updates: the private movie screening, the group chat, and more

Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. Can I invite only women and LGBTQ+ coworkers to a private movie screening?

I’m the letter writer who wrote to you about organizing a private screening of a movie.

I ended up not inviting any colleagues. I’m relatively senior in our office, so I decided to avoid staff feeling pressure to attend or having to worry about a financial obligation to buy a ticket.

The movie was so great, but I’ll avoid spoilers and leave it at that. We ended up selling out a 103-seat theater, and it was only made possible by offering tickets to LGBTQ+ people and their allies (including a handful of cisgender, heterosexual men). Shout out to bamcheeks, Toaster Oven, and others for their thoughtful replies in the comments.

2. When I’m managing remotely, should I use our group chat when someone messes up?

Thank you so much for answering. Both your perspective and the perspective of the commentators was so, so helpful. Of course I never want to make my direct reports uncomfortable, or embarrassed, or feel like they can’t raise issues with me. I immediately apologized, both in private, and in public, and I made it clear to all of the people in my team that I would raise negative issues in private from now on.

3. Will I turn off my interviewer if I ask these questions? (#4 at the link)

I ultimately opted to ask specific, bold questions, but only from people during the interview who would not be on my team or my hiring manager. Specifically, I asked “How many times over the last month have you stayed up past 8 pm working on something?” I also tried to soften the tone, such as with: “I know that there are alot of awesome things about company X, but I would be curious to know what is the worst thing about working at your company”? I actually found that a few people opened up, with 1 person clearly hinting to lots of unhappiness, and another, while not unhappy, indicated stress in the workplace.

While I ultimately did not get an offer; I spoke to an internal recruiter for about 30 minutes, and they emphasized that the rejection was due to mismatch of technical skills in the technical interview (i.e. in your technical interview, you did not make pots as fast as we want or of the shape we want.), and not a cultural or issues related to my questions being overly aggressive.

Thank you for your wonderful advice!

4. CEO said I’d be good at her job — and now she’s retiring (#5 at the link)

I took your advice. The posting closed two weeks ago and I haven’t heard anything back either way, so there’s no real update on that front. I do want to thank you and the commenters — as I said in the comments, I simply come from a world where no one would say “you should have my job!” unless they meant that literally and were actively trying to make it happen. As you and others correctly pointed out, it turns out that in more office-y kind of jobs, this is something that people sometimes just say to mean “you have some good qualifications” — it’s so alien to me! So thank you for teaching me about this norm.

But I do have a bit of a funny update: in addition to my day job, I’m vice president of a professional association for people in my line of work. Over the past couple of weeks, the president has started to become very interested in talking about succession planning, and saying the same kinds of things this CEO said: “you should be doing my job,” “I want you to take over for me when I retire,” etc. And after this experience with the CEO, I absolutely cannot bring myself to believe her. I’m sure it’s a different thing when someone you work with very closely is mindfully doing succession planning and actively identifies you as their successor, and is taking real, measurable steps to pass the baton to you, as opposed to when a CEO doing a job interview just casually tosses something off, but now I’m overcorrecting to “oh, she’s just being nice,” even though all evidence points to this being a different kind of situation.

I’m sure I’ll get someone’s job eventually! Thanks again for your help.

{ 50 comments… read them below }

  1. OP #5*

    OP #5 here: I did not end up getting this job, or even getting an interview. But I’m not in dire need of a new job – things are going well where I am now. Thanks to Alison for the advice and for running my update!

    1. It’s Suzy Now*

      The last sentence of your update is so charming. It gave me a real smile this morning. And left me with great faith that you will, indeed, at the right moment, get someone’s job. :-)

      1. OP #4 (not 5)*

        Yes, sorry – I’m so used to five-question posts from Alison that I just assumed without looking that if I was the last one, I was #5. With this kind of attention to detail, no wonder I didn’t get that job!

        1. Wordnerd*

          This is the most gracious way I have ever seen someone react to being corrected on the internet – with that kind of wonderful personality, you’ll go far!

    2. Eric*

      I do think the professional association is pretty different, because 1) It is a volunteer role, and 2) you are already the VP, so likely the natural successor.

      1. That Coworker's Coworker*

        I agree. Of course it depends on the culture, traditions, and bylaws of the particular professional association, but on those I’ve been involved with the VP is automatically assumed to eventually become President, with the “election” being just an uncontested formality. Part of the purpose of having a VP position in many organizations is to provide first-hand observational training to the presumed next president.

  2. ZSD*

    #2 Good job! I’m glad you were able to take the advice given and improve your management style. This is a good update!

      1. Adele Faber*

        Yeah LW2, I think you’re gonna make a great manager! I love that when you were trying something new and it didn’t feel quite right, you reached out to others (your boss, AAM) for feedback, and LISTENED to that feedback. An apology followed by a change in behavior is truly one of the most meaningful actions a person can take.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Came here to say the same thing. The fact that you took a real look at what Alison and the commenters had to say and make positive changes (rather than getting defensive) says really good things about you as a manager and a person. Everybody makes mistakes, especially when doing stuff that’s new / done in new ways. The important thing is how you move forward. Well done!

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Yes! People do make mistakes especially when they’re new to managing. It’s kind of like parenting — it’s okay to say to kids, “Well, Susie, Mom/Dad messed up, and we won’t be doing that again.” HOW you handle missteps matters more than making them, because you will make them.

  3. Allornone*

    Given the timing, I wonder if #1’s film was the Barbie movie? I know we shouldn’t speculate, so I understand if this comment gets removed, but I’m finally getting to go see it this Saturday and I absolutely cannot wait.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      It actually was Barbie. The name of the movie was removed from the original post because speculation/criticism was drowning out useful advice to the LW.

      Enjoy the show!

    2. Rainy*

      We REALLY enjoyed it. Mr Rainy (who has a film degree) was particularly excited by it and I was the recipient of a very interesting monologue afterward. I liked it and also found it to be extremely Greta Gerwig.

    3. not nice, don't care*

      It was weird and fun and I want to see it again. Never thought I would associate Barbie with smashing the patriarchy, but here we are.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        I honestly could not understand why we haven’t had a Barbie movie until now. The 80s and 90s seemed like prime times for it.

        But add in the smashing the patriarchy angle? That explains it. Barbie may be the hero we all need in these times. I’m quite excited to see it. (Ryan Gosling said it’s one of the best scripts he’s ever read.)

          1. amoeba*

            I don’t think they were about smashing the patriarchy either! So probably very good timing to wait until now for the big screen :)

          2. SpaceySteph*

            Yes, mother of a 3 here, can confirm there are MANY Barbie movies. I think some of them do some smashing of the patriarchy, but on a smaller level accessible for little kids. (In one Barbie’s *mother* is a software engineer!)

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          A newspaper (NYT? Globe? Don’t remember) article I only read the teaser of suggested that Mattel had been resistant because they wanted Barbie to be an empty slate that girls could project themselves onto.

          That wasn’t my experience of Barbie as a child, but it sort-of makes sense.

          1. Artemesia*

            I was too old for Barbie and neither my daughter nor granddaughter had any interest. But my impression is certainly not blank slate for girls to dream — it was rather, ‘teach girls to shop and the importance of acquiring stuff to impress others with.’ My daughter came home from day camp one time where a new Barbie game had been played and she was disgusted — ‘it was Ring ring, ‘oh hello Ken! We’re going skating?’ Then Barbie buys a skating outfit and skates. Then ‘Ring Ring. Hi Ken? Camping? Oh great.’ Then Barbie goes and buys a tent and camp clothes. She was totally disgusted and said it was a stupid ‘shopping doll.’

            the movie was wonderful however and I was lucky to see it with Daughter and granddaughter and some of their Mom/kid friends.

          2. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Although that did not stop me from creating many varied soap operas involving my Barbie and that of my best friend’s, mostly involving handsome long twigs as stand-ins since we didn’t have any Ken dolls. Mostly we were pirates anyway.

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      Clicking the link to that post, I don’t remember it but I’m curious what was so incendiary that Alison had t0 remove all the posts, remove commenting, and put the blue box note there! Oh well..

      1. Hlao-roo*

        There’s a comment that’s still on the original post from “amaru” that sums up a lot of the removed comments. And Alison’s note on that post [“People are also making assumptions about the movie itself that aren’t accurate (and are fairly misogynistic!)”] sums up another vein of comments that were removed. As I remember, there were a lot of comments that were removed; they were becoming quite a pile-on.

        1. 34avemovieguy*

          a lot of comments were somewhat aghast that queer people and women would want to go see Barbie. A lot of “so just because I am gay I’m basically a girly girl??? well! I am a gay man and I have NOOO interest in Barbie!!!!” It was quite odd. People were assuming that OP was lassoing people into seeing the movie.

          1. darsynia*

            Yeah, it was a whole lot of assumptions that had no relevance to the question. I was sad about it TBH! Watching the trailer would have solved a lot of those.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I want to see it but I’ll have to wait until Sunday since I’m going to Fan Expo on Saturday.

      Glad the OP worked that one out.

    6. Ally McBeal*

      I hope you love it as much as I did! I’ve been thinking about it constantly since opening weekend – helped along by the TikTok algorithm serving me really interesting and nuanced takes.

    7. Camilla Hect*

      It looks like a really good time! I’m cooling my heels until it’s available at home, but I’m very excited to see it – hope you enjoy yourself. :)

    8. Blomma*

      Enjoy! I didn’t really play with Barbies growing up, but thought it was a fabulous movie!

  4. Irish Teacher*

    LW2, that’s a wonderful update and thank you for coming back. I know we were pretty critical. I’d definitely think well of a manager who admitted a mistake and adapted their ways of doing things when something didn’t work out.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Agree 100%. That must have been a hard comment section to read, so well done for accepting the criticism gracefully and rethinking your policies.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        yeah a lot of commenters were quite harsh on that OP but they have responded with grace.

  5. Aw HECK no*

    #3 sounds like not being hired was a good thing. Two people hinting at problems = red flags. I once was interviewing at a company where 2 different people waiting until managers left the room to tell me the place was ALL work, the boss was a tyrant, and please don’t work here bc you seem nice. Now those were more clear red flags, to be sure. But your subtle red flags were there, too.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Hah, I interviewed at an organization where the head of HR warned me that the woman I’d be working for was an absolute nightmare and they couldn’t keep staff in her department. I was desperate to leave my current job, so I did take the job.

      HR was right, she was a nightmare, but I ended up working there for about 6 years. During that time she even left and they HIRED HER BACK when she decided she didn’t like the job she’d left for. This was someone they’d sent to anger management classes at least twice. She still works there!

      1. College Career Counselor*

        I would love an update to the story of why HR couldn’t manage that person OUT. And why they hired her BACK. I’m guessing she had a highly-placed powerful patron pulling strings.

        1. Need More Sunshine*

          As HR at my company, yes, sometimes I get overruled by someone higher up even when I point out all the harm one person causes to not only other employees but also to our bottom line. :(

  6. stk*

    OP2, so much kudos for dealing with some fairly critical feedback so graciously. That’s really hard to do and you should be proud of yourself for it! Not everyone puts that effort in.

    OP4, you seem lovely. Good luck!

  7. e271828*

    OP4, on the professional association succession question, have you asked the retiring president what concrete steps to take to make this happen? Is she wishful-thinking out loud, raising your hopes pointlessly, or is she trying to sound you out on whether you want the position? Only a frank conversation will clarify the situation for you both.

  8. OP #4*

    OP2, I could swear I responded to your original post, but now can’t find my comment – it may have gotten eaten in moderation or I may have responded in my head. I had at the time wanted to say that this just seemed to me like a rookie mistake – like, I can understand the logic you were using to get to what you were doing. You were wrong, but you had the best of intentions. You’ll keep learning and growing. Your ability to reflect on whether you made a mistake, to take feedback, and to move forward positively reflects really well on you. Good luck!

  9. Elizabeth West*

    #3 — I can’t recall if I commented on the original letter but it’s such a valuable question. The way I ask it is “What’s your favorite thing about working here, and what’s your least favorite?” The answer (or non-answer) tells you a LOT.

  10. House On The Rock*

    LW2, you navigated some fairly blut-to-the-point-of-harsh feedback, learned from it, acted on it, and came back and acknowledged that. Simply based on that, I’m quite sure you’ll be more successful than many managers! Good luck and best wishes!

  11. just another queer reader*

    OP1: I’m delighted for you! The private screening sounds like an absolutely fabulous time. And I’m impressed that you found 103 friends to attend!

    I saw the movie last week and had a blast! But I don’t want to spoil it so I won’t say any more.

Comments are closed.