updates: company-branded clothing in the wrong sizes, the men’s forum, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! All this week and next, I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

1. We were offered company-branded clothing … in sizes that don’t fit me (#2 at the link)

I wrote in about the company branded vests only offered in S/M/L. I expanded a bit on issues with the CEO/Founder’s fatphobia in a comment. Suffice it to say, it’s not a great environment.

And there have been a LOT of issues that have only been compounded by the pandemic. Micromanaging, treating employees like they can’t possibly be competent at the jobs they’ve held for 4 years with objective measurements of success, and more. Including having overseas team members work from noon to 2am in their local time and acting as if they were the problem when they started dropping like flies.

There is so much I could say about the awful environment here (including stalking employees on LinkedIn and bringing up their profiles on the screen in meetings, in front of others, to grill them about why it’s been updated so recently). Coming from academia, it was easier to shrug some of it off because a lot of the insanity was like an ego driven professor.

But I finally reached my breaking point. It’s been 11 months of constant stress and promises that another teapot engineer would be hired. About a month ago, a former coworker (who was laid off with over half the company at the beginning of the pandemic) reached out about an opening at her company and it’s been a whirlwind from there. A 33% pay increase, benefits so much better it’s more a different state than just a different ballpark, and someone on the inside to assure me the culture is much much much better.

I signed the offer letter Friday and gave notice today. I agonized over it all weekend, that I was leaving the company in a bad position, that the CEO would treat me even worse than he has been, that I was blindsiding my coworkers. But I knew what you’d say. It’s neither my fault nor my problem anymore that they are trying to run on a skeleton crew with half the staff they should have. And the notice period is a courtesy, not a requirement. If the CEO becomes abusive, I can always cut my notice period short.

I may have stress cried over it, but I start my new position on June 6 and I can’t wait.

Update to the update:

A welcome package from my new company just arrived with branded swag. A water bottle, a notepad, and a backpack.

No awkward discussion about clothing sizing. And apparently there’s a points based swag store and if they ever want everyone to have matching shirts for a conference or something you order your size through there. My soon to be again coworker said the shirts for a recent event came in XXS-3XL.

2. My organization has a “Men’s Forum”

Thank you for answering my letter, it was reassuring that I wasn’t the only one to have the feeling that a men’s forum felt wrong. I read through the comments and saw that some had a different view that perhaps it could be able mental health or men’s health issues so I decided that I would attend so that I didn’t jump to any conclusions.

The meeting started with an intro saying that the forum was a part of the ongoing conversation about diversity and inclusion. Our organization has taken many steps in its DEI efforts. Next the intro went on to talk about change for the better and mental health. After the intro, a panel of men were introduced and they spent the next hour talking about pursuing mentor relationships. While I originally was disappointed by the topic, I found a study that stated that women are more likely than men to have a mentor.

3. Possible job offer left dangling due to Covid (#5 at the link)

You published my question in August 2020 and gave me a suggestion to low-key reach out after an interview that was immediately pre-pandemic. I did not take your advice — I just never felt comfortable, regardless of how I worded the email, and I decided to just drop it and ride out the pandemic. Of course, the reasons that I was looking for a new job never went away and by the summer of 2021 I was burned out and not getting any support from my organization (that could have been a whole other letter to you).

Then, last fall, the company that had ghosted me reached back out — they had reopened their search to bring someone on and wanted to know if I was still interested. Coincidentally, a friend reached out about a new role at another company around the same time and I was suddenly interviewing at two places at once. The interview process went well with both and I spent a lot of time considering which role might be best for me. I ended up deciding that the second company was a better fit — which was great because the first company decided to hire someone else (I was apparently their second choice).

What’s funny about the entire situation is that they sucked at communicating during the second interview process also. Despite the fact that I was an actual client of their firm through this whole situation, and that they will absolutely still encounter me in professional circles, they left all communications post-interview in the hands of their HR rep and were generally slow and unresponsive. I wouldn’t say they burned a bridge with me, but this situation definitely colors how I perceive their firm (and how I would talk about them with professional colleagues!). It put the ghosting from 2020 in a whole new light.

Even though I didn’t take your advice, thanks for answering my question! I often consider work-related questions by thinking about your advice.

{ 110 comments… read them below }

  1. EPLawyer*

    #1 — ordering your own shirts is sooooo much better. That way no one has to know what size you ordered. Glad you are in a better place.

  2. Moo Boo*

    Congrats OP1, I hope you’ve had a good first week at your new job! I also hope that you didn’t get too much grief when you handed in your notice at the old job.

    1. M_Lynn*

      OP1-I had commented a bit on your original post, and it really stuck with me. Both because I was righteously angry about some comments and because I was so impressed with how clearly and reflectively you defended yourself against fat phobia. I’ve kept some of your phrasing in mind, along with that of some other commenters. I’m SO SO glad to know you’re doing well!

      1. Size Inclusive LW (OP1)*

        Thank you! That’s very kind to say. I’ve spent a lot of time in body positive, body neutral, and fat liberation spaces and I’ve learned a lot.

        I get where smaller people are coming from when they bring up their own issues with sizing and fit. It’s a place of wanting to contribute and sympathize. And that’s not a bad thing! But it can detract from and derail the conversation around more marginalized bodies and the issues we face that are specific to us. There’s a time and place to talk about more general complaints and issues with clothing sizing (especially women’s clothes, which are all over the place, and for the love of god give us pockets), and sometimes it can be awkward pointing out when it’s not the time.

    2. Size Inclusive LW (OP1)*

      Thank you! The first week was great. Slightly boring onboarding stuff, but this company puts a lot of emphasis on a collaborative culture, even WFH, and my manager has been very insistent that even as things ramp up and I start working on client projects that work-life balance is extremely important and all I have to do is say the word and he’ll help reconfigure stuff. Which is such a relief. At last job I felt like I couldn’t say no because I was quite literally the only person who could do it.

      Ex-boss was . . . odd about it? Mostly in a “pretend it isn’t happening” kind of way. I gave 3.5 weeks notice and he barely acknowledged I was leaving outside of transition meetings, which he tried to steer towards the most inconsequential of details. “Explain to her what each design is” Ummmm . . . she can look at that for herself and see there are flowers or stripes etc, I’m trying to give her general resources and troubleshooting and advice on how to think about things. So that was a bit frustrating (though expected).

      The “HR” person I gave notice to (the very same one I had to explain the vest wouldn’t fit to, and who is actually corporate counsel) kind of cold-shouldered me. Also expected. He also immediately tried to get me to agree to contract work. For a pathetic hourly rate for what I’d be doing. I tried saying no in both diplomatic and very blunt ways and finally just had to punt the blame to new company not allowing moonlighting (not strictly true . . . but he doesn’t need to know that).

    3. Batgirl*

      I am so, so happy for OP1. I hope this is a whole new start with as company that actually deserves you.

  3. Cambridge Comma*

    I’m not surprised that more women than men have mentors. They are trying to compensate for the disadvantages they face and the networks they can’t access, which many man won’t need to do.

    1. Jackie*

      I don’t think this is all of it though. It’s like how it’s often hard to get men to ask for directions when they are lost. Even observing children – boys seem to ask for help less often than girls.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Boys are also punished for asking for help, I’ve noticed. As a TA, male students can’t ask me for help without being teased pretty mercilessly by the rest of their peer group in the discussion forums (worse because I’m female, although they can’t tell being as I’m online). It’s gotta be worse in-person.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          Frequently, male students will hang back and make sure no one is looking before asking a question.

        2. Wisteria*

          Wow, how interesting! What do you TA, if you don’t mind saying?

          I have TA’ed or tutored algebra (college and middle school) and physics labs, and dudes asked questions in all settings without teasing! I wonder if the difference is subject matter, interaction style (in person vs discussion boards), some combination of many things ….?

          1. After 33 years ...*

            It’s been a common pattern in my time as a professor, and giving guest lectures in Senior and Junior High. I do a variety of things classified as Natural Science and Social Science (without being specific). Context: I’m an older white cishet male, about to retire.

            Assuming two genders, they start even in elementary school (I used to enjoy those sessions a lot), but by Senior High many of the male students are very reluctant to display either keenness or uncertainty. They’d leave as a group, and one would casually hang back, and then dash over to me to ask their question. That continues on through first- and second-year. By fourth year, it’s closer to even again, but male students are statistically in general more reluctant to engage. That’s even more true of on-line university classes and voluntary help sessions – male students are always under-represented at the latter in proportion to class enrollment. Percentages of total attendance and engagement at these track with F:M ratios consistently.

            Our university classes vary from 75:25 F:M to 25:75 (again, assuming two genders only). It doesn’t matter if I’m discussing something with a (real or potential) gendered context – e.g. urban demographics – or something without – e.g. formation of glacial landforms – or what the F:M ratio is in that class – or what the class size is (for classes > 10). Although there’s lots of variation, male students in general tend to ask fewer questions, and seek help less frequently. In many cases, the effects do tend to show up in final evaluations ….

            1. MM*

              This is so interesting, because when I was in high school/undergrad–so, about 15 years ago–the research going around (that I was aware of) was about how teachers call on female students less, and girls are less likely to speak up in class. I heard that in high school and felt that I noticed it was true thereafter, albeit anecdotally. Now that I’m teaching college, I’d say participation among my students seems about equal; when it comes to further questions or clarifications (after class, via email, etc) it does seem that girls are more likely to ask and more likely to be feeling pressure from their parents about their academic performance. But it’s not the kind of overwhelming split you’re describing at all–it’s a tiny difference.

              There are a lot of possible explanations, from research methods to geography to class (I don’t know if the schools you teach in serve the same kind of student body mine does). Who knows. But it is interesting to ponder.

              1. Calliope*

                There’s a difference between participating in class and admitting that you don’t understand something though. IME men are more likely to give an answer and less likely to ask an question that could reveal lack of understanding.

                1. L-squared*

                  Exactly. I used to teach middle school. The boys may have “participated” more, but when I let kids stay after school to ask questions or get help, it was definitely more girls who did that.

            2. Boof*

              I still remember in high school at a fast food joint, i overheard a group of teenage boys ordering pizza. All ordered cheese until the last one, who order pepperoni. Then the teasing began! Nothing ruthless mind but even as a teenager i was mildly agog that such a trivial difference got hassled!

          2. KoiFeeder*

            I call it Carp Chiropractics when talking about my major here. It’s a humanities major, pretty even split between female and male students.

            Inasfar as interaction style, I cannot imagine it would be any better in-person, it’s just that they have to be more blatant on discussion boards and that I can see private messages sent in reply to a specific topic- the other students wouldn’t be able to see the vast majority of the teasing (and when I see those sorts of messages, I record and then delete it with extreme prejudice hopefully before the messaged student can see it and make a note that the messaging student was being awful).

        3. Batgirl*

          I teach in an all boys school, have seen the same dynamic and … yep it makes it tougher to give them what they need.

    2. Timothy (TRiG)*

      Men may have a network that women can’t access … or they may have no network whatsoever. That’s not uncommon.

      1. Lab Boss*

        I’d even draw a distinction between a network and a mentor, and say that it’s beneficial to have both. Even a man with a broad network could benefit from the more personal attention and interest of a mentor relationship, and [in my experience] men are [often] well-socialized to broadly network and make contacts but poorly socialized to put themselves in the more needy/inferior position of asking someone to be a particular mentor.

        I’d also hazard the generalization that the reasons [many] men don’t seek mentors is different from the reasons [many] women don’t seek them, so there’s a reasonable benefit to having a men’s forum focusing on it.

    3. Purple Cat*

      Yup, my thought too. Men have “always” had access to the Good Old Boys network and women haven’t so women have taken to specifically identifying mentors to counteract that. Not that poor men have been floundering without the guidance women have been getting and this Men’s group is seeking to correct that horrible wrong.

      1. Gerry Keay*

        *White men. White men have always had access to the Good Old Boys network. Men of color absolutely have not had that privilege, and implying that they have always had that ignores a hell of a lot of racism and the way that White women often have MORE privilege and power than men of color in professional environments.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          Thank you. As a black man in the world of work, I hear “check your privilege” way too often, and it’s said to me by white women.

          1. Petty Betty*

            I want to be shocked, but I really can’t be. We taught everyone the phrase, and there are some bad faith actors out there who will use it incorrectly, on purpose.

          2. Boof*

            I think that phrase is pretty much always rude / overly confrontational but i do think gender discrimination is different than race discrimination so i don’t think one trumps another, depends what issue is being discussed???

        2. SnappinTerrapin*

          *Some* white men.

          The disadvantaged white men are particularly susceptible when those in power suggest that their economic and social status is threatened by “others,” such as minorities or women. That’s how the Democratic Party overcame the Populist Party in the South during the 1880s and 1890s, laying the groundwork for the Jim Crow Laws at the turn of the 20th Century.

          Suggesting that *all* white men enjoy the privileges of the powerful and well-connected simply reinforces their fear that their security is threatened by those who have even less power than they do. That plays into the hands of those who want to inflame those fears in order to maintain power over all the “little people.”

          1. Some Dude*

            This. I’m a white dude and I definitely have many advantages because of my race and gender, but it is also very apparent to me how much more advantaged those from wealthy, well-connected families are than me (including people who aren’t white and/or male), and how much better off I have it than white dudes I know who grew up in less advantaged backgrounds than me. In fact most white guys I know aren’t particularly killing it and that disconnect between what we stereotypically are supposed to be and our actual lived experience is a real thing.

          2. I&I*

            Plus it requires the ability to fit in. Neuroatypical men often don’t benefit from informal networks, because they don’t have the ‘one of us’ vibe.

            As long as women aren’t being done done, a male network that supports healthy and positive interactions sounds like a good thing to me. The informal ones are likely to exist anyway; a formal one with good values sounds like an improvement.

    4. Generic Name*

      I came here to say exactly this. Because of the way that society is currently structured, men are automatically better able to navigate their careers. I’m a woman, and I’ve had several women mentors in my career. I’ve discussed the topic of how to succeed in a male-dominated/male centered environment with every single one of them.

    5. Calliope*

      I mean this is true but I will say I think there’s another part to it. Building social and emotional skills in men is something that will benefit everyone in the long run. Part of toxic masculinity is the idea that it’s weak and feminine to have close bonds with other men after a certain age – men are expected to get all their social connections from a female partner. Breaking that down is actually not a bad thing in general. I don’t even think this seminar needs to address that explicitly if they facilitator has it in mind and isn’t coming at it from a “men are disadvantaged in the workplace” angle.

      1. Lab Boss*

        Plus a man who’s willing to admit “I don’t know everything and need you to help me long-term” is a man well on his way to not being a know-it-all who has to trample everyone. He’s learned how to not know things and that’s good for both his coworkers and his employer.

      2. Gerry Keay*

        Yeah I actually can see the value in this, at least the way it’s now being framed. Having a space where men are encouraged to ask for help and be vulnerable about work is a good thing. And just like how White people need to hold other White people accountable with anti-racism, men need to do that with each other when it comes to breaking down toxic masculinity.

      3. yala*

        Yeah, this actually sounds…surprisingly decent? Like, yeah, men do often deal with a different flavor of stigma toward asking for help, mental health, etc. So having an actual forum to discuss those things already feels like it’s a step toward dismantling toxic masculinity and destigmatizing asking for help, etc.

    6. OrigCassandra*

      There’s an interesting thread in recent org-behavior research on this subject, suggesting that “mentorship” (defined as “hanging out once in a while to shoot the breeze, not much else”) is less important to careers than “sponsorship” (defined as “the sponsor puts the person they’re sponsoring forward for opportunities and advocates for them”)… and women tend to have mentors where men tend to have sponsors.

      I assign a representative article about this to one of my classes now, and I’ve taken it to heart in the rest of my work life.

      1. NeedRain47*

        That is an interesting definition of mentorship… I would have already defined it as including some aspect of teaching and advocacy, not just socializing with an older more experienced person. But I see the gender based distinctions you’re getting at.

      2. Lea*

        You know this makes sense.

        Someone putting your forward or advocating for you is valuable than a mentor 9/10 imo

      3. Lab Boss*

        I’ve always understood a “mentor” to be more than just hanging out, but not necessarily a proactive sponsor. I would think of a mentor as being someone who can answer questions (without fear of being penalized for not knowing the answers), help you check your gut feeling on issues that come up, give you advice on how to fit in and advance, etc. I might be pulling that definition completely out of my behind, though.

    7. Vincent*

      I was just thinking this– maybe women are more likely to have formal mentorships because they’re less likely to be casually included in those kinds of relationships.

    8. Little My*

      Yeah, the idea of a work-sponsored group where a group of only men talk about how to get mentors makes my blood boil.

      1. Tyler Rowe Price*

        Yeah, maybe it should be all inclusive. Seems really weird to have something for the benefit of one group of people in this day and age.

    9. Batgirl*

      The auto success of male employees needs to end though, and men need to be encouraged to ask for proper help and mentorship if they want to get on. I’ve worked for places where men are seen as family providers, or providers-in-waiting and there was an unspoken attitude of “Well, they’ll need help with that, because a proud man will not ask”. So you had the double whammy of men being more likely to negotiate salary and apply above their level, and this being received generously as their way of asking for help. The mentorship model is something that women use because the advice is about how to be paid for what you do, rather than who you are. It is bad culture to assume or allow that “men don’t need mentorship”. Men beginning to need it more is a sign of a company being more equitable.

    10. Hrodvitnir*

      I absolutely think you’re correct. And if this exists with no such sessions for women, that’s… not great. But for one thing, men of colour have not necessarily always had access to this. And I’m all in favour of moving toward a model that more resembles that more associated with women – having a mentor to support you and advocate for you, without the expectation of an old boy’s network.

      1. GirlinPhx*

        I agree! If there wasn’t any programming for anyone else I would have lost my ever loving mind. But I think that one thing certain people are guilty of is assuming a population is a monolith—men include immigrant men, men of color, men who have recently entered the field, men who this may be the first “white collar” job in their life/family, gay men, trans men, men with disabilities, etc.

        My partner is a nonwhite non European immigrant and boy let me tell you he could certainly benefit from a real actual mentor. He is in a highly specialized field, a few years out from grad school, and has no metric with which to determine if something is bullshit or over the top. At review and raise time he was the top performer, top marks, and while his *all white, all american* team members raises were 4X higher, his was a joke that was literally the least they could give, bundled with a lie that anything more was “forbidden”. His new boss, based upon old boss’ review, gave him 4X the raise for this year—I don’t want to think about the pittance he would have got if he was still on his old team. Cue shocked pikachu face when partner left for other reasons and he was invaluable and OldBoss tried to stop the transfer.

    11. Jessica Fletcher*

      Really disappointed by OP2 and the commenters excusing the company. It’s giving networking and mentorship opportunities to men, that it’s not giving to women. Plain and simple.

      1. Calliope*

        It sounds like there’re other affinity groups including women’s groups from the original letter. Of course it wouldn’t be permissible to just have one for men.

      2. L-squared*

        I didn’t get the sense that there was ONLY a group for men, just that there was ALSO a group for men. If women get a group to discuss mentorship, mental health, etc, I don’t see how you can act like men shouldn’t also get it.

      3. GythaOgden*

        When you watch a real man die from cancer at 44 and go eighteen months without appropriate counselling or hear ‘if it wasn’t for you, I’d have taken the first flight to [Dignitas]’ as nightly pillow talk’ (men more often complete suicide than women because they use more drastic methods) maybe you’ll see why things like this can actually be a good idea.

        The gap won’t get any narrower if we refuse to acknowledge it or provide resources to men even if it’s conceptualised as deprogramming them. For three years I’ve had nightmares where my husband goes away to die. The war in Ukraine triggered me because refugee men were turned back at the border to fight — and that only added to my grief because I don’t know what I’d have done knowing my hubby was out there facing the guns in a war he didn’t start. I left him at the border of life and death in the hospice and I went home to get some sleep and when I woke up there was a message on my phone to say he’d died.

        That is what human life is. It knows no gender, or when it does, the resources and expectations are different and lopsided. Fixing that lopsidedness is neither easy nor cheap, but it’s not going to be solved by callous comments like this one but by genuine action and results.

        Had it been me who had had breast cancer, there would have been dozens of support networks, counsellors etc beating down my door. For him, a man in his 40s, there were male support groups catering to elderly men like his father who were effectively dying of old age, not a random genetic mutation in middle age. Had I had a child, there are tons of support networks for single mothers that I could access as a widow. Had I died with a son or daughter who now had only daddy to lean on…God help them, because he’s on his own.

        Real life may not always play out in the way you want it to, but this is a point where I’d ask /you/ to ‘check your privilege’ —
        because you’ve never had to deal with the fallout of the idea that men don’t need specialist resources for mental health and wellbeing. Beyond the internet, behind every male and female username and avatar, there are real people who have encountered inequalities that don’t conform to the broader social justice narrative. I hope you never have to see your husband be fitted with a syringe driver or have him be turned back at the border because he needs to stay and fight wanton international aggression he had no part in creating. The easy way out is to get angry on the internet. The hard way is to look seriously at inequalities that cut across the neat buzzwords we’ve developed to address genuine problems but which are often only half the story.

        Life is way, way too complicated to say things like this and pronouncing on other people’s lives and perspectives in this sort of high-handed manner is not what social justice should be about.

      4. Nancy*

        Nothing says there is only one for men. And yes, many men need mental health and mentorship support since not all are rich white men with connections. If there isn’t one for women, OP should definitely say something to the company.

        I am all for anything that provides anyone with more mental health and mentoring support.

  4. L.H. Puttgrass*

    “I was leaving the company in a bad position…”

    That’s not a bug, it’s a feature. Bad companies deserve to be left in bad positions.

    1. Antilles*

      If the company wanted to be in a better position, they could done such things as “paid a competitive salary and benefits”, “not been horrible jerks”, “properly staffed their projects”, etc. If they had, they wouldn’t be left in a bad position, because I’ll bet you’d still happily be there.
      But nope, they didn’t care when their terrible management affected you, only when it affected them so…sorry not sorry.

      1. Meep*

        I wish more managers/”leadership” would realize that if they want loyal employees then they cannot also be cheap.

    2. ThatGirl*

      My husband had a month off (10-month academia staff position) and then gave notice the week he went back. He was very worried that he was leaving the department extremely short-staffed (more for the students’ sake than his boss). I reassured him over and over that if he was, it was not a problem of his making, nor could he fix it.

      Well, turned out someone got their head out of their butt while he was on break and a new person started that day, along with having multiple first and second-round interviews for candidates for the other open position(s).

      But either way, I wholeheartedly agree with you.

    3. irene adler*

      I’d say this thought was justified – if the OP was an owner of the company.
      Given the OP is not, banish this notion from your mind. You aren’t compensated anywhere close to making this something you need to fret about.

      It amazing how much loyalty employees have towards poorly managed companies.
      Managements need to understand “You reap what you sow”. Any issues they encounter after OP departs is entirely their own doing. So let them remedy things and (maybe) learn the lesson.

      1. Ness*

        A lot of times I think the loyalty is to the other staff members, not the management. Management isn’t just going to let the work go undone, so in the short term, it’s going to increase the burden on other staff members.

        I’m in a somewhat similar position – I agreed to cover a project management position for a few months until a permanent replacement could be hired…15 months ago. While I have no problem telling management that I’m done covering the position (and my immediate supervisor would back me on that), that would put all my team members in a really tough spot, plus reflect poorly on my organization to our external partners, so I’m reluctant to do so.

        1. Size Inclusive LW (OP1)*

          Yes! I spent my 3.5 week notice compiling huge, detailed, cross-referenced transition documents. That wasn’t for the company owner, that was for the next poor sod who will be asked to do that work.

          Some of my coworkers were . . . not the best. But some were just like me, overworked and burning out and just trying their best not to drown. I didn’t want to add to their burden, but I also couldn’t keep going as I was. I’d say I hope my departure will be a wake up call for the owner but . . . I thought that about several former coworkers who left and it never was, so I don’t have high hopes there.

        2. ferrina*

          A lot of times I think the loyalty is to the other staff members, not the management.

          Yes. But this is also why it’s good to leave. It can be motivational to see your team members decide they aren’t going to take it and watch them find a better job. At OldJob I was a shield for my team, blocking all the terrible nonsense that the C-Suite threw at us. There was a lack of respect, opportunities and pay. When I left everything came crashing down, and 80% of the team left within a year to go to greener pastures. They deserve better than that place.

  5. Al who is that Al*

    I may have posted this before. But I did work for a company that insisted we wear our teal coloured polo shirts at all times. They only did up to a Large, I am NOT a Large, I am a short, hairy, fat- 240lb, apple-shaped stud muffin (male). OK, be like that….so I wore the one they got me. The squeamish can stop reading now.
    Basically the stretchy fabric stretched and showed the spare tyres, it didn’t cover the bottom of my belly, my moobs were prominent and of course the useless ends of my moobs were very noticeable. It even had chest hair poking through the fabric.
    Finishing work that very day I was asked not to wear it and to wear my usual shirt.

      1. I Wore Pants Today*

        As the wife of a short and stout Corporate Teapot, this made me giggle. I can see my husband doing this.

  6. Meow*

    LW2: “The meeting started with an intro saying that the forum was a part of the ongoing conversation about diversity and inclusion.” Sounds like someone had a women’s forum and there were “what about the men??” complaints.

    1. Gerry Keay*

      or like someone was like “wow these men have some issues with sexism — lets get them in a room to talk about it where they can’t cause harm to women”

      1. yala*

        Yeah, that actually seems a lot more like the gist of it from the description LW2 gave. Part of diversity and inclusion is recognizing that while men usually have systemic advantages not as readily available to other genders, they also have a different set of stigmas and toxic social expectations, and that they deserve the kind of support it takes to get past those as well.

  7. Wisteria*


    Do you have a link to the study you mention?

    I found a study that stated that women are more likely than men to have a mentor.

      1. Wisteria*

        Thanks for that! From that article:

        For example, women are more likely than men to have a mentor (54% vs. 48%); Asians, Hispanics and African Americans are more likely than whites to have a mentor (58%, 55%, 53% and 49%, respectively); and younger workers are more likely than older workers to have a mentor (66% of 18- to 24-year-olds vs. 38% of 55- to 64-year-olds, for example).

        Those are not large differences, for the most part. I wonder if they are statistically significant differences.

        I would want to know more about the history of the differences before concluding that men or white people have been left off the mentorship boat to the extent that they now need an ERG to address the inequality. I would want to dig into the stratification of all those differences, as well, to find out whether a subgroup is driving the difference.

        Consider the case of male scholastic achievement. On the surface, it looks like there is a crisis in boys’ education as they lag behind girls in achievement. Dig a little deeper, and you find that white boys are doing as well as they historically have and that girls are finally catching up to boys after decades of intervention. Boys of color *are* in a crisis, but it’s not bc girls are privileged. I would want to make sure the male mentorship gap is not a similar story before championing a Mens’ ERG.

  8. Nonny Mouse*

    LW #2: Interesting about mentors, and I would posit men need them less, not in terms of talent, but in terms of ability to advance without mentorship.

    I’m a fairly successful rice sculptor if I do say so, and am sometimes asked to teach workshops in rice sculpting. While the workshops are definitely for education, there’s a tacit understanding that it’s also a way for rice-sculptors-in-training to make connections and for talented rice-sculptors-in-training to get noticed. I have only once had a male would-be rice sculptor attend one of my workshops, and this is out of hundreds of attendees.

    And yet I’d say half the other successful rice sculptors I know are male. I am undecided as to whether this is because men don’t seek out mentorships, or because men don’t need the connections and foot-in-the-door that such workshops offer; they do just fine without. I lean toward the latter explanation, though.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I also wonder if men are less likely to report what would generally be considered mentorship (I’d need to see the study to figure out how they’re defining it/if their taking self-reports vs counting formal mentorship). I’ve noticed women often seek out mentors or people to learn from while men might have more of a “Jim is a cool guy, he gives me tips and we talk shop, he helped me get a promotion – we’re buds” kind of informal boys-club style mentorship.

      1. yala*

        I dunno. My Dad’s mentor passed away recently, and he very explicitly referred to him as a mentor as well as a friend. And these are lawyers, which, especially down here and especially in this particular field, tends to be a VERY male-dominated vibe.

        But also, I get the feeling that maybe mentorships aren’t as common anymore? Could also have something to do with folks usually not being able to stick around with any one place as long.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I’m sure there are anecdotal cases in all directions – I should try to find the study LW mentions.

      2. L-squared*

        I think this may be it.

        I (male) don’t consider myself to have ever been a “mentor” in the formal sense. But I’ve had a couple of younger guys who I’ve kind of helped navigate things in jobs before who I could see looking at me in that way, even it wasn’t formalized. And its kind of like you said, I kind of give people tips and talk shop, and help them navigate the workplace. I’d say we were more work buddies, but that same relationship a woman may consider more of a mentor situation.

        1. Stinky kitty*

          I was thinking something on a tangent to this. I can’t tell from the OP’s update, but I wonder if, in the meeting, the topic was along the lines of how to be a mentor rather than how to get one. Especially a better, non-toxic mentor to women. In my time where I work, we’ve had exactly one woman in the field working with us, and that was only a temporary assignment because she was an engineer hired to design the things we work on. We can be a kind of “course” group, and didn’t know what her experience with our processes were. In the end, we figured we would be ourselves and treat her like we would any new crew member, fart jokes and all. I think a discussion on how to be a good mentor would have helped, not only for when mentoring a woman, but any new person.

  9. DW*

    Re LW2, mentorship is a good subject to cover in a panel like that but I can think of others! Parental leave, double standards about parenting/obligations that hurt women and help men in some ways but do the exact opposite in others, and also the intersection of race and masculinity that I never ever see MRAs talk about. WOC may be hired or promoted more into certain positions because they’re perceived as less threatening than MOC. MOC may be hired more into jobs that are physically demanding but don’t pay as well or have as many avenues for advancement.

    Men’s rights include the rights of men of color, queer men, disabled men, etc. We (especially women/NBs) need to be really careful when thinking/talking about “men’s rights” to not forget that “men” aren’t some monolith who experience privilege alone. There are male-specific topics that we have to talk about if we want a more equitable society!

    1. Gerry Keay*

      Yes! I’d recommend anyone who doesn’t agree with your comment to read bell hook’s Feminism is for Everyone. The patriarchy harms men too!

    2. Wisteria*

      Men’s rights include the rights of men of color, queer men, disabled men, etc. We (especially women/NBs) need to be really careful when thinking/talking about “men’s rights” to not forget that “men” aren’t some monolith who experience privilege alone.

      We, people of all genders and characteristics, need to not forget that in spaces dedicated to marginalized groups for non-gender characteristics (e.g., queer spaces, Black spaces), men’s voices have historically dominated. If the idea is that we create a mens’ space so they stop sucking all the intersectional air out of the room, well, I guess a Mens’ ERG is a good solution.

    3. L-squared*

      Thank you.

      As someone said earlier, the amount of times a white woman has told me, a black man, something about my “privilege” is pretty staggering. To assume that I, raised in a single parent home, who had to pay for college on my own, etc, and some trust fund white man, are the same is kind of ridiculous.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        In the same neighborhood of ridiculousness as assuming that a working class white man has the same advantages as a trust fund white man, or for that matter, the same advantages as a Morehouse Man.

        Economic and social advantages are probably the most significant advantages anyone can have.

        I know a lot of people started the race a few steps ahead of me. That’s no reason for me to be angry or afraid when someone who started behind me begins to catch up. But not everybody sees it that way. It’s easier to recognize someone else’s advantages than our own, I suppose. Maybe it’s easier to attribute all of our own success to merit, and everyone else’s to whatever advantage we perceive them as enjoying.

  10. Checkert*

    It seems I may not be in the popular opinion, but I can see why having a men’s forum to talk DEI could be beneficial. It should not be up to the populations at a disadvantage to solve the inequity issues, and if such a forum provides these men the opportunity to get a better understanding of what THEY can do to help solve it or feel more comfortable asking questions, etc. I see that as a positive.

    1. My heart is a fish*

      If they use it for that purpose, I agree with you. But it isn’t a given that it would be used that way, and from the OP’s description, it doesn’t sound like they put their money where their mouth is from a DEI angle.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “Don’t leave the majority out of your DEI discussions” is actually becoming the big advice – because they’ll be impacted by DEI stuff and you still need to manage and work with them, and even if “oh no I’m getting a smaller piece of my massive pie piece” doesn’t feel….relevant, for lack of a better word, change management needs to be taken from all angles. It gives me a little uncomfy wiggle whenever it comes up (it’s come up in at least two SHRM talks at the conference that’s currently happening, for example) but I also get it.

      BUT, it needs to be handled carefully. The forum can’t become a place for whining or god forbid collaborating negatively against others, and there should be structured discussion around the things that both majority groups may knowingly or unknowingly put up with that falls under the DEI umbrella (inequities in parental leave, for instance) and also what majority groups can do to support DEI initiatives for others. In a perfect rollout, you’re right, it’s not a bad thing – but few places do these things well as it is and this seems several steps removed from where we realistically are on average. But if your company can do these things well, go for it.

    3. Critical Rolls*

      It isn’t that this is an unpopular opinion. I think there would be universal approbation throughout the comments if there was genuine DEI content in such a setting. There’s just a lot of skepticism, grounded in a LOT of experience, that it actually shakes out that way. And, indeed, an hour spent on mentor relationships does nothing to advance DEI unless it’s by accident.

  11. Caraway*

    Congratulations on the new job, #3! You know the situation best, of course, but I just wanted to mention that it might not be the hiring manager’s fault that communication was slow and handled by HR. That’s the way my company prefers to handle it, too, and trust me, their slow response to candidates is also aggravating to me as a hiring manager! The last time I hired, it took them three agonizing days to reach out to my preferred candidate, who was great and who I was worried was going to be snatched up by someone else. It worked out, but it was no thanks to HR, and if I had been allowed to do it myself, it would have gone much faster.

  12. quill*

    #2: Glad it’s a case where they’re bad at naming things and not a bunch of reactionaries!

  13. Talk is cheap... please have exact change*

    LW #1, I am so happy for you! Congrats on the new gig!

  14. L-squared*

    What I find interesting is that even with the update, people are still very split on #2. Some people are feeling like “oh, its not nearly as bad as I imagined”, while other people are saying it makes their blood boil.

    I think there are some people who will just not like the idea that men in general, are getting something specifically aimed at them. Even though, as another person mentioned, men encompasses men of color, queer men, etc that aren’t necessarily historically privileged groups, and they probably should have a “space” to discuss issues specific to them too.

    It kind of reminds me of years ago there was some diet soda campaign that blatantly said “Its for men”. People were enraged. Nevermind that many similar products are aimed squarely at women. The fact that this one wasn’t got people angry.

    I personally think the issues being brought up in the mens groups were totally valid, especially with the (unsurprising to me) study that fewer men have mentors than women. I can tell you, I never had a mentor.

    1. RagingADHD*

      You forgot the (very large category) of people who are constantly scanning the horizon for things to get their blood boiling. I understand that, actually. It puts some pep in your step, gets you a nice fat hit of adrenaline without having to jump out of an airplane or drive too fast in your car.

      Still not healthy in the long run, but it feels good in the moment.

    2. Gerry Keay*

      There are also a hell of a lot of white women in the workforce who are *deeply* uncomfortable with the notion that they have more privilege and power than some men and will refuse to even engage with that possibility. It’s a kind knee jerk reaction that harms everyone and ends up reinforcing a lot of racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, etc.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yeah. I’ve also seen men have less access to appropriate support when it comes to mental health and support services for physical problems such as cancer, and given what my husband went through as a cancer patient, I wholeheartedly support things like anti-suicide campaigns aimed at men. My husband may have been a white man and thus privileged in raw social terms, but it really doesn’t matter at all if he’s lying in bed telling me that if it wasn’t for me, he’d have been ‘on the next flight to [Dignitas]’ after his diagnosis, or he can’t drive because of his seizures and thus needs help getting to and from a rural work site (a landscaping company run from a converted farm-building).

        Social privilege is an academic abstraction. It’s vital in redressing a lot of very stark inequalities. But when the white guy next to you is dying and needs more help than you can give him as his spouse, that tends not to come into the equation.

        Women have a huge number of resources out there and we are more likely to seek help. Mental health services aimed at men need to know their audience and that is quite different from the needs of women. There is more there to overcome, but I don’t think it’s all socialisation or privilege and we need to find a social justice message that is inclusive of the real people behind the demographics.

  15. LW2*

    LW 2 here. I wanted to add that I still feel that my company having a Men’s Forum is a little off putting. However, think after attending I see it more of a beige flag rather than a red flag. I think a lot of commenters have made great points fewer men having formal mentorships may be representative of the fact that they are less likely to need them. I more so just feel like I don’t have a strong leg to stand on to make any sort of formal complaint.

  16. Hrodvitnir*

    Oh man, it is so nice to have a letter on a Men’s Forum that turns out to be a good thing! I genuinely think they should specify their angle, both because shady versions exist and because it’s good to be prepared, but this still makes me very happy.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I really hope it’s a safe space for men to discuss things like toxic masculinity.

  17. Luna*

    Good for you, Op#1!
    And no matter how much you may think it would hurt the company, as they say, not your monkeys, not your circus anymore. I recall a time where I was let go from a job I had just started, and my end date was almost at the same time as a lot of contracts from other staff (in other departments and front office, where I worked) ran out, and they were not renewed. I wondered for a second why they’d throw out new people when a lot of the old people were leaving… but I didn’t have to figure it out, let alone understand it!

  18. Project Management Princess*

    LW1 – the news about your new job it’s the kind of update that gives me life, I really wish that the good qualities of this place remain in place and you have a good time while in there.

    LW2 – phew, an icky situation with quite a good outcome! That usually gives me hope about the culture and environment of a company.

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