When You’re Stuck in the Middle of a Workplace Battle

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Undue Interview Burdens

Having to jump through an excessive number of hoops to get a job can be incredibly frustrating. It seems like the interviewing process is getting more and more convoluted in many industries. And there are employers out there who are exploitative, essentially demanding unpaid labor from job candidates and they get away with it because they can. Some employers will offer compensation for work product expected during the vetting process, but they are few and far between.

This is a challenging problem because, as you note, employers do need to find ways of determining if a given candidate will be a good fit. A new hire, especially for a senior position, is a significant investment of resources; hiring the wrong person only increases that investment. While some things can be learned from a series of interviews, there are criteria that can be assessed only through work product. Within reason, it is acceptable for an employer to make requests of potential hires. The limits of that reason are quite subjective, unfortunately.

I really empathize with your frustrations — so much work with no guarantee of success. Employers hold all the cards, or they did, until the Great Resignation began. You may, perhaps, challenge this dynamic by asking if there is compensation for the work being asked of you but that is risky. I do hope, in time, that employers find a more reasonable way of vetting potential hires and I wish you the very best in your job search.

The Great Generational Divide

Honestly, you should tell these people to grow up — this is ridiculous. Yes, change is hard, but it is inevitable. Technology and the ways we use it in the workplace are always evolving. The culture we are a part of shifts, sometimes faster than we can manage but it shifts nonetheless. We don’t have to like it, but we do need to adapt.

At the same time, there is a lot to be learned from older ways of working and thinking and being. It’s just lazy for people to shout derivative generational barbs at one another. To what end? It might feel good in the moment but it only creates a more divisive atmosphere among people with whom we are supposed to be in community. Tell your colleagues this is unacceptable on all sides.

If everyone is genuinely trying, they need to try harder. The mentorship program sounds like a great idea. Frame it as a two-way mentorship system, so everyone understands they have something to offer. I don’t think that mandatory fun will solve this problem, but mandatory maturity might.

Unfair Advantages?

Be careful. You’re essentially engaging in the same type of behavior you rightly disdain from your older straight male colleagues. Are you really suggesting that you might penalize your employee because you assume she is receiving positive professional feedback because of her appearance?

People have biases, particularly where looks are concerned. My mother loves to remind me that we eat with our eyes first. This is something of a mixed metaphor but I think you get my point. Entire books have been written about the advantages beautiful people enjoy in the workplace. I appreciate your being mindful of this dynamic, but if Michelle is indeed performing well that’s what you should focus on. To compensate based on what you perceive as unfair praise is a slippery slope to head down. You absolutely mean well but you have no way of knowing if the men praising her performance are really only praising her looks.

Is it possible? Of course. But it’s not fair to punish her for their childish misogyny, if that’s truly what’s going on. All three candidates deserve to be treated equitably. Don’t overthink this.

Ghost Story

Being ghosted feels terrible. Without warning someone disappears and you have no answers. In some ways, this is a fortuitous situation. You have been presented with an opportunity for closure. If you really do want to address this with the Ghost, ask him if you can speak before or after work in a neutral location. Share your feelings and the terms you would prefer for your relationship moving forward.

But before you do that, I want you to really think through what you’re hoping to get out of such a conversation. What good will come of it both in the short and long term? You will unburden some of your hurt, but it might complicate what seems like an amicable professional relationship.

Do consider letting this go, not because he deserves to be let off the hook but because you seem to be in a good place and he doesn’t deserve any more of your mental energy. In the meantime, may the next guy you date be the man of your dreams.

Roxane Gay is the author, most recently, of “Hunger” and a contributing opinion writer. Write to her at [email protected].

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