Ask a Manager in the media

Here’s some coverage of Ask a Manager in the media recently:

I talked with Bloomberg about the rocky start to the new New York City law requiring pay transparency in job ads — and told them that some employers’ attitudes toward the new law seem like “a deliberate f-you to the law, and thus to workers.”

I talked with Newsweek about being fired for being “unhappy at work.”

I talked with the Huffington Post about what to say when you catch a coworker staring at your chest.

The Verge covered the AAM letter earlier this week from a Twitter employee. (That letter-writer updated in the comments, by the way.)

{ 49 comments… read them below }

  1. Moose*

    I assume the Twitter employee’s letter was from before the email Elon sent out to the whole company, laying out a new work environment and saying anyone who failed to agree would automatically be laid off and receive 3 months of severance. What are your thoughts on that email? Does that change your advice to the LW to stick it out?

    1. That'sNotMyName*

      I’m guessing that it would change things. Three months severance would hopefully buy enough time to find a new job. Since everything happening at Twitter is so very public, even beyond the industry-level gossip, I don’t think they’re going to be judged at all for leaving. Personally, I think it shows good judgment but others may be more neutral.

      1. tamarack etc.*

        I came here to say this. (Just back from business travel and catching up w/ AAM.) If I got this email, asking me to commit to what is a dumpster fire of a workplace, or get 3 months severance, and I’m not desperate, I would not agree and walk away.

        (Frankly, at this stage I judge people – the ones who are ok with this attitude, the Elon-bros – for staying. Not desperate people with few options, big debt, medical issues, visa issues of course.)

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Three months’ severance in the hand is better than most of us thought she could do. I’d take it while the company still has the money to pay. (Assuming that that whole thing doesn’t go the way of so many other bold announcements.)

    3. BasketcaseNZ*

      If I were LW, I would be jumping on that and running far far away. LW is immediately who I thought of when I saw that news too.

  2. Wilbur*

    It seems so absurd to flagrantly violate the salary transparency law when it’d be much easier to make it a little bit too big.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I saw an ad yesterday where the pay was listed between $40 and $87/hr which is not quite $0 to $2 million but is still a really big range.

      1. WellRed*

        That 0 to $2 million is such a flagrant fk you to employees. Is that the first impression CitiCorp really wants to give? How bad do they treat you after you’re hired?

        1. Warrior Princess Xena*

          To me that sounds more like the hiring ad equivalent of leaving the Lorem Ipsum on your website when it goes live. Still unprofessional, still needs to be fixed, but I’d give them the benefit of the doubt when they say ‘that was an error, sorry’.

          It does show that they procrastinated in getting ready for the regulation which isn’t necessarily the best look but I’ve worked with quite a few companies professionally and I can count on one hand the number of companies that I’ve worked with that really effectively get ready for regulations that they know are coming, even up to 5 years out.

          1. Anon for this*

            I’m skeptical this was an error. In finance laws and regulations change frequently, and there is no “whoopsie” for failure to comply after the deadline passes. Citigroup has long been openly hostile to the idea of pay transparency, and vocal about it, so this fits the pattern.

            I actually worked for a Citigroup subsidiary for several years, and this commitment to a opacity was clear even for internal job postings. I was interested in transferring to a new and growing department, which required a host of licensing and education. When asked (at an internal group lunch meeting, trying to recruit candidates) about the compensation, the presenter sniffed and said “it’s grade 12”.

            I contacted HR to find out what this meant. Initially I was told they did not even USE grades. After much back and forth, someone at HR said it corresponded to between $12,000 and $90,000 (this was in 200o or so). Not zero to two million, but equally unhelpful.

            I would be tempted to bat the same figure back to them during interviews to see how they respond. “What are your salary expectations?” “Oh, between zero and two million dollars, depending”. Likewise if asked for salary history.

            1. Warrior Princess Xena*

              That’s fair – though I work in financial audit and have had to write companies up before for being out of compliance with regs long after they knew they had passed because they’d made errors/had inexperience people/bad software. At a certain point, even if it’s not a deliberate fraud, you should be able to operate at a certain standard of operations & not operating to that standard of operations is going to be just as harmful to everyone around you as being malicious is.

      2. Warrior Princess Xena*

        I know that for a company my cousin worked for, the employees had options to progress either through levels of management or by becoming increasingly specialized and skilled in their existing roles – ie, everyone would be a Llama groomer, but you would begin to specialize in just Llama neck fur or just Llama foot care, not general Llama grooming. Experienced hires did not have a title change, and they would hire both new people and experienced hires, but the pay amounts for those would be vastly different.

        That said, if you do have a position like that, you should probably still set up different hiring ads since the job duties for ‘Llama groomer – will train’ and ‘Llama groomer with a specialty in Llama fur braiding’ are probably going to be pretty different, even if they nominally have the same title. And even if you do have one ad for whatever reason (something like “we are always hiring llama groomers at any level of experience”) you should indicate pretty clearly in your ad that specific salary is going to be dependent on the level of specialized skill brought to the table.

      3. Water Snake*

        That’s a typical range for a mid – senior engineering position, say, bachelor’s + 6 years exp.

  3. NotRealAnonforThis*

    “Eyes up here, my chest isn’t going to answer you” has been a semi-sarcastic go to since I was about 16 years of age.

  4. Nobody in particular*

    When I read yesterday that Musk was essentially offering 3 months tenure to anyone who wanted it, my first thought was the be happy for the LW who wrote in from Twitter this week. Be free!

    1. kiki*

      Same! My only concern is that the severance may not actually be paid out since Twitter is veering towards bankruptcy. So if LW needs the cash to pay rent/mortgage/expenses, this may not be the right call.

  5. Falling Diphthong*

    Since taking over Twitter, Musk’s choices have been indistinguishable from what Kendall Roy on Succession would do if some banks bought him a social media app.

  6. VeggieBubba*

    Well, there was that co-worker of mine at an old job who had very large breasts that I wouldn’t have normally stared at except when she came into one of our small weekly meetings she would sort of lift them, rest them on the table, and sigh, “my girls need a break.” I reconnected with an old high school friend at this job, we attended those same meetings, and now we’ve been together for over 25 years now. We still laugh about this even though we haven’t worked there in ages.

  7. 1-800-BrownCow*

    Thanks for the Huffington Post article. Although I wish it was as easy as all that. As a woman in a highly male dominant career, I’ve run into issues with addressing someone staring at my breasts. Problem is, if I try to speak up to the person, it usually does no good. And making a complaint to HR makes it worse. Even if I skipped addressing it with the person, once HR speaks to the person, it’s usually pretty obvious to them who made the complaint. Then you have those who make sure to only stare when no one else is around to be a witness, so it’s “your imagination” against their word. I had one manager that I used to have a problem with. I complained to their manager and afterwards, suddenly any project work he had to assist me with took longer or was done incorrectly or had some other problem. When I brought it up that I felt like he was doing those things on purpose as I’d never had the issues previously and others did not have the same problems, he had all sorts of excuses. And since I had no actual proof, there was nothing that was done. And I had no choice but to continue to go to him for certain work. This same manager would also stare at my chest with a big grin on his face anytime I had one-on-one conversations with him. I knew that if I complained, things would get worse for me. Most women within the company did not interact with him, so there was no other complaints. And the few other women who did interact with him were in positions that he was smart enough to not behave inappropriately around. Essentially it would have been my word against his. I hated that I didn’t feel like I was safe speaking up against him. It would have been an uphill battle and I, unfortunately, did not choose that battle.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Frankly, a lot of the time it’s not worth the battle and you’re highly likely to lose. Especially doesn’t sound like you would have gotten anywhere in this situation. I think doing a lot of personal calculation as to the lack of results you’re likely to get versus the near-guaranteed amount of poop emojis you probably will get is a fair calculus to make. I wouldn’t have bothered either. Frequently it’s just not worth it.

      Signed, I Remember The Time When I Got Interviewed By The World’s Longest Ogler.

  8. ArtsNerd*

    I’m going to be That Person: the (not-Alison) advice to request direct eye contact ignores the fact that eye contact isn’t natural, and indeed frequently uncomfortable, to many people with neurodivergence.

    The other advice — pointedly crossing arms, “oh is there something on my shirt?”, “your looking at my chest makes me uncomfortable” etc. is all good. I’m not saying that people with breasts should tolerate or tiptoe around staring. My own, indeed, are ample and I spent far more energy than I ever should managing the fact that they exist in the workplace.

    Just that there are many ways to indicate that you’re listening to someone, and there are better options than the “my eyes are up here” response.

    1. Roland*

      The advice to ask for eye contact was specifically in the case where people are staring at your chest. If someone is staring at my chest that’s on them and they don’t get to complain that I didn’t consider their preferences when I call them out. If someone doesn’t like making eye contact they are welcome to look in all sorts of other directions that are not my chest

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Thanks for putting into words what I was feeling! I sympathize with people for whom eye contact is uncomfortable but if you’ve gotten to the age of 18+ without realizing that the breasts are an unacceptable alternative to eye contact then it’s time you learn and I’m not going to feel sympathetic when I have to ask you to not sexually harass me.

      2. Sebastian*

        But it only works as a response to someone staring at your chest if you accept the presumption that it’s reasonable to expect someone to comply with a preference for making eye contact.

        There’s no shortage of people who object to my staring over their shoulder when I’m speaking to them, and advice like this encourages them to believe that’s okay.

        1. Roland*

          > But it only works as a response to someone staring at your chest if you accept the presumption that it’s reasonable to expect someone to comply with a preference for making eye contact.

          Well good news, I do think it’s reasonable to expect someone to look into my eyes instead of MY CHEST. Both of you are ignoring the context that this advice was given in. No one said, tell everyone in the world to look into your eyes. We are saying look into my eyes because currently you are looking at my chest. If you are looking at my chest then I do not care how much you dislike eye contact, looking at my eyes is preferable to looking at my chest and we wouldn’t be having this conversation if you weren’t looking at my chest. If other people also ignore context and use this as ammo to demand eye contact from non-chest-starers then that’s because they suck and frankly has nothing to do with me.

          1. Twix*

            Yup, gotta agree with this. Context-specific advice is not only valid if you accept the advice as true without that context. “It’s okay to hurt another person in self-defense” is not only valid if we assume it’s okay to hurt other people in general. I see the point about normalizing not looking someone in the eye while speaking, but in this situation the point is to call attention to where the other person is looking, not to where they aren’t.

      3. Zorak*

        Exactly, “My eyes are up here” is a time-honored way to ask someone to stop goggling at your chest without having to specifically say something.

  9. a raging ball of distinction*

    Wow. As someone who’s been unexpectedly let go for not seeming happy with my job, that Newsweek article was the validation I needed but never expected to receive. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Alison, for being a voice of reason in the wilderness.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I haven’t been, but I was told I HAVE to be happy at my work–either fake or real–in February 2020. I was out sick for a week after that, I think my body just didn’t want to go back. (No, it wasn’t covid.) I was trying to not be obviously pouting, but not fitting what they want out of you is inherently stressful. I think not being seen as much IRL has probably helped there.

  10. Veryanon*

    Staring at someone’s breasts: I recently had to investigate a complaint against an employee who, among other things, had a terrible habit of staring at other employees’ breasts. When I asked him about it, he said something to the effect of “Well, the breasts are there, am I supposed to act like I just don’t notice them?” My answer: Yes. You’re here to work, not to ogle people and make them feel uncomfortable. He never did get the message and we ended up firing him not too long after that conversation.

    1. kiki*

      I’m kind of obsessed with how delusional that answer was. This person completely missed the boat on societal and professional norms. Yes! You are supposed to act like you don’t notice them! Being professional actually means pretending not to notice all sorts of things about coworkers.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        At least if he ever made an unemployment claim whichever person assigned to his case would have an unusually clear cut chain of evidence denouncing him as a sleazeball? Would break up the monotony a bit.

  11. Falling Diphthong*

    According to Bloomberg, far more employees than anticipated chose 3 months’ severance over the pledge of hardcoreness.

    No one could have seen this coming.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      What, that it’d be smarter to bail now and get severance than get fired/lose it when they run out of money?

      This is a great way to lay off 75% of people without technically doing so!

      1. coffee*

        I got the impression he wanted the validation of people choosing to stay and was surprised when they left.

  12. gsa*

    Why are people talking about a post that was a few post ago in this one?


    Congrats on the publicity.



  13. AA Baby Boomer*

    Alison, I’m wanting to say that the word “felt” isn’t firm enough when discussing the “looker” with HR. The “I felt” leaves it up to someone stating that the OP isn’t sure and they may not follow through on the complaint.

    “I felt that they were staring at my breasts the entire time”

  14. Josephine*

    I’ve been fired too for seeming unhappy!
    They said that when I started working there I was like the “fresh wind” they needed. But I didn’t seem happy to be working there anymore. The truth is management was the reason I wasn’t happy. They were horrible. They sucked the happiness out of me. They didn’t ask why I seemed unhappy or if I was okay.

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