noether*

            Hard disagree. If he had a valid complaint (which apparently he didn’t), it’s better he use his words and complain rather than condescend.

        1. Nanani*

          Sure, if the message being softened is “how dare you not be at my beck and call every time I, important BobMan, want to talk on the phone, young lady-shaped person”

      4. Jean*

        In what world is giving a pedantic lecture about the number of minutes in a day “softening the message”? Also, this LW is pretty clearly wanting Bob to be more straightforward when he has something to say to her, and not couch it in an unasked-for lesson in workplace wisdom. It’s pretty telling that your options are “give unsolicited mentoring,” “say something nasty,” or “tattle to the manager after the OP has already acknowledged the delay and apologized.” HMMMMM.

      5. LunaLena*

        Why say anything at all, though? Unless it was extremely time-sensitive, he got the response he needed and should move on with his own work. Instead he delayed his own work further by taking time to unnecessarily craft a chiding email.

        And if it was truly that time-sensitive, he could have picked up the phone and called again himself in those couple of days. Which, according to him, should only be 1/2880 of those two days, so not a big deal, right? They’re not playing Phone Tag, it’s not like there’s a rule that he can’t call again to follow up and instead has to sit passively, waiting for OP to get back to him.

        1. Anita Brake*

          Wait…are you saying…OP might actually know how to prioritize things that are her responsibility? Without needing anyone to remind her how they feel she should do her job? … No WAY!!!

        2. Zombeyonce*

          So true. And I can almost guarantee that if OP were a man, Bob would have thought to himself that “OP must be busy with Important Man Work” and just left it alone.

      6. Quoth the Raven*

        Seriously, between someone being direct and “nasty” to me about a delay or whatever other problem and someone “softening” their message by being a patronising ass, I’ll take the nastiness any day of the week. I don’t particularly enjoy people being brisk at me, but it doesn’t make my skin crawl the way feeling talked down (by a man, especially) does.

        1. IndustriousLabRat*

          I’ll agree with you wholeheartedly on this one. To me, it’s the difference between “that person is being snippy for reasons that may be anything from a lack-of-caffeine headache to a naturally short fuse to simply a generic bad day, and it’s not my problem”, and “that person is being patronizing and AGHHH here we go again with this dynamic that should have been yeeted into the the sun at the same time humans learned how to use cutlery and season their food”.

      7. Salymander*

        Or he could have said nothing, because clearly he isn’t the only person whose time is important.

        Or he could have said nothing because being a condescending mansplainer is exhausting and makes all those minutes in every day seem soooo much longer.

        Or he could have said nothing and tried to be respectful and understanding of the fact that he isn’t the center of everyone’s attention.

        Or he could have said nothing and come to terms with the fact that making yourself feel important by being sexist and obnoxious is not a great way to create positive relationships with your coworkers.

        Take your pick

      8. Salymander*

        Rather than letting OP know that the issue was time sensitive, he chose to send a preachy, condescending, passive aggressive message about how to organize the (24 hour!) workday.

        He sounds a lot like Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice. So exhausting.

      9. Rocket*

        I’m confused by you separating what he sais and “saying something nasty” into two separate categories. In my opinion, he *did* say something nasty! If I got this email from someone, it would torpedo the relationship immediately and they would get nothing but frostiness from me from now on.

      10. tamarack & fireweed*

        There is zero indication in the letter that the LW’s response time had any kind of negative impact on her colleague to execute his tasks or that it was otherwise inappropriate. The colleague has therefore no grounds to bring it up to the boss (=an appropriate response to severe or repeated impact on his own deadlines, though not for a minor impact the first time) or, $DEITY forbid, “say something nasty” (=an inappropriate response in any event).

        I don’t think we should give guys brownie points for barely meeting minimum expectations.

        1. Kapers*

          Even if he did need an immediate response, he should have followed up with a call or email to say “sorry to nudge so soon, but I forgot to mention this is time-sensitive and I’d like the info by x:00 if possible because I can’t complete project x without your input.”

          His complaint wasn’t that he was missing crucial time-sensitive information, it’s that she wasn’t prioritizing his ego and he has outdated rules she was breaching.

            1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              He does not realize that anymore, people prefer not to talk on the phone unless it is absolutely necessary. I am guessing plenty of clients prefer email to unnecessary phone calls.

              If you do choose to ignore the situation, then next time he calls and you respond with email, maybe tell him that you would appreciate him asking questions of this type by email in future, as a phone call is more time consuming and requires both people really be available at the same time. It also has the benefit of having a written record of communications, which can prove invaluable for keeping track of matters. Then, you are ignoring and never really saying anything about his advice, but are still telling him that his phone call stance is not one you plan to take up yourself!

      11. Emmy Noether*

        I’m sorry, but Bob’s message wasn’t “soft” at all, it *was* really nasty and condescending. I’d 100% prefer someone directly telling me they were annoyed by my delay to this bullshit.

      12. Margaretmary*

        I wouldn’t consider that “softer” though. Treating a woman in her 40s like she has just entered the workforce seems to me a lot more insulting than just “thanks for the reply. I’d appreciate it a bit faster in future, if that’s possible. Thanks for understanding.” Still possibly a bit abrupt, but I would think it politer than what he said.

      13. Splendid Colors*

        “Softened” the message? Is that what people are calling passive-aggressive mansplaining now?

        If he needed it sooner, he could’ve followed up. He didn’t. This is about feeling disrespected because OP didn’t respond immediately. (Or maybe he forgot he needed to follow up and is projecting “bad time management” at OP.”)

    2. ferrina*

      It’s so naïve of Bob to think that a phone call only takes a minute. I’ve never been on the phone for less than 3 minutes. And that’s assuming we catch each other on the first try (no phone tag), skip hellos and have no follow up questions. So 3 minute call + 2 minutes to listen to voicemail + whatever time to answer the questi0n [NOT EQUAL TO] 1.

      And while I’m critiquing his math, I don’t work 24 hours a day. I work 8.

      1. ferrina*

        And while I’m getting pedantic, Bob’s paternalistic platitude claims that the phone call is .07% of my day, when at minimum it would realistically be 1.04% of my day. So Bob’s estimate is 1/15th of the actual time cost.

        I really hope Bob isn’t an auditor or an actuary. Or you know, anything where numbers are important.

        1. Empress Matilda*

          Yep. That variable [time to answer the question] could be anything from one minute to infinity, depending on the question. And don’t forget to include [time to ask the question], which is highly variable in itself. For my current boss, the time to ask the question is less than a minute. But my previous boss would spend ten minutes telling you about an orthodontist appointment she had when she was ten, before she ever got to the point of the call!

      2. As per Elaine*

        I’ve only had phone calls less than three minutes when both participants had pre-paid phones that we had to top up at a vendor, and we knew that a call was cheaper than a text message if it took less than 15 seconds, or a back-and-forth if less than 30 seconds. But that was a VERY SPECIFIC phone culture.

        Or when the content of the call was “I’m at the door, can you let me in?” or “Where are you? I’m at the corner, oh, I see you now, bye.”

    3. CoveredinBees*

      I also have a strong feeling that phone calls with Bob are never “just a minute” even if the reason for the phone call is brief.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      I would be thinking that that minute I’m supposed to spend returning his damned phone call has already been used up on his reminding me how many minutes there are in a day. Stop wasting my time for me, Bob.

    5. Zennish*

      But you give up that personal touch, merely out of a desire for efficient, documented, succinct communication… /s

    6. Nanani*

      It takes fewer minutes to draft an email than to play phone tag with Bob, I guarantee it.

    7. Academic Chick*

      I do most certainly NOT prefer e-mail to a phone call. Maybe this is a generational divide, but I get enough emails to spend all 1440 minutes of the day getting through them so if you need something drop by the office or call by all means.

      1. I heart Paul Buchman*

        Yes! I 100% prefer a quick chat to an email chain. In my workplace emailing the person in the next pod would be weird.

        I don’t know if it’s generational/cultural/ industry/ AAM’s base but this doesn’t describe what I see in real life.

        1. Anonny NonErson*

          I think I officially qualify as An Old now, but: I prefer asynchronous communication.

          That can be via a chat channel, our ticketing system, or email, but I prefer it because my work is such that I could be literally dealing with something that is affecting the entire company right that second, and there is already an existing channel for your non-critical issue.

          Something that didn’t make the company go boom in two days? Non-critical.

          That said, if you prefer calling, call! Leave a voicemail, and I’ll get back to you based on my prioritization of your request with respect to my other work.

          If Bob has sent me this cow patty of a response, I wouldn’t respond at all – I’d forward it to my boss and his boss and raise hell about his tone.

        2. JustaTech*

          In my experience (as a person who doesn’t love phones) e-mail vs phone is context dependent.

          If a person asks me for a specific piece of information, then e-mail is going to be easier/more efficient. Especially if there is a document/file I would need to share anyway. (I once got 8 people on two continents out of a very awkwardly timed meeting by pointing this out.)

          If I expect/realize there is going to be a lot of back-and-forth conversation with a single person, then a phone call will be more efficient. I also find this to be true when there is teaching/training (like, it’s much more efficient for me to be on the phone with the EA while she explains the expense software than me sending her a dozen emails).

          And then there’s the whole do/do not want a paper trail of a conversation.

      2. nonprofit llama groomer*

        I’m on the older side of things (Gen X) and prefer emails at work. I also hate having to watch instructional videos instead of reading something, which is my generational thing. Sometimes the video is more efficient but seems more time consuming because I have to take notes on the video. My kiddos are the opposite and prefer the video.

        1. allathian*

          I’m also genX and I love WFH because it limits the chats to scheduled Teams calls (even if the scheduling happens through IM). Sometimes a call can be the most efficient means of exchanging information, but if you actually want me to do a task, I need it in writing. If nothing else, I’ll write an email to confirm that we’re on the same page.

          Luckily in my organization the rules are very clear, unless a task has been given in writing, it’s merely a suggestion rather than a request, and there won’t be any consequences if I simply ignore it.

          For me, video is entertainment that I don’t have to remember later. I simply do not retain information that is presented to me unless I get it in writing. I’ll write notes if I have to, but I vastly prefer email and IM to most calls.

          I’m also a fast reader, and I recognize that dyslexics and other people with poor reading skills do better with phone calls than emails. But I’m also lucky enough to work in a comms adjacent team, where everyone has strong writing skills, so my preference has never really been an issue.

          We’re expected to do training videos with quizzes. I’ve had some success in making the videos optional so that you can choose to read the material instead by addressing it as an accessibility issue. I’m a fast enough reader that it takes me less than half the time to complete a course when I can read the scripts than if I have to watch the videos. The only time I’ve found videos useful have been when they’re some sort of step by step instructions.

        2. As per Elaine*

          I and many of my millenial friends also prefer reading to instructional video, except for very specific cases where a skill is being demonstrated and deciphering diagrams would, in fact, be less efficient than video.

    8. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I know, I am so angry that my bank got rid of customer service email and chat, so I have to call and talk to someone on the phone! I do not want to talk to someone. If I am on chat, I can do something else while waiting for a response. Same with email!

  3. Sloanicota*

    Urrgghhhh I would agree with Alison’s comments if OP was just starting out, but as a nearly-40-year-old myself, I am out of f*cks to give for people like Bob. “Bob, I’m sure you mean well, but as a veteran of 20 years in the field I find it strange and inappropriate that you’re trying to give me career tips like this. It comes across as quite disrespectful. I am responding to your inquiry on X widget; the answer is Y. I have many priorities and I’ll always try to be a good partner etc. – thanks – sign off”

    1. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

      I totally agree with this. I don’t really see much benefit to ignoring the behavior. Calmly and directly tell him to stop.

      I like the language you used.

      1. Abigail*

        The benefit to ignoring Bob and saying nothing is that Bob will not change regardless of what you say, so you don’t have the frustration of talking to a brick wall.

        1. Huh*

          There’s no benefit to ignoring Bob because the frustration of putting up with Bob remains and is often the same as talking to a brick wall. We need to stop going around the brick walls, it’s exhausting and a waste of our time.

    2. Colette*

      I definitely would not say that in writing. In person? Sure. On the phone? Sure. But that kind of thing isn’t a good idea to do in a medium where it can be misinterpreted, and where it can be shared with others.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Eh. If I’m understanding correctly, Bob’s message was also in email, and honestly anyone I could think of would find that completely inappropriate and waaay over the line to send to someone who is your peer at the same level. If I forwarded that message from Bob to my boss (also a woman, also in her 40s) she would think my response was quite restrained and professional. YMMV.

      2. Squid*

        See, I would TOTALLY put this in writing so that there’s documentation of how I handled the situation (in case it is needed for future issues). I am very CYA about this stuff.

        1. Jolene*

          Agree. Bob strikes me as the “she’s a rude nasty woman” type, and if in writing you have a record otherwise

        2. A Feast of Fools*

          Yep. I have new-ish (as of Oct 2021) peer who is. . . demanding that I and others give her the respect she thinks she is due.

          She sent me a wild message in Teams* and I crafted my written reply to her with an audience in mind that included not only my managers but also our company’s lawyers and a host of fictional grandparents.

          So, yeah, at this point in my life (mid-50’s) I have no time for nonsense like what the OP describes.

          I visited a retail location of the company I work for last year and the store manager referred to me as “young lady”, “dear”, and a couple other sexist words/phrasing that I’ve forgotten.

          I told my then-manager about it when I got back to the office and he said, “Yeah, that happens in the field. I just ignore it.” And I said, “Well, of course you do; you’re a heterosexual white man. Someone who calls a middle-aged woman ‘young lady’ hasn’t ever had an impact on your career progression.”

          He at least had the decency to do the fish-out-water gaping thing with his mouth before saying, “Point taken.”

          *(I was going to post about it on Friday and ask for advice but then she doubled-down the next day so I took it to management).

            1. SweetestCin*

              I’m going to keep the “host of fictional grandparents” in mind in communications such as this, audience wise. Checking my hot-headedness is a constant work in progress and this would help!

              I’m glad you were able to take things to management. And I’m glad that you were able to make the point in a way that “point taken” with another coworker.

      3. MicroManagered*

        Yep, I’m with you. While this is a true and factual response to an obviously condescending message, I would not put this in an email. Whether it’s fair or not, if Bob decides to take it to someone (his boss, your boss, etc.) it’s not going to look good. My boss would expect that I not “engage” with a response like this.

        1. Despachito*

          Why do you think it is not going to look good?

          She is not disrespectful towards Bob, she quite matter-of-factly states that she finds HIS behaviour inappropriate (and I think it would come across as such for most people), and immediately turns back to the business. What’s wrong with that?

          1. MicroManagered*

            I don’t think anything is particularly wrong with it, but personally I would not put that in an email. I think some would interpret as engaging unnecessarily or argumentative.

            I think there are enough people in the thread saying the same thing to show that it’s clear this very direct approach might not be the right one for everyone. That’s all.

            1. Zombeyonce*

              “engaging unnecessarily or argumentative”

              Ah, yes, accusations that women in the workforce doing completely professional things are accused of every day. Time for that to stop, but it never will if we don’t stand up for ourselves.

              1. Despachito*

                This is what I was thinking.

                I understand why it would not be wise to be aggressive/snarky for OP over the e-mail, but it seems to me like a double standard if we consider inappropriate for OP to basically stand up for herself, matter-of-factly but without being rude, but we completely disregard that what Bob wrote was very unprofessional and rude? Why do we judge her so strictly, but are so benevolent towards Bob?

        2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          Not all bosses suck that way though. One of my team told me a guy was haranguing her on the phone, and I told her that if it happened again, she should calmly say that they’d continue the conversation when he was calmer and hang up, and if he wasn’t taking a breath to just talk over him. Conflict-avoidant bosses are terrible.

        3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I do not think it would look bad at all. It is calling out inappropriate behavior. If I was the boss and Bob brought me this, I would look at the chain and then have a serious discussion with Frank about how he needs to be more careful with his messaging and be respectful of women in the field who are his peers.

      4. Ace in the Hole*

        I’d put it in writing. That way I have clear documentation of exactly what I said in case Bob decides to kick up a fuss about it and/or continue being inappropriate.

      5. Rocket*

        I would put in writing and bcc my manager on it so she could see what a blowhard I’m dealing with.

    3. Hills to Die On*

      That’s the one! If that doesn’t work, may I (sarcastically) suggest a link to the definition of mansplaining?

    4. anonymous73*

      I agree, but would leave out the “I’m sure you mean well” piece – it excuses his behavior. Unsolicited advice comes across as judgement. Intentions are irrelevant – unless someone is visibly struggling or asks for advice, people need to shut their pie holes.

      1. Heidi*

        I also am not convinced that he means well. It sounds more like he’s annoyed that you took a long time to respond, and he doesn’t want to sound petulant about something so obviously trivial, and he’s scolding you under the guise of being a “concerned” friend who is generously bestowing his “wisdom.”

    5. WomEngineer*

      I’m on board with the second-to-last paragraph on basically “pulling the Uno reverse card,” as the kids say. LW far enough in her career that she should be empowered to push back rather than ignore it, especially if younger female colleagues are listening.

      (To be clear, anyone should be able to refute this kind of unsolicited advice, but it’s much easier said than done for less experienced women.)

    6. ThePear8*

      I really like this response. Calls him out matter-of-factly on his behavior while keeping the focus on work and not sounding defensive. Brilliant.

    7. Wisteria*

      I do not like this. Bob has a subtext, which is that your delay in responding damaged your relationship with him. Maybe that’s a level of damage that you are ok with, that’s fine, but you should conceal that fact from him. Your proposed response basically says, “not only am I ok with the damage I already did, but I’m also ok with blowing the whole thing up with a nuclear missile!”
      Now it’s true here that you feel that *Bob* damaged the relationship, and you want to address that, but this is not going to spur him to repair it.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        On the other hand, not saying something leaves him feeling free to continue Bob-ing at LW in the future, which will continue to damage the relationship more and more. Just like sometimes the kindest thing a manager can do is to tell an employee in no clear terms that they are on thin ice, sometimes the best thing you can do to repair a relationship is to let the other person know that it’s in trouble in the first place.

      2. Rocket*

        Delays in responding to people are a part of business. Things come up and we all have different priorities. OP apologized for the delay which should have been the end of it.

        Jackasses are not a part of business and should not be tolerated.

      3. Zombeyonce*

        If Bob wanted a more prompt response, he could have said so without the condescending and useless “advice”. The fact that you think a response like this is the nuclear option is worrisome; keeping up with professional norms doesn’t equate to being a doormat.

      4. somanyquestions*

        You keep defending him like he has an actual point. Like you think of course women are supposed to drop everything and respond to him, no matter what their work or priorities, no matter what he needs.

        That’s awful and you should think about how you sound, because if this is how you’re moving through the business world you are creating bad feelings around your actions constantly. Deservedly. This is pretty disturbing.

    8. Wine Not Whine*

      Sloanicota: thank you. That’s exactly the mood and mode I was thinking, but I hadn’t yet formulated the words.
      Well said.

    9. oranges*

      +1.
      This man is neither your boss nor your client. There are no subordination or customer service elements to this relationship. Tell him (professionally) to knock it off.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Exactly! I’m quite disheartened by the suggestions that OP should just take this level of disrespect merely because the relationship is important going forward – which is true of virtually all work relationships. It takes two people with a basic understanding of respect to have a relationship! Bob’s message, to me, is excruciatingly inappropriate between peers.

    10. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      There are twenty four hours in a day.
      Yes, there are.
      I’d respond to his emails at 11:59…to be clear, 23:59…not outlook delay which shows the time it was created, but one minute before the day ends.

    11. Fluffy Fish*

      40 really does seem to be a magical age where you do find yourself out of f*cks for all the stupid sh*t. I’m never rude but I am to the point. And no I’m not going to let you get a way with sh*t that you try to offer as a present.

      Often followed with, “Thanks for understanding!”

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Yeah, I am 40 and I am so much less inclined to put up with things that I was afraid to call out even in my early to mid 30s. I am pretty friendly and diplomatic too, but I am just more comfortable saying “no” or “do not do that again, thank you.”

    12. Christina*

      Heading towards 60 myself and trust me, if you think you are out of f*cks now, just wait until menopause…….

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Oddly with each decade I see less and less of this crap. I am 61. It’s still there and I definitely, 2000%, believe what people are saying here. But the fact that I see less with age means that these offenders CAN and DO control what they say and when they say it. There was a comment up stream about expecting these offenders to change.
        Just my opinion but I think it is totally fair to tell them to cut the crap and EXPECT them to actually do it because they can control what they are saying.

        I’d have to ask Bob if he would say in this situation if LW was 20 years older OR if LW was 20 years older AND male.

      2. Pippa K*

        Yeah, as I get older, not only am I down to zero f*cks myself, I’ve actually gone into a negative balance, so now other people have to give the f*cks. I find it a much more restful approach to things. :-)

        1. OrigCassandra*

          May I recommend a lovely song by Thomas Benjamin entitled “I’ve No More F*cks To Give.” There is at least one rendition on YouTube.

          Lyrics NSFW, obviously.

    13. AnonInCanada*

      **chef’s kiss** Whether or not it puts Bob in his place is another story, but I like that response!

    14. KatieP*

      I like this response. As a nearly 50-year-old, I’d drop the, “I’m sure you mean well,” part. Not only have I run out of f*cks to give, I’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel on giving sexist comments the benefit of the doubt.

    15. Ampersand*

      I love this response! I think it’s both true that OP is expected (by society) to smooth things over and also that she shouldn’t feel obligated to. The above response is perfect.

  4. Cobol*

    I work with a guy like this!!!! There’s nothing you can do to change them. They learned the rules of 1986, and are mediocre enough to not be able to change.

    For what it’s worth, I’m a guy and he treats me the same way Bob treats you, so it’s not just sexism. It’s not, not sexism, it’s just an overall paternalistic attitude that clings to all the negative stories of the past we’re trying to move beyond.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Are you much younger than your Bob? I did a good amount of grinning and bearing it when I was significantly younger, like in my 20s. If Bob was three levels above me maybe I’d grin and bear it in my 40s, but assuming we’re at the same level and similar age, I’m going to tell him to knock it off.

      1. Cobol*

        I’m 40 too. My Bob was the previously the manager of the team I joined, but by the time I came onboard we were the same level (and I took a step down to learn a new skill). I don’t know that he ever took the time to learn that though.

        I mostly ignore him. A good version of him would be able to really help me, as our positions should work closely together, but this version of Bob is just waiting to retire.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I’m just confused about Bob’s age. OP is in her 40s, Bob would have to be literally 80 years old and still working in the office (maybe he is, I don’t know) before I’d really feel like it was a factor in our dynamic. If he was 65, that means nothing to me; I’ve routinely had that kind of age gap with colleagues and it’s not an automatic pass on behavior as if “they’re from a different time” or something.

          1. Zephy*

            I mean, my FIL is 73 and still working. There are plenty of professional septuagenarian dudes across plenty of industries making paternalistic noises at anyone who will act like they’re listening.

            1. sb51*

              My FIL is 80 and still working, and would absolutely condescend like this to a 40-year-old woman, because he does it to me when we’re discussing our careers (and he absolutely always wants to discuss careers, because he loves working and defines himself around his job, so everyone else must do so as well).

              He’s absolutely the sort to do it to guys as well but he’s also the kind of old-school sexist who doesn’t think he’s being sexist (and doesn’t want to be, but is impossible to get through what modern sexism looks like now that it’s not the more egregious/obvious problems of his youth).

              1. Sloanicota*

                To be fair, if I was working with someone who was literally 80 years old, I would probably cut them a good deal of extra slack, although I would still internally roll my eyes at this email. And I have, in fact worked with people that old, in roles where we had board members who were senior level in the Carter administration, etc. However, if this guy is like, mid to late 60s, I’m not going to give them some sort of pass on being too old to possibly comprehend that this is a very rude email to send to a colleague.

              2. Cobol*

                My favorite thing to do in that situation is to pretend they know they’ve made a mistake. “I just hope I’m successful enough that I don’t have to work into my 80s.” Now it definitely will make things worse, but better for me to at least entertain myself.

              3. Sue*

                It’s the person, not the age. My Dad is 95 and still working. He would Never speak to someone this way.

                1. my name what was it who knows*

                  I work for someone in his 80s who still tries to be actively involved in day-to-day operations. And my boyfriend, who works in a major law firm, has a colleague who is 86, and refuses to retire (not even to senior counsel; he’s still a partner, although no longer technically department head).

          2. Cobol*

            My Bob or Letter Writers? There are a ton of Bobs out there in their mid 50s and up, who probably view themselves as more experienced than somebody in their 40s.

          3. Rolly*

            We know Bob’s been working more than the OP is alive. She’s in her 40s so could be in his 60s.

          4. Rolly*

            No, he’s been working a longer than she’s been alive. If she’s 45, and he started working at 20, he’s in his late 60s.

            1. Sloanicota*

              See, perhaps I’m an outlier, but at mid-40s, I wouldn’t consider late 60s to be a significant enough age gap that it should have a bearing on our relationship (not enough that I would defer on the assumption that someone this old can’t possibly be expected to understand basic norms?). That’s the same working cohort IMO especially if they’re at roughly the same level now.

          5. LW*

            LW here. I think Bob is probably in the 65-70 range (i.e. working 40+ years). I’m not sure what makes you think we’re giving him an automatic pass on anything though. If anything, his age makes it worse because he should know better.

          6. Ally McBeal*

            I wish I could say I’m surprised that boomers/SGers are refusing to retire, but so many of them (1) have been workaholics their entire lives, (2) hate their home life, (3) are too broke to retire thanks to the voting choices they’ve been making for decades, or (4) some combination of the above.

    2. Cobol*

      Also I don’t mind talking in the phone at all, but I still hate the quick phone call guy. You may not be the top priority I have right now, and the phone is horrible for accountability.

      1. londonedit*

        100%. I’m working with an author who insists on sending me an email/leaving me a voicemail saying ‘Would you please give me a quick call when convenient’. Never any hint of a clue what the conversation might be about. So I’m immediately on the back foot because I have no chance to prepare any information about what he might decide to ask me, and there’s no paper trail. Which of course is exactly why he does it.

    3. Abogado Avocado*

      Telling Bob he’s being paternalistic may not change him, but it should register with him that his conduct, however long engaged in, is not acceptable. And if he reacts by bemoaning the pushback, he’ll hear just how unappreciated his conduct is. Those aren’t bad results.

    4. Salymander*

      Working with *a* guy like Bob who condescends to you, a man, might not be sexism. Working with many Bobs, all throughout your career, as well as dealing with Bobs at the bank, grocery store, library, school, hobby group, friend group, and everywhere else you go when you are a woman? That is widely recognized as a very common sexist thing.

      One Bob is a damned nuisance. Many Bobs are an oppressive nightmare. It is not the same.

      1. Cobol*

        ? I’m not sure where you got that I thought Bob wasn’t sexist. He is. My Bob is sexist too, amongst other things.

        1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

          I had the same read on it and went back to read your post. It’s awkward phrasing.

        2. Salymander*

          I didn’t know whether you thought it was sexist or not. You weren’t saying anything offensive or really objectionable, just looking at the comment on its own. I was actually pretty sure that you were not purposely trying to derail or to say anything sexist. I wrote my response because pretty much every time there is a post about sexism, a bunch of people chime in to say either that women sometimes do whatever sexist behavior we are talking about, or that we don’t know with absolute certainty that it is sexism because we can’t read the offending person’s mind, or other comments like that. While they may be true, it can either derail the conversation or just water it down and obscure the issue. It wasn’t so much your comment as all the comments of that type that I was referring to. I wasn’t objecting to your comment exactly, I was just trying to redirect back to the discussion of sexism. It seemed that you were commenting in good faith, and that you would understand what I was trying to say, or at least not get really angry like some people do, and that yours would be a good comment to respond to if I was looking for discussion rather than argument. Pretty sure I was right about that too, because you are still engaging in polite discussion and just trying to clarify things. I appreciate that.

  5. GrooveBat*

    I wouldn’t be too quick to blame this on Bob’s age. I’m probably at about the same stage in my career and I would never even think of sending a message like that, even if I *were* someone’s mentor.

    Bob is just a condescending jerk, and that’s unfortunately a trait that spans generations.

    1. Batgirl*

      I’ve met a few Bobs, and their age is definitely important to them, if not to others. They like to gain credit easily so when they’re young, the first thing they lean on is their privilege. The next feather in their cap is seniority, which in some places they can get through their privilege. The cherry on top, the thing that makes them truly insufferable is when they have a decent life span under their belt. Note I don’t say “lived experience” or any kind of experience, because they didn’t get any, they just let time pass by and called it experience. When a few decades have gone by they start referring to “In my X years career” as though counting up years are the same thing as actual achievements.

    2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Yep, and I have a guy who pontificates at me occasionally, who is younger than I am.

      1. allathian*

        Ugh. It’s bad enough when it’s someone who’s significantly older, but in a younger person it’s insufferable.

    3. Chauncy Gardener*

      Ugh, right? I have to work with a Bob who is exactly my age (late 50’s) and I want to strangle him constantly. He loves to talk and lecture on every.single.thing. Never mind that I have exactly the same (maybe more) credentials and years of experience as him. There is no such thing as getting through multiple topics in one meeting unless I forcibly interrupt him and change the subject in order to get through the agenda, which he has and has sometimes even set himself. I don’t think he breathes in between sentences.

    4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Yeah, not all of the older male professionals are like Bob, but the Bobs of this world have gotten by comfortably behaving this way and do not expect to be called out. That needs to change. We need to call these things out so that they expect to be called out and are therefore uncomfortable being too obvious in their condescending jerkiness!

  6. KHB*

    Based on the Bobs I’ve known, you’re not going to win this one, and you’re not going to convince him to see the error of his ways. So I agree with Alison: As much as it hurts not to give him a well-deserved snappy comeback, your best course of action is probably to ignore his comments and hope he retires soon.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I agree you’re probably not going to change hearts and minds or each him the error of his ways – but you may be able to teach him not to send messages like that to you personally, because it doesn’t get him what he wants/needs from you. Chilly, brisk and direct could possibly work for the Bob’s of the world … it’s too demoralizing to think OP needs to it up suck and accept this level of condescension from a guy who is at her same level – for the rest of their relationship – just because he’s older than she is – when she’s in her 40s.

      1. oranges*

        THIS. You’re not going to change Bob for the world, but you can communication what Bob you’ll tolerate for you.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          One of my favorite quotes is from Margaret Houlihan on M*A*S*H: Respect, simple respect; I expect nothing more, and I’ll accept nothing less.

        2. tinybutfierce*

          Seconding this. I’ve been in previous jobs where I had to “train” both coworkers and customers into behaving appropriately with me. Obviously your mileage may vary depending on environment and particulars, but it was largely pretty successful for me. If you’re not pleasant (or at least TOLERABLE) to work with, I’m not working with you.

    2. Bernice Clifton*

      I agree with this, unfortunately, especially since you need to keep this a good relationship. I feel like it’s likely to lead to a lot of defensiveness from Bob which will turn into emotional labor for the LW.

      If the dynamics were different (like you were coworkers), it would be worth it to say something but if Bob had the judgement and awareness to understand an explanation about why he’s not being cool at best and sexist at worst, he wouldn’t be mansplaining to you in the first place.

      1. High Score!*

        Nope. Completely disagree with you. I’ve had tons of “Bob” experience and correcting them and calling them out absolutely will change the way they treat you. Maybe not anyone else. But you. If they feel they are irritating you then suddenly it is important for them to maintain the relationship so they don’t get pushed into an early retirement with no one to listen to their “helpful advice”.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This is good advice for many situations. We cue people how to treat us. If we don’t put up STOP signs they will just keep going.

          I had an elderly family member who mowed people down with her words. I ran out of give-a-damns and I started calling her on it. Respect is a two way street. Just because someone is older does not mean respect suddenly becomes a one way street.

      2. Salymander*

        It is possible to confront a Bob and get him to cool it with the paternalistic crap. I tend to just explain what I don’t like about their behavior and then tell them what I want in a way that says that Of Course they will do this totally correct and reasonable thing, because they too are correct and reasonable. I have usually found that Bobs will either be pouty and then pretend that it was their idea to be less horrid all along, or they will get snippy but then act like you have won their respect, like it was all a test that you have passed. It is still annoying, just less so than the mansplaining. The other Bobs, who don’t do either of these, will frequently just pout for a little while and then go back to their same condescending nonsense.

    3. Rolly*

      No, it’s important to fight back, not for the impact but to not be complicit in it. This has emotional value. And to model proper behavior if anything ever happens in public.

  7. anonymous73*

    IMO, Alison’s responses are way too polite. This man is not your superior and you don’t work with him often. I’d have no problem letting him know what’s up.

    “Unless an issue is time sensitive, I prefer that you contact me via email. I’ve already apologized for the delay and I don’t need any lectures on time management. Thanks.”

    1. Squid*

      I usually employ some iteration of that first sentence (“…contact me via email.”) when I onboard or when getting acquainted with a new teammate – setting those expectations up front is important to me. And even if it is time sensitive, I ask them to ping/IM me. I don’t do unscheduled phone calls; I just don’t.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I have a SMALL number of people I’ll take unscheduled phone calls from, due to the nature of their work in relation to mine. Otherwise same.

        Unscheduled video calls bother me less? No idea why.

        1. Squid*

          Oh man, I wouldn’t be able to do unscheduled video calls – I barely tolerate scheduled ones.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I think it’s a desperation for human contact that is more satiated by seeing a face than hearing a voice. It’s been a long pandemic.

            1. NeedRain47*

              I prefer video over phone calls. Seeing body language & expressions is a huge part of communication and I feel like it suffers if you can’t see the other person. But not so much unexpected ones.

              1. allathian*

                Really depends on the quality of the connection. If it’s poor, the delay between audio and video will make it even harder to read non-verbal cues, but the brain won’t stop trying to do so, which makes those calls even more exhausting. There’s been some research on the subject already.

      2. Christina*

        I tell all the guys who come on board that if they need to reach me, I don’t generally answer my phone, they should email me, and if its time sensitive, text me. I only work a few hours a week, and not on a set schedule – but I’m almost always “available” within an hour or two once you get my attention.

        No matter how many minutes there are in a day, I don’t want to spend any of them listening to someone ramble on voice mail, then call them back so they can ramble some more. Working out of email is more efficient. And I don’t need to track a complicated to do list since email acts that way (as we were discussing in the dropped ball thread)

        To some extent, the Bobs of the world have been out technologied. Few 20 somethings answer their phone or are always available via email. Text or chat if you need their attention. For someone in their 70s, their habits are all based around the phone. For people my age (mid 50s), we’ve switched so much we’ve adapted – we only talk to our own children via text or chat and our own parents via the phone…..

        1. allathian*

          Your last paragraph is so true! That said, I chat with my sister, and mostly chat with my friends, with the occasional phone call thrown in. Those phone calls have largely replaced meeting in person during the pandemic, just last weekend I was on the phone for about 90 minutes with my best friend (I’ve known her since middle school).

          My 12 year old goes to school on public transit (dedicated school buses don’t exist here), and he messages me if the bus is more than 10 minutes late or he missed it, but if he wants to go to a friend’s house after school, or invite a friend over, he’ll call either me or my husband to ask permission.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        My whole day is one long unscheduled phone call. I can’t complain, it comes with the job. But the point is, if you want to get me- email is best. I can pull an answer together and email you back. If you call, then I have to call you back at which point you may need something else and have to call me back. Email. It’s a good route for what we handle.
        Answers are going to vary, too bad Bob does not understand this. Bob would improve his career by understanding how best to contact the various people he needs to talk to.
        Oh. Did I just HIM advice? hmm.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think Alison’s caveats are good though. It depends on the situation, it depends on how he’ll react to things, she can’t burn the bridge…these are all things OP needs to take into her personal arithmetic.

      That said yes, I would personally be firmer. I might not say “I don’t need any lectures…” that’s a little aggressive (for my style, if it works I encourage you to continue your style) but I might say the first two lines and keep it curt. I like some of the language other commenters have suggested around “this is odd” and “I am a professional” as well.

    3. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      True, but OP said she can’t burn this bridge. They have customers in common.

    4. Momma Bear*

      This is what I was thinking. OP already apologized for the delay – even if there are x number of minutes in a day, the assumption from Bob is that she has spare for him and she may not, frankly. I think something direct like this is all that is needed. Since he does this a lot, I would say something. So often we don’t speak up because it would be uncomfortable, but why should *we* be the ones to always be uncomfortable? Are you not a mid-career professional? Do you not have value and expertise? OP, you shouldn’t feel like you have to send Bob a softball or nothing at all. (Though as I type that I remember that the girls’ softball team a my HS had a pitcher you did NOT want to mess with as she could pitch faster than almost anyone in the state so maybe the analogy is to make the pitch quick and accurate.) A direct response that doesn’t grovel is appropriate to his snark, IMO.

  8. Chairman of the Bored*

    By the time a professional is in their 40s they’ve likely had plenty of opportunities to learn how to work and what approaches are best for them. They’re either experts in their field, or beyond help.

    Even aside from the sexism, this guy is a turkey for giving basic “first day on the job” advice to somebody who has likely been in the work force since before the iPhone was invented.

    1. ThePear8*

      This. I see no good justification for this for someone who’s clearly already very experienced and good at what they do.

  9. Allornone*

    “I … want to punch Bob in the face.”

    I always love when my first instinct is the same as Alison’s. It means I’m sane.

    1. High Score!*

      I have punched male coworkers in the face. Only for groping me though. Absolutely NEVER assault anyone who isn’t actively assaulting you.
      Ladies, if you are wondering, it is indeed the best feeling in the whole world to literally smash your fist into the face of some POS who thinks it’s ok to assault you.
      Even the pain from the bruised knuckles you are left with feels amazing. A lovely reminder of his regret you made him feel.

      1. Allornone*

        Thank you. I’m actually not a violent person, so I doubt I’ll ever truly hit someone, but it is nice to live vicariously through your account of a POS who got what he deserved. Kudos.

      2. Goldenrod*

        Wow. I am impressed!

        In this case, I would probably do nothing because this loser is beyond hope and why waste any energy on him?

        However, I would like to go on record that I would also like to punch him in the face. I would definitely IMAGINE punching him in the face every time I saw him, pretty much.

      3. Hotdog not dog*

        Hmm. When I punched someone in the face (who was in fact grabbing my breast at that time) I was fired. He said he didn’t grope me, I just hit him for no reason. Since nobody saw anything (because of course they didn’t), and he was the only one with a mark on him, our manager decided that it must have been my fault. I chipped his front tooth and gave him a bloody lip, and I hope it left a permanent scar. If I had it to do over, I’d hit harder.

    2. Veryanon*

      I was thinking that too. For context, I am in my 50s and have been in the workforce a long time. I don’t need tips on “how to get along at work” from Bob or his brethren.

    3. Salymander*

      Yep. This was my first reaction too. The Bobs of the world have no real idea about how much we all dislike them, do they? It must be weird having that level of unmerited, smug overconfidence.

  10. Plebeian Aristocracy*

    I’m surprised that no one has brought up, “There are 24 hours in a day, and I only work 8 (or however many) of them.”

    1. Fedpants*

      I only work for 480 of them, and you e already taken up 2, so clearly it doesn’t take just a minute to return the call.

    2. angrytreespirit*

      aaaaaand, there is literally no one I work with out of hundreds of people with whom any phone call takes less than a minute. The reason I avoid phone calls is everyone wants to “so, how are you…” “what’s up with so and so…” “well the reason I called you is…” “..so how abut we plan to…” “what are you up to this weekend…” and on and on and ON. SEND ME A DAMN EMAIL.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        YES. The only phone call I ever make that takes one minute is the daily “on my way home, need me to pick up the kid? You already did? Ok, see you in 30 minutes” with my husband. Every single other phone call, especially work ones, take much longer. F you, Bob.

      2. Plebeian Aristocracy*

        OP could call Bob and let him know he’s on a one-minute timer. It would be a terrible idea and hyper aggressive, but it would get the point across.

      3. Pipe Organ Guy*

        For me, sometimes the back-and-forth of a good phone call can help clarify things that were nebulous. Things that could take several back-and-forth emails to work out can crystalize faster. Still, there are lots of times I don’t like phone calls because I can’t see the person at the other end.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I agree that sometimes a phone call is the fastest way to clarify nebulous things — and I vastly prefer email in general because of the paper trail (I work in supply chain and contracts, so the paper trail is important). But I do not get the feeling that is the context of Bob’s initial call *or* the reason for his explanation about the importance of returning calls. If it was, he would have said something along the lines of “I really think this will be easier to solve over the phone” not talk about how a one minute phone call is super important for ReLaTiOnShIpS.

    3. Imaginary Friend*

      > Don’t forget, there are 24 hours (1,440 minutes) in a day and it only takes a minute to return a call.

      True! Which means you have one thousand, four hundred and forty opportunities to make that call! Nothing in there says it needs to be the Very First Minute after receiving the message! grrr, ffs.

  11. Anonym*

    Can you oh so helpfully share some of the research on the negative effects of task switching on productivity? It’s not actually that good for the bottom line (or mission) for people to drop everything to respond to every request. (Please note that this is *not* actually a good idea, but as someone who hates interruptions and unnecessary phone calls, it is my personal fantasy response.)

    1. Rolly*

      How about

      “I hope you don’t believe that you or I should be available 24 hours a day. Perhaps that was appropriate way back when you were starting out, but since then we’re learned that most people can be far more more productive working 8 hours a day or a few more at critical times, particularly as their minds and bodies slow down with age. Please take these changing norms to heart as you ride out the last few years in your career; I would not want you to develop a reputation as old and out-of-touch.”

      1. ferrina*

        OH wow. The weaponized concern, the passive aggressive implications…..this is…

        *chef’s kiss*

      2. Wisteria*

        “particularly as their minds and bodies slow down with age. Please take these changing norms to heart as you ride out the last few years in your career; I would not want you to develop a reputation as old and out-of-touch.”

        That would get you a fast ride to HR at my employer. Returning an unwelcome tone with agism is not the answer. It’s not illegal to be a jerk, but it is illegal to be ageist.

        1. Burger Bob*

          Yeah, I’m not loving the hypothetical replies that are digs at Bob’s age. Completely unnecessary and unhelpful to insult someone’s age in this situation, I think. He’s being a condescending jerk. You can make that perfectly clear without adding in ageist comments.

        2. allathian*

          Yeah. Of course, if I understand things correctly, the LW is also covered by US anti-ageist discrimination regulations, given that she’s in her 40s.

          Granted, that wouldn’t help her deal with Bob, but…

      3. Lurker*

        The balance in this response of passive aggressiveness couched as career advice is perfect. You win!

      4. allathian*

        Bob’s a jerk, but ageism is no better. Rather the reverse, since ageism is illegal but being a jerk isn’t.

  12. teensyslews*

    Well if there’s 1440 minutes in a day and they’re all up for grabs SURELY he will not mind if you call back at, say, minute 180 (3am) with a phone call.
    I acknowledge this is not the correct response but it’s sure a temping one.
    Otherwise I’d suggest breezily responding “Thanks, but I’m actually not looking for any advice on my time management!” and repeat for any other topics he brings up.

  13. Lynca*

    Honestly I would probably respond with levity (because that’s how I cope) about how I hope no one is working 1440 minutes every day. But ultimately yeah I’d let it go. It’s not relevant advice and while he’ll give it, you never have to take it.

    But if I did respond further I might say something like this: “I apologized for the delay in response, but we do have to prioritize what we work on in the limited hours of the day. While a quick phone call would work for you, I unfortunately don’t have time for that at the moment. Hopefully things won’t be as busy in the near future.”

    There are times when I am up to my eyeballs in work that’s higher priority and there’s nothing wrong with stating that politely. So far that script has worked to explain why it’s taken longer to return a call and why I didn’t just call them back. I work with a lot of people that have better phone service than email access.

    1. Hate the Bobs of the World*

      Yes. This. Take back your equal-ness. Add “I appreciate your flexibility.” This conveys that you are of course his equal and have rejected his “advice,” and will be using email in your time frame in the future. You can also reply to future similar Bob emails with, “What an odd response.” Nothing else.

    2. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      Yeah, I like this one. The essence of Bob’s patronising advice is “I know better than you do how you ought to prioritise your time”. & this directly contradicts that, without being rude.

  14. CheesePlease*

    Thanks Bob! One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is that people have different communication styles and some may take longer to respond to a message. Just thought I would share since it’s never too late in our career to strengthen our skills!

    1. Chickaletta*

      This is the kind of response I would send. Subtle, but puts oneself on equal footing. There’s no need for OP to go on the defense and play into the “mentee” role that was misassigned to her.

  15. Rachael*

    I’d just reply (in person) with a short, “OK, thank you for your feedback”. Which, BTW, is the same thing I say when my five year old tells me she doesn’t like strawberry jelly, only grape.

    1. RabidChild*

      I say the same thing to my cat when he’s complaining about not getting his dinner fast enough lol

    2. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      “Thank you, I’ll take it under advisement,” is something I had a boss say to people that was basically a verbal version of putting something in “the circular file.”

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        A friend told me that they’ve got a workplace staff habit(? custom?) that the short “hm” noise has come to stand for “an astounding amount of nonsense and/or hot air just came out of your mouth and I’m choosing to respond in this way because to give you the response you probably deserve would probably get me fired”. Upper management there does not know this.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Upper management at my job both knows and supports this. Sometimes the thing needs to be said even though there aren’t polite ways to say it.

  16. Dr.OO7*

    Bob sounds an awful lot like the graduate school professor who sexually harassed me while I was working on my Master’s degree (my second #MeToo story). Do these creeps all read from the same “How To. . .” book? At least Bob is keeping it to work related things, unlike my professor, who saw fit to pry into my personal life and lecture me about things that were none of his business.

  17. Fabulous*

    I’d probably choose to make a different point in my response to him, rather than calling out the sexism, because it’s not likely to be well received by Bob based on the information at hand:

    “I know you don’t mean any harm when you offer advice on things like X and Y, but I’ve been very successful in building relationships because I realize that some people respond better to different communication styles. Obviously you prefer to pick up the phone, and that’s great! But for me – and many others – it takes a lot more out of my day to return a call than one minute. I appreciate your understanding that occasionally I – and others – might need an extra day to respond.”

    1. Sunny*

      Honestly this feels too wordy when what the LW wants to say is basically “I don’t agree with you”. It’s justifying herself which she doesn’t need to do, especially to Bob!

    2. CatPrance*

      I wouldn’t say that at all. Starting off with, “I know you don’t mean any harm” means he’ll hear, “Good for you, Bob, keep it up, not a problem.”

      I’d prefer to make sure he knows that it IS a problem and that he needs to stop. “I have a lot of things going on at work right now, Bob, and I don’t need a lecture on time-management. What do you need?”

    3. LW*

      I like this response. Only problem is I avoided this email and now I’m way past the “extra day” to process. Whoops!

  18. Meghan*

    Good lord, I hate phone calls when its a simple thing that can be addressed via email. I do understand the importance of phone calls, but a good chunk of the time they’re unnecessary. Unless you need an answer now, or the person/company in question doesn’t respond to emails in a quick manner– SEND AN EMAIL.

  19. animaniactoo*

    To Bob, in the sweetest possible tone: “Hmmm. Did they also give you advice on letting minor things go as being beneficial to a stronger relationship”?

  20. Mockingjay*

    Firstly, stop apologizing for not getting back to Bob. Simply answer his inquiry. “Bob, re: your question about the sales order, the vendor says the shipment will be here Monday.”

    Secondly, let Bob know your preferred communication method. “Bob, please send these inquiries via email. That gives me a record to track.”

    Thirdly, ignore the unsolicited advice. I’d bring that topic up once using the scripts Alison suggested. If he keeps it up, throw it back and make him uncomfortable. “What an odd thing to say.” *walks away/hangs up. Repeat. Or ignore completely as if he’d never spoken. Let his advice fade into a void.

    1. Squid*

      Or instead of apologizing, say something to the effect of “thank you for your patience.”

    2. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, I realize OP wants to preserve the relationship with Bob because they have to work together. For the same reason, Bob has to be civil to OP – and by my reckoning, that email from Bob is extremely disrespectful, below the minimum standard of civility to peers. I would ice him out after that, the same way I would if he said “you look pretty hot in that skirt, toots” – yes, even if I needed the relationship to continue. At 40 years old, 20 years of hard work, I’m not taking that kind of crap from a *peer.*

      1. Rolly*

        “that email from Bob is extremely disrespectful”

        Yup. How about:

        “Bob, I know we have a good working relationship so can be blunt with me, but I’m concerned you might be sharing unsolicited advice like this with other colleagues. You could come off as very disrespectful and even out-of-touch to someone who did not know you well. Please take this to heart.”

    3. Dr. Doll*

      Agree almost completely. No apology ever, just information. Information includes “send me emails, so there’s a record.” Ignore the annoying advice unless it gets repeated, then you can say, “You’ve mentioned that before, and it doesn’t facilitate workflow. I need emails for tracking purposes. Please email me.”

  21. Mephyle*

    I want to return Bob’s call, but the call will cut off after 60 seconds. After all, it only takes one minute to return a phone call. Bonus if he’s talking at that moment when it cuts off.

  22. Indie*

    Oooh, my fingers just itch to reply something along the lines of “Thank you so much for pointing out how long a day is, I am not sure I could do that math myself.” Or even better “Thank you for your advice, it is so helpful! Since we are sharing, one of the most important lessons that I learned in my career was not to be a condescending jerk to my coworkers, and I profited great deal by following it.”

    1. CatPrance*

      That’s beautiful! And I agree with Cheese — start advising HIM on basic, simple workplace practices, a la motivational posters. In fact, quote at least two of them at him every time he calls. “Remember, there’s no ‘I’ in team, Bob.”

    2. Chickaletta*

      That would be a great response to his email.

      “Thanks for the tip!
      “Don’t forget to smile today, Bob!”

  23. Lizianna*

    Ugh. I remember a conversation with one of our admin team members. I was frustrated because I thought I was asking her to do something that would only take 15 min, and I didn’t understand why it would take her a few days.

    She said, “I have over a dozen ‘only 15 min’ projects ahead of this one. Everything takes a finite amount of time.”

    Also, if your Bob is anything like the Bobs I’ve worked with, a phone call never takes just 1 min.

    That is to say, it’s so rude to lecture someone about their time management without understanding the bigger picture they’re working in.

    I don’t have any advice beyond Alison’s script or some of the scripts in here, but I’d really have a hard time not being snarky in my response. Or calling him back at 11 pm because “this was the first minute I had free, and I didn’t want to waste it!”

    1. Lizianna*

      Also, unless the response time really is unreasonable or you know the delay caused him problems, I wouldn’t apologize for not getting back right away. If you needed to acknowledge the delay, I’ve found acknowledging it without apologizing is more effective, because I’m trying to get out of the habit for apologizing for things that are beyond my control, and often my workload falls into that category. When it takes me a few days to get back to someone, I’ll say something like, “Thanks for your patience, it took me a few days to pull together the answer for you.” But even that’s often not necessary for something that’s not time sensitive.

      1. Velocipastor*

        this exactly! If it was important/time-sensitive he would have followed up with an email or another phone call. He didn’t. It is perfectly normal for non-urgent requests to take a couple of days to get to if there are more pressing matters on the docket.

  24. wendelenn*

    Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. . . Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear. . . Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes, And I only spend just a third of them here! Don’t tell me to call you when I could just send an email, Don’t mansplain to someone who’s in mid career, Don’t act so damn pompous, you must think you’re oh so special, How do I measure your sexism here?

    1. Sunshine's Eschatology*

      Ha, glorious!! Do recommend humming this after each eye-rolling encounter with Bob.

      1. Nanani*

        Those of us who don’t love Rent too (an earworm is an earworm regardless of feelings on the play!)

        1. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

          On the one hans, I deeply appreciate the filk. On the other hand I was in show choir and theater in middle and high school, so now I’ll have it stuck in my head for weeks with all the memories that entails. (A common experience for the showtune-adjacent the last twenty years or so. That song gets everywhere.)

          First hand is winning out, though. Seriously, impressive job.

    2. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

      Last week, I went to the comments looking for the filk with Gaston.
      Today, I didn’t even finish OP’s letter and I knew there would be Rent filk.
      Thank you wendelenn for the p-e-r-f-e-c-t reponse.

  25. I was told there would be llamas*

    Hi Bob, since we’re exchanging advice: One of the most important things I’ve learned in my career is to do things in order of importance. Sooooooooooo…

  26. RabidChild*

    You just know Bob has doled out that 1/1,440 comment to literally dozens of people over the years, men and women. I’d do a virtual eyeroll and move on.

    1. Sloanicota*

      You know it’s funny, somehow this perspective made me feel a bit better. I was thinking I’d probably burn it down if I got an email like that, but this old fart probably has this little sprig of knowledge tucked away and uses it all the time like the lunkhead he is. Maybe that’s what it would take for me to release my anger and completely ignore the message. YMMV, OP.

      1. quill*

        I wanna reply with “Hey Bob, out of your 525,600 minutes, how did YOU measure your year?” just because I feel like my culturally ingrained knowledge of that math trivia should be applauded.

      2. Salymander*

        I said before but this just illustrates why I think this guy reminds me of Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice. So small minded, petty and ridiculous, and yet so condescending and pedantic. It makes me tired.

  27. Lizard*

    I would not be able to follow the “bigger picture” talking points that Allison suggested… not when it’s such an obvious man-being-unnecesarily-pedantic situation like this. Frankly, I’d be too angry to do that. I too am in my 40s, deal with these types of comments from men, most of whom happen to be clients so I am very invested in preserving the relationship. I like Allison’s suggestion to share “work tips” right back at them… that’s a tactic I’ve yet to try.

    1. CatPrance*

      “Remember, Bob, today is your opportunity to build the tomorrow you want. And success is not an activity but a process.”

      1. CorruptedbyCoffee*

        I would reply with just this, because it’s just as meaningless and stupid as what he sent you, and let him puzzle over what it could possibly mean.

      2. Verthandi*

        “Oh, and by the way, Bob, you can’t tell which way the train went by looking at the tracks.”

  28. Swimmy_fish*

    Have you considered not apologizing for your response time? Bob may expect an immediate response, but you know your schedule and priorities better than he does. If you don’t note that your response may have taken too long, then maybe he won’t have an opening to start sharing his “wisdom”.

    1. ComplicatedIsAlright*

      Yeah, I’ve stopped with the apologies on delayed responses – it’s now “thank you for your patience”

      1. Doctors Whom*

        YES. I made a rule years ago never to apologize unless I was *actually* sorry for something and to really consider what i am sorry for! I usually say “I appreciate your patience with my response – here’s the recipe for the widget cleaner you requested.”

        (I’m self aware, I’m just not non-necessarily apologetic.) If I wrong you, if I mess up, I apologize. If not, nope. If I am sympathizing with you about how you don’t like a policy, I “understand your disappointment,” but I do not apologize.

        I agree – OP does not need to apologize for the delay. She can say -“here’s the recipe Bob. Email works best for me and if you need something time-sensitive, in the future, be sure to send it in email so it’s with all the other hippo wrangling requests I get.”

      2. Astor*

        Oh wow, I have changed to thanking people in person but I forgot I could do this for late emails. Thank you so much for the reminder; I feel so much better doing this.

  29. Pants*

    Thanks for the mansplination on how time works, Bob. Now do one on unsolicited advice to female coworkers. I can get you started. “Don’t.”

  30. gimmeausername*

    Side note and totally irrelevant but I HATE yhis kind of push for productivity your life is your work BS. No, you get the 7 hours you are paying me for and I’m out of here and not thinking about work until the next morning. (Work does tend to expand at the end of the day but this is something I’m actively working on. Like Alice in Wonderland I give myself very good advice but very rarely follow it)

    Its up there with You have as many hours as Beyonce (No Beyonce has my hours plus the hours of her nanny, personal trainer, cleaners and whoever else she pays to be able to delegate work to them)

    1. Frankie Bergstein*

      “Another thing pulled straight from the sexism playbook: You, the woman, are left worrying about choosing your words carefully and making sure you don’t harm the relationship. Bob … clearly isn’t thinking about either of those things. This is always how it goes, and it’s exhausting.”

      This this this!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2. Ali + Nino*

      Ooh I haven’t heard that bit about Beyoncé (or I’m assuming many other celebrities) but this is spot on.

  31. Death Rides a Pale Volvo*

    “It only takes a minute to return a call!” Yeah, and it only takes 3 seconds to give you the finger. What of it, Bob? HUH?????

  32. CatPrance*

    If OP doesn’t want to call in an airstrike on Bob, she can give him my phone number. I’d be happy to oblige.

  33. Elle*

    I was so happy to see this question because I also have a Bob. In my case it’s a woman who’s been doing this job 20 years longer then me. I get very long emails about how The Program doesn’t value communication and I was not trained to do my job correctly (though she goes out of her way to tell me this is not my fault). I’m looking at three emails in my inbox from this afternoon alone. I ignore it.

  34. Not really a Waitress*

    I responded to someone recently who felt I was not responding quick enough to their requests. I simply stated I understood this was their number one responsibility, but it was just a small part of my responsibilities and that I would devote the appropriate time and energy.

  35. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    Hey, Bob says he just needs 1 of those 1,440 minutes, but he didn’t say WHICH one. Maybe Bob would like to have the minute that occurs at 3 AM? RING-RING, BOB, IT’S YOUR PRECIOUS MINUTE. ::Grinch grin::

  36. Sunny*

    This guy sounds very annoying. I like the suggestions to reply with another annoying tip back at him or to ignore it. You could also add a quick line at the top of an email next time he says something like this: “Thanks, I am aware.” And then continue with the body of your email.

    Either way good luck!

  37. Firm Believer*

    Bob sounds like a nightmare and I agree with all the advice from Alison and this thread.

    However, there is just a bit of an undertone of ageism happening in the letter and comments that is rubbing me a bit wrong. Like, derp, old people.

    1. bunniferous*

      I’m in my 60s and I will happily admit there are things our generation does that are annoying. It’s not because we are older per se but because Boomers have their own culture. My last continuing education class for my profession actually addressed that (along with the other generations!)

      1. Firm Believer*

        I hear you and I don’t disagree. But if this was a bunch of commenters generalizing about Gen z or millennials it would likely be met with disdain.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      I don’t think it’s meant as a generalization that all older people do this or it’s a boomer thing.

      It’s more of a many years of experience – more than you – and I’m going to regale you with my wisdom whether you like it or not. So older as in older than you. Or in my case sometimes *think* they’re older than me.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Agreed. I have one of those too, and we are actually about the same age, with the same # of years of experience. But mine really loves to remind you that he has YEARS of exPerIence in (topic) and I just need to bow graciously in his general direction every time I see him, especially since he has a deGreE in (topic).

        Note: he did not like when I calmly told him I, too, have YEARS of experience and if we want to play the degree game I have two and a half, so if that’s how we’re measuring things I clearly deserve the bows, thanks. Now please follow the process that is required just like everyone else does.

        Some people get hyperfocused on the duration of their work experience and forget that your productivity, ability to work on a team, general working knowledge, and attitude are also very important.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      I’m not really seeing that. One comment put a lot of emphasis on age in a snarky way and maybe two boomer jokes? I don’t think acknowledging common patterns in this type of interaction or sharing personal experiences with a similar dynamic really qualify as ageism

    4. Nanani*

      It’s not ageist to point out that the way old men often treat younger women is shitty.
      Don’t feel the need to defend Bob out of some generational solidarity, he doesn’t deserve it.

      1. Salymander*

        Besides, Bobs pull this crap with older women too. Where is the generational solidarity and concern for them?

    5. LW*

      I think it’s a fair observation. I do find his style a bit “old fashioned” and that may be coloring my opinion. But I think his age is relevant– or rather our age gap– because his “advice” always has a “when you’ve been a professional as long as I have, you just know better” ring to it.

  38. Kirsten*

    I am fundamentally a coward, and I know this old dude is beyond help and thankfully not my responsibility. So I’d simply not respond, or if there’s something else he’s delivered along with his nonsense, I’d wait a good long time (more than 1,440 minutes, probably) and respond with my most brusque “Thanks for the XYZ. We’ll be in touch if we need anything else.” Then request to hand off the project to someone else if possible because this guy’s really getting under my skin.

    Maybe some young, male intern can earn his free coffee by listening patiently to Gomer’s stories on his daily scheduled phone call.

  39. Petty Betty*

    I’m certainly petty enough to remind him that non-emergency matters do not warrant immediate responses, the lack of 24/7 work, and the advice back.

  40. Properlike*

    Another over-40 professional woman here. When a male colleague (peer) decided to give me “helpful advice” sbout “not taking things personally” when I was angry at something that had happened at work, I made sure to point out that the circumstances warranted some private workplace anger because it affected our jobs and the health of our organization. He equated “female feelings” as the opposite of “intellectual” (how he liked to deal with things.) I pointed out that categorizing anyone’s emotional response as non-intellectual — particularly when it was coming from a woman, who are often accused of being overly “emotional” in the workplace — was problematic on multiple levels, and that my anger was entirely business-related and justified given the situation.

    Women have been protecting men’s tender emotions at work for too long. No more handholding.

    1. quill*

      For men like that, I point out that being smug about your intellect is also a feeling, AKA you’re a hypocrite.

    2. Chickaletta*

      Funny, I’ve seen some males at work have strong emotional responses to work-related problems…Executives at that. Your peer who gave you the “helpful advice” probably doesn’t see it that way though…I’m sure he’d have some kind of excuse for when a man lets loose some choice words after a difficult meeting.

  41. Nom*

    Ughhh I (28F at the time) worked with a guy (40M) like this. He was my boss for a few months and then I continued to work with him as a peer after that for another 1.5 years. The type of advice he would give was not boss-like. It was more “at your age you should be saving X amount in 401k” and less “I’ve found when working with Sandy it helps to confirm things in writing” (which would be appropriate boss advice).

    I also used to work with peers in other time zones and would be chairing meetings at 9 or 10 PM my time. If he could tell I was working (ex. if i sent him an email) at that time, he would condescendingly tell me i shouldn’t work so late to avoid burnout. It was literally part of my job! It was hard to believe he took me seriously as a professional. Just venting I guess :).

  42. quill*

    “Thank you for getting back to me. Don’t forget, there are 24 hours (1,440 minutes) in a day and it only takes a minute to realize that many people prefer email for organizational and information storage reasons: it’s much easier to miss a call, which requires two people to be available at the same time, than it is to miss an email, which can be read at your convenience.”

  43. Anya*

    Ugh. I had a boss like this during my high school days, which was of course a different situation, but this guy would ask me to do things like clean the soda machine (something I did daily for months) and then proceed to walk me through every step of the process as if I had never done it before. Even more detail than that would need, really, like telling me which way to twist the nozzles off. When any of us (all women who received this treatment) pushed back with a peppy, “Yep! I know. I’ll get started,” he’d just… keep talking. Just ignore the interjection and proceed to take 5 minutes of our time to explain something we knew how to do better than him. WOW this made me all riled up, thanks for the jolt of adrenaline!

  44. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    “Flames. Flames on the side of my face.” is the only response I have for Bob.

    1. Doctors Whom*

      I never answer unscheduled work calls unless they are from my two bosses, my HR partner, or my two team leads. Unscheduled calls from them are rare, and when they do happen, are time-critical.

      Everyone else goes to voicemail so I can see what they are calling about and be prepared for follow-up. Sometimes that might need a call, sometimes it might need an email.

  45. Another Michael*

    My job has a lot of consitutuents like Bob who feel very invested in giving this type of feedback, either about me or the organization. It sucks and it’s very frustrating. That being said, I’ve found so much more peace just letting it go. It’s not as satisfying as confronting it, but the nature of my work means I have to be the bigger person here. The sooner you choose not to be bothered by it the easier it will be. I know this isn’t the ideal solution, but when you can roll your eyes and move on it carves out some sanity for yourself.

    1. done*

      Sometimes being the bigger person means checking this kind of behavior so they are less-likely to try it on someone with less agency.

      1. Salymander*

        Yes. Telling a Bob to knock it off (in polite, workplace appropriate language) is not the same as getting really upset or expending mental energy on it. I can tell a Bob to stop his behavior and then go merrily on my way without concern. That actually makes the correction more likely to work in the long term, because I’m saying with my actions that I am telling him a totally reasonable thing that, as a reasonable person he will learn from. I’m not bothered, Bob might be less of a nuisance in future, and the workplace might be better for other people with less agency than I have.

  46. Pyanfar*

    I’d just like to add as a woman in business that one of the best pieces of advice I got was to stop apologizing and say thank you instead…”Thank you for your patience.” instead of “I apologize for the delay.” I save the apologies for situations that actually deserve one…not for disappointing someone else’s unreasonable expectations…

    1. Esprit de l'escalier*

      Even “thank you for your patience” rubs me the wrong way in this kind of situation. Maybe “Your patience is appreciated” (with an unstated “but not by me”) would feel better.

  47. Kate in Colorado*

    Ugh, Bob’s comment was gross. OP, you can definitely let it be known that his “advice” is nether wanted nor appreciated without burning a bridge. We teach people how to treat us, and if you let him bestow his wisdom on you now, you’re teaching him that it is okay for him to do so (and not just to you). I like Allison’s idea of giving him a piece of advise regarding how this makes him look. He may be older, but he’s not retired yet, and there’s no place for condescending mansplaining in the modern workforce.

  48. bunniferous*

    In my field it is common to say that if you need a faster response please send a text but that you will answer a call within 24 hours (Real estate where turnaround time actually is pretty time sensitive a lot of the time. )

    Condescending message aside, I’m a Boomer and I have noticed in my line of work that folks my age like phone calls. Probably he was taught at some point to answer calls promptly earlier in his career and he is not realizing that norms have changed considerably.

    In your shoes I would let him know that the best way to touch base with you is via email-by text if more urgent. You may have 1,440 minutes in a day but he is not entitled to decide where he stands on thee priority list. (One other thing….and I hate my mind is going there….is he trying to establish more of a personal relationship with you than is warranted? It could be innocent-some people like to make friends with everyone they interact with in business but since you mentioned all the condescending correspondence is on that topic it makes me wonder.)

    1. Wisteria*

      I agree that he is trying to establish a relationship. Whether it is closer than warranted is in the eye of the beholder. A lot of readers here think any relationship beyond a purely functional one is unwarranted.

      I agree that people who have been in the workforce longer are more likely to prefer phone calls, but getting back to people promptly has not changed with the shift from calls to emails. That norm still exists.

  49. Dark Macadamia*

    “Yes, I only have 1440 minutes in a day, and I don’t want to spend any of them on the phone (with you)”

    “You’re right, a phone call should only take 1 minute, but somehow they never do…”

    Does he really think lecturing another adult over their email habits is strengthening the relationship? Does he really think your relationship with him is a major work priority for you??

  50. Forrest*

    I would send something extremely breezy, flippant and passive-aggressive back, with maximum geriatric-millennial tics, purely for my own gratification. I don’t owe Bob anything.

    1. Forrest*

      Hi Bob! Thanks for your thoughts on phone calls v. emails. Personally, I’m a big believer in having a record of correspondence, especially in these litigious days where we are all so much more aware of sexism. :-) Anyway, the file is now ready and you should be able to download it from the usual link. Pls let me know if you have any more issues!

      Also, I would make a point of never ever phoning Bob back or taking his calls.

  51. nerak*

    I’m so petty that I’d keep waiting longer and longer after each phone call to send him as brief a response as possible via email. Let’s see how many minutes there are between each reply, BOB.

  52. Soupspoon McGee*

    That was not helpful advice–it was a scolding couched as mentoring. He knows this. If you choose, you can ignore the text and subtext and instead inform him what methods of communication work for you and your full days.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Exactly. This is passive aggressive. He’s annoyed you didn’t get back to him sooner. This is how he has chosen to express that. There is probably not any element of mentoring or advice giving going on here. He’s scolding OP but they’re peers and he’s going about it very poorly.

  53. urguncle*

    For whatever reason, this age and genre of man were my absolute favorite when I was dealing with customers, mostly because I get to have 0 filter with them.
    “Wow, Bob, you’re kind of blowing it out of proportion. You got my response. You can be happy with it or you can feel sorry for yourself.”
    “Phone works both ways, Bob.”
    “Be honest with yourself, Bob. Do our conversations really only last a minute?”
    “Bob, you know I’m going to smile, say ok and then do whatever I want, right?”

  54. Emilia*

    Actually I deal with a lot of women like this in my department. The few men in my department have been more polite. I sometimes wonder if it’s really just about gender differences, or has something to do with being in the majority. The women are from multiple racial groups (I am mixed) so I don’t see that playing a role.
    Anyway, these women will do this condescending unsolicited advice-offering usually when we disagree about anything. It’s possible some of the women think it’s a sisterhood thing (I’m a woman), but it sure doesn’t come across that way to me!
    I, too, have not been able to come up with anything to say without damaging the relationship.
    When I think about it rationally, there’s just more risk for me saying that kind of thing.

    So anyway, for the OP, if I were you I’d vent on columns like this but leave it alone unless this guy says something actually offensive or if it becomes more frequent.

    1. Aphra*

      It’s good to see that I’m not alone in experiencing unwanted advice from both men and women and your point about majority gender makes sense to me. It seems obvious that in a female dominated department, we’d expect to have more advice, both wanted and unwanted, from women.

    2. Nanani*

      Sexism is real even if you don’t personally experience this specific example.
      Alison is not wrong when she states that it is sexist and describes th dynamic.

      What you’re experiencing among women can still be sexist – internalised misogyny is real and affects how women treat each other, not just how men treat us.
      It might also be a personality clash or an age thing (“I’m your work mom now!”) or a lot of things.

      TL’DR men don’t have a monopoly on being condescending but that doesn’t mean LW’s situation isn’t fundamentally rooted in sexism

  55. Higher Ed*

    If you want to give Bob some unsolicited advice, you might point out that a lot of younger people don’t use phone calls and he’s going to look old and out of touch if he insists on communicating this way.

  56. Aphra*

    I fully expect to be shouted down for this but two things strike me about Alison’s response and the comments. First, it’s disappointing that Alison begins her response with a reference to doing violence to a poster’s colleague. I understand that it was meant as a joke but if a man said that about a woman, they’d quite rightly be excoriated in the comments, and possibly by Alison herself.

    The second thing is the undertone of ageism throughout the comments, and indeed, often seen on this site in general. Now, it may be that, as a 62 year old woman, retired from work, I don’t fully understand how the workplace norms have shifted in the last five years, but to see a colleague’s unwanted advice through the prism of age seems unfair to me. Throughout my career, I certainly received unwanted advice from male and female colleagues, and from a wide range of ages but, in my experience, mostly from younger colleagues who’d found a quicker, more efficient way to do X. That X was a legal requirement which could not be avoided on pain of striking off the lawyer concerned didn’t occur to the advice-giver until explained in detail.

    Just my viewpoint based on my own experience.

    1. Important Moi*

      A survey of demographics was done of the commenters. Many are female and younger than 62.

    2. Unkempt Flatware*

      No Allison referenced her very femalehuman response to a very upsetting question. She then moved on to give fantastic advice. I really appreciate knowing that even the most reasonable person I’ve ever encountered online wants to punch jerks in faces.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        There’s a significant gap between “I’d like to punch Bob in the face” and “I advise you to punch Bob in the face,” “Bob deserves to be punched in the face,” etc. Civilized is not acting on those feelings. Deceased is never having them.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      In this case it’s outdated advice that reflects an older mindset, so the age lens is relevant.

    4. Emilia*

      I think the punching comment by Alison was just her showing empathy with the OP with descriptive language, and was clearly not meant to be taken seriously. While you are probably right that Alison would likely not suggest, even in jest, that a young man slap an older woman for giving him unwanted advice, there’s context here. Women are far less likely to assault men than the other way round, so the former sounds more like a joke, the latter sounds a lot darker.

      But brining age into it would really change this dynamic, turning the OP more into the perceived bully.
      I agree that there is an agist element to quite a few of the ‘comebacks’ suggested here, and it’s not right. If OP and Bob had an altercation and the issue went to HR, they would likely side with Bob. Age discrimination isn’t just rude, it’s illegal.

      1. Sunny*

        Not a comment on the comments/tone, but I don’t think just because OP and Bob had an issue that it would be auto siding with Bob because of age discrimination. There isn’t evidence of age discrimination in the letter asides from OP noting that Bob has been in the industry longer than them but both are established. Unless you’re implying this would be the case only if OP took an adversarial stance in the way of age?

        Also I don’t believe they work together from my understanding of the letter, so it’s not a coworker doing this and it doesn’t seem like there is an HR mediator that would be involved.

        1. Sunny*

          Oops sorry to clarify — OP mentioning Bob’s age wasn’t age discrimination. That was just the only mention of age in the letter.

        2. Splendid Colors*

          Yes, people are warning OP not to use ageist snark on Bob even if he’s giving old-codger outdated advice. Just focus on the advice being inappropriate/condescending and what works better (such as having an email chain and not expecting OP to read Bob’s mind about his unstated deadline).

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      I don’t think you could classify Alison’s remark as a joke. I read this and wanted to punch Bob. Wanting to punch someone out of total frustration is a general human response. It doesn’t mean anyone is getting punched. The statement was a short hand way to say “I feel for you.”

      As for the ageism…well I am only a couple of years younger than you are and the remarks regarding age are kind of saying “Bob hasn’t kept up with the times.” I think that’s OK because that really does appear to be the case. But the problem with that isn’t that Bob is old. The problem is that Bob is a condescending tool.

      1. the cat's ass*

        I’ve had a condescending tool in my office for the last seventeen years. For the record, he’s almost 20 years younger than i am. I have always wanted to punch him the throat at the least and frequently visualize his face on my target during crossbow practice. Fortunately i only see him/interact with him a few times a month. He’s a total drag tho.

    6. A Wall*

      Every time someone in a letter is referencing their age and experience as a way or criticizing the letter writer, without fail there are people in the comments who are upset that age has been brought up as if it is an unfair bigotry of Alison and the commenters. Aphra: Bob is the one who brought up age by using their relative ages as a way to belittle the (not much younger than you!) letter writer. No one’s allowed to discuss what Bob himself has said here because… Mentioning age is inherently ageist… But… Bob was the one who started that… And somehow Bob isn’t wrong here, but everyone else is?

      1. Aphra*

        Let me be clear: I do not think Bob should be offering unsolicited advice to the letter writer. In no way am I on Bob’s side in this scenario and I don’t think my earlier post implied that. I would certainly (and have) take to task any colleague patronising me and their age is irrelevant. Bob was probably always this way. It wasn’t acceptable when he was 25 and it’s not acceptable now. That said, I stand by my point that there is a proportion of commenters assuming an older person must have outdated attitudes and behaviours. I could point out that the changes to attitudes, behaviours and conditions in the workplace were actually brought about by those older colleagues who were prepared to stick their heads above the parapet to improve the lot of all working people. Today’s workforce is continuing in that tradition and I applaud them for it because I know how hard it can be to effect change. In closing, I’d only say that I’m in the UK and workplace norms are somewhat different but please don’t disregard the benefits older colleagues can bring to the workplace.

        1. Nom*

          This is an interesting take. I respectfully disagree. At least in the American context, older people are definitely the ones upholding outdated norms such as lack of work life balance, classism, and sexism and many of them fought to take away workers rights in the 80s. It’s not ageism to say it, it’s simply true.

          1. Jessica*

            But Nom, everything that has ever improved in the past was improved by the people who existed in the past. Of course not all of them, they had to fight every step of the way against the other people who existed in the past!
            Women like the OP still have to deal with a lot of sexist behavior, but probably less than their mothers and grandmothers who were in the workforce–and some of those mothers and grandmothers ARE the reason why! Guys didn’t just all look at each other five minutes ago and go “whoa, Gen Z has arrived in the office, time to be less sexist!”
            It’s easy for every generation to judge past ones harshly if we keep raising the bar, as we should. But let’s give credit where credit is due: some of those people brought us to where we are today. They might not win the race or be running as fast as you, but they’re the reason your starting line wasn’t farther back.

            1. Nom*

              You make a good and correct point. However, I think in this context it’s not really relevant as it’s apparent that Bob is not very committed to anti-sexism, like many of his peers. Sexism in the workplace is still primarily upheld by older people, even if people of that same generation fought for our rights.

        2. A Wall*

          That’s all well and good, it also doesn’t really have any bearing on the letter writer’s problem. A colleague is being condescending and rude to her because he believes his additional age is additional experience and wisdom that grants him a pass to treat this colleague poorly. Whether other people of his exact age enacted xyz positive workplace changes is really, truly irrelevant to the fact that this guy specifically that the letter writer is asking for advice about is a jerk.

    7. Sunny*

      I am a 63 year old woman still working. I hate work phone calls with a hot passion, have had years of patronizing “help” (am in IT) and 95% of the time it is from men and his comments sound like my dad is speaking.

  57. Dax*

    I just came here to say I’m relieved to learn I’m not the only one who avoids phone calls. I literally never check my voice mail at work and never return calls. When people mention they left me a voice mail, I make vague excuses about being behind or the phone not working properly. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be a jerk and a slacker…LOL. I think this all started when I was having actual problems with my phone and could never get to my voice mail. It just eventually turned into totally ignoring it. As far as I can tell, it hasn’t harmed my job or reputation one bit. If people really need me, they find another way to get in touch.

    1. Frankie Bergstein*

      Same. I keep trying to make myself pick up the phone, but I just can’t! Good to know that it’s not just me.

    2. Squid*

      My company disabled voicemail for all non-customer facing employees a few years ago, and it has been amazing. I keep trying to disable the voicemail on my cell phone, but keep running into roadblocks… One day, I will be free of it forever.

    3. Jessica*

      If your phone system would allow it, deactivating your voicemailbox would be considerate toward the people who may now be leaving you voicemails they wrongly think you’re ever going to listen to.

      1. BatManDan*

        Yes, my outbound message is “I assume your voicemail is a request to call you back. I’ll see the missed call and call you back.” I don’t listen to voicemails.

  58. Batgirl*

    It can be so easy to mess with people who have centre-of-the-universitis. Literally you can say anything to someone like this and unless it’s: “You are so right, you light up my world, you are my god, is it appropriate to get sexual by way of appreciation for your manly brain?” then you have mortally wounded what they think is their due. Look how bent out of shape he got because OP sent him an email rather than giving him a phone call! Poor diddums. I like to go with a breezy “Oh sorry, I had other priorities”, or “I have to run this past the key players first”, or “I’ll try to remember you in future”. It’s the kind of stuff that isn’t a put down to people with normal egos, but it’s an excruciating few pegs down if you’re a Bob! Not answering him at all is the same deal.

  59. Unkempt Flatware*

    “Hi Bob, I was simply acknowledging that you sent a question that I haven’t responded to yet. I’ll always do that when I can’t respond right away. Have a day”.

  60. BatManDan*

    For someone that I have a high degree of connection and/or accountability with, I show them my calendar and ask them what they’d like me to take off my calendar in order to move their needs further up the list. They never have a reply.
    For folks, like this guy, that represent a much lower level of connection, I’m a fan of Carolyn Hax’s “Wow.” Email is great for that, since they can (and will!) project their own issues onto the (supposed) tone of the message when they read it, while you/I can maintain “that’s not what I meant” if they respond badly.

  61. Ana Gram*

    Heck, I want to know more about these 60 second phone calls and emails! An email…maybe if I just need to shoot off a quick “yes, go ahead”, but otherwise? That’s just not happening.

  62. Fluffy Fish*

    As young looking woman who is also petite and works in a male dominated industry – OH can I relate. And after 20 years, I’m much less sit and take it. That doesn’t mean I’m rude, but I will point out that I didn’t ask and do not want unsolicited advice.

    Depending on the circumstances
    – “Thanks, but I’m not looking for advice on how to do xyz as I’m happy with my process.”
    -“Anyway, on to the topic at hand”
    – “Bob, I know you mean well but you frequently give me unsolicited advice. It comes across condescending and that I don’t know how to be a professional in a field I’ve been in for 2 decades. Please stop.”
    – “Yes that’s correct.”

    Most recently someone decided to offer me advice on footwear I should wear in the field. The field in question? An office building. My response was “Bob, I’m 40. I know how to choose footwear appropriate for the environment.”

    Also yes of course unsolicited advice can come from all genders and all ages. Recognizing a phenomenon that women often deal with in the workplace doesn’t mean other circumstances don’t exist.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      Yes this is how I respond to my overbearing father when he–in my own home while eating what I prepared and served–will ask me if I got enough to eat. “I’m 35 *chew chew chew* “.

    2. Margaretmary*

      I love “yes, that’s correct.”

      It may be just my poor luck, but I’ve found that using things like “I’m forty; I do know that” with this kind of person tends to get turned around by them to imply that their giving me advice that anybody my age would not need is indicative that I am in need of more advice than somebody else my age. They tend not to directly say “yes, you should know you should have done it the way I advised at your age but clearly you don’t, so you need me to tell you,” but to nonetheless imply that. If I don’t follow their advice, in their mind, it is evidence that I don’t know the right thing to do.

  63. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

    If you want to be passive-aggressive you could start responding to all of Bob’s questions just a little slower than you were before. If you would usually respond to a non-urgent query in a day suddenly make it a day and a half, or two days.

    This is very petty! But I would probably do it.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yuuup. Think of it as training. Reward desirable behavior, ignore undesirable behavior. He interacts normally with you, no advice or patronizing, call him up. If he says something obnoxious on the phone, stay silent. Let the pause drag out uncomfortably and he’ll ask if you’re still there and you simply say, “Yep!” and wait for him to course correct. He leaves an annoying message, keep replying by email, and drag out the response times. I mean, there are only so many minutes in a day, and if his time is precious as all that, he’ll give you a damn deadline.

  64. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

    Oh god, I have a very condescending male colleague (although I doubt he’s more than 10 years older than me) who is also occasionally prone to condescending platitudes like this. He alternates between sounding like a YAY TEAMWORK motivational poster and being really unnecessarily snippy and combative. I would like to punch my Bob and OP’s. But I also can’t torpedo our relationship, so I pretty much handle it the way Alison suggests with some brief, cheerful pushback… after I get on a Teams call with my manager and vent a bit. (My manager fully supports this method!) Good luck, OP.

  65. Gnome*

    Bob is the reason purposefully taking things out of context exists.

    “Great! Now that you’ve agreed to keep all our calls to a minute – OR LESS – I’ll be sure to get back to you right away as I know it’s ok to have a hard stop at sixty seconds. I’d just been avoiding that because I didn’t want you to think I was rude if I hung up after that 60 seconds were up! Thanks for making my day so much more efficient!”

    1. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

      I love this. I would never be brave enough to actually do this, but I love it.

  66. Kim*

    Allison’s response to ignore him is fine , or her explanatory response is ok too. I think Bob is a bit of a jerk , but I’m surprised everyone thinks slow responses are acceptable . I worked for three nationally known large corporations and can think of several very busy executives who managed to return calls or emails the same day (yes personally , not via their executive assistants). And they treated employees of all levels with the same courtesy. I can count on one hand the number of mid level or junior people who didn’t respond within a reasonble time . Since they worked in the same very large building or adjacent building, my boss taught me to visit them in person when they didn’t respond. That got their attention , and usually resulted in a more timely future response.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      Corporation is the key word there. Nationally known is second. Let’s assume the OP knows what is acceptable. My field is more like 48 hours and don’t you dare reach out to see if I got your email until around that 48 hour mark.

      1. Rocket*

        Which is why OP apologized for the delay. Shit happens and sometimes people make mistakes. That doesn’t mean she needs a passive aggressive sexist lecture in response to her apology.

    2. Higher Ed*

      It may be easier for executives whose jobs consist largely of meetings to get back to people “promptly” but if your role is say, gathering and analyzing information, or proofreading and editing documents, those tasks take a certain amount of time, and with companies doing more with less people, many of them are going to take more time due to workload. It’s helpful and more efficient for everyone to lay out clear expectations at the starts (“I’ll get this to you by the end of the week”), rather than having to take extra time dealing with people who think their task is your only priority.

    3. Junior*

      I must say this letter makes me SO grateful we don’t have phones at work, and that I haven’t had one in 10 years.

    4. Rocket*

      Super. Different companies have different communication policies. Ours says we should respond to emails and phone calls within 48 hours. If you visited me in person for every email I did not immediately respond to in my office, you’d be having a conversation with our ED about you wildly out of sync you were with office norms.

    5. Nom*

      I disagree. It depends on the urgency of the request — in this case I assume the request was less urgent than other priorities.

  67. WFHLady*

    “It’s not my first day, Bob.” Then laugh.
    Only say this over the phone or in-person and then laugh afterward to keep the tone light. I have said this before and it almost always gets the point across while being short, sweet and not too confrontational.

  68. Manchmal*

    I think the OP’s decision about how to respond to Bob, or whether to respond at all, has everything to do with how much she needs this guy to do her work, and whether he has the power to hinder her or degrade her reputation. If Bob is someone you can potentially piss off without great risk to your own work, I think it is worth saying something if only for your own mental well-being and self-respect. But if there’s any danger of him making trouble for you, I would studiously ignore his antics and be as blase as possible. Don’t respond positively or negatively to his commentary just move on, as quickly as possible. I would treat his email as a textual version of a fart, which in order to be polite you just ignore and pretend never happened. I have coworkers who occasionally act like Bob (thankfully not consistently), and they unfortunately could really make my life hell. So I smile sweetly and keep it moving. The times in the past that I have pushed back have had mixed results, and I can’t risk falling into disfavor.

  69. Just Your Everyday Crone*

    Bob’s response strikes me as trying to manipulate the LW into talking to him on the phone, disguised as unnecessary career advice to make it seem more appropriate. I think Bob loves the sound of his own voice and wants an audience and the real message he’s imparting is that he’s entitled to LW’s time as his audience.

    I’d respond something like, “I had other priorities this week. Please feel free to let me know if you need something sooner.”

  70. Devil's Advocate*

    Eek. Maybe this is already pointed out somewhere in the comments, which I haven’t read, but how can the sexism label used unless you know that he’s only providing this advice to younger women? He could be doing this to all the young whipper snappers because it makes him feel good/helpful. Not stating it’s right for him to do it and someone needs to clue him in, but I just cringed at the sexism label because there’s not enough context or background in this letter to be certain that’s what’s happening.

      1. Devil's Advocate*

        I’m sorry, but no. Assumptions are being made without context. It may be true, but it’s not okay to merely assume it is. You don’t throw around labels without proof that the label is justified.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          To quote Alison “If he doesn’t realize how precisely his behavior is pulled from the sexism playbook, he needs to pay more attention to the world around him.”

          That is advice you should take as well. If someone bites a lemon and scrunches their face, you assume the lemon is sour. This lemon is sour.

          1. Devil's Advocate*

            My comment was taking issue with the fact that Alison was making an assumption – that’s precisely what I was pointing out. It can only be determined that his behavior is being pulled from the sexism playbook IF HE IS ONLY PROVIDING UNSOLICITED ADVICE TO WOMEN. We don’t know this from the information in the letter. That context was not included.

            1. A Wall*

              If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck this joker apparently wants us to get a DNA test.

            2. Eldritch Office Worker*

              I understand that’s your point. The second part of it though, is that you need to be paying more attention in order to understand to the reasons the context IS there.

              1. Devil's Advocate*

                There’s no reason that you need to explain anything to me. The context isn’t there. That’s what I was pointing out. It’s becoming disturbingly common for people to label each other and jump to conclusions without facts, and that is what I was taking issue with. For your information, I am a female in my mid 40s who has faced a number of instances of sexism over the years, and deal with it now with an aging board member. I’ve said numerous times here that I do not state that this isn’t a case of sexism; it very well may be. What I am stating is the fact that the context is missing from her letter that allows us to definitively make this determination. Those things are important – lest our society devolve into pitchforks and burning people at the stake, which is where we are currently headed.

                1. knitcrazybooknut*

                  The context that’s being referred to by Eldritch OW is the world around us. Sexism exists, is prevalent, and is manifested in the same behavior as Bob’s. The letter appears within that context, and whether the paternalistic condescension that Bob exhibits is based in sexism or patriarchal superiority, the result is the same. Bob’s treatment of OP serves to remind her that he is better than she is, and that she should be responding more quickly to his calls.

                  In the long run, why does the devil need an advocate? Already the devil, so.

            3. Nanani*

              Factually incorrect.

              It’s sexist because it happens disproportionately to women. Sexism isn’t actually about Bob, you see. It’s much, much bigger than that.

    1. Sunny*

      I think that’s the thing with sexism and other forms of discrimination, isn’t it? There is no way to know someone’s intentions or how they interact with others which is why intention / the person’s greater life context is not usually a great way to draw the line of whether or not something is sexist. Intent doesn’t equal impact and all that. If we had to wait for greater context for every instance of potential sexism to know that’s what was going on, I don’t think we would get anywhere.

      We can all agree Bob is condescending and women face a disproportionate amount of unsolicited advice in the workplace about things that they would obviously know. Bob’s actions fall into the bucket of things that the general population is aware are sexist. So whether he’s just run of the mill jerk or specifically like this with women is…. not really worth debating? He feels a woman who has a lot of experience in this field needs a lecture on time management. That is sexist. It’s just a question of whether it’s part of a bigger personality trait targeted at everyone or not.

      I think it would help to consider that you don’t need to know someone’s interactions with everyone to say an action they are doing currently feels sexist.

      1. Devil's Advocate*

        Sure, it’s certainly 100% accurate to state that his actions FEEL sexist when you’re a woman on the receiving end of this unsolicited advice like the LW.

        But by making stating that Bob is sexist as a fact without having that context of whether or not he treats just women like this or treats everyone under the age of xx like this, the full scope of the issue is not being uncovered, and that does a disservice to everybody. Because if Bob is offering unsolicited career advice to all men and women under the age of 50, for instance, because he deems them to be young and without the breadth of knowledge he and others of his generation have, then his behavior isn’t actually sexist. It’s an older man giving unappreciated advice to younger employees. It doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be pointed out to him that when he does it to women it FEELS like sexism. But let’s not label something as motivated by sexism, which is what it seemed was happening here, without having the context that Bob is indeed sexist and acting accordingly.

        1. Salymander*

          The type of behavior that Bob exhibits is widely recognized as part of a societal pattern that is sexist. Maybe Bob does this to everyone, and maybe he doesn’t. In this case, he is behaving in this inappropriate way toward a woman. It is not useful to avoid calling this pattern of behavior sexist. If you want to be really precious about your own use of only the most correct, perfect terms then that is fine, but it is important for women to be able to talk about their experiences and get useful advice and feedback without being shut down by the Terminology Police.

          1. Devil's Advocate*

            I’m sorry but you’re wrong. It’s a sexist behavior pattern IF Bob is doing this to only women. If he’s doing it to both men and women, then it’s a pattern of Bob offering condescending advice to younger colleagues. It’s two different things. And that does matter – even if it’s not trendy to say so these days.

            Pointing out that Alison could have clarified with the writer of the letter before automatically assuming he was sexist is simply the right thing to do. But y’all go back to your pitchforks, because labeling people without proper context to determine whether the label is accurate seems to be so fulfilling to everyone’s quest for blood these days.

            1. Carrot*

              Why do you care so much about determining whether or not Bob treats everyone this way? He is treating OP this way. Calling it as likely sexism is not a wild, out of this world thing.

              If he treats women in a way they feel is sexist, it is sexist. Starting a debate about this is a little offensive and derailing.

              1. Devil's Advocate*

                I didn’t start a debate. I’m responding to everyone who is replying to my quite innocent statement that observed the lack of context given. THAT’S IT. Everyone here is just out for blood, and it’s absolutely ridiculous and just a sad state of affairs. So go to it. I’m out.

            2. Salymander*

              How can that be determined absolutely? Do you think Bob would own up to being sexist if OP we’re to question him so that you can feel that our discussions are justified?

              Bob seems pretty sexist, but either way his behavior is not good and the OP has been given some good advice about that. The discussion about how many women have had to deal with these very behaviors due to sexism in the workplace is also useful to the OP generally, even if Bob is himself not a sexist.

              If you do not feel a need to discuss sexism in the workplace, that is fine. Many others do actually find this discussion useful. There are plenty of places on the internet for you to discuss whatever you want to discuss, but the places where we can discuss sexism without being abused and shouted down by trolls are less common. Maybe you should just step away if our discussion of sexism upsets you. There are no pitchforks here, just honest discussion of issues that many of us face in our daily lives. It is odd that you would want to derail that.

              1. Devil's Advocate*

                You seem to not want to discuss anything – you and many others just want to only talk to people who see things the exact same way you do so you can high five each other. Where is the growth in that? All these people having such an issue with someone pointing out that there was context missing reflects on you all, not on me. All it would have taken was Alison asking a clarifying question to the OP. It’s pretty obvious that I’ve been saying this from the beginning, but instead everyone wants to attack me for daring to suggest that Bob wasn’t sexist – something I never even said. I said we didn’t know if he was. The letter writer did not claim Bob was treating her a certain way because she was female – she was complaining about unsolicited advice. Wow, you people are… just plain sad. I just graduated mid-life from a four year university where we actually debated things and strove to see other points of view to help our own growth, and this comment thread is the complete opposite of that. This is my last comment and my last visit to the comment thread of this site, which I typically love. I think Alison gives wonderfully helpful advice 99.9% of the time, but this is the first time I can recall thinking she didn’t exercise due diligence before launching into a harsh (and quite frankly, a violent statement at the outset) tirade. Heaven forbid someone innocently point that out in the spirit of actual intelligent discussion. Clearly that’s not welcome here. Goodbye.

                1. Nom*

                  You seem to not want to discuss anything. Your only rebuttal is repeat the same point and to tell other people they’re wrong for not agreeing with you. That’s not helpful here and it’s not how to be a devil’s advocate.

            3. Tan Ainm*

              It’s a sexist behavior pattern that exists, extremely commonly, in the world, regardless of whether that is personally bob’s motivation or whether he even knows he’s doing it. This is a point several folks have made, yet you keep saying we don’t know bobs motivation. I don’t care about bobs inner thoughts, I care that women frequently get condescended to by older men, which is sexist, and Bob is continuing that pattern of condescending to younger women.

        2. Nanani*

          Oh no you don’t.
          You do not get to put “it’s just FEEEEELINGS” on one said and pretend to have “facts” on the other.
          That’s sexist, for one thing.
          For another, you don’ have the facts. At least no more than anyone else in this comment’s section other than LW

          More importantly, Bob’s intent -does not matter-.
          The effect does. Women deal with sexist shit all the time and this condescension is part of that slog.

          Stop advocating for the devil, you’re wrong and showing your own sexist ass (which may internalized misogyny if you’re a woman so don’t even try to play the “but I”m a woman too” card if that’s the case)

    2. Student*

      Hmmm. Speaking only for myself, but… I’ve stopped caring about whether I was being “fair” to men when trying to tackle their bad behavior toward me. I know exactly when I stopped worrying about it,too – I used to care about it quite a lot.

      I stopped caring about that the day that one of my (male) co-workers grabbed me in the crotch.

      Then he reported me to my boss (yes, you read that correctly) over it, because he wanted to make sure he got the first word in with the boss. Why did he grab me in the crotch? I was holding high-voltage electronics in my lap trying to repair them, and he wanted to grab it away from me, so sticking his hand in my crotch was the only way to get what he wanted. Why did I refuse to hand over the electronics? He was impatient about the repair I was doing and wanted to try it himself because he thought he could do it better than me. I asked him if he had any electronics experience or had read any of the docs on the object I was working on, and he hadn’t – he didn’t even know what it was for or where it went in our system (he’d only been there two weeks, so this was pretty much what I expected ). He just wanted the repair to end faster so he could clock out. I refused to give it to him because it was quite dangerous – fully capable of stopping his heart – and I wasn’t about to let him injure or kill himself just because he was being a jerk. So he tried to just take it by force. From my lap, by shoving his hand down there. I refused to let go and yelled at him to stop.

      But that’s not when I gave up on caring about whether thinking a man who’s a jerk to me is really sexist was fair or correct. That moment came later that same evening, when the boss called me into his office.

      I explained to the boss what I’ve explained to you, albeit with a great deal more righteous anger.

      The boss told me that I should’ve done as the jerk asked. And the boss told me that I deserved the jerk attacking me, because my refusal to hand the jerk deadly electronics made the jerk mad. The jerk was hired into a position that was senior to me (not as my boss – very much a senior teapot designer vs junior teapot designer type of job, with The Boss over both positions), and the boss told me I should always do whatever senior people tell me to do. I again emphasized the safety problem, and the boss just shrugged it off and told me that if the jerk killed himself on dangerous electronics he knew nothing about, that was fine.

      Up until that moment, I had thought the world of my boss. I had worked for him for several years. I tried my best to support him, wanted a career like his, and wanted to impress him! But he just told me I deserved to have my crotch grabbed by an angry man-boy having a tantrum, and told me to disregard a whole pile of safety rules to appease a man-boy’s ego. I quit within a month.

      And that’s when I stopped caring about whether I was being fair to the men I believe are sexists. They never cared about being fair to me to begin with, and this experience with my boss drove that home deep into my heart. Since we’re apparently going to fight over sexism no matter what I do, just by virtue of me existing-while-female in male-dominated spaces, I WILL fight on an even playing field: I will use every tool in my toolkit, every high-voltage electronic in my lap, and I will especially use the word “sexist” when I know it gets men to sit up and pay attention in a way few other words do.

      1. Salymander*

        Hell yeah. You don’t need to worry about being fair. I’m sorry you have had to deal with this, and I don’t blame you for being unwilling to dance around someone’s poor tender feelings when they are definitely not sparing a thought for yours. Sexist men don’t behave badly because women aren’t nice enough. They behave badly *despite* the fact that most women are nice to them. They are jerks. Being worried about their feelings doesn’t make them not jerks.

        I appreciate that you shared your experiences. Those men sucked, and I don’t blame you one bit for feeling like you just have no more f***s to give.

    3. Rocket*

      The fact that you’re more concerned with whether or not the label of “sexist” is accurate than the offending behavior is gross.

    4. penny dreadful analyzer*

      If you want to nitpick about terminology it’d help to not be flatly wrong about the definition you’re supplying. I’m unclear where you got “only” from; I’ve spent a decent chunk of my life reading about sexism and various other -isms, and “disproportionate” or “disparate impact” are pretty much the going standards. Terms like “only” and “always” and “never” are words you see when laypeople are emoting; they’re the opposite of indicators of scientific or communicative rigor.

    5. Nanani*

      No. Stop.
      It;s 2022 stop devil’s advocating sexism. Listen to Alison. Listen to the comments section. Listen to women.

      No your own gender doesn’t matter. It’s sexist anyway.

      Intent doesn’t matter, it’s still sexist. Google is your friend.

  71. Generic Name*

    This is probably too scorched earth, but I fantasize about being able to use a withering reply my mom once gave to a man in her office (worked for another company and just rented an office) who loved condescending her. He said something really obnoxious to my mom and she said, “I’m sorry. You’ve mistaken me for someone who values your opinion.”

  72. J*

    But it doesn’t just take one minute to return a phone call! You return a blowhard’s phone call and can be stuck on the phone with them for an hour.

    1. Salymander*

      Exactly. A man said that to me once. He was notorious for blathering on about himself for an hour or more at any woman who stood still long enough and couldn’t escape. We called him The Trapper. He wanted me to call him about an issue at a volunteer event we both helped with, and I sent him an email instead. He was not pleased, but too bad. He did stop behaving quite so badly after I told him to stop, but I had to be really stern with him.

      1. Salymander*

        I think this one was worse because it wasn’t work, and he was treating us all like we were his pals with unlimited free time.

  73. Velawciraptor*

    How bad is it that I read the headline and instantly thought “Sally? Is that you?”

  74. Queen Ruby*

    When anyone says stuff like that to me (usually men, but sometimes women too), I just look at them totally straight-faced and say “Yes, I know.” And nothing more. I make sure to say it with pretty much the same tone of voice I’d use to say “Duh.”
    Then I hold eye contact with them just until they’re uncomfortable. It’s not always a permanent solution, but it makes me feel better lol

  75. Aurion*

    I can write three quick emails in the time it takes for this man to sagely dispense his trite Words of Wisdom TM (and I guarantee those calls never last a minute).

    Trust me, email is a much better use of the 1,440 minutes I have in my day.

  76. Critical Rolls*

    “As it is, Bob, we’re pretty busy over here and I have 0/1440 minutes to spare playing phone tag, which is why email is much better! I sure appreciate your understanding.”

  77. Dasein9*

    The more obvious a mansplainer is, the less time someone else (possibly someone with less experience) has to spend wondering if their irritation with him is unreasonable.

    It’s a favor to others he will encounter to do nothing that would help him mask the underlying assumptions he’s revealing.

  78. Academic Librarian too*

    On Team Ignore.
    An older stakeholder who sounds like this guy once told me to smile and explained it as a work related/customer service issue. I was sitting at my desk, not at a public facing area AND probably had Resting B Face.

    I thanked him for his advice and then proceeded to inform him of the sexism of his comment.
    I should have just ignored him.
    Burned that bridge.

  79. RPOhno*

    Bob’s attitude makes me bristle. It makes my bristles bristle. I’d love to respond to him along the lines of “Well, Bob, the last ‘quick call’ I returned turned into a 90 minute discussion on international llama shipping regulations, and sometimes I just don’t have the bandwidth to roll those dice.” That’s a) probably close enough to true and b) reverses the implicit guilt trip. But… it could ruffle feathers if Bob is as egomaniacal as he comes across in the letter

  80. M*

    Considering Bob is giving unsolicited advice and has continued to do so, I would respond back. People like this need to know that their advice is not welcome and they’re off base. Will the immediate response register? Maybe. But it’s worth saying something and repeating if necessary.

  81. Hope*

    “Thanks for the advice Bob! One of the most important things I’ve learnt in my professional career, is that it really builds relationships when you tamp down the urge to be a condescending prick.”

  82. Mehitabel*

    Respond to the business part of his communication and flat-out ignore the rest, and keep using email if that is what works best for you. Don’t give him any oxygen on this. (I promise you, it’ll drive him crazy if you completely ignore his “advice” and act like it never happened). And if he ever brings it up with you in person or on the phone, you can always use the “ask clarifying questions until they are too embarrassed to continue” tactic. Or just say “Yes, you were quite clear the first time you brought this up. Your feedback has been noted, but my communication methods serve me well and I intend to stick with them.” And then right back to business.

  83. Anony9847*

    I’m confused on this topic. I get that I would not want that type of advice that the OP posted from an older male colleague, but I’m reading about people being annoyed when that advice comes from someone above you too.

    So I am a women in my late 20s. When an older male boss gives me career advice or offers to introduce me to others, I actually appreciate it. Maybe bc I never really grew up with a father -figure? Is the issue that the advice is “unsolicited”?

    1. knitcrazybooknut*

      This wasn’t advice. It was a passive-aggressive criticism disguised as advice. If you are pleased to receive advice, it’s helpful and actually advice. If someone is telling you something you already know, and acting like they are dispensing wisdom from on high, and you want to roll your eyes, that’s obnoxious behavior.

      I’m glad your boss is giving you excellent advice and helping with networking!

      1. LW*

        Yep, that’s exactly it. His advice is never useful or new information, but (a others have pointed out) passive aggressive scolding when I don’t do my job how he thinks I should.

  84. raida7*

    Hah, I’d be likely to do the maths on this and let him know…
    It’s closer to 1/14th of my day, since phone calls take approximately ten minutes for a ‘quick question’ on average and interruptions take approximately 20 minutes to recover from in work focus time, and I work a 7.25hr day.
    So I don’t answer non-urgent calls and emails immediately because the maths shows the proportion of the work day required to be allocated to it isn’t a good value proposition.

    Sometimes I’ll respond the same day, sometimes it’ll take an extra day, and very occasionally, as everyone experiences, it takes a bit longer because other things crop up.
    I do regret this response not being within a day or so, and I’m glad you have found a mental check that works for you in dealing with smaller tasks, but I just want to make sure you don’t think that 1/1440th of my day is how I’ll be looking at quick calls in the future based on this one email exchange, or that I ‘didn’t get it’ the first time you explained it. I get it. It’s a deliberate miscalculation in order to simplify a decision making process, and works for some people, good for them, not for me thanks.

    it’s nice to be a data analyst, I can pivot into blind, emotionless logic to argue with people Hahahaa.

  85. Despachito*

    I was also wondering about the dynamics of their relationship.

    Whether it is possible for OP to frame it like “oh, the old xxx is blabbering nonsense again”, and let it go and concentrate just on the business , or whether it would undermine her position to the extent it would be harmful for he not to act.

    It sometimes helps me to reframe it by mentally changing the power dynamics – what would happen be if OP was a younger male and Bob was an older female? How likely is it that OP would in this case not feel so threatened and brush it off more easily?

  86. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    “Thanks Bob! I agree, a prompt return phone call can be a valuable relationship-building tool and I make sure to use it with people who are important to my career and goals.”

  87. Annoyed*

    I’d shorten the response to something less fluffy and more direct. “women receive unsolicited advice from men in professional contexts, while men in comparable positions aren’t assumed to need it.”

  88. PB Bunny Watson*

    I don’t think he’s offering advice as much as he’s trying to nudge the LW to do something. It sounds so much like offering a helpful hint to someone when they do something that annoys you instead of directly telling them, “hey, I need you to return my call.”

  89. Elizabeth West*

    I wish everyone, in general, would stop referring to these ridiculous men as “gentlemen.” They are nothing of the sort.

    I wouldn’t cast pearls before swine in trying to educate him. Alison’s first script is better. If he pushes more unwelcome advice, ‘Thanks, but I’ve got it covered.”

  90. Random Office Manager*

    Holy cats, “Bob” could be my father… and he truly believes he’s being helpful.

    Spoiler: He’s not.

  91. Karate Snow Machine*

    “Hey Bob great point. However, I’m going to need your house phone/cell phone to reach you outside of work hours.”

    Proceeds to return all of Bobs calls at 3:30am. “Hey Bob we are already at minute 210 so I figured it was the perfect time to repeatedly call you and update you on the TPS report you requested. Thanks for reminding me how much time I have to get work done!”

  92. Ancient Taiwan Secret*

    “Bob” sounds like those annoying, older expats people (both foreign and local) have to deal with in Asia all the time.

  93. Mel*

    It IS good advice but the issue is that you never asked him for tips on how to build relationships so YIKES. We all have different strengths & ways of connecting – which is why we all operate on various levels.

    I was on a team where it took me 10 mins to do task X but my colleague had task X down to resolved in 3 mins and vice versa with task Y. We both put effort into perfection X and Y but when we needed to get things done on on a schedule, I would tackle all of Y and he would do X.

    I wish folks would see the value in our differences and build around that instead of slapping a blanket over everything. :/

  94. Lady Knittington*

    Dear Bob,
    There are 1440 minutes in the day and you decided to use any of them on *that*?

  95. Sharon*

    I think this is a good situation for the Miss Manners feigned polite confusion response:
    ” Did you want me to respond before I was able to give your inquiry proper attention and had gathered the information you needed? “

  96. Coffee Bean*

    I would like to get “1440 Minutes in a Day” Bob and “Guacamole” Bob in a room together so they can discuss the merits of using you per diem expense funds and time wisely. And maybe “Cheap Ass Rolls” can make a cameo and complain about potluck contributions.

  97. Jennifer Neurotic*

    Question: would it be inappropriate to respond:
    I get what you’re saying, but sometimes it sure seems like I’ve got 2,800 minutes worth of stuff to do every day! I really appreciate people being patient when I run out of minutes and can’t get back to you right away.

  98. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    Ignore and move on. I guess this is the only answer I come up with lately. But not every annoying thing at work needs or warrants a response.

  99. Pink Geek*

    This is the kind of comment that would make me grind my teeth at work for two days while I mentally crafted snarky/angry/painfully polite responses while the window to reply slowly closed and then I ultimately left it unaddressed.

    I’m not saying this is what you should do

Comments are closed.