Why am I such a misfit? I am not just a nitwit.
May 12, 2011 1:20 PM   Subscribe

My boss says that my skills are 100% on target, but I'm not "meshing with the team." Help!

I work as an IT consultant (Windows Engineer) at a medium-sized firm. I came on at the end of January, worked for a couple of months, and then was gone for 3 weeks on my research trip. When I returned, my recruiting firm told me that the company would either hire me at the end of my contract (around the end of May) or let me go.

Before I left on the trip, my manager had told me that he had one position open for another engineer, and I was first in line for it - but he wanted to check with his team. The team consists of three engineers (one associate, one engineer, and the team lead), and all of them are male - I'm female.

When I talked to my manager about the upcoming end of my contract, he said that he did have a position open, but due to some departmental changes, it was now for an associate engineer - which would be a pay cut for me, but with benefits included. He asked me if I was still interested, and I said I was, as long as I had the opportunity to become more involved in the projects that the Windows team was working on (I normally handle the ticket queue, server application support, etc...)

He polled his team, and then came back to tell me that he did not have a position to offer me now, but would be able to extend my contract for 3-6 months to see if the situation improved. He said that he felt the current team dynamic was good, and for whatever reason, I didn't seem to be fitting in with them. He said he was 100% satisfied with my technical ability, and felt I had handled all of my assignments skillfully and quickly. I said I had noticed this slight distance myself, and asked what I might do to improve our cohesiveness.

He gave me what I now consider to be a ridiculous example - asking me what kind of phone I have (just a basic Samsung) and then saying that all three of the engineers have rooted phones. I used to do all sorts of stuff with phones I had in the past, but honestly, I just don't care right now - I wanted a brick this time. (I didn't express this to him.) He felt that rooting your phone showed "a true passion for technology" which I might not share. I said that I do have a strong interest in technology, I just don't bring up a lot of my outside interests at work. (programming, web design, gaming, etc...)

He also mentioned that I should "go to lunch with the team more often" - by this he means over in the cafeteria. I do, but they usually get up and go over as a group, leaving me to come over with the other consultant. I sit at the same table, and I've tried to engage them, but they're not very responsive.

I suggested that he assign me to projects with one or more of the engineers, so I could get to know them better, but he felt like I should simply go and ask them if they had anything for me to do. I've tried that this week, and got a project which I worked on - but now the team lead "doesn't have time to look at" my work on it. I tried again today, and the team lead directed me right back to the manager.

I honestly don't know what else to do - I'm polite (good mornings et al), I make small talk, I try to be helpful and volunteer for tasks, etc... I seem to get along much better with other teams/people in this same area, which is odd. I've worked with plenty of guys before (pretty much my whole career, since I'm in IT), and I've never quite encountered this before. I'm not shy, but I'm not extroverted - I like to come in and do my job, and sometimes stand around and chat next to the water cooler. I initially thought that the long break might have created some distance, but I've been back since April, and it's not getting any better.

Suggestions?
posted by HopperFan to Work & Money (48 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ugh, I feel for you and I've been through this to some degree. I think it's just a culture fit and doesn't really have much to do with you personally (as much as it might feel like it does).

You don't have to start rooting your phone and you don't have to change your life in reflection. It's just business, and your next job will be better, both because you'll be aware that some people care about this stuff before you hit the ground, and you'll also choose the company you work for in light of what you've learned. For what it's worth, it sounds like these guys are more interested in the outward signs of nerdiness than True Hackerness.

For what it's also worth, I've noticed this kind of culture requirement to be much more important when I worked at a large video game company (i.e. cafeteria culture). Unless you're Jonathan Ive or Bill Joy, it seems difficult to be respected as a heads-down nerd. You'll survive. :)

3-6mos is plenty of time to either put in your face time or find another job. I can't say whether you can win them over, though.
posted by rhizome at 1:30 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


there's some pack mentality going on here. additionally, these guys sound totally immature. but from their perspective, it sounds like you're not giving them any real reason to accept you.

the easy way around this is to give them something about your outside life to attach themselves to and identify with. walk in on monday morning and talk about your weekend while you work. sports, birthday, let's go get a beer, whatever. it's just social hazing.

if you're not comfortable with that, then i'd look for a new place to be, honestly. companies with cliqueish cultures can be kinda merciless to outsiders.
posted by patricking at 1:39 PM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah it is bullshit, but I think you need to get them to go out for drinks and buy a few rounds.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:44 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I honestly don't know what else to do.

You should start looking for other work. "What cellphone do you own?" Please. That's some macho-nerd bullshit, right there.
posted by mhoye at 1:54 PM on May 12, 2011 [58 favorites]


He gave me what I now consider to be a ridiculous example - asking me what kind of phone I have (just a basic Samsung) and then saying that all three of the engineers have rooted phones.

If you think that's a ridiculous example, that perhaps they're not a place you want to work?

Clearly they have their idea of what an employees should be like and rooting phones is it. That's not good or bad, it just is.

If you really need to the work, then I suggest going to them and asking/talking about rooting phones. It doesn't mean you have to root your phone (wouldn't hurt though), but just show an interest in what they've done and the technology in general.

Asking for their advice or help in some way might also help the dynamic.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:55 PM on May 12, 2011


I've seen these culture non-fits before, being that I'm female and often 10-15 years older than other team members. The team is probably not going to change, and the boss is giving you a heads up to look for a different contract on a team that are not that cliquish and immature. Sorry, but it happens sometimes. At least your boss is sensitive enough to give you the message, however indirectly (he doesn't want to get sued), so you can get out before it's too late. Believe me, there are teams out there where it's not as important to be buddies, and people actually care about getting work done. Good luck.
posted by matildaben at 1:56 PM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Is it possible they're just sexist? I didn't think that sort of thing still existed and have recently been yanked out of that happy misconception.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:00 PM on May 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


I would actually just go to the guys and say, "So...Boss is hanging me getting a job on whether or not I 'mesh' with you guys. I apparently stick out because my phone isn't rooted* - ha ha ha! - but seriously, how can we make this situation work out for all of us? Can we talk over burgers and beers, first round's on me?"

Chances are, getting quietly called on it in a way that lets them save face and should help smooth any "Ew girlz ew" coming from their quarter.

*tip: I'm a nearly 40-year old IT manager. That is as impressive to me as how you've customized your car, and if it's that important a part of someone's identity I'm going to worry a little about how much work is getting done.

I wish I could say IT isn't a boys club and you can equalize the...whatever. It's still a boys club, but that also means you don't necessarily have to play the same games they do. I've never had much trouble getting along once I get past the initial resistance, but I've had to break through it every time.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:01 PM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, they're assholes.

Time was, being good at your job and a reasonably polite human being was enough to get any position. However this "ONE OF US! ONE OF US!" ultra-conformist 7th grade bullshit mentality is becoming more and more endemic in the tech industry. One of a thousand reasons I can't wait to get out.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:01 PM on May 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


...he felt like I should simply go and ask them if they had anything for me to do. I've tried that this week, and got a project which I worked on - but now the team lead "doesn't have time to look at" my work on it. I tried again today, and the team lead directed me right back to the manager.

This is essentially a calculated insult. Back to the manager is exactly where you should go, but I don't think he'll do anything about it.

I'm with mhoye; use that 3-6 months to find another job.
posted by jamjam at 2:09 PM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Part of me really wants to say "bring cookies." It gives other people a reason to hang around your desk and talk to you. On the other hand, you'll just get pidgeonholed again using that ploy. I say not a great fit: You're clearly not interested in playing their ballgame, and they're savvy enough to notice. Do what you need to to keep the money coming in, but be looking around hard for something else.
posted by Ys at 2:10 PM on May 12, 2011


Get another job. You can't win at these games. Especially if you come in as a freelancer.
posted by sweetkid at 2:17 PM on May 12, 2011


I'm sorry you have to deal with this. I honestly didn't think guys could be like this. Bail, man. They're losers anyway. Trying to fit in where you don't belong lowers who you are as a person.
posted by stormpooper at 2:19 PM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Lyn has great advice. If, when you tell them face to face they are preventing you from getting hired, they don't feel a little bad and try to figure out a way to welcome you in, then lunches and rooting your phone isn't going to help. Conversely, if they decide they like you, rooting your phone isn't going to matter.

At the same time, consider looking for a new job. Your real problem here is your boss--if your boss polls the team to find out if they think you're cool before hiring you, he doesn't know how to manage. You deserve to work in a professional environment where you can be judged on your contribution to the workplace.

One last piece of advice. Don't think of them as assholes, think of them as extremely clueless to the point of asshole-ness. Try to feel a little sorry for them. This should both preserve your sanity and keep your chances of "meshing" as high as possible.
posted by _Silky_ at 2:19 PM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Get a new job. These people don't sound terribly happy or effective or very good at what they do.

he felt like I should simply go and ask them if they had anything for me to do.

If he literally said that, he's an ineffective, unengaged, piss-poor manager. You're learning zero from him.

Move on.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:31 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem with bringing cookies is that you could get pigeonholed into the "mom" role, which is even worse than the "ew, girl" role. Find a new job, these folks aren't worth it.
posted by matildaben at 2:33 PM on May 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


i agree that you need to start looking for another situation. your boss is doing you a favor by giving you a heads up. the thing is, at a certain level, ppl will have the skills and can do the job so a lot of hiring is weighted more heavily on how the new hire will fit in with the team. after all, these are ppl who will be spending the majority of their day together and working closely with each other. that's not to say this particular group of guys don't sound very open and inclusive but beyond what you are already doing, there's not a whole lot more you could do to ingratiate yourself bc they don't sound like they want to give you the opportunity to be included.

i was recently hired for a 3 mos contract into the creative department of a major sports apparel brand, for a particular sport in which i have next to zero interest. based purely on outward appearances (i am a girly girl with a huge interest in fashion—but i am also active physically and like to do outdoorsy things, much to many ppl's surprise), anyone looking at me would never guess that i am involved in creating the visual image for this brand. but the thing is, when my boss interviewed me, he looked at my book and saw that i had the talent and experience to do the work, but i know for a fact that a major part of his decision to hire me was bc he we instantly clicked in our interview and he thought i would get along with the team—which i do very well: we all have the same perspective on work, creativity and professional drive coupled with similar personal laid-back attitudes; and we also, as it turns out, have similar interests. and i am the only female designer in my group and we all sit in a big room full of dudes.
posted by violetk at 2:36 PM on May 12, 2011


i totally missed, in your question, that you were a woman. based upon that, i would like to upgrade my answer to "screw these guys." find other work if you can.

once you're secure, i would confront the living hell out of the head of the company and let them know what kind of a sexist, exclusionary sausage party they're fostering. i frigging hate tech departments like this.

and, as well, frankly, it sounds to me a lot like it borders on blatant discrimination (but i guess that depends upon whether you're the only woman).

nthing that the manager is completely useless. it's his job to keep this crap steady.
posted by patricking at 2:49 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am fucking floored by the number of people who are telling you to do ANYTHING BUT GO TO HR. Because this is not about you not being a good technology fit; this is about you not being a boy. The problem is not that you don't fit the culture; the problem is that the culture is a boy's club.

If for some reason that isn't an option because you're on a contact, then go with Lyn Never's plan while looking for a new gig. This fucking sucks.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:53 PM on May 12, 2011 [25 favorites]


(i was actually going to suggest HR, but that indicates an interest in the company getting its collective head out of its ass. i wouldn't care at all if it lived or died.)
posted by patricking at 2:58 PM on May 12, 2011


The team is a clique, judging you by their narrow standards. The manager doesn't know how to build a team, and the team sounds resistant to change, so they probably don't make it any easier. If you get the job, you will probably have more crises based on personality. Or, there will be other changes, staff will move around, and the job will be okay. Life tends to be dynamic that way.

If you still want it, be way more friendly and work on engaging individual team members. Also, be more competitive and obviously technically astute. I work with a guy who doesn't respect my skills because I don't engage in pissing matches. I do, however, notice each and every time he takes credit for my ideas, and I quietly respond. He misses it, not everybody does, and his cred is declining as people see the facts.

Seriously, they don't invite you to lunch, then get pissy because you don't have lunch with them? These are not people destined for greatness, but they sure can make you miserable for a while.

On preview, DarlingBri nails it. Decide how much of a stand you want to take. Go to HR and state sexism, and I believe HR will do their level best to make sure you never work for the company, ever. Subtly suggest to Manager that it's a bit macho and female-hostile, and maybe Manager will clue up and do the right thing. Don't bet on it. I'm in IT; it's a boyzone.
posted by theora55 at 3:03 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a female who formerly worked in high tech/sysadmin stuff but eventually got tired and bailed... I agree that these criticisms probably stem from a place of sexism.

They feel that you are not sufficiently h4rdcor3. They have concerns that you have a balanced life, that you are not 100% obsessed with tech 24/7. They would most likely not have these concerns if you were a guy.

Keep in mind that they are probably not aware of these prejudices within themselves. From their perspective, you just aren't as committed to The Hacker Way as they are, but they can't quite put their finger on how or where. (That's how I'm choosing to unpack the dumb example they gave you, of your non-rooted phone.)

Women have to work harder to prove that they are competent at these things. It sucks, and I wish it was different, but it's just the way it is. If you want to keep the job, you will have to find a way to crack their little club.

Maybe you can find a shared hobby or interest. Maybe you can start inviting them out for drinks. Maybe you can promote yourself to alpha geek status by making a beowulf cluster at your desk using the discarded computers piled at the back of the server room, and passing around a clipboard so that they can schedule timeslots to use the processing power. (They won't have a use for it, I'm betting, which will ensure that you have won.)

Whatever you decide to do - commit to this job or roll the dice on a new one - please know that you are not alone. There is a vibrant and supportive community of geek feminists online. We know what you're going through, and we're going through it, too.

Some random resources:

The Geek Feminism Blog
The Geek Feminism Wiki
The Border House
RailsBridge
posted by ErikaB at 3:08 PM on May 12, 2011 [22 favorites]


In addition to getting another job, I think you should get an account with vault.com and say a few words about your experience with this company.
posted by jgirl at 3:11 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, and I'm definitely not saying don't look for another job. I don't think the actual problem here is the guys, the manager is a serious issue. And even if you get around it on this thing, you're going to have his cluelessness to deal with on an ongoing basis.

There are job situations better than this. There are lots of places where you will be subject to better management. Honestly, I'm pretty sure the guys themselves aren't the problem (oh, they may have made a face at the idea of having to tone down Fart Club or whatever) but the manager is afraid it'll be too much trouble for him if there's any diversity on the team.

That whole phone thing leads me to believe we're talking about a fairly young/closer to entry-level team here? It does generally get better as you go up in experience.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:13 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks, everyone - I should probably answer a couple of the things that were brought up, in case anyone else wants to comment:

1. There's one other woman that works in my area, but : she works for the SAN team, they don't seem to care as much about buddy-buddy stuff, and she's also a lot more...er...brassy in her attitude than I am.

2. These guys are geeks, yeah, but in sort of a weird way - they talk about basketball, and cars, and baseball, and their new habit of eating sunflower seeds. There's not a lot of "Hey, did you see that article on Wired/Reddit/Slashdot?" They're not kids, either - from around 25-35, I'd guess. Yes, I tried to actually ask about the sunflower seeds, but there's not much of a conversation that can be made from that.

3. I thought about inviting them out for drinks, but I'm terrible at that sort of thing - I'm nervous and stilted in any kind of bar situation, and always feel like I make a terrible impression. Plus, I was kind of wondering why they never invited *me* out for drinks when I first started - I would have been glad to go, even if I was nervous.

And last but not least - I made sure to ask my manager, at the end of my talk, if there was anything he'd like me to work on as far as the actual work itself went, areas for improvement, yada yada - I just couldn't believe it was simply because of not fitting in with the team. He said no, and repeated the 100% figure.
posted by HopperFan at 3:24 PM on May 12, 2011


You should start looking for other work. "What cellphone do you own?" Please. That's some macho-nerd bullshit, right there.

Quoted for truth. (Sorry.) This is somewhere you do not want to work. Sounds like a plot from that British IT show.

It is *possible* that it is a sexism thing, but it is just as possible it is not. Much more likely they are just typical creepy geeks who like to waste time playing with cell phones instead of working. Toxic situation no matter what the gender.

Not to mention, what kind of shit boss runs personnel decisions past his employees??

When you leave, tell the boss why. It was unprofessional of the boss to act the way he did.
posted by gjc at 3:25 PM on May 12, 2011


OK, I'm going to go with some stereotypes here, so take with a grain of salt. However, since we're talking cultural fit, surface attributes are the name of the game:

2. These guys are geeks, yeah, but in sort of a weird way - they talk about basketball, and cars, and baseball, and their new habit of eating sunflower seeds. There's not a lot of "Hey, did you see that article on Wired/Reddit/Slashdot?" They're not kids, either - from around 25-35, I'd guess. Yes, I tried to actually ask about the sunflower seeds, but there's not much of a conversation that can be made from that.

These guys are not geeks, nerds or dorks. They are dotcom types, and (apologies) Windows ones at that. Wired, Reddit and Slashdot are the People Magazines of tech. People who are born-nerds or geek-affiliated read much more niche stuff (Light Reading, HN, Star Trek blogs). I have worked with people like this, and they tend to think that because they can pull movies from their laptop with their Playstation 3 that they are due for an ACM fellowship.

This is a mainstream play you're working here, so you're going to be faced with what Officially Trained tech people are interested in, which is the same as lawyers and DMV workers: phones, sports-type stuff (sneakers, cars) and snack foods. Rooting a phone is an end to itself, so try asking what they get out of it, or less-confrontationally, what some awesome things to do are. Real geeks would be talking about different ways of eating sunflower seeds, different strains of sunflowers, vacations to places where rare strains are grown, etc. Frankly, I don't need to root my (Android) phone because I have an ssh client for it (ConnectBot) so that I can access machines on which having root actually matters. I also chose my cell provider so that I didn't have to root my phone in order to use it as a wifi hotspot. Win-win.

It's macho-nerd bullshit because that's all they have: headlines and purchasing power. If you want to bust their balls, start asking them questions over their heads:
  • What's your favorite Perl distribution for Windows?
  • Cygwin vs. VirtualBox?
  • Will I get in trouble for using IRC here?
  • Grady Booch is such a lamer.
Of course, I've had the same problem as you for the opposite reason before, so use sparingly. I also like to keep a "Bynum only got 5 games? Basketball is so corrupt!" in my back pocket for emergencies.
posted by rhizome at 4:20 PM on May 12, 2011 [13 favorites]


You cannot win these people over. They have already decided not to hire you and have given you an impossible task to perform in order to justify not hiring you. The end.
posted by tel3path at 4:39 PM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


"I have an ssh client for it (ConnectBot) so that I can access machines on which having root actually matters."

I'm suddenly interested in having a Droid.
posted by HopperFan at 4:41 PM on May 12, 2011


With regard to maybe it's not sexism, and the go to HR thing -- it is so easy to lie about the rationale. "Not a good fit with the team"? That seems strange. I wonder how often that statement applies to people who look like the team does? But HR won't do anything -- contract employee or not. They'll fill out a form.

"Not a good fit with the team" despite skills that are "100% on target"? What kind of weird-ass personality defect have we uncovered? She comes back from lunch with her mouth all bloody from squirrel hunting and fails to sufficiently sex up her phone?
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:48 PM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Another possibility: the manager has decided that you do not have the skills they need and cannot learn them, and is trying to take the easy way out. For legal reasons the hard way out probably includes a performance plan, documentation, and having to face you every day after telling you that. I think the guys might be feeling horribly awkward because they also know this, and are not sure how to handle it. No matter what, it is definitely time to leave, you cannot win in this situation.
posted by meepmeow at 5:53 PM on May 12, 2011


They don't "legally" have to put you on a performance plan at all. I suppose they may think they have to, though.
posted by tel3path at 5:55 PM on May 12, 2011


Definitely take a team member aside and talk to them. At the same time, look for another job. Your conversation with the team member will give you a better idea of what's what.
posted by xammerboy at 5:59 PM on May 12, 2011


Performance plan : I thought of that initially, too. However, he specifically said that it was *not* any issue with performance, and even said "This is not a performance plan situation." Also, if they thought my skills weren't up to par, they could have easily let me go at the end of my contract at the end of May. In fact, he initially suggested a six month extension, and I mentioned the fact that I'd consider it, but I'd be looking around for other opportunities, so we agreed on a 3 month extension.

But excuse me, it's dinnertime, and I have some squirrels to hunt. And some job searching to do. :)
posted by HopperFan at 6:04 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had a job I was good at but not a great personality mesh for. It was ok, but not great. Recently I've started working with people who really like me and my life is much better. I think you should look for a new job- and I think when you find a better fit you'll be surprised how much better your whole life gets. Good luck!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:53 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


An alternative theory is that, due to no fault of your own, they feel like they can't be themselves with you around. Being a girl and all. They probably like to swap porn on their phones, swear a lot, and make fun of everyone else in the office. Your presence would force them to be more professional, which they don't want.
posted by blargerz at 7:59 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Get another job, sounds like a jerk place with jerks working there.
posted by the noob at 10:17 PM on May 12, 2011


rhizome: "These guys are not geeks, nerds or dorks. They are dotcom types, and (apologies) Windows ones at that."

That's pretty dismissive of people you've never met, rhizome.

I think part of the problem could be that OP is trying to prove that she's competent, and these guys aren't looking for competence so much as interest. The best way I've heard the difference explained is "programming as a job, not as a hobby." The fact that the OP's competent wouldn't help; the person described by that quote was running a web development start-up at the time, and that didn't stop his brother from telling me the man wasn't a computer geek.

So the phone example is pretty dumb if you think the manager had a mental check-box for rooted phones, but it makes more sense if you focus instead on how he's looking for "a true passion for technology." If OP doesn't bring up her outside interests much at work, they might have (erroneously or not) concluded that she hasn't got any.
posted by d. z. wang at 11:33 PM on May 12, 2011


d.z. wang, that's an interesting point. I'll start trying to bring up some up that stuff at work.
posted by HopperFan at 5:33 AM on May 13, 2011


This manager sounds like he hasn't been a manager very long and a bit of a coward on top of it. Either he wants to hire you for what you bring to the table or not. Everything else that's been mentioned is really just bullshit (rooted phones? Really?).

He should be managing his team to fulfill business and technical requirements and not like he's conducting fraternity rush.

I'd consider this a "lesson learned" and think about finding another gig, either within that company or through your recruiting outfit.
posted by PsuDab93 at 6:45 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I 100% agree with rhizome. Mention "dragoncon" and see the look on their face. If they're clueless, then yes, they are not geeks/nerds. They're just assholes and you should bail.

They're elitist pricks in the dot com world and should work for an ad agency and not where you work. Jerks. Sorry you had to go through with it.

But if you do find a company with true nerds/geeks, they will treat you much better, especially since you're a cool girl w/ tech skills. :) Take care and be strong. F these guys.
posted by stormpooper at 7:21 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's pretty dismissive of people you've never met, rhizome.

It sure is, hence my disclaimer at the top of my comment.

If OP doesn't bring up her outside interests much at work, they might have (erroneously or not) concluded that she hasn't got any.

Which is them being dismissive of someone they have met.
posted by rhizome at 10:06 AM on May 13, 2011


rhizome: "If OP doesn't bring up her outside interests much at work, they might have (erroneously or not) concluded that she hasn't got any.

Which is them being dismissive of someone they have met.
"

...am I misunderstanding you, or do you actually think that OP's coworkers shouldn't be allowed to form opinions of her after they've worked together since January?
posted by d. z. wang at 10:29 AM on May 13, 2011


It's likely that part of what's going on here is that neither they nor you are the type of people to have the personalities and skills to easily bridge an awkward social gap.

The fact that maybe they find it hard to connect with you, or know what to talk to you about does not make them bad people, any more than the fact that you don't know what to talk to them about makes you a bad person.

They're doing what people mostly do, taking the line of least resistance, talking to people they're comfortable talking with about stuff that they feel comfortable talking about. If the boot was on the other foot, you'd likely find yourself doing the same.

There's no magic bullet for moving forward with that, but the nearest thing to it is realizing that it's probably just as hard for them as it is for you.
posted by philipy at 11:25 AM on May 13, 2011


philipy: There's no magic bullet for moving forward with that, but the nearest thing to it is realizing that it's probably just as hard for them as it is for you

Bullshit. Because they have a jobs and she's about to lose hers.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:11 PM on May 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


DarlingBri... I like you and know you talk a lot of sense, so I'm gonna pass over the "BS" part, and not take that personally. Even if you did make it bold.

The "just as hard" phrase above meant (as you can see from the context) it is just as hard for them to break the ice with you as it for you to do that with them. Not that it's just as hard to lose your job as to have someone else you don't know too well lose theirs.

Whether there is a "magic bullet" for "moving forward" has nothing to do with the gravity of the situation, or with how it came to be that way, or even with who is at fault. The term "magic bullet" originated in medicine meaning "there's no single or easy cure for this disease". Whether you've got the common cold or cancer doesn't alter the fact of whether there's a cure available.

The lack of a magic bullet also doesn't mean there's nothing that can be done. It means what can done is difficult, uncertain of success, and there's a range of complicated options none of which has universal applicability to all cases.

I repeat: There's no magic bullet. The closest thing to it (i.e. most likely to apply and most likely to actually improve matters) is what I said before. Realizing that it's hard for them to talk to you, the same as it's hard for you to talk to them. Which realization can suddenly make it a whole lot easier to connect.

FWIW, I have experienced such situations myself, and also coached people to deal with them. However, as the lawyers and medics would say, I am not your coach.

What I suggested is not necessarily easy to do. But it is often do-able, and it often make a heck of a difference.
posted by philipy at 4:11 PM on May 13, 2011


philipy, I don't know how much you know about the tech sector, but let me tell you: it is filled to the brim with awkward personalities and poor social skills. It's a given. What is no longer a given is the idea that we passively accept descrimination against capable women not because they lack technical skills but because they are socialised differently and that means they don't always fit into a male-dominated culture. Note that the woman who is more "brassy" is accepted.

You are giving these idiots way too much credit. She has made overtures: "I sit at the same table, and I've tried to engage them, but they're not very responsive." They have been rejected. So you can roll with the "it's not sexism, they are just poor misunderstood geeks who don't know how to deal with women" thing or you can say that it's sexism or you can contrive some soft explainationation somewhere in between to make everyone feel OK about something that is not OK.

But basically, she's good at her job and she's losing it because she doesn't play like a boy and it is bullshit.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:23 PM on May 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Thought you all might like an update - I'm aggressively job hunting, and I've got quite a few callbacks already.

Also, the team lead was out today - he's the one that seems the most dismissive - so I took that opportunity to chat up the other two engineers about Droids vs. Windows 7 phones, and a few other things (some scripting, new features in Exchange 2010, etc..), and it went over pretty well. They were also much more talkative at lunch, interestingly enough.

This could be because they were away from the "pack leader," or it could be because I was more relaxed - I don't really care what they think now because I know I'll be moving on. I'd like it to be on a positive note, though, so if making an additional effort to talk to them helps with that, it's not too much of a hardship for me.
posted by HopperFan at 8:14 PM on May 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


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