coworker tells me to order more food “for the men,” my email will display a name I don’t go by, and more

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

1. My coworker tells me to order more food “for the men”

In the past few months, my coworker “Jane” and I have been in charge of work events, and part of that job is to order the catering. Jane (who’s at my same level) helps by giving me the number of RSVPs, but when she does she always includes the gender ratio and when there’s more men than women she always says things like, “You better order a lot of food for the hungry men attending” and other similar comments on men needing more food.

I’ve always thought that we should order for the number of attendees, not expected appetites, and I don’t think that men are going to be so ravenous that it’s required we spend extra to make sure they get their fill. Besides, there is usually a fair amount of leftovers from the events, so I’m not sure why Jane continues to say more food should be ordered just for the men.

What can I say to Jane so she will stop making these comments? Or am I the odd one out and it’s normal to consider attendees gender and appetites when ordering meals?

You are not the odd one out. Jane is a grandmother from 1874 who has time traveled.

I mean, yes, it’s true that on average men often have a higher caloric needs than women (just base on size), but typical office catering is usually sufficient for that and doesn’t require that you buy the men extra.

One option is to just ignore her and continue ordering the way you have been. But if you want to say something to hopefully get her to stop, you could say, “I don’t think we should be ordering based on gender. We have plenty of leftovers each time as it is.” Or you could just go with, “I think the women will be hungry too.”

2. IT insists my email needs to display a name I don’t go by

I work at a good-sized university. I do not use my first name. I have never used it socially or professionally. I HATE it. When people learn of it, they ask if I’m Italian and/or Catholic. I cannot convey the anger and hatred I have for this name. My parents only ever used it when they yelled at me.

The IT Department has decided that in the email system all faculty, students, and staff should go by their first names. I have tried to no avail to explain to them that I do not use that name. They seem mystified and have argued that no one has ever not used their legal first name. That no one has ever objected to using it. EVER.

I should say that I have worked here for decades, and in previous email system upgrades, I have been able to get the display name changed to middle and last name only.

I will now have to correct multiple people in multiple emails each and every day. I will have to explain that I don’t use that name. And NO, I am not Italian. And NO, I am not Catholic. Nothing wrong with being either of those things, but I am not and cannot pretend that I am. Am I being unreasonable in asking for this change?

No, you aren’t being unreasonable; they are. You should get to use the name you actually go by. (That’s true totally aside from whether using the name makes people ask if you’re Italian or Catholic.)

Your IT department shouldn’t be the final word on something this fundamental, so go over their heads. Talk to HR or talk to whoever IT reports to, or have your boss do that if she’ll have more pull. Explain that you cannot have an email address that isn’t the name people know you by, that it will cause tremendous confusion with your contacts, and impede your ability to do your work. Explain that it’s not your name in any practical sense. (And you might also point out that this new policy is incredibly unfriendly to trans people who haven’t legally changed their names. In California, it would actually violate the law.)

3. Employee keeps pushing for a promotion we’ve already said we can’t give him

I have a direct report who is regularly (every three to six months over the past 18 months) asking to be promoted to a position he has created for himself. While there is merit in his idea, the company simply does not want to move forward with this position at this time as there is not enough work to justify it. He wasn’t interested in accepting a compromise (a position that is opening soon that could be blended with some of what he is proposing), and even then, my supervisor cannot guarantee the C-Suite would go for the idea.

A different department recently created a position for one of their staff members, and now he is questioning me on why the same cannot be done for him. I understand the frustration, but as it is not my department I cannot provide an explanation. Quite frankly, I don’t think I should have to. Sometimes it is what it is. If that area has different needs that took priority, there is not much I can do about that.

How can I advise him to stop asking, as this has all been explained multiple times and now he is just coming off as being pushy? We’ve told him that when advancement opportunities open up in our area, he would be a primary candidate, but that also did not appease him. His initiative is appreciated, but business decisions cannot be made just because someone wants something — and this has been explained to him.

You could say, “I realize you’re interested in moving into the role you proposed. At least for the foreseeable future, that’s not something that can happen. I realize that might mean that you look outside the company for other opportunities, which I would understand. But I hope that we can keep you and we’ll definitely consider you for future openings. Meanwhile, though, we can’t keep having the same conversation over and over. If you’d like, you’re welcome to raise this again in X (amount of time), but I want to be very transparent that nothing will change before then.” (If you don’t know what X should be, go with “a year” unless it seems truly likely that things could change before then.)

Then, if he raises it in another three months, you can say, “Nothing has changed since the last time we talked. I of course understand if you end up needing to look outside the company because of that.” Or you could ask, “I know we’ve talked about this before and I explained (everything you explained). You keep raising it as if we haven’t had those conversations or as if the answer wasn’t as concrete as it was. Is something else going on?”

4. Long interview process — and no job open

There’s a job that I REALLY desire, so I applied. For whatever reason, I have had the hardest time getting job offers lately, where I used never have an issue with this.

The company is new-ish so the founders are very hands-on, as that is their baby. I interviewed for a period of two months, no lie. I had to speak with multiple people and do a skills assignment that took hours. I get to the millionth stage of interviewing and am told there is actually no position open at the time, but there should be in the next couple of months. Although I was floored (no one else could have told me that weeks ago?), I said I understood and would be waiting on the position and hope to move forward at that time.

I had an additional interview after that, and then got a call letting me know the job was 100% not available yet, but they really really liked me. The recruiter even asked if they could just offer me the job now instead of waiting, but they could not since nothing was open. I was told to keep in touch until it’s open and let them know if I had any other questions. What do I say in the meantime? I don’t want to send an email every two weeks saying, “Hi, just wanted to check in and see if you had any updates about the role. I am still on board and look forward to hearing from you!

So what do I say? Obviously I don’t want to wait, I’d love the job now, but it works so well for me and my family I am willing to wait on them.

There’s nothing really to say! You can check in again in 4-6 weeks, and then again a few months after that … but I’d be more inclined to just leave it in their court and tell them to get in touch with you if the role does open up.

However. I’d also be fairly wary of this company. A long interview process isn’t terribly unusual these days, but a long interview where they don’t tell you until the end that there’s no actual job opening is. They sound disorganized and not terribly considerate. Combine that with them also being a start-up, and you have the beginning of many professional horror stories. If you do seriously consider a job with them at some point, do a lot of due diligence about their culture and how well managed they are.

5. Should I mention I was a finalist for a similar job at another company?

I’m in the midst of a multi-year career transition and job hunt. This spring, I came the closest yet to getting an offer when I was one of two finalists for a position that was basically my dream job. I was not offered the position by Company A, but was strongly encouraged to apply again when they expanded the department.

Fast forward about three months, and a very similar position, though one where I’m an even stronger candidate, has come up at another company (Company B) in the same field. The field is close-knit enough that people from Company A and Company B very likely know one another. Would be be a good or bad move to mention, in an appropriate spot on my application for the position at Company B, that I was a finalist for a similar position at Company A? There’s an optional “tell us something that’s not on your resume” spot where it seems like it wouldn’t be too strange.

Nope, don’t mention it. It’s not a qualification in any way, and it’ll come across strangely if you try to use it as one. It also sort of implies that you think Company B should put more weight on Company A’s interest in you than they do on their own screening methods.

coworker tells me to order more food “for the men,” my email will display a name I don’t go by, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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