What's the word for a man not taking responsibility at work?
July 3, 2016 6:43 AM   Subscribe

So I have a colleague who I think is basically a good guy, and a smart guy. We are both doctors, he consulted on a few of my cases and entered his opinion into the medical record and his work was ok but not great and then he mansplained to me... It is now a pattern that I need to address, and to do that I need more vocabulary. Please help!

To give one example, he wrote in the medical record that a certain medication was raising a patient's lipids, and then he explained to me about it. I said that I did not think that med raised lipids (and actually I regarded this as kinda basic info about a common med, but we all have gaps in our knowledge) He explained to me again that it did, with confidence and maybe a touch of benign condescension. So I researched it-- the med does not raise lipids. I told him about the data, and made an entry in the record to correct the misinformation. He didn't acknowledge that he'd misinformed me as my consultant, or, you know, praise my diligence or apologize or anything.

I told myself, and the med student who watched the process, that my colleague had 'mansplained' and left me to do 'emotional labor' in the interaction. It so helped to have words to describe it! Thank you Metafilter!

Now I'm gonna try to teach my colleague about what's happening in our work relationship, and I'm going to respectfully and firmly call him on it when I see it. Then I'm going to offer what I've observed to the institution. Because that's part of my job, and if I do it tactfully I think the (all-female, all psychologically-sophisticated) administrators will listen to me and we'll be able to make our culture a little healthier. And I'm going to use those words (mansplain, emotional labor) because social phenomena are often invisible until you have words for them, and the words lighten things up a bit and indicate that it's not about him, it's all of us.

Ok, so the question is, what other words do I need to learn and use? Because he didn't merely mansplain and emotional-labor-dump; he did other things as well. He made a mistake, as we all do, but then didn't apologize or repair. And, he assumed the cloak of authority without taking responsibility to be thorough and competent. And, you know, he kinda bullshits, with a gentle grave confident manner that masks the fact that he doesn't know as much as he signals that he knows. (And, part of this phenomenon is that his superiors think he is better at his job than he is, while the relatively unempowered nurses sometimes feel overwhelmingly resentful and then the social dynamic gets way complicated.)

So, you all have seen this kinda thing at work, right? What are the work-appropriate words for it, please? (Also: I'm competent and committed, I'm going to do this. And. I got my own gender-based trauma history, like most of us women. I'm hurting over this, and feeling a little alone-- so hugs are really appreciated, too, thanks)
posted by seacats to Human Relations (37 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Many many hugs. I've been there (most women have) and it's frustrating and demoralizing. I hope you have like-minded friends you can talk to about this - it helps to have your feelings validated.

That said, I would be *extremely* hesitant to use the word "mansplain" to describe anyone's behavior in a work setting. That doesn't mean it doesn't accurately describe a real phenomena (it does, IMO), but that word is so very loaded, it is likely to provoke an almost immediate defensive reaction. He is almost certainly going to see it as an attack, not as an enlightening observation on larger social patterns of behavior. It sucks, but again, I've been there.

What do you hope to accomplish by "teaching your colleague" about your work relationship? I would back up a little bit and get very strategic about what you hope to accomplish by addressing this with the man-splainy colleague and your administrators. Do you want to start working on clearer communication protocols in the medical record-keeping? Do you want to have a different approach to working with consulting doctors?

I would really focus on what specifically you want changed in your work practices and leave the shitty social dynamics to the side, at least for awhile. What tangible changes will make *you* more effective and happier in this environment? Trying to change decades-old patterns of behavior in other people you work with is a good way to get incredibly burned out while having little to show for it.
posted by pantarei70 at 7:09 AM on July 3, 2016 [33 favorites]

While I think it's genuinely important how his behavior is affecting you, I would consider framing this more in terms of how it affects and potentially compromises patient care (and if he's working with med students & residents, their education and future patient care). Focus on the unwillingness on his part to admit to and correct his mistakes, which is a pretty damn dangerous quality in a physician. I would continue collecting documentation that demonstrates this.

I would stay away from "mansplain," which I think is not very helpful in a professional setting.
posted by obfuscation at 7:12 AM on July 3, 2016 [41 favorites]

What are the work-appropriate words for it, please?

"Mansplain" is not a work-appropriate term for unnecessarily explaining something to an objectively knowledgeable person in a condescending manner. In fact, it is very much a sexist term. The work-appropriate term for it is "unnecessarily explaining something to an objectively knowledgeable person in a condescending manner."

"Emotional labor" is not a work-appropriate term either, as much as it fits culturally. It is not emotional labor to review the work of a consultant or conduct further research when you discover something that appears incorrect. And it is not a requirement that a consultant "praise [your] diligence or apologize."

Now I'm gonna try to teach my colleague about what's happening in our work relationship,

Why? Set standards and expectations for his work as a consultant, and use another consultant if he doesn't meet them. The work "relationship" is less important than the *work,* which he is doing wrong.

the words lighten things up a bit and indicate that it's not about him, it's all of us.

But this is, or should be, about him. He is providing incorrect information as a consultant, and being unwilling to double-check his work even when called on it. Whether or not it's indicative of a larger cultural phenomenon, your efforts to "lighten things up" and make it a cultural discussion take the heat off this guy for doing his job wrong.

Seems to me you are volunteering to do emotional labor here where it isn't warranted, and where it doesn't belong. Call this guy on his professionalism and his accuracy, not on his privilege.
posted by headnsouth at 7:14 AM on July 3, 2016 [90 favorites]

I told myself, and the med student who watched the process, that my colleague had 'mansplained' and left me to do 'emotional labor' in the interaction

I'm glad that this vocabulary helps to make you feel better, but it's not appropriate to talk about a colleague *to a student* in those terms. You can talk about the situation that occurred using facts, and make the same point. Maybe a better point, because the lesson will be stripped of emotionally charged language.

I'd also gently suggest that just because there is that vocabulary, doesn't mean that it's always appropriate. Not making a judgment call on your situation exactly, but... sometimes people are just pedantic jerks who do sloppy work and puff themselves up to hide their incompetence. It's not always a gendered thing; the language you're using makes a an assumption of sexism.
posted by lilnublet at 7:43 AM on July 3, 2016 [13 favorites]

I'd call it counterproductive.
Dr. Bob, remember how we disagreed on how Xxx affects lipid levels and, as it happened, you were wrong? The way you refused to consider my knowledge on Xxx was counterproductive and not good in terms of patient care which is obviously our highest priority. As doctors and colleagues we need to be openminded and consider information especially from a reliable sources.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:53 AM on July 3, 2016 [13 favorites]

I don't see emotional labor in a situation where you have to correct a colleague's shoddy work. That's just... him doing shoddy work. Failing to know a medicine's attributes is just that. Refusing to listen to a more informed viewpoint is shoddy collaboration and failure to learn.

I'd stay far away from both the phrases you've invoked. They're orthogonal to the actual problems in the incidents you mention (lack of expertise & failure to learn) and they will paint you as unprofessional and biased.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:06 AM on July 3, 2016 [15 favorites]

First – don't be hard on yourself reading replies here (with which I agree) that "mansplaining" and "emotional labor" aren't appropriate in a work context. It's okay to have used them! You sound like a woman who's had incredible luck to have only just now encountered this at work. As such a bit of idealism is only natural.

I've worked in IT for 12 years now as a woman. I can count the number of genuinely supportive, egalitarian men I know on both of my hands (with fingers to spare). And with precisely zero of them have I ever used the words "mansplaining" or "emotional labor" even when talking about other people we all knew were mansplainers and emotional laze-abouts. There are several reasons I visit MeFi, and one of them is that it's one of the rare spaces I can actually use these terms and know that people aren't going to assume I'm a horrible man-eating misandrist. Using these terms is great for chatting with like-minded friends, but NOT at the office.

At work, you've got to focus on work. Even more so as a woman. The second we show emotion, even if it is valid, reasonable, and balanced, we get blowback that men don't (or they get to a much lesser extent). Whether this guy can be taught, in any case, no matter how objective and factual, remains to be seen. Not everyone can; this is also a facet that's important to grok when dealing with people, especially if you're an idealist.

Are you this guy's superior? If not, it is not your role to teach him. I think going to the instituion about it is a good idea, but it needs to be factual. No interpretation. Just "this happened; this needs to improve," as others have described.

One of the most difficult things about being a woman in the workplace is indeed that the social phenomena are right there in your face, and you pay for it, but you can't talk about it in those terms. You need to be above it; focus on the job. It's thankless and lonely, but one thing I can say, is that if you remain dignified and professional like this, and foster trustworthiness in all things, you will be relatively iron-clad. I've managed to progress in my career in spite of a whole ream of sexism and xenophobia in large part because the way I work leaves a two-fold impression with everyone who knows me, even the ones who hurf-durf (<- that is also a term not to be used in the office ;) ): professional and trustworthy. I've managed to advance because I also set aside the petty stuff and analyze situations in a way that upper management relates to. Aim for that.

And again, rest assured you are not alone and this is not easy, not by any means.
posted by fraula at 8:07 AM on July 3, 2016 [23 favorites]

Just curious, does he do this to other men also?
posted by gt2 at 8:19 AM on July 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

You cannot change the way your coworker interacts with other people. He was wrong. He's probably not going to start being more careful or doing more emotional labor based in this incident or anything your bring up about the incident. Avoid him as best you can. This was moderately annoying, but in the grand scheme of bad coworkers, not that bad. Avoid and think about him as little as possible.
posted by Kalmya at 8:33 AM on July 3, 2016

Focusing on his personality flaws isn't going to help as much as describing the potential errors he's introducing into the system through virtue of overconfidence/undereducation.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:46 AM on July 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Not sure if this is helpful, but I just wanted to say, that I have been the patient of a couple of doctors like this and I literally almost died and lost a limb because of them. The only reason I didn't is because I went to a different place with different doctors who didn't have a chip on their shoulder and who actually took the time to look into my concern. It turned out that I had a cancerous tumor... But if I had done nothing (because that's what the first couple of doctors INSISTED WITH DEFIANT ARROGANCE that it was when they barely put any effort at all into finding out the problem) the cancer would've spread further where I would've lost the limb or died. I know very well that doctors are human and make mistakes like everyone else, but these guys literally took a few seconds to look at a scan of mine and without suggesting anything more and flat out refusing to look into it further, told me that the pain I "claimed to be feeling" was either me lying or that I was somehow crazy and needed to see a therapist.

The next doctors I saw equally didn't pick up anything on the scan, but rather than insisting there was no problem they just took just a little more time and did a couple more tests. They found a little growth that wasn't coming out clearly in the scan. When the tiny tumor was cut out the pain finally went away for good. Of course I still needed cancer treatment after that, but it was nice to finally have the pain gone just from having that nasty tumor out which was apparently causing pain because it was pressing on some nerve or something. And you know what? Even before they had found the problem- just the fact that these doctors didn't call me a liar or crazy when I was already emotionally drained by the constant pain I was in made me very grateful to them.

Patients deserve a doctor who puts more stake in his work than he does his own EGO. I would be very concerned for his patients and also the legal liability he might be to the hospital/medical establishment you both work for. If his bosses (assuming they're mostly male) think he's better at his work than he actually is just because he boasts more or whatever- then it's possible he's part of the "boy's club". However in my experience, Even the boys in the club will turn on any guy that they feel might open them up to a negligence lawsuit down the line. And it sounds to me like he might be a negligence suit waiting to happen.
posted by manderin at 9:59 AM on July 3, 2016 [16 favorites]

I completely see where you're coming from and I sympathize with how frustrating it is.

I'm not sure that you can communicate this effectively and tactfully and use the words 'mansplain' and 'emotional labour'. These words are liable to make him defensive and may make others defensive (against you) in ways that will require even more emotional labour on your part. And yes, modifying your message in this way is also EL, but it is likely to be worth your time and effort to frontload the EL in this way.

It seems there are two goals you may be pursuing here: (1) to address mistakes being made that affect patients, (2) to address attitudes and communication issues that are interfering with work relationships. It may be more effective to address them separately.

For (1), you may wish to document what happened from a neutral third-party perspective and identify possible solutions, focusing on outcomes for patients and improving the quality of consultation. You want to focus on being a team player here, not fighting. In particular, I would not focus on "he was wrong, he isn't amazing at everything" but on "we will all continue to learn throughout our careers, how can we make that more possible and make this an environment where we can admit to errors and improve our knowledge together". (As an aside, what is the change that you want to see? You don't indicate that he fought you on the point about the lipids when you presented research, only when it was your word against his. It's entirely likely that he will say "When I saw the research, I agreed," and this will be seen to be a reasonable response in terms of patient outcomes.)

For (2), I have very little advice except that I would hesitate to be this direct about it. I suspect that he does not have the emotional skills in place to take constructive criticism in the way that you hope, and you don't want to get between your superiors and the golden boy.

Finally, in terms of the hurt we all experienced after learning about emotional labour and finally truly seeing the truth of it, please consider ways to engage in self-care outside of work. Therapy is one option, writing and other creative work, finding a circle of friends (online or offline) who you can talk to about EL, being gentle with yourself on particularly stressful weeks, etc. It has been a lot to take in for many of us, myself included. You're not alone in that, but it is a long road and we need to identify healing spaces as we live with the blinders off. Part of that is learning to drop EL tasks that are not assigned to you — for example, not repairing damage that this colleague does. While it is an issue, it is not necessarily YOUR issue to fix. Learning to step back on that sort of thing has been extraordinarily difficult and helpful for me.
posted by sadmadglad at 10:48 AM on July 3, 2016

In this situation, I think your best bet is to stay cool and professional, and use the most neutral and detached phrasing possible. I agree that doctors who pretend to be sure of something even though they are not, are dangerous.

I'm a doctor and I teach med students and consult other docs. When anyone (be it another doctor or a med student) contradicts what I am saying and says they are pretty sure I have it wrong? I always stop right there and ask myself, how do I know that part? Can I check a legit source to make sure I am not misremembering, or that I haven't missed some recent developments/changes? This is an important safety checkpoint.

So I think the lesson to teach your med student in this context is to never, ever trust someone blindly in the medical setting. If something does not sound right, or your gut makes you hesitate, double- and triple check the info. Regardless of who is saying the thing. Biggest medical rock star, your favorite doctor, your old mentor. Do not blindly trust anyone, including yourself.

Hope I understood the situation and your concern correctly. Kudos on being diligent.
posted by M. at 11:30 AM on July 3, 2016 [9 favorites]

As a female who works in a very male-dominated profession, I can sympathize with what you're experiencing. But I wouldn't use phrases like "mansplaining" and "emotional labor." As others noted above, these can sound unprofessional to some people, and they can mean different things to different people. For example, to me, "mansplaining" implies that a guy explains things in a condescending way only to women, while being respectful and egalitarian when he explains things to men. If he's shitty to both men and women, he's not mansplaining, he's just being an arrogant asshole. Which is a different problem. Similarly, looking up the facts about a medication is not "emotional labor," it's called "doing your homework" and "learning stuff." So, if you came to me throwing around phrases like "mansplain" and "emotional labor," I'd kinda roll my eyes and be less inclined to take you seriously.

Here are some phrases which are more appropriate when describing this guy's behavior:
"not constructive"
"not in the patients' best interest"
"not in your colleagues' best interest"
"not conducive to morale"
"not professional"

Also, I'm sorry to say this, but based on my experience it's totally normal for people like this to not apologize or acknowledge when they are wrong. Arrogant people just don't do these things naturally. But I tell you what, when you know he's wrong and you're right, call him out and stick to your guns. Look up the info in a reputable source and show it to him. He'll gradually get the idea that you know what you're talking about, and he'll be less inclined to give you a hard time about things. Just keep putting him in his place and let his ego get bruised a bit.
posted by phoenix_rising at 11:50 AM on July 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

I am grateful for your kind concern and the hugs, and but however still seeking an answer to my question, which is about specific vocabulary to describe a type of apparently gender based behavior. I definitely should not have used the phrase 'work appropriate' which led to confusion and digression--what is appropriate in your work culture and job description has little bearing on what is appropriate in mine, etc. I would love to hear any words that you have found helpful to describe feigned competence/irresponsibility, especially when it occurs in a privileged group member, even if you'd never say the words in your out-loud voice at work ;^) (also, yeah, emotional labor is not the doing of one's job; it is the extra time one spends to unilaterally mend and maintain the social fabric-- the pleases and thank-yous and sorries that maintain a healthy work environment.)
posted by seacats at 1:17 PM on July 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Maybe you can give one or two more examples to help generate more ideas? I can't think of any more vocabulary to use about this one.
posted by M. at 2:15 PM on July 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I actually disagree with a lot of the above advice, but with a caveat. I think you should talk about it. But it may be damaging to you professionally. I disagree with holding your tongue because if we don't talk about it, then these things don't change.

Mansplaining is probably the most difficult and I would agree that you be sure it's happening as opposed to just general arrogance. But, most of the time our feelings as women are right.

I can't offer you any additional phrases here, but I would instead suggest looking into gendered behavior studies. I think breaking down how women are treated different vis a vis considered more emotional and dismissed because of that, vocal policing, ideas ignored or coopted by men, contributions attributed to teams as opposed to individually recognized, etc. get some firm(er) theory and even statistics, and then highlight some example that have happened in your workplace.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:23 PM on July 3, 2016

Here is an article to get you started.

This isn't what I was looking for, but has a bunch of fancy buzz words and some great explanations behind them.

I'm trying to think of the answer to your title question. IT'S A THING, I've seen it, but I can't come up with a specific descriptor. Men (mostly white, but not always) are often given much more leeway to fuck up or fuck off, and their problems often roll down to women to clean up or do the busy work (or all the work). I can't imagine there is not a term, but you've got me.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:39 PM on July 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

The strongest word or term you can use here is "wrong" or "factually incorrect." Which gets at the first level of the problem, which is dispensing bad medical advice. This description is pretty much inarguable.

To cover the social aspects, your colleague is not acting in a "collegial" manner. When you advise him that your opinion is different than his, instead of giving it equal weight to his own opinion, and taking it upon himself to double-check himself, he just walks away. And, even though you are 99% certain you are right, you still follow up and double check yourself to make sure you have the proper information. If you have achieved a level in your career where you are independently operating without supervision, you are effectively his equal (even if he is older, or higher up on the organizational chart) and he is failing to recognize that in a way that puts the health of his patients at risk. This is his fault. He is not acting collegially.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 3:00 PM on July 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

Wrongly diagnosing rising lipids, inaccurately attributing it to a medication, and falling to care once corrected are a much bigger problem than "dumping emotional labor." Focusing on how he failed to apologize makes it about you. It makes it interpersonal and subjective. It raises the question, do others take offense to him? From my point of view, a much bigger problem is he doesn't know what he's doing. That's a problem about him alone. You have objective facts to back up that claim. Your proposed approach, I think, cedes a lot of power and risks people missing the point. The primary goal, if you ask me, should not be to get him to be nicer to you while practicing medicine poorly. The language I'd use is not "he dumps emotional labor by failing to mend fences with me once I correct his false diagnosis, even after he mansplained to me." It's, "he falsely dismissed rising lipids, insisted upon his perspective when I first corrected him, and failed to respond when I provided documentation of his error. This lack of basic knowledge about prescribed medications and apparent disinterest in learning is a potential danger to patients. (And btw, as his colleague, his unwillingness to listen came across as condescension and disrespect.)" I would avoid the use of neologisms altogether.
posted by salvia at 3:09 PM on July 3, 2016 [29 favorites]

My comment above is not just because (as a potential future patient) I think that's what's most important. It's also because I think the best way to get him to be "nice to you" (respectful, concerned with maintaining your professional relationship) is not to tell your superiors "he isn't nice to me." It's to show him that bad things happen to him when he isn't nice to you.
posted by salvia at 3:24 PM on July 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

What you are trying to fix here are two intertwined issues: a problematic individual who makes dangerous mistakes in the workplace but refuses to acknowledge it when corrected, and 2) a culture in your workplace that allows this to continue unchallenged. Yes, the more immediate problem in terms of patient health is the individual. He is also a problem for other colleagues, like you, because he interferes with your ability to do your job properly. HOWEVER, the biggest problem here, the one that will continue even if this particular guy goes somewhere else, is a CULTURE in your workplace (and in medicine in general) that privileges male authority.

I think it's worth examining how he has managed to get in a position to make these mistakes. How has he has become so well-respected and given so much authority, when he is the type of person who makes these patient-jeopardizing mistakes, then doesn't acknowledge it when he is corrected? I suspect your take on the situation is correct--he is accorded authority and respect simply because he is male.

Of course I think you do need to address this individual's actions, especially since they are jeopardizing patients. But I think what you are trying to get at with this AskMe question is: how can you raise the issue of a CULTURE of male privilege that allows men who don't know what they're talking about to make decisions based on wrong information and refuse to acknowledge it when they're proven wrong?

It may be worthwhile for you to look at ways of getting your administration to examine the culture of your workplace and its unhealthy perpetuation of (eg) male privilege, and give people a framework within which they can name examples as they see them and call out behaviour that undermines everyone--patient safety, their colleagues' professional authority, whether that is nurses or fellow physicians.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:54 PM on July 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

There's an institutional problem and there's a problem with that specific individual. I've had the best luck in talking to people who are screwing me by becoming as emotionally detached as possible and approaching them in a friendly, non-threatening way in which I exhibit curiosity rather than hostility. It's hard but it can be done. For example, consider approaching this guy privately and saying something like, "Hey X, I wanted to check in with you about something. I'm wondering what you were trying to accomplish when you told me that Y medicine was raising the patient's lipids and added a note about that to the chart--although that is not the case, as I pointed out at the time. We both care about patients so help me out here. This isn't the first time you've brushed aside my perspective. What's your thought process when that happens? What's your goal? I don't take it personally, I just truly want to understand your behaviour because it affects patient care." And then be silent for however long it takes for him to come up with a response. Which, if he is a good guy, should be an apology. Now I will try to find the actual term you are looking for. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 4:30 PM on July 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

Also, what salvia said.
posted by Bella Donna at 4:38 PM on July 3, 2016

I am amazed at how much pushback you're getting, even from women, for calling out sexism in your workplace, as a relatively powerful woman who is relatively safe in doing so, and for (as you've noted) doing so because it's part of the job. You are still assuming a risk, of course, and thank you for doing it, and I'm sorry people are getting hung up on the risk at the cost of answering the actual question.

"Mansplaining" isn't just "unnecessarily explaining something to an objectively knowledgeable person in a condescending manner" - it's doing so explicitly because your assumption of superior knowledge is predicated on the genders of the explainer (male) and explainee (female). Thank you for calling it when you see it, even if you have to use a clunky long phrase like "unnecessary sexist explaining predicated on gender" to get the point across to people who don't understand the nuances of "mansplaining".

Relatedly, I think you need to be prepared to explain the sexism inherent in this, without falling back on terminology about gender dynamics that may not be familiar to the people you're communicating with, particularly since they're apt to be defensive (for all that managers paint themselves as eager to hear about ways to improve care, they are generally not actually thrilled to hear about deficits in care or systematic flaws, and nobody, especially someone who is habituated to being treated with deference, is happy to hear that they've been fucking up). Treat it like educating a patient about a modifiable risk factor s/he isn't going to be happy to change - be ready to adjust your level of explanation if it becomes clear you're geared too high or too low, be prepared for pushback, go early and often and in small chunks, and above all else, be clear about your expectations.
posted by gingerest at 5:52 PM on July 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I like this term, and at it's most extreme I'd say it was this.
posted by anitanita at 5:58 PM on July 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here are some of the phrases that do come to mind:

"misattribution of symptoms"
"incompetent, erroneous diagnosis"
"doubling down on his mistake despite having had the correct information provided by a colleague"
"ignoring correct information provided"
"failing to research an easily available piece of information"
"surprising ignorance of a basic fact regarding a commonly administered medication"
"endangering a patient"
"presenting a liability to our practice."
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:31 PM on July 3, 2016 [9 favorites]

I wanted to say, because I accidentally left it off my previous comment, that I admire your willingness to speak up about your colleague's behaviour and that you discussed it with your med student. Sexism is only normalized and perpetuated when people don't speak up, especially around those new to the profession. If you hadn't spoken up, your med student would have gotten the impression that this is Just One Of Those Things We Have To Put Up With.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:26 PM on July 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

The closest word that I can think of is
Condescending: having or showing a feeling of patronizing superiority (with a heavy dose of both patronizing and superiority.
posted by metahawk at 10:12 PM on July 3, 2016

Oh man, good luck. I'm sending you virtual strength.

Every interaction where I've pointed out a man has condescended to me has ended less-than-well.

Most recent example: I asked my feminist-ally spouse to see if he could help me install our air conditioner. I measured where we needed a piece of wood to block the window. His assistance? Re-measuring the window and telling me exactly the same measurements I took LITERALLY 15 seconds earlier.

But he wasn't like, condescending to me or anything... he was just reminding me to measure twice and cut once... (sigh)
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:31 AM on July 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

For such conversations I rely on the co-counselling tool ...

"When you [behaviour]
I feel [ feeling]
I need [change you seek in behaviour]
So that [desired result]"

This framing helps me focus on behaviour and ending my own feelings about the situation, and in my experience it helps people hear me.
posted by chapps at 7:44 AM on July 4, 2016

I'm going to respectfully and firmly call him on it when I see it. Then I'm going to offer what I've observed to the institution. Because that's part of my job, and if I do it tactfully I think the (all-female, all psychologically-sophisticated) administrators will listen to me and we'll be able to make our culture a little healthier. And I'm going to use those words (mansplain, emotional labor) because social phenomena are often invisible until you have words for them, and the words lighten things up a bit and indicate that it's not about him, it's all of us.

Are you positioned to take any blowback that comes? Do you have enough career collateral for that? Even if the administrators tacitly (or openly) agree with you, are they positioned to lean on these concepts in any reform?

Also, just to be clear - you're planning to use your direct observations of this one arrogant (and yes, mansplainy) colleague to ground a reform of the system?


- How might this affect your working relationship with this person? Is he going to be more open to fair and necessary criticism if you call him out as A Sexist? Is he going to identify with that, take it on board, use it to challenge his assumptions and inform his work? Probably not. And they're not going to fire him for this, or even twelve this-es, unless something egregious and dangerous happens and there is a terrible outcome. And maybe not even then.

- If he doesn't take to it well, how might resulting communication failures impact the care of any patients you need to consult each other about?

I don't think the answer to this is laying down the hammer, and I don't think exposing yourself to the criticism of lack of professionalism is going to equip you to make real, plausible reforms, when you are positioned to do that. You're going to get a pretty unflattering label for yourself that is going to work against you.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:50 AM on July 4, 2016

I keep thinking about this question. I just want to add two other thoughts.

First, workplaces aren't like personal relationships. There often are hierarchies within which long-winded explanations and imbalances of emotional labor are appropriate. Your relationship with him might not be one. But that's why I think it's inherently shaky territory to define your battle on those terms. This guy could appropriately "mansplain" to an inexperienced nurse. He could appropriately dump emotional labor (scheduling with patients, ordering cake for a staff's birthday) on certain staff. Maybe not on you. That's why I think you'll have an easier time proving that YOU aren't someone to be condescended to and disregarded than that he must learn to not do that to anyone. Knowing medication's side effects is definitely in his job description. Sharing emotional labor equally? Eh... in some cases, probably; in other cases, clearly not.

Second, I think the charges you want to bring require more evidence than you reveal here, and perhaps more evidence than you have. You can say that you felt condescended to. But to prove he was "mansplaining" would require evidence that he would not have been condescending if you were male. Maybe he doesn't respect you due to [that one time you were wrong]. Maybe he thinks everyone (male and female) is dumber than him. Similarly, to prove that he dumps emotional labor, you'll need a few examples that involve other people. Otherwise, maybe he just doesn't care enough about his relationship with you personally to do that work.
posted by salvia at 1:13 PM on July 4, 2016

Do you want to point out his sexism, or do you want to point out his factual wrongness? I agree that it would be great if you could do both, but I think that the latter is a lot more important.
posted by disconnect at 6:08 PM on July 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

It seems to me that the asker doesn't actually want input on dealing with workplace politics (and it is kind of ironic to ignore her confidence in herself to handle it) but is really looking for vocabulary.

Unfounded arrogance? Inability to engage Ruth constructive feedback? Hubris? Reckless over confidence?
posted by Salamandrous at 12:48 PM on July 5, 2016

Perhaps the guy is attempting to manage his cognitive dissonance by using the last technique?

Cognitive dissonance theory is founded on the assumption that individuals seek consistency between their expectations and their reality. Because of this, people engage in a process called dissonance reduction to bring their cognitions and actions in line with one another. This creation of uniformity allows for a lessening of psychological tension and distress. According to Festinger, dissonance reduction can be achieved in four ways.[1] In an example case where a person has adopted the attitude that they will no longer eat high fat food, but eats a high-fat doughnut, the four methods of reduction are:

*Change behavior or cognition ("I will not eat any more of this doughnut")
*Justify behavior or cognition by changing the conflicting cognition ("I'm allowed to cheat every once in a while")
*Justify behavior or cognition by adding new cognitions ("I'll spend 30 extra minutes at the gym to work this off")
*Ignore or deny any information that conflicts with existing beliefs ("This doughnut is not high in fat")

posted by Bella Donna at 2:39 PM on July 5, 2016

"Incorrigible" or "insufferable" are normally the words I default to when speaking about someone who is an unmitigated windbag, but I agree, it does feel like there should be a better word for someone so unrepentantly arrogant about their own abilities and knowledge that their ego cannot let them entertain the idea that they might be wrong about something.

Someone who, when a knowledgeable person with whom they are speaking says a thing that could well be true, responds with a knee-jerk "OF COURSE I'm right and they're wrong" rather than admitting, even to themselves, that they might not know as much about a thing as they thought they did. They do this either because they lack the humility to be wrong in general, or because subtle/not-so-subtle sexism on their part won't let a woman be right at their expense.

Someone who might be competent enough to perform their job but who, having been buoyed their entire life by the tide of "you're a great smart person and everyone wants to listen to you and of course you have such good things to say and are important" that tends to be bestowed on boys at a much higher volume, has decided that all other things being equal, that they are the expert here, thank you very much.

Someone who has spent their entire life watching every television show and movie about someone who looks like them, some Joe Everyman who isn't special except that, actually, he is and is now the only one who can fix everything, and has internalized that message so completely and is so very much the star of the story within their own head that they can't even entertain the fact that the secondary characters in it are often just as capable and complex as they are.

Oh, what's that? No, no that thing you said can't be right because that's not a piece of knowledge that I already possess. Nice try, though. Maybe hit the books a little? You still won't be as good as me, but maybe with the right amount of womanly pluck and angry face-flushes, I might start to think of you fondly as a sidekick/will-they-won't-they love interest in the movie that is my life.

I guess "narcissist" comes pretty close to a lot of that, but it doesn't really pull in the gender dynamics at all. Maybe this phenomenon is a good candidate for an "adjective + noun" combo? Misogynistic narcissist? Incorrigible blowhard? Insufferable misogynist?
posted by helloimjennsco at 10:50 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

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