a sales rep behaving like an ass, boss keeps asking for candidates’ age, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Should you tell your boss when a sales rep behaves like an ass?

My other half, Gertrude, recently went on a work trip to Japan with colleagues. While there, they were treated to dinner by a rep from another company (flown in from the same city where Gertrude and her coworkers work) who is looking to do business with theirs. She said it was a long, uncomfortable meal, with lots of boasting (harmless enough), complaining about whole groups of people by ethnicity (!!), and talking trash about politicians (to people who clearly supported the party he was trashing). He also treated the waitstaff terribly. His spouse had come along, too, and conducted themselves much the same. (Definitely not great for perceptions of Americans visiting abroad!)

Gertrude is wondering what to do with this info. Suck it up as a bad dinner, or report it to her managers as part of her learnings on this trip? Neither she nor anyone at the office would have to work with him, as he is a rep and not a direct employee. He has also been associated with the company he represents for a very long time, so presumably they know him well enough. Is this a dealbreaker? Is this all part of the schmoozefest that is networking? She is unsure how to approach this with the higher-ups in her company, and her colleagues are also on the fence.

How does one navigate these issues while both attempting to do good business (because their project is important and can have positive effects on the community at large) and calling out problematic people/ideas?

No, this isn’t part of the schmoozefest that is networking! This is an a-hole being an a-hole. (He’s also terrible at networking.)

I’d sure as hell want to know if a rep whose company I was considering doing business with behaved like that, and if I were Gertrude’s manager, I’d expect her to tell me … and if she didn’t and we hired this guy’s firm and then I found out about it later, I’d question her judgment in not telling me. It was a business dinner, and this is business-relevant information. She should tell her manager what happened — not framed as “obviously we will never speak to these people again” but as “I thought I should share this with you.”

2. My boss keeps asking about candidates’ ages

As a recruiter, whenever I’m discussing a promising candidate with my boss, he always asks for their age first. He then checks their resume and work experience.

This rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning, because I feel like that is ageist and the thing he should be asking is, “How many years of relevant job experience do they have?” When discussing salary for a candidate, he also comes back to age instead of work experience (saying things like, “Well, he’s already 45, we cannot offer him the salary of a junior” even if the person has the same level of experience as a junior working for us).

I brought it up a few days ago (not phrased in the best way, to be honest) and he got very defensive and angry, saying he only uses age as the first assessment to see how mature a candidate is and he feels like it serves the same purpose as asking how much work experience they have. (He went as far as telling me to go work for a different company that doesn’t ask people’s ages.) I eventually let it go but I still feel like he goes about it the wrong way. Am I in the wrong? Or what arguments are there to have him see what he is doing is ageist? Or should I let it go?

No, you’re not in the wrong; in fact, your boss is breaking the law. Federal age discrimination law (which protects people aged 40 and up) makes what your boss is doing explicitly illegal. Legally, you can’t hold a candidate’s age (if over 40) against them, which includes things like rejecting a candidate because you assume their age means you can’t afford them.

If anything is going to convince your boss, it would presumably be that he’s exposing your company to legal liability … but given that he got angry when you brought it up and told you to work somewhere else if you don’t like how he operates, I’m not optimistic that he will be open to hearing that, and it might just produce more blowback on you. If you wanted to try again anyway, you could frame it as, “I looked into this more and found that we’re risking a lawsuit because of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which makes it illegal to consider candidates’ ages” … but I’m skeptical that he’ll change.

But also, the law aside and even ageism aside, it sounds like he’s bad at hiring if this is how he assesses people! Are you really getting great mentorship or skill development from this guy? I’d take this as impetus to think about other jobs.

3. Should I not have shared my mental health struggles with my managers?

I’m having an argument with my mother about workplace norms I’d love your take on. I suffer with an anxiety disorder that’s been exacerbated lately by a change in medication and an unbelievably stressful systems migration that’s left all of us completely clueless about how to do our jobs.

In the last week, I shared with my line manager and our shared manager that I’m struggling. While I’m not asking for specific accommodations at the moment, I wanted them to be aware of how the increased work pressure and chaos was affecting my health and how I was working on it (mostly taking advantage of the mental health services our workplace offers) and to prepare them for the fact that I might need some time for appointments/a little bit of grace while I get back to equilibrium.

I think this was the right thing to do, and the conversation went well. My mum thinks I’ve killed any chance of getting high-profile assignments or promotion in the future by giving them a reason to doubt my ability to cope and that I should’ve kept quiet and faked a stomach bug if I needed to slow down. Who’s right? Is mental health awareness still so dire in the modern workplace that I’m likely to have damaged my reputation by admitting I suffer from a mental illness?

I’d love to say your mom is definitely wrong and you are definitely right, but in truth it varies by workplace and by manager. There are many managers and workplaces where what you shared would be perfectly fine and not come back to bite you in any way. There are many others where, unfortunately, it would. I can’t say which you’re working for — although you probably have a better sense of it than your mom does! But yes, in some workplaces and with some managers, there’s still a stigma that can lead to you being seen as “not able to handle” the stress of a high-profile project or promotion, even among managers who think they’re being supportive.

In general I don’t recommend sharing mental health struggles with managers unless you’re asking for a specific accommodation — because otherwise there’s a risk that they’ll assume you’re telling them because you want them to do something differently and if they’re not hearing a specific request from you, they may decide on their own what they think would help (and those won’t necessarily be things you would ever want).

4. How should I acknowledge my employee’s improvement after a serious conversation?

I recently had a “this is not okay, what’s going on?” conversation with my most senior team member about a lot of balls that she was dropping. Since then she has been doing much better, so my question is about where I go from here. Obviously as a manager I want to encourage my team members and tell them they’re doing a great job if they are, but I don’t want to come across as condescending or like I need to thank people for doing the bare minimum.

I think a large reason why I feel weird about this is because when I was growing up, if my mom asked me to do something and I forgot or didn’t do it right away, when I did do it, she would make a big production of sarcastically thanking me and acting like I had done her a huge favor. So what is a good level of “I see that you’re doing this and I appreciate it”? I feel fake and gross being overly effusive but I still want to acknowledge the progress.

I’ve normally said it this way: “Since we talked last month, I’ve noticed you really doing a great job with X and Y, and I appreciate you taking our conversation seriously and making changes.” You could add, “I think we’re in a much better spot now” or similar.

5. Job rejection before interview even started

Yesterday I had an interview for a position that is a new role/field but somewhat related to my previous jobs. Right before the interview, I got a separate email from someone else at the company asking me to interview with them too.

I can admit that I did not do my best on the first interview. Part of it was that the person I was talking to was not enthusiastic from the very start. I kind of feed off energy and it’s hard to be excited when the person on the other end sounds bored. Part of it was that I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been.

At the end of the interview, I asked my questions, and also asked the person I was talking to about the email I got, if it was an error. She said that it was someone else in the company and she could schedule me for some time if I wanted. I agreed, thinking I’d get another chance, and she scheduled me for the next morning.

I did a decent amount of prep work for that next one, some of which I admit should have done for the first interview. But I felt much more confident going into this one.

About 15 minutes before the interview was supposed to start, I checked my email and saw that I’d been rejected from the second job (the email was sent at like 2 am). But the interview hadn’t been cancelled.

I forwarded the rejection email to the people I was supposed to be meeting with, explaining that I wouldn’t be at the interview that was starting in like 10 minutes and thanking them for their time. I haven’t gotten a response back from either of them, which is fine. But now I’m wondering if I should have still tried to attend the interview, or not sent the email. What say you?

It was reasonable to assume that the interview wasn’t happening once you saw you’d been rejected for that job. That said, sometimes mistakes happen, and it’s possible the rejection was intended for the first job rather than the second. So ideally you would have confirmed before assuming — like with an email saying, “I received a rejection for this role late last night so I am assuming that our 10 am interview this morning is not still on, but if I’m wrong about that, please let me know.” That way if the rejection was supposed to be for the first job, it would clear up what had happened — whereas the email you sent could have left your interviewer thinking you were simply canceling.

I don’t think what you did was unreasonable; this would just be about covering all your bases.

{ 187 comments… read them below }

  1. Gem*

    LW 4: As someone who’s been on the other end of a “what’s going on” convo with a boss, I know I would have really appreciated a follow up if my performance was improving. It would have helped me stop second-guessing myself. I think it’s really considerate! I don’t think it needs to be a big deal, but a quick comment about the improvement can do a lot for moral.

    1. Ganymede*

      Definitely. You have an ongoing work relationship with this person, so your ongoing opinions will help – these is your honest evaluation, intelligently expressed.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Agreed! I’d much rather know for sure that I’m on the right track, otherwise I’d probably be stressing out wondering if what I was doing was the right thing or showing enough effort or just fruitlessly spinning my wheels.

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, especially if it’s something kind of ambiguous, like dropping too many balls. In a lot of jobs, folks are tasked with way too much and dropping some balls is inevitable and okay. But how many is too many? It can be hard for somebody who has been told to do better at something like this because they’re not going to become perfect and never drop any balls. Having a manager say, “Hey, I noticed you’re doing really well. Keep it up!” makes sure an employee know that even if they haven’t been perfect, they’ve been doing well.

        1. qwerty12345*

          Even someone’s job who’s literally it is to not drop balls (ie pro athletes), literally drop balls.

        2. Jaydee*

          Especially when the issues or concerns have been kind of vague it can also be helpful to give a couple of specific examples of improvements you’ve noticed. “Since we talked last month I noticed you’ve seemed more prepared to give updates on the llama grooming initiative at the weekly status update calls and your last llama nutrition report was very well edited. I know it can be hard to give everything the time and attention it needs when you have a lot of different projects going on all at once, but I can tell you took my feedback seriously and I think you’re moving in the right direction.”

    3. Marion Ravenwood*

      Yep. I’ve been in that situation before myself as well, and my boss saying “I see you’re improving, keep it up!” was a massive confidence boost in letting me know I was on the right track. It doesn’t have to be a big deal – just maybe acknowledging it in a check-in meeting or similar would be fine – but it can mean a lot to the person on the receiving end.

    4. ferrina*


      I’ve been at both ends of this conversation. When I was struggling, it was really reaffirming to hear that I was doing well. It made me feel seen and confirmed that I was valued and appreciated. It let me know that my effort was not wasted (also: LW, I’m so sorry that you didn’t get this from your mom. Learning how to course correct is a normal thing children learn, and it’s not fair that your mom didn’t give you credit for your growth)

      As a manager, this is usually a quick conversation. “Hey, I just wanted to say that I’m really happy with the work you’ve been doing recently. I know there was a couple rough weeks/months, but you’ve really turned it around and doing great work. Thank you.” This isn’t a long thing- a couple genuine sentences have a big impact

    5. Office Lobster DJ*

      This. Think of it as consideration instead of cheerleading, if it helps. A good employee will have been very concerned by the conversation and is probably existing with a fair amount of added stress because of it. That heightened level of stress is going to take its toll in the long run.

    6. Selena81*

      Absolutely. It is not a sarcastic ‘thanks for doing your JOB’, it is useful feedback: you should also tell an employee if they did not improve.

      Do not leave it to your employer to infer ‘if we are not talking about it anymore that means the problem is solved, I guess’.

    7. Shirley Keeldar*

      Jumping on the “Say something” train because, among the excellent points that have already been made, the ability to hear feedback, incorporate it into performance, and make changes is a really valuable skill. Your employee is showing she has this skill, so acknowledge that to her!

    8. Bear Expert*

      This is one reason I love working with engineers – of course you give the sensor readings that the process is working, just like you give them when the process isn’t working. Its not a huge deal, its not overly effusive or condescending, they needed to know that something had to change, they need to know that the changes they have made are working, or that the changes are in the right direction but you need to see more X or whatever.

      If you set up regular feedback with the framing that its a sensor readout, I’ve found most engineers and engineering teams handle it pretty well.

    9. NotAnotherManager!*

      I agree with this so much. Many people who’ve been given negative feedback can also start second-guessing themselves even when their performance starts to recover, and I think pointing out where/how things have improved is really important. If nothing else, it helps clarify/confirm what good performance looks like.

    10. Dek*

      Especially if it actually sounds sincere and not like they’re reading some boiler plate ‘I was told to make an effort to say positive things too’ kind of vibe.

    11. Sedna*

      Yup – absolutely agreed with this. Just a check-in to confirm that everything’s going in the right direction would be a huge confidence booster. And I’m sorry your mom was weird about that with you, that stinks!

    12. ampersand*

      I agree! I’m also the type to feel kind of gross about offering praise that feels like it’s over the top and not sincere, even if I really AM being sincere. For me, it helps to not be overly effusive about it. This is another instance where the answer is to just be matter of fact in your delivery.

      1. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

        True, and to remember that you’re not just praising them for doing their job, you’re confirming to them that you have noticed their improvement, which isn’t necessarily info they would have.

    13. Parakeet*

      Same. I had this happen at a previous job (and it was an unfortunate conversation, because part of what was going on was a sexual/physical assault and its emotional sequelae, and while I was normally good at taking feedback to the point of having been complimented on it, with that one I burst into tears). We were also understaffed at the time. I would have really appreciated some acknowledgment later. My boss was normally pretty good, but with that, I had to prompt her with questions about how I was doing to get any acknowledgment of improvement.

  2. Joron Twiner*

    #3 Spouse and I often disagree about what level of info to share with managers. Some things we consider besides what Alison mentioned are:

    -how discreet is the manager, is this likely to get back to coworkers or spread to higher-ups unnecessarily?
    -what do I actually want the manager to do about this information? If I just want them to understand and cut me slack, do I need to share why? The whole why?
    -how long until I need the slack, will the manager even remember I mentioned this or should I wait until I need something from them?
    -can what is shared be “unsaid”, ie can I tell them my health is now better, or am I admitting something fundamental about myself that will be in play years from now?

    1. Allonge*

      -what do I actually want the manager to do about this information? If I just want them to understand and cut me slack, do I need to share why? The whole why?

      For me this is the first question to ask (and I like the others you also put, but, after).

      E.g. in OP’s case, if there is a stressful thing happening to everyone at work, there is already enough to refer to for the part where OP (or anyone, really) needs a bit more leeway – and the specifics of what exactly the slack / leeway means are a lot more important for boss then the ‘on top of this there is also X, Y, Z in my private life and health’.

      Which does not mean that OP is in the wrong for sharing more, of course.

    2. ferrina*

      I’ll add:

      -how well can the manager relate to this information? what is the stigma behind it?

      I’ve found that when a manager can imagine themself in my shoes, I get a lot more grace and it even can be a bonding moment. But when it’s a concept that the manager is totally unfamiliar with, a lot of assumptions get made. Even worse when it’s things that people think they know but actually don’t. I have ADHD, and the amount of times I’ve been told “you really just need to focus, it’s really simple”…..ugh. Yeah, that’s not how ADHD works. A lot of ADHD research was done in the last 20 years, and the info that was around in the 80s and 90s (when millennials were growing up) is incomplete at best and incorrect at worst. But that’s what a lot of millennials are familiar with.

      1. Willow Pillow*

        Same, I am autistic and I have repeatedly found that people start out reacting positively, but they don’t connect my day-to-day needs (say, a quieter workspace) with that. If/when my needs aren’t being met, they just see the anxiety, expecting me to address it, and not the environmental factors that are out of my power to fix. It’s rarely intentional, but trying to get them to understand is often tiring, too.

        I have learned to be very careful with what I disclose as a result.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I only recently got diagnosed with ADHD and exactly this^ is what I’m experiencing (I’m 45, so even a bit older than a millenial). But I also had a convo with boss last week where she asked me if everything was okay and I was like, Well, just last week I was diagnosed with ADHD and I’m currently trying to figure out how to deal with it (and, though I didn’t say to boss, esp related to work, which is where it’s affecting me the most, unfortunately). Then boss said that she thought she also has it and that her husband has it. And my boss is awesome and I’m hoping she’ll have some patience and understanding as I’m figuring this all out, but wow, I feel dopey when I keep (like, almost every day) making really careless errors. I don’t know that I would say anything to my grandboss about it though; she strikes me as the type who would think I was making it up or tell me I just need to focus, which, as ferrina points out, isn’t helpful at all.

        1. ferrina*

          Congrats on your diagnosis! It can be a lot to take in. There’s a ton of information that has come out in the last 10-15 years, and while it’s super helpful, it’s also a lot.

          I found the YouTube channel How to ADHD was extremely helpful. She does a lot of research and breaks things down really nicely. Part of the ADHD experience is not just the symptoms, but the impact of the symptoms. It all adds up:
          Symptom (Making simple error) + Impact (Feeling guilty for not paying enough attention) = self-blame and shame over brain function you can’t control. This is a really common experience, and you definitely aren’t alone in this!

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I’ve been binging How to ADHD and I LOVE IT! I also highly recommend it. I’ve also been pathologizing every little thing I do and chalking it up to ADHD, which might not be the case but then again, everything I do is related to my ADHD because that’s how my brain works, right? (How our brains work, I should say…it’s been really gratifying to know that so many others out there are like this too.)

            1. ferrina*

              Oh man, I feel like every five years I go into hyperfocus on my own ADHD! It gets me caught up on the latest research, but I also pathologize everything I do! At this point I know the cycle well enough that I can laugh at myself, but the first couple times through, it is a wild ride!

              1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                HYPERFOCUS! It’s my (our) superpower! And of course the biggest reason why those who don’t really understand ADHD think I (we) don’t have it.

              2. Jaydee*

                Ah yes, the pattern of cyclical interests + hyperfocus. One day you’re researching everything there is to know about ADHD, the next you’re signing up for a pickleball league at the community center, then you see that there’s a 6 week beginner oil painting class so you’re dropping half a paycheck on registration fees and oil painting supplies, and then it’s summer so obviously you need to take up kayaking. And then you wonder, “is this because of my ADHD?” So you start researching everything there is to know about ADHD….

        2. Avery*

          I will say, from personal experience, having a boss who Gets your particular flavor of neurodivergency is a godsend.
          With my current boss, there was one particular conversation where he discussed having family members on the spectrum in the context of praising my work… and like, he didn’t outright say HE was on the spectrum/neurodivergent, he didn’t outright say I am on the spectrum/neurodivergent, but the upshot very much was “I get it, and that just makes your work stronger”.
          So having a boss who has seriously considered ADHD for herself and a loved one is very likely a good sign on that front!
          (Full disclosure: I was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age. I haven’t been formally diagnosed as being on the spectrum, but… my family has its suspicions. And both affect my work significantly, from my focus on small details to my tendency to blow through big projects in a short time span and then take time during work hours to decompress for a few minutes… say, by reading comments on AAM…)

    3. Rex Libris*

      As a manager, my first questions if someone’s performance suddenly changes is “Are you okay? Can I help with anything?” I always appreciate a heads up if someone is going through some sort of life issue that might impact their job, but I realize that everyone’s comfort level is different with how much to disclose about their personal life. I also realize that not all managers are reasonable or understanding.

      1. Rex Libris*

        I should also mention that I don’t think it will do you any long term harm, assuming your management is relatively sane and reasonable. People have challenges, it’s part of being human. Overcoming and/or managing them is simply adulting.

    4. Office Lobster DJ*

      I like this!

      I’d add one final question: If the conversation does go poorly, is it still worth it? That is to say, are there larger principles (e.g. For LW, maybe it’s working in a place where mental health discussions are normalized) that you value more than this one particular job, and are you both able and willing to risk it?

    5. Smithy*

      I do think the “unsaid” part is a really helpful caveat when you’re asking for understanding (as opposed to a specific accommodation) around a long-term situation.

      If you think about this in terms of bereavement, no one expects someone coming back to work after the 3 or 5 days of official leave to be “better”, especially if the relative was perceived as close. And some boss’s may proactively decide to lighten someone’s workload during the month or so post-bereavement because of their own biases around what kind of projects/tasks they’re able to take on. Now, if you were to notice this and no longer desire that support (or never have desired that support) – you could always have that first conversation with a supervisor of thanking them for their support and share a version of every day getting easier and how you were ready to dive back into work.

      Whether they’re long-term health conditions, or new family dynamics (bereavement, deployment, etc) – I do think that when you’re not asking for a specific accommodation, if you can frame a period as one of a transition or somehow unique (i.e. a new diagnosis or medication just started), then it’s easier to mark that moment as having ended even if the situation hasn’t. A family has become more accustomed to a passing or divorce, a new medication regime has settled, etc.

  3. Zombeyonce*

    #2: As the partner of someone who changed careers later in life, I would have loved them to get hired by a boss who thinks someone older should get a higher salary than a junior even if they have the same level of experience.

    That being said, this boss sucks and seems unlikely to change. LW, unless you want to also open yourself up to potential litigation, I’d look for a new job immediately at a place that cares about people’s skills and experience rather than their age.

    1. MK*

      An older person having the same experience level as a young one after a career change would be rare; it would be unlikely if their other job experience was worth zero to an employer. But that’s obviously not what the boss is considering here.

      1. cabbagepants*

        oh I have to disagree, especially if the amount of relevant experience each has is more than a year or two. soft skills transference can help you get your foot in the door but not a lot more than that, in my experience.

        1. Platypus*

          I would agree, but not just for a few years. I would say a good decade of soft skills would be needed. But also, many skills from other industries are transferable.

          1. cabbagepants*

            Agree, I think we have miscommunicated a little. The “year or two” I’m referring to is experience in the applicant’s *current* industry. Like once you’ve been a circuit engineer for a year or two, your decade of experience as a professor of French literature stops being very relevant.

            The soft skills transference can show your *potential* to do well in a new industry, but once you’re in the new industry then your achievements *in that industry* are what matter.

      2. Anon for this*

        It really depends on the field, and how…technical (maybe not the right word?) it is.

        As someone who became an accountant after a quarter-life crisis, I definitely had to start from the bottom. Once I started, I advanced somewhat faster than average due to having some soft skills, research skills, etc. from my previous career. (Though I also have a coworker who did start at the traditional age and advanced even faster, because she’s just incredibly smart and talented!)

        It would have been absurd to say “oh, she’s 30, she’ll inherently be better than the usual new hires who are right out of college, so we’ll pay her more” — no, a first-year associate is a first-year associate is a first-year associate, but you monitor their performance and give them raises/promotions based on that. (My experience was that my age made me less valuable on the job market, not more, so if anything, my current firm should have been paying me less! Thankfully that’s not the case.)

        But if you’re in a role that doesn’t require domain-specific knowledge, maybe it works differently.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah I am an accountant as well and that’s what I’ve seen. My masters program was mostly students straight out of undergrad, but there were a couple of people significantly older than us looking to change careers and they were of course interviewing for the same jobs as the rest of us for the same starting salaries.

      3. metadata minion*

        Sure, in many fields there’s going to be a fair amount of transfer of things like customer service skills, general office software, etc., but even there just the number of years doesn’t tell you whether someone is any *good* at them. If I have to choose, I’d rather train a younger person who’s still a bit awkward but willing to learn over someone with 20 years experienced in being the office crankypants.

      4. Clisby*

        That will depend considerably on the career change.

        My first degree was in journalism, and I worked for about 14 years as a reporter, editor, copy editor. For the last 3 years of this, I went back to college part time, got a degree in computer science, and landed a job as a computer programmer.

        Over the long run, my journalism experience was a tremendous asset in my computer programming job, but when I got my first entry level job, that did not mean I was paid any more than anyone else with zero experience in computer programming. I was 35, and there were people my age who had 10 years’ experience in the work I was just entering. Of course I didn’t make as much as they did. I made as much as the 22-year-olds just coming out of college. It would be really weird to expect anything else.

    2. Porch Life*

      My husband was laid off at age 57. I’m virtually positive that his age was what kept him unemployed for over a year – along with the fact that he’d been with the same company for 34 years. Instead of seeing loyalty and experience, people assumed “stuck in the mud” or only knowing one way to do things, even though he’d held jobs in 3 different areas of his company. Or maybe they assumed he’d need a very high salary. Who knows? Eventually, when the dust of the giant reorganization settled and his previous company began backfilling, he reapplied and one of the hiring managers immediately jumped to hire him back. Others in the company told him they were thrilled to see him return. When I hear about people like this boss making huge assumptions based on age, I’m livid. My husband looks 10 years younger than his age and is in better physical shape than people 20-30 years younger. He keeps up with industry trends, and has a wealth of experience in the field. Anyone who started with his age and made assumptions was being grossly unfair to him and missing out on a fantastic employee.

      1. Overit*

        I had that experience in my mid 40s. I actually had potential employers verbally tell me I was “too old”. I was not successful in returning to my field for 15 years.
        I ended up having to start at the bottom as an admin even though I had 20 years of experience, publications and an advanced degree.
        Not only was it demoralzing and depressing, it also had a serious impact on my income in the short term and my retirement savings as the income as a professional was twice that of an admin.

    3. Lilo*

      I once had someone assume I was less experienced than my older male colleague when I’ve been in the field twice as long, he just pivoted careers later. His task was actually reassigned to me because my boss realized it was more complicated than it had initially looked and he’d made some errors. But when the outside party learned of the pivot they went off and complained, wrongly assuming I was junior.

    4. Hats Are Great*

      I made a big career change in my 40s and definitely there were people who wouldn’t interview me because they were looking for recent college grads and couldn’t think outside that mold.

      I feel grateful my current employer looked at my skills and didn’t worry about my age.

      I’m really good at what I do, but a secondary piece of value I bring is because I’m 15-20 years older than most of my peers, who are mostly newer to the job market, I’m the emotional ballast of our team, because I don’t really get upset over work situations, even when they’re very stressful, just because of life experience. My manager has called out how effective I am at helping peers who are struggling, and has gotten the feedback that peers like to come to me because I’m collaborative and never condescending, and that I turn things that FEEL like crises into solvable problems.

      (People in my line of work tend to be a bit high-strung, and the work is frequently stressful, and at 25 I would have been stress-spiraling all the time. In my 40s, I have a much greater sense of perspective and more ability to recognize when I’m falling into anxiety patterns, and enough experience at work to be able to distinguish “healthy, just intense” from “toxic and inappropriate” at work. I’m good at distinguishing “hey, I think you should talk to person X and explain your concerns, I think he’s just stressed by the deadline and doesn’t realize how his work is impacting our team” from “yeah, I’m going to escalate this to his manager right this instant.”)

      1. ferrina*

        I’ll add that in jobs that diversity in age can have great value in a team- being able to have colleagues who have first-hand knowledge of different generational experiences makes for a richer knowledge base. Of course, you need teammates who value this diversity in experience and have the self-awareness that their life experience is not The Defining Norm, but that’s not a character trait that can be common in folks of all ages.

    5. Marion Ravenwood*

      For real. I’m in the process of changing careers, in a sideways move from what I do now but using a lot of the same skills for different audiences, and it’s been a real struggle to find roles that pay close to (or more than) what I currently earn but that don’t ask for very specific experience in the new work area. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have secured one of those roles now, albeit on a one year contract rather than permanently, but they are definitely few and far between, so unless you’re willing/can afford to take a pay cut it’s surprisingly difficult.

  4. The Meiji Restoration*

    You are in Japan. Different rules apply there. You will find salarymen regularly going to hostess clubs, talking about ethnicity in a way that would be unacceptable in the US, etc. I’d you cannot deal with this do not try to do business in Japan.

    1. Double A*

      It sounds like the sales rep is from the same place as Gertrude (the letter says he was flown in from there, which I assume means he’s from the same area).

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I also read it as the sales rep was from the same area as Gertrude, and not from Japan. I’d expect different behavior.

    2. edda ed*

      Nah, your assumptions about the rep are wrong. The rep (and his spouse, and their behavior) didn’t come from Japan, he came from the same city that LW’s wife works. This isn’t about Japanese culture in the slightest.

      1. edda ed*

        *Okay, LW’s other half, which can mean wife but can also mean a non-legally-bound partner. It’s not relevant to my main point, though.

    3. Mameshiba*

      Japan does have some differences in local norms and culture (like any country does) but the majority of salarymen are not regularly going to hostess clubs and being racist to business contacts. This isn’t the 80s! Most people regularly doing business (especially with other countries) know how to put on a polite face to business visitors!

      Source: am in Japan

      1. Itsa Me, Mario*

        I was about to say. I’ve never been to Japan on business and don’t work in sales, but my company has a Tokyo office I’m in regular contact with, and we have some key business deals with a major Japanese company. Every time I’ve had any contact with anyone in Japan (internal to our company or with that other company), it’s been extremely polite, to the point of formality. I would be shocked if I visited the Tokyo office, was taken out to dinner, and the same colleagues who’d been addressing me as Mario-san in emails for years were now loudly braying racist rants and treating waitstaff like crap. And I would absolutely mention it to my manager.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Even if it was a cultural difference, which it’s not in this case, it would be relevant information that may influence whether the company wants to work with the rep.

      1. A (Former) Library Person*

        Agreed. It seems perfectly reasonable to avoid doing business with *anyone* who is comfortable making racist remarks at an introductory business meeting (or at any meeting; the fact that this was a first-time meeting underscores just how egregious this behavior is).

    5. stratospherica*

      Talking smack about different ethnic groups is, actually, not socially acceptable in Japan. Talking politics at all with someone you do business with is also not acceptable here. This has nothing to do with Japanese customs and everything to do with this sales rep being a complete jackass.

      1. stratospherica*

        Aditionally, Jackass Sales Rep was flown in from the same city as Gertrude, so it has even less to do with Japanese people or Japanese customs.

        1. Labrat*

          Yup. While it would probably have been noted if *Japanese people* were one of the groups Jackass Sales Rep was racist when talking about, I half expected to read that it was. The rudeness to waitstaff was at least classist, if not also racist.

          1. Myrin*

            That’s actually where my mind went immediately. After all, the opportunity is right there, you know? /sarcasm, in case it wasn’t clear

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Agreed, and talking smack about other ethnic groups to people you have just met shows an incredible lack of judgement.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        This is reminding me of the fantasies about how Europeans are all really chill about it if their spouse is cheating on them, in a specific cheating American’s fantasy world, and then actual Europeans are like “Nope, we are not chill.”

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes there’s a particular idea in some people’s minds that “Europeans” are cool with cheating / not wearing clothes in public / saying inappropriate stuff that is inaccurate and based on stereotypes. It’s amusing that when it comes up on the forum most European people speak up to correct this.

          I think it’s the same as my grandmother’s view that everyone in the US is carrying several guns. A stereotype based on films and TV programmes.

          1. Esprit de l'escalier*

            I think the US really does have more guns than people, but I assume the distribution is uneven, so statistically speaking somebody out there has mine as well as their own 2 or 3. IOW your grandmother is exaggerating but unfortunately not by enough.

            1. Sleve*

              Whether she’s exaggerating or not, she would still presumably have the common sense not to pull out her own pistol and start waving it around during a business meeting.

      4. Ticotac*

        There’s nothing a Japanese business person would love more than risking their reputation by clearly and loudly expressing their racist views around a prospective coworker/client they don’t know that well, repeatedly insulting a political party that a prospective coworker/client could be aligned with, continuing to insult a political party after they found out that a prospective coworker/client votes for it, and proudly boasting about how great they are to a prospective coworker/client. After all, what could possibly go wrong? The prospective coworker/client may think they’re an ass? Eh, no big deal, we all lose face sometimes, it’s not like Japan is a high-context society.

    6. BadMitten*

      As others have pointed out, this person seems to be from the same place/culture.

      However, as someone who has regularly met with Japanese colleagues (albeit in the U.S.), none of this is normal in my experience. People didn’t bring up politics (we’re academics in economics and *political science*), and no one was ever rude to waitstaff. If the person writing in complained that the guy seemed to drink a lot or something, that might just be cultural. This is not that.

    7. Lady Catherine du Bourgh*

      “It’s normal for Japanese people to be racist and if you don’t like it, you shouldn’t do business in Japan” is….uh wow.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        My take on the comment is that the bad sales rep had those ideas about Japan and was spouting off because it wouldn’t be as out of place as it is in their home country.

        It would be akin to going to Germany and talking about how “Nazis weren’t all bad” because they assume others in Germany would agree with them. (I know the vast majority would not.)

    8. Clare*

      I took the comment “Definitely not great for perceptions of Americans visiting abroad!” to mean that the sales rep and his spouse were the Americans travelling abroad, and they were creating poor perceptions of themselves and their country by being rude.

    9. iglwif*

      Rep and rep’s spouse are both from the same place as OP and Gertrude.

      My guess is they were all at the same industry event, or something similar.

    10. MassMatt*

      Given how rude the salesperson was, including to the wait staff, it seems clear he was not doing this in an effort to “fit in” to Japanese society. I doubt Japanese business people would want to buy whatever he is selling.

      Sales, more than most fields, is about building relationships, and this is even more true in Japan. This guy has terrible judgment and seems unable to read the room. He is probably telling everyone how great this dinner went and how he has two more people on the hook looking to buy.

      His boorish behavior should definitely be raised to your managers. Is this the kind of person you want to be doing business with?

  5. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – do mention to your manager as a finding from your trip. You observed that the salesman was making bigoted comments about ethnicity in a country in which he was a guest. Setting aside the obvious character flaws at work here, that does not speak well of his judgement or discretion. I mean, I think it bears mentioning to your manager that the guy was a bigoted, sexist, racist ass, all on its own, but the sheer gall of someone visiting another country, where he himself is a foreigner, and making obnoxious comments about “foreigners” (whether he meant Japanese people or not) is just astounding.

    Your management may or may not do business with the company – but at least they will go knowing something about the organization, its values, and the people it employs.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      It does show an incredible lack of judgement. We had a manager who made disparaging comments about a particular minority group until a new hire spoke and said their partner and children were members of that group. It was a sign of how toxic the company was because peoplee like that felt free to express their racist views. The sales rep and their company should be given a hard pass.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        Which advice columnist said that the appropriate response to hearing bigotry is to claim your mother is part of the targeted group? Miss Manners?

        1. kalli*

          Some people magically hide various -isms when they can attach them to real people they can’t write off as elsewhere, it’s not just misogynistic men who go ‘if that was my daughter!!’ At some point, you just go ‘if it works’ and throw it out there in the hope that it makes things less terrible.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I really agree with the advice to speak up: “So, should we tie ourselves tightly and publicly to this company in future?” is an implicit question your managers are asking when you go to events like this.

  6. Bruce*

    LW3: mental health stuff is so fraught. If you’ve shared it and you think your managers took it well then great! I can see it going either way. I had a case where a high profile employee confided that he was having issues and we worked to mitigate things as we could, we promoted him not too long after because even though he had been stressing out he was still doing very good work! People need to really look at how their manager handles any sort of personal life issues, if they tend to not be supportive then tread carefully…

  7. Kat*

    OP1, definitely report to management. It sounds like the social aspect of the networking is tripping Gertrude up, but it’s a work conversation and if he’d been this awful in a work meeting presumably there would have been no hesitation in reporting back. Its a potential reputational risk for management to be aware of.

    Also, assuming this sort of networking is new to Gertrude – as the client/potential client (based on the rep treating them to dinner), you generally have the power in the conversation and it’s ok to steer discussion or push back in the moment. Having said that, this guy sounds so boorish that it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference, I can totally imagine just sitting there frozen in horrified fascination.

    1. Ganymede*

      Absolutely. It’s a work setting, and it’s completely unacceptable.

      By the way, never have a work dinner on a restaurant cruise. You can’t get away if this sort of thing starts, DAMHIK…

    2. Hillary*

      I agree 100%. This is an important data point – you’re supposed to be on your best behavior in front of potential customers. If this is his best behavior and it reflects the values of his employer it would be a hard pass from me. At a minimum I’d get a new rep assigned to my account. But my experience is also that companies that tolerate this behavior don’t have the most best product or service.

      Once upon a time we removed a potential vendor from consideration in their parking lot. I thought the boss was sexist, my coworker thought he was racist, neither of us thought he would be good to work with, and their product would have been at the bottom of the scorecard.

  8. Wakeen Phoenix*

    LW3: I have a chronic illness and I do what your mom does + generally recommend it to other people as well. I deal with both a “physical” illness (a misnomer, but you get what I mean) and a mental one, and you absolutely have the same problems with both. You would not believe the difference in reactions I get to faking little temporary illnesses here and there vs letting them know they are the occasionally recurring flares of an ongoing problem. It is not a mental-illness-is-fraught issue (although it is that too) as much as it is a deep, pervasive cultural revulsion to people with any kind of illness at all.

    The thing is that some people prefer to handle it the way you did, and that’s fine too. There is danger to that, one I am not personally willing to deal with anymore, and I want people to know that it’s there. But the right way to handle it is the way that you feel the best about. The way you’ve handled it can work out great! And it sounds like it might be working for you. I really hope it does, and I wish you all the best.

    1. we're all done bananas here*

      Do you mind elaborating more on recurring flares vs passing them off as one-offs? I don’t ever disclose when I’m out for mental illness reasons, but I thought chronic illnesses like fibro were well known enough if the flare frequency exceeds plausibility for random illnesses.

      1. kalli*

        There are enough people who think fibro and ME/CFS aren’t real, MS is a short-term terminal diagnosis, and you can just pray away migraines. It’s a lot easier to just go ‘I have a cold’ rather than try to explain why you can’t just take Vitamin C and get over a fibro flare when you also have to explain that fibro flares and it’s manageable and expected, just you need a couple of days to manage it, but don’t have to explain that colds are temporary (although now you may have to go through a ‘no it’s not COVID’ filter, it’s still less annoying and complicated than re-explaining chronic illness or going up against ‘my sister’s husband’s cousin’s dogwalker took magnesium for a week and their migraines went away forever! you don’t need time off, just get a multivitamin in your lunch break!’).

  9. Aggretsuko*

    I’m running into the mental health issue. They basically told me I need to get diagnosed with a disability–and I confirmed with the union guy today that may be the only thing that can pause my firing because it would look bad to fire someone right after they provide a doctor’s note. But union guy also said DO NOT DISCLOSE TO ANYONE, INCLUDING ME, IF YOU GET ONE, which….um… I have no idea how I’m supposed to deal with that. (Be vague, apparently.)

    It’s unfortunately obvious to all that I Am A Problem Here (not just that I probably have one, that I AM one) and I have no idea how you’re supposed to discuss that, when forced to discuss that on the spot, if you’re not supposed to say that. What the hell do you say when they want to discuss your bad performance again?

      1. NotHowItWorks*

        in my experience companies require a diagnosis to engage in an ADA accommodations discussion. Also, the employee doesn’t automatically get to pick the accommodation – it’s a discussion about what might work vs what might be feasible. So a letter that says “A needs X” isn’t actually that helpful.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Does your company have HR or a similar function? You should take your diagnosis there.

      Also, the goal there is for them to provide accommodations you need so you can be successful at your job, not as a blanket excuse for you to not do well while facing no consequences for it. I realize that your job is at risk and you need your livelihood so do what you need to do to keep your job. But long-term you should reframe it that way and try to find jobs where you can do well with the right accommodations.

    2. holly and ivy*

      Yeah, make sure there isn’t any mention of what the illness is on the doctor’s note. Not sure what you can do if the provider or clinic have an obvious specialty.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      I don’t think you can disclose nothing. I encourage you to research. But I think your doctor can and should say you need a certain medical accommodation versus you have X illness.

      ie Don’t say you have a slipped disc in your lower back. Say you cannot lift more than 5 lbs.

      It’s about what accommodations you need to function versus what you’re diagnosed with.

    4. spcepickle*

      I think the question is what do you want your employer to do about it? You are paid to do a job. Can you currently do that job? (note this is not asking if you can do any job nor is it asking if you have worth (you do))
      If you get diagnosed with a disability that would benefit from an accommodation you enter into a discussion with your employer on what that accommodation would be. You do not need to disclose the disability only what you need worked around. The important thing to note – accommodations can not / should not change your core job functions.
      I had a guy who reported to me who was great everyone liked working with him, but he got a medical diagnoses that removed his ability to drive. Driving is a core job function for what we do, I had to let him go because there was no accommodation that worked. It was hard and we got as creative as we could, but sometimes things just don’t work.

      Truth is if your health is in a place where you can’t perform your current job it is not the right job for you right now. I would say instead of spending your time fighting for something that does not seem right (if you are the problem this is not a good fit) spend your energy finding something that is the right fit.

      1. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

        Everyone’s saying that for accommodations you only should specify that there is a condition that necessitates them and what kind are needed, but that you shouldn’t say what the actual diagnosis or condition is. That’s great in theory but IRL companies don’t always abide by that. The last job I left was at a huge company who, if you applied for ADA accommodations, had separate forms you had to fill out where you had to not only list specifically what your detailed diagnosis was, but also how long it was expected to last, when the onset was, and a whole other slew of details about how the diagnosis/condition limited you specifically. It was a nightmare because then everyone including Management, HR, Accommodations office staff, all knew your intimate medical and health details.

  10. Azalea Bertrand*

    OP#3 – I think this is also country dependent. From your spelling of ‘mum’ I’m guessing you’re not from the US. A friend who currently lives in the US was as open with her bosses there about her mental health as she would have been back home in Australia and… She was let go. Meanwhile back in Australia I – as a millennial with mostly millennial and Gen X bosses across multiple industries – generally operate the way you did. There’s a couple bosses I wouldn’t have been open with but I’m assuming you would have a decent feel for if your boss was one of those. My goal is usually ‘hey, I recognise I’m not performing at the standard you’re used to, you can expect that things will go back to normal soon or I’ll let you know if I need accommodations’ and it’s generally been taken that way. I’m a high performer so it gives context when I’m suddenly producing a lot less that usual.

    1. Michel*

      Totally agree with this. In the UK there has been a huge movement over the past 10-15 years to normalise these discussions. It’s pretty routine here for people at all levels being open about any diagnoses and accommodations needed, even to the point that senior directors/C-Suite roles will publicise their own accommodations to model this across the organisation. I’m not saying all biases have magically disappeared, but compared to the questions and advice I see on this site, there’s a pretty clear cultural and legal difference in the US.

    2. OneAngryAvacado*

      A very good point: there’s a lot of culture/legal stuff to consider here. In the UK there’s a similar sort of culture so it’s not unreasonable to tell your manager that somethings up and you may not be firing from all cylinders at the moment. Of course there are jerk-managers in every workplace that you wouldn’t want to tell about private health (and it might depend on what sector you’re in) but I’m guessing you have a good enough handle on who you work with that you know whether or not you trust your manager in this.

      1. Azalea Bertrand*

        Good point on the legal side. I know they CAN’T just let me go for something like this so that makes it safer. Sure I could maybe lose opportunities for stretch assignments in future, but that comes back to knowing your audience. I’ve been open with my great grand boss (head of the organisation and in her 60s) about mental health issues before and the only ‘repercussion’ was her making time to follow up a few weeks later and make sure I was doing ok. I’ve since had multiple higher profile and more senior roles in the same org and am well positioned to keep rising. Also I should clarify that I only mentioned generations above because I think my X/Boomer cusp parents would be more like OP3’s mum.

      2. Marion Ravenwood*

        Yes this. I’m in the UK as well and when I’ve disclosed mental health things at my current and previous jobs, my managers have always been really supportive. But then I have friends who’ve done the same thing and it definitely changed how they were treated until they felt forced to quit, and they haven’t disclosed since for fear of the same thing happening again. So I think as Alison says it really does boil down to individual managers’ attitudes, and OP3 is best placed to know what that will be themselves.

    3. Double A*

      It also depends on where you are in the US, and in the state you’re in, and the company you’re at. I live in California and I feel like we’re more open to mental health stuff, but I’m also in a caring profession at an organization that is pretty open. Still, people mention ADHD way more than depression or anxiety.

      1. Parakeet*

        Yep. I’m in the US, geographically distributed org. My current boss worked in disability advocacy before moving into the field that we’re in, and we work in a human-rights-ish field where disability of various types comes up. So I’m more okay with disclosing to her than I was to any previous boss regardless of what field it was.

  11. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (improvement after a serious conversation) – schedule a follow up / catch up to review, which typically is a good approach anyway even if the conversation wasn’t quite PIP level. Only needs to be 15 minutes. And then you have a specific time and place for giving this feedback. If there was a specific reason for the poor performance she may want to share some more background info about how things are going as well.

  12. 40ish*

    LW3: I think it is also very valid to just decide that you will share mental health struggles, even if there is a risk to it. It is similar to sharing other stuff at work that people could be prejudiced about: It is valid to stay quiet to protect yourself, but also to come to the decision that you are willing to take that risk.

    1. Anom*

      I agree. Your mother (And Alison) have valid points that there can be a risk to it. But in the past I’ve found that sharing my mental health struggles with boss/management was integral do improving my mental health. I also had extreme anxiety and find that having people around me know what is going on actively helps reduce my anxiety.

      It’s not without risk, and its definitely a know your manager/workplace situation. But a blanket ‘don’t tell anyone’ can be damaging as well.

  13. Dee*

    I’m looking for work now and SO many job application systems require you to put in your college graduation date. I feel like it’s a sneaky way to get your age, without asking your age.

    Anyway I’m 45 so once I see that I know what the score is with that organization.

    Also, normalize not requiring a college degree for jobs that folks can do without one – especially if it’s a role that should have a few years of experience behind it. My last role was an SVP at an ad agency. My circa-1999 degree in dance is not relevant work experience. I hired an amazing account person whose degree was, I think, in marine biology.

    1. DJ Abbott*

      I watched the unnecessary requirement of college degrees take hold about 20 years ago, and I believe it’s a way of discriminating against people who did not get a good start in life.
      Sadly, these companies you mention are discriminating against both age and economic class. I wish more people had stood up to the degree requirement back then but they just went along with it, and got deeply in debt to get their degrees, which damaged the economy, because they couldn’t take jobs that paid a little less or buy houses or cars, and nothing was done about it until way too late. And here we are.

      1. bamcheeks*

        The switch to more and more jobs requiring third level education (whether that’s an academic degree or a vocational qualification) is happening all over the developed world, and it’s aminly a response to the increasing technical complexity of all our lives. The bigger issue is the state and employers deciding to treat third-level education as a private good and put the responsibility for paying for it into individuals, instead of providing state- and employer-funded third-level education which was accessible to all.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          And this is just off the top of my head, but I suspect the fact we have less localisation also plays into it. Like in the days when a neighbour would babysit your kids while you were at work or the granny or auntie would do, those people didn’t need childcare qualifications. They knew your child’s specific needs and if they didn’t, you could tell them. But today, when you likely don’t know the staff of your child’s daycare, of course those people need qualifications and to have an understanding of child development and various needs because they aren’t just working with kids they know and whose needs they understand; they are working with a wide variety of needs and the parents may not be as comfortable giving them details. Plus, while a parent would trust their child to a family member or friend without any qualifications, they are less likely to do so to a stranger who doesn’t have those.

          And when the carpenter’s son became the new carpenter or the solicitor’s son the new solicitor, there was possibly less study needed because their father had often trained them to some extent whereas today people are less likely to have been helping out from the age of 7 in the area they choose to go into.

          And legal issues. Nowadays, the childcare worker needs to know their responsibilities around mandated reporting, they need to know the child-to-adult ratios and so on. The builder needs to know about safety regulations. People in a whole load of professions need to understand GDPR.

          Yeah, some of the increased reliance of qualification is just cyclical. Once there is a degree or diploma course available in an area, people with the degree will likely have an advantage in getting jobs in that field, which means more people will do it, which means those without the qualification will find it harder to compete and so on. But I do think there are also very valid reasons why increased specialisation, greater reliance on safety and a greater variety of jobs (so people aren’t just going into the roles their parents or other relatives held before them) require more qualification.

          1. Itsa Me, Mario*

            A degree is also a kind of shorthand, in general. Not only does it conceivably give someone certain qualifications that might be more relevant when everyone doesn’t already know everyone, that early childhood ed degree tells an employer “this person probably knows how to care for young children”, and tells parents “someone, somewhere, has vetted this person’s ability to be around children” (if only in the sense of self-selection, as someone who chooses to get that degree likely knows they will need the skill of working with young children).

            I think the same tends to be true of other fields. A college degree in some kind of soft skills field communicates to hiring managers that you likely have some written communication skills, some ability to collaborate in a group, some research skills, the ability to meet a deadline, etc. Personally I don’t think this is as necessary as people make it out to be — these are practical skills, also just because someone has the degree doesn’t mean they have these skills — but I do think it’s why people like to see the degree on the resume.

            What really and truly needs to die, though, is the idea that you need to have majored in some specific field in order to be hired in that area. A 22 year old with no work experience and a “business” degree isn’t more qualified to work for a private sector company than a comparable 22 year old with a “sociology” degree. A marketing major isn’t more qualified for a job in marcomms than an English major, unless maybe they have key internships in the field or got a side job running social media campaigns or something. I realize there are some areas where this absolutely is true (engineering, health care, maybe some lab science contexts), but my assumption has always been that soft skills jobs with this type of requirement are either creating basically random weed-outs for entry level resumes, or their leadership or recruiters pretty much have no idea how to hire people.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              The theory that degrees guarantee certain skills is one of the excuses employers use to require them.
              But come on. Haven’t we all known people with degrees who couldn’t do these things?
              It’s because employers would rather discriminate with degrees than do real evaluations of experience and personal qualities.

              1. bamcheeks*

                In a system where everyone has access to third-level education, there’s nothing wrong with employers choosing to outsource that training and development process to education providers, any more than requiring a high-school qualification is discriminating: “having a degree” is only a form of unjust discrimination in a system where access to education is determined by your class background, health, gender, ethnicity etc. The state is quite capable of making third-level education accessible to everyone if it chose to, and requiring employers to make a greater contribution towards paying for it.

                it’s fair enough for employers to decide that outsourcing that work to universities is more efficient than doing it themselves: there isn’t a . I *don’t* think it’s reasonable for the state to allow employers to shift all the costs

                1. Emmy Noether*

                  I agree in theory, but the problem is that there currently doesn’t exist such a system. Statistics clearly show that even in places where universities are free to the students, still the children of the educated and wealthy are far over-represented. Better than a paying system, certainly, but not truly equal.

        2. DJ Abbott*

          And I learned those skills easily on the job and had a few years experience when employers started with the degree thing. Now they’re taught in high school or earlier. Using a PC and MS programs isn’t that hard to learn. There are easily accessible training courses for other skills.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I worked in a highly technical field for a number of years, and the most common degree on several teams I worked with was political science. No one was every disqualified because of their undergraduate major because people with the relevant experience were (and still are) difficult to find. Absent experience, a more technical degree or educational experience would be helpful, but, once someone had work experience, I could not care less if their degree was in basket weaving.

      3. Verthandi*

        With you on that observation. My working class parents could not afford to pay for (or even help pay for) college for all of us, so it was college for none unless we financed it ourselves.

      4. DJ Abbott*

        I’m not talking about specialties, like childcare or education. Obviously a specialty like that requires more training. I’m talking about requiring a degree to be a secretary. Or shipping clerk. Or admin or EA. Or many jobs that require skills, but not specialized education.
        Requiring a degree for these, especially if people are hired right out of college and don’t actually have work experience or skills, is discrimination. You don’t learn these skills in college. A college degree only guarantees that the person had enough money and time to complete a degree. The skills for these types of jobs can be learned in other ways – through experience, or training courses in specific skills. And people who learn them this way, should NOT be discriminated against!

    2. pally*

      One time I received a call, after a first round interview, asking me to state how many total years of work experience I had. They explained that one factor that goes into the salary part of the job offer is a calculation based on number of years’ experience. Their goal is to make sure to properly compensate those with many years of experience.

      Yeah, right.

      The “goal” is to price certain candidates out of the job.

      1. California living*

        My workplace does this. We are heavily unionized and total years of workplace experience does go into the equity consideration. However we do also put the hiring range in the job ad. Years of experience just helps set where in that range you fall.

      2. Red Flags Everywhere*

        We go into a hiring situation with a minimum (based on the pay band) and the maximum our budget can handle in context of a reasonable degree of parity. Once we select a candidate, HR reviews the application (NOT the uploaded resume if there is one) and sets a hiring rate based on years of relevant experience and years of overall experience. We can offer less than HR recommends, but not more and we can’t go over the budget. I don’t know how other managers handle it, but I push for the maximum starting salary possible up to my budget limit. People who don’t include their entire work history are often leaving a lot of money on the table. Most managers don’t understand how this works and don’t/won’t put in the (hella) extra work, but I’m surprised that a candidate would take the effort as an insult or negative thing. Maybe it’s been well-received because I explain why I’m asking and what I’d do with the information?

    3. Platypus*

      I work in insurance and everything is degree or relevant experience. For older folks, the experience will trump that degree in whatever a million years ago. And we are in a high salary, specialized part of insurance. It’s a great career everyone!

    4. jane's nemesis*

      I am around your age, and lucky for me, I didn’t actually GET a bachelor’s until I was over 40! So my college graduation date (5 years ago-ish) actually makes me look TOO YOUNG for the jobs I’m applying for LOL. Luckily I haven’t applied anywhere that has discriminated against me in either direction (that I know if, I guess? But I’ve had plenty of good interviews and job offers in my recent career.)

    5. L*

      I wish i was job searching (not really) because i returned to college in my 50s and earned a degree, so anyone trying to calculate my age from my graduation date would be waaaay off!

    6. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I put the date of my degree because it’s misleading hehe! I was working in the field for years before I got the degree, and I got it on the strength of my professional experience rather than by studying. Anyone who reads carefully will figure it out since I usually include something like 28 years’ experience in my cover letter, but nobody has ever picked up on it.

    7. Red Pepper Jelly*

      One of the things I’ve seen becoming more common as a result of increasing DEIB awareness (maybe in other sectors it was common before now but my industry tends to embrace change slowly) is blind resumes…no names, no dates of graduation, college names blacked out; information which could immediately identify a person’s age, or possibly their gender or ethnicity is removed.

      Also systemic reevaluation of job descriptions…determining if a high school diploma, let alone a college degree, is really necessary for a variety of jobs. Turns out it isn’t for a large number of positions.

    8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Wow. I was going to ask the LW how they even know the candidates’ ages, as I am sure I removed all graduation dates and early work experience from my resume in my early 40s… So this is how. The automated application system force you to tell them, it seems. That’s not going to help my anxiety about what’ll happen if I am ever out of work and have to look for a job, like, AT ALL.

      At least, in my field (tech), pretty much every job posting I’ve seen, both from my employer and others, said they wanted a “degree or relevant experience”.

    9. Captain Swan*

      The date on the degree may not be to get an idea of age but skill. for example, if I want a computer engineer/scientist for a hard core coding job then I may want someone with a more recent degree who knows all the recent languages as opposed to someone with an older degree whose been coding in a legacy system for a number of years. Coding might not be the best example but you get the idea.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        With all due respect, this kind of reasoning is why people like me are worried about our career ending for good if we lose our job past a certain age. We get paid to learn new languages. We have always been paid to learn new languages. It’s what we do. When you hire someone with a recent degree who knows recent languages and then new languages come out, what are you going to do – lay them off and hire a fresh batch of shiny new grads? (At new-grad salaries, saving the company money – double win!) Really hope it was just an unfortunate example, but I’m afraid this really is how a lot of the employers operate.

    10. Head sheep counter*

      Preach! Seriously with X number of years of experience one solidly overcomes any degree requirements for basically… any job other than perhaps surgeon. Admittedly like with surgeon getting to x number of years of experience without a degree is its own challenge and is sometimes improbable.

      I have a hard time respecting anyone who tells me that what I did when I was in my early 20s has much bearing on the balance of my career. Huzzah for Dance Degrees and Theater degrees… but… no… that has no bearing on ones ability to manage an account, project or whatever 20 years down the road. Lets talk actual experiences and if those line up with your actual needs.

  14. Georgie*

    LW3 here – thanks everyone for your kind words (and probably fair caution, I’m really sorry to hear that this has ever gone badly for anyone). It’s been a few weeks since I had this conversation with my boss, and honestly I’m incredibly glad I did. My great-grandboss (who’s very well regarded) pulled me aside to let me know that his recent month of sick leave was anxiety related and that I could come to him if I needed anything. I know we’ve a ways to go with mental health stigma, but as someone who’s always been a high performer I’m grateful I was able to try and chip away at some stereotypes while also getting some of the grace I need. I don’t know if this decision will hurt me in future, but I’m lucky enough to be in an in-demand field where I can move company away from the problem if this ends up being career limiting.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      That’s good to hear. This kind of cultural change has to be modeled by higher-ups to have a real chance of bedding in.

      I hope things are getting easier for you all round.

    2. Myrin*

      Yay, OP, that’s so great to hear!

      My sister is very open about her mental health problems (anxiety, PTSD, depression), and intentionally so. She’s well aware of the stigma surrounding it but ever since she was in in-patient care in 2016, she’s decided that this is be the topic she will talk about and she will spread awareness around and she will call out stereotypes and prejudice and so forth.

      She knows that there might be workplaces or even just individual coworkers this will not go over well with but she doesn’t care – it’s her topic and she will die on that hell. I think she’s incredibly courageous and really admire her for it and I’m very happy to say that in the two workplaces she’s worked since then, the reception has been surprisingly positive and has indeed, like with yourself, OP, resulted in others’ being more open about their own struggles as well. It certainly helps that she’s her department’s top and most reliable and most knowledgeable performer but she hopes that she’s also paving the way for others who aren’t as outstanding as she is to be taken seriously as well.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Your sister is awesome! I suffered from some pretty severe postpartum depression and I make a point to talk openly about it when it comes up organically, because it shouldn’t be a taboo thing for someone to talk about.

    3. Calanthea*

      This is really lovely to read, thank you for the update.

      And good luck with adjusting to the med change etc!

    4. Glorious Twelfth*

      I’m glad you got lucky! Also glad you got some good advice here and can make informed decisions about such disclosure in the future – it’s definitely a risk and it’s worth knowing what you are facing when you decide whether to share such sensitive information. It can be worth the risk, but not everyone is in a position to take the chance as the repercussions can be so significant and long-lasting.

    5. The Prettiest Curse*

      I’m glad that disclosing your mental health issues has gone well for you, and I can see why your great-grandboss is so well-respected. Sending good thoughts your way for your continued recovery.

    6. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I get the feeling that work should be structured differently if even the big bosses are stressed out by it all!

    7. CR*

      Thank you for the update. Your letter reminded me that it’s always a good idea to limit the amount of work-related stuff we tell our parents, because they just don’t get it and it results in arguing like you did with your mum.

  15. Previously bullied*

    LW1: I used to work in a situation where a sales rep like the one you described used to routinely bully his staff, behave badly etc – but was very good at hiding it to his bosses. Or perhaps his bosses had a general idea that something was “off”, but didn’t have anything to go on to start a disciplinary process. A report from an external stakeholder like you would have done wonders to get the bad out.

  16. Bee*

    LW#5: I’ve been in a similar situation and all I can say is, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

    I reached out to a recruiter on LinkedIn about my application and after some back and forth, he realized it had gone to the wrong person and it should have been assigned to him. He set up a phone screen for the following morning, but I got a rejection email that night. I messaged him about it, and he told me to ignore the rejection, and we went through with the phone interview. In hindsight, I think the guy it had been assigned to was doing damage control and trying to clean up the hundreds of applications he’d ignored before handing it over to my recruiter. I probably got rejected because my most recent job titles were unrelated.

    I’ve been in the role for a few years now and it’s been amazing! If it’s a role you want, don’t reject yourself on their behalf. Worst case scenario, you confirm that you didn’t get the job. But there’s always a decent chance it was a mistake and you could still be in the running.

  17. Sage*

    #2 – asking the candidate’s age
    You wrote “he only uses age as the first assessment to see how mature a candidate is”.

    Does he know that some people in their 50’s have the maturity of a toddler? I assume not, but it surprised me that he thought age is good data to determine the person’s maturity.

    1. Myrin*

      I was thinking that!
      It’s like that with a lot of things – you can certainly say that broadly, looking at a given place’s population as a whole, the older segments are probably more mature than the younger ones, but that really doesn’t tell you anything about any given individual.
      (Also, I don’t think that even statistically there’s a huge difference between, say, someone in their mid-30s and someone in their mid-50s – they’re all adults and I don’t really expect a huge bump in maturity levels happening from one to the other, generally speaking.)

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      No he does not, because he himself has the maturity of a toddler. So he thinks that is what maturity looks like.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        He thinks it is a good and diplomatic way to get around why he really needs to know the age… it is not. (But he wouldn’t know it, because he has the maturity of a toddler!)

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      Exactly – the most tantrum-prone person on my team is in their 60s. (Ironically, a significant number of their tantrums about not being “respected” for their age and years in the business. But their idea of “respect” is unquestioning compliance with anything they say, regardless of how out of date or nonsensical.)

      I’ve been managing since my early 30s and am frequently the youngest person on my team. No one’s every expressed concerns about my maturity, though some are surprised to learn my age. I apparently look younger than I actually am but am only now hitting an age where people are not surprised someone my age is in charge. Getting paid on age or years of experience is a personal pet peeve, too. Pay me for the level/volume of work that I produce.

  18. someone*

    LW3: In case it’s helpful, I’ve had good luck with “a chronic thing is flaring up right now (because of stress)” and “I’m changing meds for something well-managed but it’s throwing my sleep hopefully just for for a few weeks.” That may still be too much info for many workplaces but it has been a solid middle ground for mine.

    That has allowed me to share that it’s health related and hopefully temporary without having to specify further! If I’ve needed something specific I’ve also asked for it, e g. “hey folks, please don’t be shy about extra reminders this week!”

    1. Nonanon*

      Depending on how you phrase it, you also may be able to find additional resources; I told my manager that I was having trouble getting medication for a chronic, non-life threatening condition (instead of anxiety/depression) and was rerouted to our HR department, who gave me the point of contact for our insurance rep (if you’ve ever had to deal with insurance before… sometimes talking to a rep vs customer service avoids the runaround; in my case, my meds were covered but the prescriber was out of network, so I needed a new prescription from a covered provider… which was better than the “we don’t have prior authorization” the customer service call gave me). In LW’s case, they may not have qualified or needed accommodations, but there are people in similar places that might not know what accommodations are available.

      It does have a lot to do with workplace energy, norms, and culture, and I’m glad LW felt comfortable enough to speak up and say something to their manager.

  19. NotQuiteCool*

    LW3 – As a manager, I have had 2 or 3 occasions where someone is my team has shared a struggle with mental health issues, or a change in medication that may have short-term side-effects. I’ve always found this very useful to know, as it allows me a chance to understand any performance issues if they arise and it flags that they may need to extra support in the short term.

    It has never been anything I would even consider mentioning in discussions about raises or promotions.

    1. Anonnymouse, too*

      I would respectfully disagree, YMMV big time here.
      I once had a severe *physical* illness and was foolish enough to share that with my manager. In spite of a full recovery, that bit me in the a** big time. Please be careful.

  20. bamcheeks*

    If the manager in letter 2 is actively *preferring* older candidates — seeking them out and paying them more for the same qualifications and relevant experience than younger employees— is he doing anything wrong or is the law fine with that?

    1. Rachel*

      Legally and culturally, there are no consequences for a stated preference for older workers.

      There are no protections for people under 40 legally. Culturally, it is impossible to be ageist to young people.

    2. Katara's side braids*

      I was also going to ask this! Seems like it would be difficult to prove that the preference wasn’t due to “experience” in a lot of cases. But in situations where experience is clearly equal or the younger candidate has more, is there any protection against age-based decision making in favor of the older candidate?

      1. Angstrom*

        It’s still age-based discrimination. You can say something like “We prefer associates who have more mature interpersonal skills”, but you can’t make that determination solely on age. Age and maturity don’t always advance together.

        1. Pescadero*

          It’s still wrong, and still discrimination – but there are good chances it doesn’t violate the age discrimination law.

          You can literally make a determination solely on age – as long as the determination is that the person is too young.

    3. Happy meal with extra happy*

      Some states have laws against age discrimination no matter the age (so not just over 40).

    4. hbc*

      Michigan has a ban against using age at all, so it’s a problem to preferentially hire older candidates in at least one state. But my understanding of the Federal law is that you can proudly announce that you’re only hiring people over 40 and tell a 39 year old to try again in 2024.

    5. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      My understanding of the law is that the letter of the law makes it illegal to take age into consideration at all. There are other protections in the law for people over 40, whom this law is meant to protect from age-based discrimination, but the method of doing that also prevents age-based preference. Not a lawyer, though.

    6. JSPA*

      This! Unless there are state laws I’m unaware of, there is no age discrimination law that protects younger workers.

      The laws are focused on protecting older workers; when more people joined a company for life, and had semi-regular increases in salary, it had become very common for companies to preferentially fire older workers who had become too costly (whether or not they might also be slowing down with age).

      IMO, even if someone doesn’t have experience in the field, there’s an argument to be made for “life experience.” That’s not even, necessarily, the presumption that it will make them better at the job.

      When people have a longer,”mature” work history (of any sort), it’s fair to presume that their attitide, aptitudes and professional life are fairly fully-formed. And it’s thus easier to decide, if it turns out that they’re crappy at the job (or crappy at office norms), that it’s not a case where repeated coaching and development is likely to mature them into functional workers.

    7. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      I don’t know what the law would say about asking several people their ages, and then hiring a 43-year-old rather than a 55-year-old. I suspect that a lawyer would look askance at “yes, I asked everyone their ages, but Candidate A’s age isn’t why I rejected him and offered the position to someone significantly younger.”

      Alison frequently points out that it’s a bad idea to ask about (for example) people’s religion or whether they’re pregnant, because you can’t legally use that information, but asking the question suggests that you are taking it into account.

  21. Dinwar*

    LW #1: This was a networking event. The person was there to demonstrate whether or not they were a group your company could do business with. They did so, in spades. This is absolutely information you can and should provide to your boss. It is, after all, the entire purpose of the dinner–to provide you with information to take back to your company so that they can make decisions on hiring this contractor.

    I would say both you and your partner can tell your bosses–again, this is a networking event, the whole point is that the person was trying to drum up business, so it’s 100% fine to tell your boss “I had an opportunity to sit in on a meal with a rep from Company X, here’s why we shouldn’t do business with them.”

    For my part I would not want to work with an organization that hires such people, nor would any of the other project managers that I work with! Folks in my business group have thrown people off site for racist comments before, and we pride ourselves on having a fairly diverse workforce for our industry. A company that would hire a person like this to represent them has no place in our business model.

  22. Delta Delta*

    #2 – Just ick. Not only is this boss engaging in unlawful age discrimination, he’s making assumptions that shouldn’t come into play. He says he can’t hire someone who’s 45 because the salary would be too low. If the job posting listed the salary (and I know they don’t always list the salaries, so that’s a different problem), presumably the applicants know that going in and are willing to apply. And even if the salary is low, the boss’s job isn’t to assess whether it’s sufficient for that person, the salary is the salary. If the applicant is the right person, they can take the job or not. That’s how it works. I had a boss once who only wanted to hire people fresh out of school because he assumed he could save a buck by paying them less. This had predictable results.

    1. el l*

      That the boss frames his hiring first in terms of age (rather than just the odd slip of a tongue) is a yellow flag.

      That he responds so defensively – to almost anything, but especially something like this where he’s clearly in the wrong – is a huge red flag.

      His problems almost certainly span things far bigger than weird age attitudes. Time to go.

  23. Ex-prof*

    LW 1, an added level of squick here is that this Fergus knows he’s being offensive and knows that his guests (really his company’s guests) are likely to feel constrained to put up with it because 1) they’re trying to behave professionally and 2) they’re guests.


    1. Kat*

      In my industries it’s always been the opposite – the point of one company hosting the meal is that they want to get business from the guests, it’s a business development expense. So yes, they’re hosting, and the people that do this tend to be sociable, gregarious, good at getting conversation flowing…but the whole point of this kind of dinner is for the guests to enjoy themselves and to build warm relationships so everyone will want to work together in the future, and the host works hard to do that.

      It makes the whole situation baffling to me. Did he assume they’d share his views? Does he think they don’t need to be convinced because they’re not the decision making level so he let his guard down? Does this approach normally work for him? Does he think that appropriate workplace behaviour policies don’t apply when you’re abroad?!

  24. Antilles*

    For #5, I would probably have attended the interview anyways. Since (1) you had applied to another job at the company AND (2) you got a rejection email but not a meeting cancellation, there’s a possibility it was just a systems bug in the modern era of “candidate tracking systems”. For example, the hiring manager for the first job clicked “reject candidate” and the system mis-interpreted that as a rejecting all the applications.
    Especially given the timeline of only noticing 15 minutes before: At that point, I’ve already done my preparation, put on my suit, gotten mentally prepared and am just sitting there ready and waiting, so why not at least throw the Hail Mary pass? Worst case, it’s just an extra few minutes of sitting in my suit and practicing my last-minute interview mental prep, then quietly sitting on the Teams call for ~5 minutes or so.

  25. Teapot Librarian*

    OP 4: Mothers can really mess us up. Mine spent my entire childhood suggesting that we only did things that we were the bare minimum in order to get praise so I totally get your childhood experience! I think the key in talking to your employee is to be sincere. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking that you need to overcompensate to not sound sarcastic like your mom did, but I think if you just use your usual conversation tone to say that you’ve noticed their improvements and are glad about it because you like them (or whatever sincere reason), they’ll appreciate knowing they’re on the right track.

  26. NYNY*

    Interesting about ages. The IRS has been tasked with hiring MANY new agents. Like 10s of thousands. They are hiring many in their criminal division, which because they are considered law enforcement (and some carry guns), they are only hiring if under 37. What a joke, they want accounting majors, preference to CPAs (that makes sense), but must be under 37. I doubt they will get many applicants, hard enough to hire CPAs, but limiting to under 37? What a joke. Maybe SOME need to carry guns, but even criminal investigations by the IRS, biggest danger is paper cuts. Familiarity with tax law, software programs FAR more important.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      My understanding of hiring age limits is that it has to do with mandatory retirement ages and pension requirements. Law enforcement positions and air traffic controllers have mandatory retirement ages (I think 57 for law enforcement and 56 for air traffic controllers). It takes 20 years to qualify for a full government pension, so if the government hired, say, a 42-year-old, they wouldn’t receive a full pension when they retired at age 56 or 57. Obviously a 42-year-old can handle the law enforcement tasks, because people hired into the position at age 25 are still working when they are 42.

    2. Menace to Sobriety*

      Familiarity with what you’re ranting about is also important.

      The IRS purchases guns and ammunition for special agents in its criminal investigation division, a law enforcement branch established in 1919. The typical IRS auditors that Americans would encounter in a routine audit are unarmed.
      The special agents who are armed investigate crimes ranging from money laundering to cybercrime. There were fewer agents in 2021 than there were in 2017.
      The division’s spending on ammunition this year is on par with previous years and less than what was spent a decade ago, IRS data shows. Much of the ammunition is used at its training academy in Georgia, where agents complete firearms training and handgun qualifications.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Would love some sources on this because it sounds like a lot of disinformation that was going around last year

  27. Red Flags Everywhere*

    Re: sales rep behavior – An otherwise good company with an excellent product lost our business years ago because of a terrible sales rep. We are in the market again and the first thing we confirmed was that the problematic sales rep was finally gone. I wish the rules in play would have permitted me to directly tell the other company rep exactly why they lost the bid, but it doesn’t work that way. So consider that if you’re in a different situation (clearly because we wouldn’t be able to share a meal in the scenario described) you may be helping the company in the larger sense if some/most of their not-quite clients aren’t able to give them honest feedback.

    1. el l*

      This is so obviously something Gertrude should share with her boss that…I wonder if their organization has some cultural problems that are even putting this in question.

      People should feel empowered to share this with their boss, as just a normal conversation – “Look, when we were there, got a war story for you – X was a total jerk.”

      Because a client-side person being that level of awful is relevant info for assessing whether to ever do business with them. This is the sort of information that can and should get around.

  28. BellyButton*

    LW2: I would answer the question with “They have X# years of experience, which aligns with the job description/requirements.” If he pushes I would answer with “I don’t know.” If he pushes more I would quote Alison’s script about age discrimination.

  29. Natebrarian*

    LW1 reminds me of stories I used to hear about a rep from a very large library services company (as in, almost no one can avoid doing business with them). When meeting with the librarians at our university (in an extremely liberal college town) he would tell them all about his visits to his favorite restaurant in town.

    That restaurant?


    1. BellyButton*

      I had a sales rep ask me to lunch and when I found out it was Hooters I declined, he said “Aww come on, you are hot enough to work there.” :| GROSS!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        A vendor in an OldJob asked my teammate, who was his contact as he was trying to sell us their product, if I was single (thankfully, wasn’t at the time – who knows what he would’ve done if I’d been in fact single and she’d told him). Why do people do this *as* they are trying to make a sale? To me it’s like the short way of saying “I am unprofessional as all get out. Do not buy anything from me. I will screw you over.” Why make this a potential client’s first impression of yourself and your company?

        1. Esprit de l'escalier*

          “Why make this a potential client’s first impression of yourself and your company?”

          I’m voting for hormones and/or gumption.

  30. thelettermegan*

    For mental health stigmatisers, I like use language that focuses on specific concerns regarding specific business problems.

    Most people who still hold stigmas around mental health will still understand phrases such as ‘stressful’,’anxious’,’nervous’,’worried’,’concerned’, etc. With them, you can map out the instances that would lead to panic as the concern, instead of stating panic as the concern.

    For example, if the thought of massive data loss gets your heart rate rising, then the concern to bring to your manager is that the team’s data backup process might not be sufficient for the migration. Like a lack of curb cuts in the sidewalk, business disasters like these can be terrible for people who depend on business stabilty. If you can trace your concerns to specific problems, or even just a general request for quality control at each step in the process, then you’ll come off as someone who’s great at risk management. You might even get prior permission to take a break and review concerns if ‘something in your gut doesn’t feel right’.

    “The process of the data migration has been concerning, and I believe I’m not the only one on the team who is nervous about this – could we get some clarity around our roles moving forward? Anyway we can extend the timeline on XYZ so that we can ensure we’re managing each step correctly? Is there some flexibility in the timeline incase we experience unforseen issues?”

  31. Menace to Sobriety*

    For LW2: I’d just say, “I don’t know.” My age isn’t on my resume, nor is my DoB. I graduated w/ my Bachelors at 34 and Master’s when I was 40, so using my graduation dates wouldn’t help figure out how old I was, either. And I use only “Relevant Work History” on my resume, so there’s no way to tell that I had a fast food job in HS on there and work with that. So, I guess the question is: do you KNOW their ages? If so, how and if not, simply say, “I don’t know; that isn’t a question we’re allowed to ask” or “I dont’ know; it isn’t on their resume but they have X years of experience and seem qualified.” Train him not to ask you by…well, not answering THAT question!

  32. Bookworm*

    LW3: Agree with Alison it can really depend. I spoke to a manager about how the current structure wasn’t working for me: I had worked multiple weekends in a row and was furious I was expected to respond to messages after hours for things that weren’t emergencies. (Didn’t actually say I was furious though!) Manager refused to budge and I was fired not long after for being “inflexible.” It’s been several months but I still believe that while my approach probably could have been better, this was unreasonable.

    But you can’t always tell how someone will react and unfortunately I do believe this was probably an excuse to get rid of me instead of actually, well, managing and acknowledging maybe something was wrong with them. I still don’t regret it.

  33. Gender Menace*

    OP3, I literally had the same conversation with my manager this week. I weighed it a lot beforehand whether I should, but given the new medication I’ll be on soon having an effect on my processing speed, and just general Bad Life Times, I decided to give them a head’s up. The caveat is that I work for a company that is very openly neurodiverse and tries to be accommodating when possible, so I trust my manager to let me say if I need workload changes, or if I’m just asking for a bit of grace if I’m not as good at doing words things for a little while.

    YMMV, but I always think even a vague “hey, I have some life stuff happening that might effect how my work goes. I’m trying to stay on top of it, but please let me know if you’re seeing a noticeable slip so we can talk about it.” is a good idea.

    I have worked for bosses that have weaponized mental health struggles in the past, as well, but honestly I took it as a sign that it wasn’t a workplace for me (because I *need* to be somewhere that can work with my particular brain) and tried to get out when I could.

    I hope life eases up on you.

Comments are closed.