Ask the grumpies: My boss is kind of implicitly sexist (or maybe credentialist)– what do I do?

Telecommuting Guy asks:

I work (telecommute long-distance) for a small company as a developer.  The organizational structure is very flat– there’s the owner/boss, then as a developer I have a boss for programming but not for other aspects of the job.  Essentially I have one guy as my boss for programming but in all other aspects, the owner/boss is my direct boss.  Unfortunately the boss/owner is kind of a jerk.  Fortunately I only really have to deal with him when we’re working on grants and a few other things.  Recently we were working on a grant, and, as is the case for many companies in my field, the only woman employed at the company and the only person without a PhD (other than the clerical work that our company out-sources) is the grant-writer.  During our conference calls on this project, it was obvious that the boss was extra jerky when talking with her. (Not explicitly sexist, but frequently short and condescending in a way that was noticeable, especially compared to how he treated everyone else.)  I don’t like this, but I’ve only been employed at this company for a little over 6 months.  I don’t feel like I can address it to the boss directly.  The chain of command isn’t really through my programming boss– he only gets final say on code, not anything else.  I want to be a good guy because I care about making tech more equitable, but when push comes to shove, I find I’m too worried about my own employment stability to make any waves.

I enjoy this job, for the most part, and it would be difficult to find another one that fits my skills and allows me to telecommute (which I need to do because my wife is a tenured [humanities] professor in a small town –we don’t want to go back to living apart).  Is there anything I can do that would help but won’t get me fired?  Also, the grant writer does great work and the company has been very successful with grants.

Oh gee, that’s a tough one.  Probably Wandering Scientist is a better person to ask.

In an ideal world, you’d be able to just go up to your boss (or, better, your manager, and then your manager talks to the boss) and address this issue straight-on, discussing implicit bias, and how important it is that such a great employee as your grant-writer is valued and feels valued.  (Using your Crucial Conversations skills.)  You would help make sure there were systems in place that would encourage a great work environment for everyone.

This is not an ideal world.  You haven’t been with the company long.  Your boss is kind of a jerk and you don’t know how he’ll react if you bring anything like this up.  And, on top of that, you’re telecommuting.

You probably don’t want to bring it up directly with the grant-writer either.  It might make her feel worse (though it might also make her feel less gas-lighted), or encourage her to find new employment, which might be better for her, but maybe not so good for the long-term viability of the company at which you work.  Also, gossip also has a way of getting around and it sounds like you can’t afford it to.

We will say that there are things that you can do to help your colleague feel more valued.  When she says things that are ignored and then repeated by someone else, say, “Yes, that’s just what [grant-writer] was saying,” or “[Grant-writer] made that point too.”  When she does great work, thank her.  Say good things about her work to other colleagues.  After each grant has been sent off, send her a thank-you email detailing what great work she did and cc the boss in.

Other than that, we don’t know what to suggest.  Perhaps as you gain seniority it will become easier to speak up.  Or maybe someone else will speak up and you can back them up.  We wish we had better advice for you.  #2 thinks you should submit to Ask A Manager, and pronto.

Grumpy Nation, what would you do in this situation?  What would you suggest Telecommuting Guy do?

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Identity: Who are we, really, and do we care?

People talk from time to time about identity.

One big discussion on the mother blogs we read on occasion is the intersection of feminism and motherhood.  Who does that make them?

In terms of my identity of a feminist mother (for the one of us who has procreated)… I’ve never really thought about it. I have such a strong identity of me as me… and things like “midwesterner” or “economist” overshadow my identity as wife, mother, or even teacher. I have a hard time identifying myself using constructs based on my relationship to other people. I don’t really think of me as a mother or a wife, even though I am. I guess I think of my specific relationship– married to DH, not a wife… taking care of DCs, not a mother. These are things I do but not things I am.

Technically I’m a feminist, but I’m not trained in feminism and it seems like such a part of me that it’s not even an overlay like midwesternism. I don’t think about it. I don’t do things because I’m a feminist like I do things because I’m a midwesterner– I’m a feminist because I do things and think things that feminists do. A certain brand of feminist just happens to be right about things in my mind, and if that label didn’t exist I would still hold the same beliefs.

I’ve been getting away from an identity as “mathematician” but can still converse in that language. I might even be able to still pass. But the econ is now much stronger.

Scalzi recently talked about what makes a person a professional writer– he said you have to get paid.  Some folks in the comments mentioned that it was important to identify oneself as a professional writer as well, as many of us get paid for our writing, but consider ourselves to be things like professors or researchers etc.  But why is it important to have that identity?  It makes sense for professional organizations to have specific gate-keeping rules, but the label of professional writer is not so important to those of us with other labels already.  Professor.  Scholar.  Social scientist.

Who are you?  Are you what you do?  Are you what you think you are?  Is your identity important, and if so, how?

Is it better to have loved and lost or to have never loved at all?

Another installment in our ongoing series, deep thoughts from our chat logs.

#1: http://zenpencils.com/comic/theodore-roosevelt-the-man-in-the-arena/

#2:  that cartoon is kinda sad.

#1: how so?  I suppose it’s like saying tis better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all, which is debatable.

#2: it seems like it’s saying the man could have been more, could have been great, but instead he drinks beer and watches TV. I like to stay home.

#1: oh, I think they’re saying that man is a critic
not that there’s anything wrong with staying home and drinking beer and being an accountant
but that if you do that, you shouldn’t criticize people who do more stuffs.  Personally I am a big proponent of temperature control.  Climbing mountains seems dumb

#2: but being a critic is important too; otherwise how would we know which books are crap? I mean, I have some problems with professional critics, but sometimes somebody needs to say that the emperor has no clothes.

#1: point taken.  ok, you win.  The context I’d seen it offered in was “if you don’t get rejected from time to time you’re not aiming high enough” which is a totally valid suggestion, especially for women.  But you are right, it doesn’t fit that at all

#2: I agree that if you don’t get rejected you aren’t aiming high enough. That part is right. Making it sad to be an accountant is wrong.

#1: yes
though honestly
being an accountant is kind of sad
except for people who like that sort of thing

#2: maybe they like it though!
maybe it’s like solving a big puzzle for them

#1: but being a mountain climber is also pretty sad.  Except for people who like that sort of thing.  Like, what’s the point?

#2: mountain climbers are kinda dickwads, from the books I’ve read

#1: at least accountants provide value

#2: YES

#1: except the ones who work for arthur anderson or enron
those provided negative value<

#2: went over to the dark side

#1: yes

So… who do you agree with?  Are we misreading (or reading too much into) a cartoon?

Does forcing kids to be bored teach them useful skills?: A deliberately controversial post

Related: does forcing kids to be with sucky people teach them important life skills?

We argue: no

Boredom leads to trouble and increased drop-out rates.   It would have to be an important skill to make up for the negatives.  But it isn’t.

As an adult, you have more control over your environment, so learning these skills (such as they are) may not be as applicable as we’d wish.

Better: give kids skills to manipulate their environment, so they know they can change it.

If they do have to be occasionally bored or to deal with sucky people, why not learn that on the job as adults? It’s an easier lesson to learn when you’re making the choice to deal with it because you’re getting a higher paycheck or other perks to your job.

And nobody should have to put up with a sucky work environment as an adult. That’s why we work so hard so we have options and freedom to change things, even if our parents sacrificed in their own work environments for us.

This post was brought to you by our childhood selves, who were bored as crap in school and got nothing useful out of grades 1 – 8.  [#2 says, except 4th grade with Mrs. A.  She was AWESOME.]

Ask the grumpies: Tightwad vs. frugal

First Gen American asks:

I believe that the difference between being frugal and a tightwad miser is knowing when to throw money at a problem. What is that tipping point for you? Define, elaborate, ponder.

This is a really popular personal finance topic, especially with frugality bloggers.

For us, frugality has to do with efficiency and value.  As a frugal person, you may buy a more expensive model of a needed item, but that item will last longer and give more pleasure while you use it than a cheaper model would.  Frugal people do not have false economies.  They are happier with less stuff, but they buy what they need and some of what they want.  They don’t waste money on things they don’t really want, and they make sure they’re able to afford what they do buy.  Frugal people are mindful of their purchases and their true desires.

Misers practice false economy– they save pennies and lose dollars.  They lose horses for want of a nail.  They fail to make purchases that would increase their overall happiness and even those that would increase their overall income or wealth.  (Not knowing when to throw money at a problem.)

Tightwads and cheapskates neglect their personal and social capital.  They go against social norms in ways that can hurt other people.  They may practice petty theft (see: ketchup packets), under-tipping, and so on.

Grumpy readers, how do you differentiate between the different types of low-spenders?

Should we ever make kids do things they don’t want to do? A deliberately controversial post

We grew up Catholic, so obviously we grew up with the underlying philosophy that a lot of things that are good for you are painful.  “It builds character,” my mother would say anytime I’d complain.  “Yes, just think of all the years I’m burning off of Purgatory,” I would reply.

There was also that Midwestern Protestant stoicism telling us what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.  We’re not sure how much we believe it, but it is in our blood pushing us ever onward.

That’s not the message we hear coming out of the coasts, the NYTimes, the mommy forums… That message is that if kids don’t like something, they shouldn’t have to do it.  Schools shouldn’t give homework.  Kids shouldn’t do extra-curriculars they don’t like (or at all!).  Tiger Moms are horrible people.  Five year olds should be red-shirted so they can play in the dirt another year before starting school.  Kids need to play, not learn.  Why do kids need to read?  (But… but… my kid LOVES reading/learning/math.)  I think Cloud said it best when she talked about adults projecting that they wished they had lots of free time on their kids (and, as a corollary, that they don’t like math).  The Rousseau dream-child concept is still hard at work.

(Somehow when it comes to a gifted kid being bored, then they really need to learn to be bored… it’s ok to force a kid to be bored but not ok to force a kid to do activities.)

I did swimming lessons for 7 years, but didn’t want to quit.  I had to do piano lessons for 9 years.  I’m glad I wasn’t allowed to quit.  I did Ballet lessons for 5 years.  I wish I’d been allowed to quit a lot earlier.  I did Catholic Sunday School or CCD until I was in 4th grade, despite constant complaining.  I’m not sure if I wish I’d been allowed to quit sooner or not, considering I switched religions and went of my own volition once no longer forced to be Catholic.

Growing up there were many things I was forced to do I wish I didn’t have to do, and many things I’m glad I was forced to do, knowing what I do now.  Younger me isn’t a great predictor of older me’s preferences, and who knows if parents are better or not.  Hopefully they’re a little better.

So:  Bottom line:  We think that sometimes it’s ok for kids to do things in their best interest even if they don’t wannnna.  We still wish we hadn’t had to go to public school.  Blech.

Not enough controversy here?  Check out the cross-post at Scientopia guest blogs.

Grumpeteers?  Your thoughts?

 

On brown rice

Plain brown rice can be pretty bad.  But mixed brown rice is wonderful.  Since #1 can no longer eat white rice because of her insulin resistance, she’s become something of a connoisseur.

This stuff is good and is what we get at our local grocery (it’s in the fru-fru aisle, not with the other rices).  TJ’s has some California blends that are similar and Whole Foods has a similar blend in its bulk aisle.

We also like quinoa quite a bit.

If you have leftover brown rice, it might be better as fried rice or in something like soup or a fritatta.

#2 hates brown rice.  HATES IT, MY PRECIOUSSSSS.  Also wild rice.  That stuff’s not fit for birds.   Yukk.  Quinoa is ok though.

What are your favorite grains?  Have you tried fancy mixed brown rice?