surly coworker resents that he’s in a junior role, parking lot gate wars, and more

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

1. Surly coworker resents that he’s in a junior role

Ted and I were in the same PhD cohort at the same university, where we both now teach. However, I am in a senior position to him, having gained significantly more experience in the interim. We’re both on fixed-term contracts, although mine is longer and better-paid. I have an administrative role and research responsibilities, whereas Ted is contracted only to teach—the most junior position available. This semester, I am convening a class. Ted has been allocated to teach a few sessions, which makes me his immediate “line manager” in this realm.

Ted is some years older than me and came from a different career entirely, in which he was quite senior. His old job is relevant to what we both now teach: imagine I’m teaching Sociology of Basket Weaving, and Ted used to be a Senior Basket Weaver. He makes it obvious to everyone around him that he believes his experience makes him far too good for his current position. However, being a Senior Basket Weaver is a completely different skill set to being faculty at a college. Ted doesn’t understand this, and told me that he expected to easily walk into a senior academic job once he finished his PhD by virtue of his previous professional achievements.

The issue is that Ted does not want to do any work on my class and does not hide his disdain about being junior to me. He regularly pushes back when asked to take on work, despite his whole job being to teach classes and mark assignments. When I delivered an introductory lecture for the class and asked him to briefly introduce himself to the students he’d be teaching, he stood up, gave a surly “Yeah, hi,” and sat down again.

I believe the catalyst for this negativity was last month, when I declined to put several of his previously published articles on the reading list for my class. They weren’t relevant, were published in a professional journal (for his old career), not an academic one, and were poor quality. I told him that the reading list didn’t need changing and that I’d be leaving it as is. He began to protest, then just stared at me silently, fuming. After he left, I heard doors slamming upstairs. Even as a fairly burly man myself, I was rattled.

I have tried to reduce Ted’s workload, because I am acutely aware of the hellscape that is early-career university teaching – I’ve done his job myself! I’ve given him pre-written lectures and slides. I’ve also taken over some of the teaching responsibilities that were allocated to him by departmental management.

My managers know about Ted’s attitude, but aren’t aware of the issues I’m having with him. I have a good relationship with them and I know they would back me up (one commented that Ted is not adjusting well to his new lack of seniority and that I am the “boss” so I shouldn’t broach any BS and should go to them with any problems) but I don’t want to go above his head. However, dealing with this kind of attitude problem is quite literally above my pay grade and I am increasingly uncomfortable around Ted. I also hate confrontation. Should I just meet him and ask directly what’s going on?

You need to talk to your managers. I know you said you don’t want to go over Ted’s head, but I guarantee you that they’d want to know what’s happening; in fact, they’ve already told you that, and by keeping them in the dark (and also by doing work they’ve assigned to Ted) you’re pretty directly undermining their ability to manage your department, even though that’s not your intent. Think of this way: If you had any other serious work problem that was significantly interfering with your ability to do your job and causing you to do work that your boss believed was being handled by someone else, and you lacked the authority to solve it on your own, wouldn’t you loop in your boss? And if you didn’t, wouldn’t your boss rightly be annoyed if they found out about it later?

And Ted doesn’t deserve this kind of protection from you! This is a person who’s openly surly to you and the students he’s teaching and slams doors after meeting with you (!). If he’s like this with you, what is he like with students? Or with others who might not have the same invitation from your boss to report it? Tell your bosses what’s going on. You and they might conclude from that conversation that the next right step is for you to speak directly with Ted about the problems you’re seeing, but you need them aware of the situation first because Ted’s track record says there’s a good chance he’ll take it badly.

2. Parking lot gate wars

I work as the receptionist/admin at a children’s center that is on-site with a school. We share a parking lot and since it is so small, our employees can only use three spaces. We are unable to offer on-site parking to our visitors due to this.

I have had an ongoing problem with visitors using the parking lot when none of them are supposed to. This is despite including a reminder in room booking confirmations and saying on the gate intercom that the parking lot belongs to the school, not us. The problem is when school staff and their visitors don’t shut the gate behind them, so our visitors sneak in.

It grinds my gears that if the school took responsibility to shut the gate, we wouldn’t have the problem. The school receptionist regularly comes to scold me about it. (At best I have a very limited view of the gate. The school has a much better view.)

The easiest resolution would be to fix the gate, but it is a five-figure sum per repair and keeps breaking as the gate is too heavy for the mechanism. My boss, who has my back on this, has had conversations with the school’s head teacher and receptionist, but they still don’t understand.

It is no exaggeration to say that this situation is one of the reasons I am job searching. Is there anything I can do to make the school understand better?

Ideally the head of your organization would be dealing with the school about this and working out some sort of solution — even if it’s just “this is going to continue, but the school receptionist will stop scolding you about it since you have no control over it.” Short of that, can you get your boss’s blessing to at least tell the receptionist you’re not the right person to address it with and she should speak to your boss instead? (That said, what exactly does “scolding” mean here? If she’s just asking you to have visitors move their cars, that’s not unreasonable. If she’s chastising or berating you, that’s not okay.)

Meanwhile, although you have pretty limited power here, can you think about what pieces are within your control? For example, can you have signs at the gate and at each individual parking space making it clear the spaces are reserved for employees only and visitors’ cars will be towed? Can a sign at your entrance warn visitors their cars will be towed if they park in the lot? As you check people in, can you ask if they parked in the lot and, if they did, tell them they need to move their car ASAP? It’s a frustrating situation, but if you focus on the areas where you do have some influence, it could help.

Read an update to this letter

3. My team uses the wrong pronouns for a new client

I work on a small team in a professional services industry. We recently got a new project with a new client. I noticed one person on the client’s team had their pronouns listed as they/them in their email signature. Later, at the beginning of the first meeting, they verbally stated their pronouns to the group.

After the meeting, I had lunch with my team and my boss and coworker kept using the wrong pronouns for the client contact. Since then, they have continued to use the wrong pronouns in our group chat.

Should I say something? How can I bring it up in a professional manner (especially to my boss!). I don’t think they are doing this maliciously, but I do think that the client was clear about their preferences and we need to respect that.

Yes, you should say something — in any situation where this is happening but especially since this is a client, who your company is probably particularly invested in not wanting to alienate or offend. (Obviously they shouldn’t want to alienate or offend anyone, but even if they’re cavalier about pronouns in general, the fact that this is a client may make them less so.)

Be matter-of-fact about it and use a tone that conveys “of course we want to get this right.” You could simply say: “I noticed people referring to Imogen as she/her — they said a few times that they use they/them, so we should be careful to get that right.”

4. I accidentally recorded and sent a transcript of an interview to an interviewer

I work as a freelance designer for a few agencies that only need part-time help here and there. For one client, I was sent a transcript of our call via an AI recording app. In order to read the transcript, I had to make an account. What I didn’t realize is that by making an account through my Google email, I automatically attached this AI app to any Google Meet calls I would subsequently be on. I don’t use Google Meet very much, so I didn’t realize this happened until just now, when I was on a call with a potential new client.

It didn’t bother me that it was recording the meeting, and I saw it as an easy way to access info later. However, when I went to check it I noticed it had also sent a transcript of the call to the interviewer, who is likely very confused as to why I did that. Should I acknowledge it in a follow up email, apologizing for the small mistake? Should I pretend that I meant to do that and not bring it up? I feel like doing the former would make me look bad but the latter would make me look strange. Please let me know if I’m overthinking this or if I should do some damage control.

If something potentially looks strange, I err on the side of explaining even if there’s a risk that the explanation itself will be awkward — because I figure that not saying something and looking like I deliberately did Weird Thing X (in this case, recorded a call without their knowledge and then sent them a transcript of it) risks looking stranger than just explaining it.

So yes, say something! “If you’re confused by receiving that transcript, so was I! I recently made an account with a new app and apparently it transcribes my Google Meet calls. I’ve turned it off and deleted the transcript, but wanted to explain why you received that. It won’t be on in the future!”

{ 472 comments… read them below }

  1. Jessica*

    LW4, I agree you should definitely tell them! If I only had the info they have, I would find this creepy and be mad about it, but my anger would dissolve into sympathy when I learned that you were just a confused fellow victim of intrusive technology.

    1. Magdalena*

      Yes, I’d find that disrespectful (and pretty cavalier) of my privacy but would be reassured by Alison’s wording, especially the reassurance that you were going to delete it.

    2. Molly Millions*

      And Alison’s script is great because it emphasizes that LW wasn’t aware the recording was taking place (as opposed to “I intentionally recorded you but didn’t mean to send the transcript).

      1. Ganymede*

        I get the impression that recording someone without prior consent can be a crime in some US states, so bear that in mind too if you are in one of them, or calling one of them. This app sounds like a liability!

        1. BethDH*

          If it’s the one I’m thinking of, the app technically informs the other people on the call through a pop up window or chat but it’s easy to miss. So probably legal (one of those “by staying on the call you’re consenting”) but definitely ethically bad.

        2. JR 17*

          I haven’t used the AI note taker in Google Meet, but I’ve see a Zoom version in use. It makes it extremely clear to participants that it is recording, there definitely isn’t a consent issue.

      2. Selena81*

        LW should definitely play it as ‘i am confused as to why any of this is happening’ and try to leave out the part with ‘i full well knew it was recording but intended to keep the recording to myself’.

        I would be pretty creeped out if someone had secretly recorded me (even if it’s technically legal)

    3. Straight Laced Sue*

      Also, bear in mind that recording someone covertly is commonly regarded as unethical (as well as often having legal implications). You should have consent before recording someone. So, it is a bigger deal than you think that your app recorded them.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        All of these apps have a warning when you enter and its recording. It’s easy to miss/ignore, but they’re there for exactly this reason.

        1. Dorothy Zpornak*

          I got sent one of these surprise transcripts once after interviewing someone for a job, and I’m certain there was no warning it was recording. Furthermore, I don’t know how they did it, because this was a Zoom meeting that I set up through my own Zoom account, not them. And I definitely felt like it was a violation.

          1. Timothy (TRiG)*

            It would be easy enough to record a Zoom meeting on their own end, perhaps with something as simple as Audacity, which simply records everything going through your own computer’s sound card. This wouldn’t require any modification to Zoom itself.

            1. bleh*

              You can get Zoom to do a transcript without making it record. The host can *usually* disable transcription.

    4. Llama Llama*

      She has to address to them. A personal level the interviewer will be annoyed but on a company level may have found it unacceptable that you recorded private information about the company.

    5. Some internet rando*

      Came here to say that you should’ve been bothered that this was recording… It is illegal in some states without both parties consenting. It’s also unnerving. If I was interviewing someone and they were recording me it would be a major red flag. When you explain this error, you should be very clear, as Alison suggested, that you have deleted the transcript and are not keeping any records.

    6. SpecialSpecialist*

      I hate those AI transcript apps. So many people in my organization started using one of them all at once right before the holidays, but nobody investigated it beforehand. I got so many emails after meetings from other people’s AIs. Either our organization’s IT got enough complaints that they universally changed the settings or everybody wised up. I haven’t seen half a dozen AIs joining meetings in a while.

    7. Thomas*

      Heh. In 90% of cases, my first reaction to getting the interview transcript would be “Oh hey, that’s neat, might be useful.” Followed by thinking about possible AI error or bias (eg the AI not understanding regional or foreign accents) and seeing if the actual audio was available. But having the meeting recorded wouldn’t bother me. In my roles I’m unlikely to want to say things off-the-record, indeed quite the opposite.

      1. works with realtors*

        I disagree with this – I feel like it’s hearing enough stories about why this is absolutely terrifying thing to fuck up will finally get people to become more conscious of what info is out there about ourselves and why we should absolutely stop doing it in an cavalier way. I think of it as the issue of safe password management was earlier: assuming that people would connect the dots between “millions of people use Password” and “as more people use it, the easier it becomes to target me” was a big leap. It took countless people getting multiple years of credit monitoring for free because as breeches happen they accumulate their lawsuit-settlement-required-subscription.

  2. Bambue*

    #2 have you asked the receptionist if there are any actions she thinks you should take that you haven’t yet, and laid out all of the steps you are taking? I wonder if maybe they think there are undefined things that could be done and spelling out your lack of further control would be useful.

    If so/once you do repeat variations of “I’m following all the steps we agreed on to mitigate the problem.”

    1. coffee*

      Great suggestion. I’ve done that in a slightly different situation and it was like flipping a switch from “I must berate this person” to “This person has listened to me and I have made my point, I can stop having this conversation now.”

    2. Twix*

      This is a really good idea. It won’t work for everybody, but shifting the message from “It’s your problem, what do you want us to do about it?” to “It’s your problem, but what can we do to help?” accomplishes two things: it frames finding a solution as collaborative rather than antagonistic, and it makes the other party think about what you actually have the ability to do to help.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      One thing that wasn’t mentioned in the letter that could be a good action to take: when you tell visitors not to park in the parking lot, can you also tell them where they can park?

      If the room booking confirmation currently says something like this

      We will meet in Conference Room 1 on Tuesday at 9am. Please do not park in the parking lot. The gate intercom goes to [school].

      You can add something along the lines of

      Metered parking is available on Main St for $1/hr (2 hour limit). Free street parking is available on Maple St.

      1. Silver Robin*

        +1 giving folks a positive instruction (do this) helps them keep with the negative instruction (avoid this). Especially if you know of free parking outside the lot

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, this.

        I mean, having no visitor parking sucks, and while I understand that your school might not have unlimited options I’m kind of side-eyeing them for making visitors, who might not know the immediate area, just figure it out. They should have clear guidelines on where visitors can park. I work in a warehouse complex where the parking is a little weird and I am always very specific with visitors (when I can be; most of ours are scheduled) about where they should park.

      3. Antilles*

        Agreed. It helps guide people to other options and also reinforces the idea that it’s not your parking lot.
        This is especially important if the lot doesn’t stay entirely full, because if there’s a couple free spaces, people will often assume that “I’m only here for a few minutes, not a big deal”.

        1. Betsy*

          When I’ve visited businesses that had specific parking requirements or anything that’s easily misunderstood, I usually see a big sign about it on the front door and a big sign on the reception desk. If that’s not already in place, it will probably help with some people.

          1. HateParkingDrama*

            Yeah, but signs on the door/desk are only seen by people after they park. I agree that they need to do a good job of telling people where to park beforehand.

            1. Volunteer Enforcer*

              OP2 – I thought I was already doing everything I could, the comment section has given me plenty of new ideas.

    4. Sloanicota*

      If the school receptionist really is coming over every day to tell OP she needs to tell these people to move their cars, even if she’s being a bit snippy about that, perhaps OP can also just a) accept that this rather unpleasant message is hers to deliver and emotionally detach from that a bit (no more “but if you closed the gate faster…!” Or whatever. You don’t care about this. The cars need to be moved, so you’re getting them moved as calmly and quickly as possible). and b) make that interaction as smooth and calm as possible. “Of course, Lucinda, thank you for telling me, I’ll ask them to move right away.” It’s not a personal thing. PS – where are these people supposed to be parking, is it on the street or are there metered spots somewhere?

      1. Volunteer Enforcer*

        OP2 here – there is street parking right outside. Loads of great advice in the comments, and most of it is applicable.

        1. But what to call me?*

          I’m always nervous about parking in the street in an unfamiliar place unless I have explicit instructions to do so, because I’m worried there might be a ‘no parking’ sign around that I’m just not seeing or some general rule about street parking that I don’t know about. Direct instructions to park in the street right outside would help a lot.

    5. Olive*

      Immediately asking improperly parked guests to move their cars seems like it would be a step the LW could take right away.

      1. Silver Robin*

        LW does not have a good view of the parking lot, I thought? I guess they could potentially confirm with guests as they come in, but I do not think they can monitor the lot itself.

        1. Volunteer Enforcer*

          Yeah I barely have a view of the entrance gate, and no view of the lot unless I stand outside.

    6. Ashley*

      #2 – I’m also at a school where this is sometimes an issue. One possible solution is to invest in traffic cones with laminated signs on them and leave those cones in the three designated spots. The people who are allowed would have to remove the cones when they park, but they would be guaranteed their spaces on arrival. People are much less likely to go out of their way to remove cones and park in a spot – it takes real intent to go over the line that way.

      1. Sharpie*

        Possibly, but it sounds to me as if visitors to Law’s company are parking in spaces reseyfor the school whose car park it is, so making it obvious that those three spots are reserved isn’t going to really help.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Out of curiosity, what do people who park in those spaces do with the traffic cones once they move them and park?

      3. Volunteer Enforcer*

        OP2 here – we already have obvious signs up on the reserved spaces. Parents have been known to park in the reserved spaces when dropping their children off at school.

        1. works with realtors*

          I think it’s more the object physically blocking access that is key here – people won’t be as bold if they had to be inconvenienced.

    7. Tiger Snake*

      The benefit of being a high school, and so EXPECTING that some kids will drive themselves, is that my vice principal got to set a rule that any car in the parking lot that didn’t have a sticker would get a tire lock put on it. He would remove the tire lock with a fine, and you would have to wait until he was free before he would remove them. Every year, first assembly, everyone got told. All new kids, as part of their enrollment their parents were told.

      Now I’m older, I appreciate the firm and matter-of-fact way he handled the situation. It was a fact as nature as inevitable as the fact the sun rises every day, because there was no waffling about with it. You broke the rules and you would face the consequences; there were no warnings or second chances, just the fine. And we kids were all a-okay with all that, because we trusted that he WOULD be fair to everyone. Tales were told of the time he even locked in a teacher who got a new car and didn’t have a sticker.

      The tire locks had names – Besty and Bobby – and I remember them with the same fondness that you remember a school mascot.

  3. AcademiaNut*

    For #1 – your managers need to know what’s going on ASAP, so they can act, and ideally *before* they make the mistake of extending his contract for the next year.

    This is a type in academia, unfortunately. Someone with a fair amount of arrogance takes a job that they feel is beneath them, because that’s the only job offer they’ve got. Instead of moving on to something else, or reflecting on what they need to do to make themselves more competitive in the job market, they sulk and take out their dissatisfaction on everyone around them. In their mind, their peers and supervisors are obviously inferior and/or don’t deserve the job they have, and deserve contempt.

    One major piece of advice I’d give to people starting an academic career is that if they can’t be reasonably content at the job they can get, they need to move on to Plan B. Sticking around indefinitely in a state of miserableness, and taking it out on your coworkers, is not going to get you the job you do want.

    1. Blank*

      I agree completely. Ted isn’t behaving himself, and management need to know. If this isn’t enough to fire him, I’d suggest the LW lets Ted take back all the lectures he was allocated – this is speculation but I wonder if Ted is feeling mildly coddled, by having the load lightened for him. (I’ve provided pre-written materials to adjuncts when I’ve convened a course, so I’m not against that, but I am thinking that Ted Door-Slammer could do with the full taste of being entry level in higher ed. Let him get stuck in! Don’t break your own back for someone who won’t care.)

      1. Sloanicota*

        I agreed that the steps OP has taken to make Ted’s job easier may have just made him more unsatisfied, if he wants to be using his experience more. (Of course most people don’t get offered stretch opportunities when they’re being nasty in their current role, so I’m not surprised he’s not getting more challenge if that’s what he wants). Still, it’d be something to ask him as this gets worked through.

        1. Working with Professionals*

          The LW may be contributing to the frustration by taking away the work Ted should be doing to grow and develop in this new field. I had a manager when I changed careers to an adjacent one who decided that not having the exact same degree, and work experience meant I couldn’t do the job so she constantly dumbed down my assignments, gave little support and made comments about my credentials. Now I didn’t rant and act out like this guy and instead turned in my notice. Luckily our boss talked me out of leaving and assigned me to a new development project independent of the manager and here I am 30 years later very successful in my career.

          All this to say that LW needs to let Ted feel the full weight of his job responsibilities, provide opportunities for growth and call out his poor behavior bluntly. The bosses need to know the dynamics and the inappropriate behaviors Ted is displaying as well.

          1. Jellyfish Catcher*

            The LW is teaching Ted that being surly and a poor attitude is tolerated and that it also makes LW take on some of his responsibilities. So why would he expect Ted to change?

            The LW needs to document Ted’s behavior, as it occurs (date, etc) as well as all notable conversations/ suggestions made to Ted. Then sit down with the manager, come up with a plan to manage him,
            with some real consequences.

        2. Venus*

          My experience with academia is that LW provided their materials to be helpful but Ted is welcome to do his own, so Ted isn’t restricted from showing off his own skills. I helped with a couple courses when I was in school and I took the baseline coursework and added some of my own comments. I could have rewritten the entire thing if I’d wanted, but the students have no idea who wrote the materials and it’s a huge amount of work to do from scratch.

          1. Academic glass half full*

            Yes, exactly this. I co-taught with a newish colleague and it was the most miserable experience for just these reasons. He didn’t report to me, I was in a different department. I did say something to my supervisor but she felt I should just make it through the semester. A mentor told me to divide the classes and just not attend his and let him know he had my evenings off.
            He is still around but I limit my contact to three meetings a year. He was tenure track and now has tenure and part of the rest of my working life. Sigh.

        3. WantonSeedStitch*

          Yeah, my thought when reading that letter was, “I wonder if Ted is feeling like the OP took those classes away from him because he didn’t think Ted was capable of doing a good job with them. He might feel insulted by what the OP saw as a conciliatory move.”

        4. MassMatt*

          It’s a huge but common mistake for managers to react to bad/incompetent employees by reducing /reassigning the bad employee’s work. This is in most cases rewarding bad employee behavior and punishing better employees.

        5. Kevin Sours*

          Maybe. But I think there is all to much “well he’s violently unhinged but maybe if we tried being nicer to him that will fix things” going around. And, honestly, it *doesn’t* sound like Ted’s experience is worth that much “[His articles] weren’t relevant … and were poor quality. Nor does he seem to be very good at his current job let alone the one who thinks he has. If Ted thinks he’s being coddled in ways that undermine him he can raise that like an adult.

      2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        The problem with insisting that Ted actually do the teaching that he was hired to do is that the students will then get a surly, resentful, lazy teacher who puts in minimal effort and will manage to convey that he doesn’t want to be there and that he considers teaching them to be beneath him. How much will they learn from someone like that?

        But shouldn’t the LW have that meeting with Ted before going to his boss(es)? Standard advice is normally for the immediate supervisor to meet with the subordinate, go over that subordinate’s workplace expectations, point out where they’re falling short, what they need to do to bring their work up to par, and what the consequences will be if they fail to do so, then document the meeting ASAP. If the LW’s supervisor(s) ask “Did you talk with Ted about your concerns?” and the answer is “No, I’m too nonconfrontational and even though I’m a big, burly guy he scared me when he slammed the door!” that won’t enhance the LW’s credibility or overall image in their eyes. But if his answer is “Yes, I addressed this with him last week and here’s the summary of our meeting. However, his behavior has not changed since our meeting and it continues to be a problem.” then they’ll surely take him more seriously.

        At this point, it sounds as if Ted’s attitude and behavior fully warrant termination. However, academia is a world unto itself and the LW’s department heads know how best to address this without becoming targets of a lawsuit, ugly publicity or both. But, LW1 – Alison was absolutely right – your bosses can’t tackle a problem of which they’re unaware!

        1. Leenie*

          I don’t think the normal advice applies here. The parenthetical in the letter indicates that the bosses know there’s a problem and want the LW to go straight to them instead of trying to deal with Ted on his own:

          (one commented that Ted is not adjusting well to his new lack of seniority and that I am the “boss” so I shouldn’t broach any BS and should go to them with any problems)

          1. samwise*

            Agreed. OP has standing to be more directive with Ted, since it’s OP’s class. But if the bosses have already said, tell us what’s going on and we’ll take it from there, that’s what OP needs to do, and right away.

        2. Kevin Sours*

          The standard advice assumes that you are dealing with an adult you can have a reasonable discussion with and not a manchild who throughs a door slamming tantrum when he doesn’t get his way. There is nothing to be gained by OP addressing things with Ted, it needs to be done by somebody in a position of authority.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing. Ted needs a good talking to about his attitude – at a minimum. He’s his own worst enemy. That said, he can be that own worst enemy on his own time – the OP shouldn’t have to put up with it. Particularly not when their management has identified that it is likely to be an issue and was clear that they wanted to be informed if it was.

      1. ferrina*

        Exactly this.
        Ted’s feelings are his own to deal with. He needs to do the job he has, which includes not making himself unbearable to work with.

        Also….slamming doors? seriously? it’s ridiculous that he feels like he should be more senior when he’s acting like a teenager.

    3. Ganymede*

      Ted’s grudging “hi” to his students tells me he made the wrong career choice. The students are being short-changed because Dr Doorslammer thinks they are not worth his time.

      1. Lilo*

        Exactly, his attitudes will hurt his students which could drive people off the subject, hurt their GPA, and so on. As an admin you HAVE to consider the wellbeing of the students. It’s wrong to let them suffer through a teacher with a poor attitude.

        1. MsM*

          And OP’s “no, really, he’s not cut out for the job” should carry more weight than their complaints.

        2. sparkle emoji*

          And if he’s behaving this way to a male boss, imagine what his attitude is like to the students(especially female or BIPOC students). Ted is the type of professor who could drive a student out of the field.

      2. MassMatt*

        I’m totally stealing “Dr. Doorslammer”. Honestly, this is the kind of sulky behavior my mom slapped out of me by the time I was maybe 10.

        Thanks, mom!

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Your excellent applies outside academia as well!

      “If they can’t be reasonably content at the job they can get, they need to move on to Plan B.” –AcademiaNut

      1. anywhere but here*

        Well, sometimes plan B (or C or D, etc.) is somewhere you can’t be reasonably content, but you don’t have other options. Lots of people work shit jobs they hate because they have to pay the bills, like the poor hellmouth commenter who was stuck in that awful job for way longer than she should have had to be.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          I agree , but if he wants to get promoted to a more senior role, he has to realize this is not going to happen if he’s refusing to do the job he was hired for, slams doors when he doesn’t get his way, and generally makes himself a nightmare to be around.

          1. anywhere but here*

            I was responding specifically to the assertion from Seeking Second Childhood that it applies outside of academia as well, not commenting on LW1’s colleague’s behavior. At the end of the day, there will always be some people working jobs where they are miserable (i.e., not reasonably content) and that’s not always possible to avoid. That doesn’t excuse door slamming, etc., and I wasn’t implying that. The expectation is that people behave professionally no matter how much they hate their stupid soul-sucking jobs, not that no one ever has a stupid soul-sucking job that they loathe.

      2. Formerly Ella Vader*

        Yeah, but I think it’s particularly relevant to sessional adjunct appointments in higher education, because there isn’t typically a progression from doing that job well to getting a continuing appointment or a conventional tenure-track-faculty position. Someone in Ted’s position who works hard at the right things and is good at them might aspire to moving into the OP’s position, or might luck into something else – but typically the appointments are planned to be a “dead end” – fill the institution’s needs in this one area, as long as the institution needs them, period. New PhD grads who take enough sessional work to live on are unlikely to be able to do the resume-building activities needed to be competitive in applying for a regular faculty job – and if you can’t turn your thesis research into published papers in the first few years, it will get harder and harder and the eventual paper will become less relevant.

        Some people have managed to go this route or build their own paths. But unlike the route of masters, doctorate, [post-doctoral research fellowship], tenure-track faculty position, tenure appointment, where there is an expectation of “it’s ok if you hate this part because it will get you what you want”, sessional teaching is not something that is likely to lead to a tenured position, either teaching-focused or with a traditional research component. (Mind you, the “it’s ok if you hate this part” has its own unhealthy messages for people on that single-track too … but that’s not relevant to this situation.)

        1. not nice, don't care*

          At my workplace there is a huge divide between tenure track and non-tenure track hires. We get hundreds of applications anytime we have an opening for either, and most people apply for either type, assuming they will somehow magically wind up tenured and comfy. There are often ruffled feathers between TT and NTT, and adding a shitty attitude to the mix doesn’t help.
          A really good hire can sometimes have their position converted to TT, but usually if they are good at engaging students and a pleasant colleague. Anyone with poor people skills gets the contract minimum while we all count the days until they’re gone.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            My non-academic workplace hires for regular and “temporary” positions. As a result, we have people who’ve worked here full-time for 4+ years who are still considered “temporary” and it’s stupidly difficult to transition them to regular employees. A previous workplaces had the same issue with employees vs contractors doing practically the same job.

        2. samwise*

          All true. But since there’s almost always a surfeit of possible adjuncts, getting rid of Ted at the end of the semester (or end of the contract) is probably not a problem. Ted may not get onto the t-t, but he can certainly hurt his chances of getting another adjunct position in that department. Which Ted may care about, since apparently he didn’t get any other job.

          Crappy adjuncts might continue teaching semester after semester if the powers that be don’t want the hassle of finding replacements. It sounds like LW’s bosses do care, so toss Ted under that bus, LW!

    5. Lokifan*

      YES please tell them now. I totally understand LW wanting to be kind to someone entry-level, and to avoid unpleasant confrontation if it doesn’t need to happen – but the door-slamming and surliness with the students, the fact that he feels above it all? this guy is definitely not taking good care of the students, there’s just no way. I’m a tutor at an international college myself and the students HAVE to come first.

      I feel like LW has maybe been hesitant partly because he felt that going to upper management would be about protecting/helping himself, but it’s about protecting & helping the students.

      1. BethDH*

        Also there are appropriate ways to be kind in this situation that don’t fundamentally change either of your contracted jobs — clear expectations, long lead times for deadlines when possible, lots of details about how to navigate administrative stuff.
        I’ve been an adjunct and a VAP and it does suck but the hardest part is often feeling like the deadlines and protocols everyone else “just knows” get sprung on you last minute.

    6. Rebecca*

      And so many people don’t realize that teaching is a skill in itself. “I was good at makign teapots, so teaching about making teapots must be a breeze. It isn’t a skill I recognize or value in others.”

      Teaching effectively is HARD no matter how good your grasp of the content is. I’d argue that the teaching skill is often more important than the grasp of the content.

      1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        This. The “Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach” line is absolute BS. I’ve been a professional writing tutor, a Composition teacher, and a writer of fiction all at the same time and they are three very different (though occasionally overlapping) spheres.

      2. Jayne*

        Exactly! I am in a college that has many professors of practice who started out in industry and are now teaching. While it is great that the students gain knowledge of what the corporate world is like, teaching is not something that anyone can do. Unfortunately, it is not something that is screened for in the interviews, so we have awful teachers sometimes. Knowledgeable, but can’t convey that knowledge. Recently we had someone huff off back to industry because teaching undergraduates wasn’t as easy as it looks.

        Look beyond Ted and see how a bad teacher can make the semester hard for the students, but also limit their learning in that class. If any other classes depend on the learning from that class, it can have a domino effect of reducing the student’s overall knowledge gained through their very expensive tuition.

        If he is bad enough, he will turn students away from a major, a career or even make them drop out entirely. Kick Ted out before he ruins lives.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          My personal experience with having professors of practice as colleagues is that a lot of them see teaching as their chance to have storytime with a captive audience – to regale students with stories of their accomplishments, or tales of “back in my day,” or to name-drop about all the important people they know. The instructional purpose of the class isn’t always their first priority.

        2. Betsy*

          In college I was really excited to take a computer programming class. I read the chapter and then came to class expecting the teacher to teach, but instead he read the chapter out loud to us. I about cried with frustration and disappointment. I’m sure he was great at programming, but…

          I just realized that I never saw him again after that year. I wonder why /s

          1. Peon*

            I sat through 1.5 classes from a guy teaching C#. At the end of the first class, he told us to do questions 1-20 from the first chapter as homework. QUESTIONS. Not example code or the like, but fill in the blank questions. He reviewed them at the beginning of the next class, so I flipped through the book and saw every chapter had similar crap, raised my hand and asked if that was his plan for the whole class, and when he confirmed it was, I left and dropped it.

            I was taking that as a 30 something professional with a help desk background and web coding experience and knew that I wasn’t going to learn anything from that guy; not worth my time or money.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        Sometimes it’s HARDER when you have a really good grasp of the content because it can make it harder to know what you need to explain to people who don’t have the same grasp of it. It’s sometimes easier to teach the topics you find more difficult yourself because you can see what people might find confusing.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          YES. I am not a great trainer, because I’ve been doing the thing for 10+ years. I don’t remember where the struggles are at the beginning, or how I had to figure out the steps to evaluate, because I’ve been doing it so long it’s second nature and I don’t have to think about it now.

          I practice, actually — I joke that the figurines on my desk are my training class dummies, and as I work I often mutter under my breath to explain to them what I’m doing and why so that I have some practice at putting that thought process into words. My husband is programmer-adjacent, and keeps the traditional rubber duck on his desk, which is where I got the idea. And I do think it helps.

        2. Tio*


          I will routinely remind people in my specialized field (customs brokerage) that when they’re asking the importer for forms, YOU know what the forms mean and why they’re needed, but they might not! So ask it like you’re talking to a child (without being condescending)

        3. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

          This! My (college prof) spouse actually makes a point to take or at least audit a class adjacent to his field every few years–it reminds him what it’s like to be new to a subject, and he not only gets to learn something new, it shows him different ways of teaching that he can incorporate into his own teaching. (I’m obviously biased, but he’s really good at the teaching part of being a professor)

          1. Good idea!*

            +1 I’m auditing a class at the college where I am a librarian for some of the same reasons!

        4. Spinner of Light*

          Teaching is a skill and a gift unto itself; simply being able to do something well does NOT guarantee that you can TEACH it well, something that our culture still hasn’t grasped. We often assume that if you can do it yourself then you can teach someone else to do it too. Sorry, folks, that’s just not true!

      4. MassMatt*

        This is very much like the notion that someone good at making teapots must be a good manager of teapot makers. Totally different skill sets.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I worked at a company that wholeheartedly believed this. Our management was made up of people who dreamed of going back to making teapots (and many did).

      5. I Have RBF*


        There are some thing that I taught myself, or just picked up by osmosis. I can’t teach them, because I don’t remember learning them. It is a lot of effort to take someone from A to T when you don’t remember learning A though R. You have to go back and remember all the little gotcha’s that are you just automatically know now.

        In essence, you have to be able to understand where students are in their knowledge, build on that, to get them to the next level. IIRC, learning to teach involves learning how to do that.

      6. goddessoftransitory*

        This. Ted seems to embody the attitude of “those who can’t do, teach” and feels both superior because of his previous experience in the “real world” and humiliated at his supposed comedown.

        I work in a totally different field, but I’ve had occasion to train people who were clearly seeking a post-retirement/part time gig and saw the job as an easy, no-brainer way to make some extra cash. The level of surprise and resentment at having to be trained, realizing the amount of memorization and customer service involved, and that they had to take it seriously and pay attention was off the charts with them. Every single one of them bailed before the end of the one week training period.

    7. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Management has literally said come to us. OP, you are ignoring a directive from management in favor of protecting Ted. Who as Alison so rightly pointed out doesn’t really deserve it. You are taking on teaching what he was assigned which interferes with management’s ability to run the department. It also makes it harder on you. Again, why are you making your life harder for this guy? Because you know its rough? Yeah, welcome to academia. This isn’t, I had it tough so you have to too. This is well, basic parts of the job.

      If Ted didn’t figure out how things would be the entire time he was getting his Ph.D. that is on him. It’s not like its a secret how hard it is to get a job in academia.

      You can’t care more about Ted succeeding than he does. He also can’t adjust to reality if you take over his job. He needs to succeed or fail on his own. You need to protect yourself from burnout (doing his job in addition to yours) and from management because they are not going to be happy that you are going around them by re-assigning work to yourself and not telling them about a very real problem in the department.

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        This. Management so rarely asks for this kind of input in academia. Please let them help you/Ted.

    8. EngineeringFun*

      Please note that Ted as an adjunct instructor could be working for $20k a semester or $40k a year while you as a teaching professors are making 2x or more. It can be pretty demoralizing. That’s does not excuse his behavior. In my lecturer experiences I was getting 70+ students a class while other professors were getting under 20.

      1. Prof*

        $20k a semester as an adjunct would be pretty high (except in high cost of living areas where it’s not actually enough either). I make a bit under $4k per 3 credit course….and we’re not allowed more than 8 credits (cause then they’d have to give benefits etc).

        1. jojo*

          I made $5k per course as an adjunct, which came out to $20k per semester / $40k annually, and I got health insurance during the months I was teaching because I was a full -time equivalent state employee. I stuck with it for four years partly because I realized my compensation was far, far better than what most adjuncts get. But that doesn’t mean it was truly good compensation. EngineeeringFun is right that it’s very demoralizing to make that kind of money when you have a terminal degree, subject matter expertise, and professional industry experience that would get you much better compensation if you weren’t stuck adjuncting (or if you left academia altogether). I understand Ted’s frustration with his job. I CANNOT excuse his poor treatment of colleagues and students; it’s not their fault he didn’t get a cushier job offer.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            But missing from both your list and Ted’s creds is actual teaching experience. The problem here isn’t that he’s stuck adjuncting; the problem is that he doesn’t have the cred that would get him into consideration for a higher-level position and he’s wasting the chance he has to build that cred by being resentful.

            1. Evan Þ*

              From what I hear, realistically that experience wouldn’t get him that much more consideration in the future.

            2. Katy*

              That’s not really the way it works in academia. Adjuncting doesn’t get you any advancement or consideration for a higher-level position, and people appointed to higher-level positions do not necessarily have teaching experience.

              Ted sounds like a nightmare, but the LW is being a bit condescending by saying that they have a tenure-track job because they have more experience than Ted. There are many highly qualified and very experienced adjuncts out there, because tenure-track jobs are rare. The LW has been lucky.

        2. Yorick*

          Some universities use the term “adjunct” differently. I’m used to it meaning extremely part-time positions, picking up one course at a time and maybe getting enough to string together an ok living (but still semester by semester). But at my sister’s university, there were full-time adjuncts with a set number of courses, and that position sounded more like “Lecturer” to me.

      2. Pippa K*

        True, but I guarantee OP already knows this. Everyone in academia knows how shitty the conditions of contingent positions are, and OP mentions several ways in which he’s been sensitive to Ted’s circumstances.

        1. Zweisatz*

          Yeah. Honestly I think adjunct pay is a red herring here. OP cannot fix this for Ted,Ted is responsible for his own career.
          And also I think there are a lot of adjunct professors who deserve much better pay and don’t loudly slam doors and think teaching -their Very job- is beneath them. Ted does.

      3. B*

        Yeah, he might not even be wrong to be upset about his position. That doesn’t make it the OP’s problem to fix, but I can’t help wondering if maybe Ted has a point that a reasonable system *would* provide better opportunities to wield his prior expertise.

        1. samwise*

          Maaaybe. But teaching expertise is not an automatic given for people with lots of outside experience. They * might * be capable teacher, but I would say Ted’s attitude indicates that he isn’t one of those folks. Teaching is hard, teaching well is **really** hard.

          1. Orv*

            Also, what colleges want from tenure-track faculty isn’t good teaching, it’s writing papers and pulling in grant money.

      4. fhqwhgads*

        That’s why I think OP thought taking away some classes would help. If he feels like “I’m teaching all this for only $” then less work for same $ seems like a benefit. But OP also said he seemed to not want to DO the work, like teaching…and grading…which is his literal job so…I donno. I think Ted’s just a mismatch. He has a mismatch of expectations for what his role is like, what sort of role he could get once he finishes his PhD, what his role is within the structure at the university. Just all of it. Not saying none of it sucks, adjuncting is rough. But he’s making it worse by seemingly expecting something different than what he actually signed up for.

      5. KatieP*

        Sorry to hear that, EngineeringFun – you got the shaft on that deal!

        Depending on your institution, college, and department, non-TT faculty *can* clear six figures. My institution has several Professors of the Practice that make closer to $150K/year, and TTF generally run from around $80K for early-career faculty, up to around $250K.

        As I said, there is obviously a lot of variance between institutions (and even within institutions – Liberal Arts profs might clear half of what STEM profs make), and we don’t really know where LW1’s institution falls.

    9. Polly Hedron*

      your managers need to know what’s going on ASAP…*before* they make the mistake of extending his contract for the next year

      Tell them now! Don’t inflict Ted on your students for another year.

    10. OrigCassandra*

      It’s never going to be easier for your department to ditch Ted than it is now. He’s not meeting the basic demeanor expectations of the job, I’m afraid, and that can’t continue.

      As a practitioner-educator myself, though, I do wonder whether you’ve written off the professional literature in your field a bit too casually, especially if the program you teach in is prepping future practitioners. Doesn’t have to be Ted’s stuff specifically, of course — the practitioner literature in my field is littered with trash, not gonna lie — but I do think you might be overlooking some Good Stuff. In my field you most definitely would be.

      1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

        Yeah, this struck me to. Although Ted is definitely out of line and I can certainly see a scenario where he’s entirely in the wrong, I also see a reading of this where LW is being overly dismissive of Ted and his experience. I spent close to a decade working as an admin in a professional program and the absolute arrogance of the traditional faculty who had barely even worked in the field was both obnoxious and actively undermined students on an institutional level. Amazing faculty who did have experience were poorly compensated and not respected, even though they were doing a lot of the heavy lifting when it came to actually preparing students for post-grad life.

        1. Alan*

          Not quite the same thing, but I see this in industry too. PhD-ed R&D folks believe they’re doing all the thinking, and that product engineering is a simple “exercise for the reader”. It’s easy to dismiss industry papers if you’ve never had to actually build anything.

        2. zuzu*

          This is the main difference between full-time tenured law faculty who keep a foot in the practice world by taking appeals or writing amicus briefs or working with the government and those who are solely academics. The ones who engage with practice get a reality check every now and again when a judge rejects their carefully-crafted arguments, while someone who only publishes to law reviews and engages with those who do the same gets a very, very narrow and self-reinforcing view of how the law works and eventually starts getting high on their own supply.

          And then they start coming up with stuff that has been memorably characterized as a “drug deal” that would never have passed any practitioner’s smell test.

        3. Junior Assistant Peon*

          In my experience, tenured professors approach teaching with a mindset of “I’m a big important researcher, and teaching an into-level course to undergrad freshmen is a waste of my time and beneath my dignity,” while adjuncts are the ones who actually want to do teaching.

          1. samwise*

            Like any generalization, this is too general.

            And rather insulting. There are a lot of tenured professors who are good teachers, and some who are spectacular. We just notice and remember the asshats better.

            1. Orv*

              The issue is that being a good teacher isn’t something that tenure track profs get rewarded for. In fact if your main focus is teaching you’ll probably have trouble advancing because you won’t have as much of a history of publications to point to.

    11. Dust Bunny*

      Also, this is only a normal level of “early career academia is hard” because early career academia is hard, and then a lot more early career academia is hard because Ted is making it a lot worse. I feel like you’re focusing on the first part and giving the second too many passes because of it.

    12. M2*

      A lot of the issues in academia though many of the schools and programs sell that you’ll be able to get a tenured track or good university job once you graduate or after your PostDoc. This is not usually the case especially in lesser known universities. Even Ivy leagues have issues with this so that’s why some are telling people to use their skills in other sectors look at private, public, think tanks, etc. some are just not clear with candidates what their actual 6 month out from graduation career benchmarks are and if they are close to that # some universities just take the people on a their #s don’t look bad.

      Have you talked to Ted before you talked to the managers? Maybe talk to him with another manager present. Has Ted talked with career services to see what else he can use his skill set for.

      Unfortunately when you change careers a lot of times you have to take a step down or start from scratch. It can bruise egos but for those who take on the challenge it can be rewarding.

      Also it makes me a bit sad since someone close to me works at an Ivy (well two people at Ivy and equivalent) and they both have mentioned professors who have outside work experience (not just straight to a PhD) or had roles outside of academia are not always but quite often favorite professors of the students. They have a different perspective.

      Also, did you talk to Ted before taking away his work from him? This might be part of the issue. Where I work someone had half their work taken away (because they were not doing it correctly) but before it was given to someone else they were spoken to and given 6 months to fix it. They didn’t. They were good at half their work but the other half was awful and by taking that half work away they are now better at the other half of their job. But this basically crushed this person. They took it so personally and lashed out like Ted and started sending really long angry emails. It was like part of their identity was taken away. The organization offered them paid leave and a coach but they are still upset some of the work was taken away from them. Ted might be feeling this especially if it wasn’t explained to him why this was done.

      1. Yorick*

        In my experience, professors who had roles outside of academia are students’ favorites because their classes are easier and they don’t teach much concrete information but rather just ramble on with stories about their work (so you’re not frantically taking notes and you don’t even really have to pay attention). In 6 years (BA and MA), I only had 2 of these profs (out of maybe 10?) that taught at anywhere close to the same level as the regular faculty. Those 2 did a really great job of weaving stories from their work into the lecture to illustrate the material, but that’s actually really hard to do well.

        1. MassMatt*

          This happens, but sometimes the teacher from outside academia is liked because they have more and more recent real world experience while the rest of the faculty is focused on textbooks that may be wildly out of date compared to what people in the field are actually doing. Your own post illustrated the vast difference between what universities, even very expensive ones, tell their students and what the reality actually is.

          At any rate, I doubt Dr Doorslam is going to be one of those teachers. He will probably do the bare minimum while treating his students and responsibilities with contempt. Students that are able to do so will avoid him, those that cannot will dread his classes and probably learn significantly less than their peers.

          Someone like this can do significant damage to a program. LW needs to get his managers on this issue ASAP.

        2. Bitte Meddler*

          I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Accounting. The best profs — not necessarily favorites, but absolutely the best in delivering needed information — came from industry.

          My capstone class for my Senior year was taught by an academia-only professor who told us that we’d never get far in the business world if we didn’t publish at least one paper a year in prestigious journals.


          No. Absolutely not. There is no “publish or perish” in the business world.

          Other academia-only professors made equally stupid / ignorant statements, just not as out-there as the Bus Mgmt guy.

          Oh, and who can forget the newly-minted PhD teaching Cost Accounting who couldn’t answer my question: “Why do companies use cost accounting? What information does it give them that they can’t get from the financial statements?”

        3. sparkle emoji*

          I had a few industry professors who matched your description, who were passionate about the field and made classes interesting. However, I had just as many who were arrogant about their industry experience and thought that was enough to be an effective professor. Their classes were worse than useless because they were unpleasant and also didn’t teach the material. Ted sounds like he’s the arrogant variety rather than the passionate one.

        4. Orv*

          Heh, I had a prof like that for Electrical Power Systems. He’d worked for a company that built and installed large substation transformers. Most of his stories were fascinating and a high percentage involved someone being killed.

    13. Momma Bear*

      Please let them know. If I were on the other end of Ted’s “introduction”, I’d feel like I was wasting my money. Ted’s over inflated sense of self is not your problem. The quality of the class is, and he’s bringing it down. If he’s upset about the reduced workload or anything else about the role, he needs to be an adult and talk about it, not slam doors.

      1. Alan*

        Yep. This is a class-quality issue and the writer should handle it that way. As a student I would be ticked if I were paying good money for a class and my instructor had some sort of diva attitude.

    14. Sara without an H*

      Yes, LW#1 — Your managers really, really need to know this now, before Ted gets to take his attitude out on his students. That you empathize with anybody on the “hellscape” of adjunct teaching (and it is, indeed, hellish in most places) and that you “hate confrontation” aren’t really relevant here. You need to brief your managers now. Yesterday.

      If you do nothing, Ted will take his sense of ill usage and entitlement into the classroom. Can you imagine the student evaluations he’ll get? Think of your students and go see your managers about this before you all get too deep into the semester.

    15. Fierce Jindo*

      Strong agree. He’s already made it clear (by essentially refusing to introduce himself to students) that he’s going to make his feelings his students’ problem. His job is teaching. He’s not doing his job. He needs to be out of there.

    16. Butterfly Counter*

      I’m a little confused about the structure of the department. I’m also academic teaching faculty. However, even when I was first hired, no one would have considered me their junior. Newer, yes. But not junior. And even then, only the chair of the department would be my “manager” no matter how long any of the other faculty had been there.

      Is Ted a TA? Because OP is treating Ted like a TA. And if Ted is not a TA, the way in which OP1 is treating Ted is off base.

      As a higher ed teacher, this is unlike any kind of class or teaching experience I’ve ever seen. If I’m given a class to teach, it’s all mine, down to the reading requirements. I also have to say that if I was brought in and teaching even a part of a class in my own expertise, but my articles were taken off of the syllabus by someone else, I’d be EXTREMELY offended as well. Yes, they might be trade publications not at the level of academic writing, but they also might be helpful in some ways to some students as a comparison or example of what other kinds of writing people do in the subject matter. However, Ted’s reaction to being offended was very unprofessional.

      Also, does Ted also have a PhD.? OP says they were in school together as cohorts and that some time has passed. And the university hired Ted because they wanted someone with his background to teach. What exactly are the expectations for Ted? Why was he brought into help teach this class if OP is just going to do all the teaching himself? Maybe the department wanted someone with lived experience to relate those experiences to the students and OP taking those lectures away from the class isn’t doing what he thinks it is? Students in my classes absolutely eat up lived information “war stories” from professors. They shouldn’t be the bulk of the class (or even a large fraction, but a story or two can go a long way), but I find that many students really relate and appreciate those parts of learning as well. If OP can mesh the academic research with Ted’s lived experiences, it sounds like it would be a successful and popular class at my university.

      Again, it seems like OP is treating Ted like a TA. I’m sure Ted is chafing at his lack of power to do his job the way he wants. And research shows (at least in my area), the more discretion people have to show agency in their work, the more satisfactory they find that work. This sounds different to me than just helping Ted with a syllabus. If Ted actually is teaching faculty, OP should be giving Ted more power and agency, IMO

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        Your point about learning what other styles of writing in the field is an excellent one. Universities are really good at teaching students how to write exam essays and formal research papers for a narrow audience, and aren’t always as good at teaching students how to write for broader audiences. Trade publications are a good example of writing that assumes an intelligent audience who may not know all the technical nuances but will still benefit from/enjoy the complexity of a topic.

    17. Janeric*

      The LW says that as a fairly burly man, he was rattled — I want to note that Ted’s probably close to his BEST behavior with the LW. It would be an ethical act to mark his behavior and acts as unacceptable to admin, so that when he acts like this (or worse) with people who have less institutional power, there’s a paper trail.

  4. GIF*

    LW3, at one point I realized that I felt much more awkward correcting pronouns at work than I do in any other area of my life. After some reflection I started intentionally trying to assume that people at work want to get pronouns right and would be grateful for the reminder. It’s true, and it’s also how I would feel if someone corrected me (well, embarrassed and grateful. But I’d be really glad they did it). Unfortunately not everyone in the world is going feel that way, but pretending I know they will is still helpful.

    1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

      If it is unintentional, though I don’t know how since Client stated their pronouns verbally and in writing, maybe being very deliberate about using the correct pronouns could help (on top of telling people). Crafting sentences like: when I spoke to Client yesterday, they said…

      1. Jackalope*

        It’s very possible that this is intentional, but it’s also very possible that it’s not. I’ve noticed that sometimes people just zone out when looking at details like someone’s email signature. Correcting them won’t work if they’re being jerks, but if they spaced then it will help.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I’d say email signatures get skipped entirely more often than not. Being told verbally during a meeting is harder to miss, though.

          1. Roland*

            It’s not the same, but it can be a little like if every Alexander you know goes by Alex. And then regardless if a new person says “I’m Alexander” or “I’m Alex”, they just go into the “Alexander (goes by Alex)” bucket in your head. I’m not saying it’s groovy to have this kind of thinking around gender, but I do think that “pronouns on autopilot” is more likely than outright malicious intent.

            1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

              Agreed. I have teens and many of their friends are in various states of gender identity and fluidity (in the sense of changing their pronouns periodically over time). I do try my best to get them right, but every once in a while, verbal auto-pilot takes over.

            2. fallingleavesofnovember*

              Yeah, and I know a lot of people who will automatically use nicknames/short names for people even if those people don’t invite it. Like Val for Valerie or Alex for Alexander. I’ve had one person this happened to tell me she actually preferred the long version of her name, so I make sure to use that even though no one else does!
              I’ve also been corrected on my pronunciation of a name (a fairly average North American name that you can just pronounce different ways) – even though I heard her introduce herself many times, I always used the other one! My brain just didn’t automatically compute. I was glad when corrected though!

              1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                This. I use a nontraditional nickname for my name (and which is a name on its own) and people STILL shorten the nickname further! They shorten it to the nickname I specifically hate for my name. But it’s a pain in the butt to correct everyone and I often just roll with it, even though it is nails-on-chalkboard every time.

              2. Momma Bear*

                I prefer the long version and really don’t like a common nickname. I just correct people if they try to truncate. For pronouns, I’d make a quick “by the way…” comment. It’s also just good form to pay attention. One of my old teams went months without everyone knowing that a person with a unisex name was a man – it caught people off guard at an in-person meeting, and that was not a good first impression. Please correct them.

            3. Lime green Pacer*

              My daughter is transgender, I’ve been using her pronouns for years. And yet, every once in a while, my brain slips a cog and I use the wrong one.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                When discussing friends who’ve changed pronouns, I’ve literally used the right, current, pronoun then the wrong, prior, pronoun a sentence apart. I need to practice a while or habit takes over.

                I’ve found it easier with new people, though, as there’s no old habit to break. But I suppose if the coworkers from LW3 are used to mentally assigning pronouns based on gender markers alone, they might think this is habit.

              2. MigraineMonth*

                After years of using my friend’s correct name every time I think of them, I got a new coworker with my friend’s old name. Now the old name pops up randomly 5% of the time when I think of my friend. Stupid brains.

            4. AngryOctopus*

              Or they were putting something together in their head to remember the new person’s name, and totally missed the pronouns. A reminder may be all that’s needed! Sometimes people miss things!

          2. Also-ADHD*

            I think it’s totally still possible that it’s still unintentional. I work fairly closely internally with someone with they/them pronouns in their signature and announced, and it has sometimes been very common for people to misgender them at first, when we work with various other teams (in stakeholder meetings, we’re commonly working closely to align our two teams). Introductory statements in meetings get little attention is my theory?

            People just do not pay attention—that’s not okay, but it’s cis/heteronormativity quite often rather than intentional malice. I often chime in with a friendly “Coworker Name uses them/they—you may have missed that at the beginning of the meeting” if they’re misgendered during our first meeting with a new stakeholder group (because in the case of my coworker, they’ve said it’s helpful to correct right there—I asked them after I first noticed it happened and they didn’t correct it, they tend to shut down when it happens and say this helps them not have to). And every time I can remember (dozens, these meetings are frequent and they’re misgendered a little less than half the time), no one has reacted baldly and the issue has been fixed, usually without repeated misgendering from that group, so it likely wasn’t on purpose even though my coworker does mention it in introductory statements and has it in their profile/sig. I wish people would do better, but I think lots of people just are oblivious.

            1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

              I don’t know how big the meetings are, but I struggle a LOT with names and faces (I probably have some level of face blindness).

              I can imagine that if there’s more than 2 new people, some folks might just be trying to remember names or get the right names with the right people. I can promise you that if I were in that situation I would be trying my best to get names, faces, and pronouns right… but I would probably mess some of them up and would absolutely love a quick reminder (either in the moment or later). If the reminder is later, I would love it to be very specific (e.g. X, the Llamma Teapot Specialist who sat across from you with the green shirt, uses they/them pronouns) because if you just tell me X uses these pronouns, I might have X and Y confused!

            2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

              Agreed. My experience is that folks who don’t have a lot of practice differentiating pronouns from assumptions about names/physical appearance often just don’t have the mental muscle that kicks in to make sure you’re gendering someone correctly — it’s just “Client’s name is Jane, Jane is a woman’s name, Jane is ‘she'” on autopilot when talking about Jane, even if, when asked directly, they might be able to tell you that Jane requested they/them pronouns. Possibly they realize a few seconds after ‘she’ came out of their mouth that they’re doing it wrong but don’t know how to fix it now, or possibly they aren’t even aware that it’s happening. But getting pronouns right is a skill that for most people requires practice.

              None of which is intended to excuse misgendering, or to say that it’s okay that this is happening. But I agree with the idea of assuming that people want to get it right and benefit from a little reminder, unless proven otherwise. (This is also why, when asked, I strongly encourage people to practice, out loud, on their own time, rather than getting their practice (and mistakes) in front of the person in question.)

        2. MassMatt*

          This is still a very new thing for many people, it takes time for even well-intentioned people to break old habits and do something different. I would go with the above excellent phrasing/thinking of “of COURSE we want to use the client’s correct pronouns…”

          But if it persisted, or was met with eye-rolls or mockery, I would make the point that “they” are the client, “they” are paying us, and no matter how strange or silly it is that THEY are using “they” as their pronoun, we will respect it because we respect our customers, or we will not have them for long.

          1. starts with an e*

            Please, please never use “strange or silly” when talking about someone’s pronouns. Speaking that way is completely transphobic.

            1. Observer*

              I don’t think that @MassMatt thinks that it’s strange or silly, but rather that even if the speaker (who has already shown that they don’t respect the client) *thinks* it’s strange or silly, they *still* need to use the correct pronouns, because they still have to behave respectfully or they will lose the client.

              1. MassMatt*

                Thank you, that’s exactly what I meant, the “you think” got lost, damn I wish we could edit posts.

      2. Tinkerbell*

        Unfortunately, in my experience even being really blatant about using the pronouns correctly five seconds after someone gets them wrong STILL doesn’t make most people change their behavior. My son and my wife are both trans, and my son used they/them for a while before settling on he/him – and I can tell you that I ABSOLUTELY notice every single time whether people get it right or wrong (or whether they conspicuously avoided using pronouns at all). Most people – luckily – aren’t comfortable coming out and saying “I’m a transphobe” to a trans person’s face, so someone getting pronouns *right* is a huge tell that they’re likely to be fighting for you behind the scenes, too. On the other hand, if someone consistently misgenders my wife and/or kid, I can’t tell whether they’re gossiping about us behind our backs – or doing something worse, like stonewalling us with paperwork or refusing to do their job in plausibly deniable ways.

        If LW3’s boss insists on misgendering the client behind closed doors, it’s going to show through – and I guarantee you the client can tell.

        1. Twix*

          My partner is also trans. In my experience there are lots of people on one end of the spectrum who get pronouns wrong at first/occasionally because it’s a change in our language and they just don’t interact with trans people on a regular basis, and they’re pretty open to being corrected. And there are also lots of people on the other end of the spectrum who actively refuse to use pronouns they consider “wrong” who will respond to being challenged by doubling down. And there are also lots of people who fall somewhere in the middle, like people who will use the correct pronouns to someone’s face but “don’t see what the big deal is” with not using them otherwise, and how they respond to that being called out is anyone’s guess. (I should add for context that I live in one of the most progressive parts of the US. Transphobic views aren’t exactly rare, but open transphobia is. Most people will at least try to respect others’ identities regardless of their personal views on transness.)

          I 1000% agree with the correct use of pronouns thing. It is a phenomenal way to communicate that you’re an ally and I guarantee that the people who need to know that notice it.

          1. OhGee*

            this is pretty much how I feel about it. I have lots of trans loved ones, and even I will screw up and misgender someone (this happens less all the time, thankfully). it’s a big change, at least in mainstream US culture, in both the way a person uses language and the way a person sees other people, and I think *most* people either actively or passively welcome that change. but it can be challenging, especially if your colleague is the first trans person you’ve ever interacted with frequently (this same scenario happened at my job recently). the best thing those of us who have already had that cognitive expansion can do is to model behaviors *and* gently but firmly correct misgendering and then move on. most people will adapt, especially if they’re not scolded while going through that adaptation, and those who won’t will show themselves very quickly, and that’s a problem for management.

            1. Twix*

              Yup. I’m also involved in a fair amount of LGBTQ+ outreach and in general I’ve found that assuming malice is far, far more likely to alienate potential allies than convince bigots to see the error of their ways.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            It’s a change in our language and they just don’t interact with trans people on a regular basis.
            I want to underscore this. You can have all kinds of good intentions, and when you’re coming from a context where there are two genders, and you can tell which pronouns everyone uses based on their appearance, it’s very easy to forget that there is a new exception and Imogen’s pronouns are different. (Especially if Imogen presents as female.)

            It’s like most people want to get your name right, but if that’s Allyssia and they have previously worked with a whole bunch of Allyssas, using that name is just a pattern. We latch onto patterns to do things. With practice, they will get that you are Allyssia–but for some people it will take more practice than others.

          3. Nightengale*

            I interact with a lot of trans people, have trans friends, patients and family members of patients, triple check my patient notes, talk with patients and families about gender identity, educate others about pronouns in professional settings, have corrected others when I catch misgendering, know it really matters. . . and I still have slipped up.

            It’s rare (like once in the 10 years I have known one friend) but I have done it. As generally advised I said something brief like “of course, sorry, they” and then moved on. I have a friend who has been using neopronouns for a few years and I have not slipped up reverting to the gendered pronouns sie used for the first 2 decades I knew hir, but have autopilot defaulted to they/them a few times when mentioning hir to people (this has always been telling a brief anecdote to people who don’t know and will never meet hir but still not OK). I mean I also called a patient by the wrong name yesterday, not related to gender identity at all but just a slip of the tongue that happens occasionally when even humans who know better interact with other humans.

            1. Easily confused*

              What’s the proper pronunciation of “hir”? To me it reads like “her” but I assume that’s not right.

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          Pronouns work funny, linguistically. My son is trans. Changing the name I used was easy. Changing the pronoun I used was much harder. It’s not something that you usually stop and think about. After about two years the old pronoun almost never slips out now, but it does with my mother pretty frequently. It’s not that she is being intentionally rude, but rather that she doesn’t interact with him nearly as much, and as you get older the deep down parts of language are harder to consciously adjust. That last part is key to unintentional slips. Pronouns are a deep down part of language that generally run on autopilot.

          1. lucy*

            Yes, I know one or two people who don’t speak English as a first language but are basically fluent, yet who often make pronoun errors.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              I’m pretty sure Chinese pronouns aren’t gendered? So my totally fluent-in-English but originally from China coworker is constantly misgendering people in that way. It’s like the one thing she can’t get to stick in her head about English.

              In this case, it would help me that the misgendering is happening in the chat — I would find it easier to correct in writing, vs. in conversation. Something like, “Imogen called and they said [blah blah blah]…Oh, by the way, did everyone catch that Imogen takes the they series of pronouns?”

              1. Deuce of Gears*

                Korean doesn’t have third person pronouns, period. I’m Korean-American; my father, whose first language was Korean and is otherwise fluent in English, was constantly ~misgendering people, including my sister and me (I was not out as trans at the time; a lot of this was before I learned that was a thing), because he just could not get the concept to stick. In those cases, if folks are doing their best, I give a pass. It’s not like my French, Korean, or German is perfect either.

              2. Orv*

                Finnish is like this too. Even in a workplace that was pretty much entirely cis people my Finnish colleagues couldn’t keep their pronouns straight.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              When my uncle learned German as an adult (as an English speaker, to converse when traveling), he eventually hit on selecting one set of gendered words and one verb tense, and found that people would figure out what he was going for. His brain was willing to stack up nouns and verbs, but stuttered on “will verb” “would verb” “would have verbed” etc.

          2. Arlo*

            My mother is similar- I’ve been out for ten years at this point, she’s 100% great to my face and on facebook and so on, but sometimes what comes out of her mouth isn’t what she means and I’ve made my peace with that.

        3. Orv*

          Conspicuously avoiding pronouns is a big red flag for me. It says “not only do I not believe your identity is a real thing, I will emphasize this in the most awkward way possible to make sure you know it.”

      3. Yellow sports car*

        It’s likely unintentional. They/them as singular, specific, in person pronouns are a relatively recent thing, and for a lot of people are not part of their day-to-day vocabulary. I am not aware of any colleagues, friends, family or contacts who use they/them as their only pronouns (I think a colleague I see every year or so might, but I don’t actually know).

        Email signatures are often glossed over, and indeed in some devices/apps auto-filtered.

        So while they’ve heard their pronouns once, if it wasn’t something they paid particular notice of, it can easily slip their mind. And then, they hear everyone else referring to them as her (or him) and it reinforces that they are “she” (or he).

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          And if its intentional — well OP you learned a lot about your company.

          Their reaction to a gentle correction will tell you what you need to know. Decent people will try to do better, bigots will say … other things.

        2. Orv*

          Singular they dates back to Shakespeare’s time, and has pretty much always been in casual use. People just shy away from it because style guides and grammar textbooks said it was “wrong.”

          1. Roland*

            Yellow sports car didn’t say “singular they is new”, they said “They/them as singular, specific, in person pronouns are a relatively recent thing”. And it is! Shakespearean characters did not have “they” as their preferred pronouns. It’s ok to acknowledge that a person adopting “they/them/their” as their one set of correct pronouns is a relatively new concept for most people – it’s not the same as me using “they” in this post to discuss theoretical people and posters I don’t know.

            1. Orv*

              When people get hung up on this what I actually hear them saying is “I think people with nonbinary genders are Tumblr nonsense that was invented a few years ago and I’m not going to encourage it.”

              1. New Jack Karyn*

                I don’t think people here are getting ‘hung up’ on this, in the sense that they’re saying, “It’s just a fad that I don’t have to pay attention to.”

                More like, “We are experiencing a sea change in language through the last ten years, and even those of us with the best of intentions will make the occasional mistake.”

      4. Yorick*

        Even though the client stated their pronouns in the meeting, we all have the habit of saying “she” or “he” rather than “they” and can mess up. It’s sometimes harder for me to remember when the person is gender neutral but has a pretty traditional feminine/masculine presentation. I try to get it right anyway and if I didn’t I would appreciate being corrected!

        1. Orv*

          One of the social issues here is if you have a masculine-seeming body there’s really no way to dress androgynously. Feminine bodied people just have to dress in more traditionally male clothes, but a male bodied person who dresses female is immediately filed into either the “transgender” or “male cross-dresser” categories, with no gray areas.

    2. ferrina*

      I approach it the same I’d approach someone using the wrong name.

      “Fyi, the client’s name is Kate, not Kathy. Kate was saying that they want…”
      “Fyi, the client’s pronouns are they/them, not she/her. About the deliverable, they wanted….”

      Most of the time it’s a non-issue. The person using wrong pronouns corrects themself (or you can pipe up saying “they/them!” and they’ll get the fix it after a couple of corrections. Again, usually same experience as correcting names).
      I’ve had a couple people go into a pronoun tirade, but these people are generally known problems. At that point you can either escalate to your boss or to HR.
      If someone was deliberately using wrong pronouns with a client at my work, they’d be shown the door immediately. Aside from the obvious DEIJ issues and potential legal issues, it’s just bad for business to have someone alienate clients and coworkers like that!

      1. MigraineMonth*

        This. Treat it as “of course they would want to get this right and are going to behave reasonably” and then move right along. You can (and probably should) do this in front of the client as well: a quick correction and then continue the conversation.

        Note that this is generally the best way to handle it if you are the one who makes a mistake as well: “Sorry about that, we should really show them the samples…”

  5. Zarniwoop*

    #3. Having your team refer to the client by their preferred pronouns when the client isn’t there is good way to stay in practice so you don’t make embarrassing (and potentially costly to your employer) slips when the client is present.

    1. Jill Swinburne*

      But…they should do that as a matter of course anyway, not just to stay in practice! The client has specified pronouns, so of course you use them at all times, not just when the client can hear it. It’s not method acting.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        That’s true, of course, but repeating someone’s pronouns to yourself can be helpful to cement them in your brain – especially if you knew the person by different pronouns before. Telling yourself, out loud (somewhere no one can hear you) “My friend is now BETH and SHE loves HER family very much. SHE is Jimmy’s MOTHER and Alice’s SISTER and Jacob’s WIFE now. BETH looks nice with HER hair long…” Like, it can be total nonsense, but you can get rid of all the stumbling blocks in private so the next time you’re mentioning her in the third person you can say “yeah, she’s Jimmy’s mom” without tripping yourself up.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          Absolutely practice helps! I do this kind of thing in my head too. I’ve rarely had a hard time switching from male to female pronouns for someone or vice versa, but because it’s something I only started encountering a few years ago, it takes more mental effort for me to remember nonbinary pronouns, so I put in that mental effort and practice. “I need to go ask Finch if they can book a conference room for the XYZ meeting. If they tell me that there’s none available in our building, I’ll have to ask them to look at the one next door.” Then when I say to a coworker, “Yeah, Finch booked us a room and they’re taking care of A/V needs too,” it comes out a lot more easily.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Yes. And OP will be helping get there by giving her co-workers whatever reasons it takes for them to speak appropriately.

        Op, I’ve fought this to varying degrees of success on behalf of my teenager. One thing that helped some older relatives was pointing out that Shakespeare and Jane Austen use the “anonymous they” as a singular pronoun.

        1. Hailrobonia*

          I forget who said this:

          Roses are red
          Violets are blue,
          Singular “they”
          Predates singular “you.”

        2. MigraineMonth*

          There was an amazing tweet a while back where someone said with zero irony, “If an English teacher thinks that ‘they’ can be singular, they shouldn’t be allowed to teach!”

          1. AnonORama*

            I remember someone being super argumentative about “they” not being a singular pronoun and seconds later saying, “someone left their iphone on the table!” Ummm….

      3. Allonge*

        They should be but they are not, and that is what OP is trying to address. The method proposed by Zarniwoop will help, while taking into consideration reality as it is now – surely it’s better to do something to improve things than just sit there and think ‘it should be good already’?

    2. JSPA*

      How about, “When we’re talking about blah corp, and mention Imogen, and then you say “she,” it leaves me confused for several seconds whether you understand that we are talking about Imogen. After the confusion, I’m perturbed. That’s several seconds where I lose track of what you’re saying. If you want me to process what you’re saying, and be respectful towards our client, use “they,” not “she” for Imogen. And if you screw up, pausing to apologize will give us all time to get back on track.”

      Rationale: It’s probably an overstatement to say that someone who is invested in not using they/them pronouns CERTAINLY Highly invested in having everyone listen to their ideas and opinions…but that’s the way I’d bet.

      So, ” I literally don’t process a thing you’re saying, right after you do that” may be the extra (selfish) motivation needed.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I’m not sure this would be very effective. In the mind of the people misgendering the client, it’s obvious who they mean – it would sound like you were making a point (which you are, so just make it).

      2. k*

        I use they/them pronouns and if I found out someone was giving this whole big speech on my behalf, I’d feel like it was way too intense of a response — especially the part about pausing to apologize. Honestly it’s probably going to be a lot more effective to just casually say, “Oh, Imogen uses they/them pronouns.” (And if someone reacts badly to that, they definitely won’t react any better to the script above.)

        1. Admin Lackey*

          +1 I also use they/them pronouns and there’s really no need for a whole song and dance, just interject with “they” and see how they react.

        2. Orv*

          I’d be afraid it’d cause a backlash against me, given the current political climate.

          I have they/them in my signature but I don’t make a big deal out of it at work when people get it wrong because I don’t know everyone’s politics and I don’t want them to get weird about working around me.

          1. I Have RBF*

            I have the same attitude. I use they/them, but my voice is still fairly high pitched, so I get clocked as female. It’s like fingernails on a blackboard, but I’m not going to call someone out in a meeting for using “she” to discuss work we were doing together. It some days is a “pick your battles” thing.

      3. Katie A*

        This script is somehow both passive aggressive and very pointed. That’s unlikely to get a positive responsive whether the coworkers are using the wrong pronouns because they don’t care/don’t want to or because they missed the right pronouns somehow.

        Plus, a wordy and specific script for something that needs to be said quickly and in the moment is less useful than the quick one in the letter or the quick one k suggested. The latter is actually better for a first attempt, imo, since it’s faster and a bit more casual than the former.

        1. Cookie Monster*

          Yeah, I’ve noticed sometime commenters on this site (who are great and very smart!) can sometimes get overly strategic and come up with unnecessarily long scripts. In this particular context, short and to the point isn’t rude (as long as it’s not said rudely).

      4. OhGee*

        Nope. “Imogen’s pronouns are they/them. (pause briefly for acknowledgement) Next on the agenda, TPS reports.”

        Making it a big, drawn out thing puts the person on the defensive, which is a great way to encourage them to dig in their heels about any issue. I love a detailed response, but this situation isn’t conducive to one.

        1. Lilo*

          I agree with this 100%. Consistently reinforce. Reassess if this doesn’t work and it becomes obvious this is malicious, then take it up with someone higher up.

      5. Bog Witch*

        That’s a great script if the LW is looking to come off as unhinged and incompetent. Seriously, wtf??

        “Imogen sent some files over, but it looks like she sent them in the wrong format.”
        “Imogen’s pronouns are they/them. I’ll shoot Imogen a message to let them know.”

        That’s really it. Repeat as often as needed, in the beginning. If, after a few times LW’s coworkers are still getting their pronouns wrong, it’s worth having an actual conversation about the pattern since in-the-moment corrections aren’t effective — but nothing like what you’ve suggested here.

      6. Winstonian*

        That is way too many words to say “Imogen uses AA pronoun, not BB and we need to use that”.

      7. Sleepy in the stacks*

        This is too much and VERY aggressive. A simple interjection of “As a reminder, Imogen uses they/them pronouns.” is fine.

      8. Lenora Rose*

        It’s been emphasized over and over again that making a big production of missing pronouns is actually much worse *for the person who was misgendered* than a quick correction, quick apology, and carry on, doing better. They don’t want it to be a big deal most of the time, any more than I want to make a big deal of having to point out my name has three syllables, not two (Lenore) or four (Leonora). They just want the person speaking to get it right.

      9. FWIW*

        Ooof. Bad idea. They could just say the same thing back at you. It’s very easy to get confused when using “they” especially when their is a group involved (client’s team) and coworkers could be having a work discussion about both the person and client’s team in the same conversation.

        So as not to unintentionally offend this person, it may just be easier for coworkers to get in the habit of using name instead of pronouns.

      10. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        This is way too complicated. You literally need one word, the correct pronoun, interjected after you hear the wrong one. You wouldn’t go “…when you say Mike I’m confused because the client goes by Michael and when you say Mike I don’t know who you’re talking about and then we lose several seconds and I stop listening to you and blah blah blah”, you’d just say “Michael”. Or “He uses Michael”. That’s all you need here. “They”. Or “Imogen uses they/them”.

    3. J*

      I mean, using a person’s correct pronouns is just correct, not about practicing or anything.

      Like you wouldn’t just randomly decide someone looks like a Bob and call them that when they told you their name was Jim. It’s the wrong name even if they aren’t there to hear you. It’s the same for pronouns.

      1. tg33*

        Yes, but with an unfamiliar or changed pronoun it helps to have a strategy to help yourself remember the pronouns. Likewise, when encouraging people to do something that is new, or that can be seen as taking a radical position, it helps to have an explanation to support you point.

      2. Ferret*

        Just because it is correct doesn’t mean it doesn’t take practice – the difference with names is that there isn’t a set of default assumptions most of us have been conditioned with, and there isn’t the same background of transphobia.

        But even on this site there is constant confusion between Alison and Allison, and I’ve seen the same with Sara/Sarah and whether people use common nicknames eg Thomas/Tom Johnathan/John etc. It is very plausible that the manager is transphobic but even so taking correcting the boss and coworker in a very matter or fact way makes sense as the first step

      3. Yellow sports car*

        Except – if you look like Jim I’ll probably call you Jim even though your name is Bob. Not deliberately, just cause people mix up names and that’s normal. So you make an effort to get it right, which yes can involve practicing and giving yourself prompts. I think that was the point – if you know you’ll get someone’s name wrong (or rather pronouns) practicing getting them right can help. Rather than just hoping you don’t mix language up.

      4. Keely*

        They/them pronouns are a little easier to stumble over because it’s a relatively new way of speaking about a particular person that you know rather than a group and one’s brain needs to wrap around the grammar after decades of being taught to use only he or she.

        I think the first step would just be a straightforward reminder that that “Alex uses they/them” pronouns and assume your coworkers aren’t bigots first. I have some trans acquaintances in my hobby groups and I had trouble remembering exactly who goes by they/them despite having zero problems using those pronouns.

        1. 2eyessquared*

          They has been used to refer to a singular person for a long time (How late were they? No, I’ve never met them before). It’s no excuse

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            For most people, using singular they to refer to a specific, known person is something much more recent and less common than the generic “someone left their hat here” kind of thing. It’s not an excuse, but it is a reason why it requires more conscious mental effort to get right for most people. There’s NO excuse for failing to put in that effort, though.

          2. Elle*

            People always use this “but, grammar!” excuse and I don’t buy it. I’m a technical editor and it’s funny how people’s interest in correct grammar seems to be pretty low unless we’re talking about they/them pronouns.

            Many people think that using someone’s correct pronouns is something they can opt out of by using the pronouns they used for that person previously or the ones they think the person should be using. This is incorrect. Cis people, correct yourselves and your friends, and maybe focus less on whether your screwups are intentional or not and more on, y’know, not screwing up to begin with.

          3. Trice*

            I think that this misrepresents Keely’s post, which specifies using they/them “for a particular person that you know”.

      5. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

        Doing anything correctly requires practice.

        One doesn’t just instantly achieve easy proficiency upon deciding to acquire a skill, habit, or piece of information. Pronouns are no different.

      6. OnyxChimney*

        Lol people do that all the time.

        Seriously lots of people get it in their head that so and so looks like a Mark and mistakenly call them by that name.

        Have you honestly not experienced that?

        Regardless that’s different then misgenderong someone on accident. If you’ve known someone as she for a long time it’s hard for some folks to make the switch. The suggestion to practice in private and to keep the gender consistently correct whether Imogen is there or not is a good one.

        1. Not Mark*

          As an aside: Why is it always Mark? Never George or Bill. Mark seems to be the default erroneous name for some reason.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            My mom loves to tell the story of a time when I was about 6 years old, my grandmother was talking to my mom and trying to remember the last name of a girl called Holly that had been a neighborhood playmate of my mom’s in the 60s.

            I had obviously never met this person, nor had I ever heard of her before that moment, but that didn’t stop me from helpfully offering up: “I think her name was Holly Toboggan!”

        2. Admin Lackey*

          +1 Getting pronouns wrong is often unintentional. Last week, I had to correct a coworker and she was like, “You know, the funny thing is, I corrected someone else on your pronouns like 30 minutes ago.”

          She’s doing her best! But it DOES take practice and that doesn’t make her mean or ignorant or rude.

      7. Admin Lackey*

        I’m non-binary and use they/them pronouns and while I think this approach is well-meaning, it’s also a bit absurd and in discussions about practical ways to get people to use the right pronouns, it comes off as virtue signaling.

        It’s nice that you understand pronouns and can instantly adjust to other people’s pronouns, I can assure you that you’re in the vast minority. I would love if all my coworkers were like you, but they’re not, and if I want them to use my correct pronouns, I need to be pragmatic about it.

        A most people DO need to practice to get my pronouns right and pretending otherwise would just set me up for disappointment. It’s not about excuses or laziness, it’s just how people’s brains work and practice is really the only way a lot of people are going to get the hang of they/them pronouns.

      8. Dancing Otter*

        The only way I’m going to remember names is by repeating them a number of times. (When I’m desperate, I ask the new acquaintance to enter their info in my phone contacts, but that’s not always possible.)
        Why should it be different for pronouns? Practice makes perfect. Every time your coworkers use the wrong pronouns without correction, it becomes a more ingrained habit.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Yes! I have a hard time remembering names unless I’m working with the person all the time. I recognize them, but it takes me a bit to get the name cemented in there (there was a guy at OldJob that it took me like six months to get his name, because I almost never saw him and didn’t work with him at all. It’s when I realized I have to repeat the name to myself A Lot initially so it gets into my brain). I might miss pronouns totally if I’m trying to remember more than one name. And it’s nice to have them in the email signature, but very few people in the actual company are going to scroll to read that. They already know you work there! They don’t need to see your signature! So they’re not going to get that particular reinforcement.

      9. Glen*

        … I only ever practice things that are correct*. Practicing incorrect things seems counterproductive.

        *well, things that I think are correct. I have been wrong on the odd occasion .

      10. Butterfly Counter*


        I had to practice saying my now-husband’s name after we we introduced ourselves because his name just was not sticking. It’s a J-name and I just have so much trouble because there are so many J-names for men and my brain just hears “J-name” and moves over it, forgetting it instantly.

        So yes, some of us need practice even when remembering a name for the first time because I know my brain was trying every other substitution for my husband’s name for MONTHS after getting together with him.

      11. AnonORama*

        Eh, I still practice occasionally. I’d rather remind myself in the car “B uses they/them pronouns. They are the taller of the two site managers and they have red hair. They’ll be leading my tour this afternoon” or whatever. I may look silly talking to myself as I drive, but I’m less likely to make a mistake. (100% agreed that using the right pronouns shouldn’t just be “for practice,” but I don’t see anything wrong with practicing to avoid a mistake.)

  6. Awkwardness*

    #3: Maybe tell your team and boss that with every instance they use the wrong pronoun, the connection in their brain will strengthen and they are less likely to get it right when actually in contact with the client. So there is no good argument as “it is only within the team…”

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I’m guessing the conversation so far has been the school receptionist simply stating that the childcare visitors have parked were they shouldn’t. Possibly in an annoyed voice with words like “again!” thrown in. The OP needs to steer the conversation to the actions of staff, not visitors. “I have tried asking them where they’ve parked when they sign in, but I have some things you can try too” or “This is what I’ve tried, if you have any other ideas I’m listening” or even “until the school gets better signage I think that’s going to continue”.

      1. Artemesia*

        The only thing that will stop this is people getting towed and the OP’s office making very clear to clients — when they book appointments and when they sign in that the lot will get them towed.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          From what I understand, OP can’t have people towed, only the school can because it’s their car park. The only thing OP can do is keep rephrasing that it’s not their car park, it’s the school’s, so OP can only help by passing on information about what the school have decided will do.

      2. Vanellope*

        Or tell the school to close their gate? If I read the letter correctly, school personnel/visitors don’t bother to close the gate behind themselves, people coming to OPs place of business then park in the lot, and then the school receptionist comes over to complain. I see a VERY CLEAR course of action that doesn’t involve OP at all…

        1. Saturday*

          There is no functioning gate, “The easiest resolution would be to fix the gate, but it is a five-figure sum per repair and keeps breaking as the gate is too heavy for the mechanism.”

          I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect people not to park where they’ve been told not to park. No, the LW can’t see the lot, but asking people as they come in (plus a sign on the door) should help a lot. I don’t understand the idea that if there’s not a physical barrier, nothing can be done.

        2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          So, people aren’t closing the gate behind them — but the gate is so heavy that the mechanism keeps breaking? I’m pretty strong but it doesn’t sound like this would be very easy to do, especially if it’s raining and I want to hurry to get out of the rain.

  7. Punk*

    LW2: The problem is that the children’s center is at a location that has a parking lot and presumably has enough empty and unlabeled spaces that people truly might not realize that they can’t park there. I’m thinking about what I would do if I were dropping my child off at a building that had empty parking spaces with no signage in front of it. Even if it had been communicated that the lot can’t be used, people are going to view it as equivalent to parking in front of Target and going to Whole Foods. The kid angle adds to it too – people aren’t going to use street parking with their kids when there’s an empty lot space.

    I realize this probably isn’t helpful, but there’s a tiny chance it might be beneficial to look into the setup and leasing. It’s a commercial-ish space with a shared lot but only has three allotted spaces? The local high school in my town shares parking with various community centers and the unlabeled spots are fair game. Honestly it’s probably up to the school to fix the gate and install signage.

    Or…what are the penalties at this time for using the spots? Can you decide that it’s just not your problem if people use parking spots that aren’t visibly reserved for other people?

    1. Jackalope*

      Yeah, I can see how it wouldn’t make sense to visiting parents that there’s no parking that can be shared, especially since it sounds like they’d be doing more of a drop-off/pick-up parking job that would be faster than, say, teachers parking there all day. If it were possible to get even just a couple of spots (which I recognize might not be a feasibility) then that could help a lot.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        As a teacher, I can say this is a constant problem for schools. They can send out message after message telling parents that children must be dropped off outside the school gates; entry to the school carpark is for staff only and people will still think, “ah, it’s only a minute.” I remember being at school myself and a friend’s mother driving me to school and my friend trying to tell her, “mum, parents aren’t allowed to drive into the school grounds” and the mother insisting it wouldn’t matter.

        The school I am currently working in has a particular problem because we share a campus with two other schools and a preschool and we have no control over what parents from the other schools do and apparently some are parking in our carpark or driving through our carpark and even part of the yard, as a shortcut (we moved where students took their break because of this) and apparently, one of the other principals is not willing to cooperate on insisting parents drop kids at the gate, so…that doesn’t help.

        I don’t have an answer. We had this discussion only this week at a staff meeting. It’s an ongoing issue and seems to be common among schools.

        1. Punk*

          The issue is that administrators can make whatever rules they want, but I’m not sure schools have any legal standing to prohibit parents from maintaining a line of sight on their unaccompanied minor children as long as those parents don’t try to walk into the school themselves. What’s the administration going to do? Make the kids leave school and go back home because mom wanted to make sure they walked safely through the front door? You can’t really bar people from driving through a non-secured non-private road-adjacent area. Are people ticketed for pulling in for a u-turn? If the school system isn’t providing adequate bussing, IMO they can’t also try to police how parents work around that if they want the kids to actually show up. Issues with non-custodial parents are also more common than people realize. You can’t just have a receptionist litigating thus stuff.

          1. Doreen*

            That depends on the whole set-up – when my kids were young, parents were not allowed to drive into the space that functioned as both a school yard and teacher’s parking. We could keep our kids in our line of sight , though. We just had to stand on the sidewalk outside the fence. It’s not clear if the parents in Irish Teacher’s post can do that or not

          2. New Jack Karyn*

            This isn’t just at elementary schools. I work in a high school, and parents do this too. It clogs up the parking lot when I’m trying to get to my spot so I can get my copies run off before 1st period.

            Drop them off at the curb right in front. They walk onto school grounds 2 seconds after closing the car door.

          3. Emmy Noether*

            What? That’s a wild take. Of course schools can bar non-authorized people from driving or parking on school grounds! And they should. If there isn’t adequate bussing and/or public parking, that’s a problem, but the solution is not entitled parents blocking teacher’s parking (if you need to keep your child in line-of sight, you probably also want the teacher to *be there* when the child gets inside).

        2. Baunilha*

          I had almost that exact situation as a teen, but my friend had broken her foot and was using crutches, so despite our protests, her mom still argued that _of course_ she could park inside the school for the drop-off. That turned into a screaming match between the mom and the school guard, and 13-year-old me just wanted to die of embarrassment.

          I don’t mean to go OT, just sharing how employees and parents sometimes have completely different points of view.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            Boy, in that case, I’m on your friend’s mom’s side. It’s an extraordinary circumstance, and pulling into the lot for a kid with a broken foot sounds reasonable to me.

        3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          Yes. I believe the “I know I’m not supposed to park here but these are the only spots and it will be just a minute” scenario is far more likely most of the time than actually not realizing they shouldn’t park there.

      2. Cj*

        the OP says she reminds them when doing room booking confirmations, so I don’t think it’s must drop offs. it sounds like they are parked for at least a couple hours at times.

        1. Antilles*

          True, but even if it’s longer, plenty of people would still make that same assumption that oh there’s 5 empty slots, it’ll be fine for me to just take one for an hour or so, it’s not like I’m taking it up all day.

    2. Brain the Brian*

      LW2, definitely see if your management can look into an agreement with the school to give your center more spaces in the lot. It’s honestly not reasonable (or, possibly, safe) to have parents dropping off their kids without a place to park.

    3. Citric Zinger*

      It’s possible the child care centre is a sub-set of the school, but the number of parking spots are pro rata’d to reflect staff numbers or enrollments between campuses. I’ve worked in a school with this, and many, many parents thought they were above whatever parking rules we had, to the point where police were routinely on patrol at drop off/pick up times to book parents breaking street rules.
      Given the gate isn’t locked/card swipe/pincode gated, this will be a regular, ongoing issue, and the senior leaders of both parties need to meet and map a plan. There’s also no indication it’s always the pre-school staff leaving the gate open; however, the school receptionist has decided it is, so that behaviour needs addressing.

    4. Bilateralrope*

      Saying “it’s not my problem” could work with reminding the receptionist that the school has the authority to tow and vehicles that aren’t supposed to park there.

      1. Olive*

        I think that the school having the visitors’ cars towed would ultimately cause more problems for the LW.

        1. birb*

          I think as long as they remind at every step of the way that you can’t park there or you’ll be towed by the school, and then ask the person when they come in if they parked in that lot because they’ll be towed. That way they’ve had multiple reminders AND have been warned of the potential consequence, and also felt the need to lie about it. Everyone’s done their due diligence.

      2. Punk*

        I’m admittedly getting into fanfic here, but if it’s a shared property with no signage, I’m not sure that the cars can’t be towed. At least, they haven’t been towed yet, which makes me think that it’s an “agreement” and not anything enforceable. And we don’t know the specifics of the children’s center, but I feel like it would cause even more trouble for the LW and her coworkers if they asked parents of preschool-aged kids (my interpretation of a children’s center) to just drop them off on the corner. I’ve worked at a Montessori and staff needs to be sure of who is picking the kids up and parents need to physically walk the kids in and out. And what about infants in carriers, if that’s part of the deal? Depending on what the children’s center actually does, they might actually have legal obligations to offer close, safe parking to facilitate in-person drop-offs and pickups.

    5. Baby Yoda*

      Agree, and also most businesses reserve the closest parking for guests/clients, not employees, so that might throw people off.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      I thought she said there is a sign on the entrance to the lot? But really, yeah, this isn’t OP’s problem to solve. It’s the school’s. My kid briefly went to one school that had no parking lot and was located on a street that only allowed parking on one side. And was next door to another kid-going-place that wasn’t a school, and they had their own private very small parking lot. That place had TONS of signage about parking for them only, no parking for school, etc. Like so much signage it felt VERY aggressive. The school didn’t like being called out in the signs since it read very accusational. I don’t recall the exact wording but it was way more intense than the usual wording at say, a shopping center near a sporting event.
      Point is, it sounds like the school has fairly minimal signage and a broken gate. If they’re not going to repair their preferred method of keeping people out (not having the code, the gate automatically closing behind people with the code), they can and should boost their signage including threats of towing, and possibly actually towing. Could OP do more in how/when they tell people not to park there? Sure. But OP is already telling people not to park there so it’s super weird the school is placing the blame on OP for people not listening to her.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Somehow you’ve reminded me of that old Captain Awkward standby of: “Oh, so what are you thinking of doing about it?”. She recommends using it whenever someone is complaining at you about something that is their problem, not yours. OP could really lean into this one with disarming friendliness: “I heard that it’s too expensive to mend the gate; so what else is the school thinking of trying?” or “It’s probably best to just close the gate, whenever possible – or has that not been working for you?” “Seems to be quite a problem for you! Are there any plans of what you want to do about this, that I need to be aware of?”

  8. Ms. Murchison*

    I’m so confused why LW1 came to AAM with this problem when one of his managers already explicitly told him to come to them if Ted did exactly this. It feels like LW1 left something out of the letter to explain why he is trying to avoid escalating this despite being told to do so.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      Academia is notoriously awful to term contracted folks and OP sounds like a kind person who doesn’t want to add to the awful! But this is absolutely something that needs to go up the chain.

      1. LCH*

        i think this is it, especially since OP says they have taught at that level. it probably wasn’t awesome. so they are asking, is there anything i can possibly do other than an action that may get this term contract teacher in trouble? no? ok, i tried.

    2. DisingenuousConcern*

      I think they are just a nonconfrontational person and we’re hoping for a magic word or action that would make door slammer tolerable.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        At least half of letters on this site are “I have a situation that can only be resolved by a very uncomfortable conversation/confrontation, is there some other resolution?” As advice-givers, it’s easy to say, “Go into the lion’s den and tweak the lion’s nose,” but from updates it’s clearly not as easy from the advice-takers’ side.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        A lot of times the advice is simply “use your words!” But that is sometimes harder than most people realize.

        And some people really feel the need to run it by somebody else before they feel okay to say something. That’s not a bad instinct at all.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          I find more often it’s also not just “say something” it’s “what/how to say it optimally”.

          1. Peanut Hamper*

            100%! Getting the tone and the wording just right can be the difference between a successful interaction and one that evolves into something we read about here.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      Sometimes, like DisingenuousConcern mentioned, people write to advice columns looking for a magic word or action that will make a situation go away without anyone feeling upset/uncomfortable.

      Other times, people know they need to do something but aren’t sure exactly what, so they write to an advice column to get an outside perspective on what to do.

      And still other times, people more or less know what they need to do and write to advice columns to get a second opinion and/or to have someone give them the “yes, do that thing” nudge they need to take action.

    4. Boof*

      I think a lot of us are variously programmed to think saying anything negative to a higher up is akin to “snitching”; or if the person gets in trouble, tend to feel guilty/internalize the consequences even though it was the other person’s behavior that really caused them; and finally maybe feeling out of control of what consequences get doled out could give some pause. So many reasons! But I agree LW1 has more than enough cues that Ted needs, at the least, a clear talking to that the attitude can’t continue, and then to find something else to do if they can’t get it together. And LW1 should continue to treat Ted with the same courtesy they would any other adjunct but absolutely not cater to that attitude – ideally when Ted did something like slam doors LW would have addressed that with them or Ted’s managers, same thing when Ted didn’t actually introduce themselves to students. I think I would have been tempted to take him aside after class with the introduction stunt and ask him point blank “Ted, do you want to teach here?”

    5. Bibliothecarial*

      The most helpful aspect of AAM for me is the scripts. E.g. I know I need to talk to Sally about the teapot error, but how do I phrase it in a way that’s firm and kind at the same time.

    6. Fluffy Fish*

      In addition to what everyone else said they are also probably trying to figure out the line between “this is something I handle myself as part of my higher level roll” and “this is something my bosses need to manage.”

      It’s a pretty good rule of thumb to exhaust your options before escalating it, and it sounds straightforward. But in practice it can be hard – getting an outside opinion can help calibrate.

    7. Former academic*

      Academia is also really, really weird and not at all like normal jobs in terms of the management structure. In my current industry job, it’s completely reasonable for my boss to directly tell me something like “when you present this to the client next week, you need to focus on X”. As a professor, if my department chair *told* me what to include in a research talk or even a class session (as a “management directive” not as a mentoring, “I think it’s more compelling if you structure it this way), it would be so unbelievably unacceptable and I would have been justified in pursuing a formal complaint. The management layers are also much different: it’s not at all uncommon to have 50 people (staff, permanent faculty, temporary & adjunct faculty) under one department chair, and 40 departments under the dean’s office (next layer). So taking things to the department chair can feel like a much bigger deal– this isn’t a manager where you are having weekly or monthly check ins and regularly getting instructions and guidance.

      1. Fierce Jindo*

        Well said, I think this autonomy is a huge aspect of the job that non-academics really don’t understand the various structural and cultural implications of.

  9. office hobbit*

    #3, I would actually drop the last phrase of Alison’s script (“we should be careful to get it right”), and correct your coworkers as if of course they’ve just forgotten. If they really have just forgotten, then the “we should be careful” language might make them feel chastised and defensive. I would use Alison’s advice from other situations about sounding warm and matter of fact as if of course they want to do the right thing and will use the right pronouns now they’ve remembered. If they keep using the wrong ones, I’d remind 1-2 more times, and if THAT doesn’t work, then I would use the “we should be careful to get it right” type language in a serious tone.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Yeah. Treat it like they got someone’s name wrong. Correct it in a matter-of-fact way and move on – of course it’s important to get right, but treat them like you think they already know that.

  10. JSPA*

    #1, if Ted is not just large and ticked off, but legitimately scary, you have to tamp down your sense of “I’m large too, we share a university cohort and men handle men things” and let people know enough to do the appropriate safety planning.

    Yes you can also invite him to lunch, and have a talk with him about how none of us get to live exactly the life we envisioned and hoped for. And how so much of life is showing up for the job you actually have, not the one you theoretically could be in. If you ever explain something well to somebody in your presence, as a student, you can say that’s the version of him you’d expected to teach with.

    Chances are, he’ll then shoot right back at you. That we don’t all get what we envisioned. At which point you can say, ‘yeah, it cuts both ways. And at some point you’ll probably be my boss, And I won’t necessarily like following your lead, then, more than you like taking direction from me now. But for the moment I’m the lead on this class.”

    But I think you can also give him some insight, and throw him a bone.

    “having taken the straight academic path, I’m acutely aware that the Department wants us to teach the students how to write in academic format. And they would not want us to mix in writing from professional journals as core reading. However, statistically, a large percentage of our graduates will not be remaining in academe. So I think there would be real value to teach an outside section on “clear informational writing for professional Basket Weavers in the Weaver Inc journal.” I didn’t want to ask you to take on extra sessions, but if you’re eager to do so, that seems like a win-win. Just let me know.”

    1. Anon in the academy*

      None of Ted’s behavior suggests that he is open to being mentored by the LW or that the LW should invest time in mentoring him. Ted does not seem to want to be teaching. I’m curious as to why you think this would be a good approach to take.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        I suspect Ted would take offence at any kind of mentoring, since he sees himself as the more knowledgeable, experienced colleague. He likely thinks the LW needs to learn from him rather than the other way around. Given that he has experience of the business world that it sounds like the LW may not have, I suspect he would be very dismissive of the LW telling him about showing up for the job he has.

        Now, it’s obvious to all of us that he clearly does need to learn this, but I suspect he is likely to think he knows far more about the working world than the LW and has nothing to learn from the LW about it.

        And if the articles were poor quality, they may not have been great examples for the students of how to write professionally. Now, of course, it is possible that they were only poor quality by the standards of academia and that the profession judges differently (I remember during my year to qualify as a teacher being shown an example of an excellent assignment that would have been considered very poor in my undergraduate, but my undergraduate degree was in English and History, so writing quality was obviously important, whereas for our teaching qualification, the focus was more on one’s understanding of professional standards, etc and not things like paragraph usage, clear use of language, etc).

        1. bamcheeks*

          Yes, I wondered about that, and about the relevance of Ted’s experience more generally. My academic background was in a very straight and tradition academic subject and institution, but in my post -academic career role I’ve always worked in vocationally focused universities where non-academic experience is prized. I wonder how much of this role is just a very bad fit for Ted, and whether there are jobs and institutions which value his combination of academic qualifications and practitioner experience more highly.

          If you want to take that into account, LW, it might change the way you approach done if those direct conversations. I don’t think it should stop you escalating the surliness and bad attitude to your managers, though.

    2. Gigi*

      “at some point you’ll probably be my boss” seems like a potential dangerous sentence to say to someone who would very much like to be your boss and who resents that your roles aren’t switched. It will probably be the main thing he remembers from that conversation.

      1. Ganymede*

        Exactly. And frankly, if Ted carries on like this, he certainly isn’t going to be LW’s boss.

        1. Gigi*

          Yup. I think JSPA meant more like sometime in the future at another company the possibility exists.. but Ted will not hear that between the lines.

      2. DisingenuousConcern*

        I absolutely agree and also, don’t know why you would stroke the ego of someone who is already this aggressively unpleasant and out of touch with appropriate work behavior.

      3. Cj*

        yeah, I couldn’t figure out why on Earth you would say that. if the OP was a woman, the cynic in me might think that it is true. but they say they are also a big burly guy period

        1. Florence Reese*

          I see from your other comment that you were close to gun violence. I’m sorry you went through that, and I can understand why anyone in this country would be worried about that as an outcome.

          It just seems like inviting a long conversation with this guy about anything — least of all about “you’ll probably be my boss someday! [but not today]” — leaves you more open to violence and retaliation from him, than just…disengaging and letting your managers know. There’s no need to get in the weeds with him. Even the “throwing him a bone” monologue seems like an unnecessary closeness if the concern is that the guy will react to critical feedback with murder. If you’re worried someone will hurt you, stay *away* from them and alert others about your concern.

          I’m saying this from a place of compassion: coddling your coworker’s feelings would not have prevented what happened. Maybe it would’ve changed things a little bit, but reacting to dissatisfaction at work by shooting people is so outside of the realm of normal that reacting in a normal way doesn’t really impact it. But it sounds like his key card access being revoked may have meaningfully protected you and most of your colleagues. If the LW is (appropriately!) concerned about this man’s anger in a workplace, the potential for violence makes it even more important that someone with authority and sufficient resources deals with this. That’s not a “soothe his ego and hope for the best” situation.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      I wouldn’t bother – Ted is not someone you can mentor into a good attitude. When I took my first management role, I had a Ted on my team. He thought he should have gotten the manager role instead of me. I did all the things you’re supposed to do as a new manager – get to know your team, find out what is important to them for their growth, give them autonomy where you can and direction on the overall priorities, but let them figure out how to get there, etc. etc.

      In my situation, I was demonstrably more senior and experienced that my report. That didn’t stop him from feeling like he should have gotten the role, and then doing his best to sandbag me and throw a wrench into the works, whenever he could. Took me a while to realize what he was up to, in part because I didn’t know he had applied / interviewed for the role. Wasn’t until my manager told me that things because a lot clearer.

      At that point, I had a discussion with him to the effect that A, B, and C were issues, what my expectations were, and that his future progression really depended on making our team successful. He chose to leave soon after that, which was a relief. I guess he realized that I was on to him and he wasn’t going to get away with anything. Thankfully, there were other members of the team who were amazing and I was able to replace him with someone who was stellar.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          They sure did! In fact, when I first raised my concerns, she said my report had been a great employee when she was managing them directly – my role was put in place between levels. It wasn’t until I pushed the issue and told my manager that I had no choice but to give my report a “needs improvement” on his review, that she admitted that he tended to not take direction well. I think she had let him have his own way and hadn’t quite realized he was riding roughshod over her, until I really pointed it out.

      1. Random Academic Cog*

        I’ve always been careful to inform a new staff member when they will have to interact with someone who applied for their job. You never know how people are going to respond and it’s unfair to leave your employees in the dark if there’s any chance for a negative reception.

        1. I Have RBF*

          As an IC who has been passed over or not even considered for my boss’s job, I end up reporting to either a brand new off the street person, or a former peer, fairly often. I made up my mind a long time ago that it was not about me, and the person didn’t get the job at me. This has actually led to some great working relationships, although I have had to do a lot of managing up and training up. But I don’t see that as a bad skill to learn.

          Unless the new manager is snotty about it, it helps to invest time in helping them succeed, because then the team will succeed.

          But it means swallowing your ego, which is a good thing to be able to do, IMO. (I am a naturally competitive person and that does work well in a collaborative environment, so I had to learn when to squash it.)

    4. No name Username*

      Theres nothing in Ted’s behavior that shows he’d be open to mentoring and definitely not by the LW.

      At the very least LW’s managers need to know about Ted’s ignorant behavior with students in the class.

      I’d say his managers were half expecting problems with Ted – it’s time for LW to give them the information they need to take the necessary corrective action with Ted.

    5. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Not really sure why OP should offer to mentor Ted. Why should they take on more work with the way Ted treats them? If Ted were floundering maybe. But Ted is hostile. It is not OP’s job to fix Ted.

    6. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      if Ted is not just large and ticked off, but legitimately scary, you have to tamp down your sense of “I’m large too, we share a university cohort and men handle men things” and let people know enough to do the appropriate safety planning.

      I think we’re already there. I’m not a woman who would be described as small, but if I were a student and got ANY sense that my large-man grumpy professor was someone who “fumed” and slammed doors when he was annoyed… I would be afraid of him. I would not go to his office hours and risk being alone in an enclosed space with him. I would do whatever I could to avoid coming to his notice at all. And this is me, fifteen years out of college. College-student me would be even more alarmed by this behavior, and much less likely to speak up if he did anything in my presence that I thought was out of line.

      LW1 is sympathetic to Ted and that’s a generous impulse, but Ted is scary enough to give LW1 pause, as another large man — that means that there are almost certainly students who are actively afraid of him. Ted needs to either shape up our ship out, yesterday.

  11. Viette*

    LW1 – go to your managers and make a plan to sort Ted out. Just because his job is junior-level and not highly prestigious doesn’t mean he gets to be a jacka** about it.

    He’s doing a mediocre to possibly bad job, and you and you students deserve better. Either Ted improves to the completely achievable standard of professionalism or your managers get rid of Ted and get someone better.

    Imagine how people who are not Ted could and would be doing his job if he left, and better than him! I know he was in your PhD program and you feel bad for him because his job is a grind, but you need to care about your students and yourself a whole lot more than you care about Ted.

    1. Colette*

      As someone who used to be adjunct faculty, if Ted is finding his job a grind, that is on HIM and it’s also doing a disservice to the students. You can always find a way to teach in ways that engage and interest people and help them learn, regardless of the subject. Considering how much debt people take on to get a college education, they deserve so much better than a resentful, surly instructor who feels like teaching is beneath him.

    2. Kyrielle*

      I have never been a professor or teacher of any kind. But I have been a student. And Ted’s introducing himself to the class would have made me rather uncomfortable. And if I witnessed anything even close to the door slamming incident (with or without knowing what the trigger conversation was), I’d be actively scared of him.

      OP, you are doing the *students* a disservice also. Ted needs to come around FAST, or leave. He’s creating a bad environment for them, also, to one degree or another.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        I have to say it sounded as though the confrontation over the articles was likely not done in the classroom, but rather in the department offices where few students are to be found.

        The introduction could or could not have been tense. One professor giving a long, “This is me and all of my lofty credentials…” intro while the other professor gives a, “Yeah, hi,” could be funny to students if given in the right tone. Whether or not this was done (I’m leaning to “not” based on other information) isn’t known, but it didn’t necessarily have to be all fraught with anger or tension, either.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Fair! At the college I went to, the professors’ offices were interspersed-with-and-upstairs from the classrooms for each department – so the door slamming would have been something students might witness or hear. If no students were present for it, and if he doesn’t do anything similar in front of students, then that’s less of a concern.

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            Ah. Our offices are all in a completely different building across campus.

            But I agree that if any of this was in front of students, it’s even more egregious and nonprofessional than before.

    3. Butterfly Counter*

      I mentioned above that I’m unsure as to Ted’s actual role in the department because OP1 seems to be treating Ted like a teaching assistant rather than a faculty member. “Give this lecture, but don’t deviate from the notes, and also do all the grading,” are tasks given to TAs. Why is Ted given part of this class?

      I think OP1 sitting down with his managers (I’ve never had anyone in academia I’d ever call my “manager” in any way, so that’s also confusing me) and asking what Ted is supposed to be doing in the class and what the students are supposed to be getting out of Ted’s instruction would also be helpful.

      It’s possible that this department is just structured differently than any other department I’ve seen. But the way OP describes the hierarchy, especially where he is in it, makes me wonder whether OP knows what he’s supposed to be doing with Ted in this class.

      1. Fierce Jindo*

        I think this is a professional program that involves something like a research center. I have heard staff in those positions, including research scientists, refer to their “managers” in a way that we professors never would.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          Okay. That makes a bit more sense to me. But I’m still confused about the teaching aspect. I’ve never seen research centers that had teaching faculty. But I suppose there could be departments that look very different to any I’ve been involved in.

          I’ve been teaching higher ed since I had my Masters and was only ever hand-held or (micro)managed like OP1 is doing to Ted when I was a TA. If I had a PhD. (which it seems Ted does have) and someone was taking my publications off of a syllabus of a class I was teaching, I’d definitely think about quitting on the spot. To me, that was outrageously disrespectful. That Ted is now only half-interested in teaching this class would not be a surprise result of that decision.

  12. Sunny*

    LW4 – I also noticed that you said you’d seen it was recording and decided to leave it on (“It didn’t bother me that it was recording the meeting, and I saw it as an easy way to access info later”). That’s a fairly significant violation and you should have let them know as soon as you saw it was recording. You’re recording someone without their permission. Your reasons for doing it are valid, but you need the other person’s permission, because this isn’t just about your needs.

    I’d be very disturbed by something like this – and while an explanation about the email part would help – we all have tech hiccups – the fact that you were recording me without permission or notification in the first place – would still be an issue. In fact, I’d be more suspicious, wondering if I would have even found out I had been recorded (by AI, no less) had this email glitch not occurred.

    1. LW4*

      You’re not wrong. I definitely panicked and thought if I acknowledged it I’d look worse than if I didn’t, and spent the first few minutes trying to see if there was any way I could turn it off mid-call (I couldn’t. It actually didn’t even pop up until the other person joined the call so I had no idea what was happening at first). I had emailed Alison almost immediately after I did it so I was still in panic-justification mode

    2. Hekko*

      I wonder if the other party was alerted to the recording as well. I have no experience with Google Meet, but whenever my mother and I tried recording on Skype, there would be alert for both of us and also the recording would be posted in the chat (so that we both could download it).

      1. LW4*

        There was no alert, but as soon as the other person joined the call another window came up as if there was a 3rd person in the meeting. I received no warning and for a second I had no clue what was even happening until I saw the app name on the window. I kept a poker face and tried desperately to remove it from the call but it said I couldn’t.

        1. Anxiety like whoa*

          Yowzers! You should have at least acknowledged it with the interviewer. I would be a bit skeeved if I discovered I was being recorded without advanced knowledge.

    3. bamcheeks*

      Surely it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume the system notifies the other person too? You always get notified in the UK, and enough states in the US require two-party consent for a recording that surely that’s a feature there too?

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        I’m in the US and I get those alerts on Zoom when the built-in recording feature of Zoom is being used. But it sounds like this is a separate add-in. Someone I serve on a board with has one called “Otter”, which makes a recording and some speech to text stuff (they use it to assist with meeting minutes). That just shows up as an extra meeting participant (called something like “Jane Smith’s OtterPilot”). I don’t think you get the same kind of alert with that, though our board just started using it, so it could be that I’m just remembering wrong.

        1. MK*

          We have had some major problems with Otter doing exactly what the poster describes – one person uses it in a meeting and it sends the transcript to everyone, a couple of people curiously click on it and make and account, but without realizing it they are giving it permission to attend and record every other meeting on their calendar. Meeting hosts assume that the attendance is intentional and allowed the ai in, but when we’ve reached out to folks, they had no idea that the ai was being sent on their behalf. Meanwhile, every recording that is made gets sent out to all the attendees and more of them make accounts that record all of the meetings on their calendar. We deal with a lot of PII in meetings, so this information getting recoded and emailed out to everyone via unencrypted emails is a big issues for us, and shutting down the accounts of unsuspecting attendees has been a bit whack-a-mole. I’d urge you to re-think whether your organization really wants to use this app!

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            That is incredibly weird and I can’t imagine why anyone would want that! I was dubious about Otter already, but this seems even worse. The one thing we don’t have is copies being emailed out to people — we would have to log into the person’s account to access anything.

  13. Wolf*

    I agree with this. And it’s a huge deal that an AI just jumped onto all your meetings like this without you even realising that you signed up for it. Nothing you could have done differently on that point but I’ve heard this from elsewhere, and it’s super shady that it basically shares itself like a virus.

    You might want to warn your client that if they accessed the transcript they could have the same problem.

    1. I Have RBF*

      Yeah, if I had an app that essentially spread itself by phishing participants, I would talk to corporate security about putting it on a “Deny” list for software to prevent it from being installed on corporate owned systems. Then even if people signed up for accounts the app should not be on their computer. I would also send out a periodic reminder that those types of add-ins are not acceptable by company policy, and how to remove it if they accidentally got infected.

  14. bamcheeks*

    LW1, you’re an academic and you have managers who actually want to manage you and help solve problems for you? OH MY GOD TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS RARE AND PRECIOUS THING. I was assuming you were going to say, “academia is weird, it’s nobody’s job to manage and nobody can tell other people what to do if they’re not doing it”, which is what I hear all the time. You have managers who have actively told you to come to them with problems! You’re living the dream!

    1. ecnaseener*

      Yes, reading the first half of the letter I was like “too bad this is academia or the advice would be obvious, tell your manager” and then, hey look! it’s a real option here even though it’s academia!

  15. r.*


    being the boss sometimes means that you cannot avoid certain types of escalation, because escalating them if required is part of your job, and this one certainly does seem like one of those.

    You also have the advantage not only do you enjoy clear lines of communication and responsibility, your own manager seems to be a quite reasonable person who has given you suitable instructions and told you that they’ll back you up on them.

    This is a (depressingly) rare circumstance in academia (or academentia, as some would put it); you really ought to take the concerns with Ted to your manager.

    1. Pippa K*

      I’d also add, if OP as a “burly guy” finds Ted’s conduct a bit alarming, it might be even worse for their women colleagues. Even if you feel like you can cope with Ted’s temper, OP, please go to the department chair/undergrad director/whoever about this, because you’re probably not the only one in Ted’s orbit experiencing this, but you might be the voice that makes someone take it seriously.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        People who slam and scowl are unnerving regardless of size. Even if it’s unintentional because they’re just crap at emotional regulation and basic socialisation, it’s pretty human to want to avoid people who are actively unpleasant and seemingly out of control. They aren’t following the social contract, so it leaves you without a script. I think this is probably a huge deal for everyone who works with Ted; hell it would be a problem if a student were acting this way! OP needs to not minimize it, or feel responsible personally for it, and loop as much support and structure into the solution as possible.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      ^^ being the boss sometimes means that you cannot avoid certain types of escalation, because escalating them if required is part of your job.

      This. LW, I am sure you hate confrontation. Most people do! Confrontation is uncomfortable! But when you accept a position with management responsibilities attached to it, part of what you’ve accepted is managing other people. In your specific situation, you have a responsibility to address this behavior, and if you don’t, this is going to metastasize. I can pretty much guarantee that you are going to start getting complaints from students about Dr. Doorslammingpants’s behavior.

    3. Karma is My Boyfriend*

      LW stated they are not Ted’s boss, just a senior to him, along with Ted reporting to him for aspects of one class. That’s different than being his complete and total boss.

  16. J*

    As a non-binary person who uses they-them pronouns but doesn’t look even a little bit androgynous, I get misgendered at work constantly. I was misgendered yesterday by someone I’ve worked closely with for years and definitely knows better! (although they clearly realised it and correctly gendered me a couple of sentences later). Even after experiencing this for years, I notice it every time and it hurts.

    So please, for anyone who has the opportunity to correct someone before a person from a gender minority has to do it themselves, do so. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, just treat it like they used the wrong name or something.

    1. SW*

      I’m sorry, they do this to me too and it sucks.

      Yes, the more allies can take on this work, the better, especially the higher they are in the org chart. It’s super hard to have to take on superiors and correct them so the more the people at the top model appropriate behavior, the more likely the people below them will do it too.

      1. saskia*

        That’s a bit different, though. If you say either is fine, you shouldn’t be too surprised when people pick one.

        1. Admin Lackey*

          I mean, I only use they/them now but did at one point use she/they and I did notice that other queer people would switch effortlessly between the two. It’s only cis people who seem to find that challenging, so I think 2eyessquared has every right to be notice and be annoyed. Hmmmm…. what a coincidence that people who pick one pronouns only pick she/her! It’s obvious and it’s annoying.

          Part of the reason I only use they/them now is BECAUSE I realized that 99% of people will NEVER use they/them if they have the option to avoid it and the only thing I could do was make it their only option.

          1. Eater of Cupcakes*

            So to be clear: When you used she/they, did you tell people that you wanted them to switch between the two, and that only using she/her was inappropriate?

            1. Admin Lackey*

              Yeah bud and they still only used she.

              To be clear, are you non-binary? Because it’s already exhausting to correct people on one set of pronouns, expanding that explanation into why they couldn’t just use she was more trouble than I thought it was worse. I would expect someone non-binary to understand that.

                1. wendelenn*

                  I still don’t quite get it though. How was the other person supposed to know when they were supposed to switch or which you were using at a given time? If they were talking about you with other people when you weren’t present, should they just switch randomly in the middle of the conversation? I am legitimately sorry but it confuses me.

                2. Dahlia*

                  @wendelenn It’s not random. If someone wants you to use both sets, then you use both. And if you’re confused, ask.

                  “Jem’s not here today. They went to the doctor. Yeah, she’ll be back tomorrow.”

                  It’s not super complicated.

              1. Easily confused*

                To be fair, I’m non-binary and the first time I saw “she/they” I didn’t understand it. I assumed it was like “he/him”, and I was supposed to always use “she” for sentence subjects and “they” for sentence objects. It took me a long time to figure out because I didn’t want to offend anyone by asking.

      2. birder in the backyard*

        OMG. I think I always assumed that she/they meant you could use she/her/hers OR they/them/their. Time to brush up on my habits.

        1. Admin Lackey*

          Most people I know who use more than one set of pronouns like when people will switch between them. Some people feel performative when they start doing the switching, but I can assure you that the person with multiple pronouns will appreciate it and it will get easier.

          Also worth noting that people who use he/they or she/they will almost always get the gendered pronoun from others, especially cis people

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            I’ve started asking, whenever I meet someone who uses two sets of pronouns or whenever someone I know announces that they want to start using two sets of pronouns, “do you want me to switch between them? Are there times or spaces when it’s better to use one than the other? Or are you agnostic as far as which option people choose to use?” I don’t want to assume everyone has the same preference about that, and I want to get it right for that person.

            1. Easily confused*

              I’ve had people get really annoyed with me for asking, so nowadays I try not to say anything until I’ve been able to observe how they interact with other people and what the pattern is.

          2. wendelenn*

            Honest question here: How does the other person know when to switch and which you are using at any given time? It just feels a bit strange to me–I wouldn’t know what to use.

            1. Admin Lackey*

              You can always ask, most people appreciate that. If it’s important to them and they think you’re safe/reasonable, they’ll tell you.

              If it’s just in general that they have multiple sets of pronouns that they use, you choose when to switch. Within the same sentence? Every other sentence? Different ones on different days? That’s usually all fine. And yeah, it will feel strange at first – that’s what I meant when I said it might feel performative at first.

          3. Hazel*

            Again AAM commenters teach me something new and valuable, thank you! My kid’s teacher uses she/they on their email signature line and I was amused bc I thought it meant ‘just be nice, I don’t what pronoun is used’. Now I know.

          4. I Have RBF*

            My spouse uses she/they. When talking about them to others, I will try to alternate, because she uses both. It takes conscious effort, because even as an enby I’m used to people only using one set of pronouns. But it can be done.

        2. a passerby*

          I’m embarrassed to admit the same! In my case, I use she/they, but I DO mean it as you can use either, so I just kind of assumed it was the same for others. I’ve begun to realize that, at least for me, being agender means that I simply don’t grok gender the same way many other folks do. I’m grateful to have learned something new today!

          1. Cedrus Libani*

            Same, and same. I’ve considered marking “she/they” on paperwork, meaning “I see you, people with pronouns, but I’m honestly not that attached to mine”. (But since that’s the case, might as well take the easy route, so I’ve always gone with “she/her”.)

    2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

      Honestly this is a part of why I’ve never changed my pronouns even though I’m NB/agender. Female pronouns don’t specifically bother me (my dysphoria isn’t that bad at this point in life and I like dressing femme occasionally)and the idea of going through retraining everyone and constantly being misgendered just sounds exhausting.

      1. Anonychick*


        Or, rather, I do use neopronouns, but as, like…an option. Like I get a happy little feeling from people using them, but I don’t feel bad or truly misgendered (the way I do with some other things, like being called female/a woman/Miss…but oddly NOT a chick) when people use she/her. So most people use she/her for me and I’m fine with that.

        But it is nice on the rare occasions that vis people make the effort to use my nonbinary pronouns.

      2. kalli*

        It’s perfectly ok to just tell new people and choose not to deal with explaining and retraining someone in y our family (etc.). If they notice on their own, great; if they don’t at least you’re not always dealing with ‘I’ve told them a thousand times already’, or adding an extra stressor to a situation you may not be able to opt out of.

        Work can be one of the easier environments to switch over in; you can go the whole new-job-new-you, you put your pronouns in your email signature, you can announce and remind people or if the occasional assumed pronoun creeps through and it doesn’t feel like someone pulling your organs out and putting them back in upside down you can not even acknowledge, just let work be your shield a bit.

      3. Avery*

        Honestly, that’s why I still use she/they. I’m agender, pronouns don’t really do much for me anyway, it’s nice to have people acknowledge that I’m nonbinary but I’m femme-presenting to a lot of people are going to jump to “she” and that doesn’t bother me so why make an issue of it?

    3. beep beep*

      Yup. We know why people do it. It doesn’t have to be justified. Just apologize if it happens to their face, and correct your coworkers whenever it happens.

  17. Richard Hershberger*

    LW1: I am a bit bemused by “I don’t want to go above his head.” My understanding of that expression is that it means taking something to your grandboss without your boss’s knowledge or consent, i.e. jumping a link in the chain of command. This is a problem because it undermines your boss, and indeed the entire structure of the organization. This, however, is pretty much nothing like the situation here. The LW seems to be partially this guy’s boss, and partially share a boss. In either capacity, taking this problem to the shared boss is not going above his head in the usual sense of the expression. It is dealing with the issue appropriately.

    1. Lilo*

      Yeah that stuck out to me too because LW does seem to have this level of imposter syndrome about Ted. He is not above you. It is normal to work employee issues with your boss.

    2. Laser99*

      I have been looking all my life for someone else who uses the word “bemused” correctly. Let us swear eternal fealty.

  18. NothappyinNY*


    I get it this guy is awful, and OP needs to deal with it, BUT depending on subject LW1 might want to consider playing to the guys strengths. I was an accounting major in college, and having the adjuncts share their work experiences was beneficial. Let me clear, in no way do I condone rudeness.

    1. WellRed*

      Yes. Ted is obviously a problem but I think it’s possible to have a bit more sympathy. How long has he been in this role? What sort of support has he gotten to make the transition to academia (I’m guessing not much). Has anybody ever actually sat him down and said “look, this is the job. Deal with it.” We hear all the time here at that academia is weird and we hear all the time about newbies to the working world need to learn the norms.

      1. happybat*

        All of the below is about my context – it may not apply to other countries!

        A PhD is at least in part, an apprenticeship in academia. If Ted has got this far without learning the norms of the group he hopes to join, that is (at least in part) a choice to avoid the opportunities to engage with that kind of learning.

        I suspect that in order to cling to his conviction that he would walk into a senior academic role due to his professional experience, Ted had to avoid learning how things actually work. It’s completely doable! You ‘don’t waste time on teaching’ and focus on your research. Or you tell yourself (and anyone else who will listen) that what is being taught is rubbish and that only practitioners know how things really are (conveniently ignoring, of course, that many of your academic colleagues were/are experienced and talented practitioners). It’s pitiable in its way, I suppose, but it doesn’t make you a wide eyed newbie, and it doesn’t make me want you teaching on my course.

        #1, I urge you to think about the impact Ted may be having on your students and make the right call.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I think the “Sociology of Basket Weaving” example was meant to convey that they are not teaching anything all that related to the actual work Ted used to do. So it’s not like he’s a former accountant teaching accounting, he’s a former accountant teaching a “more academic,” not-at-all vocational subject that has to do with math.

      1. Law Bird*

        Academics overlooking the knowledge, experience, and value of the potential contributions of real world work experience is nothing new. The Roman hairstyles com to mind.

        Ted’s not doing his current job properly, but my reading of the letter was that LW1 maybe had some blind spots too.

        1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

          Ditto. And assuming you are in fact, in law, I think you and I have both seen this in action in a similar way. I think it’s probably one of the most pronounced areas for this.

          That said, Ted’s an ass.

        2. WhoAmIWhyAmIHere*

          I have to say, I can’t think of someone Ted sounds *less* like than Janet Stephens. I don’t think the situations are remotely comparable based on what we’ve been told.

        3. Butterfly Counter*


          I’ve mentioned several times above that someone taking my publications off of a syllabus of a class I was helping to teach would be breathtakingly disrespectful. Students don’t need to ONLY be exposed to academic writing in a field, but all professional writing. If that writing was published in material that professionals in that field are reading, it does rise to some level of scrutiny and value. OP seems to be disregarding that value out of hand. Ted is likely wondering why he was even brought in to help teach this class at all if OP is giving him all the lectures and slides and removing anything different Ted could teach. I wouldn’t be so happy to just do all the grading, either (the bane of my own existence).

    3. bamcheeks*

      Yes, I think this advice has some merit but you need to separate two problems here:

      1. Ted is rude and has a bad attitude. That’s a clear “take it to your boss” problem. Don’t skip this step!

      2. If, despite 1, you have to work with Ted for the next semester anyway, it’s useful to think of alternative ways to motivate him and make him a useful asset rather than a drag. If there’s any way his previous professional experience can be used more effectively, do that.

  19. Dear liza dear liza*

    LW 1- please report this up the chain. If he’s acting like this with you, there’s a very good chance he’s not treating students well. Even in higher ed where the students are adults, there’s a strong power differential that makes many students fear reporting professorial misbehavior.

    1. Pippa K*

      My angriest male colleagues would never treat students like this, because that gets you in serious trouble. But they’ve had fairly free rein to vent their spleen on contingent faculty, admin staff, women generally, and others institutionally less powerful.

    2. ProfessorTeapots*

      This is exactly what I was going to say, too. I work in academia with people like this and they are pretty universally awful to the students (they view any questions about grades, for example, as ‘disrespecting their authority’ even if it’s a legitimate question or mistake to correct). Please talk to your bosses about this!!!

  20. birch*

    Gate wars, you haven’t actually stated why this is your problem! Yes it’s annoying if the school is complaining to you about it and you are responsible to some extent for communicating expectations to your visitors as best you can, but you already have. You didn’t say that they’re threatening to sue you or anything like that. People being people and not reading signs and choosing to deliberately disobey instructions is not your problem! When you stop taking accountability for other adult humans doing things because of a situation you have no control over, the school will either step up and fix it or decide they don’t actually care.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      It’s OP’s problem because the school’s receptionist keeps coming over to bug her about it. Like, several times a week. It has become such a drama point that OP is considering leaving her job over it.

  21. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

    LW3, in the future, the simplest way to correct pronouns is in the moment, as you would if your colleagues got someone’s name wrong. If they say “I had a meeting with New Client, and she…”, just interject “they”. If you really believe they are just not used to the pronouns rather than being bigoted, this is by far the easiest way.

    1. bamcheeks*

      If you can do it pleasantly enough, it’s a pretty good way of dealing with people who are actively being bigoted too. It just makes it harder work and less rewarding for them if there’s someone unaggressively flagging their bigotry and not letting them have the “power” moment of asserting the wrong pronouns uncontested, OR pushing back hard enough that they get to be all self-righteous and start an argument about it.

  22. I have the t-shirt*

    #1. Dissenting opinion. Academia. Where individuals with PhDs prepare young people to go to careers outside of academia and completely dismiss professional experience. Seen this so many times in the engineering college where I am. Young professor on academic track is given the lead of class, has someone that has actually had to make a living in engineering as co instructor or worse yet the lab instructor. They return older with practical skills and are dismissed by pretty much everyone in the department. And God forbid if they just have a masters and are put as a teaching instructor. They are treated like second class citizens.

    1. Myrin*

      This is definitely a problem that exists – and in fact I’ve encountered it with both familiy members and coworkers – but your comment reads like you haven’t actually read beyond the letter’s first two paragraphs. Ted’s behaviour is completely inappropriate and he should be heavily reined in regardless of any educational context, nevermind that OP doesn’t come across as condescending or unreasonable in his expectations (both things which could hint at broader attitude issues).

    2. WellRed*

      Yes, I posted slightly similar above wondering if Ted has been given support in switching to academia. I was struck but the outright dismissal of if some “non academic articles.” Gasp horror! Maybe they aren’t right for the class but …

      1. Dust Bunny*

        They weren’t relevant, were published in a professional journal (for his old career), not an academic one, and were poor quality; that wasn’t the only disqualifier. Also, they were for a professional, not an academic journal, the focus might not have been helpful to the class. Or possibly the other readings already covered what needed to be covered.

        1. amoeba*

          In addition to that, at least in my field, even people in industry still commonly publish high quality “real research” in… academic journals! Something in a trade publication would be much lower level, definitely not something you could use in a lecture.

          1. bamcheeks*

            That definitely varies by field. I work across several areas where students will be given academic articles, pracademic articles, practitioner case studies etc and taught to read and assess them appropriately.

      2. BethDH*

        but it wasn’t just that — OP specifically mentioned that the articles are quite old (we don’t know the field, but in mine that would absolutely make an applied/professional use article unusable in a way a theory-centered article might not be) and also poorly written.
        I’m someone who had professional experience and then went into academia so I know that this issue is a common one, but I didn’t get the sense that those articles were “outright dismissed” solely for being in a professional journal.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          Reading between the lines, they kind of did to me.

          You can give examples with full context. “This is an example of professional, but not academic, writing in the field 15 years ago. This shows that if any of you students plan to go in to the field, you will still be expected to do professional writing. Obviously, things have changed, but as Dr. Ted’s article, published in this periodical shows, writing in the discipline can look many different ways.”

          Also, is it poorly written by academic standards? Because it still was published in what looks like a publication that professionals in the field read. It did rise to some level of scrutiny and perceived value. As a professor, I can use almost any piece of writing in my class and make it relevant. OP didn’t want to and didn’t want Ted to. It feels academically snobby to me.

          (I say this as someone who has never worked in my field and only knows the research. But I can still recognize that lived experience can be worth its weight in gold for students.)

          The department hired Ted to teach and knew his background. It feels off that OP isn’t letting Ted do what he was hired to do.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        I took that as a criticism as him wanting to use poor quality articles as academic materials purely because he wrote them. I am wary of lecturers using their own work as set texts anyway as they aren’t likely to be the best judges of how good their work is and in this case, it sounds like it would be a bad choice.

        I don’t think the LW was sneering at Ted for having published in the professional rather than academic field. I think he was saying that the articles were not suitable texts for the required reading because they were both poor quality AND related to Ted’s work in the field rather than to his current teaching. To further the example above, he is teaching Sociology of Basket-Weaving and the articles were about “how to ensure the baskets last by choosing the best materials.” There’s nothing wrong with that article, but if the course is about things like why basket-weaving is underpaid in comparison with other forms of weaving and gender breakdown of basket weavers, it isn’t relevant and it sounds like Ted just wants to make students read his writing, regardless of relevance.

        1. not nice, don't care*

          I manage course materials for a few hundred instructors and it’s pretty illuminating to see who uses their own material (usually end-of-career types just phoning it in), regardless of age or quality, versus instructors who work hard to craft well-rounded reading lists.

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          Having students read your writing is often a way of connecting with students. Ted’s not making money off of it the way professors get their students to buy their texts. Having one or two articles, even if only tangentially related to the class as examples of other kinds of writing in the field could have definite value.

      4. fhqwhgads*

        “Maybe they aren’t right for the class” is sort of the long and short of it about the articles, though? Ted tried to put them on the class reading list. They weren’t relevant to the class and were poor quality. Ergo dismissing their addition to the reading list for the class was an entirely reasonable thing to do. OP’s not saying “Ted sucks, I mean look at these nonacademic articles”. OP’s saying “Ted tried to put this totally irrelevant stuff on the class reading list, and didn’t seem to understand why it’s irrelevant.”

    3. OurHouse*

      I did wonder about this. Ted is behaving badly, but – even if giving him prepared lectures was meant kindly, to me it would feel like my expertise wasn’t being valued at all. Doesn’t excuse the behavior, but might be a helpful managing insight.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Again: Knowing how to do something and knowing how to teach it are two different skillsets. That Ted doesn’t grasp this is a big part of the problem, and he’s actually the one creating this situation because he won’t do the work on the teaching part.

        1. OurHouse*

          by expertise I meant his academic expertise as well – after all, he has the same PhD. I know norms vary by discipline and kind of course, but in courses I’ve taught, I would have felt completely devalued to just teach to someone else’s notes ( although that might be standard in the OP’s discipline and thus not as much of an issue). Not saying Ted is not behaving badly, though!

          1. AFac*

            It is very, very common to give a new faculty your notes if you’ve taught the class before. They are not obligated to use them, but it is hard to create material from scratch, and it takes a long time. I’m teaching a brand new class, and I’m spending upwards of 4 hours a week on prep in addition to time in class and all my other duties (and I’m teaching in my field and with 10+ years experience).

            Even if Ted doesn’t use the material as-is, it is still useful to have it. He now knows what content the course usually covers, what level of knowledge the course is expected to contain, what material students usually need more time on, and the general logistics of a semester (timing of midterms, drop deadlines, etc.). Even if he wants to reinvent the wheel, he at least knows what size of wheel to create.

            1. Butterfly Counter*

              I saw this as OP not giving Ted a choice of what and how to present the information. “Do this lecture,” is very different than, “If you’re running behind class preps, here are some notes and slides you can pick and choose information from.”

              If OP is doing the latter, that changes a lot of my opinion of this letter. I was seeing this as the former of taking away his input on the readings, not letting him do his own lectures, and basically not letting Ted have any say in how the class was run. I see that others have a different take.

              1. AFac*

                The only time I’ve experienced someone dictating exactly what gets taught is if multiple faculty are teaching a class that needs to have a set content. Usually that’s because the class is a lower level class where the students need to know specific things so as not to be lost in the next class or to do a common set of exercises outside of lecture. Another situation could be where a professional certification is the end-result of a class, so the class must have a fixed curriculum to meet the requirements of that certification.

                Obviously, my experience doesn’t cover all possibilities, and every department can do things differently.

    4. trust me I'm a PhD*

      Yeah. We occasionally get academic letters here and tbh it’s often hard to answer them, because the managerial structure is often much looser and agentive in higher education than in the professional world; you don’t really have “bosses” or supervisees per se, unless they’re still students. (Big science labs with post-docs are an exception to this, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what’s going on in the letter.) I’m actually a little surprised that OP describes what seems to be a fairly robust managerial structure, with Ted below them and someone above the both of them, who could take punitive steps re. Ted’s behavior; that is unusual for higher education, and it makes me wonder what the local context is. I’m thinking non-American?

      I want to echo WellRed and OurHouse in saying that respecting the expertise, inc. non-academic expertise, of colleagues is really important in higher education. That might not be a solution here per se, but perhaps for the future, for collegial relationships that haven’t already soured, it’s something for OP to consider. For now going to the manager who actually exists is probably the best option –– sometimes things can’t be saved.

      1. amoeba*

        I don’t think Ted’s reporting to them, though? He just has a more junior position, so a lecturer as opposed to, I guess, some kind of associate professor.

        1. trust me I'm a PhD*

          This seems more “Ted reports to OP” than is common in my field.

          “This semester, I am convening a class. Ted has been allocated to teach a few sessions, which makes me his immediate “line manager” in this realm.”

          1. fueled by coffee*

            This confused me, too, but my best guess is that it’s something like a large lecture class with smaller lab sections, and Ted is going to teach some of the labs. Would make more sense in terms of giving LW the authority to select course readings, etc. while Ted still has some autonomy over lesson planning.

            I agree that this kind of job would be demoralizing to someone with a PhD, but the solution is to start job searching, not to get cranky and slam doors. The academic job market is rough and many, many very qualified people end up underemployed in academia… but that won’t be changed by Ted throwing a tantrum about it.

          2. Ann O'Nemity*

            I read it as the LW being the instructor of record, but having the chair assign Ted to teach a few of the classes. (Or, perhaps by “sessions” the LW meant sections instead of classes.) But either way, the LW is the “boss” of the class without being Ted’s direct manager.

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          OP has said that he’s kind of Ted’s “line manager.” Which, as trust me above says, is not a thing in academia.

          Someone who is teaching faculty and was hired after I was is technically more junior than me in that they have taught here for less time. But we are still absolutely equals when it comes to teaching our own classes.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Am in a para-academic role in the UK, and the “no real reporting structure” is EXTREMELY common in UK academia and if anything even more common in the continental European systems I’m familiar with.

        (Academics in the UK nearly all have a formal reporting structure, but if you and 80 other person all report to the same person, you don’t really.)

        1. trust me I'm a PhD*

          I’m in the US and no real reporting structure is common here as well, at least in the humanities/social sciences. I don’t know enough about other geographic areas though; it could be in neither of these geographical contexts.

    5. MsM*

      Professional experience is great, but I feel like that’s not the problem with Ted. If he genuinely thought the course needed more non-academic reading material, he’d have thrown some sources in there that weren’t his own work. And I can’t see what kind of valuable mentorship he’s providing students when he doesn’t seem to want to interact with them.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, honestly, trying to get your own articles into something (be it citations, reading lists, whatever) is never about the content of said articles.

    6. Happy meal with extra happy*

      Except Ted’s prior experience is not one to one with what he’s teaching now, so your example doesn’t directly apply. And even if it did, I’m not sure what you comment changes as advice for OP. Are you justifying Ted’s behavior? If not, Ted can be as internally pissed off as he wants, but he still cannot act that way with his boss or, potentially more importantly, students.

    7. CommanderBanana*

      None of the above excuses Ted’s behavior. I don’t care if Ted invention engineering itself, his behavior still isn’t ok.

    8. I Have RBF*

      This type of problem is part of why I dropped out of engineering school. The professors didn’t care about building something that worked, “that’s what the technician is for!” At the time when I heard this line from the dean of the department, I was working as a technician for engineers with this attitude. I started taking business classes, and ultimately just quit when I ran out of money and patience.

      I hate the idea that a practical major, with real world consequences, is regularly taught by people who have never stepped a professional foot outside of academia. This happens in ME, EE, ChemE, CE, CS, etc. There is a joke from the days of electronic assembly in Silicon Valley:
      Q: How do you spot the engineer on the assembly line?
      A: They are the one with the solder iron burn on one or both hands.

      1. Orv*

        I’ve seen it go both ways. People with real-world experience often have no idea how to impart that experience to students in class, or how to help students who don’t immediately catch on. Often they’ve been doing the same thing for so long it’s second nature to them.

  23. tinybutfierce*

    Echoing Alison re OP 1: PLEASE say something to your managers, because it’s all but guaranteed he’s treating at least some students with the same ridiculous behavior as he’s giving you. This frankly gives me vibes of someone who just wanted the prestige of the job title without actually caring about the responsibilities it entails.

  24. Yet another email*

    The apps that record meetings and send transcripts are driving me crazy. In our team meeting yesterday there were at least 5 running, and they all sent transcripts! I’m sure many people aren’t aware that everyone in the meeting could be getting a transcript, but these apps need to make that clear to users. I keep getting some from the CEO, and I’m not in a position to ask him to turn off the feature. Ugh. Why? I’m pretty sure that 99% of folks never go back to those transcripts at all, never mind people who didn’t want them in the first place. When I’m in control of a meeting I don’t let the app join, unless the person specifically asks me to.

    1. Pretty as a Princess*

      This proliferation would concern me from a proprietary data perspective. There ought to be an organizational IT policy on their use – you could work this problem from that perspective. Ask innocuously of your IT team what the policy is on the use of them and then just watch what unfolds.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, that basically sounds like everybody’s infected by some kind of malware, I’d definitely bring that up with IT! Maybe I’m just paranoid because we’re quite strict on cyber security, but for us that would seriously be a huge deal and would need to be shut down yesterday. (We’re not even allowed to install any software ourselves except from the company appstore, so…)

        1. I Have RBF*

          Yes, especially if the thing installs itself without explicit permission. That’s malware, IMO.

          I’m one of those IT people who gets annoyed when my phone comes with unwanted apps, like Facebook, games that cost money, or other dodgy apps that don’t respect my privacy. I’m even more irritated when I can’t remove them. I also disable any “assistants” that are voice activated. If I want to do text to speech, I want it to be only when I activate it, not be constantly eavesdropping.

  25. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    #2 – I would not remind people when they check in. That’s an ugly confrontation waiting to happen. Some will just argue they don’t have time to move it before their thing, but some will get downright hostile.

    This is way above your pay grade. You can’t solve the problem. Talk to your boss about what to do, while keeping you safe. I don’t think anyone is going to spring for signs at each individual space but one at the entrance that says Staff only all others will be towed should solve it. At that poiint, continue warning when people book. Then, well presumably adults are driving, let them face the consequences of not paying attention.

    1. WellRed*

      I think it’s less confrontational to ask people where they’ve parked and ask them to move than it is for them to be towed. (Not that it sounds like the school does towing at any rate.)

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Agree and there’s nothing wrong with a little white lie of omission.

        “I just want to check to make sure you didn’t park in the lot. I know the parking is confusing but that’s not our lot. I’d hate for you to get towed.”

        It’s true – I sure would hate for someone to get towed. They don’t need to know they won’t specifically be in that instance.

      2. LCH*

        or ask where they’ve parked and alert them that parking in the lot runs the risk of getting towed. so you might not be asking them to move, but you are giving them information that parking there isn’t safe.

    2. Lenora Rose*

      Refusing to tell people to move their cars also sounds like an ugly confrontation waiting to happen, but this time with school staff. I don’t think there’s a way to avoid possible ugly confrontation; the best we have is to suggest alternatives ahead of time, and to ask people to move to those alternatives when they arrive.

  26. Olive*

    I’m not incredibly sympathetic toward LW #2. For starters, it doesn’t sound like the principal and receptionist don’t understand the problem – the school probably doesn’t have the money budgeted to get a new gate. Second, it does sound like her center’s responsibility to only use their designated parking spaces. If I have a duplex and my neighbor’s guests keep parking in my space, “you need to shut your broken gate” doesn’t cut it. It’s still my space.

    If I were the school’s receptionist and kept having to deal with this problem, I would be similarly mad and frustrated.

    On days they know they have visitors, perhaps there’s somewhere else the LW could park to free up a space?

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Having only three spaces and no on-site visitor parking is absurd. It just is. Few things say “F you” to employees and visitors/patrons/clients/customers like having impossible parking. This is something that somebody way above the OP and receptionist needs to try to address.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        Suburbanite, aren’t you? A lot of places ONLY have street parking in every city I’ve ever lived or visited.

      2. Wendy*

        Speaking of having limited parking…

        Staring March 2006 and ending the end of August 2012 I worked at a university as a Visitor Parking attendant. My former employer had a contract with the university to provide staff for their Visitor Parking garage. I worked from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and another employee worked from 2 p.m. to 8 p,m. There was also a manager over the account who worked for my former employer.

        We sat inside the Visitor Parking booth which was roughly 50 feet from the Visitor Parking garage, and 50 feet from the Faculty/staff garage, which was adjacent to the Visitor Parking garage.

        The university used their Visitor Parking garage for 1) events held at the university, 2) for appointments such as a job interview, a guest speaker, a meeting, and so on.

        So, we had to reserve spots inside the Visitor Parking garage when that happened.

        Sometimes the entire Visitor Parking garage was reserved.

        When there were only the reserved spots available, we had to tell anyone not on the list for the reserved spots to find parking somewhere else. One option was metered parking, which was across the street from the Visitor Parking garage, but students parked there too.

        Then during the spring of 2011 the Director of Parking and Transportatin Services at the universtiy told us that Visitor Parking would be rennovated. Visitor Parking was moved to the faculty/staff garage. So, there was a combination of visitors and faculty/staff parking in the faculty/staff garage

        The Director of Parking and Transportation also told us that the parking office could not take calls from the call box at the entrace gate or the exit gate at the faculty/staff garage because they were too busy with other duties, and that we had to “literally” prevent visitors and faculty/staff from pressing either call button.

        I brought up the problems with that to the manager over the account, but he kept of saying “you can do that.”

        Everytime a visitor or a faculty staff member pressed the call button, we would get a call from the Parking and Transportation Services office telling us that we are “supposed to” prevent that from happening.

        It got to the point that I did not want to work there.

      3. Lenora Rose*

        Which part of the facility do you want them to re-pave to fit in more parking?

        I’ve seen the amount of consultation needed to change around the parking options for a school and daycare firsthand. It’s HUGE, and it takes literal YEARS, and it requires multiple assessments; for neighbourhood access, for student walking routes, for emergency vehicle access, and a variety of other safety measures as cars enter and exit. Most schools also have a minimum green space requirement they don’t want to pave, and many schools have student populations outgrowing the physical building capacity, so if they do build on their green space, they’d rather it be for a new addition.

      4. Shan*

        This is extremely normal in a lot of cities, and it’s actually surprising me how many people see this as unreasonable or strange. Every weekday morning I walk past multiple child care centres that require parents to park on the street – very busy streets – and cart their kids in. At least two clinics I go to have numerous signs saying “did you park in the lot next door? If so, GO MOVE YOUR CAR, that’s not ours.” It’s just part of inner city life, not an f-you to me as an individual.

        1. JustaTech*

          My kid’s daycare has two parking places and one is for the director. That’s it for everyone who drives their kid to school (which is maybe half the families). So everyone street parks for the 5-10 minutes it takes to drop off or pick up your kid (not counting the time it takes to wrestle them into their car seat). That’s just city life.

    2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      The LW has no control over the situation and yet is being constantly blamed for it. Why don’t you have sympathy for that? The school receptionist being frustrated is *her problem* to deal with. She should not be dumping that on the LW.

      Frankly, I see 2 women without power blaming each other for the problem when it’s really the result of decision makers over their heads. Maybe they should band together to push their bosses to do something about it.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      I think your analogy is sort of off. This is more like I have a shop near a stadium, and signs that say “customers only, no stadium parking” but people going to games still keep parking there, and the shop’s cashier telling the box office off for people with tickets parking there. There are too many degrees of separation between the person doing the telling off and the recipient of the telling off. The issue is way above both of them, and involves too many fluctuating members of the public.

  27. anywhere but here*

    LW2, I am a big fan of the idea that if you really don’t want people to do something, you should make it impossible for them to do that. So the shutting the gate thing does seem to be the best move (or perhaps sharing the cost of fixing it). What was their response to the suggestion that their guests shut the gate afterwards? Also, what problems does it cause when your visitors park in the lot? Would it be helpful to share those problems with the visitors? “Teachers at the school aren’t able to park for their job if we have visitors parking in the lot” would seem to get the point across. I agree with the commenter above who mentioned that if the lot looks empty, they may see it as akin to parking in store A’s parking lot when they are there for store B. If none of that (or adding signage) works, then I do think the school may need to start towing people (and being clear that starting on X date, unauthorized cars are getting towed). Sometimes the only way people learn is consequences.

    LW4, I understand that you didn’t want to troubleshoot the software in the middle of the call, but it is deeply uncomfortable to be recorded and put through AI without consent. I am not seeing anything in your letter that suggests you understand that the recording itself without consent is a problem, rather than just the AI piece and subsequent transcript.

  28. BecauseHigherEd*

    LW 1 – the fact that Ted doesn’t understand why having experience in the field is different than being an academic in the field is in itself proof that he needs to be sorted out by the department head.

    1. NothappyinNY*

      It really depends on your field. I have been told that getting a tenure track position in accounting without experience (preferably with a Big 4 firm) is very difficult.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        That doesn’t contradict what they said at all. Just because you may need to have accounting experience to get a good job teaching accounting doesn’t change the fact that the actual teaching is a very different skill than being an accountant.

        In my program it was very clear which professors were good teachers, and which were just good accountants.

  29. 2eyessquared*

    To all commenters using preferred pronouns: They ARE our pronouns. We don’t just prefer them.

    1. Czhorat*

      Yes, this is a bit of language I’ve had to train myself out of.

      It’s possible that the framing as “correct pronouns” vs “preferred pronouns” can help drive the behavior.

      You are still wrong for talking about someone in a way they don’t *prefer*, but that doesn’t feel as bad as addressing them in the *wrong way*.

      I’m a cisgender man; my pronouns *are* he/him the same way the client’s pronouns *are* they/them.

      1. Avery*

        Funnily enough, I’m one of those rare trans folks for whom “preferred pronouns” might actually be accurate.
        My pronouns are she/they. Referring to me otherwise is inaccurate. (Though if you use “he” despite me being very femme-presenting, I’ll probably be more amused than annoyed.)
        My preferred pronouns might be they/them. I have a slight preference for they/them pronouns; it’s nice to hear people acknowledging that I’m nonbinary in such a straightforward way. But if you use she/her, that doesn’t bother me, it’s just not liked quite as much. In the same way that, say, I’ll eat cheese pizza if it’s there, but my personal preference is for bacon pizza.
        I’m also agender, though, so gender stuff is weird for me in general…

  30. I should really pick a name*


    Does the room booking confirmation suggest where people CAN park? That might help.

    1. Pretty as a Princess*

      That, and is there sufficient signage *in the parking lot*? And even on the door to the center before someone walks in?

      Anytime I make an appointment somewhere that doesn’t have its own parking (I’m thinking like a specialty medical office in the city, picking up a kid at an event at a nonprofit), I feel like someone tells me that the xyz lot is not their parking, and they recommend that people look for parking in P, D, Q (on the street, or in the municipal lot down the block, etc).

  31. Boss Scaggs*

    As a non-academic, the reporting structure between LW and Ted is a little confusing. Are you his boss only for this specific class in terms of assigning work, but not for HR type of issues? Does Ted teach other classes and have other bosses too?

    I just wasn’t clear on how much authority LW has over Ted

  32. Glazed Donut*

    LW1 – perhaps I am reading this differently than others. I think Ted has missed the underlying dynamics of academia – and perhaps it’s not his fault and would be helpful for you to lay some things out for him.
    Ted completed a PhD program with you but somehow has a different understanding of what leads to success. He believes the role he has is too junior for him because he has direct experience with the subject matter (understandable!). You wrote some of his material for class but refused his material in your own. You took some of his teaching load off his plate.
    In one world, those are nice things to do! You are being helpful! But in another (likely Ted’s), those are actions that say “I don’t think you belong here at all.” I might be a little upset too, if that was what I was picking up from someone I considered a friend (if y’all were in the same program – maybe your program doesn’t work that way though).
    Maybe too much is missing from this letter, but on the surface I read it less harsh than others. Slamming doors isn’t okay, but when you’re missing some understandings of how this work, you’re going to be upset. Could you try to get down to the basics with Ted and see if that changes anything? Have you tried explaining to him why these actions were taken, instead of assuming he knows that a professional journal isn’t the same as peer-reviewed?

  33. Rivikah*

    LW 4:
    Was it Otter AI?
    We had a problem in my workplace with that. Someone attended a large meeting with it on and sent the AI generated transcript to all twenty or so people present.

    This is in a workplace where we sometimes deal with confidential information. Having our conversation scraped by a sketchy AI was not good.

  34. Zarniwoop*

    #1 “I’ve also taken over some of the teaching responsibilities that were allocated to him by departmental management.”
    So you’re rewarding his bad behavior by doing his job for him?
    Remember, when you reward a behavior you get more of it.

  35. Jade*

    Never do another colleague’s work or put up with repeated aggressive behavior to avoid stepping on toes.

  36. i put something here because the name field is required*

    I don’t have anything to add to the advice for LW1, but this did give me flashbacks to the worst undergrad professor I had. He’d just come from a senior position at some kind of big international corporate accounting firm, and he was contracted to teach two semesters of business classes, including the section of Accounting 101 that I had the misfortune to attend as an elective my senior year.

    Our first day of class, he bust out with this gem:

    “People think accounting’s hard to learn, but it’s not. Accounting is just like golf. You see, there are steps to a perfect golf swing. First, you gotta…I think it was you gotta get your stance right. No, wait, it’s that you’ve gotta asses the weather. ‘Cause wind. Wind will make your ball go all wonky. So yeah, the first step is to asses the weather. Then you gotta get in the right stance, like this, no wait, more like this. Then then third step…I don’t remember the third step. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that in golf, there’s steps. And if you follow each of the steps in a row, the ball will go where it’s supposed to. Accounting’s just like that, you just follow steps in the right order. And if I can learn golf, you can learn accounting.”

    Come to find out through the course of the class, this guy hadn’t had any actual accounting experience in the last 20 years; he’d been in management roles since. He was constantly giving wrong information on basic topics. Students were correcting him in the middle of class. He’d write his own tests and answer keys, but then screw up the answer key because he had no clue what he was doing; a classmate once spent two hours pointing out all his errors in his grading of her test. He also somehow had never heard of Excel before (this was in 2008) and initially accused me of cheating for handing in homework that was printed from a computer.

    I ended up going to the acting department head, who I had a close relationship with. After detailing all of this, he got up without a word, walked to the office next door, and grabbed the permanent department head who was on sabbatical but happened to have stopped by to pick something up, and had me repeat everything again. Both were horrified, they ended up doing interviews with my classmates and sitting in on a bunch of his classes, and found that he was terrible in all his classes, but the Accounting ones reached a totally unacceptable level. The college ended up offering all students in my class the option to convert their grade to pass/fail if they wanted. He was contracted to still teach for another semester after that, so they moved him off accounting courses and his contract was not renewed.

    1. Lenora Rose*

      Oof. I mean, oof. My least favourite university course was run by someone who had no idea how to teach a fish to swim, but at least I could tell she knew her subject matter, she just didn’t know how to convey it.

    2. Cat*

      Well, one of the things that has come up a few times in the teaching as a separate skill from knowing thing is the explaining things that come as second nature by now, so if that’s what the golf analogy is meant to convey it’s not terrible…
      (I am not attempting to dismiss that clearly there were multiple significant issues! Just considering what the point of the analogy seems to be and whether it works)

  37. Ex-prof*

    Ted “expected to easily walk into a senior academic job once he finished his PhD”.

    Literally nobody does so. It is not done. It is an undone thing.

  38. Janethesame*

    OP1, I think everyone’s sympathy is going to be for you, rather than your colleague,and that’s as it should be, B i think you are exacerbating the situation. Note you say you are “doing his work for him.” You are giving him (and expecting him to use) YOUR slides, and your script, effectively stripping him of any agency in teaching the part of the course he is supposed to cover. Comes off as disrespectful to a peer. and he is a peer, albeit junior. Your within your rights not to require the students to read his outdated articles, but what would it hurt to add them to the list as “optional reading.” And after his blunt self introduction, you could have added (name) and I both got our doctorates from (inst.) and also he has X years practical experience as a Llama groomer (or whatever it was).

    You letting your dislike of this person show, and it’s triggering him. And that’s either clueless, or (if your conscious of it) unprofessional. And the students can probably sense the tension between you and that’s unfair to them. Be the bigger person and bend over backwards to show him respect (not deference, just basic respect) even if the institution you work for does show him the same level. If you do that, whatever happens isn’t your fault.

    It’s not to late “course correct” (pun) on what has happened so far, so do it! it might help, it might not.

    1. Allonge*

      Seriously? Ted is an adult. If he has questions, he can ask. If he has suggestions, he can present them in a manner consistent with the workplace culture. Getting input for your work when you are new is normal everywhere.

      Neither OP, nor anyone else is obliged to ‘bend over backwards’ to accommodate physical aggression.

      1. Sympathizer*

        Not obliged, no. But they’re making it worse. That’s wrong on multiple levels. Just – be fair to him – he hasn’t got much.

    2. Kevin Sours*

      What about Ted? Doesn’t he have any responsibility to be professional and respectful? I’m trying to understand how you would even *need* to “bend over backwards” to show somebody basic respect instead of deference. But I’m not seeing how OP hasn’t shown him basic respect.

      It’s OP’s class and Ted *is* the junior. He gave Ted the course materials to use but there is no indication that he’s demanded that Ted use them. But ultimately how the class goes appears to be OP’s responsibility to manage.

      Your sample introduction comes across as the “deference” you claim isn’t necessary. Mentioning where they got their doctorates is honestly kinda weird for a class introduction. OP has made clear that Ted’s experience isn’t as significant as Ted thinks it is, so playing it up is just more deference to the BS that he’s pushing.

  39. Nomic*

    I’m cis but involved with the trans community, and I still stumble on they/them pronouns. I really have to practice when they aren’t around.

    Having a kind partner who will correct me every single time without judgement really helps too. He just says ‘them’ whenever I mis-gender them and then moves right on. I think that is the correct response at work too. When they are mis-gendered, correct it and then move on without stopping.

  40. Hedgehug*

    #1 You don’t want to go over his head, but…YOU’RE over his head. It sounds like you might be having a hard time too with this, which is understandable. I’ve been senior to someone older than me and it is very awkward and uncomfortable. But reassure yourself: you are qualified. The upper management picked the right person (you). They saw your qualifications, and they saw his qualifications, behaviours and attitudes and other things to consider, and they rightly chose you. You’ve got this.

  41. NotARealManager*

    Being a senior basket weaver is different than being a senior professor of basket weaving, you’re right about that, but I don’t know that you’re helping him become a better teacher. It sounds like you’re doing it for him and he may resent that. There are probably ways to incorporate his practical experience into his courses. That’s another good reason to speak to your boss about him besides the reasons Alison mentioned. They may have ideas on how to do that.

  42. Don’t upload my data without permission*

    So, I’m sorry to say that if I were the potential client for LW4, this whole situation would probably be a big red flag and I’d move on to find a different freelancer, and it doesn’t really matter whether they follow the given advice or not. Alison’s script is great and MIGHT be enough, but still.

    1. As soon as you saw the call was being recorded, you should have said something. Maybe the software notified me as well, but as others have said, this is easy to miss. You’re the one who installed this thing, you’re the professional trying to sell me your services, you should 100% be transparent in the moment. NOT doing so is poor judgement. If you HAD said something and I was uncomfortable with the recording, we could have ended the meeting to give you a chance to figure out how to get rid of the intrusive AI.
    2. My workplace has pretty strict rules around using other cloud services/AIs/etc. We’re not allowed to put company data in any third-party cloud service, because that puts our data in control of someone else. Along the same idea, we’re not allowed to use things like ChatGPT or other third-party AIs for work. These tools take the content you give them and use it to train the system, so now our whole conversation, about a project for me/my company, is in the hands of some other company for all eternity.

    So now, just by being in this meeting, I’ve involuntarily violated my employer’s policies. Not cool.

    The suggested script IS really good and maybe, depending on the content of the conversation, MAYBE I’d be willing to move forward. But if there was anything remotely confidential in the conversation, I’m probably going to have to pass.

  43. Snowy*

    LW4, please be careful continuing to use that app. Make sure that either the other people involved all know you’re recording, or you and they are both in one-party states/locations. In the US, recording someone without telling them is illegal if you’re not both in one-party states.

    Additionally, as a courtesy, you should really let the other party know you’re recording and why.

  44. KellifromCanada*

    OP1, please ensure your supervisors know everything that’s going on with Ted. It sounds like he’s not currently tenure-track, but is likely still a member of the faculty union. Every minute he is employed is an extra minute of seniority, and depending on the collective agreement, he may end up in a tenure-track position down the road. He does not sound like someone your University wants on their payroll forever (or your students, for that matter.)

  45. Dasein9 (he/him)*

    LW #3, thank you for speaking up. It will help a lot for you to correct your colleagues, particularly (alas!) if you’re cisgender.

    I have noticed that a lot of cis people don’t really listen to trans/nb people when we share facts about ourselves (like pronouns) or describe our experiences. They may humor us to our faces, but it often takes other cis people reminding them for them to take it, and us, seriously.

    A light touch is very effective; just correct and move on.

  46. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    Re pronouns. I always try to think how my tone would be if a colleague had got the date wrong or got a name wrong. Then use that tone.

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