Bad manners

Jul. 5th, 2017 07:35 pm
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
[personal profile] mme_hardy
You, as a manager, ask a transwoman on your team to review a draft survey, which asks respondents "What is your gender?", with the options being Male, Female, or Transgender. She replies to the survey:

'Transgender' is not a gender. Transgender people may be male, female, gender queer, non-binary... If you want to know if a survey respondent is transgender, you need to explicitly ask that question."

How do you respond?


The next day I got an urgent request for a call with my manager. She told me that the data scientist who had written the survey questions was very upset and had gone to her manager to complain about me. I asked my manager what had happened to upset her and was told that it was the feedback I provided on the gender question. I read back to her the body of the issue that I had opened and asked what I should have done differently. She responded that she didn't know, that my wording seemed direct but non-confrontational, but that I was forbidden to interact any further with the author of the survey. This was the first instance of what came to be referred to as my "non-empathetic communication style".



Read Coraline Ada Ehmke's whole essay about being a woman at Github. My strong suspicion is that a fact-based response like the above would have passed unnoticed from a man, but was considered too aggressive for a woman. There should have been softening language, like "I'm afraid that" and "I know you're working from the best intentions" and "Please don't mind me mentioning one issue".

I've sent a lot of emails like the one above. Good thing I wasn't working for Github at the time.

Date: 2017-07-06 04:02 am (UTC)
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
From: [personal profile] sovay
Current Music: Goodbye, Earl

That is excellent music for the whole affair.

Date: 2017-07-06 06:06 am (UTC)
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
From: [personal profile] sovay
You are acculturated to behave in certain ways that are self-defeating in male society. However, if you don't behave in those ways, it's even more self-defeating because you get people's hackles up for not behaving in the prescribed feminine ways.

Yep.

I also wonder if, in this particular case, the data scientist reacted poorly because a person from a marginalized group told her that she had gotten something about the group wrong and that is a kind of criticism that a lot of people seem unable to hear as anything other than anger, even when neutrally worded. Which is not Ehmke's fault, either.

Date: 2017-07-06 12:38 pm (UTC)
oracne: turtle (Default)
From: [personal profile] oracne
Yep. There is no way to win.

Date: 2017-07-06 06:28 pm (UTC)
sabotabby: (coffee)
From: [personal profile] sabotabby
I'd have probably responded the same way (I once had a job "softening" tech support emails with language like this—"I am sorry to hear that you have experienced difficulties. Might I suggest turning it on and off again? If this doesn't work, please feel free to contact me for further assistance."

A thing I <3 about both a lot of my trans women friends and 50+ cis women friends is they don't do the softening thing at all. It's just a clear "here's the thing you did wrong." I rather admire direct communication as I'm useless at it myself.

Date: 2017-07-06 12:59 pm (UTC)
loligo: Scully with blue glasses (Default)
From: [personal profile] loligo
Ugh, we use a patient satisfaction survey at work that has that same "gender" breakdown and it drives me nuts. It's a pre-made product that we can't customize, and I thought we were ditching it for a new option that comes bundled with our new health record software, but nope, I was just informed a couple weeks ago that we're keeping it.

I do have a contact at the industry trade group that produces it, so I could send them a suggestion to change it, but you'd better believe it would be *extremely* apologetic and diffident...

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