my assistant keeps arguing with me

A reader writes:

I’m a new manager. My assistant was close with the previous manager who I took over from, and it’s been a bit of a challenge creating a good relationship with her. Any time I make a decision for our team, she constantly asks why and she quite often says, “That’s not how Cortney and I used to do it.” (Cortney is her previous manager.) She constantly is comparing me to her Cortney whenever there there is a decision about workload or responsibilities. Any suggestions or advice?

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Auctioning off lunch with senior executives
  • Our equity posters were vandalized
  • Telling my new coworkers I don’t use social media

{ 151 comments… read them below }

  1. Ann O'Nemity*

    Re: Auctioning off lunch with senior executives

    My view on this is going to depend on the details. Where are they getting lunch, who all is invited, etc. When I’ve seen this done well, it includes an experience that is hard to come by – eating in a private club or ultra exclusive restaurant, having the CEO bring along a celebrity, flying a helicopter to a nearby city, etc. It is not just lunch with CEO at the cafe down the street.

    1. Miss Fisher*

      They did this for a few years where I worked, but it wasnt that you bid on these. These were draw prizes. A friend of mine won lunch and a round of golf with a higher level exec. She doesn’t golf and did not want to spend her off time going out for this. She let them know and was told that is fine, she can bring her spouse to play in her place. She ended up leaving the org before this could be cashed in, but it sounded like she didnt have the option to say no.

      I have not seen these options listed in the last couple years though so maybe they found out that not everyone was interest in something like this.

      1. ferrina*

        Wait, she had to take PTO for that? It’s not really a reward if you have to lose some of your benefits (i.e., PTO time) to cash it in. Especially if you don’t have the option not to cash it in.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          It sounds like “free time” rather than “time off”. IOW, they didn’t go golfing during the workday. It was on a weekend or evening instead.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        How uncomfortable! I don’t play golf, and my SO really, really doesn’t play golf. (As in, my tenuous grasp of organized sports is very slightly better than his tenuous grasp of organized sports.)

        If it has been me, I might have been able to talk my retired father into going. He plays golf and is also incredibly outspoken about his prolabor political opinions. So, a fun afternoon for all!

    2. KayDee*

      They did this in my old office as a prize that could be won but the lunch was in the café in the gas station across the street that was for some unknown reason wildly popular with all of the employees. Didn’t appeal to me, but people had fun with it.

      1. FricketyFrack*

        I used to work near a gas station that housed a tiny Greek place that made incredible food. Sometimes those gas station restaurants are shockingly good. Or maybe you just worked with a bunch of weirdos who really enjoyed mediocre food.

        1. MtnLaurel*

          The best fried catfish I ever had was at a teeny tiny gas station in remote southern Georgia (US).

        2. Tinkerbell*

          There’s one near me that used to be a gas station that had amazing Indian food. They eventually closed the gas station part and turned the building into a restaurant. They’re waaaay out in the boonies yet the parking lot always has cars every time I drive by, so I guess it was a good decision!

          1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

            In my experience, gas station food is either the literal best thing you’ve ever tasted or poison. There’s no in between.

            1. Fluffy Initiative*

              I just heard an interview on the radio yesterday about a new book all about eateries in gas stations, particularly in the South! It’s called “Thank You, Please Come Again” by Kate Medley, if anyone is interested. It gets into how a lot of places have really good food, and interesting cuisines you might not expect.

              1. Jean (just Jean)*

                Thanks for posting this! I heard it too but did not remember any useful details (like book title or author).

        3. PhyllisB*

          Absolutely can be good food at a gas station. There’s one up the highway from me that serves all kinds of seafood and fabulous fried chicken. Also fried rice and other Asian specialties. What they’re really famous for is their poboys. They could give New Orleans a run for their money. In fact, it’s been written up in two magazines. Taste of the South ranked it number two. Pioneer Woman ranked it first for gas station food.

      2. KaciHall*

        There used to be a BBQ place attached to a gas station across the road from the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky. The first time my boyfriend took me there for lunch, 20 minutes away from the town we lived in, I thought it was a bad joke. None was definitely on me, that was the best BBQ I’d ever had. It was so sketchy. Sadly it wasn’t there when I drove through in 2022; I had tried to time my 700 mile drive so that I would pass at lunchtime.

      3. Wendy Darling*

        One of the best places to eat near my work is a dingy mini-mart in a parking garage that also happens to make killer food.

    3. ursula*

      This whole idea is so weird to me – I’ve only ever worked at small or mid-size organizations where the owners/partners/EDs were always around. I understand rationally that the idea is that if you make a good impression or start to build a good relationship with the CEO it will benefit you somehow, but if you’re too far down the chain I don’t see how that’s actually supposed to happen, and if you’re too high up the chain it just strikes me as awkward ass-kissing. How do you make *that* good of an impression on the CEO over a 1 hour lunch? Again, I know this stuff probably does make a difference; it’s just way outside my frame of reference for how work relationships work.

      1. TechWorker*

        Tbh in a really huge company I doubt there’s even the expectation that it’s anything to do with your career, think of it more like ‘having fancy lunch with a celebrity’. That might be why whoever set this up thinks it’s less icky, I don’t know…

        1. ClaireW*

          I wonder if this is a cultural thing or just my personality, but like, the idea of thinking of a CEO as equivalent to a celebrity is wild to me. They’re just a person, and usually a person I’d have very little in common with – having lunch with them would feel more like an awkward work encounter than some glamorous honor.

      2. Tinkerbell*

        For a big company and with bidding starting at $160, I imagine this will get won by an “intern” whose parents rub shoulders with the CEO’s set, and who will use it as a networking opportunity for their future company-owning career. That still makes it a weird and icky thing to offer to employees, though!

      3. Malarkey01*

        This was big in finance. It really had zero career impact. It was usually just a fun thing that you didn’t get to experience. Usually one of the company limos (this was before they went to SUVs) would take 2-5 “winners” and they’d go to a pretty exclusive restaurant where you might see other semi-famous people. One year the CEO was being interviewed on CNBC so the winners went with him to meet the news “celebrities” and get a behind the scenes tour. One year the lunch was on a yacht that went around the island. The exec barely learns your name and the conversation was always pretty light and half the time the executive left halfway through the meal but everyone else could stay and enjoy dessert or a few drinks.

    4. MassMatt*

      I think this usually boils down to the executives having enormous egos, who else would consider a prize for employees and think “I know, I’ll let them bid for the chance to have dinner with ME!”. The grandeur and pomposity is mind blowing. Honestly, I would pay to NOT be around such self-centered jerks.

      That’s even before the icky thought of brown-nosing lickspittles paying for face time.

      Are you Warren Buffet? Is the lunch at a Michelin star restaurant? Then get your nose out of the air and auction off something people actually WANT, like an extra week of vacation time.

      1. MassMatt*

        Not to mention, if gifts should flow down, not up, that goes double for auction bids. Are underlings going to feel pressured to bid on these boss lunches?

    5. StressedButOkay*

      My father, a now retired very senior ranked person, literally laughed at being asked to sign up for one of these. He said, I quote, “I don’t even want to have lunch with me! That sounds terrible!”

      SO many senior managers think people are fighting for this but many people really really don’t.

      (My dad instead purchased a ‘dinner on him’ gift card to a very nice restaurant to be entered. It was a huge hit.)

  2. DivergentStitches*

    I think instead of an in-person lunch, if they insist on doing this, they could auction off small zoom gatherings, like 5-10 people at a time, to have a “lunch” session with an exec where everyone just sits on zoom and eats their lunch and chats about whatever.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      I wonder would people be willing to bid $160 for that though. I assume the prize is as much a free meal in a presumably swanky restaurant as it is meeting the exec. Personally, I would feel have a zoom session with an exec and 4-9 colleagues was work, not a prize and it definitely wouldn’t be something I’d be willing to pay to do. Not that I’d pay to have a meal out with an exec either, but a lot of people do like going for expensive meals whereas I’m not sure many people like zooming with their bosses.

      It definitely is a fairer way to ensure access but I’m not sure it’s the same value for money.

  3. Siri Headroom*

    No, I will not be spending my hard earned money to have lunch with a CEO who won’t know who I am, who doesn’t know my role, and will more than likely forget who I am.

    Maybe unless they end up paying for my winning bid AND lunch. Or the CEO is flying to each city and everyone gets a chance to meet them.

    1. Meemur*

      This is my thinking too. Different strokes and all that but I think LW may be overestimating how many people would voluntarily choose to do this let alone pay for the privilege

    2. Alan*

      Yep. In a 10,000 person company, lunch with the CEO isn’t that helpful. They won’t remember who you are an hour later.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        I could see MAYBE this being valuable if it were a free meal, the winner was random, and the CEO was planning to use the opportunity to listen to the little people and take feedback on things he or she wouldn’t have heard otherwise. (the “nobody can work from home” policy is driving people off, the new cafeteria company is dramatically worse, maintenance is always drastically understaffed and doesn’t have time to clean everything and can’t we please pay them a living wage, etc.) Like, there are scenarios where this could plausibly result in better working conditions for the winner… but it’s unlikely, and definitely worth paying money for!

    3. Drowning in Spreadsheets*

      That’s not what I’d spend money on either. For charity auctions I’m used to things like gourmet goody baskets, spa treatments, gift cards to places ranging from REI to hotel stays,

  4. Miss Fisher*

    They do some interesting things to to raise money. The executives are always good natured. We did the lunch prizes, jail and bail, dunk the execs and pie to the faces. Always too awkward for me to participate but people seem to love it.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      My high school had a working farm attached so we did a “Kiss A Cow” fundraiser where the teacher who got the most money got to smooch a Holstein, and the money went to something school related (it’s been 29 years, I can’t remember what it was specifically).

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Anand nesting failure. I’d love an update on the DEI poster vandalism. In my dreams they find camera footage.

  5. me*

    Re: The Posters

    I understand not wanting to feed the troll. But if you don’t say anything, then it may be taken as tacit approval of the vandalism, which can encourage the trolls. More importantly, ignoring the messages will send a message to the marginalized people that the issues you want to address by hanging the posters aren’t important.

    1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      Tearing down the posters was a hostile act, and should be treated as such. And I agree with “me” (is that a tautology?) that marginalized people are watching very closely what management does and does not do in this situation.

      Among other things, an organization-wide communication ought to be sent out stating what happened and why it is a problem, stating that the organization will not tolerate suc actions.

      1. Lucy*

        Yeah, a good friend of mine in a toxic work environment has repeatedly been told by her manager, in response to sexual harassment, “ah, you know, I could raise it with him but it’s so much more powerful coming from you as the injured party”. This feels about as valid as the “not dignifying it with a response” excuse to not respond and not take a stance on something totally abhorrent and inappropriate.

        Workplace hierarchy exists, and with great power comes great responsibility. No one loves conflict (even people who are used to it) but that’s why the big bosses get the big bucks – it’s their job to establish what their workplace will and won’t tolerate. Ultimately, they’re accountable, and if the workplace is unfriendly or even unsafe to women, that’s not (wholly) the fault of this one vandal – it’s on them too, for not addressing and rectifying the problem.

    2. WorkerDrone*

      I agree completely about the message ignoring it would send.

      Also, don’t feel the trolls is a strategy for those who don’t have any other strategy. If a troll shows up in these comments, we ignore them, because we have no other way of effectively dealing with them.

      But if a troll shows up in these comments, Alison bans them, not ignores them. That’s because SHE has other ways of effectively dealing with them.

      So when a company that does have other ways of dealing with trolls ignores them, the ONLY message it sends is: “We tacitly support the troll and will ensure they can continue their behavior unchecked.”

      Because that is literally what they are doing. They have the power to stop it, they choose not to, so it’s much less “not feeding the trolls” and much more “literally supporting the trolls”.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        When a troll shows up in these comments, I report them so Alison can moderate effectively.

        The best way to report is to reply with write a quick message to Alison (that you’re reporting the comment for moderation and why) and include a link. Since all links go to Alison for moderation, she’ll see the message and can decide whether to delete the comment, close the thread or ban the user.

      2. Warrior Princess Xena*


        Deliberately destroying office property is something that can and should be covered by the company’s normal disciplinary action policies. The company can also certainly require compliance with workplace initiatives, which does not include “tear up the posters related to the initiative”. People with constructive criticism of a program don’t default to property destruction.

      3. Freya*

        Lieutenant General David Morrison of the Australian Army said in 2013, in a speech addressing a particular scandal in the Australian defence forces, that “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept”.

        (he later attributed the quote to David Hurley, now ex-Governor of NSW, but I heard it for the first time in Lt General Morrison’s 2013 speech)

  6. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    In what universe is allowing anonymous vandalism of company property fostering dissenting views?
    This sounds like a scene from a Mel Brooks movie.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Meanwhile my union has had to fight multiple times just to be allowed to send emails to its members’ work email addresses.

      I guess we should have jumped straight to vandalism.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I swear, some people have a cheat code to life. The get up in the morning, sew the emperor’s new clothes and the rest of us just wait in lines.

    2. Random Dice*

      Right now right-wing movements across the world are actively targeting diversity and inclusion. They are threats to white male power,
      to Christian nationalism, and to patriarchy (depending on the country).

      The Atlantic just had an article about how rich white male donors are trying to get Harvard to eliminate DEI initiatives.

  7. HR Friend*

    Re the social media letter. IME, there’s been a turn in the past few years, and being absent from social media is almost trendy! Lots of people avoid Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, etc. There are negative psychological effects of using social media, and the major companies are all sorts of ethically gross. I know this is an older letter; I wonder if it would have been asked in 2024.

    1. AF Vet*

      The only caveat I would add is to know your community. I live somewhere rather remote, and 90% of local events are ONLY posted to FB. I choose to be okay with missing out on quite a bit, but I’ve also pushed back with those organizations when they wonder WHY NoOnE iS CoMiNg to the events.

      1. Old Woman in Purple*

        My local library, grocery, and post-office all have bulletin boards where locals can post fliers/index-cards-with-info for events like gatherings-open-to-the-public, garage-sales, etc.
        Perfect for easy, low-cost, local ‘advertising’.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yes, some of my child’s HS activities use social media as their ONLY means of communicating, and it drives me crazy. We do not use the vast majority of these tools but have had to sign up for several of them just so our child can participate in school extracurriculars. I don’t want the apps on my phone or to give my data to them at all, but, if I don’t, we don’t get timely updates on practice times/locations or change to game-day schedules. One of my kids’ performing arts teachers uses apps on a social media platform to send the kids assignments for new choreography to learn.

        1. allathian*

          I’m in Finland, and one of our core cultural values is early independence for kids. In consequence, kids as young as 7 routinely go to school on their own, either walking or riding a bike if they live close enough (within about a mile for the under-10s), or by public transit. My best friend’s kid’s birthday is in November, and she couldn’t wait to turn 7 so she could get her own ticket and ride to school on her own. My son was considered a late starter because he started going to school on his own when he was 10. They’re ordinary buses that anyone can ride, not buses owned and run by the school like in the US.

          To be fair, people are used to unaccompanied kids riding the buses and the driver is legally required to intervene if other passengers are being nasty to kids (or if kids are bullying each other) and it’s a fireable offense not to (less dangerous here than in the US because carrying weapons, whether hidden or visible, is you-go-to-jail-if-you-do illegal). All commuter buses in my area have recording security cameras, too. It’s pretty unheard of for bad things to happen to kids who ride the bus unaccompanied and I’ve certainly never worried about my son’s safety when he does it. The worst I’ve heard happen in recent years is that some rowdy teenagers got thrown off the bus at the wrong stop.

          Most kids get a dumb phone or a simple smart watch with GPS tracking and the ability to call pre-programmed numbers when they start first grade, and the vast majority get a smartphone by the time they go to middle school/junior high, at least in my social circles. The cheapest plans are very cheap and the cheapest second-hand smartphones can be had for as little as 10 euros. Having a cellphone is considered a necessity for adults, like access to running water and electricity, and it’s quickly becoming the same for teens. This at least partly because public phones have all but disappeared and I only know one person under 60 who has a land line, and that’s because she lives in a remote area where cell coverage’s poor.

          Kids get their homework assignments and test grades/schedules on an app from 4th grade onwards. Parents have access to it for keeping in touch with school staff, but there’s a very strong cultural assumption that kids must learn to manage their own schoolwork as early as possible and with as little assistance/interference from parents as possible. In practice this requires that the student has access to the app. If someone doesn’t have a smartphone they can access the app online, but then they need to remember to access it regularly because they won’t get any notifications like they do on the phone app.

          Here it would be absolutely unthinkable for parents to be involved in managing a HS kid’s extracurriculars unless the kid needs extra help. In fact, when a student becomes a legal adult on their 18th birthday, they have to give explicit permission (power of attorney) to the school to continue communicating with their parents. In some families this is totally a problem because some 18 year olds are definitely not ready for that responsibility, and in such cases parents can apply for extended guardianship before the kid turns 18. Then it’s up to social services etc. to determine if the kid is mature enough to actually handle their school responsibilities on their own or not. Most kids give this power of attorney to their parents voluntarily for as long as they’re in high school and living in the same household as their parents because it’s simpler, although I did enjoy the feeling of power it gave me to sign my own absence notes as a fledgling adult! (Here kids start school the year they turn 7 and normally graduate high school the year they turn 19, so by the time they graduate, all HS seniors are legal adults. Because the cutoff is at the new year, kids who’re born in January-early June become legal adults in their junior year, the rest in summer or during the fall semester of their senior year.)

          I had to install Whatsapp on my son’s phone when he was 10 and got his first smartphone, in spite of the legal requirement to be at least 13 to use it, because that’s what his scout troop uses for communicating with both kids and parents. But I admit that it’s been a very practical way for us to keep in touch as a family, and his junior high class also has a Whatsapp group including his homeroom teacher. He can message me and his dad if he’s missed the bus coming home from school, etc.

          Whatsapp is the only social media app that I use. I’m not even on LinkedIn, certainly not on FB, Instagram, Tiktok, etc. I have a Twitter/X account but I’ve never posted anything and I can’t remember when I last logged on, but it was before the Muskrat bought it.

    2. Mo*

      I had a Facebook account and only used it for people in my hometown. People at work would find it and ask to be friends. I pointed out that I hadn’t friended my husband. That usually shut them up.

      I actually hadn’t done this because his sister would constantly be posting about her kids’ court dates and new, unplanned pregnancies. I did not want to risk my friends and families getting any of her posts in their timeline. But it made for good boundaries with co-workers as well.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. Even if you did use social media, keeping work and private life apart is probably a good idea.

      2. Laura*

        I have a firm policy of not friending people I currently work with. After one or both of us have left the company, sure.

      3. Anonymous for this one*

        I have a separate FB account that I only use for my Pentecostal, extremely conservative relatives, including my mom. They don’t need to see my Marxist memes, and I don’t need to see whatever nonsense they’re posting about Hunter Biden’s laptop that day. But yeah, other people keep sending me friend requests to that one, and I have to explain that no, I will not be adding them there. haha

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I’m going to say no, it will not be.
      Just talked to my sister today. Her daughter is getting married this summer.
      Her daughter went to school to be a llama groomer, spent four years in grooming school and then four years in special grooming training.
      During that time she met a fellow who decided to go to llama grooming school, too. So he is about four years behind her on the path.
      He just completed grooming school and will be moving across the country for his grooming specialization. Because of social media, someone saw where he is going for training. I don’t know how in their mutual connections, but it was a digital acquaintance, maybe on the llama school page announcing graduates, maybe on the destination school, maybe his grandma’s FB. Bottom line:
      My niece got an email from her supervisor telling her that she knows niece will be leaving in X month because husband is moving to X state and per their contract…blah blah blah.
      Um, my niece 1) wasn’t planning to blow off her contract; 2) wasn’t planning to leave for his temporary position. But now she has a bunch of emails asking to confirm her date of resignation.
      Someone knowing my future nephew in law peripherally just rocked my niece’s career, because what?
      No, social media is out of control.

      1. Meat Oatmeal*

        Wow, and yikes, and also some more yikes! I’m extremely unimpressed with your niece’s supervisor. That’s breathtakingly inappropriate.

        May I ask how your niece has responded to the situation? I hope she’s saving all those emails on a device she (not her employer) owns, just in case.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          She has kept everything. She has responded with a brief message stating that she understands concerns, but has no further information at this time.
          She’s kept copies of everything.
          So much BS!

    4. Gumby*

      I have had co-workers connect to me on LinkedIn and occasionally friend me on other platforms but I have never had one ask about social media in person or outside of the websites/apps. With one sort-of exception: a co-worker who I had already become friends with due to a shared interest asked if I was on StoryGraph. Initially I was all “I have never heard of that” but I found out that it makes pie charts and line graphs of the books you read so then I went to “Yes! Sign me up! Books and graphs, this must be what heaven is like.” And that is how I came to be on that not-really-social-media platform.

  8. serena vdw*

    For #4, I’d be more impressed than put off by someone not being on social media. For me, it’s a vice and I’m not great at limiting my time on it.

  9. Czhorat*

    The vandalized posters need to be taken very seriously if the company cares at all about equity and is not merely paying lip service.

    It’s quite honestly the kind of thing someone can (and perhaps) should be fired for if the culprit is identified; it’s a clear attack against women in the workplace which should not be allowed to stand.

    And on some topics you don’t NEED dissenting opinions. “Men and women should be treated equally” is not a statement about which I need to hear the other side.

    1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

      Right. The information you get from this is a diagnosis of your corporate culture, not an opportunity for debate.

    2. NothappyinNY*

      But sponsoring a women only group is at best separate but equal. I think employers are getting push back on DEI events which are really not inclusive. No excuse for vandalism, but I do think there are more trends to affinity events being open to all. Now, a running group may not involve any company funds or time, but if it does, I can see push back.

      1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

        As Alison pointed out, affinity groups for members of traditionally marginalized groups are part of equity work. Equality is a process and it takes time and investment to achieve. The groups may or may not be exclusive, depending on circumstances and culture, but the groups exist to level currently very unlevel playing fields.

        1. NothappyinNY*

          Recent court cases are causing many companies to pull back on activities that are limited to one group. Alison can say what she wants, but I see things changing. YMMV

          1. Jessica*

            Yes, and the backlash to DEI is coming from the same place the hostile laws toward reproductive autonomy and the existence of queer people are coming from.

            Just because conservatives want to make workplaces more hostile toward women doesn’t mean we have to just give in to them.

          2. John Smith*

            Whilst I agree vandalism is not an option, there are some cases where a viewpoint cannot be expressed without being automatically accused of being ‘phobic’ regardless of the content of the viewpoint. I won’t mention the cause in particular, but I recently attended an event as a member of a marginalised society and was shot down with vehemence when I dared to suggest that a research paper had been severely, ahem, misquoted to support a particular viewpoint being discussed. All I said was that the paper did not make a claim that was being used in the debate, and in fact confirmed the status quo. I was ejected from the meeting purely for disagreeing.

            Its a frightening trend that I am seeing more and more often and one that is going to lead to a great deal of disharmony than there already is. Vandalism, violence, silence are not options. But when one group seeks to shut down all avenues of dissent including speech, what is one to do?

            1. Annie*

              Either way, vandalism is not the answer. I understand your frustration especially in regards to your particular situation. And I agree that oftentimes, especially lately, a voice that doesn’t agree with the current trend is shut down.
              I honestly don’t know why pay gap (whether you agree with that or not, analysing pay gap and making sure there is equity between the sexes is a good thing) or womens-only running group would be something that would be controversial.

              1. John Smith*

                Just for the record, I did state vandalism is not the answer. I agree there should be equity and I believe there should be women only groups and groups for other people marginalised that exclude others. I long to see the day when such things are not necessary, but I doubt this will be in my or the next few generations.

            2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

              “one group seeks to shut down all avenues of dissent including speech”

              You mean the hard right?
              Because marginalised groups don’t have the power to shut anything down

              1. Roland*

                The example the poster gave of being ejected from a group because they said “hey you’re misunderstanding a paper” is something I could see happening at any number of groups and organizations of all political leanings. Leftist groups are absolutely not exempt from this.

                And also it’s an odd distinction to draw between “hard right” on one side and “marginalized groups” on the other. It’s pretty important to remember that just because someone shares your demographic characteristics, doesn’t mean they have the same political views.

              2. John Smith*

                It’s the other way round. It’s a section of the marginalised group that will not tolerate any viewpoint other than their own which is entirely based on logical fallacies, misquoted and contortion of research and, basically, made up stuff that is put across as fact.

                1. VoteLibertarian*

                  Yup. The least tolerant person in any room is the first one to claim to be tolerant. Every. Single. Time. (Here let me add the requisite disclaimer: this has been true in my experience.)

        2. Czhorat*

          Yes. “Sponsoring a women’s group is sexism” is either well-intentioned but wrong or deliberately being obtuse.

          Either way, the appropriate kind of pushback were it warranted (it isn’t) is not vandalism.

        3. UKDancer*

          Also some groups do a mixture. The affinity group at my company for BAME staff has some events for their members and some open to others. I really like this as an approach.

      2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        Pushback is because those who are privileged feel threatened by the prospect of more equality.

    3. Observer*

      And on some topics you don’t NEED dissenting opinions. “Men and women should be treated equally” is not a statement about which I need to hear the other side.

      This is true. But it’s not even really relevant. Because even if the posters were on a topic that allowed for dissenting opinions, there are appropriate ways to bring them up and NOT appropriate ways. That someone chose the most hostile ways is a problem even if the opinions might have some merit.

      I went back and looked that the original letter, and the OP clarified that there were plenty of means to provide feedback, so the idea that some poor defenseless person with unpopular ideas had not way to lodge a disagreement simply doesn’t fly.

      Which is all the more reason why your first sentence is spot on.

      1. Czhorat*

        Oh, absolutely.

        I meant that even if someone had a healthier channel than “vanadlize posters” this is NOT a discussion worth having.

        It makes the idea that they need dissenting opinions doubly baffling.

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I have found it helpful to understand why people of privilege push back so hard on DEI initiatives. It helps me form strategies on cultivating buy-in, anticipate issues, and develop a comms plan. So I disagree I don’t need to hear the other side. This is not how you collect dissenting opinions though.

  10. Artemesia*

    the assistant? You almost certainly. need a new assistant. You need a CTJM immediately as Alison suggested that makes clear that you need an assistant who can cope with changes in practice. She has valuable historical context, so you are happy to hear about historic context for policies ONCE, but as your assistant, her job is to support and carry out your directives. If she cannot commit to that, she needs to reconsider her employment. If she continues to resist then you need to start the process of dismissal.

    1. My Useless 2 Cents*

      While I think way too many people are resistant to change than is good for them. I think there is also room for self-reflection on the OP’s part…

      OP mentions they are new to management, are they perhaps being a little to enthusiastic about making changes? too many changes too quickly or several large changes one after the other before people can get used to “the new normal” can be disconcerting. Change can happen but it won’t happen instantaneously and often slower change roll outs can have much longer and lasting impact than trying to change everything all at once.

      As a new manager (I’m assuming on the youthful end) I’ve observed a bias toward attributing any push back from those a little (or a lot) longer in the workplace as “resistance to change” and often brush aside that historical context as not relevant because the past doesn’t match 100%. (No, no, we can have people record their work time to the minute! This new timecard software is super easy to use and it can be uploaded to their phones to make it even easier! It’s not like they have to pull out a pen and write on a piece of paper like in ancient times. /s) Sorry, the older I get, the more I see attitudes just like this.

      And last, are you thinking through the changes fully. Yes, it saves your department X amount of time but really you are just transferring that X amount of time to the next department to do and not saving the company anything. Or it makes the report easier to ready but the assistant has to spend three hours every week adjusting the formatting. Sometimes it makes more sense for the next dept to take over the task or the assistant has to suck it up and spend the time formatting. (But again my experience) new managers tend to focus on X effecting Y and don’t always think about changes to X also effecting J and Q.

      I’m NOT saying OP is doing or not considering all of this, just that it could be another way to look at things and think about how they are coming at making the changes that need to happen. Not every push back is just resistance to change.
      And yes, I know there are people out there that heavily resist change. I worked with a woman who argued about what color highlighter should be used on a report…. pink, that information is always highlighted with a pink highlighter! I’ve also been labeled “resistant to change” and then spent hours adjusting to and *then cleaning up after* changes that were not thought through.

      1. Artemesia*

        this is a good point — the OP needs to get historic context from the assistant and understand WHY previous processes were in place. BUT the phrase ‘that isn’t how Courtney did it’ is a super red flag, that we have here a resistant assistant. She just needs to not go overboard as the assistant may have some useful information, but she needs to shut down the Courtney did it this way stuff, once she knows what previous procedures were and why they were used.

        1. Just Another Cog*

          Yeah. I cringe whenever a new hire says “…at my old workplace, we did it this way.” Argh!

          1. Lenora Rose*

            For me it always echoes Pheobe from the Magic School Bus: “At my old school, we never got shot into space.”

      2. Angstrom*

        As someone approaching retirement, I’ve seen enough management fads come and go that I am wary of change for change’s sake. If you’ve got good data or are solving a real problem? Great! I’m on board. The latest buzzword-driven Shiny New Thing? Not so much.
        But in any case, “That’s not the way we used to do it” is a poor argument. One should be able to make a business case for one’s position.

        1. Annie*

          Right. The LW hopefully is being a good manager and taking the time to understand how things were done before just changing things. There certainly are valid reasons to make changes to processes that may rub people who have been around the wrong way, but also there are a lot of reasons to maintain the processes the way they were because there is a reason they were done that way.
          Listening to your direct reports, especially someone who has been there a long while and has more historic information than a new manager, is a good thing. The best managers I’ve had were people who listened to my team’s proposed action, and then either did what she could to help, or at that point, suggested a different action based on her experience.

        2. Angstrom*

          To clarify: “That’s not the way we used to do it. We did it that way because X, Y and Z” may be a reasonable argument.

          “That’s not the way we used to do it” with no supporting evidence is just whining.

    2. Just Another Cog*

      I do love Alison’s suggested verbiage in situations like these! Hopefully OP can use one of them to get the message across that while they are appreciative of the institutional knowledge the assistant may have, they also need her to understand they are in charge now…..without pissing her off and creating a whole other issue. I guess I just answered my own question – if the assistant gets mad because she is being asked to assist the new boss, maybe it’s just not a good fit after all.

        1. Tired*

          Or a “the whole department” we – I’m probably showing my age and cynicism here, but too many new people come in wanting change without fully understanding the consequences or what happened last time that was tried, and the assistant is the person most likely to be covertly or directly expected to speak for the team. Not saying they’re doing it well, or at the right time, but a bit of curiosity about what’s behind the resistance can make the change process go a lot smoother!

          Also after the last four years some of us are just sick of change (I know it’s an older letter, but…)

  11. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I don’t make a big thing of it but if you know my real name and search for it online then you’ll find no social media at all. Bad situation with a stalker or two.

    I also don’t own a television. Really good fun each year with the TV licensing bods in the UK :)

    But I don’t bring these topics up at work much because I don’t want to get into the reasons why without verging into moralising. And I don’t want to be seen as anti-technology given I work in IT. (I love tech. I don’t trust it).

    A casual shrug and ‘eh, not my thing’ followed by a subject change to e.g. pet pictures has stood me in good stead.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I have a sample data set that came with a forensic data collection tool we sometimes use for mobile devices, and the looks of horror I get when people see exactly what we can get off your cell phone are amazing. Hey, see your adorable photo of that cute cafe you ate at on vacation? Yeah, we have the GPS coordinates and a timestamp for it – want me to map your whole vacation route/timeline for you from nothing but photos?

          At least two people on the team that supports that tool have separate phones for work and personal.

          1. Avery*

            Yep, working in a tech field lets people know exactly how the data there can be used, and that’s not always something that’s going to lead to warm fuzzy feelings. I worked in media outreach for a nonprofit for a bit, and while it was good information to have and potentially useful for work, it also was rather scary on a personal level that advertisers can and will adjust ads on streaming services to not only things like “where in the country you live” and “what socioeconomic class you are” but also, if they have access to the right data, things as specific as “have you been in a courthouse recently”.

          2. BatManDan*

            In a business context, I was recently shown a tool that would produce a report likely to include most or all of the following information (stay with me, the kicker is at the end) – name, address, phone, email, annual income, job/job title, number of people in the household, political affiliation – JUST FROM VISITING A BUSINESS’S WEBSITE. It would use the cookies and data collected from you from other sites to pull all that into a report.

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        This. I have a relative who works in IT security (and has since the early days of AOL) with some overlap into government work. He is completely against having any “smart” devices in his home, and I follow his lead.

        The rest of our family? Mostly, I just wish they would stop giving us Alexa-enabled devices for Christmas. There is a REASON we don’t have them, Mom.

    1. Side note*

      “TV licensing bods in the UK” – just looked this up, I had no idea this was a thing!! So ya’ll have to pay an annual fee for the privilege of watching/recording television? I’m gobsmacked. Cannot imaging how this works and it seems very invasive. I’d love a discussion on the weekend thread sometime. I know most folks assume that in the US everyone watches through a cable or streaming service of some kind, but, out here in the rural areas, over the air broadcasting still has backers (according to a Dec 2023 NPR piece, about 20% of the US still watches something over the air).

      1. BubbleTea*

        You need a licence to watch TV live (through what used to be the terrestrial channels but everything is digital now) or to watch BBC catch up. You don’t need a licence for catch up on other channels, or for stuff like Netflix. It’s an outdated and rather ridiculous law, and they send threatening letters to houses without a licence which claim in increasingly hysterical tones that there’s a criminal investigation underway and agents will be visiting the property on X date to search for illicit TVs (they’re not allowed to force entry and you don’t have to let them in or even speak to them, but the letter doesn’t say that). In my experience they never actually do anything. I’ve had a licence for a few months once and otherwise never had or needed one – the letters keep coming but I’ve remained unvisited by the mysterious agents.

        1. Empress Ki*

          We have the same in France. They claim they have TV detector vans, but apparently it was a PR stunt to frighten people.

        2. allathian*

          I’m in Finland and we abandoned the TV licensing system about 25 years ago. Now it’s called the public broadcasting tax, and every adult who pays any taxes at all pays it whether they watch any TV or not.

          Digital terrestrial channels remain fairly popular, at least for watching live sports and news. Cable’s only an option in the larger cities. Satellite TV exists, but is even less common than cable. In cities, it’s a pretty sure sign that the inhabitants of that apartment/house are immigrants who want to watch TV in their own language. Streaming services, including the Finnish public broadcaster YLE’s free app, are also popular wherever people have access to reasonably fast internet connections. Pretty much everyone I know watches at least one streaming service. My mom and MIL both love the YLE app on their smart TVs.

          The tax simplifies things because there’s no need to check whether people who haven’t paid the fee have the equipment necessary to watch terrestrial TV.

      2. londonedit*

        Yes, and this is why we have the excellent BBC television and radio stations (which you can listen to without a TV licence). No adverts on the BBC either. ‘Licence’ is an outdated term, really, it’s like an annual subscription fee. Most people pay by direct debit, it’s not like there are debt collectors knocking on your door.

        1. Gozer*

          Counterpoint: I’ve had those TV licensing lot knock on my door to demand that I pay. It’s quite hilarious the look on their faces when I state I really don’t watch television or iPlayer and the only screens in the house are the PC monitors running YouTube.

  12. Sara without an H*

    Re the lack of social media presence: Even if you choose to be on social media, I believe we’ve had a number of letters in the past in which “friending” coworkers and managers (!) was shown to be a really, really bad idea.

    Short version: Not being on social media is fine. But if you are, do NOT friend co-workers.

    1. Coffee Protein Drink*


      We’ve had many letters of people seeing things they just didn’t want or need to know.

      There’s also the risk of innocent posts that could be interpreted as negative about the workplace or a colleague, which could get back to management.

  13. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – I would lay out the issue flat in front of your assistant and let her know that your job is to steer the team and that you aren’t looking for how things used to be done but instead are focused on best practices. That doesn’t mean she can’t have opinions and you could help her to understand when it’s appropriate to push back. When she says “that’s not how Cortney and I used to do it”, encourage her to think outside the box “Okay, and is there a reason we can’t change up the process now?”

    #4 – Not having a social media presence is becoming more common these days so by saying that you do not have one, that should end any discussion. Even if you had some presence, you aren’t obligated to share it. I don’t befriend coworkers while we’re working together and I let them know it if they ask. I don’t want to risk the chance that our working relationship might change in a way that their access to my private life might be a conflict.

  14. Pita Chips*

    Even before I finished reading Letter#4 I thought, “that’s just not my thing,” as an answer.

  15. scribblingTiresias*

    Re: #4- my partner’s wording for this kind of thing is “[x] is wasted on me”.

    I really like it because it tacitly acknowledges that other people like [x], that it’s great for them, but that it’s really just NOT your thing.

    1. Lucy*

      I actually love and may adopt this phrasing. Perfectly, politely self-deprecating (but not in such a serious way that people will take you at your word).

  16. Lucy*

    Re LW1, I appreciate Alison raising the possibility that there could be context for why it’s best to do it the “old” way. I’ve been in both situations and can appreciate frustration on both sides. In one case, it was a child-centred job, in which I knew the kids really, really well. I would have been absolutely fine with, “we’re changing our stance/attitude/rules from x to y for [reason]”, but instead it was always a kind of, “absolutely not, I don’t care what context [child] has – it doesn’t change my expectations!” (when I knew from experience that actually going through the context as the child lived it, rather than just hearing it, flatly, would have meant a gentler approach). I left very quickly, as I felt my knowledge and expertise was ignored.

    On the other hand, I’ve been in a team in which every change suggested by new manager was opposed by longer standing team members, on the basis that they liked how it had previously been. We all had to debate and discuss every little thing ad nauseam. Exhausting!

    Luckily, I think the same approach can probably work in either setting. You can do as Alison suggests, and really listen when the employee explains why they’re so oppositional. Ultimately, you’re the boss and you decide – but if you have the conversation and listen well, you’re deciding with all the facts.

    If it really is every decision over many, disparate things, then there’s no way the employee has a good reason for opposing all of them. But it’s theoretically possible that the employee may point out a theme (as in my example, the theme would be: “we’re becoming far more punitive, even with children who need a gentler approach, due to their past traumas or additional needs”, but it could also be, “you’ve changed up the responsibilities for who handles which projects and they’ll all shoot the messenger if I tell them” or similar.). If there’s a theme, it’s a good time to then explain why you’re heading down the new path – if you have a good reason, it might be convincing, and at worst, it should hopefully convert the thousands of small battles into one slightly larger one. I’m a big proponent of, “because I say so” may be your prerogative, but it will get people’s backs up. It may be necessary in very sensitive, need-to-know situations. But if you can share, it can only help.

  17. The Riddlee*

    I didn’t really get a sense from LW1 about whether the assistant’s arguments had any merit or if LW1 even considered that they might. Maybe I am just seeing it that way because I have a new manager who just spouts off his off-the-cuff, shallow thoughts on how he thinks things should work, regardless of how much thought the team put into the process under the previous manager, never mind the mere fact that changing processes takes effort and we can’t just change everything overnight to accommodate his whims.

    1. Lucy*

      100%. One or the other or both parties need to open their mind(s) but it’s hard to know from the outside which option it is!

    2. Applegail*

      I’ve also had managers who interpreted EVERY question as argument, pushback, and/or resistance to change. And, like… no. I often find it really helpful to get a bit of context into where a decision is coming from and how it ties in with our goals- so I can better support them.

      (Note that I’m not saying I have or should have approval powers, or need to know absolutely everything about everything at all; I don’t. But a bit of context goes a long way so I can do my job more effectively.)

  18. Sad Desk Salad*

    An increasing proportion of people are starting to eschew social media. It’s become a very toxic, ironically anti-social environment. You may be surprised at the amount of mild support/approval you may receive when you say you don’t use it. No need to give a reason.

  19. BellyButton*

    I will say this each and every time a DEI question comes up– STOP having non-qualified/non- educated people run DEI initiatives and campaigns. They are not equipped to educate, monitor, track, and enforce DEI things.

      1. Random Dice*

        You know that it’s a career track with training and quals, right?

        My former company’s DEI program was run by a very nice black man who had experienced racism firsthand… but he was trained and experienced in IT. When an actual professional DEI expert took over, it was obvious that she was going through industry standard elements for a DEI program. It was a palpable difference.

  20. B*

    Re the posters it should be taken very seriously because your employees are absolutely paying attention to how this plays out. If it’s brushed under the rugs both the trolls and the C URM will notice this. I’m still upset about when a poster was vandalized in a way that made me feel unsafe and the company didn’t do anything about it, working check security camera footage (too expensive!) and my org leadership who was in charge of everyone on that floor wouldn’t even send out a note saying not to do this (because it could have been an employee from another floor). It really showed me how much they care.

    But also posters on pay equity from the employer aka the people who pay you to the employees is weird. What are they trying to communicate? What’s the action? Has the company done pay equity audits? That context was missing Abs maybe that information is what’s on the posters!! But I would make sure you’re addressing the real issues not just raising awareness

  21. Lexie*

    Regarding raffling off chances to meet with the executives. If this is in the US the laws regarding raffles are handled at the state level so if the company has locations in multiple states that could make a raffle anything but simple.

  22. ItDepends*

    re: social media, it depends on the industry/company and also which platform. It wouldn’t be at all weird to say I use Facebook for personal things but stranger to not have LinkedIn/mention it professionally. Twitter/X it depends on the industry. Some of the newer platforms can also be written off as personal. But not engaging at all with social media if you work in anything tech or tech adjacent would seem out of touch and be notable.

  23. Kt*

    Letter 3

    It’s possible that the company does not have the values represented by these posters at all and the ‘activism’ is 100% a performance and that someone is trying to protest/draw attention to that. If they wanted to close the gender pay gap within their cooperation, they would do that instead of hang a few posters.

    1. Lenora Rose*

      The actions of vandalism don’t even slightly match this interpretation. The arrows and questions marks on a women’s only cycling event, and the snarky replacement poster are both pretty strong indicators the person actively disagrees with equity.

  24. Jade*

    “I’m not Courtney. This is my position now and I will make my decisions based on what I feel is best for the company”.

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      If the company wants to be charitable, do it with *company* money – take it out of the profits! – instead of collecting from employees.
      So many companies pull this shit and then brag about it and it bugs me. There’s a couple women in my neighborhood that do this, too. Every. Single. Month.

    2. allathian*

      Hear, hear, and louder for those in the back!

      Thankfully I work for an organization with a reasonably flat hierarchy. Anyone suggesting a raffle to go to lunch with the top boss would be laughed at, and deservedly so. Granted, I haven’t gone to lunch with our top boss, but I have had coffee with him, and so have many others.

  25. Tesuji*

    re: posters

    Vandalism is serious, and probably a fireable offense.

    … but, honestly, I have to admit that my first thought on a company putting up posters about the gender pay gap and lack of POC representation was to roll my eyes so vigorously that I was afraid I had sprained something.

    I mean, *individuals* putting up posters like that against the company’s will to urge them to do something sounds like a fine collective action thing.

    The company, the one who decides how much people are paid and who’s represented at various levels, putting up those posters? WTF? That’s just pointless virtue signalling. “Look at us; we’re completely woke about the issue we’re complicit in. But at least we know what horrible people we are!”

    Yeah, sure, whoever did this should be punished for expressing opinions like that in public. But I can completely understand the backlash against the company’s DEI-washing.

    If the company really cared about the gender pay gap, they’d spend what’s needed for pay parity rather than virtue-signalling posters and committees.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      The backlash against “DEI-washing” is most likely coming from the privileged who don’t want to lose that privilege, rather than women or POC suffering pay disparity or other discrimination.

    2. Random Dice*

      Right, but someone arguing that a women-only running group is oppressing men isn’t making that case. They’re right-wing trolls.

  26. workfromhome*

    People shouldn’t vandalize things.
    Companies shouldn’t put up posters regarding myths like the gender pay gap which has been well and thoroughly debunked.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Despite all the incel / hard right propaganda trying to deny it, the gender pay gap is very real.

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