update: how long will it take to change the culture at my new job?

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

Remember the letter-writer asking how long it would take to change the culture at their new job? Here’s the update.

I took your advice about speaking honestly to Grand Boss one-on-one about my concerns. I asked for a meeting and it was excellent: we both spoke honestly about where the company culture is (terrible) and we both agreed we wanted it to change. By that time, not one but two people from different departments had said “welcome to Hell” to me, the Boss had gone on paternity leave (so not a mandated leave request like you’d hoped) and one person had quit. By the way, she quit right before Boss left and he didn’t organise so much as a card for people to sign. She had done all the right things, worked there for years and given appropriate notice but none of us were told until half an hour before she left.

Grandboss basically said he is are aware of how bad the culture is and wants to change it but honestly didn’t know how to go about it. Upon further questioning, I found out his only managerial experience was in his last, family-based company role, where everyone had been there for years already and knew what to do and how to work with each other; his role had mainly been telling them what tasks to do next. He knew nothing of performance management, how to review work results and behaviours, and had been thrown into the position. He knew which people were the trouble makers, that he knew which people were underperforming and what behaviours needed to be addressed (swearing, race/gender discrimination loaded comments, negativity, icing out, etc).

Basically, I offered to help. I gave Grandboss copies of past reviews I had, recommended articles and books for them to read on performance management, gave them a run-down of things to address with each person, what performance standards should look like, how often to review performance with staff – I practically held their hand. I was brutally honest and said if I don’t see changes or at least attempts to change things here, I’m out. I had 4 months left of my 6 month probation period.

Some things improved with other co-workers. The angry guy who threw things and swore constantly? I called him out on his constant swearing and said he was making it a horrible place to work. I persisted after he tried to laugh it off and say it was just me being fragile. I told him that no, it was disruptive, loud, unnecessary and put everyone on edge. I said, I didn’t want to come across as the bossy new person, but that surely he could see how it was affecting everyone? Intentionally or not? I’m happy to say he took it onboard and made a conscious effort to stop swearing around me. Not everyone else, but it’s a start. To be frank, he could be an excellent manager if he could reign in his temper. He knows his role well, keeps the workplace clean, gets the work done and is an excellent teacher. He became much friendlier over the next few months too.

Although we lost another staff member, we gained two more who are diligent, happy workers. I wish them luck.

I wrote an Idiot’s Guide book on how to do my role, with step-by-step guides, definitions of specific work-related terms, and so on. I was able to train two people in how to do my role, which previously was siloed to three people. Now even Boss, who has no idea how to do my role (!), can pick it up and do it – if he bothers to try. I was also selected to help with the pickiest client and improve our reputation with them for quality work. I became known as the friendly new person in other departments.

I was also invited to be on the Diversity and Inclusion team they started at the company. Hey! It’s great, isn’t it? It’s a start! Then I realised I, the only white Australian woman in the department, was asked. Not the ladies from Columbia, the Philippines, India, Pakistan or Thailand who had been there for years and had been on the brunt end of most of the discrimination in the company. Part of me thinks the only reason I was asked was because when I was in the manager’s offices, working on an assignment on their computer, I overhead the Boys Locker Room talk starting up and made a point to cheerily call out “Just so you know, I’m here and I can hear you!” which immediately turned it into awkward silence and later, apologies.

Speaking of diversity and inclusion, I started getting work from an American client that was, frankly, racist and bigoted. It’s difficult to explain without revealing where I worked so I’ll just say it. I’m a printer. I was asked to print copies of Mein Kampf. And Hitler biographies written in a positive light. Works on how America messed up by allowing racial integration and “the mongrelization of the white man.” Books on “how it’s all the Jews’ fault.” Pro-incest, rape and torture fiction books. Full on hate group stuff. I felt sick to my stomach and absolutely repulsed by the idea that we were creating this garbage that promotes hate, segregation and abuse. I brought it up with Boss who told me to just ignore it. I brought it up again that I wasn’t comfortable working with that material, he said “just don’t read it then”. I brought it up with Grandboss who rolled his eyes, laughed “Americans, right?”

I, and another staff member who was equally disgusted, brought it up at the end of our first Diversity and Inclusion meeting. The guy running it was horrified, but guess what? Nothing immediately changed because they are our biggest client. I brought this up in another one on one with Grandboss. He said I didn’t have to deal with those books anymore and to just make a note so someone else can deal with it. So, it wasn’t not being printed anymore. I just didn’t have to do it.

By this time, I had seen no performance management from Grandboss, any positive changes to training or the work environment seemed to be brought on entirely by me, and now this.

It was the last straw for me. I waited until I had another job offer and then quit. I gave my notice to Grandboss since Boss still wasn’t really talking to me beyond a “do this” or “print that” capacity.

They begged me to stay – not only my Grandboss, but other managers from different departments asked me to reconsider and that they’re trying to turn things around. I just replied that I haven’t seen any evidence of that but wish them luck. I had two coworkers almost crying (we swapped numbers and still keep in touch though) and some of them organised a shared lunch for me during my last week.

Boss didn’t even mention to me that I was leaving. Didn’t even say goodbye on my last day. I checked, he knew, he just didn’t say anything about it? Weird guy. Weird, creepy guy. By the way, I told off the “welcome to hell” guy on my last day and warned him not to say that to any other new people.

I thought I went to a better place (another printing place) but the way a minor sexual harrassment complaint by me has been handled has made me rethink my place at this present company. Long story short, I complained about the men’s magazine pictures of ladies in bikinis all soaped up and lying on cars, etc. stuck up around the work area. I said they were inappropriate and, as the only woman working in that area, make me feel unsafe and uncomfortable. I took them down. I didn’t destroy them, even offered them to another worker as I took them down. He replied indignantly “they’re not mine!” but then told me off for taking them down because “they’ve been there for ages!” and “it’s not hurting anyone!” (My discomfort doesn’t count?) “It’s just the difference between men and women!” No, it’s the difference between a common work space and a spank bank. I think he doth protest too much. (The receptionist later confirmed that yes, they are his pictures.)

I was told the next day by the boss to “take things easy” next time I get upset about something because “we’re all a big family here” and “they were technically dressed”. I wish I’d asked how often he wears a string bikini to work but only thought of it after. We ended up having a discussion via text that night where I used terms like “sexual harrassment” and “indecent work environment” and “consent” and I think he got the message. It’s resolved for now, and another manager apologised for the way it was handled, but I still don’t like that their first reaction was to downplay it. Don’t even get me started on their old marketing campaign where all staff were photoshopped to appear “tastefully nude”.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire, right? I’m staying right up until I get a new job offer.

The job hunt continues. Wish me luck!

{ 120 comments… read them below }

  1. Rebecca*

    Wow. Hate group material is truly beyond the pale.

    I’m curious as to why the person saying “welcome to hell” was dissuaded from doing so in the future, when it’s clearly accurate. Ideally candidates would be warned before accepting the job, of course.

    1. Your former password resetter*

      Because then people might run away from this tire fire before they’re trapped inside.

    2. Prefer my pets*

      Right?! Sounds like the welcome to hell guy has far and away the most realistic, honest outlook on the place.

    3. Rose*

      Yea I fail to see how this of all things was problematic. You joined a company where incompetent people and assholes were printing white supremacist materials. Feels like an accurate greeting to me.

    4. Fishsticks*

      Yeah, I feel like I would have stopped and told him I wish I’d taken his statement as the advice to run while I still can that it really was.

    5. Michelle Smith*

      Because the person has already accepted the job. Rather than being a way to offer support, solidarity, or actual tips for how to survive the environment, it’s a way to make the environment even more toxic and unmanageable before the person even has a chance to get to know them. It’s not appropriate regardless of whether it’s accurate.

      1. enlyghten*

        I don’t know. I would consider it a form of solidarity. ‘This place is Hell; for what it’s worth I welcome you.’

    6. TLD*

      Talk about burying the lede! “How do I change the culture at my company (whose main business is publishing hate literature for racists)?”

      The answer is, you don’t try to change the “culture” or the “work environment.” You quit on the spot, the second you realize what it is you’re doing for a living.

      1. Marley's Ghost*

        If you define “burying the lede” as “including information in the update that the OP did not have at the time of the original letter” then… yes, that was totally burying the lede?

    7. enlyghten*

      I agree. It’s clearly unprofessional, but it’s also a clear indication of the culture at the place. They all know it sucks and are actively working against changing it for the better. Culture is often just as big of a factor as the work and work load is when gauging your fit at a workplace. I’d say it’s a fair thing to say and might even be beneficial in a PSA sort of context.

  2. Caramel & Cheddar*

    I did not expect the turn this update took midway. Wow. I’m sorry, LW, I hope your job search resolves quickly and that you get to move on to a much nicer place!

  3. SHEILA, the co-host*

    OP, I’m glad you got out of Hell Hole #1, but am sorry it landed you in Hell Hole #2. Hopefully the third time truly is the charm and your next job is something great.

  4. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    holy crap, after what you did for Grandboss you should be CEO! Please don’t stop looking for a role where your drive and talents will be appreciated. You sound like an awesome employee.

  5. The Prettiest Curse*

    Wow, this was quite a ride. Thank you for introducing us to the term “spank bank”, and best of luck in your job hunt.

      1. I need a new name...*

        Apparently that is one of (if not ‘the’) earliest appearances in pop culture media.

        A fun little search to add to my browser history :p

  6. Michelle*

    I would seriously consider going to the press/ media / social media about former company, and their publishing of hate speech.
    Ethically it would be very difficult to stand by knowing a company is distributing hate speech under the radar. Saying nothing is as good as being complicit.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      She quit – she didn’t stand by, and she didn’t keep quiet. She’s done her part. More than anyone else, that’s for sure.

      Sure, she could try outing the company on social media or to the press, but what does she do if the company decides to sue her for defamation / libel, or whatever? It would be hard for her to prove that the company did publish the material.

      1. Clobberin' Time*

        It would be trivial to prove what materials this company published from their “biggest customer”, really. But I can see if the OP doesn’t want to get mired in their swamp any further.

      2. Hen in a Windstorm*

        What on earth are you talking about? It’s not slander to accurately describe what she saw when she worked there. I also fail to see how it would be hard to prove they published the content.

        There are absolutely potential downsides to being a whistleblower. Doxxing by crazies would be way more concerning than any of the imaginary problems you listed.

        1. Liz*

          Actually, if the company is Australian, it could indeed be defamatory. Our defo law is a little bit … odd.

        2. Aggretsuko*

          Also whistleblowing is highly likely to end your entire working career, I’m sorry to say.

          (I took a class with a whistleblower in it and she said it ruined her life. Couldn’t get a job again.)

        3. Sleeve McQueen*

          Depending on your jurisdiction, truth is not a defence in Australian defamation law. Along with the UK, we are one of the most plaintiff-friendly markets for defamation

        4. Nodramalama*

          Defamation law in Australia is quite complex, I do not think you should make sweeping statements about what would, or would not be considered slander.

      3. Michelle*

        My thinking in that original post was that there would be no need for OP to put her name out there. I actually had a situation (kind of, completely different level, but very illegal behavior on part of a public entity I worked for in the US). When trying to resolve it internally didn’t work, I sent an email with a throwaway Gmail address to the local paper which included the smoking guns, and had an off the record conversation with the reporter who was able to use those leads. My name was never mentioned in the article. I don’t know if journalistic standards are similar in AU.

    2. Princesss Sparklepony*

      I think the printing company is already known for printing hateful stuff. That’s their biggest client. And usually this material will have the printer’s name on it so they can get more business. I’m just not sure it’s a big secret.

  7. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    You are the spiritual child of Mary Poppins and “the Wolf” from Pulp Fiction.
    Please keep us updated.

  8. LifeBeforeCorona*

    A marketing campaign with the staff photoshopped to be “tastefully nude”?!! Oh Hell no. I am out of there before the day is over.

    1. Kari Go Jump in the Lake*

      I agree that the pinup magazines are inappropriate for a workplace. However, OP should not (at least not as a first resort) take it upon her to remove them personally. They are not her property.

      1. FrenchCusser*

        They’re not appropriate in a workplace, period. Also illegal.

        Damn right she should have taken them down. She offered them to the guy who’s ‘property’ it was.

        You don’t have a ‘right’ to display harassing material in the workplace.

      2. Chris too*

        I sort of agree with that. The way I solved that same problem forty years ago was by adding some Playgirl centrefolds for variety.

        Weirdly enough after a few months all the questionable pictures of both sexes disappeared.

      3. Rose*

        It is 100% fine to remove explicit sexual images from the walls of a shared work space, no permission or asking required. That’s gross and doesn’t belong at work.

          1. Rose*

            Ah yes, Im sure the “men’s magazine pictures of ladies on bikinis all soaped up” were purely artistic? Or perhaps political?

            Pictures of wet, scantily clad women in sexualized poses can 100% fit in the definition of sexually explicit and have absolutely no place at work. This is content made specifically made to sexually arouse straight men. It’s disgusting and many non-creeps are going to be deeply uncomfortable having material designed specifically for sexually arousal displayed at work.

            Trying to defend having this displayed at work is laughable and I honestly cannot imagine anyone but a creep doing so.

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        Once you hang something up on the office walls they become “community” property. Don’t put something in a shared space if you don’t want someone else to touch it. AND she even tried to give them back to the person that they in theory belonged to and he wouldn’t even admit that they were his lol. This is a bad take.

      1. Beany*

        I *think* it means that you can tell they’re naked, but the specific poses mean that genitalia and (female) nipples aren’t visible.

        Or perhaps it’s regular nude, but wearing pince-nez.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I think probably nude but with strategically placed props to cover nipples and genitalia.
        If you saw the film ‘Calendar Girls’ I imagine that sort of thing.

        (Or, if channeling Terry Pratchett, nudity with an urn, as everyone knows that if there’s an urn, it’s Art, not dirty pictures)

  9. ZSD*

    Oooft. That’s what people in Australia think is typical of Americans? I’m horrified that that’s the impression we’ve left on the world recently.

    1. ZSD*

      (Also, before anyone criticizes my wording, yes, I realize that a single person is not representative of all people in a country. But if even one person can respond to such filth with, “Americans, right?” that’s awful.)

    2. Sel*

      Okay so I am an American married to an Australian and have spent a considerable amount of time in Australia. Australia ABSOLUTELY has its own huge problems with hate groups and white supremecy (google Pauline Hanson a current Queensland rep in the Australian senate). Fobbing it off as “Americans, amirite” is definitely a deflection tactic from a bunch of people who don’t want to examine their own complicity in producing horrible racist materials.

      In some ways Australia is a more left wing nation than the US (gun laws, nationalized health care, etc.) but don’t kid yourself, Australia was founded on racist expansionist colonial policies and that legacy endures.

      1. Siege*

        For some reason, social media has gifted me with a lot of Australian friends, and yes, this. America has really serious problems with hate and how it’s played out, but Australia is no prize, and there are some things I’d say are worse in Australian hate acts, some modern and some historical. It feels more like Grandboss just wanted OP to shut up and refuses to think about the issue more deeply. But if Australia didn’t represent a market for hate materials, America wouldn’t be able to export it there.

        1. Nodramalama*

          I think one of the main differences is that in Australia because of several institutional differences like compulsory voting, the appointment of judges rather than election, etc, the impact of Australia’s racist and sexist history isnt at the forefront of politics and laws in the same way as the U.S. In many ways that is good- no matter how despicable Pauline Hanson is, it is unlikely that she will ever be more than a senator.

          In other ways it is worse because it is more insidious and it allows people to close their eyes and pretend we do not have very similar problems

      2. Kari Go Jump in the Lake*

        I agree that the pinup magazines are inappropriate for a workplace. However, OP should not (at least not as a first resort) take it upon her to remove them personally. They are not her property.

        1. FashionablyEvil*

          What? She took them down, saved them, and offered them to the person they belonged to (who denied they were his.) I think that’s a pretty reasonable response to having pin-up photos in a shared workspace.

      3. Eyes Kiwami*

        Yes, many countries think they’re better than America because of our very public race problems. But the difference is often just that race is acknowledged as a problem and openly addressed in America. In some other countries (that are just as racist! With similar legacies of colonialism and slavery!) it’s still a struggle to admit that these problems endure to this day.

        1. marvin*

          Yeah, Canadians definitely have a bad habit of being self congratulatory whenever there’s a prominent story about American racism, but Canada is equally racist. There just haven’t been as many public reckonings as the US has had, so white Canadians feel comfortable ignoring it.

        2. Ellie*

          Australia has a lot of casual racism to be sure, and casual sexism. What we don’t get much of is the riots/black lives matter, etc. protests that the US gets. We have the same issues but protests tend to be much fewer and generally peaceful. I suspect this is more of a difference in our gun control/social security system than any real difference in attitudes. There isn’t nearly as much poverty here, and far fewer guns.

          In OP’s case though, boss just wanted her to shut up so that they could keep taking money from their racist clients. I’m so glad she was able to take an ethical stand on that, but you could probably report it as well.

          1. Zweisatz*

            Uhm, maybe don’t point at the Black Lives Matter protests as a problem when there were several white supremacist rallies that either injured or killed protesters or you know tried to take over government buildings.

            1. As Per Elaine*

              I think Ellie was suggesting that Australia is at less of a boiling point than the US — gun violence isn’t as much of a problem there, and I’m reading their comment to say that there’s less economic disparity overall, too. (Not that the BLM protests themselves are the problem.)

        3. Noodles*

          Hm, I’m in one of those countries you’re probably talking about, and while my country is definitely racist af, I lived in America (only one part of it! Not like, across the whole country) for there, and the racism I saw there was staggering. Both systematic and personal/overt. Like, the acceptance of both types of racism as an everyday thing, and the way it was treated as “political differences” rather than human f-ing rights if you said anything against it, and the way my white racist coworker just assumed I too would be racist because I’m white. I would not and will not return to that particular city and I haven’t yet been back to the US at all. Yeah we have massive problems here but the level of everyday acceptance and “oh well, beg to differ” is a lot f-ing lower.
          I am white tho

      4. Swiftie*

        I noticed that too. Believe or not, for as bad as America’s track record can be with stuff like racism, other countries (especially in OMGEurope where no one has ever been poor or oppressed whatsoever), can and do a way worse job. Like openly racist stuff (a la America pre-the Civil Rights movement) and POC over there are expected to just shut up and take it. So this is way less “wow we in America are so bad that Australia just assumes we’ll always suck” and more “if we keep harping on the Americans, no one will notice our continual shitty treatment of indigenous populations, asylum-seekers, etc.”

    3. Leenie*

      Not super worried about what a particular Australian guy who is making money from printing white supremacist filth thinks of the US. Not that I’m defending the US. We’re pretty awful. But he is not a person whose judgment deserves any attention. He’s making bank on spreading hate.

    4. Peggy Olson*

      In my experience it goes both ways. I (an American) was once on a meeting with the c-suite person of my department and his counterpart in our company’s Australia office. Aussie counterpart made a horribly racist comment and the American executive apologized to me after, blamed it on “Australian culture.”

    5. MM*

      It’s not that simple, honestly. (Up front: none of what I’m about to say is meant to downplay US racism.) As a few commenters have pointed out re: Australia, the US becomes kind of the reference point for racism because of our actual history–which nonetheless has a great deal in common with the history of every other settler colony–and also because the US has been home to some powerful and highly visible antiracist movements that draw attention to it, all of which is more globally known because of the dominance of US culture and media. (Like, there are remarkable histories of antiracist and anticolonial movements in many other places too, but with some exceptions–like the fight against apartheid–these do not become regular subjects of movies and TV that are exported all over the world.)

      Australians, Canadians, and white Western Europeans all do this “ah, racism, the American problem” maneuver, and while it certainly refers to something real, it also is always a deflection. I think all the time about a pakeha (settler) woman in New Zealand telling a Maori man to “go back where [he] came from.” You mean his indigenous land that your forebears colonized, ma’am? Straight out of the US racist playbook, and yet. Western Europeans can be especially smugly un-self-aware about it.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I am western European and I fully agree with what you said.

        The topic often gets dominated by a US-centric framing. I still remember one time when I was a teenager, a teacher stating “don’t say ‘black’, that’s offensive, it’s ‘African-American’!”, and I remember thinking that the person they were referring to was almost certainly African-German, or African-French, or… African-African. There were good intentions there, but no independent thought. Why would I refer to, say, a black Nigerian exchange student in Germany as ‘African-American’? It makes no dang sense, and the problems he faces will be different, so thinking of him as such won’t be very helpful.

        If one wants to fight racism, one does need to identify the shape racism takes where one is. Otherwise, one is just fighting shadows, and may well conclude that they have no substance.

        1. Rain's Small Hands*

          I remember reading an interview with a African or African-descended actress (it may have been Lupita Nyong’o) where she laughed at being called African-American because she wasn’t (if it was Lupita, she is Kenyan-Mexican). I think the term itself just highlights how central people from the States (I even hate to use the word Americans since the Americas are really much bigger than the US) believe themselves to be.

          1. name missing*

            Trever Noah’s stand-up special on Netflix has a similar bit about the n-word, because being South African and speaking Xhosa to him it just sounds like the verb “to give”, while a completely different slur (that I’ve only ever encountered in old books) is the one that carries impact.

  10. Tio*

    Yeah, I had a feeling you weren’t going to be able to change things (from having been in places like that myself). it’s a LOT to change up the culture at a job, and it doesn’t sound like many people were working with you (and some were working against you!) Hope your new job turns out better than the last few!

  11. learnedthehardway*

    Ugh. Frying pan to fire, it looks like. Sigh. I really, really hope that you find a good company to work for. I would keep right on looking, if I were you. With luck, you could even leave this company off your resume, if you find another position quickly.

    If not, well, give’em hell!

  12. br_612*

    I do just wanna say . . . I’m not super thrilled that the Grandboss is gonna blame Americans while continuing to print it. Like A) you’re contributing to the problem and B) racism is also very much a problem in Australia as well. That is not a solely American phenomenon.

    OP obviously gets that, with her comments regarding her inclusion on the Diversity team when she’s white. It’s just that spending a lot of time on TikTok in a social justice and anti-racism sphere has really shown me how much white non-Americans sometimes think their countries have no issues with racism whatsoever, while the people of color who living in said countries vehemently disagree. Just another mark against Grandboss.

    1. spider-man*

      Yeah it’s so fascinating to me. I’ve noticed it with Brits especially. I once mentioned that I thought it was possible a lot of the hatred Meghan was facing was because she’s a woman of colo(u)r and let me tell you that was the wrong move. Also they’re so casually racist against Romani people, and then you mention it and it’s like “I’m not racist, they’re just like that.” Anyway, I’m not saying Americans are better but still.

      1. Lirael*

        I once mentioned that I thought it was possible a lot of the hatred Meghan was facing was because she’s a woman of colo(u)r and let me tell you that was the wrong move.
        Same. And yet when one of my male relatives said exactly the same thing no one argued at all. Funny that.

        Bloody glad he said it though.

      2. SarahKay*

        As a Brit, I have to agree with that. Because our police are not (usually) armed we don’t get quite the same issues from institutionalised racism (so basically fewer shooting deaths), but it is absolutely there, along with casual racism of all sorts from a good section of the general public.
        And it certainly feels like it’s all got worse in the last few years :-(

        1. torn*

          My friend and I both live in the US and we were taking recently about how she has potential job offers in the UK and knows a lot of people who work there, but there’s no way she’s moving there because of the racism.

          Because at least in the US, at least 50% of people generally agree that racism is *bad*.

      3. Grandma*

        My MIL (American) used to say that her mother (Australian) told the children that if they didn’t eat their vegetables/go to sleep now/be good she was going to put them out on the curb for the Gypsies. She said the same thing to my children, so we’ve got about 5 generations covered there. Talk about casual racism.

      4. D*

        The way Europeans have their racism against Romani people so ingrained they can’t even recognize it as racism is truly wild.

  13. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    OP, I have to tell you, from one writer to another, you are an awesome writer. If you ever have the opportunity, get out of printing and into writing.
    You are also a fearsome advocate and social justice warrior. I admire you.

    1. nom de plume*

      Second this. OP, you are brave, and fearless, and even though you haven’t found the right place yet, you will! It’s awesome to read that you neither settled nor gave up. Wishing you all the very best!

      1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

        OP, I wish we lived on the same continent so we could be friends. You are my kind of person.

  14. Goldenrod*

    Holy cow!! The office culture you describe is just….beyond. So glad you are seeing it clearly and working on getting out. GOOD LUCK!!

  15. lyngend (canada)*

    OP, I would say the reason you were invited to the Diversity ‘team’ was because you were making a noticeable fuss. The other people should absolutely be included. But don’t discount the work you did as a broken record on what needs to change.

    1. Martin Blackwood*

      I’m also in printing (but like, very new, and also not the type of place that prints books), and if Austrailia’s anything like Canada, it’s a fair amount of small/family businesses. I wouldnt be surprised if a lot of shops hang on to the issues as they grow, until they’re forced to deal with it. And a pretty white cishet guy environment.

      And also…..people aren’t printing as much. the profit margins are pretty thin. So as much as I’m horrified that one of their biggest clients is so racist, there’s definitely some desperation there.

      1. Printing Adjacent*

        Yeah, I’m only printing adjacent (graphic design) and all my visits to print shops, both little and HUGE BUSINESSES feature family owned companies and lots of straight white dudes. My favorite printer is a husband/wife team who are from Taiwan and they don’t have any of those typical issues, but they’re the exception, not the norm.

        Basically, I’m not shocked at any of this sadly.

  16. Sparkles McFadden*

    Fascinating update. Thank you so much for taking the time to write in, and thank you for fighting the good fight. I wish you all the best…

  17. Chilipepper attitude*

    As soon as I saw the headline I knew the answer was never, you are never going to change the culture unless you are the person at the top.

  18. Zorak*

    If your new boss thinks you’re “all a big family” (gross), then surely that includes you, and means that he is fiercely protective of your rights and dignity… riiight?

    Ugh. Good for you for being assertive enough to take them down. And good for you for not feeling like you have to engage the arguments on these creeps’ own terms.

    1. Zorak*

      Also the “technically clothed” argument is so elementary school. It’s the family road trip “I’m not touching you” of responses.

      Maybe you should hang up posters restating your local employment laws as some more workplace appropriate (and practical!) decoration.

  19. Mad Harry Crewe*

    Man, I’ll be honest – you put way more effort into the first place than they deserved. Institutional change has to come from the top, otherwise you’re just spinning your wheels.

    1. Researchalator Lady*

      That is exactly what Alison said in the first place: “So … your own actions are not going to be able to change this company’s culture, and probably not your team’s culture either. You’re just not in a position to do it.” followed by “ It’s got to come from the top.”

      Bafflingly, to me, OP then thought that she could train the top leadership to drive culture change by telling them what needed to be done and how to do it. Clearly there were many problems at this workplace, but this whole approach was doomed.

      1. Grandma*

        This world needs its Don Quixote idealism:

        “For neither good nor evil can last for ever; and so it follows that as evil has lasted a long time, good must now be close at hand.”

      2. torn*

        Yeah, reading this update, I thought for a minute that the LW had been hired to do culture change at the place.

      3. Just Another Starving Artist*

        Eh, I get why she did it though. Being in a small industry limits the amount of job hopping available to you, so often it’s worthwhile to see if you can make a situation better for yourself before moving on to something equally bad. Besides, while culture change in an individual organization is a top-down thing, culture change in an industry is an everyone-who-has-the-energy endeavor, and this seems like a case of the latter.

  20. bookartist*

    To the racist client – Ha! Couldn’t find any US printers to do the job at a rate you would be willing to pay, eh you cheap bastard? (in addition to, you know, propagating a book that no tree ever need die for again).

    1. DragonBones*

      I think they couldn’t find any US printers willing to do the job, period. Why else would they look all the way to Australia?

  21. Bowserkitty*

    I….wow. Both of those jobs. just. wow.

    I do have to say, I love that you seemed to look at your probation period for the first job as not YOUR probation, but theirs.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, it’s a two-way street. I’m in an environment where probation periods are typically 6 months and we’re required to give at least a month’s notice, but that requirement is waived during probation, you can quit or be fired with no notice.

  22. River Song*

    OP- hang in there! I’m a survivor of the Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire situation and it is awful and so demoralizing. I stuck a meme of Ross from friends yelling “PIVOT!!” as a reminder that my career, would in fact, pivot to something better and that the time I was living was a dark chapter that would end. It sucked. But I made it to something better if not perfect and am confident that I can continue to take small baby steps towards the kind of dream workplace people stay with. Today I was sent to a training at a site I had never been to and was able to calmly ask about a pumping space (knowing no one at that location is a young mother) and immediately be given a lovely one, no questions or kerfluffle. It will get better!

  23. DragonBones*

    Bet you anything the reason this American client uses an Australian printing company is because they couldn’t find one closer to home that was willing to take them on.

  24. Former English major*

    Does this happen a lot in publishing? People are so eager to work in it and there are way more people who want editorial jobs than there are jobs available that people are willing to put up with truly horrible crap in order to get that job? Is that what this is?

  25. KatMeowm*

    I’m so sorry that you’ve been through all this, and admire your attitude – you really seem to try to make things better wherever you are and can’t be kicked down. As someone else pointed out, you’re a very good writer. I hope at the least you are able to sell an article out of all this terrible experience. Wishing you the best of luck in your job hunt!

  26. Sick of Workplace Bullshit (she/her)*

    Oh, man! OP, you fought an amazingly good fight, and I commend you for it. I hope you find a decent place to go very soon!

  27. MCMonkeyBean*

    OMG “They were technically dressed,” I don’t know how anyone could deliver that sentence with a straight face.

    Honestly it sounds like you achieved kind of an astonishing amount of stuff at the initial shitty workplace and while I think you made the right call in leaving, it sounds like you are leaving it better off than you found it. Like you took a dumpster fire and made it into just a dumpster lol. As someone who sometimes struggles to speak up when something bothers me I am extremely impressed with how you have handled all of this. Thank you very much for sending in an update, and I hope you have one next year where you are finally at a place that you feel good about. <3

  28. Pink Geek*

    I want to work with you. I want to be your best friend. Keep pushing for common decency and calling out ludicrousy. <3

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