is it patronizing to say I’m proud of my team, asking for help from a candidate we rejected, and more

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

1. Is it patronizing to say I’m proud of my team?

I’m a manager of a small team of 10 and recently they had a very visible win for the larger company. At a department meeting, I said I was very proud to be their manager and that they all did an exceptional job. Everyone seemed to take this well, but one (younger, newer) employee had a visible negative reaction. I asked a colleague I trust whether they noticed this too (we were on zoom at the time) and they said maybe it was because me saying I’m proud was patronizing. This surprised me, I am proud of my team and have expressed this multiple times. What’s your take on this? Is it patronizing or maybe is it just too “motherly” of an expression for a manager?

It depends on context. Most people won’t see it as patronizing if it comes from a good manager who supports their team and makes obvious contributions themselves. But in a situation where work gets done despite the manager or where the manager is a clear problem in other ways … yeah, at least some people will find it patronizing. So it’s very context-dependent.

Some of it is also personal style. Personally, I’ve preferred to frame it as “I’m proud of us / what we’ve done” rather than “I’m proud of you / what you’ve done” — because something about “proud of you” does sound a little parental to me. (And weirdly, almost diminishing of the person? Like I feel superior to them and am praising them for their adorable efforts? This might just be me.) But I’ve heard managers say it where it doesn’t sound that way so I do think it’s at least in part personal style.

2. Asking for help from a candidate we rejected

A few months ago, I helped with the hiring process for two openings in a nonprofit that would have reported to me and another employee. One of the candidates was Cat, who was strong but didn’t have quite the experience of the hirees.

In the time since, I’ve learned that Cat has an extremely popular newsletter that goes out to nonprofits, schools, and other organizations in the area. Part of the newsletter highlights community programs, similar to the ones I work with and was hiring for. They do this for no fee.

I’ve thought about asking Cat if they would be able to highlight our programming in their newsletter, but my colleague thinks that since we previously turned down Cat for a position, this makes us look slimy and entitled, and that if we wanted to draw on Cat’s help we should’ve hired them. Are they overreacting or do they have a point?

Yeah, don’t do it. “Slimy and entitled” is a bit much, but it’s very likely to come across badly.

To be clear, this isn’t 100% logical; if Cat had never applied for a job with you, it would have been fine to ask about being included in their newsletter. And I don’t agree with your coworker that if you wanted Cat’s help, you should have hired them; you can wish you had someone’s help with X even when it doesn’t make sense to hire them for Y. But once you reject someone, asking them to do things for you for free (even things they’re doing for others) is going rub a lot of people the wrong way.

3. Political signs at our business when we’re hiring

I work for a small business and they’re having trouble recruiting for certain positions due to the nature of the work and limited number of people qualified. The owners of the company have decided again to put up political signs right in front of our business that some of us believe are turning off potential hires. The signs are for political candidates with poor track records for trans/women/gay rights. If I had seen these when I interviewed, I would have turned around and left. The office is also dominated by people who share the signs’ politics, which is probably not a coincidence.

The owners absolutely do not believe it’s an issue and refuse to remove them at least during the hiring process. Do you have any input on this? It is causing a lot of stress on the other staff with these empty positions.

The signs are functioning as truth in advertising; let them stay. Candidates deserve to know what kind of environment they’d be working in; the signs do an effective job of telling them.

4. Former employee is claiming her new firm worked on our logo, but they didn’t

Ten years ago, Miranda worked as director of marketing at my nonprofit for several years. One project of hers was collaborating with a team of consultants to redesign our logo. While she represented our org in the overall project, the consultants performed the actual graphic design and brand architecture. Two years after our logo redesign, she was let go from the org under not-positive circumstances.

After she and my org parted ways, she founded and became CEO of her own local boutique marketing firm, MiranCo. For a while now, she’s had between 1-3 interns/associates as employees. I was hired as marketing manager at my org two years after Miranda left (my immediate predecessor is still at my org, now in a non-marketing role), and I have been here for seven years.

Because Miranda and I live and work in a relatively close-knit community, we are acquainted. We have collaborated on a couple projects, ones both involving my org and ones when I freelanced before I was hired, and in those projects both of us contributed as part of a larger collaborative group. However, we are not friends, and it’s clear from our interactions that she views me as junior.

Today, I noticed a social media reel that MiranCo posted, showcasing logos that they ostensibly produced. While many of the logos in the reel appeared to have been designed by her firm in recent years (labeled in the video as “New Logo”), my org’s logo is also featured (labeled as “Refinement”). I know for a fact that neither Miranda nor MiranCo has worked on, refined, or altered our logo in any way after she left my org. However, the language MiranCo uses in the caption seems to be pretty clearly claiming us as a client: “Showing some of our best logos” … “Celebrating the creativity of MiranCo” … “Our diverse collection of logos.”

She has also included press hits from her time employed at my org under her firm’s press hit page, presenting them (albeit less explicitly) as work MiranCo did.

Is this ethical or a common practice? Could I start my own small business in, say, graphic design and cite design projects that I did for my org in promotional material for my firm? My understanding is that work performed while on payroll at an org is property of that org, but I’m not sure how to categorize this, since it could equally read as perhaps a resume of sorts.

If it’s not ethical, do I have any standing to ask her to stop representing work that she did while employed at my org as work that her firm did? If so, what might be the best way to go about it? Is it a job for my org’s CEO instead (a different person than the one she worked under)? Or should I let this go and laugh from a distance?

Let it go. It’s probably true that she helped “refine” your org’s logo even though she didn’t do the actual design. It’s not unheard of for people to include work like this; her reel sounds like it’s essentially a portfolio of her work, and while she might be stretching the truth about her involvement in the project, it’s not egregious enough that it warrants intervention. It gets sketchier if the reel claims this is work her company did, but if the reel is more promoting Miranda’s work, it’s more reasonable.

(If it did warrant intervention — which, again, I don’t think it does — that intervention definitely shouldn’t be from you; it would be something you’d alert someone more senior to and they’d decide if they wanted to do anything. But unless it was a really black-and-white case of someone laying claim to something they didn’t do, there’s a good chance your company would just roll their eyes and ignore it.)

5. Why do job applications ask candidates to self-disclose race, gender, etc.?

I am in the thick of applying for jobs (thanks, tech layoffs!) and am wondering how the “voluntary self-identification and disclosures” on applications actually work. These questions always state they are voluntary and are for government reporting purposes relating to equal employment opportunities, but I’ve often wondered if they might have an impact on my application? There are generally four questions about the following: gender, race or ethnicity, veteran status, and disability. I typically answer them accurately, but each question always includes the option to “decline to identify” or “do not wish to answer.”

They’re asking because companies over a certain size, as well as companies with government contracts over a certain dollar amount, are required by law to report the demographic makeup of their applicants and employees to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (in the aggregate, not individually). However, they’re not allowed to consider your answers when they consider your application; in fact, they’re legally required to store the information separately from the rest of your application. (The exception to this is veteran status; in some cases employers are permitted to give preference to veterans.) They’re also not legally allowed to penalize you for not answering. All of which is to say … it’s fully up to you and shouldn’t affect your application at all unless you’re a veteran receiving veteran preference.

{ 389 comments… read them below }

  1. Garbkesnark*

    I understand it to be typical for anyone in a portfolio based role to be allowed to use all of their work in that arena in their portfolio, unless there’s some kind of legitimate risk or NDA situation. It sounds like Miranda did direct the logo’s creation, so even if she’s not a great person, it can be in her portfolio.

    1. MK*

      I think what feels off about this is that Miranda is implicitly claiming the logo as her company’s work, not explicitly her own. I realize this might seem like splitting hairs, since her company sounds essentially as a personal business, but most people perceive it as a separate entity (and it might legally be that). If, say, Miranda sells the company, along with their social media, the reel will become inaccurate. Then again, even if her company did create the logo, it’s hardly expected that the people who worked on it would still be there a decade .

      1. Anonys*

        Yeah i don’t really get this part of Alison’s answer: “ It gets sketchier if the reel claims this is work her company did, but if the reel is more promoting Miranda’s work, it’s more reasonable.” OP is quite clear it’s not the latter, and states the reel was posting from the companys social media saying these were logos the company worked on. I do think that’s misleading even if the company is small and Miranda basically IS MiranCo. Her working on the logo as an employee and including it in a personal portfolio is different to implying her company was explicitly hired to work on the logo

        1. AVP*

          This is pretty normal in creative industries, though. Often there are projects I’ve created that would make me perfect for a new client, but I did them at a past job – can I not use those anymore as part of my reel? That makes no sense, I’m still bringing the relevant experience to the prospective new project.

          But I do usually try to highlight it so that it’s like, “Current Agency did this project.” “AVP did this a few years ago.” “Employee2 runs this relevant social media project as her side gig.” so that we don’t get these questions.

      2. Lacey*

        Yeah. If it were just in her portfolio as a project she worked on, fine. That’s normal.

        Though as a graphic designer, I’d be miffed if someone claimed their feedback on a logo I designed meant they helped create or refine the logo. They did not.

    2. The designer*

      I think it is fairly common for this to happen in the industry but personally I always state that work was done ‘in collaboration with’ and then name the company I was working for with a link through to their website. That way you can talk about projects you worked on without creating confusion if people see two separate companies both claiming to have been sole creators of the same project.

    3. Sloanicota*

      Yeah I mean if Miranda was writing in, I’d say, “meh, I wouldn’t include it, there’s too much risk of drama” but since she didn’t write in, the advice to roll your eyes and ignore it is probably right. I don’t see a lot of good coming from going after her on this, in this instance.

    4. Also-ADHD*

      I’ve always heard I couldn’t use corporate work and had to make my own BUT public facing work like a logo would be different. I make internal documents and products, so I usually can’t show my actual stuff, which is common in my field. In fact, my manager won’t hire anyone she thinks is showing something internal (not clearly public) even if they password protect it, etc. Some people do so they don’t have to make extra stuff, and I know many managers who consider that a red flag.

    5. fhqwhgads*

      If the reel were her portfolio, sure, but she’s framing it as her company’s work, not her personal work, which makes it more sus.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        But also on second thought, I think possibly a bigger deal may be that she’s essentially framing this as her old employer is/was a client of the company she owns and is advertising. That’s completely different than splitting hairs on the work she personally did historically vs after opening her firm.
        It’s still up to the OP’s company, not OP, whether they care that Miranda’s claiming this association in a misleading fashion. They may not. But if it might bolster potential client’s opinion of her firm if they think OldCompany would hire said firm – not realizing it’s just that MirandaCo has an OldCompany Former Employee, I could see that rubbing folks the wrong way. Of course, the potential clients could find that out on their own and then be annoyed at the mislead anyway. So shrug.

    6. Rosie Cotton*

      LW4 here – just wanted to clarify that the social media reel was branded as and posted from Miranda’s company, framing the logo “refinement” as the company’s work. It wouldn’t have bugged me if it was from her personal social accounts or portfolio, or perhaps even if her company had added some context that Miranda had worked on the project in a different role before founding MiranCo. That said, I am fully happy to take Alison’s advice and let it go. We’re changing our logo in 1-2 years anyway because none of us like it very much!

    7. Animator's wife*

      Given that Miranda’s company is so small (basically Miranda, plus some junior support), it doesn’t make sense to me to distinguish between “Miranda’s work” and “Miranda’s company’s work”. My spouse worked at a larger firm before starting a new 2-person shop with a partner; their company’s demo reel included the work they did at that company, as freelancers, and in the new venture because all of it illustrated their artistic style/technical capabilities. The same work in their reel might also show up in other companies’ reels if they had been a subcontractor on a project, as well (big company hires big creative agency who hires boutique firm; big creative firm and boutique firm both include the work in their reels.) All of this was treated as totally standard by everyone working in their field.

      1. Lydia*

        I think it does make a difference. It may be a fine line to draw, but it’s the difference between saying, as part of your job for company X, you were tasked with doing a logo refinement, and your work is so sought after that your company was hired by a larger org to refine their logo. Those are not the same things.

  2. Techie Boss*

    LW1 – For the “proud of you” / “proud of us” distinction, I’m with Alison that it’s really context dependent. I can see how “proud of us” could come across as the manager trying to take undue credit for the work someone on their staff did, too. I would try to have a direct conversation with the person about her reaction and see if you can get to the root issue. It may be some entirely unrelated frustration about the project or something else that doesn’t have anything to do with your wording.

    1. Madame Arcati*

      Thinking about the nuances of “proud of us” and also about what I’ve received (and been happy with) at my own job, I think a good way to word it might be, I’m really proud of the team/what the team has achieved. It removes “you” whether singular or plural, which can seem patronising, but also doesn’t directly draw attention to your part by saying “us” – that may be the self effacing Brit in me, we are terrible for worrying about showing off! And it emphasises the teamwork aspect.
      That said I think it is wrong to erase yourself as manager from any hint of praise – if your team feel like you don’t contribute and merely take credit for their work you’ve got much bigger problems! I’m sure as a good manager your role contributes to team success so you should share in praise whether that’s expressed as pride or any other wording.

    2. Storm in a teacup*

      I agree. If the rest of the team looked positive, I would check in with this employee.
      Also your colleague is a little off base in that I don’t think it’s patronising to be praised but context and language can impact perception.
      I think also giving a concrete example of why you’re proud can also help mitigate this. Eg I’m proud of the team in this project and the difference it’s made to x or the recognition from senior leaders

      1. MassMatt*

        I think it’s odd that this report had such a negative reaction to the comment that multiple other people noticed and commented on it. There’s not enough context to say for sure, but my hunch is this person has a bee in their bonnet that has nothing to do with the LW.

        So many employees do great work that goes unacknowledged, it’s strange to have someone scowling and eye-rolling when some praise is given, however . This kind of reaction probably makes further praise less likely.

        1. Crooked Bird*

          Yes, it strikes me as something personal & individual to them. And it strikes me as a *good* sign that the people who did have context, unlike the new person, seemed to feel positively about it.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I wonder if “us” would be disingenuous, as it sounds like the manager didn’t have much involvement in that achievement (OP said that “they”, meaning the team members, rather than “we”, had the achievement – which I think is telling). If that’s true, “we” invites the response (internal, or perhaps verbalised by someone outspoken!): “what did you contribute?”.

      I think better wording is to encourage the team to be proud of themselves for the achievement.

    4. HR Exec Popping In*

      I try to be very aware of and sensitive to the power dynamic between “the boss” and the department. Because of that I lean away from using language that position me as “the leader” with wins and instead use that when there are problems. As in take accountability when there is a problem and give accolades to the team when things go well. When I want to convey how proud I am of the team, I try to frame it as I am proud to be part of this team. In your example, I would have likely worded it to congratulate them for XYZ and that I am proud that I have the opportunity to work with them/be part of this amazing team.

    5. Also-ADHD*

      “I’m proud to be the leader of this department” as LW mentions seems fine IF everyone is actually inspired by the leader/feels the leader is high quality. But “proud of you” or “proud of us” seems way off tone to me and patronizing. If someone was proud to lead a department, I think that’s fine, but I also think it’s not really praise of my work. I do think many leaders are bad at feedback, including praise. They go too generic, praise everyone collectively, and aren’t detail oriented and focused on individuals either because they aren’t in touch enough to know or they are focused on cohesion so much they erase individuals.

      1. Crooked Bird*

        I think “I’m proud/it makes me proud to work with such a good [dedicated/effective/creative] team” could work well too.

        Agree about praising specifically and not just generically, for sure. People want to know when & what they’re doing well. I’ve had a manager realize he should praise more & deal with it by saying “Thanks so much for everything you do” about three times a day. He’s actually still my manager & I feel very appreciated at this point but that tactic was not one I found effective!

    6. AnonInCanada*

      I agree. People will see the manager saying “I’m proud of our work” and think said manager is taking undeserved credit for the work their team did. There’s something odd about someone on the team taking a benign compliment (“I’m proud of your work”) as being patronizing.

      There’s got to be a more deep-rooted explanation as to why they’d react that way, and perhaps a one-on-one private conversation with that person is in order. Or, if this is just a one-off thing, it’s probably best to let it go.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        Or they were multitasking and got an off email or IM. It could be completely unrelated. If it’s really eating at OP, they should ask! Since it was Zoom it could have been anything! What if their cat jumped on their keyboard but out of camera sight and they were just trying to not laugh (not that I do this often),

      2. not nice, don't care*

        “I’m proud of you” coming from a supervisor who uses stickers and candy to reward ‘her people’ for certain efforts, but then bullies them and gatekeeps and gaslights and harasses people with ADA-covered health issues, etc. Yeah no. Save that for kindergarten.

    7. Jenna Webster*

      I’ve always felt that “proud” is a word better used by parents and grandparents, and that it’s traditional use means that not only did the child do well, but that it reflects well on their upbringing. Rather than expressing that you’re proud of them, why not simply congratulate them on a job well done and on all their hard work, creativity, and accomplishment?

      1. Filosofickle*

        To me there is something a little icky saying I’m proud of a friend / colleague / team, it feels very parental. Your comment helps clarify that for me — the definition of pride includes an element of how the achievement reflects *on you*, which feels fine when you’re proud of your own actions but can get weird when you’re bestowing pride on someone else.

        1. AnonInWiscosin*

          Yeah, I think “proud” is just one of those nuanced words that can be interpreted very differently depending on the exact circumstances and wording (gracious, patronizing, complimentary, taking undeserved credit). And that’s before you get into any religious-sinful implications!

          It might be best to just congratulate your team on excellent work and stick to expressing pride in one’s children/grandchildren.

      2. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

        This is where I am coming down too — the core issue here is a reaction to the word “proud.” I frequently have occasion to tell people that my team is awesome (or, in less informal contexts, that their work is excellent, detail-oriented, thorough, or whatever specific great thing I’m talking about at any moment). I don’t think I have ever said I’m proud of them, though.

    8. overcomposer*

      Don’t have a conversation with the employee about their reaction. They “had a visible negative reaction” – if LW brings this up with them, they’ve entered the realm of policing facial expressions.

    9. Frankie*

      OP don’t do this. Your employees shouldn’t have to put on a pleasant expression all the time for fear their manager will police it and interrogate them when it slips. Ridiculous, mind your own business, your employee can speak up if they feel the need.

    10. CatLady*

      I’m glad this was posed. I’m a leader, not a manager, and I’ve said many times how proud I am of the hard work that everyone has done and happy to be a part of the team. In my head this falls under “the *team* is responsible for successes and the leader for the failures” (at least publicly). I’ll make sure I watch my wording in the future though.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        You’ve helped me put my finger on another nuance. Being proud of the work is somehow less patronizing than being proud of the team. English is weird!

    11. HannahS*

      Yeah, I think it’s so context-dependent. I would find it odd/uncomfortable/patronizing if my direct supervisor said that they were proud of our team’s work, because they aren’t the ones that actually DO the work, so what right do they have to feel proud of it? (why yes I do work in a highly exploitative industry.) But on the other hand, at the end-of-year party, the department head will often say something like, “Your excellent works makes me proud to be the head of this department,” and that feels fine. I’ve also had supervisors say, “That was a really tough month with [challenge A, B, and C.] You handled it so well; you should feel proud of yourself.” I find that language re-centers ME, rather than my supervisor’s feelings of pride. I don’t really care if they feel proud of me; we don’t have that kind of relationship. It feels condescending because it presumes that I want my supervisor to be “proud of me,” rather than the more equal/collegial “finds my work to be high quality.”

      On the flipside, I have–on very rare occasions–said to a patient, “I hope you don’t mind if I say that I am very proud of you.” I only say it if I’m sure that it will be well-received, and the surrounding context is usually that the patient is someone without much support, without a lot of people in their life who might express pride, who relied on me for emotional support over the course of their treatment, and who needs “permission” to say/think nice things about themselves. In those rare cases, it’s been really appreciated but that’s…I mean it’s not like I’m praising them for meeting KPIs, you know?

    12. A woman never gets a break*

      Reality is, no matter what you say to a young team member, they are much more likely to be offended than not. I’ve been faulted for saying I’m proud of you, I’m proud of the team, I’m proud of our work as a team, I’m proud of the work we did, great job, you did a great job, excellent work. My personal choice is not to say I’m proud of anyone because its condescending, but I was also faulted for not saying I was proud of people. At some point the emotional labor is too much. Screen for immaturity during hiring.

      1. Aardvark*

        You seemed to keep persevering with something that wasn’t working for quite sometime. Are you sure that it was the use of the word proud that was a problem, and not some other aspect of how you were talking to your team?

      2. Galentine*

        So you’re allowed to feel that “I’m proud of you” is condescending,” but the “young team members” are immature if they have feelings about how their managers talk to them? I’m pushing 40 and I can still tell you this is a bad take.

    13. B*

      Another way to reframe this: take yourself, and your feelings of pride, out of the equation entirely. It’s about the team, not about you.

      “The team did a great job on this” = the team is the subject of the sentence. “I am proud of the team” = you are the subject of the sentence.

      Is this hair-splitting? Yes. Might it make someone on the margins feel like their contributions are more valued and less like a manager is taking credit? Maybe.

  3. Artemesia*

    #3. oh Bingo!!! leave the signs up and be thinking about removing yourself from this culture.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        I was thinking this exact thing. Whenever I get the chance I always remind these people that it’s not that nobody wants to work, it’s that nobody wants to work for you.

      2. ferrina*

        Yes! They don’t realize….no one wants to work for them. After all, why take responsibility for consequences of your own decisions when you could just blame society?

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I was going to say the same thing. LW, you’re only going to attract the sort of people who share the owners’ political views, so in your shoes I’d start looking for another job.

      1. Support Project Nettie*

        Not necessarily. One of my first jobs was for an employer similar to the one the OP describes which turned out to be one of the better employers I’ve worked for, and I’m including my current local government employer in this. The owner of the business was homophobic (amongst other things) and knew that I am gay, but never treated me any less than anyone else for it. I used to enjoy chats with him which included us discussing our opposite beliefs on occasion. He didn’t like that I’m gay, but he respected me as a person which is far more than can be said than my current employer. Shame he had to close the business due to ill health, especially as I had been promoted shortly beforehand.

        1. LW #3*

          Thank you. I made a comment down below addressing the situation. I also cannot change jobs very easily without moving a significant distance which would involve selling my house (purchased very inexpensively with a low rate) and my house also finding new employment.

        2. Student*

          Every time I see somebody say this, it reminds me of past experiences where I got to see outwardly “supportive” and “respectful” employers engage in shady business when they think nobody is watching. People who are hateful may tolerate you, and even treat you decently to your face. Behind your back, they are more openly operating on hate, and it is naive to think otherwise.

          The example that still bugs me most is in regards to a young black woman, Serena, that I worked with. We’re in a very white male dominated industry. Serena worked with us on multiple temporary contracts for a couple of years. Her work was excellent, some of the best in the org, often much better than her permanently-hired colleagues. Her bosses were “supportive” and “respectful” in front of her, and in public settings. They told her that her work was wonderful. They told her that they’d gladly support hiring her full time… at some point down the line. They gave her decent work assignments and opportunities.

          Then, the perfect opportunity came up to hire her in a permanent position. When I consulted her to gauge her interest, Serena herself wanted us to hire her permanently. So I started the wheels to hire her – I didn’t have hiring authority, but I could make a case for it. So I put together the case – it was very strong – and took it to the hiring authority. Then I asked Serena’s former bosses from her temporary roles to please chime in to tell the hiring manager how wonderful her work was, reminding them of work products they had previously publicly praised. These former bosses are all folks I had seen spring into action to hire good candidates whenever they came up, and I’d only ever heard good things about Serena’s work from them.

          One of Serena’s former bosses was simply silent.

          Serena’s second former bosses chimed in to say that it would be a waste of time to try to hire her. His reasoning was that there was no way her boyfriend would “let” her permanently relocate to our site.

          There are so many obvious problems with this statement, but one that is not obvious to the readers: Serena did not have a boyfriend, so this guy invented his piss-poor reason out of thin air.

          Serena’s third former boss chimed in to correct her second boss! But alas, this third former boss’s take was no better. “No, no, Serena doesn’t have a boyfriend! The reason it’s a waste of time to bother trying to hire Serena is because she’ll never be able to get a boyfriend around here.” To understand exactly how horrible this comment really is, I need to convey that the area we worked in had loads of single young men – but they’re overwhelmingly white, so the subtext of this horrible boss’s comment also includes a heap of very racist assumptions about interracial dating, on top of the more explicit sexism.

          So, hateful people can seem great face-to-face. They can act decent in public for a long while. But as soon as they get the chance, they will shove you down without a second thought. As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” People who hate you may try to tell you that you’re the special exception – but that is ALWAYS a trap, to separate you from others that may support you, to bring your guard down.

          1. Frankie*

            Serena is better off not working for those racist misogynistic men and with coworkers who don’t call them out.

            1. Medium Sized Manager*

              I get the sentiment, but we exist in a capitalist society, and she still needs to make money. Should she have to work for them? Absolutely not. But it’s unrealistic to think that only non-racist or non-sexist jobs will exist or that she (or any non-white/non-straight/not man) will have the luxury of choice.

          2. MK*

            I don’t think this is a comparable example. Support Project Nettie’s boss wasn’t nice to their face and awful behind their back; he was openly homophobic but treated his employees well. It’s tempting to think that people are wholly good or bad, ot that their ethics and their morals match, but humans are more complicated than that. Yes, there are those who treat those who are like them one way and those they identify with another, as undeserving of decency. But there are also others whose behaviour is dictated by fairness even towards those they don’t approve of, or who follow the law because they place importance in being law-abiding, even when they dislike the law. Just like there are those who, whatever their politics, are simply dishonest, exploitative and only about their own interests. There are plenty of reactionary employers who treat their male white straight employees as horribly as those that aren’t, and progressive in some respects people who also treat their workers badly.

            1. Support Project Nettie*

              Thank you for this comment. my employer was actually a decent person. He merely didn’t hold the views I hold and vice versa. In turn, I hold views that others find unacceptable. I will never treat those people with any less dignity, respect, and humanity than I would with anyone else, and I expect the same. The problem is those who view themselves as being “right” and anyone holding another view is as unacceptable as their views.

              I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sat with people who have used homophobic phrases/jokes not realising I’m gay and later come to me to apologise when my sexuality becomes known. I’ve always asked them not to apologise, since that is their view and they are entitled to it. If they don’t like gay people, that’s fine by me. And I’ve found generally the people who respect me the most are those same people who made jokes about my sexuality. There is a difference between intolerance and disapproval or dislike. Sadly, these are becoming confused and leading to a more polarised world. It needs to stop, and it needs to start by the “offended” setting an example of decency rather than shouting “hate”.

              1. Crooked Bird*

                I appreciate this comment. I want to note, as others probably will, that you’re more generous with people than you have to be. But I think that’s admirable. And what I hear in your comment is genuine pluralism, which is something we’re losing, to our cost. You’ve probably made some of those people stop and think.

              2. Beekeeper*

                You’re the most reasonable person on the internet. I probably would find lawn signs off-putting at a potential workplace, but we do have to work with all types of people regardless. I have two jobs where the company owners are polar opposites of each other politically. Owner #1 will mention issues he has with our current local government during all-hands video calls, and while I can see he’s trying to be supportive of those affected, it’s a rapidly growing and diverse company, with many who probably have different views. I agree with owner #1 on the issues but it’s not relevant to our work and everyone has to just sit and listen so I find it awkward. Owner #2, loves our current local government and will make comments some of which I don’t agree, but, it’s a very different work dynamic and I feel comfortable enough to either roll my eyes or tell him I disagree and start a conversation about it and not feel like I’m being lectured, which I appreciate.

            2. Voracious Virago*

              There’s a massive level of cognitive dissonance required to claim someone who is openly homophobic treats gay people “well”. Even if slurs aren’t being slung directly AT individuals, any environment in which open homophobia is acceptable is inherently hostile and dehumanizing.

    2. linger*

      Yes: OP3 says they would not have bothered interviewing with those signs up. It follows that, in keeping the signs up, the company is in practice selecting for new employees unlike OP3 and aligning with the dominant C-suite culture. Hence on balance, the company will continue to get worse, at the very least in terms of diversity, and possibly more directly as a workplace environment for those like OP3.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Exactly. Let people self-select out. If this is the type of people the new hire would be working with, it shouldn’t be hidden during hiring. let the person decide if they can put up with it or not.

        OP, you cannot care more about how the company projects itself than the company does. And the company is okay is projecting this image. Since you mention you have limited options, all you can do is roll your eyes and just keep doing your job.

        1. Melicious*

          Deliberate or not, it seems like a loophole to discrimination. We can’t reject non-cis/het people? Let’s passively discourage them from applying.

          1. Kel*

            I think about this all the time. A coffee shop that only had white, cis male employees? And says ‘well, no one else applies, so….’

            WHY COULD THAT BE?!

            1. MassMatt*

              I’m in no way trying to minimize the pervasiveness or effects of racism, but it’s a basic truth that absent effort to the contrary, people tend to hire people like themselves.

              There was an article years ago about the Democratic National Committee; many positions in the upper echelons were going to black people (this was pre-Obama). When someone mentioned this the response (I think maybe from Donna Brazile, but I’m not certain) said they just couldn’t find qualified white people for the roles.

              1. Broadway Duchess*

                This was a tongue-in-cheek response meant to show what happened when Blavk people asked about the lack of representation in high-level offices. The response was generally some version of “we just can’t find qualified Black people for the positions!”

                Realistically, people of color don’t have the “opportunity” to discriminate. That’s not to say they can’t or don’t, just that if you don’t really get to the top, you dint make those calls. Also, while no one questions an all-white C Suite, an all-Black one would raise eyebrows outside of very specific industries.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        Yeah, reading this:

        “… The owners absolutely do not believe it’s an issue and refuse to remove them at least during the hiring process. Do you have any input on this? It is causing a lot of stress on the other staff with these empty positions.”

        And Alison’s response:
        “…The signs are functioning as truth in advertising; let them stay. Candidates deserve to know what kind of environment they’d be working in; the signs do an effective job of telling them.”

        It struck me as a really clear case of: Actions, Choices, meet Consequences.

        The owners are *choosing* to have an cultivate those views. And they are *choosing* to advertise those views (and their values), even after being told it’s likely have a negative effect on the # of candidates applying.

        The stress on the other employees dealing with trying to work short staffed may in fact cause THOSE people to no longer want to work there, and start looking for other jobs.

        So those business owners will have more jobs to fill. But that’s a direct consequence of them embracing values and advertising opinions that don’t acknowledge or respect the basic human rights of many many people.

    3. Dust Bunny*


      I mean, would I apply there? No. Would I, if they took the signs down and I applied there and got hired, want to leave ASAP? Yes. So you’re sparing yourselves new hires bailing when they find out who their bosses really are.

    4. Donkey Hotey*

      Agreed. Normally, when I interview, I’ll do a drive by of the company parking lot before hand. It allows me to scope out actual dress code vs nominal dress code but also to see how many of what kind of bumper stickers are on the cars in the lot. Political signs for candidates I strongly dislike saves me time.

    5. not nice, don't care*

      So much this. I would rather be unemployed and broke (yes, I have direct experience with both & know what I’m talking about) than support anyone with vile beliefs. I’m not terribly nice about it either, when people complain that there are no other jobs etc. I ask if they would work at a concentration camp if that were the only job. Because that’s the spectrum certain political beliefs are on.

    6. MassMatt*

      Any chance this employer wants to “harness the power of Qanon”?

      The signs are not just showing their beliefs, they are showing they want to promote those beliefs AT WORK. I agree with Alison this is really good info for people to have.

  4. Heidi*

    It’s interesting that LW2 didn’t find out about Cat’s newsletter until after the hiring was over. If I produced a popular newsletter that was relevant to a job I was applying for, I’d try to find a way to get it into my application/resume/cover letter. It might not have gotten Cat the job, of course, but maybe it could have strengthened her candidacy if experience was the deciding factor.

    1. Rectilinear Propagation*

      My guess: Cat thought doing a newsletter wasn’t directly related to the position she was applying for and thought that meant she shouldn’t mention it. Or that since it isn’t paying work, it doesn’t count.

      Not enough experience to realize this would have helped her or even getting bad advice from someone on what to include in her application.

    2. JSPA*

      If knowing about the newsletter could have changed the letter writer’s thinking on the hiring, and if they look back at the resumé and it’s indeed not mentioned, or only referenced indirectly, I do think that leaves him an opening to reach back out to Cat, and say something like, “In the hiring process, I didn’t connect the dots between your name and Teapots Quarterly. Producing the Quarterly speaks to your graphic skills, writing skills, ability to work independently, professionalism, dedication to a long-term project, broad knowledge of the field, and collegial contacts within the pottery, metalworking, chocolate, artisan and arts communities. While it may not have seemed directly relevant to coffeepot display design and marketing, I’d encourage you to include it in future applications where it can speak to any of the above skills, knowledge and experience.”

      This may or may not lead (eventually) to ongoing contact, to future hiring, or to an eventual write up of the business. But it’s a kind thing to do, and could be mutually beneficial as well.

      1. sewbabe*

        YES, this would be a kind act of mentoring, and could lead Cat to apply to your org the next time there’s an opportunity.

        1. Shane*

          Ew, hate the idea of reaching out for “mentoring” when the reason he’s actually reaching out is to use her influence. Please don’t. There may be very good reasons she didn’t include it on her resume eg to avoid someone hiring her not for her experience but in the hopes of using her to promote their business.

          1. MsM*

            I think the suggestion was just to offer the advice, not to follow it up with “oh, and by the way, could you post this?”

            1. Shane*

              It feels very patronizing and you have no idea why she didn’t include it, especially because she didn’t ask for feedback and the real goal is to ask her to post for you. The initial email is okay but the idea that you’re “mentoring” her when you’re actually just buttering someone up to ask for a favor yuck.

              1. Shane*

                I’m a person who knows what I bring to the table and have experienced a number of people attempt to “mentor” me into doing things their way and all it got them was me giving them as wide a berth as possible.

              1. Shane*

                Advice that no one asked for in order to get someone to do you a favor is patronizing. It’s acting like you’re doing someone a favor when you’re the one asking for a favor.

                1. Salty Caramel*


                  I don’t see any upside for Cat this scenario. What’s the value to Cat for doing this favor? Unasked for advice isn’t it.

              2. Ellis Bell*

                Oh no, you couldn’t join it to asking for a favour. The favour asking would have to be abandoned, I thought that was clear.

              3. Aardvark*

                Giving advice without being asked for it is a judgement. And when it is from someone not in some sort of heirarchical position that them judging is appropriate, yes, it can be very patronising.

          2. Willow Pillow*

            If Cat is a woman and LW (or whoever theoretically reaches out) is a man, “mentoring” can also have a negative connotation.

            1. JSPA*

              I may have caused confusion because I was speech-to-texting, my phone decided that “them” was “him,” and I didn’t catch it in time. I have no reason to think the LW is a man. And there’s nothing about reaching out once, about business, that’s rendered intrinsically skeevey by any combination of genders and orientations.

              An act of mentorship is a singular instance; nobody’s suggesting that the LW appoint themselves as “Cat’s mentor.” (I mean…that’s not a thing.)

              1. Willow Pillow*

                I tend not to read longer comments as my brain doesn’t do well with a wall of text. Regardless, Cat wouldn’t have any means of knowing LW’s motives if they do make such an offer (which still aren’t altrustic). Suspicion is not unreasonable, in general or in this specific instance.

          3. JSPA*

            Did you miss the part where I explicitly said that “you’re a stronger candidate than your resumé shows” should be offered as a kindness, with no quid quo pro? Or are you intentionally misconstruing it, so that you can be irate over a straw man?

            Anytime you help someone who has a bright future ahead of them, there’s potentially mutual benefit in the far future, in terms of networking. A little bit of that is baked into just about every social interaction, frankly.

            Compare any other good deed.

            If you get pleasure from doing a good deed, does it invalidate the deed?

            When you donate clothes to the clothes drive, are you required to only donate your very favorite items, rather than the ones that don’t fit you as well as you’d hoped?

            If you feel a bit safer because you’ve helped to set up a food bank, so there are now fewer people who are desperate enough to do something rash, to have money for food, does that mean you’re a self-serving slime, for setting up the food bank?

            Neither enlightened self-interest nor mutual long-term benefit are some sort of evil ploy or immoral subterfuge. None of us is so special that the universe owes us mentoring to avoid the waste of our potential. In most cases, someone who reaches out in a business context is thinking, “that’s someone who could be a good connection.” And…that’s fine.

            1. Shane*

              One way to make sure something is actually a kindness is having people ask for what they want and giving that to them. Assuming you’re helping someone you don’t know, who hasn’t asked for feedback, who you want something very specific from, isn’t a kindness. Pretending you’re on high bestowing things upon people instead of acknowledging this is an exchange means checking that someone has bought into this exchange.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I’m afraid I would read/hear that as a blatant buttering-up attempt to get back on my good side, and into my newsletter.

        1. JSPA*

          1. You…resent everyone who has ever interviewed you, and not hired you???
          2. You…presume any feedback is insincere?
          3. You…would never network with someone who passed you over for a specific role?

          You do you, but dang, that seems like a way to cut off an awful lot of opportunities.

          1. RagingADHD*

            I think you’re ignoring the context here and making a lot of hyperbolic leaps. This whole conversation came about specifically because LW wants a favor from Cat. To pretend they don’t is insincere from the outset.

            *If* Cat didn’t include the newsletter on her resume, and *if* it actually would have made a difference in the hiring decision, and *if* LW is very senior and well connected in the industry, then maybe feedback recommending she add it might not be a huge overstep.

            But on the face of the situation as presented by the LW, it comes across very disingenuous and condescending. As presented, it sounds like Cat is a lot better connected and savvy than LW gave her credit for, and the fact that they assumed she was inexperienced shows their own ignorance of what’s going on in their own industry.

            For LW to project their own ignorance to make it sound as if it were Cat who screwed up would be pretty obnoxious.

            No, nobody presumes all feedback is insincere or resents everyone who turned them down for a job. But in context, this specific type of feedback sounds incredibly insincere, and would leave a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.

  5. Oh yeah, Me again*

    Yeah, I’m in my 60s, and it gets my goat a bit when my friend says “I’m proud of you!” I somehow want ro protest that whatever it was I did wasn’t that extraordinary (even though I was feeling proud, perhaps, till that moment) and that she isn’t my mom. She’s being entirely supportive, and yet it just bugs me. I guess “infantalized” covers it.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah. Granted, I don’t work in English and the Finnish equivalents don’t translate exactly, but in an English-speaking environment I’d definitely prefer “good job!” or even “well done” over any expression of pride in my accomplishments or whatever.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I would personally be kind of irritated by “good job!”, because I feel like that gets used for children a lot, and feels condescending to me.

        Although I come from a culture that doesn’t really do praise anyway*, so I might not be the right person to weigh in on this. Everything, especially anything Americans typically say, feels off to me.

        *It’s probably more accurate to say that the praise is really understated. Think “that’ll do” as highest praise. The scale is calibrated differently. We do still communicate appreciation.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Hah! I actually give a bit more praise to my children (who are still little), than what I was raised with myself.

            Where’s your dad from? I’m always interested in weird similarities between cultures. (Mine is actually not English speaking, but “that’ll do” is a close equivalent for “kann ma’ lasse’ “).

          2. MigraineMonth*

            My dad’s reaction to an A- on a math test in high school was to ask, in a tone of genuine concern, if I was struggling to understand any of the concepts and if I’d like him to go over any of them with me.

            1. Dancing Otter*

              Are we related? When I scored 99th percentile on a standardized test, my father asked what I got wrong. Dad, it doesn’t go higher than that!

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, ‘good job!’ in my culture would feel incredibly patronising. We are masters of understatement and we don’t go in for gushing expressions of pride. ‘We did really well there, thanks everyone’ would be fulsome enough!

          1. Storm in a teacup*

            Yup totally agree – it would make me cringe if given too excitedly or overly effusive.

          2. bamcheeks*

            There’s one of those “very British problems” things that makes me laugh which is something like, ‘shop didn’t have my favourite brand of crisps: “absolute fcking nightmare”; partner’s just been diagnosed with cancer: “it’s not ideal”.’

            1. Flor*

              Hahaha oh goodness, this is so accurate.

              I’m working for an American company after having started my career in Britain and I honestly feel something akin to culture shock. Everything is so peppy all. the. time. and I feel like an alien for not being level 11 enthusiasm.

              1. Professional Staff*

                Ha, I knew I’d assimilated into Irish culture when I answered an American check-out clerk’s ‘How’s your day going’ with ‘It’s all right’–and when she asked, ‘what would it take to get you to say it was going great?’, I replied ‘I simply wouldn’t’ :-D

                1. bamcheeks*

                  I once got a, “jeez, I didn’t ask for your TRAGIC LIFE STORY” look from an Midwestern check out clerk when I answered, “How are you?” with “Not bad, thank you!” I observed other people and realised that the expected answer was, “Good, how’re you?” :D

        2. OP#1*

          OP #1 here. It just occurred to me that the person who reacted is actually not American, so I wonder if this was a culture issue too.

          1. Glowworm*

            I would also say, don’t forget that the explanation for why your report reacted that way didn’t come from her herself. Your colleague could be way off base.

            1. MK*

              A visible negative reaction in a video call is such a vague thing. Maybe this person had a sudden toothache.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                Or literally a million other things happening off camera. I’ve a cat ambush me, scratch me, or have a seizure on my desk during video calls, and I’m certain my colleagues had no idea why I was flailing or grimacing.

        3. A woman never gets a break*

          I agree and I’m an American! The past decade or so of employees expecting an unending stream of compliments is exhausting, childish, and ridiculous. It diminishes the value of true compliments for great work. But that’s our culture right now. The same one that drives businesses to expects 5 stars for doing their job.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            No, the culture that drives businesses to need 5 stars is the stupid corporate management trend where “anything less than 5 stars is complete failure”. As in, people were disciplined and store locations were closed for getting 4 stars instead of 5 stars, “because here at Whiskers & Gum we expect 200% from all our staff and locations!”

            (The stupidest example of this that I know of is the Kohl’s location that closed because not enough people rated the dressing rooms 5 stars; specifically, many rated them “N/A” instead because they hadn’t used the dressing rooms.)

            So yeah, when people discovered that their servers, rideshare drivers, etc. were losing their livelihoods to these ridiculous new corporate mandates, they chose the only decent option, which has lead to ridiculous ratings inflation.

            1. Helen Waite*

              I had an oil change several years ago at the car dealership and the mechanic told me that if I gave them less than a perfect ten, he’d get written up.

              The oil change went about as smoothly as you could expect, nothing out of the ordinary. I try to avoid those kinds of surveys.

              A few years later, I had a roofing job done and it was done well and in about half the time I was told, so I gave them an eleven in the comments. That truly was extraordinary service and needed to be properly recognized. A ten wouldn’t do it.

      2. Intimidated by New Plant*

        Even “well done” can feel patronising, I think. Depending on the tone.
        In a certain tone, it can sound admiring, not patronising. Eg, “Well done!” as in, “Wow, I am a bit in awe of what you did!”
        But in another tone, it just sounds a bit parental. “Well done” as in “You did a great job, you know”. That makes me cringe!

        1. This IS my name*

          Yeah, I had a boss tell me “Well done” once, and it felt like a pat on the head. I felt worse than before he’d said anything, but I tried to take into account that he was trying to say something nice (at least I’m pretty sure he was). I’m american by the way.

      3. Helvetica*

        Heh, I was just thinking it would come off weird in Estonian but not in English. I currently work in English language environment and it doesn’t grate on me there but in Estonian, it is definitely something I could see my parents say, not colleagues/manager.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      I don’t think it’s a generational thing, but some people do consider all praise or thanks in a work environment to be inherently insincere and therefore dishonest and annoying. Obviously, this isn’t always the case, but I think that praise definitely can be used that way in toxic environments.

      It does feel incredibly rude to me not to thank or praise someone if they’ve really helped me or done a great job on something, so I still do it, but I don’t go overboard and try to keep in mind that some people really don’t like it.

      1. Katie Impact*

        I agree that the overall work environment is important. If I’m getting praised by someone who’s underpaying me and has no intention of changing that, that praise isn’t going to be worth much.

        1. Lily*

          I think praise can be very sensitive and varies greatly from culture to culture (both ‘workplace cultures’ and global cultures). It worth reflecting on how you’re using praise as a manager and also carefully observing how it’s received by your staff – what works for one person doesn’t work for another. And it IS an important skill to adapt your management and communication style to your staff (just as they should also adapt to you). If someone is clearly uncomfortable with direct praise, do try to pick up on that.

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      I think it is inappropriate from a friend, as “proud of you” does imply “you’ve achieved what I hope for from you” and it’s not really a friend’s role to set expectations for you. It also implies the speaker had some role in your success, that they raised or trained you.

      From a boss, it seems more borderline, since they generally set expectations and had some role in training their team, etc, but I can still see people feeling it’s emphasising the boss’s authority.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I also think that some people specifically associate the word “proud” with either their parents or their teachers. Obviously, that won’t be a positive association for everyone, and it may make those people feel infantilised.

        1. Old and Don't Care*

          It has always to me emphasized a power differential (you wouldn’t say I’m proud of you to your boss), and I try to convey the message in a different way. But it’s pretty far down my list of grievances.

          1. Irish Teacher.*

            That was actually the term I was looking for at the end of my comment – “highlighting or emphasing the power differential,” but I was on a train and pulling into the station so even though “emphasising the boss’s authority” didn’t sound quite right, it kind of had to do.

        2. Privategal*

          In my current workplace, in an all-hands meeting, a half-dozen new (and young, and entry-level) staff in training were asked to each make a small presentation.

          After which, the manager gushed, saying she felt like a “proud mum”

          That actually happened. In a workplace in the real world. In 2023.

          1. A woman never gets a break*

            And I promise you the young coworkers ate it up. I hear young employees talking about how much they love working with a particular veterinarian because she works in mom-mode with them. I would have been insulted 40 years ago.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Some did, sure. Some had full-body cringe reactions and wished to be anywhere else, but were good at covering.

            2. Broadway Duchess*

              You seem to have a real issue with younger workers that really comes through in your comments. I think it would be worth it to consider how someone saying, “And I promise you the old folks ate it up.” might sound.

      2. Aqua*

        my social circle often tell each other “I’m proud of you”. its sincere and taken that way

        1. Maggie*

          Same here; I actually did a search in my group chat with a couple of my closest friends and we use the word proud fairly regularly, in a typical context of someone having done a challenging thing well. I think feelings about the person saying it are hugely important in how “proud” comes off.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          Funny, because just yesterday I used “proud” texting my best friend, in an entirely insincere and sarcastic way (and we seem to use it that way with each other exclusively!). So these things can be not only context dependent for work (how your manager says it), but it may hit you in an entirely different way based on how you use it in your not-work life.
          I guess if your manager is a generally good one, you should accept their praise words at face value and try to not put your own spin on it.

        3. AMH*

          Yes, my group does too — I would never even have considered that other people may not like it! It’s helpful to know that context for future, though — I’ll be careful about using it outside my friend group.

        4. Bast*

          I think it’s sort of like the “old” version of “I love that for you.” If I climbed Mount Everest or got as huge promotion, someone in my friend group might say, “Good for you; I’m so proud of you” and I wouldn’t take it to be anything negative at all. I’m kind of surprised at the number of people who are upset at the phrase.

          I will say with a boss I might take it differently depending on the boss in question and tone — “I’m so proud of us/our team” when the boss is a sit in her office, not contributing anything but showing up at the end and taking credit type of boss I’d take differently than one who was actively in the thick contributing to the project.

          1. Rear mech*

            That’s funny and points to the same divide we are seeing here.. I hear people saying “I love that for him” sarcastically all day. kind of like “must be nice”

            1. Bast*

              I almost never hear it sarcastically, but it probably because it is used among people on good terms/as friends.

              “Must be nice” I have never heard positively.

        5. Silver Robin*

          Same! Literally told a friend in a group chat that I was proud of them yesterday for doing well in an interview; the latest in a rather demotivating job search. It was meant and taken positively. Though I will also say that I definitely thought about the fact that part of the reason I said it was because I know (and they know that I know) that their parents never really said “I’m proud of you” so they never quite got the “you achieved the goal, yay!” feedback as a kid and now struggle to feel accomplished. I am also often classed as “mom friend” (happily) so there is also that? But also, I know it was a struggle and an effort and I *am* proud of them, they did a thing that was hard!

          “I’m proud of you” is sometimes “You did the thing, good job!” or “I know that was hard, well done” but they all feel reasonably interchangeable to me.

      3. Still*

        This is so subjective. For me, pride does not imply expectations at all. You can absolutely be proud of someone for something you’d never hope or expect them to do. (Unlike disappointment! You gotta have expectations to be disappointed.)

        But I agree that the relationship you have with the person matters. We don’t tend to be “proud of” people we don’t know, like public figures.

        In case of friends, I feel like there can be a flavour of “I’ve known you for so long and know your story and how hard you’ve worked, and I’m happy and impressed by your success”.

        1. Flower*

          yes! I had friends who told me they were proud of me when I started therapy, started medications for mental health, did intensive outpatient therapy. It’s not that they had a part in me doing that… it’s that it’s hard to seek help. And they were acknowledging that in addition to being glad I did the thing. I don’t really think there’s a better word for that than “proud.” Honestly saying it with extra words feels more weird and awkward than just saying “I’m proud of you for doing that”

      4. Ali*

        This is a good way to put why I feel this statement would be condescending from a friend or acquaintance. I can think of friends from whom “I’m proud of you” would be welcome, but they are VERY close friends.

    4. Madame Arcati*

      Yes, pride implies you contributed and a friend saying I’m proud of you makes me think, well it wasn’t your bravery or self discipline or dedication to hedgehog welfare that achieved this… But a manager being proud of the great work our team has done to protect local stoats this winter seems ok because if the manager of the stoat action team makes no contribution to its success, then what is the point of them?

    5. KateM*

      Yeah, my mom “is proud of me” because we bought a house or some similar things that makes me think she only cares about stuff she could boast about to her friends or something like that. I don’t think anyone else has used this wording.

    6. VanLH*

      wow. I am in my 70s and would never consider that patronizing, never mind infantilizing. which is why I thought AAM’s advice was off the mark.

      1. AnonORama*

        I’m 50, and for me it would depend almost entirely on the tone. If said in an “I’m talking to a small child” tone or an otherwise overly-perky voice, it would grate, particularly if the boss in question hadn’t helped with the project and/or had been an active impediment. If said in a way that’s clearly adult to adult and conveys admiration and gratitude rather than rah-rah condescension, AND the boss didn’t make the project harder for their staff, it would not bug me.

        (Not saying OP did any of the grating things — just thinking through the different ways this could land.)

    7. Bee*

      I don’t hate all uses of “proud” – I actually think a manager saying “I’m really proud of what the team achieved” makes perfect sense – but I do think it can reflect a sense of ownership that can grate if I don’t agree that the person saying it has any claim. I think a lot of the time “impressed” would be a much better choice of word.

    8. New Mom (1 7/9)*

      So interesting that so many people agree with you! My husband is in a career where he helps people and I tell him I’m proud of him and his work all the time, because I am.

    9. Hermione Danger*

      I avoid using that phrase for exactly that reason. To me, “I’m proud of you!” makes it all about me instead of the people who did the work, even if I lead the team. In my congratulations, I try focus on the strength of efforts and contributions that led to the results. “The team’s collaborative approach to this project is one of the reasons it was so successful,” or listing the individual contributions of each team member that led to such a strong result (but if you do that, make sure you mention every team member who was involved).

  6. Elle by the sea*

    I doubt that companies don’t use the data on self-identification in the hiring process. Many companies openly say that if they have two equally good candidates, they will hire the female or BIPOC etc. candidate. I can also imagine that some companies secretly choose only white men, native speakers of American English or whatever they prefer.

    1. anywhere but here*

      If/when that happens, it wouldn’t be related to the voluntary disclosure since that information is stored separately. Race and sex are often apparent enough that neglecting to do the voluntary self disclosure doesn’t impact whether or not people can use their eyes to see you are a woman, Black, etc. [Obviously it is not always visually apparent.]

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, exactly. (Although at least for some public service jobs, there is indeed a law that applicants with a disability should be preferred if they have equal qualifications! That’s then openly stated in the ad and yes, in those cases it would probably help you to disclose. Still has absolutely nothing to do with the anonymous self-disclosure you find routinely on online applications, you’d have to disclose separately…)

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Yeah, Germany (possibly this is even an EU directive?) has taken a different approach than the US: instead of trying to ignore demographics in hiring and then analyzing the result afterwards, we’re allowed to explicitly prefer underrepresented demographics with equal qualifications in hiring, hoping (possibly in vain) that will accelerate change.

            Personally, I think since the “diversity hire” thing gets lobbed at people no matter what, may as well lean into it.

    2. allathian*

      If the recruiters don’t see the data, the likelihood that the person will at least get an interview increases, especially in anonymous recruiting where even the name is masked until the interview.

    3. Artemesia*

      My cynicism could not be greater here. I have back in the day seen two different situations where people complained that a husband or son didn’t get a job because they ‘had to a hire a woman.’ In each case I knew who was actually hired and it was another white guy.

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah, ime the people complain that “women/BIPOC are getting preference” are usually complaining that “the company hired someone with a different background from me”. And honestly, I’ve worked for more companies that preferred white guys- they just didn’t say the quiet part aloud. It was always that he “clicked better with the team” or “has potential” (vs the women/BIPOC candidate’s actual experience) or “the other candidate just didn’t sit well with me, and [white guy] is more likeable”. Potential and Likeability is code for “white hetero male” in certain circles.

        In the few cases where I’ve worked for a company that actively encourages diversity in hiring, it’s not a matter of “lets fill our numbers”. It’s all about diversifying our human experience portfolio. i.e., if we hire people that all have similar experiences with the world, our team has a more limited snapshot of the world (and our customers) than if we have a team with a wide range of experiences. I work in an industry where understanding a range of human experiences is critical. The work coming out of a team that represents a wider swath of human experience is more thorough than the work from a team that all has similar backgrounds. Diversity is a business investment.

        *Of course, all candidates need to have the requisite skills to begin with- this is when we are considering between two highly qualified candidates that would each be great. We encourage teams to hire to complement their existing teams, both in skills and in life experience. I’ve seen a team of all women hire a white man in part because they didn’t have a male perspective on the team. Yes, a white man can be a diversity hire in the right circumstances.

    4. Q*

      I did hiring at a previous job and never saw the data. Had the applicants names, contact info, and work experience and education.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yet, I’ll bet you could make a pretty good guess at the demographics with “just” the names, contact info, work experience and education, right?

        There have been a lot of studies that show the exact same resume will get more interviews with a more-white-sounding name, a masculine name, etc. Amazon had a pretty public fail when it tried to create an AI that could sort through resumes and the AI showed a bias against resumes that listed women’s colleges or included the word “women’s” (e.g. “women’s rugby team” at all).

        The official demographic info isn’t used to discriminate because the official demographic info isn’t *needed* to discriminate. It’s pretty hard for someone who is visibly a minority to get through multiple interviews and be hired without someone noticing.

    5. Madame Arcati*

      I can’t speak for the US but I can say that in UK government the data isn’t used. The applications have it stripped out before they go to the people who assess those applications – no data on gender/ethnicity is on there (I do sift these applications so I know) and they even take out names, location/address to avoid any bias from assuming gender or ethnicity (or anything else, maybe class/politics) from that data.
      I would have thought many governments would do similar tbh.

    6. Azalea Bertrand*

      I do hiring (although not I’m US) and I do not see this information at all. HR gives us access to a system where we see whatever attachments were uploaded – resume, cover letter etc – and then another section that includes any of the info typed in before those questions – working permits, education, references etc. Most of that second section is optional for candidates to complete and in my experience no one on the hiring panel looks at it. My area has a support staffer who makes it even further removed by downloading the resumes and giving us a PDF so we don’t even need to log in to that system. But to the heart of your point, all the demographic data is completely inaccessible to me.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        I can confirm this – I do recruitment work for a major US company and use their HRIS for this – In the recruitment page, I can’t see any demographic data that the company collects.

        Demographic data (gender, age, race, disability status, etc. etc.) is used in the aggregate for Diversity / Equity / Inclusion purposes, not for recruitment.

        That said, one can observe whether a candidate fits into various criteria. For a while, the company was masking all resumes to ensure equity, but they found it really wasn’t making any difference to who ultimately got hired after interviews. My personal opinion is that this means Recruitment was NOT discriminating.

        Frankly, Recruitment wants to get roles filled. That’s what we exist to do. I’m not so naive to think that discrimination doesn’t happen further into the interviewing process, or that Recruiters won’t select based on who they think the hiring manager will want to hire (ie. outside of the bonafide job requirements). Speaking personally, though, I take a great deal of satisfaction in presenting a slate of candidates who are well-qualified and will challenge managers who reject candidates for reasons I don’t think are relevant to the job requirements.

    7. ImprobableSpork*

      If the companies are using Greenhouse for the application process (which the vast majority of tech companies are) the hiring company does not have access to the demographic data. Or at least that was the case when I was adminning my company’s Greenhouse.

    8. Snow Globe*

      “Many companies openly say that if they have two equally good candidates, they will hire the female or BIPOC etc. candidate.” Has any company actually said that out loud?

      I’ve hired a lot of people in my career; I don’t think I’ve ever run across two candidates that were equal in every way.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        I worked for one company that did just that. But they were so NON-diverse to begin with that they were at risk of it being called out in the press, or of losing business because their client companies were more diverse and were starting to notice. So in this case, it was a much needed remediation issue to redress the fact that they had been (unconsciously or consciously) discriminating illegally for DECADES.

        People have got to realize that there is going to be some pain to redressing the wrongs of the past. Best to get through it, and get on with it. The level of pain to the people affected by the redress today is NOTHING compared to the pain and limited opportunities that GENERATIONS of people experienced due to illegal (and before that, morally WRONG) discrimination.

        1. Analyst*

          Also…the entire point of this is that because of marginalization and bias, those equal candidates aren’t equal- the candidate from the marginalized group is in fact the better candidate, the rule to pick is correcting that bias against them.

        2. Massive Dynamic*

          +1, Chris Rock did a brilliant bit once on affirmative action, with the statement “… but if there’s a TIE…. ”

          (the point being, the person from the marginalized group gets the win if that’s the case)

        3. MigraineMonth*

          This is, in fact, the cornerstone of “color-blind” racism in the United States. If you say you’re against racism, but you’re also against literally every policy that would redress current and historical wrongs, you are perpetuating racism. (I don’t care if you don’t have a racist bone in your body, your skeleton is not the problem here. If you don’t see race, see an optometrist.)

          If you think “I’m not racist” but are against affirmative action, reparations, school bussing, policies that increase housing integration, and other government programs that improve the lives or prospects of non-white people relative to white people, you are upholding racism and white supremacy.

    9. I Laugh at Inappropriate times*

      Until very recently, all our hiring was still done on paper. Applicants were instructed that if they chose to fill out the Self ID forms, they were to be put in the enclosed envelope and sealed. When/if we received any envelopes back, they were sent unopened to parent company’s corporate HR, who had zero to do with who we hired. We did not see the information, and did not give a flip if they did or did not fill it out.

    10. HR Exec Popping In*

      I have responsibility for recruiting at a fortune 500 company. That data is not seen by recruiters or hiring managers and is not used in screening or selecting candidates. We are not allowed to. However, often during the interview process you learn some of this information (visual, associations, prior experience, stories, personal disclosure) and I’m sure the hiring manager factors that information into their decisions either consciously or unconsciously in both ways.

    11. FrogEngineer*

      If they’re down to only two candidates, then they’ve probably interviewed, so they don’t need to use that data.

      Plus there’s the inherent discrimination that comes from gendered names or names that stereotypically belong to one race over another.

    12. Seen Too Much*

      I work in HR in the US. My HRIS system does not show demographic information in the recruitment screen. I can run reports that will include that information for reporting purposes. It defaults to no names, but I can unmask the names if I want to. We run the reports a couple of times a year to see if we are moving an equitable number through the system – so if we are getting 40% BIPOC, but only 5% of the reviewed candidates are in that category, what is the disconnect. We also confirm that we are getting a diverse candidate pool. We actually do pretty well, except for veterans, which is something we are working on.

      Our hiring team cannot see any demographic information. But, as others have said, you can see with your own eyes most of that info – or at least make a guess. Early in my career, I worked for companies where this has been a problem. Luckily, I have learned to be a good judge and have put diversity high on my must list for any company I interview with. Since a big part of my career was freelance, it was easy for me to pick and choose.

      I want to point out that if you opt out, which you have the absolute right to do, and your employer is one that is required to report EEO data annually, they are not allowed to have any unknowns. They are required to make an educated determination based on their knowledge of you. So, if they have met you and you look like a white, hetero woman, that’s where they will put you. The actual report only has totals in each column, but to get there, they will need to make a guess if you refuse to self-identify. That’s not to say you shouldn’t refuse. You should do what makes you comfortable. Just be aware that someone is doing it for you.

    13. Nom*

      There’s a firewall between the self reported data and the hiring manager/recruiter (at least, there is supposed to be). They couldn’t use the information even if they wanted to. But they can certainly discern certain characteristics (such as race) in the interview.

  7. stratospherica*

    #5: It might not be the case in every country, but at least in my company we also use the demographic data we have (which, to be fair, isn’t really much) to look for how we can improve our hiring process for different demographics. If we’re getting more applications from women than men but more men are making it to the second interview, or are accepting offers at a higher rate, are we judging male candidates more favourably than female candidates? Are we offering women salaries that are comparable to the salaries that we’re offering men?

    It doesn’t affect anyone’s candidacy, but it does give us valuable data that we can then use to look at how we’re sourcing and if we have any blind spots that are making our hiring process inequitable so that we’re able to find the best candidate we can.

    1. ferrina*

      This is exactly how our HR team uses the data. It’s not associated with individual candidates, but it’s reviewed in aggregate several times a year so we can see how we as a company are doing on our DEIJ in hiring and adjust our practices overall.

  8. Goody*

    Maybe I misread something, but I saw LW1 say “I’m proud to be your manager”, NOT “I’m proud of you” or “of us”. It’s a nuance that, to me, that comes across as self-centered, as if LW is taking credit for the team’s work. And I suspect that the younger employee who reacted and the colleague who was asked about it both had similar interpretations.

    I will also agree that “I’m proud of you” can come across as patronizing depending on the context and the tone.

    1. Allonge*

      Obviously this is a matter of personal opinion / experience, but I would argue that in a good team, with a good manager, ‘I am proud to be your manager’ can be a positive and warranted statement, and the manager on some level, gets to take credit for the work of the team. Not in the sense that they claim it was all their work, but simply by the fact that the manager speaks for the team and will share the credit.

      But then, there are plenty of times and teams where it would not be cool to say that. I suppose the difficulty is that it’s so very much context and culture-dependent, that a general discussion is all but useless. Plus, even in a good team with a good manager, there will be people and days where it does not come across well. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    2. Emmy Noether*

      Pride is kind of weird in that one can be proud of one’s own accomplishments, but one can also be proud of being something without having done anything (proud to be born in [city]), AND proud of other people’s accomplishments, even with only a tenuous connection (proud of one’s country’s olympic athletes).

      It’s really three meanings in one word, and they tend to kind of mix weirdly. If one is proud of one’s children, is one proud of having raised them well (meaning 1), or of being connected to them (meaning 3)?

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        And it can have so many different meanings depending on context because being proud to be from a country or city or belonging to a particular group could mean that the person looks down on everybody outside that group and thinks their group superior or it could be pushback against prejudice – a city that is noted for being poor/having a high crime rate and which many people don’t admit to being from might have somebody declare they are proud of being from it, as a way of saying “I didn’t succeed despite where I came from. My city is as good as any other and I want to be clear that the criticisms of people from it are rooted in prejudice and do not mean coming from it is something to be ashamed of.” Or it could be a fairly neutral comment relating to something like a sports win or even just meaning they are delighted to see their local area get some good publicity. “This makes me proud to be from X”.

        The last is very different from a wealthy person declaring they are proud to have grown up in a wealthy area.

        And yeah, I think the three (or more) meanings are why people have such different reactions to the phrase “proud of you” because some people hear an equivalent of “I’m proud to have raised you,” which in the workplace could be seen to imply “you’d never have done that so well if you hadn’t had me developing you” whereas others hear (and I suspect most people who say it tend to me) “I’m proud to be connected to somebody so accomplished.”

        And of course, sometimes it’s a mixture. When I say I am proud of my students, I generally mean a combination of being delighted at how well they did at something (as one would be if one’s county won the All-Ireland or something) but there is also a hint of being pleased with myself for having given them the opportunity to showcase their skills. And the former would be fine in the workplace but I can see how the latter could come across as a bit patronising.

    3. Snow Globe*

      I can see why someone could interpret a phrase like this negatively, but I generally prefer to ascribe good motivations to stuff like this. Unless there is clear evidence that the manager is actually self-centered, why not just accept that it was meant well, and maybe phrased oddly?

      1. Just Another Techie*

        well, since OP is asking for advice, I think it’s fair to let her know that the wording she used can come across oddly.

      2. myfanwy*

        This is my take too. Either there are serious reasons for the employee to be unhappy with the manager, so much so that a compliment feels like an insult, or this is just kind of…nitpicky. We can agonise forever over the perfect way to convey what we mean, but I think it’s OK and pretty usual to just extend some grace and take it in the spirit it was intended. Provided it’s genuinely well-meant, complimentary and not backhanded or actively gross (like, I don’t know, ‘you did well…for a girl’ or ‘I’m impressed someone of your background could pull this off’).

    4. KGD*

      Yeah, I think ‘proud’ as a word implies that the person speaking is smarter/older/more advanced and can also do the thing they’re praising. Like I would tell my kid I’m proud of their good manners, or my students I’m proud of their careful editing.

      It definitely has a parental feel to me, like, “You learned to ride your bike! I’m so proud of you!”

      In work contexts, I’d prefer a different word for praise – impressed, excited, blown away, etc. It’s not a huge deal, but I know it would land better with me.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Also just “thanks” is always good! You can show appreciation by thanking your team as easily as saying you’re proud of them. But really, we have no idea why the one coworker looked off. Perhaps they’re annoyed by any “heart” language at all. Perhaps the project went poorly from their perspective. Perhaps they find OP’s voice grating. We don’t have enough information here to know that use of the word proud was the problem.

    5. HR Exec Popping In*

      I actually think the “proud to be your manager” has the potential to be more negatively received than “I’m proud of you”. This is because of the potential ick of using proud plus the reminder of being the leader and that can be seen as “being above it all” vs. being part of the team.

    6. SheLooksFamiliar*

      ‘I’m proud to be your manager’ isn’t as patronizing or infantilizing to me as, ‘Good job! I’m so proud of you!’ Terms that a parent uses with their toddler who successfully used the potty might not go over well in the office. As always, this is context-dependent and very personal.

      As a team manager, I’d hate to think I’m alienating people by using words of pride or praise, no matter how sincere or ‘age appropriate’, and making them feel like I’m patting them on the head.

  9. DeskApple*

    #2, why not offer to pay for the program feature in the newsletter? Or is it one of those where it’s unbiased program reviews? my firm charges for newsletter features as part of our advertising product but maybe it’s a different dynamic?

    1. learnedthehardway*

      That was my first thought as well – contact Cat, offer to pay for advertising.

    2. t-vex*

      Came here to suggest this as well. Pay for a feature or buy an ad or something monetary. That way you’re not asking for a favor, you’re conducting a business transaction.

  10. Anna*

    LW2 – It’s rare that I disagree with Alison’s advice, but I was in a situation analogous to “Cat’s” and my feelings were the complete opposite of what Alison speculated Cat’s might be. My situation was a little different, but the basic outline was that I wasn’t hired for a job at Company, then I met someone at Company through volunteering for a different organization and was asked for volunteer on one of Company’s initiatives. Then, through volunteering, Company got to know me and I ended up getting hired there.

    I know my situation is a little different, but volunteering is something I do, so I wasn’t offended to be “working for Company for free”. I’d have done it if I hadn’t ever applied there. I was in fact thrilled to do it because it put me back on the radar of people I wanted to work with. I could imagine a situation where Cat is focused on putting out the best, most informative newsletter and they’d be happy to include info from LW2’s company. Plus, as a bonus, Cat would be establishing professional relationships with people at a company where they want to work in an industry where they’re already doing good work.

    1. pierre menard*

      I’d also consider asking Cat what they’d consider fair to write a sponsored piece in the newsletter! It’s not nearly as icky if you’re paying; just because full-time employment didn’t pan out the one time doesn’t mean other business relationships are permanently off. Do expect (and offer if asked) to pay something closer to consultant rates than salary here, because that’s closer to what this is.

      1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        I came here to suggest this! Why can’t OP2 LW2’s org sponsor an issue of the newsletter?

        1. Clisby*

          Cat might not allow that. If I were writing an industry focused newsletter (on my own, not as part of a job) I wouldn’t allow it. This is possibly because my first career was in journalism, but if you take money for what you publish, you lose credibility.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Depends on how it’s set up. Even the most credible newspapers sell ad space, it just needs to be very clear what is/isn’t sponsored content.

            1. Clisby*

              Sure. But the OP says Cat doesn’t charge for her write-ups about programs in the industry. If the newsletter openly sold ads, the OP could buy one – no problem. It just won’t have the credibility of the unpaid reporting.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I also thought there was a missing bit in Alison’s answer. Being hired by an organization is a different beast than including that organization in a newsletter in a completely relevant and appropriate way. Obviously if Cat decided to vindictively “feature” the organization in a poor light, or if she had fawned all over the org just before her interview, that would be a different story.
      But being #2 in a candidacy pool can also mean that you’re at the top of the list for other openings should you apply.
      Bottom line is that they’re part of an ecosystem and respectful networking is a part of having a career.

    3. Juicebox Hero*

      The thing is no one knows how Cat would feel about it, so it’s better to err on the side of caution. If Cat is willing to do the work and wants the networking potential, they can reach out to the company. But if Cat is offended by them asking, any chance they have of getting into the newsletter is shot.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Asking Cat to do it for free, that is. Pierre Menard’s idea of paying Cat to do it is a whole different situation.

        1. Allonge*

          But if the newsletter is offering advertising for free, then that is just how it works.

          I would certainly not expect Cat to ‘just’ do it, but if this is her job, I also would not assume that she is not professional enough to separate her private disappointment in not being hired by LW from doing what she does.

    4. ProductMgr Replaced by AI*

      Yeah, this is a rare one where I disagree too. As long as the org treated Cat well during the hiring process (i.e. didn’t ghost them when they hired someone else), there may well be openness to building a relationship. A note saying nice things about the newsletter and a request to be featured sometime or talk about other ways to collaborate seems pretty reasonable.

      I have a bunch of folks in my network from past interview processes that didn’t pan out. In some cases, I didn’t get offered the job. In other cases, I didn’t take the job. Either way, no hard feelings and maybe our paths will cross again further down the line.

    5. Greta*

      And it’s possible that Cat could put a feature in a future newsletter because they learned more about LW’s work without any poking from LW. This assumes they had a positive experience with the interview process.

  11. Fitzie's chew toy*

    #1 I find some of these comments really depressing. I recently retired after 57 years of work, the last 40 in public education. The final 11 years were spent mentoring beginning teachers. When I could say it sincerely, I told them I was proud of the work they did, sometimes under difficult circumstances. To think that some of them might have found that patronizing saddens me. Teacher rarely get compliments on their work. If any of my principals had said they were proud of my teaching, I think I would have felt invigorated for another day in the trenches.

    1. BornTooLate?*

      Maybe I am getting too old or woke up too grumpy, but damn, how much of our lives these days is spent looking for ways to be offended? Our entire world has dropped to its knees and we take the time to take offense if someone says they are proud of us.

      1. Claire*

        Eh, I don’t think people are looking for ways to be offended. I think there’s finally space for people to name things that have been offensive forever, and also people are asking for the bar to be raised on how we talk to and treat each other. If you find it hard to be more thoughtful, that’s on you.

        1. LilPinkSock*

          “Great job” and “I’m proud of the work you’ve done” have been offensive forever? Personally, I’d take more issue with a colleague telling me I don’t know how to be thoughtful after such innocuous feedback.

          1. Claire*

            I’m not talking about “I’m proud of you” specifically. I was speaking in generalities as the commenter was. I am weary of the “gosh, the kids are so offended these days” as a reaction to society finally trying to raise the bar on personal interactions. If someone says that the thing you said or did didn’t land the way you intended, it’s important to listen.

            1. Gemstones*

              There’s got to be a point at which you draw the line, though. I thought that “If you find it hard to be more thoughtful, that’s on you” was a bit harsh…does that mean you have to retract it and listen? Eh, I don’t think so.

              At some point, you’ll back yourself into a corner. Sure, you can find someone who’ll be upset by just about anything, but at some point, I think it’s easier to just use the “Would a reasonable person acting in good faith be offended by this” standard. I don’t think it’s all that reasonable to be offended by a boss being proud of their team.

              1. Claire*

                Apologies, I didn’t mean it to be harsh. What I’m trying to communicate is that what I’m seeing these days is a lot of people who just seemed miffed at having to be more thoughtful about what they say and do. And instead of working through that, they just turn it around: “People are too easily offended these days!” I think asking people to be more thoughtful is a good thing for our society, and if someone doesn’t want to put the effort in, well… that’s fine, but don’t blame the rest of us for it.
                Again, I wasn’t implying that “good job” or “I’m proud of you” is inherently offensive. I’m responding generally to the very general comment made that “people are looking for ways to be offended these days.” That phrase gets used more and more to justify bad (and often oppressive) behavior.

        2. Nancy*

          “I’m proud of you” has not been offensive forever. Sure, just like any phrase out there, if said sarcastically it can be offensive, but plenty of people use it sincerely and thoughtfully.

      2. Isben Takes Tea*

        There’s a difference between “looking for a way to be offended” and having an honest, natural dislike to certain phrases and intonations, simply because our personal contexts have trained us to associate certain negative meanings with those phrases and intonations.

        If the employee were making an issue because “somebody else might be offended”, that would be looking for a way to be offended.

        And the employee in question with the visible reaction didn’t bring it up! They’re not taking the time to make an issue of it; they just reacted silently in the moment, then (as far as we know) let it go.

      3. Justin D*

        It all depends on context, you’re imaging some “woke” person “getting offended” at the word “proud” but I think people of any generation takes words differently depending on context. Someone can say they’re “proud” in a patronizing way or in a really genuine way.

    2. hobbydragon*

      I agree! You can be proud of what someone who works for/with you has accomplished. I wonder if some of the negative feelings around it have to do with it being considered a good way to praise kiddos who have tried their darnedest but still not done a (objectively) good job.

    3. JSPA*

      I suspect the negative reaction has a lot to do with

      1. whether one’s own parents, coaches etc used that exact formulation All The Time (which seems to have increasingly become a thing over the years);

      2. how long it has been since one’s childhood

      3. whether or not one has ever experienced situations with coworkers who were incompetent or slackers, and thus knows that “everyone pulled their weight on this” isn’t a given, and does deserve praise

      4. possibly some imposter syndrome that makes praise land as fake? or awareness that some of the team was not pulling their weight? or that the project was phoned-in / half-assed, by their own yardstick?

      5. possibly inappropriate readiness to hear praise from a woman as more intrinsically “parental speak” than “leadership / team terminology”

      6. Possibly discomfort with any group praise, rather than individual acknowledgement that demonstrates (performs?) awareness of each individual’s contribution.

      I’m not surprised that the youngest member might be more affected by items number 1 thru 3 (and maybe 6).

      But “learning to take praise in the workplace” includes “learning to take heartfelt but somewhat perfunctory or rote praise.” Which is to say, the young teammember may have been legitimately taken aback… but that’s something for them to work on, more than something that their boss or lead has to address.

      (I’m assuming here that the letter writer is not channeling a sugary, sing-song tone from Barney or from their own toddler parenting or pet-praising repertoire. People tend to know when they’ve done that, and apologize on the spot.)

      1. ferrina*

        I’m with you. This feel like something that could land differently based on each individual. I don’t think it’s inherently bad to say “I’m proud of the work you did”, but it can also sound patronizing because it is overused by teachers and coaches speaking to children. It’s a callback to an authority figure speaking to someone without power or a lot of autonomy (and who is seen as immature or not yet a whole person). But at the same time, the phrase itself isn’t offensive at all, and is clearly intended to mean “I am impressed with what you have accomplished”. There are other trigger words that will set me off because it’s things that awful people in my past have used.

        For me, this particular phrase would land very differently depending on who was saying it, what context they were saying it in, etc.

    4. abca*

      But the LW in the question did not say “I am proud of the work you personally did”, but “I am proud to be your manager, team”. Do you really not see the difference?

      1. JSPA*

        That’s a point, but not a slam-dunk.

        After all, if “boss is self absorbed” were the problem, why complain about it being patronizing, rather than self-absorbed?

        Despite the literal meaning being phrased as self-praise for having…managed them so well? Or having hired them? Or assembled the team? Or inspired them? It’s not that hard to read the statement as intended to express, “it’s a pleasure and an honor to be the boss of such an excellent team.” (Unless the boss had a fairly serious habit of putting their own feelings front and center.)

        Close readings are useful in literature or sociological analysis, or for entertainment on the internet.

        In the workplace, if you are not willing to round an intended-to-be-positive statement up rather than down, you end up policing regional differences and personal linguistic quirks as if they were far more consequential than they actually (usually) are. And life gets just a little less pleasant for all concerned.

        1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          For me it’s not the phrase itself but the messenger. There are several (poor) former managers I can think of whose praise always rubbed us the wrong way because of who they were and how they managed. There are other (great) managers who could have said basically anything to me/us and we would have received it well, again because of who they were and how they led us.

          1. JSPA*

            Sure, poor managers exist. But we’re supposed to give the LW the benefit of the doubt, unless they themselves basically erase any doubt, in how they phrase their letters.

            Additionally, the fact that they noticed that one team member seemed put out, and worried enough about it to follow up, and write in, suggests that they’re (at minimum) trying to manage well.

            Ditto that fact that only one person looked discomfited.

            Ditto that the other team member trusts the LW enough, as a manager, to provide real feedback, rather than taking the safe route of shrugging their shoulders.

            I mean…most things land wrong when said by people who make your life hell! But it doesn’t make sense to extrapolate from that, to this.

        2. Jackalope*

          I think the second to last sentence is key. It’s all well and good to have exacting ideas that play out in an online discussion, but in real life no one is careful and precise with their language at all times. Someone giving a generally positive and spontaneous message of praise and encouragement shouldn’t need to parse through every single word to make sure it will meet the exact meaning and nuance of every single listener present.

          (I will also add that I personally would get warm fuzzy feelings if one of my bosses said they were proud to be the leader of my team, so I honestly cannot fathom why this is offensive. I’ve read through the comments and I can see that some people would feel that way and I can accept that for them, but I still don’t get it.)

        3. Just Another Techie*

          Sure, and if the person who was offended wrote in, we’d all tell her that you have to learn to roll with clumsy or awkward phrasing, and to take things in the spirit that they were intended rather than doing a close reading. but the offended party didn’t write in, the boss did. So it’s reasonable to point out that the way she phrases it was kinda awkward and easy to misinterpret

      2. Happy meal with extra happy*

        I see the difference but it doesn’t matter to me? If my manager said that to me, I would feel happy that they thought we did a good job.

    5. metadata minion*

      Pride from a mentor can come off very different than pride from a manager. A mentor is supposed teaching me and contributing significantly to my growth as a professional, so it makes more sense that they’re proud of my accomplishments, which they had a part in supporting. From some managers, I would feel exactly the same way. From others, it would be incredibly annoying because, as Alison notes in her answer, I’m getting things done in spite of them, not because of their support.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, this is important. @Fitzie’s chew toy, you were their teacher or mentor, which is one of the relationships (in addition to familial and close friend) where I think “proud” is acceptable and warranted. I highly doubt people in teaching object to that language from anyone they respect.

        In contrast, imagine you have a manager who rarely meets with you and doesn’t offer any direction on a project, but says how proud they are of you when you start getting external praise because of it. Since the relationship is so distant and transactional, it can almost feel as if the manager is claiming a teacher or mentoring relationship where one doesn’t exist, and therefore some credit for your success.

    6. Yellow sports car*

      I don’t see it as a compliment. I can see how this would feel patronising – it does come across as pat you on the head for your good work little kid.

      It’s not complimenting or acknowledging achievements to me – seems very self-focused. I wouldn’t say anything to them or complain. But lacking a poker face and being stuck in an online meeting you could probably tell I wouldn’t like those sorts of comments.

    7. Reba*

      Last year my boss told our team that she had never felt more proud of our unit in her 10 years in leadership than during our 2023 production. This meant a lot to me to hear! I agree some well placed praise can be good food for the journey that keeps you going through tough stuff.

      Back to the LE, it may be worth digging into this one employee’s reaction, and it may be worth modifying your language a bit with them, but I feel the employee is rather an outlier. Human beings are going to take things in different ways, not necessarily how we intend, and I don’t think there is a way to communicate that fully everyone will appreciate. (I often remind myself that I know what I say, but I don’t know what other people hear.)

    8. Teacher372*

      I am also a teacher, not retired-age 40, but never use the word “proud.” I always make more specific comments in affirmation. Because, for me, that word is reserved for parents and I don’t want my students thinking I’m taking credit for their work. (Which is what pride implies to me). But I’m also a word-nerd, and the language I choose to use if very important and specific to always keep my meaning as clear as possible.

      1. Crater*

        I also teach. I’d never say “I’m proud of you” to university students because I don’t want to centre my feelings or set them up to be driven by how I feel. Instead I’m more likely to say, “this is great work — I hope you feel proud of it.”

    9. A. Nonymous*

      I am a 32 year old assistant, and I agree with you. It’s too context dependent to say whether or not it’s always patronizing, and I am sure that if you were a warm colleague that the other teachers would take that comment in the spirit it was intended <3

    10. Sloanicota*

      I think it might also come across a little better from a one-on-one mentor who is in a more experienced position (so using somewhat “parental” phrases are probably a bit less jarring) than potentially from the boss of a team. And teaching is a more touchy-feelie field than, say, accounting, so it was probably less remarked upon by your mentees. I would feel a little weirded out if my boss, who I’m not that close with, said she was “proud of me” in our buttoned up white collar field (and in the example from OP they didn’t even call out an individual, they said they were proud of the team, which is better). That doesn’t mean everyone in every situation would have the same reaction.

    11. Isben Takes Tea*

      I think this comment section is a good example of “Your experience is valid, but not universal.” This seems to be one of those things where there is no One Right Answer, because it is extremely dependent on the context/experience of the listener. Some people really get a boost out of people being proud of them, other people really don’t. There’s nothing wrong with either of those reactions.

      If the message for the OP is “You didn’t do anything wrong, but it may be less fraught in your group to use different wording in the future,” is true of many, many circumstances/phrases we commonly use; it’s just part of communicating with humans.

    12. katydid*

      I’ve been a teacher for about two decades, and I really hate telling my students I’m proud of them. Maybe if they were younger, or if I had more of a sense that I played any role in their excellence. As it is, to tell them I’m proud of them feels presumptuous, like I had some hand in their success. I tell them I’m impressed, that I admire them, etc. It’s a semantic thing and I know most people are not taking it so literally, but it just feels icky to me.

    13. Bitte Meddler*

      It was mentioned in one of the first comments on this letter, but “I’m proud of the work you did, especially within the difficult circumstances you had to operate in,” reads differently than, “I’m proud of you,” or (to bring it closer to what LW1 wrote, “I’m proud to be your mentor.”

      The first is about the work, the second is about the person, the third is about the manager/mentor.

      Keeping it about the work is where the focus should be, IMO.

    14. Hermione Danger*

      When you tell someone you’re proud of them, you’re putting yourself at the center of the conversation. There are other ways to say that you appreciate or admire their efforts and results. The shift is really to keep the focus on the person who deserves the accolades.

      I’m nearing the end of my career as well, but this is a change I made decades ago when I realized that someone else’s success shouldn’t be about me and my feelings.

  12. Eirishis*

    re #5 – two other reasons that companies may ask for this data at the point of application, even if they cannot require it and have to store it separately as Alison notes:
    – internal goal measurements around candidate diversity
    – disparate impact analysis to see if hiring processes have a disparate impact on a protected class

    1. Some Words*

      The same questions are asked on loan applications in the U.S. It’s common for some people to question the reasoning. It’s so lenders can be tracked to make sure they’re *not* engaging in discriminatory practices. It seems counter-intuitive until one hears the reasoning.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Not collecting this data kind of puts the organization in the place of those people who say “I don’t see race”. Because if you don’t see race, that means you can’t recognize racism when it’s happening.

  13. Caz*

    LW5 – From my experience of hiring (in the UK, other countries may vary) that demographic income was physically removed before I ever saw an application form. I didn’t see names of candidates until I had identified who I wanted to invite to interview, and frequently didn’t know their race until I met them in the interview. As an invisibly disabled LGBT+ person there are things I used to decline to disclose before I sat on the other side of this table and saw how secured it was!

    1. Madame Arcati*

      Yeah same, as above – and anything to do with disability was taken out for sift and only put back in if they got an interview and needed an accommodation like extra time for a written exercise or a courtesy such as leading them straight to the lift.

      It’s another protection provided by government competency based systems – I know not everyone likes them but in our system either at paper sift or interview there is simply no opportunity to record opinions on anything other than how they demonstrated that competency. You score that and that’s all that counts; unless the candidate is egregiously rude, or even racist/sexist/otherwise bigoted themselves*, there’s no way for other stuff to count.
      *it’s never happened to me but if I interviewed a candidate who came out with something like that but who scored well, I’d be on the phone to the recruitment team saying, ok I’m returning the scores to you but we can’t employ this glass bowl how do we record that what is the process/policy oh my crikey.

      1. Madame Arcati*

        (I’m not of course saying things are perfect and we’ve solved sexism yay go us, simply that there are active, strict processes to avoid nepotism and bigotry and not abiding by them gets you in very hot water)

      2. Just Another Techie*

        I’m not in the UK but I worked for a company had a very similar internal policy. no feedback except what was on the rubric, scores as objectively as possible. But we did have a rubric category for “teamsmanship” specifically for things like “the candidate very aggressively entered my personal space and started wagging his finger at me and shouting that I didn’t know what I was talking about” or “the candidate kept his hand on his genitals for three quarters of the interview”

        Also as the only woman on the technical staff I was on every. single. interview loop specifically to flush out any candidates who only behaved badly around women. It sucked.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        It’s harder than it seems! Humans (and AI trained from our biases) are really good at picking up on things to discriminate against. Removing the name is a good start, but what about HBCUs and women’s colleges? What if they were captain of their university’s wheelchair basketball team or women’s rugby team?

        Then there’s the subtle stuff, like the fact that an applicant was able to get such a prestigious internship probably means they have connections in the (historically white-and-wealthy) field and were financially supported by family during the internship.

        Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push to review applications with the applicant’s name removed. Always take the easy steps to make the world a better and more equitable place.

  14. avva*

    LW 3: The largest grocery store in my town has a homemade political sign displayed prominently in their window. Its a picture of the mayor, with clown makeup painted on top of the picture, along with a massive font demand that he resign

    (our town has less than 3000 people. The mayor also shops at this grocery store. it feels very personal)

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Small town politics are just bonkers. You can spit all the vicious rhetoric you like, but it’s about the guy who walks his dog past your yard twice a day and whose mother plays poker with yours every Thursday. Then after the bitterly fought election you’re still going to run into him at the grocery store, at the PTA, at the charity bake sale…

  15. Ladida*

    Lw1 is there a chance this employee is unhappy with some other aspect of his job? ie feels he is not getting paid enough or he is doing more work than others or he not allowed to work from home or sth? Because, it would make sense for him to react badly when you tell him you are proud of him and at the same time you make decisions that make him feel like his effort is not appreciated or rewarded.

  16. matt r*

    LW3 – yes, you should’ve hired them.

    i’d also note – if i’m Kat, and an organization spurns me, only to later reach out and ask for my assistance, i might use my “extremely polpular newsletter” to highlight the…oh, let’s be charitable and call it ‘misunderstanding.’

    1. JSPA*

      1. We don’t know what the job was for, though. If it’s a specialized enough task (whether that’s database coding, architectural design or trapping and tagging endangered wildlife) the newsletter may indeed have been fairly irrelevant to the hiring choice.

      2. it’s strangely confrontational to think of not being hired as a “spurning.” Spurning implies not only rejection, but rejection with disparagement or contempt. Which clearly wasn’t in play, here. Or it proceeds from a misperception that one is owed the role, if one would be able to do it decently. Which is not how hiring works. And not how life works.

      Alison reminds us all the time that organizations can only hire one person for one job. A company can interview ten excellent candidates, all of whom they admire, and any of whom they’d be glad to hire, and it’s still appropriate for them to hire the one best-qualified person, and not (for this particular job) hire the other nine.

      The people you didn’t hire were not “spurned.” They were just…not hired. Which is not just a normal outcome but in fact the most common outcome of a hiring process where they interview three or more qualified people.

      I mean, we do sometimes (very rarely) hear from applicants who were spurned. They literally had someone bark a laugh in their face. Or roll their eyes and insult them in the interview. Or interview them for 2 minutes then show them out a locking door to an alley and slam it in their face. Or say “I have no idea why you were given an interview, but let’s not waste your time and mine on this farce.” That’s a spurning.

      But if someone is having an outsize emotional reaction to not having been hired, after respectful consideration? Then that’s about them, not about the company. And it’s not a reaction that serves people well, either in their careers or in the rest of their life.

    2. Snow Globe*

      If the other candidate was a better fit for the job, they made the right decision.

      The LW shouldn’t approach Kat and ask for assistance, but if Kat used that as an excuse to tarnish the LW’s company’s reputation, that would be far worse.

    3. Lenora Rose*

      I know not being hired can feel very personal, but not hiring one of the many really good candidates because there was someone who seemed just a bit better is not “spurning”.

      If someone running a newsletter highlighting charities did a “They didn’t hire me but they still liked my work enough to reach out, how dare they”, I don’t think the reputational hit would be to the company.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        (I’m with the team of people saying “Wait a few months, and offer compensation rather than assuming it’s free work”, as it happens)

    4. Friendo*

      You have no way of knowing if the newsletter work is related to the job they were applying for or if it is more important than whatever the other candidate offered.

    5. matt r*

      per the letter, “part of the newsletter highlights community programs, similar to the ones i work with and was hiring for.” i’m comfortable in assuming that the newsletter at least peripherally relates to the work for which Cat was being considered.

      re-reading the original letter, i take back my “you should’ve hired them” comment. as alison rightly points out, Cat may have good and useful opinions etc in their newsletter, but that doesn’t make them qualified for the position for which they were being considered.

      the notion of whether or not Cat was “spurned” was not really the point of my comment; feel free to insert “did not hire” or some other more-neutral description in its place (although i’d note that alison used the word “rejected,” fwiw). it doesn’t change my point all that much, in any case.

      i still stand by my opinion that reaching out to Cat would be inappropriate, however, just as it would admittedly be inappropriate for Cat to call out the company if they did so.

  17. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

    LW2 – I think I maybe would reach out to Cat. But only if I could find wording which felt right to me. I’d want to acknowledge that it felt a bit weird to be asking, and that if she didn’t feel like featuring the program I’d understand. I wouldn’t assume that she wouldn’t want to, though – she might be pleased to build a bit of a connection with the org.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I’d probably wait. Six months or a year later can be like a fresh start (although I’d still try to be sensitive about it and would understand if she wasn’t enthusiastic). I wouldn’t reach out shortly after rejecting them to ask for essentially a favor.

      1. Yellow sports car*

        One she might feel obligated to do or be seen as retaliating or petty and harm future employment opportunities

  18. Bookworm*

    OP2: I think it might depend: Cat might be open to it, may not have any hard feelings and is willing to do it if it opens networking opportunities (even if not with your organization but in general, etc.) but as someone who has been there: Alison’s answer has been on point. I’ve occasionally been asked for volunteer work, contract help, etc. from places that have previously rejected me and while it has often to at least a “thanks, we appreciate it and please use us as a reference, let us know if we can help, etc.” I’ve had this experience where that was it. They got what they needed and I felt used (even if I was paid).

    You can always ask and Cat can always say no, etc. but yes, it may certainly be a little awkward, too.

  19. ThunderingTyphoon*

    LW2: An alternative option is to meet with Cat and just ask the question, “You’re in a position to help us with X. What can we offer you in exchange?” Let Cat name their price. If LW’s organisation can meet it, great. If not, then that is okay and no hard feelings.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Please no. Then its like buying a positive review. Which if Cat is at all ethical, she would have to disclose.

      Obviously LW2 feels like they hired the right person. Not that Cat did anything wrong, but that the other person was the better candidate. It happens. But do people really consider that — no. They just see being rejected. Because — human. So Alison is right, its just not something the organization should try to do right now. If Cat decides to include them of her own free will, a nice thank you should be sent. But don’t reach out to her.

  20. FashionablyEvil*

    #5–for our hiring system, that info is completely segregated and never provided to the hiring manager. Our company uses the data to assess how we are doing with our DEI efforts—are we getting a diverse candidate pool? Are we getting a diverse applicant pool, but disproportionately eliminating those candidates at the screening or hiring stage? It’s close hold info, shared only in aggregate and always rolled up at a high level so you can’t guess who might be included in X statistic because you know, say, that payroll hired two people last quarter, but facilities hired 6.

    While I never see that data, our HR person said that something like 90+% of candidates do, in fact, provide it.

    1. Dog Child*

      How we do it too. Our application form flows into the DEI form but they go to entirely different places and the DEI data is fully anonymised.

      We then just pull overall stats for each stage of our recruitment process – applicant to interview 1 to interview 2 to offers to onboarding. We use this for internal development but we’re also required to report it quarterly.

    2. Dave*

      IME with small companies this isn’t fully separated just because of the overall lap of roles and generally the bare minimum of rule following. (Imagine having to tell people just writing no on applications instead of literally writing to old…)

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Small companies can do this, though. Just have the candidates put their data in a sealed envelope, and don’t open those envelopes until after the position has been filled. And make sure that they don’t put their names on the forms.

        Pretty simple, really. This should be a separate form and not part of the job application.

  21. Hiring Mgr*

    I’m having a tough time figuring out what Miranda did wrong – LW needs to forget about this

    1. Gray Lady*

      I think it’s a tiny bit shady that she’s representing work she did for LW’s org as an employee, as work her firm did, when her firm did not even exist at that point. If she were simply representing herself rather than a firm, I wouldn’t see an issue.

      But it’s more of a case of less than perfect integrity, than any kind of actionable fraud.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Less than perfect integrity is exactly right. OP needs to let it go, because if Miranda behaves like this, there’s a chance she crossed the line someday and will get caught by someone. So in the meantime just chalk it up to some people will do anything to promote themselves then have popcorn on standby when things do go wahoonie shaped.

        1. HonorBox*

          Exactly this. LW has nothing really actionable that would be positive. What Miranda is doing is deceptive and lacks integrity. She may have had a hand in the redesign, but that project occurred before her company existed, and she’s misrepresenting the truth. Not outright lying, but certainly not being totally honest. This will come back to bite her at some point, but LW is going to potentially look bad if they make it a point to draw attention to it.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I’m not a designer, but it seems vague enough that ten years later does it really matter if Miranda did the work as part of one company or another? Plus it sounds like there was a two year gap in between this and when LW started, so how would they know everything Miranda did or didn’t do?

        Either way though, this seems like an unproductive distraction for LW and she should move on imo.

        1. Rosie Cotton*

          LW 4 here – Regarding knowing what happened in the 2-year gap: Jessie, who was hired into Miranda’s former role at my org after Miranda left, is still at our org in a different position, and was my immediate predecessor before I stepped into Jessie’s role. I’ve worked closely with Jessie and she has also confirmed that neither Miranda nor MiranCo altered or refined our org’s logo after Miranda left. We are a small-staff cultural nonprofit that was still rather analog when I was onboarded, and both Jessie and I were one-person marketing departments, so we would have known if there was logo work done in our tenures and if Miranda were involved or not.

          That said, as a conflict-averse person who doesn’t want to make unnecessary waves, I appreciate hearing your thoughts and I definitely plan on letting this go!

  22. LW #3*

    LW3 here, I am happy to discuss the issue I wrote in about, but the advice to “just get another job” isn’t very helpful in many people’s situations, including my own. I work in a very niche industry and while I have considered changing there just aren’t many jobs available and in the past most in my particular area have the same problem. They’re just not obvious about it. In fact this is the least toxic work environment I have been in while working in my industry and my previous position actually allowed bullying when some coworkers found out I did not share their political opinions.

    1. Shoes*

      Just commenting to say I understand your position as I am in the same situation type myself. Getting another job has not been as easy as I would like hence, I am still here.

    2. Czhorat*

      “Get another job” is one of those things that’s easy to say, hard to do.

      It’s also not really what you were asking about; the question was about the effect on hiring, and Allison’s advice – that the owners are digging a hole and you shouldn’t take the shovel away from them – strikes me as reasonable.

    3. Mim*

      Ugh, sympathies. This is one of the reasons I have not written in to AAM or asked for advice on the weekly advice thread. While I appreciate the “you can do better; get out!” sentiment that many commenters jump to when someone is in a bad situation, some of us don’t really have plentiful options, and in fact may be asking for advice because the most obvious answer (“get out”) isn’t a realistic option.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      You options are sort of limited to live with it or leave the job.

      I guess you could ask the company to remove the signs and hope others who support trans/women/gay rights interview for the jobs and are hired and your numbers grow at the company, but you’re putting those people in the same boat as you. You say “if I had seen these when I interviewed, I would have turned around and left. The office is also dominated by people who share the signs’ politics, which is probably not a coincidence.” Shouldn’t the other new applicants be aware of what they are getting into? And I don’t know if you’re an ally or a member of one of these minority groups, but I think it’s better for a trans or gay person or a woman be able to know in advance and opt out of interviewing than to be caught unawares after being hired.

    5. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I understand. I chose to remain in an industry populated with white cis conservative men who can be exceptionally offensive and in power because, despite all the flaws inherant within, the pay is good, I paid off my house, the actual people I work with are marvellous day to day and I genuinely love the work I do.

      So, I adopted a Star Trek thing of putting the deflector shields on for minor space particles. It takes some doing but it’s almost like some of the most obnoious people here say something about e.g. politics in the UK and the words…just don’t enter the processing part of my brain. Or the really xxenophobix graffiti outside a depot. It’s there, I’m on the surface aware of it, but it’s just not being processed.

      It’s just what worked for me and after 20+ years total in this industry it’s worked pretty well.

    6. Jennifer Strange*

      I’m really sorry you’re in this situation. I grew up in an area that sounds similar to yours, and sometimes the only way you’d be able to escape it is moving. Luckily for me I both wanted and was able to move to a different, but I completely understand that’s not the case for everyone.

    7. Just Thinkin' Here*

      This is particularly the case in certain rural areas. Jobs can be scarce and employers limited. Not every job is in NYC or San Fran where you can walk out the door and apply to 10 employers in the next city block. Niche employment areas can have some wiggle room if you are willing to look to adjacent industries, but if you are doing something specific that you love, can have limited options. Have you secretly found any allies? I find this helps – misery loves company. Just keep it on the downlow.

    8. DontTalktoME*

      While it’s true that it could be turning off some people from targeted groups, you also could be turning off people who just don’t want to be exposed to political talk at their work even if they share similar views. Assuming your workplace doesn’t have a culture of talking about political topics (and I use that loosely here) I think you can ask to remove the sign on that angle? I think the news and social media/internet boards make it seem like everyone is super politically passionate and idealistic but I think the majority of people just don’t want/have the energy to talk about politics and can put aside differences to be content in their jobs.

      1. Moths*

        This. I feel for you, OP3. I work in an industry that’s dominated by conservative cis hetero white men and that is the core of the leadership at my company. But 99.999% of the time I’ve been here, I’ve never heard political discussions around anything and, being a relatively large business, they still recognize the need for various diversity measures and support for causes that are in contradiction to candidates they support. It’s common to assume that just because someone aligns with a certain political party or supports a specific candidate that they also strongly support everything that candidate talks about, but I think a lot of people are more nuanced than that and can still run a supportive workplace while supporting candidates that wouldn’t have that nuance. The fact that they’re putting the signs outside may suggest they’re fairly strong supporters of the candidates, but if in your experience, their support of those candidates hasn’t impacted the environment in the workplace, including for those who fall under the categories that the candidates advocate against, then I get why you’d rather the signs come down so that you can try to have better chances at hiring. I like the suggestion DontTalktoME makes about reframing your request. I know others may feel differently and have had different experiences, but that’s where I tend to fall.

    9. Cubicles and Chimeras*

      Hey LW3,

      Trans, queer, biologically female here to give you some of my insights.

      1) As someone who grew up with limited job opportunities and in a conservative area, I empathize with the fact that you just can’t up and leave. Sometimes you have to prioritize food on table/rent over things like “terrible owner”. So please continue to look for a better place but know most of us understand where you’re coming from when you stay. (So many of the queer community understand this all too well.)

      2) Being trans is inherently not safe today. Being queer isn’t much better. We are being murdered in the US and around the world every day. HRC has some great statistics about trans people and jobs, and the fact we’re more often unemployed, we have little protection in being fired, and that doesn’t even include harassment at work. If we have the option to self select out of a place where we might not be safe, where we might meet someone who decides it’s better to kill us than let us be trans, we’re going to do that. (That doesn’t even cover mental health impact of that place and the high suicide rates of trans people.)

      3) A place that is actively supporting anti trans, anti queer, anti women laws means we will likely not have insurance that covers what we need. If we want surgery or hormones or trans positive doctors or abortions or birth control or Prep, or, or, or. Our partners may not be covered in our insurance. This sounds a bit silly to care so much about insurance, but it’s hugely important to us who depend upon that medical coverage.

      So: please stop fighting for those signs to stay up. Please do not allow a trans or queer candidate (or their siblings, parents, children, partners, etc) to end up working for a place without actively knowing what they’re opting into. Their mental health, physical health, and potentially life depends on those signs alerting them to the sort of place they will end up.

      I’m sorry this means you may end up working with more people who are supporting legislation that actively kills women, queer, and trans people, but it’s better than leading us blindfolded into a place that wants us dead.

    10. EA*

      You are assuming that the signs are the main driver of hiring issues, but could there be other factors turning candidates away? Work life balance or hours? Could some of the work be done remotely and open up to additional candidates? Can the company post jobs on additional channels? I understand that you disagree with the signs, but if the core issue is hiring, I think there’s a lot that can be done to improve recruiting without touching the signs (which the owners are unwilling to do). The goal of hiring is to match candidates to environments where both they and the business benefit and thrive, so I agree that trying to obscure dominant political views probably isn’t the best strategy.

    11. Pita Chips*

      Quick word of support. It is a long and stressful process to find a new job even when you’re positioned well to do so. Many people will casually toss that option out with no idea of what a jungle it is out there, how niche an industry is.

    12. Anon for This Comment*

      I totally grok the position you’re in, LW3. I worked a job for many years, the first two were in a small office shared with another person. That other person was about as far right of center as I am to the left of center. The big difference was that as a middle aged, middle class, cis, het, white, male veteran, I had the ability to talk back to some of his BS and he would actually hear it. I decided to use my privilege for the powers of awesome.

    13. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

      I understand, definitely. In general, I’d like to know what kind of political climate a business is so if I’m a consumer, I can choose not to shop there and if I’m a job seeker, I can choose not to apply there. In an ideal world, that would be easy enough to do. But I’ve lived in enough rural and/or politically conservative areas that I know it’s not always feasible.

      I’m currently in one of those areas and there are zero jobs in my niche field without moving or having an exhaustingly long commute. Moving, commuting, or changing fields aren’t financially viable for us right now. The company I work for is highly problematic but the available jobs here are for places just as bad or worse.

  23. bamcheeks*

    I understand the point of gathering DEI information and how it’s supposed to be used, but I’m pretty damn cynical about how effective it actually is. In my twenty-odd years in the British public sector, it’s been collected automatically and half-heartedly analysed, and people go, “oh wow, guess some bias must be creeping into our hiring and promotions model, we should address that” and then everyone keeps doing the same thing. I look at the number of brilliant, talented students of colour we have, and then I look at the proportion of white staff we have in entry-level professional roles, and then I look at the proportion of white staff in mid-level and senior roles, and I do not feel inspired or positive about the effect that thirty-odd years of monitoring has had. Same for disability. Gender balance is pretty good in lower level roles, but women get increasingly rare as you go further up the hierarchy.

    So whilst I don’t think it’s actively used to discriminate, I also do not think it’s creating any positive change. I fill them in myself but I wouldn’t waste my energy trying to persuade someone who doesn’t believe in filling them in that they ought to.

  24. DawnShadow*

    LW1, what if you substituted “I am grateful” “I am thankful” or “I appreciate” for “I am proud” ?

    – also an inveterate praiser, it took a lot of thought and listening to get me to understand that praise is not always welcome.

    1. Sloanicota*

      It’s funny because I am prickly about receiving praise, but I kind of assume it’s a me problem, and while it’s nice to wordsmith I wouldn’t want someone to go crazy over it. We really don’t even know the source of the coworker’s issue! It may have nothing to do with the wording TBH.

        1. House On The Rock*

          Yes, as I mentioned below, I’ve been asked about a weird expression when my cat was hacking up a hairball. Expressions happen – calling that out might be weird for the employee!

        2. Pretty as a Princess*

          The number of times this has happened to me on zoom calls. The dog just lets rip mustard gas and suddenly I’m making a horrible face – and then apologizing for it. “Kate your idea is really great – sorry for the face I pulled. My dog just let loose a silent but deadly.”

        3. CommanderBanana*

          YES, a lot of my weird expressions on Zoom meetings is because my dog has just farted/belched/stomped on a sensitive body part while adjusting herself in my lap/starting loudly licking her paws/my arm/my hand/started sleep-thrashing or running. When I WFH she snoozes in my lap and is 90% totally fine, but she’s an unrepentant sleep-tooter.

    2. Pita Chips*

      I think those are all good replacements.

      From where I sit, the thing with someone saying, “I’m proud of you,” is the proud person is taking a certain amount of ownership for the accomplishment when they might not have had anything to do with it beyond assigning it.

  25. NothappyinNY*

    LW5 — our company uses information this to assess company goals. One surprising thing to me is that referrals by existing employees helps more with meeting DEI goals than other hiring channels, even recruiting at HBCU schools.

  26. Jack In The Box*

    I’ve recently seen that you should say “you should be proud of yourself” because it encourages people to seek intrinsic satisfaction for their work rather than seeking external approval.

    1. KGD*

      I like that so much better! I’ve said something like, “I hope you feel really proud of this – it’s such great work and I appreciate it so much”

      1. Socks*

        Ha and meanwhile, I’d be more likely to be bothered by “You should be proud”/”I hope you’re proud” (or even Alison’s “Proud of us”) than I would be by “Proud to be your manager”/”Proud of you.”

        Which isn’t to say you should change anything! If someone said any of those to me IRL, I would probably barely blink at the phrasing unless I was already annoyed with the situation. I’m just not sure all the wordsmithing in the comments is really going to be helpful to the LW when opinions vary so widely and they aren’t even sure it was their phrasing that their employee had an issue with.

    2. Susan Calvin*

      See, on the wrong day or coming from the wrong person, THAT would trigger my inner teenager’s “don’t tell me how to feel” contrarianism – goes to show that giving praise is the pinnacle of “know your audience”!

  27. AnonAcademic*

    LW5 in my last job (Canadian higher ed) candidates who self identified were shared with the search committee and before you could interview anyone you had to justify in writing to a joint employer employee committee why you weren’t interviewing any of the candidates who self identified. That committee could reject your rationale and force you to interview candidates that they felt were deserving. This process made hiring a longer process but IMO led to more diverse candidate pools and IME better searches.

  28. Badger*

    LW #1:

    Agree with Allison and it also my help to be specific. “I’m so proud of how quickly and efficiently our team responded when we received that unexpected teapot project.”

  29. Nightengale*

    My huge health system has a place to self-identify disability in the HR site for these purposes.

    I’m a member of the employee disability group and at our last meeting they announced an initiative to get people to go in and complete that self-ID step (whether or not they have a disability.) They showed these shiny posters they are going to use to launch this campaign. The best I could tell looking at the poster on a screenshare, it showed where to go in the site to do the self-ID but did not mention who did or didn’t see the information or how it would be used.

    I spoke up asking if the promotional material for the campaign would include explicit wording to the effect that the information was being collected for demographic purposes and would not be shared with managers or anyone else about individual employees.

    Others spoke up echoing this concern. To their credit the organizers agreed to take this concern back to the people who put together the very very shiny poster. I am more than a bit alarmed it had not occurred to them that this information needs to be front and center if they expect people to disclose disability identity at work. (obviously disclosing for accommodation reasons is a whole different thing)

  30. AuDHD Spaghetti Monster*

    #5 — Does anyone know if Canada has similar legislation around asking for voluntary disclosure that is mentioned in #5?

    I always answer as a disabled woman: if nothing else, if it is common for women / disabled people / disabled women (or others who may be discriminated against) to be rejected, I want that data to exist so that they can’t hide from the truth as easily EVEN IF they might not change.

    1. Lenora Rose*

      Not sure about the legislation, but I know I’ve been asked to disclose on applications for at least the last decade, and probably longer, and the data is for demographic purposes.

      (I’m currently in a workplace with an exceedingly good DEI reputation overall, though I think we’re a bit weak on disability, and I know we ask. The data isn’t as siloed as it should be, the hiring staff could fin it if they wanted, but it definitely isn’t taken into consideration for hiring.)

  31. Czhorat*

    I love Allison’s answer to #3. I’ll add that even in jobs that can be done remotely an in-person visit can teach SO MUCH about culture.

    In one place where I interviewed there were mezuzahs on many of the office door-frames (not a Jewish organization or one in a Jewish dominated industry). That says something. A political sign says something. A BLM banner says something.

    I suspect OP is more upset about the message than the result; if there were a BLM sign or a progress pride flag they might not be upset about it driving away potential hires because those wouldn’t be people they want to work with anyway.

    The answer isn’t for ownership to *pretend* to be better to bait and switch peopl einto a hostile environment; it’s to actually BECOME better. That’s a harder change.

  32. Dove*

    LW1: For what it’s worth, I’d find it a bit grating if my manager said “I’m proud of my team” because of the “my”. To me, that does come across as patronizing because it emphasizes the idea that the team belongs to the manager — that it’s not a “we” or “us”. Honestly, how that lands really depends on the individual and organizational culture.

    1. honeygrim*

      Yeah. This question reminds me of one asking whether it was demeaning to refer to the group she supervised as “my team.” (From 2015, the title is ‘is it demeaning to refer to ‘”my team”‘). The comments included discussion of the various meanings of the word “my,” and that, while sometimes it does imply ownership, that isn’t the only meaning.

      In this case, I think it’s similar. Pride seems to rely on some sort of relationship between the one feeling the emotion and the object of the emotion. Sometimes its ownership (“I’m proud of my work on that project”). Sometimes its some level of authority or influence (“I’m proud of my child”). But sometimes its just the basic connection (“I’m proud of my alma mater,” “I’m proud to be a [insert demographic group],” “I’m proud of our Olympic athletes (as someone else mentioned.”

      1. honeygrim*

        (Of course I hit submit before I finished my thought!) I think, like in that post about the use of “my,” the issue comes when the person or group who is the object of the term infers a different meaning than, perhaps, the one the person who said the term intended.

    2. House On The Rock*

      She said she was proud to be their manager and they did an exceptional job, there was no ownership implied. Later in the letter she reiterates that she is proud of her team, but that’s not the thing to which her employee was reacting. I agree that depending on context, the “my” might grate, but I don’t think this is that.

    3. Peanut Hamper*

      Yep, I think the “my” could upset people in a certain context or if it’s said with a certain tone.

      But honestly, some people are just going to be upset no matter how/what you say. You can’t make all people happy all the time.

  33. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (team member seemed to react negatively to you being proud of the team’s achievement) – I would ask her about it in your next one-to-one or similar opportunity. I think this is a case (like so many) where it’s better and more productive to ask someone about the thing, rather than asking other people to speculate about what the person was thinking.

    1. Frankie*

      OP don’t do this. You are not the expression police and your employee shouldn’t have to mask their expression at every single moment to avoid interrogation. You never know they might have just had a stomach cramp or back pain at that moment. Mind your own business.

  34. House On The Rock*

    LW 1, I’m sorry that one of your team had a negative reaction to what was clearly a sincere expression of gratitude for their work. My impulse would be not to let this bother you unduly, especially if you haven’t noticed other negativity from this person. It’s also true that people’s faces do all kinds of weird things on Zoom. Maybe their cat was hacking up a hairball in the next room (I speak from personal experience here).

    The fact that you took the time to write into AAM on this speaks volumes – your intentions are good. But if this is still bothering you or you sense a pattern with the employee, why not just ask? Next time you have a one on one reiterate how happy you were with the outcome of the project and that person’s contributions, then ask if they had a different experience. I would steer away from actually calling out their expression/reaction on the call though – that could come across as unnecessary policing and make them self-conscious.

  35. Just a Question*

    Long time manager here. There have been many times my various teams have gone over and above and accomplished projects with little or no input from me

    And yes I have repeatedly said in front of my team and my higher ups. I am proud of you team

  36. Peanut Hamper*

    #3: Yes, let the signs stay. Not only does this help people decide whether or not they would want to work there, it also helps other people decide whether or not to spend their money there.

    Thanks to the past few elections, there is a long list of businesses that I simply won’t patronize. People can vote with both their dollars and their job applications.

    1. t-vex*

      I used to go to an optometrist whose waiting room walls were absolutely covered with political-leaning news clippings. He was a good doctor in a convenient location but a couple of visits was all I could stand before I had to nope out of the onslaught.

  37. Indoor_Kitty*

    Reading all the comments about letter #1 is making me worry about every single piece of positive feedback I have ever given my team and the individuals who report to me. Every single example of a praise word that offended a commenter made me wince because I’ve used that word or phrase. As a manager I realized a while ago that I rarely gave praise so I started to make an effort to recognize good work and now I’m worried that I’ve been offending some people with the words I use. Maybe I’m second-guessing myself just because I still feel awkward when I praise someone for doing a good job.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      No matter what you do or say to a group of humans, someone’s going to be peeved :)

      If your team’s reaction is overall positive I wouldn’t worry too much. In their shoes, getting more positive feedback would make me happy. At my previous job, management never had anything nice to say to an employee, so it’s nice to be thanked for all I do, even when I haven’t done anything in particular at the moment.

    2. Bloopbloop*

      depending on the size of your team, maybe in 1 on 1 check ins you can ask each team member how they prefer to receive praise. In big meetings you can maybe say something more generic like “the work you all did on this project is impressive and appreciated” and then individually you can praise employees in a way that aligns with their preference. if you have a team of 50 this might not be reasonable but for a team of 10 or less I think it could work!

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Honestly, if my manager would ask how I prefer to receive praise, I would be forever stumped.
        I have no idea.
        I also don’t find any of the phrasing that the AAM commenters see as patronizing or offensive as such?

          1. Salty Caramel*

            Nothing says I’m valued like cold hard cash. Additional paid time off isn’t bad either.

          2. Jadzia Dax*

            This! I had to search to find this response. It could be that the praise sounded disingenuous because they’re getting paid peanuts–if they were really valued they’d be compensated appropriately and maybe the praise wouldn’t sound so off-base.

      2. AnonORama*

        I’d probably blurt out “just pay us more” if I was asked this question without preface, but hopefully I could avoid that.

    3. House On The Rock*

      The Commentariate here can glom onto weird stuff and there’s always a lot of projection. Don’t second guess unless you have specific reason to think people are taking your praise in an odd way.

      I’m also a manager who makes a point of giving and sharing accolades with my team and others, in great part because when I was an individual contributor it was so rare. I’ve only gotten positive feedback. Even the more curmudgeonly members of my staff (and I have a few) say they appreciate my appreciation. You are almost certainly fine!

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Yeah, online discussions tend to really nitpick phrases and words and in real non-online life people don’t get this granular.

    4. Peanut Hamper*

      I would worry less about anonymous comments on a public blog and more about how your team is performing. Do they seem happy and productive? Do you strive to create a culture where they can give you honest feedback, and if so, have they given you any about how you provide feedback? Do you have 1×1 meetings where you ask if there’s anything you can do better as their manager?

      The truth is that you can’t make everybody happy all the time, so you have to worry about making the important people around you happy. Every time we get a letter on here that’s an A/B situation, you get people who love A but hate B, and people who hate A but love B, but that’s because so many people read this blog. (Which is great, because I get a lot of awareness that I wouldn’t have otherwise.)

      So the real question is…how is your team doing? Based on what you wrote above, you realized you weren’t doing something you should be doing, and you’ve made an effort to improve. I bet your team is doing great!

    5. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I think you don’t need to worry about it as long as your team seems content with it and your reasons for giving praise are sincere. Everyone has their own preferences for giving and receiving praise. I personally prefer a boss who thanks me for my work in private and stands up for me when they’re talking to their bosses/peers.

    6. Jackalope*

      I honestly wouldn’t worry about it (I know that sentence doesn’t always help!). The way people react to something in a drawn-out discussion of precise wording on the internet is very different than being in the moment and receiving actual praise, especially if the person giving it is someone you like and respect. Be a good manager in those ways and then your people will almost certainly be fine with the way you word your praise.

    7. Isben Takes Tea*

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the actual wording. In my case, I definitely wouldn’t want praise/encouragement in the phrase “I am proud of you”, but if a manager is sincerely expressing their appreciation for my work, I understand the meaning behind it.

      For me, “Thank you for your efforts here” or “You’re doing a great job managing X project, keep it up” are much preferable to “I’m proud of what you’re accomplishing,” but that could easily be flipped for someone else. What’s important is that 1) my work/efforts are being acknowledged sincerely and 2) it’s reassurance I’m on the right track with my priorities.

  38. GovCon Recruiting Ops Person*

    LW #5, Just for context, for companies that are required to provide EEO and/or OFCCP demographic reports and OFCCP AA reports, the government requests this data for both employees and applicants every year. Access depends on the systems the company uses to collect the information but only 3-4 ppl in my company of 800 have access to employee demographic data, and the applicant data isn’t accessible to anyone as it’s anonymized as soon as it comes in. If the company is using an ATS that is used internationally (specifically the EU) a lot of times those have GDPR settings that automatically anonymize application data coming in as the EU has more stringent privacy guidelines than the US.

  39. Marta*

    I don’t know if it’s exactly patronizing, but I think some people see public praise from a boss as cringey because half an hour later boss is berating them in private or making ridiculous workload demands, refusing PTO, etc. so the praise seems like performative BS.

  40. HonorBox*

    I don’t think a manager saying that they’re proud of the team the manage is patronizing at all, though I do think there’s context involved. If it is a manager who shares praise regularly, manages well, and is supportive of the team, there’s nothing wrong with saying that you’re proud of the team. It might be that the manager has received praise for the overall work, or that the team put in a significant amount of effort or extra time to ensure things went well. Or perhaps there are some sort of extenuating circumstances that the team got through (a couple of people were out on leave or something). If it is said in a regular staff meeting about something that is a more regular part of someone’s job, then it could come across poorly, but it seems like this situation in letter 1 is more of a big deal type situation. That one person reacted poorly might tell you something about how they prefer to receive feedback. If the whole team bristled, then it may be in the message.

    1. JustaTech*

      Yeah, I’ve had my boss say that he was proud of the work the team had done and I knew he meant it sincerely and I appreciated it.
      I also appreciated that he acknowledged that no one higher up would acknowledge/praise our hard work. The realism makes the praise seem truer.

  41. Rebecca*

    The only person who knows what your newer, younger employee was thinking is your newer, younger employee. If it is that big of a deal to you, the way to get insight is to bring it up with them.
    Are you sure you are not taking this too personally? The reaction may have been to something in their environment and not to your comments at all. I recommend that if you raise it with them, don’t make it about your words. Check in with them more generally. If there is something about their work environment underlying the reaction, you want to tease that out.

  42. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 -It could be a lot of reasons; personal or not. Consider your interactions with that employee lately. Is there anything that you have done that would make the employee think you’re insincere about praise now? For instance, if you just extolled your employees’ great work but then also recently told that employee that their work wasn’t worthy enough of a promotion or raise, that might be enough to cause a reaction. If no, it could just be that this type of praise isn’t for them. I personally don’t care for public praise like that because a lot of time it comes out as insincere.

    #5 – Our recruiting database separates this data out from our applications. Our recruiters have no access to the data; but a few of us who don’t recruit and are labeled as administrators in our database do so that we can use it to complete the mandatory government reporting.

  43. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #1 reminds me of the “mom energy” letter from a few months ago. Whether OP was actually patronizing, or whether OP’s employee is overly sensitive, is really hard to say without knowing all the interpersonal dynamics, the tone, etc.

    That being said, I think it’s better to express that you are proud of the work the people did, not of the people themselves.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      This. I’m proud of the work this team did is very different from I’m proud of you – which really is a bit patronizing.

  44. Phony Genius*

    On #5, I wonder how a company would report its demographics if all the applicants declined to answer. Or, more realistically, how are they supposed to account in their reporting for those who choose not to answer?

    1. Not my coffee*

      X number of people applied, and Y number of people did not provide the demographic information.

  45. blood orange*

    OP #1 – I would rather hear (and in turn say to others), “You’ve done great work on this project! You should be really proud of your work.”

  46. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

    LW #3, Alison is exactly right. The people who are self-selecting out when they see the signs are not turned off by the signs, they’re turned off by the beliefs – the signs are just how they learned about them. Better by far for all concerned that they learn as early in the process as possible that this is not going to be a place they want to work.

  47. Claire*

    In terms of the logo- rather than say something to Miranda, I might be more inclined to give a heads up to the firm that did design the logo. If they want to say something to Miranda and ask her to stop taking credit for their work, they can.

  48. TX_Trucker*

    #5. Decades ago, during the time of paper applications, I was called for an interview. The first question was to explain the “hole” in my application. There was an actual physical hole in my paper application. I has printed my application double sided, and the self-disclosure questions were on the back of one of the pages. Someone in HR apparently thought the best solution was to use a scissor before forwarding that application to the hiring manager.

    Today as a hiring manager, I never see the individual responses to the disclosure questions. But I do get a report from HR that says X% of identified as —– . This helps us to refine our advertising efforts, especially as it relates to hiring female mechanics. And since we have over 100 employees, we are legally required to collect this information and provide it to the federal government. It may be optional for the candidate, but it’s not optional for the employer.

  49. RegBarclay*

    LW1 – I’ve had similar reactions when a boss who clearly did not appreciate me or my work product came out with similar in a big meeting. It was less about the actual words and more that it felt performative, since he made it clear in smaller and one-on-one meetings that he did not have much respect for us/our work/our ideas. It felt very glib.

    Not saying that’s the case here, but could also be that this employee had a similar experience and she’s jaded.

  50. In the middle*

    LW 3-Signs of this type have really helped me decide where to do buisness. If I see some that are really egregious (swear words?? On a flag? Outside your buisness?!?!) I know I’m not welcome there. I suppose it works the same with jobs.

  51. Delta Delta*

    #1 – When I was in 4th grade I played on my school’s 4th grade girls basketball team. We were as good at basketball as you’d expect. For the whole season at practice I would shoot the ball and NEVER ONCE did it go through the hoop. I got discouraged. My teammates, in hindsight, were very kind and would always say, “good try!” It got to the point where I dreaded shooting the ball because I knew it wouldn’t go in and I’d get a “good try!” It grated on me. It felt like it was pointing out that I just couldn’t do it. Many years later I understand they were being good teammates and that I was taking it the wrong way. But it stung every time. It’s possible LW1’s employee felt very “good try!” throughout the course of the project, and that when the praise was given, it felt grating. It could very well be the phrasing, as others have pointed out. I hope LW can talk to the employee and make it clear her words were meant to be kind and positive and that no hurt was meant.

  52. J!*

    The number of nonprofits I’ve applied for a job with, not even gotten an interview, and then ended up on their fundraising list is STAGGERING. It makes me so mad every time.

    Don’t do it, LW #1, especially if the rejection was recent.

    1. Looper*

      I honestly feel like many nonprofits put out calls for volunteers/list job openings just to pad their contact lists. A number of times I’ve reached out about unpaid volunteer work and heard nary a peep until 3 months later when I get a fundraising email. Very classy!

  53. Looper*

    LW3- You should use the signs as a deterrent for yourself to get out of this company. If you wouldn’t have accepted your current job if you’d had all the relevant information, why prevent other candidates from having that information? Worry less about this business’ inability to attract talent and focus more on what companies want to attract your talent.

  54. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #2 – oh YEAH – that happens quite a bit in the IS/IT world. I’ve had situations where I was rejected for a position, but had distinct experience in a program product that they may have been trying to get working and they called me.

    It’s a small world, however. and you have to walk on eggshells. You don’t want to slam a door shut or burn a bridge, but you also don’t want to give away your services for free (extensively).

    1. Midwest*

      Very much same in my (totally different but still very niche and tight-knit) field. I was once contacted by the person who was hired for a role I was rejected for as part of a “pick my brain” request related to my area of expertise. I don’t think this person had any clue I was passed over, which made it awkward. Because everyone knows everyone in my field and who has burned bridges where is the stuff of decades-long gossip, I happily took the call but kept it to a short call and stuck to generalities. If someone wants more advice from me, I am happy to draw up a consulting contract!

  55. I have opinions...*

    I frequently brag on my team, talking about how lucky I am to have them, especially after a big win. And I do so entirely sincerely. They don’t seem to find it patronizing.

    If only one of ten was bothered, seems like OP did nothing wrong. No harm in talking with him to clarify and concerns, but no need to feel bad either.

  56. Sunflower*

    #1 I think you answered why I hate it when my boss says she’s proud of us. We get no support. She defends every other department when we complain how often they are late or do their job wrong which affects us. Our concerns about multiple issues never change. Yet she “pats us on the head” saying she’s proud of us to shut us up. We are not fooled.

    #3 Leave the signs up. I think it’s better when people know what they are getting into. Why waste time?

  57. Name*

    LW 5 – I have to do the EEO 5 report for my work. We gather that info on a separate form after hire. What’s really fun (sarcasm) is that the EEO 5 instructions say that if you don’t disclose, I’m supposed to look at you and give a best guess what race/ethnicity and gender I think you are. I hate it.

  58. tabloidtainted*

    LW#1, what you said was perfectly fine. Don’t make the mistake of giving too much weight to a negative reaction.

    This level of nitpicking of unoffensive language is one of the most meaningless and irritating parts of our modern culture. What one person finds condescending or patronizing, another person finds normal.

    You would be within you’re rights to ask your employee about their visibly negative reaction 1-on-1, but until you have more information, don’t let it stress you out and don’t change anything.

  59. Emily (Not a Bot)*

    #2: I’m actually in this position now where I got rejected for a job and I also do (free) work promoting this kind of org. I’m still happy to work with them in that capacity — the community work I do is not contingent on whether the organization in question hired me or not, and I’m a professional who does not take rejection personally. I understand the answer here, but I think you should let her decide herself.

  60. tabloidtainted*

    LW4: In your position, I would forward the page to our marketing team and let them decide if it was egregious enough to act on. But my view is that, yes, that business is taking credit for work product it didn’t create. That’s not a personal portfolio (and even that would be a bit of a stretch–I might help direct the design of a product at my company, but I didn’t design it and I wouldn’t pop it into my portfolio or call myself a designer).

  61. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

    LW1: I’d say definitely context dependent. If my team had an accomplishment and my manager was terrible, sabotaging or arbitrarily changing things, unnecessarily critical, or didn’t contribute any work, I’d feel like they were taking credit if they used “us” and “we.” If they said “I’m proud of you” instead, I’d feel like they were being patronizing.

    If the manager is supportive or positively contributing, I’d likely not feel that way.

    1. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

      Adding: The manager I have now is awesome and when she says she’s proud of the team, I get warm fuzzies. If my Work Nemesis says that, I picture him being flung into the sun.

  62. Nat20*

    This may not be quite as applicable, but I teach undergrads and I also have moments where I want to tell them I’m proud of them, but I know it can be infantilizing or patronizing. They’re my students, but they’re also adults. Still, I do think hearing from authority figures that they think you’re doing well can be valuable.

    So my approach is to name that potential weirdness directly, like “listen I don’t mean this to be patronizing but I am genuinely proud of you”, or, “this might be a bit cheesy, but you should honestly be proud of yourselves for that”, etc. Always said in a casual, normal tone, not saccharine or overemphasized, and I don’t dwell on it. It’s a simple “hey, good job” kind of thing, then we move on. I find that it goes over well if it’s backed up by a truly supportive environment otherwise, and it’s more genuine if it’s truly occasional rather than constant.

    Maybe if you’re worried it’d still be weird, you could just phrase the same sentiment differently. Like instead of “I’m proud of you”, maybe “you should be proud of this”; or other general praise like “well done”, “kudos”, etc.

  63. Coin_Operated*

    2. Comedian Maria Bamford has a funny bit about being in a similar situation where she was rejected for a job working with kids because they found her “odd,” but then when someone at the organization found out she was a well-known stand up comedian, they asked her if she’d perform up at a fundraiser and she said… NO!!

  64. RagingADHD*

    #1 – There is a way of saying you’re proud that can make it sound like you had low expectations and were surprised by basic competency. There’s also the possibility that not everyone on the team was actually doing an exceptional job. You might have had some people picking up a lot of slack for others, or you might have had someone feel they weren’t given scope to use their skills. and work to their full potential. If it were just the one employee with a sour face, it’s likely just something up personally with them. But with the other person’s response about being patronizing, it might be worthwhile doing a high level review of workloads and competencies to make sure there’s balance when you have a big project like this.

    #2 In today’s political landscape, candidates who could be described as “not having a great track record” on LGBTQ rights tend to also have a variety of controversial positions on other topics, or endorse / give cover to others with very extreme positions that many people object to.
    The signs are probably better than a Glassdoor review for insight into the company culture.

  65. cleoppa*

    In response to LW1, I think sometimes entering the “real world” can be a bit of a shock to young people. There are things they don’t understand and frustrating things (like how far your hourly wage does NOT go). Sometimes it may seem like a manager is not doing anything except running around telling people what to do and patting them on the back.

    It very well could be an issue of inexperience.

  66. Keeks*

    I often say, “You should be really proud of what you’ve accomplished” – my hope is that this conveys the same positive feedback, but really centers the person/the team versus my judgment of them. Does that make sense?

  67. Maisonneuve*

    I’m fascinated by the discussion of pride. I never thought of it as being mostly linked to parental relationships or a power differential. I see people’s points, just never thought of those things.

    I always took it as taking pleasure in something good you or someone you’re connected did or got (like the Cambridge dictionary definition).

  68. Lucifer McFluffypants*

    Regarding LW#2, depending on how politely you handled turning down get candidacy, I wonder if you might be able to hire her to promote your program/agency. I know you said it is normally available free of charge, but if she is a skilled networker in your field and may be of service later, it may be a helpful relationship to foster.

  69. Raida*

    4. Former employee is claiming her new firm worked on our logo, but they didn’t

    “Showing some of our best logos” … “Celebrating the creativity of MiranCo” … “Our diverse collection of logos.”
    She is claiming her company did work, and you don’t need to figure it out – let someone else decide.

    Disagreeing with Allison here. Instead of “hmmm how bad is this?” just remove the decision entirely – send it to legal. Let them decide. It’s not your job and if it is I’d hope you wouldn’t need to ask a blog how to decide.

    Just take screenshots, note the URLs and forward it to whatever is the legal department as an FYI.
    “Morning, Just passing this one along that’s been pointed out to me in case it is of any concern:

    //The attached screenshots have language that suggests [Person’s Company] did the work on Our Logo.

    [Person] worked at [Our Company] while the logos were changed. [Person’s Company] has not performed any work on the logo.

    [Third Business] did the design work, [Person] was [Our Company] representative.//”

    That’s all. And the let it go. And if anyone asks about it, you say [any friend’s name that isn’t a co-worker] read it as [Person’s Company] was hired to do the logo redesign so you *simply* *only* *just* forwarded it to the appropriate area in the business and leave it up to the experts. You think it’s probably fairly normal thing to have in a portfolio, you don’t have any strong feelings about it, [Person] has been great to collaborate with.

  70. Aa*

    “This is really impressive work.” or “You guys should be really proud of yourselves” conveys the same thing while removing yourself from the statement.

  71. Dawn*

    LW#3: heeeeeeyyyyyyyy gay trans person here, please do not encourage your managers to stop telling me exactly who they are, we appreciate the warning

  72. Jan*

    LW1, IDK if this applies but to add another aspect to consider if your team worked hard to product above and beyond results and all they got was a verbal “thank you” without a monetary “thank you” that could definitely rub people the wrong way even though people usually like recognition. Especially if they’re newer and their expectations align with expecting bonuses.

    An analogy to this would be that most people appreciate and want their spouses to express affection, tell them they love and appreciate them, etc. However if your spouse is standing in front of you saying all that after you literally just caught them cheating and their side piece is in the background looking for his/her pants those words of affection don’t elicit the same positive feelings.

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