Your Wardrobe Has Been Zuckerburged

, , , , , , | Working | November 21, 2019

I am a woman. I had just finished my degree, and I got a job as a researcher, basically writing software to test concepts, being paid from a professor’s research budget. There were basically two types of staff in the department: the technical staff and the admin/support staff. The technical staff — teachers, researchers, and computer support — were mostly male, scruffily-dressed, varying from shorts and flip-flops to Oxford-Don-ish tweed suits with elbow patches. The female techies and teachers dressed similarly: jeans, hoodies, typical undergraduate kit. The support staff were four women who looked after student and enrolment issues, correspondence, assisting the department chair, etc. They all dressed well: hair, makeup, high heels, dresses – thoroughly well-presented.

One day, I decided to mix it up and dress how I would when I eventually got a job in industry — heels, skirt, a whisper of femininity. That day was a strange one. I will give two examples.

I went into the photocopy/print room where one of the male lecturers was making copies. Without looking up, he said, “Is the chairman in today?” “How would I know?” I replied. He looked up to face me for the first time and said, startled, “Oh, [My Name]! It’s you!”

Later that day, my boss was talking to the chairman in the corridor. I approached my boss to ask him a question, and the chairman — remember, I do not work for him or the department and he has four people who do — handed me a pile of papers and said, “Can you make me a copy of this, please?”

I just stared at him in shock and quickly mounting anger. My boss detected what was about to happen and snatched them and said, “I will do it.” It’s no more his job than mine, and he is the most senior person in the department under the chair, but there was no sexism in his doing it.

I learned my lesson: nice clothes are for the weekend, and jeans and T-shirts are the only way to be treated like a professional. That was the only time the chair treated me like I was part of his support team.

It’s still mostly true in IT: dressing down is a power move, e.g. Mark Zuckerberg. No tech billionaire ever dresses like they have infinite money.

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Moving On To Greeter Things

, , , , , | Working | November 19, 2019

(A few days before this incident, my boss took me aside into her office. The library was in the middle of making renovation plans. I had missed that meeting due to a vacation, so she was filling me in. It’s only at the tail end of the conversation that this happens:)

Boss: “So, how are things with you and your coworkers?”

Me: “I think things are great. When I don’t know something, I can always ask them for help. And they ask me to help when they need it. I think we have a great balance of strengths.”

Boss: “I received a complaint about you.”

Me: “What?”

Boss: “One of your coworkers, who wishes to remain anonymous, complained about you. You need to try to get along better with everyone.”

Me: “I thought we were getting along great. Who was it? No one ever spoke to me about a problem.”

Boss: “I can’t tell you that. Just try to get along better with everyone.”

Me: “Okay… then what is the problem? How can I fix it?”

Boss: “I can’t tell you that. It would give away who filed the complaint. You just need to get along better with your coworkers.”

Me: “How can I fix it if I don’t even know what the problem is?”

Boss: “Just get along better with your coworkers.”

(I leave her office, completely bewildered. I think and think and think about what could have happened, but I have no idea. The best I can come up with is that maybe my coworkers dislike me discussing what happened on the weekend or after work; I have been dealing with a lot of crap in my life, so maybe they don’t want to hear about it. I decide to keep conversation solely professional and only discuss work-related topics. If my coworkers ask me how I am, instead of telling the truth, I simply say, “I’m doing fine.” The day in question, I say hi to both my coworkers; however, I don’t think [Coworker #1] hears me as she immediately stalks to the back room with her back to us. None of us speaks much all day except to complete the work we have to do. It’s after closing, and two coworkers and I are running through the shutdown procedures. It’s my turn to do statistics, but I work on a very slow laptop. While the documents are processing, I do other tasks such as wiping down the computer keyboards and storing the mobile stations. As I work, I gather up all the items that need to be filed and put them on top of the counter since my other two coworkers are standing right in front of the drawers, doing their shutdown tasks. Once statistics are finished, I put my laptop in its locked case in the back room. I emerge and reach for the disinfecting wipes I left out, when [Coworker #1] calls me.)

Coworker #1: “Are you going to put this away?”

(She’s pointing to something on the countertop, but since she’s halfway across the room, I can’t see what item she means.)

Me: “Put what away?”

Coworker #1: *absolutely loses her mind and starts SCREAMING like a rabid banshee-harpy* “That’s it! I’m sick of you, [My Name]! Do your job! You have to do your job! This is your job! I’m sick of your attitude! If you don’t want to be here, you should just quit! I’m tired of you and your attitude! [Boss] has already talked to you about this!”

(I start hyperventilating. I’m already under a ton of stress from my personal life, and she sounds like she’s about to get violent.)

Me: “I… I am still working.”

(I point to the disinfecting wipes I’m trying to put away, but I can’t even pick them up because I’m shaking so badly.)

Coworker #1: “That’s bulls***! I know how you are! Don’t you bulls*** me! Do your d*** job already and cut the attitude! I’m so sick of you! You didn’t even say hi to me when I came in today! Just quit! Just get out of here and quit!”

Coworker #2: “[Coworker #1], you’re going too far. You need to stop.”

Coworker #1: “I am not! She’s the problem! She needs to do her job and stop trying to hide! If she hates it here so much she should just walk out that door and never come back! I don’t need to deal with her attitude! [Boss] has already talked to her and she’s still got that terrible attitude!”

(I grab the staff phone list and mobile phone and hide myself in the back room. I try contacting managers in turn, but since it’s late, no one is in their office. I am sobbing so hard I can barely speak. At last, I get ahold of the HR department — like #5 on the list — and brokenly explain what happened. I then throw up in the trash can. By that point, [Coworker #2] has chased [Coworker #1] out and tells me it is safe to leave. I have to call my family to drive me home because I am trembling so badly I can’t even drive. The next day, HR and the deputy director come to write up [Coworker #1]. She refuses to even speak to the HR personnel and strong-arms the deputy director into speaking to her alone. While [Coworker #1] does have seniority in the system, she is only part-time and everyone else in the room outranks her in terms of job title, including me. I don’t know what they tell her, but HR and the deputy director takes me aside, as well, and basically told me:)

HR: “We talked to [Coworker #1]. Now move on and act like it never happened.”

(The most ironic thing was, had [Coworker #1] kept her cool, I was planning on turning in my two week notice the next week because I had found another job due to the horrible nature of that library. Looking back, I realized this all stemmed from that one complaint. [Coworker #1] had gone to my boss and complained, “[My Name] doesn’t always say hello when I come to work for the day.” [Coworker #1] was always complaining about other people not greeting her. My boss handled it very poorly, and I blame her lack of conflict resolution skills. I also realize that [Coworker #1] had seen our boss talk to me in her office for an hour and assumed I was being berated. [Coworker #1] also assumed I was being clearly told what the problem was instead of being given a vague “get along with everyone,” so [Coworker #1] assumed I deliberately didn’t say hi to her instead of realizing that she simply didn’t hear my greeting. I am so glad to be away from there.)

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Never Sensitive Until You Say “Don’t Get Sensitive”  

, , , | Working | November 18, 2019

(I work in a large office building with multiple floors. Each floor has several small break rooms scattered around it, each with a commercial-sized by-the-cup coffee machine, an ice maker, a sink, and so on. Each floor also has a single much larger break room with all that plus refrigerators, microwaves, vending machines, and lunch tables. We have an online ticketing system to alert the maintenance team to any building maintenance issues we notice, like leaky faucets or restroom problems. One of the things the ticket requires is your desk number. I put a ticket in a while back, and this morning it was marked “closed complete,” but the problem hasn’t been fixed. This conversation happens in text-chat with the person who was handling my ticket.)

Me: “Hey, I saw you closed my maintenance ticket [number] about a coffee machine that’s under-serving, but I went over there and tried it just now, and it’s still doing exactly the same thing as before. I ordered a large and I got about four ounces of coffee. It doesn’t look like it’s been touched at all.”

Maintenance: “Yes, I can look into that for you. The company that handles the coffee machines did come out and do maintenance on that unit.”

Me: “Well, it’s not fixed.”

Maintenance: “Okay, I’ll inquire further. What’s the desk number?”

Me: “Break rooms don’t have desk numbers.”

Maintenance: “I meant, what’s your desk number? The ticket says you sit right next to the large break room on the third floor.”

(I realize what happened.)

Me: “No, this isn’t in the break room that’s closest to my desk. It’s the small break room in zone 12 on the third floor, like I said in the ticket. It’s on the south side of the building, right next to [conference room].”

Maintenance: “Oh, okay. They did maintenance on the one in the large break room.”

Me: “I was very clear in the ticket about which break room I was reporting”

Maintenance: “Calm down; there’s no need to get upset. We get a lot of tickets with no details in them.”

Me: “Okay, I wasn’t upset until you said that. I know you normally don’t get a lot of details; that’s exactly why I was very specific about which machine I was talking about! I went out of my way to give you lots of detailed information, and you just ignored it all because I sit somewhere else on the floor?”

Maintenance: “I have entered the maintenance order. Have a good day.”

(They disconnected.)

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Sadly This Story Is Not Bull

, , , | Working | November 15, 2019

(I work as a package handler at a major shipping company, scanning the packages and putting them up in the trailer to head to their next destination. We have meetings once every month about various safety procedures. On this night, it’s about hazmats. They are basically things that can pose a health risk if they are damaged or leaking, like corrosives, explosives, flammable solids, etc. Our HR rep is talking to us about what we do and do not accept when the issue of human biological matter comes up. We absolutely do not take any of it at all: no blood, urine, feces, etc. We’re all nodding along when, all of a sudden, my coworker — who has worked here for a while — pipes up with this gem:)

Coworker: “I don’t mean to be crude or make a joke… but haven’t we accept bull semen before?”

(It got so quiet that you could hear the heartbeat of a flea. After that, everyone stayed dead silent as the HR rep finished the meeting by saying, “We have accepted it before, although I don’t know why. I mean, I consider it biological, even if it’s not human.” I think we were unanimously thinking the same thing: “What has leaked out of damaged boxes onto my hands before?” And now, I plan on wearing latex gloves under my work gloves, because ew.)

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Where There’s Smoke, There’s Incompetence  

, , , , , , | Working | November 14, 2019

(I work at my college bookstore. We’re a central location and people often come to ask for assistance not related to the bookstore. I am working on my own when this happens, but two of my coworkers are there killing time between classes.)

Student: “Uh, hey, you know that cigarette thing outside? I think it’s on fire.”

Me: *thinking this is outside my pay grade* “Oh, okay, thanks. I’ll call someone.”

(After conferring with my coworkers and peeking out the window, we determine it is a small, manageable fire at the bottom of one of those tall ashtrays )

Coworker: “Okay, I have a bottle of water. We’ll go put it out while you watch the store”

(My two coworkers then proceed to run full speed out of the store screaming:) 

Coworkers: “WEE WOO! WEE WOO! OFFICIAL BOOKSTORE FIRE DEPARTMENT BUSINESS! WATCH OUT!”

(I watch out the window as they empty the water bottle into the smoldering cigarette bin and a huge cloud of smoke erupts out of it)

Coworkers: *running back in, panicked* “Oh, God, I think we made it worse. This is not okay!

Me: “Uh, yeah, it may be time to hang up your fireman’s hat. I’m going to call maintenance…”

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